October 4, 2018 in 2,209 words

Something to set the mood . . .

Vietnam is the most globalized populous country in modern history


Globalization is going through tough times. The UK’s exit from the EU, the rise of nationalist US president Donald Trump and the escalating trade spat between the US and China are stymieing the progress towards a more connected global economy. International trade as a share of GDP fell from 60% in 2011 to 56% in 2016 in another sign globalization’s ill health.

If there is a turn against globalization, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the economy of Vietnam. In 2017, Vietnam’s trade as a percentage of GDP reached over 200%. This is the highest level for any country with over 50 million people in the World Bank’s data, which goes back to 1960. Of the world’s twenty most populous countries, it blows away number two Thailand at 122%.

The measure is calculated by adding the value of exports and imports then dividing the figure by GDP. Countries with high measures are typically rich and small. Hong Kong, Singapore and Luxembourg all have rates over 300%. Companies in these countries make products for export because the domestic market is too small consume all of their output. As a large, poor country, Vietnam is an outlier.

Vietnam’s exceptionally globalized economy is a result of its focus on exports for economic growth. Like China before it, communist-run Vietnam has opened up its cheap labor market to foreign investors and become a hub for low-cost manufacturing.

If you sometimes feel left out at work, you’re doing it right


Congratulations, you can skip the meeting.

FOMO. The fear of missing out. It’s the affliction that drives obsessive checking of Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, Instagram stories, WhatsApp groups, and news apps. It’s not uncommon for people to pick up their phones dozens of times a day when some push notification makes it buzz, because WHAT IF IT WAS SOMETHING SUPER IMPORTANT! (It just about never is.)

And it’s no longer contained to social media—it’s seeping into work as well. As if email wasn’t bad enough at cultivating FOMO, we now have a new generation of real-time tools like chat to stoke it. Yet another thing that asks for your continuous partial attention all day on the premise that you can’t miss out.

Fuck that. People should be missing out! Most people should miss out on most things most of the time. That’s what we try to encourage at my company, Basecamp. JOMO! The joy of missing out.

It’s JOMO that lets you turn off the firehose of information and chatter and interruptions to actually get the right shit done. It’s JOMO that lets you catch up on what happened today as a single summary email tomorrow morning rather than with a drip-drip-drip feed throughout the day. JOMO, baby, JOMO.

Costa Coffee advert banned for criticising avocado breakfasts

An advert for Costa Coffee has been banned for urging customers to buy a bacon roll rather than avocados.

The radio ad featured a voiceover which said there was “a great deal on ripen-at-home avocados” but they will only “be ready to eat for about 10 minutes, then they’ll go off”.

The advert told people to choose the “better deal” of a roll or egg muffin.

Two listeners complained that the ad, which aired in June, discouraged people from opting for fresh fruit.

The advertising watchdog agreed with the complaints and upheld them.

Costa said its ad played on the “frustration and unpredictability of the avocado”.

The chain claimed it was not suggesting that listeners must choose between the two breakfast options, but that it was instead telling people about its promotional offer.

What Goes On Behind The Scenes Of Courtroom TV Shows

Reality-based courtroom shows have been a source of dirt-cheap TV programming since the 1950s, and they’ll probably never go away. Right now, “Judge Judy” Sheindlin makes almost $50 million a year from her show. Hell, there was even a court show for kids on Nickelodeon. So how in the world do they find people willing to do this? And if the rulings are as binding as the shows insist they are, why in the hell is the legal system OK with any of this?

Suspecting that the answers were even dumber than we would otherwise guess, we talked to “Jack,” who worked on several of these shows (including Judge Maria Lopez, Judge David Young, and others). He says …

5. The Judge Is Real — The Courtroom, Not So Much

First off, the cases are indeed totally real. They may be carefully selected to get the absolute most ridiculous ones (with classics such as “My overweight friend broke my toilet!“), but we’ll get to that. What you’re seeing are all cases that went to a low-level civil court, and then both sides agreed to settle in neutral arbitration on a TV set that happens to look like a courtroom. But that stuff they say before each episode of these shows is true; the rulings are final and binding.

“Yes there is a judge and bailiff and everything,” says Jack, “but officially it’s taking it out of court, with the added bonus of the judge not needing an arbitrator license.” That’s because they are all real, usually retired, judges. But otherwise no, an arbitration isn’t quite the lofty, high-stakes affair that a “courtroom” setting would imply.

“[T]hey can’t enforce (non-monetary) rewards,” says Jack. “They cannot send out warrants, and they cannot hold people in contempt.” So basically, it’s less of a court and more like a few hours of getting roasted in front of millions of people.

Japanese “forest medicine” is the science of using nature to heal yourself—wherever you are


Wash your senses.

The fountain of youth is a forest. Trees cast off years and grant health and cheer, or so transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson claimed in his 1836 essay “Nature.” ”In the woods,” he wrote, “I feel that nothing can befall me [. . .] which nature cannot repair.”

Indeed, research shows that trees really do have healing powers. For one thing, they release antimicrobial essential oils, called phytoncides, that protect trees from germs and have a host of health benefits for people. The oils boost mood and immune system function; reduce blood pressure, heart rate, stress, anxiety, and confusion; improve sleep and creativity; and may even help fight cancer and depression. These and other impressive benefits of forest medicine are catalogued by physician Qing Li, chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, in his upcoming book Forest Bathing, out in April 2018.

