BeOS was such a curious thing — a ground-up, brand new operating system optimized for “multimedia” and the internet, launched in the mid 90’s by some former Apple folks. I bought a boxed copy at the university book store when I was an undergraduate and booted into it alongside Windows (NT!!) and Red Hat Linux (the late 90s were wild kids). I genuinely loved BeOS — it was fast and unique and had a decent browser but no other real software to speak of, which was a real challenge in the time before everything could be accomplished with a browser.
Without an ecosystem of third-party software it couldn’t find an edge between Windows and the then-actually-beleaguered Mac. BeOS promised a “clean slate” that was developer friendly but it was just foreign enough, not to mention a platform with no real user base, that it wouldn’t gain enough traction to sustain. And even though it had a POSIX compatible shell, it wasn’t actually Unix underneath, so it didn’t fit with the emerging Linux ecosystem either (Unix applications were able to be ported over, but it wasn’t just a simple recompile). After Apple purchased Next instead of Be to replace the Classic OS, the IP bounced around and some of the tech ended up in a few internet and media appliances that are still in use today. The open source Haiku project has re-implemented and expanded on the core BeOS functionality.
I have no idea if this is something they’ve been publishing since 2016 but it’s an incredible … “resource” doesn’t feel like quite the right phrasing, maybe “accounting” of just how terrible Trump has been as political figure. The categories alone are damning — “Sexual Misconduct, Harassment, and Bullying” and “White Supremacy, Racism, Homophobia, Transphobia, & Xenophobia” being the most egregious, though “Collusion with Russia & Obstruction of Justice” and “Trump Family Business Dealings” will be just as important to prosecute.
Ryan Avent is a smart fella (you should sign up for his newsletter) who writes about economics, politics, culture, etc. for The Economist. This thread (yes, the irony that it’s on Twitter not a blog is not lost on me) outlines a lot of why I wanted to start blogging again.
I don’t have any kind of formal rubric in mind or anything, but I’m trying to post less on the platforms and take the space that blogging allows. Avent does a great job of covering some of the historical particulars as well as a bit of analysis.
One piece I think he’s missed is that blogging was also dying as mobile was ascendent, and there was never a great mobile substitute. Because mobile demands better user experiences than the web at that time was accommodating, it left a big opening for Twitter and Facebook.
It’s still kind of true today that there’s not a great way to blog on the most personal computer we own. The golden age of newsletters might be approaching that, but they feel too siloed whereas blogging is open but still owned by the writer. I’ve strung together a process to make this machine work, but it’s in no way meant for civilians. Strikes me as an opportunity.
I love the MTA and I love nerdy web things and I love maps, so of course I’m intrigued by this new real-time version. It’s … ok. Pretty slow and the trains themselves are hard to find on the actual map. It also seems this is veering a little too hard on the wrong side of CivTech — I tend to prefer robust and well supported APIs from government that anyone can build on top of.
And now, a digression.
The Times article quotes Sarah Meyer, and lists her job title as “chief customer officer at New York City Transit”. It’s always bugged me, both as a resident and even when I just came to town to visit, that the MTA refers to riders as “customers”. It’s a tiny thing, but that one word says so much about how we treat essential municipal services in even progressive places like NYC.
The MTA is not a business and I am not a customer. I’m a citizen. I’m a rider. I’m a person. By deciding to adopt this language of commerce for the services they provide, the MTA (and it’s not just the MTA) is playing into the kind of anti-government rhetoric that ultimately makes it harder for them to do their jobs. And it would be pretty easy for them to simply not do that.
Most of the carbon that’s been emitted into the atmosphere has happened within the past few generations. Parametric Press took this rather salient fact and made it real with a visualization that shows how these emissions relate to your time on earth.
I honestly never understood the reflexive QR code hate, especially among U.S. techies. The earliest days had the standard adoption issues, but once scanning got baked into the default camera app on iOS and Android, those pretty much went away. When I’ve traveled outside of the U.S. and payed for train tickets or meals via QR code, the experience has always been simple and straightforward.
Nothing like a pandemic to make us rethink our priors.
I genuinely love Japanese vending machines — not just the boxes and the variety of wares themselves, but the fact you can be cheerily zigzagging through the streets of Tokyo late at night after several drinks and suddenly find yourself drinking a can of actually quite tasty hot corn chowder and all seems right with the world. I’ve literally never consumed that vending machine corn chowder while sober so I have no idea if it’s actually good but I know for certain it is amazing.
Turns out, that’s the sort of impulse buy that helps fuel a $44 billion industry. Forty-four billion dollars!
I was also surprised to learn the machines themselves are fairly low-tech and only a small percentage even keep track of inventory. “Companies usually have no idea what’s in stock or out of stock until someone opens the machine, adding to logistical costs.”
And most important, no one can even see what choices their algorithms are making across a community because no two people see exactly the same content. Users only see what gets amplified in their individual algorithmically curated news feed.
More fantastic work from The Markup (see also: their Blacklight tool) to account for how the blackboxes of social media actually work. It’s interesting that they are starting with a representative sample of 1200 people rather than just releasing an open source browser plug-in. Frankly, I appreciate and trust a methodological approach more.
The long and short of this post: early in-person voting in North Carolina begins on October 15. There’s a unique opportunity to flip what has been the solid red district that encompasses Western North Carolina, formerly held by Donald Trump’s current Chief of Staff, to blue. If you can, please consider supporting Moe Davis. There are also plenty of other down-ballot races that could use your support as well — I like The Great Slate and Flippable.
