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15 Aug 16:18

★ Thoughts on an ‘Apple One’ Subscription Bundle

by John Gruber

A few big scoops from Mark Gurman yesterday that got lost in the shuffle a bit after Epic went to war against the App Store:

The bundles, dubbed “Apple One” inside the Cupertino, California-based technology giant, are planned to launch as early as October alongside the next iPhone line, the people said. […]

There will be different tiers, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private plans. A basic package will include Apple Music and Apple TV+, while a more expensive variation will have those two services and the Apple Arcade gaming service. The next tier will add Apple News+, followed by a pricier bundle with extra iCloud storage for files and photos.

“Apple One” passes the sniff test as a credible name for the bundle. But this description, if accurate, seems contrary to the spirit of the name. It’s not just one bundle, which to me is what Apple ought to offer. What Gurman describes is a frustrating jumble of à la carte offerings that seems no different than the current situation, where every Apple subscription offering is a standalone service, other than some sort of discount for subscribing to more than one service, but only if you subscribe to them in certain predefined tiers.

What Gurman is describing would offer nothing, for example, if you want Apple Music/TV+ and additional iCloud storage but have no interest in Arcade or News+.

The company is also developing a new subscription for virtual fitness classes that can be used via an app for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, the people said. That service will be offered in a higher-end bundle with the rest of Apple’s services. Codenamed “Seymour,” the workout package would rival virtual classes offered by companies including Peloton Interactive Inc. and Nike Inc., according to the people.

This service simultaneously seems like a very keen offering from a company that is focused more and more on health and fitness features across its platforms (especially Watch) and more fuel to the fire that Apple unfairly competes against popular services from third parties.

Total scoop for Gurman here if this pans out — this is the first anyone has reported this, I believe. Update: MacRumors had a report on this back in March, including the codename “Seymour”, but if it’s a paid subscription and not a free app, that’s still a scoop for Gurman.

The new bundles will be geared toward families, meaning they will work with Apple’s Family Sharing system that provides access to as many as six people for each service. The offerings are designed to save consumers about $2 to upwards of $5 a month, depending on the package chosen. For example, if a family subscribes today to all of Apple’s major services plus the highest iCloud storage tier, that would cost about $45 a month. A new bundle could knock more than $5 off that.

That’s not much of a discount. To me the whole point of a bundle should be twofold: a greatly simplified offering (“Just buy Apple One and get it all”) at a very compelling price (“Even if you don’t think you care about, say, Arcade and News+, hey, you’re effectively getting them for free”.)

That’s the secret sauce to Amazon Prime. It’s a simple decision — get Prime or don’t — at a compelling price that makes everything other than the free shipping on Amazon purchases feel “free”.

Peter Kafka, on Twitter:

The long-awaited/predicted Apple bundles, coming this fall. The problem: Bundles work when they include the thing people love/want/need — sports for cable tv, free delivery for Amazon. These bundles — per Bloomberg, are made up of Apple’s side gigs.

A great bundle offering does have a linchpin. And while Prime and cable TV are good examples of that, they’re at extremes pricing-wise. Prime makes it feel like a good deal for shipping and everything else is free; cable TV makes it feel like you’re paying a ton of money for a bunch of channels you never watch just to get the ones you do (sports or otherwise).

So let’s think this through and figure out what Apple One “should” include and cost.

The big difference with Apple’s services is that everything is a standalone service, with reasonable à la carte pricing. Arcade and TV+ are just $5/month, including automatic family sharing. News+ is $10/month, including sharing. Music is $10 individually, and $15/month for a family sharing account. Music and News+ cost more (and Music, alone among Apple’s content offerings, charges extra for family sharing) because Apple doesn’t own the content.

Then there’s iCloud, the paid storage tiers for which haven’t changed in years. Right now in the U.S.:

  • 50 GB: $1/mo
  • 200 GB: $3/mo
  • 2 TB: $10/mo

My back-of-the-envelope proposal is that Apple One should cost $15/month for an individual and $20/month for family sharing, and include: Music, TV+, Arcade, and the top tier of iCloud storage. Make News+ a $5/add-on.

Basically: start with Apple Music as the lynchpin service in the bundle, charge $5 more than they currently are for Music alone, and include everything Apple owns the entirety of: TV+, Arcade, and iCloud storage. I think they have to charge extra for News+ to pay the participating providers — News+ is more like a bundle unto itself. And that still leaves TV Channels as extra monthly add-ons, too. What Gurman describes sounds basically like “Pay for a bunch of services on top of Apple Music, get one of them free”; what I’m suggesting is more “Pay for one additional service on top of Apple Music, get the rest free”.

That would make for a simple proposition at a compelling price.

14 Aug 11:01

Periodic Reminder That the Dow Jones Industrial Average Is Moronic

by John Gruber

Lu Wang and Vildana Hajric, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc.’s planned stock split will diminish its influence on the Dow Jones Industrial Average after the iPhone maker’s 100% surge since March lows nearly dragged the price-weighted measure back to an all-time high.

At its current price of $452 a share, Apple has the biggest weighting in the index at 11%. A 4-to-1 split now would drop its price tag to about $113 and send its ranking in the Dow Average down to 16th. Apple has rallied almost 55% in 2020, adding more than 1,100 points to a stock measure that’s fallen about 2% during that time. The split is scheduled to take effect Aug. 31. […]

The split, however, won’t affect Apple’s No. 1 position in the S&P 500, an index that’s weighted by market capitalization, rather than stock prices.

Bloomberg reports this as though the difference in how the DJIA and S&P 500 are weighted is equivalent. The S&P 500 makes sense: it values companies by what the companies are worth. The Dow makes no goddamn sense at all: it values companies by their share price.

A high-profile stock split like Apple’s should make the entire finance world snap out of its delusion and just abolish the Dow. A 4-for-1 stock split is exactly the same in principle as exchanging a dollar bill for 4 quarters. You still have one dollar. But according to the Dow, you go from 100 (the dollar bill) to 25 (the value of a single one of the post-split quarters).

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is that stupid.

