February 1, 2019 in 3,148 words


to set a mood • • •

Perhaps today isn’t a Groundhog Day after all. I’m dreading my phone ringing…


Maybe Only Tim Cook Can Fix Facebook’s Privacy Problem

Tim Cook, who has called privacy a “fundamental human right” and taken Facebook and Google to task for the misuse of user data in the past, could effectively become a technology regulator of last resort


It’s nowhere in his job description, but Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has recently taken a moonlight gig as Facebook’s privacy watchdog.

On Wednesday, Mr. Cook and his lieutenants took aim at Facebook for violating Apple’s rules with a research app that allowed Facebook to snoop on users’ online activity. Facebook promoted the app through an Apple program that gives trusted developers the ability to install apps for testing without going through the App Store’s normal approval process. Apple responded by cutting off Facebook’s access to apps and updates that it was working on internally, causing chaos among the company’s software engineers.

The move is the clearest sign yet that the cold war between Facebook and Apple over data use and privacy is heating up.

Mr. Cook, who has called privacy a “fundamental human right” and taken Facebook and Google to task for the misuse of user data in the past, could effectively become a technology regulator of last resort — using the power of Apple’s iOS operating system as a cudgel to force software companies to respect user privacy and play by the rules, or risk losing access to millions of iPhone users.


Samantha Bee on Roger Stone: ‘He’s like America’s athlete’s foot’

Late-night hosts deconstructed Roger Stone’s ‘provocateur’ image and Trump’s latest tweets on immigration negotiations.


Samantha Bee: Roger Stone is ‘not a supervillain or a gangster – he just shows up when things are getting dirty. He’s more like America’s athlete’s foot.’

Late-night hosts discussed how Roger Stone is on bail and the government could shut down again – but that no one will notice when it’s this damn cold.

Samantha Bee: ‘He thinks he’s Duvall but he’s actually the horse’

Five days after charges were filed against Trump associate Roger Stone, Samantha Bee looked into the man behind the top hat and Richard Nixon back tattoo.

Last Friday, Stone was arrested on seven charges stemming from special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation, including obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to Congress. The indictment alleged that he told another witness, radio host Randy Credico, that he should “do a Frank Pentangeli”, in reference to the Godfather character who lied to Congress.


THANKS to TBS and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee for making this program available on YouTube.

“The cover-up is the crime! He would’ve known that if he’d asked his tattoo,” Bee commented.

“Of course Roger Stone loves the Godfather,” she added. “He thinks he’s Robert Duvall but he’s actually the horse.”
And though Stone, who got his start working for Nixon as a 19-year-old, fashions himself as a suave “agent provocateur”, Bee said that he’s actually “not a supervillain or a gangster – he just shows up when things are getting dirty. He’s more like America’s athlete’s foot.”

4 Apocalyptic Crises (Basically Nobody Realizes Are Coming)

We tend to think of an apocalypse as a single big event, where one day everything is normal, but 24 hours later we’re all scrounging an irradiated wasteland for food scraps. But in reality, things tend to quietly break down in the background for so long that by the time you’re having a sword fight for the last known box of Corn Flakes, your new life feels natural. So before we reach that point, we should all pay a little more attention to how …

4. Important Software Code Is Getting Way Too Complicated


Brace your monocles and top hats for a shock here, but computer code is pretty important these days. And because programming is such a huge and vital industry, we like to think that the job is done by masterful logicians who value clarity and purpose. But, much like how the Cracked article writing process ends when the whiskey bottle is empty, code prioritizes expediency above all else. No one has the time or energy to care about tomorrow’s problem, as long as today’s problem is solved.

The result of this is dubbed spaghetti code, an endless mishmash of complicated and hard-to-understand programs produced by tough deadlines, shifting priorities, a lack of standardization, and sometimes simple ineptitude. These programs mostly work just fine, but when they inevitably break, it can be next to impossible to locate the problem in the tangle. The code’s own creator (or huge team of creators, each with their own style) often isn’t even still around to make the fix, and they don’t bother leaving instructions behind. Imagine having a co-worker whose filing system was “throw all my shit on the floor,” and then, a decade after they’ve moved to a new job, you’re tasked with saving the company by finding one piece of paper in a pile of hundreds of thousands.

This isn’t a huge issue if needlessly obtuse code is bringing down your epic Ruth Bader Ginsburg fanfic, On The Basis Of Sex (In The Fuckin’ Sense). But spaghetti code has been blamed for things like a lethal car crash caused by a car’s flawed acceleration system, a six-hour 911 outage in the entire state of Washington, United Airlines having to ground its whole fleet for a day, and New York Stock Exchange trading going down like it had been targeted by a Batman villain.

Every program breaks sometimes, but modern code has become so large and sprawling that it’s impossible to test, or even understand, every possible situation and variable. How do you anticipate every outcome in a system designed for millions of people? And when code breaks, it’s not like when we broke our arm trying to do that backflip — the problem cannot be visually diagnosed. You’re stuck staring at tens of millions of badly organized and documented lines of code, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Then, to keep it interesting, imagine trillions of dollars are on the line and the coding language predates the state of Hawaii.