In 2010, the North Carolina legislature became overwhelmingly Republican, riding an astroturfed, reactionary wave of right-wing grievance fueled by an onslaught of dark money that presaged our current political calamity. The state GOP promptly set to work carving up new congressional districts to maximize their advantage, using an undemocratic playbook that has become all too familiar to even casual political observers. One of the casualties was NC-11, in the western part of the state, where the obvious gerrymander split the reliably Democratic Bumcombe County in half to ensure the district became an uncontestable ruby red.
Last year, this skewed map was declared invalid and fairer maps were drawn for the 2020 election; NC-11 has a competitive election for first time in years. What’s more, right-wing radical Mark Meadows abandoned his post mid-term to humiliate himself as part of Donald Trump’s ever-rotating staff, leaving NC-11 wide open.
The Democratic primary was settled pretty quickly, however the Republicans tied themselves into a knot that’s been characteristically full of Trumpian drama. The favorite, a businesswoman endorsed by both Meadows and Trump, didn’t win a large enough plurality in a crowded field and was forced into a runoff with a 24-year-old unknown, which she lost.
Voters in NC-11 could not face a more stark choice. The Democrat is Moe Davis, a JAG-trained lawyer and retired Air Force Colonel who served as the chief prosecutor in Guantanamo Bay, a position he resigned in protest of the government’s insistence on using confessions gained via torture. Regardless of how you feel about America’s disastrous foreign policy during the Bush administration, it’s impossible to deny that Moe Davis is a man of deep integrity.
His opponent, Madison Cawthorn, could not be more diametric, in terms of politics, values, or temperament. Cawthorn is a deeply incurious and cynical individual who has no concept of what public service means beyond his own self-fulfillment, making him a perfect avatar of the twisted corruption of the Republican Party under Trump. Cawthorn has attempted to parlay a personally compelling narrative into a story of triumph in the face of adversity, where the reality is little more than transparent lies built on a foundation of deception. Esther Wang has done the citizens of NC-11 a great service by cataloging the myriad ways Cawthorn is unfit to serve them in Congress. Now Cawthorn’s campaign is using hundreds of thousands of dollars in dark money in an effort to swift-boat Colonel Davis and his actual service.
I got involved with Moe’s campaign earlier this summer, when it looked like a long shot, primarily because I believed in his integrity and ability to bring leadership to my home district. I grew up in Asheville and know the people of Western North Carolina are decent folks who often feel like they are forced to choose between an increasingly unhinged Republican Party and a Democratic Party that appears to only represent urban centers1. The more I learned about Moe’s opponent, the criminally unqualified Cawthorn, the more I knew I had to do anything I could to keep him from being elected to Congress.
The 11th district wasn’t on anyone’s list of flippable districts and seemed to be set up for another disappointing embarrassment. The year has been nothing if not relentless in its ability to surprise, however, and not always in the worst possible way. In NC-11, Moe Davis has managed to secure a small lead in the polls. As people get to know Moe, and understand how different he is from his opponent, they like what they hear. Like most of the U.S., North Carolina has increasingly sorted itself on partisan lines over the past few decades, but there are still plenty of folks who will split their tickets this election. Moe can win this, and he will serve Western North Carolina honorably.
Mail-in voting has already begun in North Carolina, and early voting is about to get underway. These last few weeks are critical — if you’re looking for a down-ballot candidate to support, please consider Moe Davis.
As a proud progressive who’s spent his entire life in big cities, I reflexively disagree with this dichotomy, but I also understand why the perception exists and is flamed by right-wing media. ↩︎
This piece by Christopher Leonard outlines one of the biggest dangers of the Barrett nomination (other than the brash illiberalism of the process) and a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court: that the U.S. regulatory framework, tenuous and imperfect as it is, will be replaced by an even more lassiez-faire system. Naturally, Charles Koch appears to have been a major player in orchestrating this.
I haven’t been following the Barrett nomination all that closely — it’s a depressing farce and there’s nothing to be learned from such a horrifying display of abuse of power from a Republican party hellbent on solidifying their minority rule for a generation. From the headlines, it appears the usual battle lines are being drawn, over abortion and healthcare primarily.
I don’t believe the Republican party actually cares all that much about making abortion illegal — Mike Pence, a creepy weirdo, probably personally cares, as do his fellow evangelical cultists. But so much of of the project of the Republican party for the past fifty years has been to dismantle and delegitimize the post-New Deal consensus about the role of government in favor a Hobbesian free market that favors the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.
Which really gets at the heart of so much of the cynicism of the Republican party. Charles Koch is almost certainly not motivated by abortion or even voting rights — his professed commitment to libertarianism, in fact, should make him a champion of safe and legal abortion access. He does care deeply about destroying regulation and undoing even the most basic collective commitments of government, so deeply to have spent five decades and a vast inherited fortune making it happen. This cynicism is inseparable from the Republican party today, whether it’s McConnell’s abuse of the legislature to tilt the judiciary or the entire party rallying around a criminally stupid horrorshow like Donald Trump to sign off on all of it before he blithely kicks off to watch four straight hours of Fox News.
I don’t know how simply getting rid of Trump, a vital first step, is going to counter this very long game. The existential problems we face, from climate change to racial justice, require collective action and we are now in a world where that no longer appears possible.