Update: See this classic 2013 episode of NPR’s Planet Money for more:

It’s no secret that we here at Planet Money think the Dow is a terrible economic indicator. We don’t like that it only looks at thirty companies. We don’t like the way it does its math. We think it does a bad job reflecting the overall economy. Honestly, we’re not sure why everyone is still talking about it.

13 Aug 17:31

QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, and the Rise of Magical Thinking

by Jason Kottke

Kirby Ferguson, creator of the Everything Is a Remix and This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory video series, has a new video out that attempts to explain the rise of QAnon, conspiracy theories, and magical thinking in America.

Ferguson zeros in on the divide between two different ways people make sense of a complex, chaotic, and uncertain world: evidence seeking and magical thinking. All of us employ both of these techniques to help ease our anxiety about the world, but those who tend towards magical thinking arrive at explanations that are based primarily on instinct, emotion, feelings, and gut reaction while evidence seekers mostly rely on scientific and empirical reasoning.

He also identifies six main aspects of magical thinking:

1. Obsession with symbols and codes (e.g. pizza as a “deep state” code for child trafficking)
2. Dot connecting (e.g. linking 5G with Covid-19)
3. Behind every event is a plan concocted by a person (e.g. Soros and the “deep state” conspiracy)
4. Purity (e.g. the Satanic panic and heavy metal music)
5. Apocalypse is nigh (e.g. the “deep state” again)
6. Preoccupation with good and evil (e.g. liberals are not only wrong but evil)

For me, the key quote about magical thinking is this one for late in the video: “These are not systems of knowledge, and they cannot build solutions. They can only criticize and second-guess.”

Tags: Kirby Ferguson   politics   QAnon   science   video
05 Aug 18:18

Craig Mod’s ‘Kissa by Kissa’

by John Gruber

Craig Mod:

Kissa by Kissa: How to Walk Japan (Book One) is a book about walking 1,000+km of the countryside of Japan along the ancient Nakasendō highway, the culture of toast (toast!), and mid-twentieth century Japanese cafés called kissaten.

Looks gorgeous — wonderful typography and photography, expertly printed and bound. A genuine artifact.

Also, that bastard Mod went so far as to build and release as open source what he’s calling Craigstarter, a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding tool for Shopify. Just bought my copy and the whole process was smooth.

03 Aug 20:04

It is possible to compete with the New York Times. Here’s how.

by Tony Haile
Meredith Kopit Levien, who was named the new CEO of the New York Times last week, has six million subscribers, almost $700 million in cash in the bank, and a singular insight that underpins the Times’ path forward: the average number of news subscriptions a news subscriber will have is one.  Local publishers may not […]
29 Jul 11:33

Architectural Gifs Restore Damaged Cultural Sites Around the World

by Grace Ebert

Hatra, Al-Jazīrah, Iraq

Evoking a bit of time-travel, NeoMam (previously) recently animated a series of gifs that restore impressive, human-made structures around the globe to pristine condition. Although the six landmarks are now in some form of decay and have made UNESCO’s list of endangered world heritage, the short clips digitally reconstruct the sites to show what they’d look like had they not faced the ravages of time.

Included in this round of restoration are a remnant of Hatra, a large fortified city that was capital of the first Arab Kingdom, and the hundreds of islets that make up Nan Modol in Micronesia. UNESCO designated these landmarks in danger because of natural and human-generated threats like earthquakes, military conflict, and urbanization. Dig into the history behind the six restorations, which were completed in partnership with BudgetDirect and architect Jelena Popovic, in addition to other at-risk locations on UNESCO’s site.


Nan Madol, Temwen Island, Federated States of Micronesia

Leptis Magna, District of Khoms, Libya

Jerusalem, Israel

Palmyra, Tadmur, Homs Governorate, Syria

Fort San Lorenzo, Province of Colon, District of Cristobal, Panama

29 Jul 11:32

Britternas blodiga anslagstavla

by Hexmaster
Det har tjatats om barnprogram som Vilse i pannkakan, och hur det och andra Staffan Westerberg-produktioner "förstörde" hela årskullar med barn. Hur det nu skulle gått till ...

I Storbritannien var det andra takter. Där producerades längre och kortare "Public Information Films" för informera eller varna. Här är tre exempel på varnande filmer som barn i samma ålder skulle titta på. Den vanligaste kanalen verkar ha varit skolor.

Only a fool would ignore this. [Stor skylt "DANGER – NO SWIMMING"] But there's one born every minute. [I bakgrunden: skrik på hjälp]
Lonely Water (1973) varnar för vattensamlingar man kan drunkna i. Den är bara på 1:29 men sätter tonen.

Robbie didn't know if of course, but that was the last goal he'd ever score.
Robbie (1979) varnar för att vistas på järnvägsspåren. Han som pratar heter Peter Purves och hade efter flera år just lämnat det klassiska barnprogrammet Blue Peter (som började sända 1958 och sänds än idag). Honom kände alla barn igen.

- You alright, Sharon? - Yeah, I think so.
Apaches (1977) varnar för bondgårdens faror. Den börjar med sex barn som leker indianer på en sådan. Deras alldeles för obekymrade lekar innebär att de en efter en går åt à la Tio små negerpojkar: En blir överkörd av en kärra, en drunknar i en gödselbrunn (jag tror att de bilderna skulle ha etsat sig fast särskilt effektivt i 1977 års jag), och så vidare. Efter varje dödsfall fortsätter de allt färre kamraterna sina lekar. Floreat Etona!

Så sluta tjafsa om den där pannkakan.
29 Jul 11:31

The terribly sad sight of a quietly decaying old Tokyo house

by Lee

Six years ago I took this photograph.

an old and very ramshackle Tokyo home

It’s an image I hold incredibly dear. The brief connection, the house and the abundance of life on display made pressing the shutter very special indeed. Yet while it was special then, it feels even more precious now.

That extra significance came about a couple of years ago, when I passed by again and was shocked to find the building empty and devoid of life.

a silent and abandoned tokyo house

Fast forward another two years, and it’s now an even sadder sight. Age, its wooden nature and no maintenance whatsoever mean the structure is in a terribly bad way to say the least.