Programming’s not exactly a new skill anymore, but the codes — and the systems they power — are getting bigger. National services, entire cars. And new innovations provide new ways to fail. No, we’re not saying that society is going to collapse in a Skynet-style catastrophe, but the fact that your car might crash because some programmer didn’t follow their style guide is even weirder.

Ed. Hmmm… I used to be a COBOL programmer.


In the race to modernize, McDonald’s is its own worst enemy

MCFAMILY DRAMA


Inner turmoil.

The world’s largest burger chain is trying on a new look, and it’s running into a few hiccups.

As McDonald’s tries to modernize its operation and become more environmentally friendly, it’s finding the people who run individual franchises are pushing back.

To stay competitive, the chain’s corporate office wants to make the overall customer experience better. That includes investing about $6 billion by 2020 into its more than 8,700 US restaurants to refresh interior decor, install self-ordering kiosks, switch to digital menu boards, remodel counters to allow for table service, create a curbside pickup service for mobile orders, and expand its coffee service. The cost of modernizing the more than 750 in the state of New York alone has been estimated to be close to $320 million.

The changes being handed down from the corporate office to franchisees aren’t being welcomed by all. And that makes total sense. Even after their investment in new touch-screen ordering kiosks and other updates, sales on the individual store level aren’t increasing. In fact, net sales in the last quarter dropped 3% to $5.163 billion compared to the same period in the previous year, according to the company’s latest financial filings (pdf) released yesterday (Jan. 30). Even more of a headache for top McDonald’s execs, the franchisees in October formed an independent group called the National Owners Association—which means executives will have to compromise long-term visions with the realities restaurant operators say they face.


Devon farmer ‘too upset’ by slaughter gives lambs to Kidderminster sanctuary


Sivalingam Vasanthakumar believes the lambs will be “looked after well”

A farmer who became too upset when taking his lambs to the abattoir gave his flock to an animal sanctuary.

Sivalingam Vasanthakumar, from Totnes, Devon, took the 20 male lambs nearly 200 miles (321km) to Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries, near Kidderminster.

Mr Vasanthakumar, a farmer for 47 years, said: “I just couldn’t cope any more and I had to say no.”

The sanctuary, which looks after 220 animals, said it had never received lambs from a farmer before.

Mr Vasanthakumar said he had previously worked as a dairy farmer with his parents in Sri Lanka but had also been a farmer in the UK for “many years”.

“It was taking them to the slaughterhouse and that was stressing me out a lot,” he said.

Mr Vasanthakumar said he also hated to see the “animals going through that stress”.


5 Iconic Works Of Art That Caused Moral Panics

Our perception of what does and doesn’t constitute obscenity changes so radically over time that one could argue the whole concept is bullshit. Which is convenient, since future history books are presumably going to have to mention Stormy Daniels’ Toxxxic Cumloads 6 when explaining this era to our descendants.

To demonstrate how arbitrary and fleeting these standards are, consider the sheer, howling outrage certain now-classic works generated …

5. The Kiss Was Considered Pornography


Thomas Edison, among other things, invented the two greatest American pastimes: taking credit for something an immigrant did and getting an erection in a movie theater. The reason for your great-grampa’s tumescent tallywhacker was a little film called The Kiss.

Edison, bored with using science to invent new ways to murder dogs for fun, had the bright idea to record two people barely kissing in a chaste way and then charge folks to watch it. At a time when an elephant getting electricitied to death drew a crowd of over a thousand people, The Kiss was considered quality entertainment and a novelty besides. It was likely the first kiss ever recorded on film, and it was the second film ever publicly shown in Canada. Brace yourselves:

If you were afraid to watch, I’ll describe it to you. After a few seconds of awkwardly mushing their mouths together, two genteel folks give each other a dry peck upon the lips. It’s the passionless, saliva-less kiss of a loveless Midwestern marriage. A kiss like that is the only way of using your mouth to tell your wife you’ve always been in love with another man that’s more effective than actually just telling her.

Depicting the world’s least-sexual use of lips since the invention of spelling bees didn’t stop the Catholic Church from condemning The Kiss, however. Maybe they wouldn’t have condemned it if, instead of a revolting, disgusting, pornographic kiss, Edison had shown horrific depictions of torture — which, knowing Edison, was probably what he wanted to film anyway.


Man evades capture for 15 years by using fingerprint implants

Drug trafficker who cut and burned skin to insert implants arrested near Madrid.


‘He’d used very sophisticated methods to alter the fingerprints of both hands,’ a police spokesperson said.

A drug trafficker who managed to evade capture for 15 years by cutting and burning the skin of his fingertips and having it replaced with micro-implants has been arrested by Spanish police.

The man, who has not been named, was arrested on Tuesday by officers from the national police force in the city of Getafe, near Madrid.

In a statement, the Policía Nacional said the man, originally from the north-western Spanish region of Asturias, had been on the run for 15 years before specialist anti-drugs officers caught up with him.

“The suspect had modified and changed his fingerprints to such an extent that they were no longer recognisable,” said the statement.

“As well as cutting and burning, he had used micro-implants of skin. He had also had a hair transplant to avoid being recognised.”