Li’s personal interest in tree therapy is rooted in a trip he took to the forest in 1988. A stressed Tokyo medical student, he found that a week of camping restored his vitality. He’s considered the medical reasons for this effect ever since. He writes:

I am a scientist, not a poet. And I have been investigating the science behind that feeling for many years. I want to know why we feel so much better when we are in nature…Some people study forests. Some people study medicine. I study forest medicine to find out all the ways walking in the forest can improve our wellbeing.

For those interested in upping their dosage of nature, whether as city dwellers or forest explorers, Li’s book offers a thoughtful introduction to the scientifically proven benefits of spending time among the trees—and enjoying those benefits, wherever you may be.

Burger King’s ‘AI-written’ ads show we’re still very confused about artificial intelligence

All we know is that we don’t know nothing.

Each of Burger King’s new ads starts with an anachronistic burst of noise from a dial-up modem and a solemn warning: “This ad was created by artificial intelligence.” Then, over shots of glistening burgers and balletic fries, a robotic-sounding narrator deploys exactly the sort of clunky grammar and conceptual malapropisms we expect from a dumb AI.

“The chicken crossed the road to become a sandwich. Burger King encouraged the chicken,” says the voice. “The Whopper lives in a bun mansion, just like you,” it chirps.

They’re good ads! And, of course, they’re lies. In a press release, Burger King claims the videos are the work of a “new deep learning algorithm,” but an article from AdAge makes it clear that humans — not machines — are responsible for the funnies. “Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for a great creative idea coming from a real person,” Burger King’s global head of brand marketing, Marcelo Pascoa, told the publication.

It’s a silly, unimportant deception, but one that points to an important truth: we really don’t know what artificial intelligence is and is not capable of.

Burger King’s joke lands because AI exists in the public imagination as a quantum entity — simultaneously powerful and pathetic. Artificial intelligence is about to take our jobs, we’re constantly told; it’s going to destroy the economy and humanity to boot. But we also know from our own experience that it’s incredibly dumb, incapable of understanding the simplest commands (hello, Siri), or telling the difference between a stop sign and a cyclist, or of not showing me nine toilet seats I might like to buy after I buy the one toilet seat I will need this decade.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

By Nov. 22, 1997, Donald Trump and his siblings owned nearly all of Fred Trump’s empire free and clear of estate taxes. How did they do it? A special type of trust with a clunky acronym: GRAT, short for grantor-retained annuity trust. GRATs are one of the tax code’s great gifts to the ultrawealthy. They let dynastic families like the Trumps pass wealth from one generation to the next — be it stocks, real estate, even art collections — without paying a dime of estate taxes.

The New York Times turns Donald Trump’s “small $1 million loan” narrative upside down with a bombshell report outlining the Trump family’s extensive tax fraud.

Senator Jeff Flake concedes to demands calling for the FBI to look into Brett Kavanaugh, but there’s reason to suspect the investigation may just be for show.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

Some Americans received a standard presidential alert on their phones. Others received these…

Stephen performs a monologue from Donald Trump’s new one-man show, ‘Downfall of the Fictional American Man.’

Stephen gives a tutorial on how to prevent Trump’s Presidential Alert System from appearing on your cell phone.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stpehen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth takes a closer look at how the FBI’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh reveal how similar he is to President Trump.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyerse for making this program available on YouTube.

梯子をかけて木登り風体験。Maru&Hana cannot climb a tree, so I place a ladder against the tree.

Ed. I’d like to think Hana is the reincarnation of Mischa.

Mischa Marie

That memory just brought me to tears.


If Ted Cruz comes to dine at your restaurant, what should you do?

After the senator was recently chased out of a restaurant by local activists, the owner didn’t want to take sides. But was that the right business tactic?

‘If you have strong political views … and you’re personally and financially secure enough to withstand the repercussions, then by all means – go ahead.’

Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, doesn’t necessarily have the reputation of being the coolest guy around. Nor do his political views resonate with everyone. But does he have the right to have dinner out with his family without being harassed? And does a restaurant owner have the right to serve him? Would you?

Those questions were tested recently when Cruz, along with his wife, dined at Fiola, an upscale Italian eatery based in the nation’s capital. Last week, an activist group that opposes the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US supreme court gathered at the restaurant to heckle the Cruzes during their dinner, chanting things like “Sexist, racist, anti-gay!” and “We believe survivors!” and asking Cruz if he would “confirm [his] best friend Brett Kavanaugh”. The scene became chaotic enough that the Cruzes were forced to temporarily move tables to a quieter spot in the restaurant.

Cruz joins other Republican colleagues – like the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, presidential adviser Stephen Miller and Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell – in being chased by activists from local restaurants. If you owned a restaurant and Ted Cruz came in to dine, what would you do? Suppose you disagree with his policies? Or suppose a bunch of activists were disrupting your place of business?

Fabio Trabocchi, the owner of Fiola, didn’t want to take sides, and pleaded for reason on Twitter. “We did our best Monday night to show DC what it means to live, love and work in a city where all voices are welcome – and quite necessary – to make a republic work,” he said in a statement. “It takes everyone, just like any family. It requires respect, listening and sometimes a little etiquette, like keeping your elbows and politics off the dinner table.”

Another business owner, Stephanie Wilkinson of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, did not take this approach.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?