A sad and quietly decaying old Tokyo house

A sad and quietly decaying old Tokyo house

A sad and quietly decaying old Tokyo house

A sad and quietly decaying old Tokyo house

So bad in fact that growing gaps in the walls and windows allowed me to take a few shots inside. An interior that due to Mother Nature making inroads, has developed a kind of decaying beauty. Something about that sink really does appeal. But mostly — just like this bar from a few months ago — the overriding feeling is one of silence, as well as complete and utter emptiness. A place that despite its incredibly ramshackle nature, was once very much a home, whereas now it is little more than a forlorn looking shell.

A sad and quietly decaying old Tokyo house

A sad and quietly decaying old Tokyo house

A sad and quietly decaying old Tokyo house

25 Jul 16:05

Steven Levy on Steve Jobs and the G4 Cube

by John Gruber

Steven Levy, writing for Wired:

In any case, the G4 Cube failed to push buttons on the computer-buying public. Jobs told me it would sell millions. But Apple sold fewer than 150,000 units. The apotheosis of Apple design was also the apex of Apple hubris. Listening to the tape, I was struck by how much Jobs had been drunk on the elixir of aesthetics. “Do you really want to put a hole in this thing and put a button there?” Jobs asked me, justifying the lack of a power switch. “Look at the energy we put into this slot drive so you wouldn’t have a tray, and you want to ruin that and put a button in?”

But here is something else about Jobs and the Cube that speaks not of failure but why he was a successful leader. Once it was clear that his Cube was a brick, he was quick to cut his losses and move on.

In a 2017 talk at Oxford, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the G4 Cube, which he described as “a spectacular commercial failure, from the first day, almost.” But Jobs’ reaction to the bad sales figures showed how quickly, when it became necessary, he could abandon even a product dear to his heart. “Steve, of everyone I’ve known in life,” Cook said at Oxford, “could be the most avid proponent of some position, and within minutes or days, if new information came out, you would think that he never ever thought that before.”

The Cube was a worthy failure, deserving of our utmost praise in hindsight. Powerful computers needed to get smaller, quieter, and more attractive. The Cube pushed the state of the art forward.

But the more important lesson embedded in this story has nothing to do with the Cube specifically and everything to do with Jobs’s truly extraordinary ability to change his mind. Strong opinions loosely held — no one’s opinions were stronger, no one’s more loosely held.

Why not pull a Steve Jobs on the App Store? Cut the commission rate to 85/15 across the board and act like it’s innovative and something only Apple could or would do. Open up the Netflix rule to all developers — maintain the rule that if your app charges money as an in-app purchase, you must use Apple’s in-app payment system — but let any and all apps choose to do what Netflix does if they want to opt out of that, and sign up customers on their own outside the app. Just make all of this antitrust stuff disappear before it even starts by eliminating the complaints about money and maintaining what matters more to Apple: independence and control.

22 Jul 09:02

A Tokyo bar owner, her cat and decades of clutter

by Lee

Old, cluttered and decidedly grubby little bars where cats ultimately call all the shots aren’t uncommon in Tokyo, but there’s clutter, and then there is clutter, and this particular establishment most definitely falls into the latter category. In fact, there is so much stuff strewn about the place that the current mama-san, who took over from her mother, almost looks like she’s stood in the aftermath of an explosion.

The most cluttered bar in Tokyo

In business since the early 1960s, it’s a distinct possibility that some of the detritus dates back to a very different time indeed. The cat, on the other hand, which was very keen on making its presence known, is merely entering its second decade. A relative newcomer then, but nonetheless it is clearly comfortable with the chaotic nature of its surroundings.

The most cluttered bar in Tokyo

All in all a bar that is totally unique, and yet at the same time it’s just like so many other little drinking spots in Tokyo’s less central areas. It’s laid back, packed with reminders of the past, and perhaps most importantly of all, is simply a wonderful place to pass a very pleasant few hours.

the most cluttered bar in Tokyo

19 Jul 08:25

Ray cats, Stalin och första halvåret 2020

by fthunholm

Vad är en långsiktig plan? Och är det bra med sådana? Kan man planera för tiotusen år framåt? Jag vet att jag har svårt att planera nästa dag. Well well. Vi kan börja så här:

När Stalin äntligen hade rensat ut Trotskij och hans gäng mot slutet av förra 20-talet, gällde det att få fart på ekonomin. Lösningen var femårsplaner. Det gick superbra. I alla fall delvis.

De markägande bönderna var inte precis eld och lågor inför tanken på att deras jordbruk skulle slås ihop med närliggande gårdar. Och att de skulle sluta vara markägande och bara vara bönder. Hellre än det, slaktade de sina djur och eldade sina marker. Följden blev att hela jordbruket pretty much fuckades upp för lång tid och att massor av människor svalt ihjäl.

Produktionen av gjutjärn nästan fördubblades, dock. Liksom utvinnandet av kol. Svårt att äta, visst. Men fett ändå.

Jag har semester nu efter ett osannolikt första halvår av 2020. En mediebyrå är en konsultverksamhet av den sort som planerar ett år i taget. Både för oss själva och för kunderna. Det kan låta som ett snävt perspektiv, som inte ger rum för en egentlig strategi. Jag menar, om man bryter ner strategi till de fundamentala frågorna var är vi?, vart vill vi? och hur kommer vi dit? – då hinner man inte nödvändigtvis dit på ett år. En vision siktar ofta tre år framåt och det är väl fair enough.

I år, under corona, har vi lyckats bättre än någonsin med att vinna nya uppdrag. Och vi har, eller jag har i alla fall, haft roligare än någonsin på jobbet.Trots att vi bara har kunnat planera från vecka till vecka. Eller tror jag, för att vi har gjort precis det. Det verkar som att det bästa sättet att optimera energinivån (och mycket är beroende av just energi) är att faktiskt strunta i det där semi-långsiktiga ettårsperspektivet. Och istället kasta sig över saker som kommer upp.