Same as it ever was

BW revisits its first cover story.

Boulder’s accelerating growth spurt is the hot topic in every bistro and boardroom in town. And right at the heart of it is the question of available housing,” so reads Boulder Weekly’s first cover story published in 1993. The article went on to say, “the good news is that there are plenty of houses for sale in Boulder. The bad news is that most of them are going for more than $200,000.”

Wouldn’t $200K houses in Boulder be a great problem to have today? The bottom line is this; growth and affordable housing were the biggest issues of the day when BW launched a quarter of a century ago, and they’re still two of the area’s biggest problems. So, we decided to re-interview some of the people featured in our first cover story and get their take on why so little progress has been made on these important issues.

“You can just change the prices and the date and it’s about right,” say Paul Danish, former Boulder City Councilman and Boulder County Commissioner who lives in Longmont. It’s a sentiment echoed recently by many of those originally interviewed 25 years ago.

Local politicians and developers alike, all of whom have lived in Boulder some 50 years or more, say not much has changed when it comes to affordability in Boulder.

It’s a quarter of a century later and the median listing price for a house in Boulder is now upwards of $850,000. Not only is Boulder as expensive as ever, the major arguments for or against development and growth remain more or less the same as well. It seems growth is still the topic that turns Boulder’s political wheel. And with time, the problem has only spread to the rest of Boulder County.

Ed. In 1983, I purchased a 427 square foot condo near downtown Boulder for about $46,000. I just Zillowed, finding it currently valued at nearly $325,000.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Robert Reich explains how to get through Trump’s presidency in 7 tips.


California’s largest utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday after facing mounting scrutiny for its role in November’s Camp Fire.

While climate change is partially to blame for California’s deadliest fire, most residents of Paradise, California almost immediately pointed the finger at the largest utility company in the state. The investigation into what caused the Camp Fire is still ongoing, but PG&E cited “actual and potential liabilities” in its decision to file for bankruptcy.

VICE News was in Paradise immediately after the Camp Fire to meet residents and learn how California can survive a future of deadlier fires.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.


Social media is stirring up standoffs, spreading false information and creating conspiracies. Neal Brennan slides in to break down why society could benefit from applying common sense gun control to smartphones and internet use.

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


The President’s rejection of U.S. intelligence speaks to his larger inability to accept reality.

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


The U.S. Military’s budget is more than almost every other department combined which is why it is in ship shape – the ship being one of the disintegrating ships currently in our fleet.


Welcome to Stop Doing That! Your training experience for responsible policing. Today, cadet Nyle DiMarco will demonstrate how you can interact with deaf people peacefully.

THANKS to TBS and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee for making this program available on YouTube.


Seth takes a closer look at President Trump facing an independent challenge from the former CEO of Starbucks and a tell-all book from a former aide.

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


Comedy legend Lily Tomlin explained to Ellen why she turned down an offer from Time magazine to be on the cover of a 1975 issue in which she would have come out as gay. Plus, Lily and her “Grace and Frankie” co-star Jane Fonda chat about a sequel to their beloved movie “9 to 5,” and what Lily plans to do for her 80th birthday later this year.

THANKS to NBC and The Ellen Show for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me commentary on more journeys to our favourite paradise.


袖で寛ぐまる。Maru relaxes in the sleeve.


それぞれの過ごし方。How to spend them after the dinner.


FINALLY . . .

The human race could live forever—if we can make it through the next 100 years

THE END IS NIGH-ISH


It’s the most dangerous time in human history to be alive—but if we get through it, we could survive forever.

If we don’t know the dangers that the future brings, how can we prepare for them?

The End of the World is a podcast that explores existential risks, those organic and man-made catastrophes that could bring about the extinction of humanity. The series begins with the origin of life and goes on to list all of the ways Homo sapiens could be snuffed out by nature, before focusing on all the ways we might do it ourselves. Artificial intelligence, biotechnology, physics experiments, nanobots—we may have an odd 5 billion years before we get swallowed up by the sun, but at the rate we’re innovating, it’ll be a wonder if we see another century.

Sound bleak? Well, yes, it is. But the podcast comes at a particularly dark time in human history. Never before have we been haphazardly equipped with the tools to bring about our own demise. We’re recklessly building AIs and algorithms that have no empathy for their human creators. Pandemic-level pathogens escape their labs on a shockingly regular basis. And we’re only a decade or two away from a climate-change point of no return; global warming’s own event horizon. Yet we don’t seem to be in any great rush to course correct. (The Doomsday Clock currently has us at two minutes to midnight, for what it’s worth.)

Host Josh Clark takes the stance of the more you know, the more you can do about it. And he knows a lot of stuff. The co-host of the Stuff You Should Know podcast and a former senior writer at How Stuff Works, an educational website, Clark has made a living of making sense of the world and teaching it to others. Through all of his research, he thankfully doesn’t think we’re doomed—not yet, at least. We just have to make it through the next couple of years alive.

In this surprisingly uplifting conversation, Clark walks us through the various ways we could potentially send the species into a tailspin, and how we can avoid that terrible fate.


Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Probably Not. Groundhog Day.