Jag tror också att budgetarbete är waste of time för vår verksamhet (och många andras) eftersom det bara funkar som svar på frågan ”hur mycket pengar bör vi dra in?” och inte i sig kopplas till hur det faktiskt ska gå till. Nu undrar du om det innebär att tidrapporteringen också är meningslös? Ja, det innebär precis det.

(Jag hoppas att min chef inte läser detta.)

Nåväl, det bästa exemplet på långsiktig planering, handlar ändå om hur vi ska ta hand om kärnavfall, som ju kommer vara dödligt i hundratusentals år framåt. Vi gräver ner det i deponier, visst. Men hur ska vi vara säkra på att inte människor i framtiden råkar gräva upp avfallet? Det kan verka enkelt. Det är ju bara att sätta upp skyltar.

Men här kommer tidsperspektivet in. För även om man ”bara” ska planera för tiotusen år framåt, så vet vi inte hur språket ens låter då. Visst, det finns några som kan läsa Beowulf i original och förstå den. Men det är inte precis common knowledge.

Så, då får man jobba med symboler, kanske. Dödskalle med benknotor under? Emojis som visar någon som reagerar med avsky? Eller göra små serieberättelser med streckgubbar som visar att man lever först – kommer i kontakt med giftet – och sedan dör? Det senare kan funka. Om man läser från rätt håll. Annars blir budskapet, om du är så dålig att du nästan är död, drick detta och bli frisk. Ja du fattar. Det är inte så enkelt som det låter.

Det bästa förslaget jag har hört talats om är det som togs fram av den franske författaren Françoise Bastide och den italienske semiotikern Paolo Fabbri.

Första steget handlar om att genetiskt modifiera katter, så att deras päls ändrar färg om de utsätts för strålning. Alltså, om man ser en katt som har, låt oss säga, rosa päls – då vet man att den utsatts för strålning och att man själv gör bäst i att dra sig långt bort från platsen där man ser katten.

Men vem ska veta det om tiotusen år?

Det andra steget är det geniala: Ge katterna ett namn, till exempel Ray Cats (eller Strålningskatter på svenska). Skapa sedan medvetet legender, folklore och myter som handlar om katterna. Sånger som sjungs, berättelser, hemsidor, poesi, konst. Rubbet. Som alla handlar om att man ska hålla sig jäkligt långt borta från Ray Cats.

Bra plan, no doubt. Och fånig nog att funka om tiotusen år.



03 Jul 12:09

Old Tokyo shutters and smiles

by Lee

The shop below has presumably long since closed, but like so many little businesses in Tokyo, it’s a part of the house, so is still in use for storage, comings and goings, plus now and again a good bit of gossiping.

The latter was briefly interrupted when they spotted me, but thankfully there was time for a clearly visible yet covered smile before they got right back to it.

old Tokyo shutters and smiles

01 Jul 18:27

Att ha fel med tjugoåttatusen tecken

by fthunholm

Det är med en hisnande känsla av kognitiv dissonans som jag läser någon på DN skriva positivt om cyklande och cyklister. Skrev jag precis hisnande? Jag menade svindlande. Det är som att höra Jockiboi rappa om pattar och tjack i Filosofiska rummet. Förlåt, jag överreagerar. Kanske är min syn på DN och cykling präglat av Erik Helmersons mångåriga arbete med repriserade kåserier om Den Galne Cyklisten™ som vill döda honom. Kåseriernas samtida motsvarighet till ståuppkomikens skämt om mat på flygplan.

Sorry, tillbaks till ämnet.

Claes Britton är skribenten som har fått två evighetslånga artiklar (totalt 28 000 tecken) på DN Kultur till sitt förfogande. I ingressen beskriver man det som ”granskningen av en praktfull skandal: Guldbron”. Brittons tes är att Stockholm är otroligt omodernt när det gäller infrastruktur. Här har han helt rätt. Vi planerar fortfarande staden utifrån bilism – korrekt det också. Dom coola städerna i världen garvar åt oss och kallar oss öknamn bakom vår rygg för att vi är såna biltöntar och inte hoppar på cykeltåget. Ja, även detta är sant. Jag som cykelpendlar varje dag, där snillena drar det största cykelstråket från söderort, rakt igenom en gågata (Götgatan), kan intyga att Stockholms inställning till cyklister pendlar mellan hat och rena oförskämdheter.

Britton har alltså rätt på alla sätt utom i det viktigaste, nämligen premissen för de två artiklarna: att guldbron är något slags symbol för detta. Så låt oss börja med att kolla upp en grej: Vad är guldbron? Det är en 140 meter lång och 45 meter bred bro från Söder till Gamla stan. Den är supersnygg, för den blänker som av guld. Den ersätter ett obsolet system av grå betong, som tidigare upptog den här attraktiva marken.

I en stad med oändliga mil av gator gjorda för bilister fastnar Brittons blick på 140 meter av dessa. Som att det var problemet. Bron är 6 300 kvadratmeter av de 48 miljoner kvadratmeter som utgör Stockholms innerstad. Det finns en praktfull skandal och den har med prioriteringarna av trafikslag att göra. Men den har inget alls med guldbron att göra. Bron är markyta i en stad. That’s it. Och den staden älskar bilar.

Men vi kan i framtiden förbjuda biltrafik och upplåta brons yta till kollektivtrafik, cyklister och fotgängare.

Det är nästan som att Britton, som skriver uppskattande om folk som kallar bron ”en full person som gör entré på ett barnkalas”, helt enkelt inte gillar Guldbron. För hur den ser ut. Och att det inte handlar alls om bilar vs. cyklister. Kvar står en man och hötter med nävarna mot himlen.

I två långa artiklar på DN Kultur. Som inte leder någonstans; känslan påminner om den, när man som bilburen turist för tjugo år sedan hade oturen att hamna i den vindlande betonglabyrint som var gamla Slussen.




01 Jul 09:12

A dilapidated and uniquely paint daubed old Japanese house

by Lee

Ramshackle structures are incredibly common in Japan. Not just in rural areas either, as away from its main entertainment and shopping hubs, Tokyo has more than its fair share of them. There are countless homes, shops and restaurants that despite their utterly dilapidated states, are more often than not still in use. And yet despite seeing so many that I have an Instagram account almost entirely devoted to them, this particular house is like nothing else.

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

It’s still lived in for starters. The one remaining, relatively intact upstairs room provides a home of sorts, although how cold it is in winter doesn’t bear thinking about. Neither, to be honest, do the bathroom facilities, or indeed the probable lack of them. But somehow it must be manageable. A bit like camping perhaps, but in an ancient tent on a bit of waste ground.

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

Unsurprisingly there are all kinds of rumours about the owner. The one bona fide fact is that it’s a fella who is getting on a bit. But those limited details aside, the general consensus seems to be that he lost a lot of money when Japan’s economic bubble burst, or on the stock market, the two of which could obviously be connected.

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

It also appears he may have moved to, or possibly back to the area from Kyoto, with the relocation resulting in some kind of trouble with the house and a construction company. Elements that, along with so many other things, are alluded to in the mostly nonsensical statements on the walls. Writing that is regularly painted over, and then replaced with more of the same angry, colour coordinated incoherence.

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

What the neighbours think of it all is anybody’s guess, especially as there is also a speaker set up playing local radio at a volume that’s just about loud enough to warrant regular tutting and muttered complaints. But for now at least, the radio stays on, and the written rants continue unabated.

a dilapidated and kanji daubed Japanese house

25 Jun 18:31

Covid-19 Superspreading Events and “Speech Superemitters”

by Jason Kottke

From Christie Aschwanden’s Scientific American article about How ‘Superspreading’ Events Drive Most COVID-19 Spread comes this speculation by a group of scientists that the way in which some people talk or breathe might spread many more potential coronavirus-carrying droplets than other people.

The scientists also have found intriguing evidence that a small subset of people may behave as “speech superemitters” — individuals who consistently broadcast an order of magnitude more respiratory particles than their peers. “It is very difficult to identify who is going to be a superemitter ahead of time,” he says. “One of the superemitters was a very petite young woman. And I was a bigger, bulkier guy and was not a superemitter.”

I don’t know why I find this so interesting, but I do. Add “speech superemitter” to the list of new Covid-19 vocabulary.

Tags: Christie Aschwanden   COVID-19   language   science
24 Jun 18:18

"Kansas City's Blitz": How Freeway-Building Blew Up Urban Wealth

by Daniel Herriges
Downtown Kansas City, MO in 1957, showing the area cleared for the Downtown Loop freeway. Source: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.

Downtown Kansas City, MO in 1957, showing the area cleared for the Downtown Loop freeway. Source: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.

The story of Kansas City is the story of America's Suburban Experiment in microcosm. By the end of World War II in 1945, a city not yet a century old had become an internationally famous hub of music, theatre, and food, and built a proud heritage of elegant buildings and parks, providing wealth for a city that was steadily growing denser and taller within its existing footprint. And the skeletal system of the city during this time was its expansive streetcar network. As we saw in the previous installment of this series, the streetcars laid the foundation for neighborhoods that still harbor a disproportionate concentration of Kansas City's real-estate value and architecture heritage today.

After World War II, Kansas City made a drastic pivot in its development approach. Today, its state-line-straddling metropolitan area is a contender not for the streetcar capital, but the freeway capital of the United States. For years, metro Kansas City had far more lane miles of freeway per capita than any other. (It now comes in a very close second to Nashville on a per capita basis, and Kansas City still has 50% more total miles.) 

Every city is shaped by its prevailing transportation technology, but freeways have affected Kansas City's development pattern in a completely different way than streetcars. Unlike a streetcar, which is an asset to the surrounding blocks and serves to connect the people and businesses in its immediate vicinity, a freeway damages the wealth of its surrounding blocks. It functions like a moat, dividing neighborhoods and depressing the value of the land right next to it (where people have to endure constant noise and exhaust) for the benefit of those driving at high speed from relatively far away.

In many ways, the choice to carve up Kansas City and to encircle and wall off its downtown with freeways is the most cataclysmic planning mistake in the region's history. This is when Kansas City began to squander and dilute its wealth instead of continuing to build upon its rich heritage. You can't understand Kansas City's suburban experiment without understanding the world that the freeways built. 

The Crucial Mistake: Freeways in the Urban Core

A 1947 map of highway plans for the Kansas City region shows “proposed rights of way” slicing up the city, including what would become the Downtown Loop. Click to view larger.

A 1947 map of highway plans for the Kansas City region shows “proposed rights of way” slicing up the city, including what would become the Downtown Loop. Click to view larger.

There is an important distinction between two different types of freeways with two different purposes. There are the true interstate highways, built for inter-city travel: long-distance trips and shipment of goods. Then there are the local freeways built for intra-city commuting and other trips that start and end within the same metro area. The former have provided immense economic benefits since their construction. The latter, though, have often been incredibly destructive of collective wealth and community stability.

The early vision for a national highway system was of freeways that would connect major metropolitan areas but terminate at ring roads around cities, rather than penetrating the downtown core. (The ring-road model is the norm in Europe to this day.) This debate occurred nationally, but in almost every city, the forces that wanted a downtown freeway—including influential real estate and business interests—won out. (Something that President Eisenhower, who signed the 1956 Highway Act, was reportedly surprised and dismayed by.) 

A detailed historical overview published in 2019 in the Kansas City Star illustrates that this debate was alive and well in Kansas City. From the article:

Previous generations of highway planners thought that those highways should avoid urban areas, reasoning that the merging of long-distance and local traffic would create congestion. By the late 1930s, a new approach had taken root: Run the freeways right through cities, where congestion was attributed to short, daily trips made by locals and not the pass-throughs of long-distance travelers. 


[An] early plan for its Downtown Loop was written into the City Plan Commission’s 1943 report “Suggested Location of Inter-Regional Highways.” Beyond a lengthy verbal description of the route, it suggested passing the freeways through blighted areas that would be cheap to acquire. The highways, it said, could boost those areas economically. But it also warned of a potentially disastrous impact on already-prosperous areas.

And unfortunately, that "disastrous impact" became reality. Kansas City embarked on a multi-decade highway-building binge, including freeways which sliced up the existing city, displacing existing buildings and communities. In particular, a loop of freeways encircling downtown—the "blighted areas" identified in 1943—completely cut off downtown from the urban neighborhoods around it.

This had three devastating consequences.

Three Consequences of Urban Freeways

1. Direct destruction of property and community assets.

The area that would be destroyed for the 6th Street Expressway, photographed in 1949. Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

The area that would be destroyed for the 6th Street Expressway, photographed in 1949. Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

Downtown Kansas City's freeway loop itself required the direct destruction of more than 100 blocks of prime real estate. While many of these areas were believed in the 1940s to be "blighted," the opportunity cost of what they could have been today is monstrous. (While it would take some digging through historical property records to estimate that cost numerically, a similar analysis conducted by Urban3 in Minneapolis found that merely the buildings directly displaced for downtown freeways would be worth $655 million today.)

From the beginning, Kansas City's urban freeways were deliberately routed through areas that local leaders wanted razed and redeveloped. They were as much a tool of urban renewal and land speculation as of mobility. For example, the northern edge of the Downtown Loop follows what was once 6th Street, despite that a nearby, parallel route along the Missouri River was an option.

A 1972 Star article on the completion of the last portion of the Loop refers to the infamous nickname that locals gave the construction zone along what would be the 6th Street Expressway: 

For a time the area was referred to as Kansas City’s blitz. The mounds of fallen bricks and the gaping holes suggested that enemy bombers might have passed overhead the night before.

Even a park with one of the city's most commanding views, West Terrace Park, was not immune to freeway mania. In 1966, Interstate 35 was rammed along the base of the bluffs west of the downtown-adjacent (and, not coincidentally, deemed "blighted") Quality Hill neighborhood, effectively splitting the park into three units. A full history can be read here.

Vine and 24th, near the US-71 freeway. This is an area described in  Race, Real Estate, and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience  as having formally been an economic center for Black businesses. (Image source: Google. Click through to explore in Google Maps.)

Vine and 24th, near the US-71 freeway. This is an area described in Race, Real Estate, and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience as having formally been an economic center for Black businesses. (Image source: Google. Click through to explore in Google Maps.)

In the eastern, historically Black, portion of Kansas City, the economic and cultural damage wrought directly by freeways was severe. Over the course of 50 years, the Highway 71 freeway was built through historically Black, redlined neighborhoods in order to, according to a recent KCUR retrospective, "connect people in Lee’s Summit, Grandview and the Northland to downtown." That is, to serve suburban commuters. More than 10,000 people would be displaced for Highway 71's construction. 

More details on displacement for freeways are included in Race, Real Estate, and Uneven Development: The Kansas City Experience, 1900-2000 by Kevin Fox Gotham. Gotham documents more than 12,000 households displaced from the 1950s to the early 1970s alone for urban renewal and freeway construction. 28.6% of those households were Black, even though only 12.2% of the city's population in 1950 was Black. Gotham recounts residents' memories of Black businesses in the Lincoln-Coles area destroyed for freeway clearance:

There had been semi-economic centers for black businesses that were around 12th street, 18th street, coming up Vine, say to 25th street because I remember Barker's Market, Johnson's Drug Store, and a cab company and a bunch of stuff like that. And all of the clientele was in walking distance, mainly because in the 1940 and early 1950s,... people lived closer together. With urban renewal and people moving out, they lost their clientele. (Mary Jacqueline, interview with Author)

2. Indirect loss of value and vitality in adjoining areas. 

The damage done by urban freeways is not limited to the exact land on which they sit. Freeways also exert a depressing effect on land values and economic activity in surrounding areas, because they are unpleasant to be around and can be formidable barriers to walking and other local travel.

This map from geoanalytics firm Urban3 of land value per acre in the vicinity of Kansas City's modern streetcar (with added labels in green and red) is illuminating in this regard:


The gray rectangles immediately adjacent to the Downtown Loop (2) represent parking lots—extremely low-value land uses. This adds to the "no-man's land" effect already caused by the freeway itself. But the parking crater is not all. Notice the depressed value of the properties in the area numbered (3), compared to areas immediately to the south, or to the downtown core to the north of the freeway. This steep drop-off in value represents the moat effect of a freeway, which tends to stop prosperity in its tracks, limiting the example of downtown’s productivity into the rest of the city.

3. A vicious cycle of outward expansion and dilution of the region's financial productivity.

Large parts of Kansas City began to suffer population decline as residents moved to newly-accessible suburbs, now a 20-minute commute from downtown on a wide-open freeway. Soon the freeways were not serving the "long-distance travelers" some planners envisioned, but predominantly suburban commuters.

Kansas City's freeway binge occurred over time and in tandem with the city's annexation binge, described in the first installment of this series. That is no accident: it's a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Again, from the Kansas City Star:

[A 1951 report on freeway plans] also noted the 1950s shift in residential population to the suburbs. [City Manager L.P.] Cookinham knew new suburbanites would need high-speed roads to get them in and out of the city as efficiently as possible.

The city manager also began aggressively annexing unincorporated land south and north of the river to retain taxpayers who were moving. With that came greater city control over the area’s expressway system.

Kansas City had committed, by the end of the 1950s, to an ideology of rapid, outward growth. And the linchpin of this approach was the urban freeway network: the only thing that made it possible to link a vast belt of commuter suburbs to office jobs still concentrated downtown.

Downtown Kansas City, walled off from surrounding areas by the Loop. Photo: MODOT  via Flickr

Downtown Kansas City, walled off from surrounding areas by the Loop. Photo: MODOT via Flickr

Today, fewer people live in Kansas City's pre-1946 borders than did in 1946. The core cities of both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas, have seen stagnant populations even as they have dramatically expanded their borders and infrastructure obligations. And the dilution of public wealth relative to private liability is even more dramatic when you look at the metro as a whole, where nearly all growth since World War II has occurred in the suburbs. The small towns visible on the 1947 highway map above—Olathe, Lenexa, Lees Summit, et cetera—are all bedroom communities of tens of thousands of people today.

It is here that it becomes clear who stood to benefit from urban-core freeways: Large-scale developers and land speculators, who reaped an enormous windfall over the decades. The freeways enacted a net transfer of land value to the builders of those bedroom communities, which found themselves with faster access to Kansas City than ever before. It was Kansas City itself that lost out, where land values flatlined, including in many of the "already-prosperous areas" where that outcome was feared as early as 1943.

A certain class of downtown high-rise developers and commercial interests also gained: they were able to, for a while, cement downtown's primacy as the region's job and retail core. But even downtown Kansas City has not always kept pace with the suburbs, where an increasing share of jobs and retail have shifted to cater to suburbanites who no longer wish to drive into Kansas City proper at all.

In a 2019 interview with KCUR, Matt Staub, chair of Kansas City's Parking and Transportation Commission and vice president of the River Market Community Association, expressed regret that the Downtown Loop was ever built:

"Where we put highways and where we tore down buildings was all about: We're going to create a city for another generation, but really we just killed it for a generation.”

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a long-term series exploring the history of Kansas City and the financial ramifications of its development pattern. It is based on a detailed survey of fiscal geography—its sources of tax revenue and its major expenses, its street network and its historical development patterns—conducted by geoanalytics firm Urban3. All the articles in the series: 

Cover image via Wikimedia Commons.

23 Jun 07:59

Apple Announces Mac Transition to ‘Apple Silicon’

by John Gruber

Apple Newsroom:

The DTK, which must be returned to Apple at the end of the program, consists of a Mac mini with Apple’s A12Z Bionic SoC inside and desktop specs, including 16GB of memory, a 512GB SSD, and a variety of Mac I/O ports. Developers can apply to the program at, and the total cost of the program is $500.

$500 rental — great deal, really.

Interesting but not surprising that Apple (a) never once mentions “ARM” by name, and (b) hasn’t revealed the name of their custom Mac chips yet. They’re just saying “Apple Silicon” as a placeholder for a name to be revealed when they begin unveiling actual consumer hardware.

22 Jun 12:34

Kara Swisher: ‘Is It Finally Hammer Time for Apple and Its App Store?’

by John Gruber

Kara Swisher’s New York Times column on Apple’s rejection of Basecamp’s Hey app from the App Store is an outstanding overview of the whole dispute — accurate and fair. One central point that jumped out to me:

Yet Apple has also changed rules in ways that many developers find capricious and unfair and, more to the point, scary. While complaints have been raised for a long time about what Ben Thompson of Stratechery calls Apple’s “rent-seeking” practices, many developers do not want to speak out for fear of falling afoul of Apple and, worse, getting banned from its store.

But not Basecamp’s iconoclastic and outspoken founders, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, who took to Twitter and other media to complain loudly after the app had been accepted by Apple and then flagged for being in violation of its rules last week. In practice, that means cannot make crucial bug updates.

To say that “many developers do not want to speak out for fear of falling afoul of Apple” is an understatement. Almost none do. And one thing I’ve learned this week — mostly via private communication, because, again, they fear speaking out publicly — is that there are a lot of them. Without touching upon the question of who’s right and who’s wrong in the specific case of Basecamp’s Hey app, or the broader questions of what, if anything, ought to change in Apple’s App Store policies, an undeniable and important undercurrent to this story is that the business model policies of the App Store have resulted in a tremendous amount of resentment. This spans the entire gamut from one-person indies all the way up to the handful of large corporations that can be considered Apple’s peers or near-peers.

This resentment runs deep and is stunningly widespread. You have to trust me on the number of stories I’ve been told in confidence, just this week. Again, putting aside everything else — legal questions of antitrust and competition, ethical questions about what’s fair, procedural questions regarding what should change in the written and unwritten App Store rules, acknowledgement of all the undeniably great things about the App Store from the perspective of users and developers — this deep widespread resentment among developers large and small is a serious problem for Apple.

Even if you think Apple is doing nothing wrong, it’s not healthy or sustainable if the developers of a huge number of popular apps are only in the App Store because they feel they have to be there, not because they want to be there, and if they feel — justifiably or not — that Apple is taking advantage of their need to be there. Tim Cook rightly loves to cite Apple’s high customer satisfaction scores as a measure of success. I think if Apple measured developer satisfaction scores on the App Store, the results would be jarring.

21 Jun 07:20

Build 100,000 'homes for Covid-19 heroes', say UK council leaders

At least 100,000 homes should be built every year to rent to key workers who have helped fight coronavirus and to the families of those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic, according to a report by the Local Government Association.

The cross-party LGA says the modern day “homes for heroes” plan would also help regenerate the economy and create many thousands of jobs, while massively cutting the nation’s huge housing benefit bill.

Its report, to be published this week, says the 100,000 target should become part of the government’s wider ambition for building 300,000 homes a year. The new social housing could also be used to accommodate the many thousands of rough sleepers who were placed in hotels and other temporary places during the pandemic.

The LGA’s report, Building new social rent homes – an updated economic appraisal, is evidence of growing pressure on ministers to use house building as central part of economic regeneration measures, which the prime minister Boris Johnson has said will be announced by the chancellor Rishi Sunak within weeks.

We owe it to essential public service workers, who have risked their lives to keep the country running, to provide them with affordable, high-quality homes

David Renard, LGA

The LGA research found that investment in a generation of social housing would create £320bn for the country over 50 years through increased economic activity. It also found that every £1 invested in a new social home generates £2.84 in the wider economy with every new social home generating a saving of £780 a year in housing benefit.

David Renard, LGA housing spokesman and Tory leader of Swindon borough council, said the scheme would be a modern day version of the “home for heroes” house building projects after the world wars. “As the nation comes through the biggest crisis we have faced since the second world war, we owe it to the health, care and other essential public service workers, who have risked their lives to keep the country running, to provide them with affordable, high-quality homes,” Renard said.

“The government should let councils take charge of the housing recovery, by giving them the powers and tools to build more of the affordable homes the country desperately needs.”

Groups of housing associations, developers and architects have been pushing similar ideas as the effect of the pandemic on construction and the wider economy has become clear.

The LGA wants ministers to expand council housing by bringing forward and increasing its £12bn extension to the Affordable Homes Programme, announced in the budget earlier this year, with an increased focus on homes for social rent. The vast majority of homes delivered under the scheme – which involves private and public- sector funding – are for ownership not rent.

The council leaders also say the “right to buy” system should be reformed with councils able to retain 100 per cent of receipts from the sale of homes.

18 Jun 04:34

On Avoiding or Embracing Apple’s In-App Purchase Cut

by John Gruber

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing about the Hey/Apple App Store dispute for The Verge:

Apple takes up to a 30-percent cut of revenue on in-app purchases and subscriptions, so developers try to avoid signing up users within their app whenever possible to avoid the steep tax.

I think it’s essential to point out that this is not true — many developers embrace Apple’s in-app purchasing. No dispute about it, a 30 percent cut is high. Even a 15 percent cut (what Apple takes from subscriptions after the first year) is high compared to simple credit card payment processors. But the App Store is more than just a payment processor, and for some developers, Apple’s cut is either happily worth it or at least begrudgingly worth it. One reason some developers embrace it is that they know users like and trust Apple’s in-app purchases — the user experience is excellent.

The issue exemplified by Hey is that there are cross-platform apps/services that don’t want to use Apple’s system, period, full stop. They don’t need to, or don’t want to, or think Apple’s cut is too high, or perhaps their business model literally can’t support giving up 30 percent of revenue — whatever. They’re not trying to collect money from users within their apps by circumventing Apple’s IAP APIs with their own payment processing — they’re simply willing to forgo in-app commerce completely and sign up all their users on their own, outside their app.

Netflix stopped offering in-app subscriptions on iOS in 2018, and Spotify charges extra to make up for the lost revenue.

Netflix and Spotify shouldn’t be lumped together. Yes, both object to the size of Apple’s cut, but Netflix simply decided to forgo signing up users in their iOS app. That’s exactly what Hey wants to do too. Spotify, on the other hand, wants to have it both ways — they want to sign up paying users within their iOS app but they don’t want to pay Apple’s cut. Maybe you think Spotify is right (me, I think they’re hypocrites), but theirs is a very different stance from Netflix and Hey’s.

10 Jun 12:05

A wonderfully ramshackle old Tokyo restaurant

by Lee

When in a new area and it’s fast approaching lunch time, there’s always the hope that an interesting little place will present itself. And for me at least the Chinese restaurant below was pretty much perfect, as it’s old, cosy and happily displays all the dilapidation of its five-plus decades in operation.

a ramshackle old Tokyo restaurant

a ramshackle old Tokyo restaurant

a ramshackle old Tokyo restaurant

09 Jun 11:24

Dåliga äpplen smittar

by Hexmaster

Every time a cop is caught brutalizing a black or brown person, I hear the same argument: "'Its just a few bad apples."
- Sean Illing, Why the policing problem isn’t about "a few bad apples", Vox 6 juni 2020

På sistone har poliser påfallande ofta liknats vid äpplen. Här ett svenskt exempel från ifjol.
För det första uttrycker informanterna [poliser] att det finns ruttna äpplen inom kåren, liksom i övriga samhället.
- Rasmässig eller etnisk profilering inom rättsväsendet; skriftlig fråga 2018/19:69 av Linda Westerlund Snecker (V) till Mikael Damberg (S), inlämnad 30 januari 2019

Uttrycket bad apple tolkas som regel som att man i tillräckligt stora skaror inte kan undvika enstaka rötägg. Det är också den betydelsen som verkar ha etablerats i svenskan, i den mån det förekommer. Men då har man tappat bort det viktiga efterledet. Illings artikel påminner om det:
Curiously, the people who recite this trope rarely reflect on the second half of the expression: "A few bad apples spoil the bunch."
Att ruttenhet bland äpplen smittar är ett intressant biokemiskt faktum, väl värt att lägga på minnet.
Titta till ditt fruktlager någon gång i veckan och ta bort alla ruttna äpplen. Rutten kärnfrukt kan nämligen "smitta" annan frukt. Detta beror på etylengas, en färglös gas som gör att de andra äpplena mognar snabbare och i vissa fall förstörs. Därför ska äpplen inte heller lagras med andra frukter eller grönsaker.
- Gardena: Förvara äpplen

Det ironiska är att de som tar upp bad apples, att hela poliskåren inte ska beskyllas för oprofessionellt uppträdande hos några enstaka individer, använder en jämförelse som säger något helt annat: Att problemet med rötägg är att de kan smitta ner en hel kår.

Fler ordspråk som förkortats i bloggposten Kor på isar och annat rumphugget.
08 Jun 17:50

Somewhere, the ghost of Iain Banks is pissed of...

by Warren Ellis

Somewhere, the ghost of Iain Banks is pissed off that he didn’t think of GSV Attack And Dethrone God

03 Jun 07:20

The life and death of an elderly Tokyo bar owner

by Lee

Several weeks ago I documented the death of a traditional Tokyo bar. The terribly sad sight of a once lively little place that now lies empty and quiet. Why it shut, however, remains a mystery. Its former owner’s relatively advanced age is the obvious answer, but then again, the planned demolition of the building could easily be another.

The closure of the bar below, on the other hand, is unfortunately not lacking in facts. A friend and I drank there back in March 2016. It was one of those lovely chance finds, and one that was clearly very special from the moment we walked in. The interior, the sumo on the radio, and of course the smiling mama-san. A feeling of good fortune that only grew stronger as we relaxed, enjoyed our beers and heard a little bit about our host’s life. And it genuinely was only a bit, as by then she was 93 years old. The details of that night can be read about in the original post here.

After that visit we went back a few times, but always without success. They could easily have been days off. Maybe days she just didn’t feel like opening. Plus once it might have been because we were simply too early. Deep down though there was always the nagging worry that we were in fact too late, and in the end that inevitably was the case. She died at the grand old age of 96, and the bar has understandably died with her. It still looks the same (at least from the outside anyway), but it’s now merely a locked up building rather than a bar, a home and a simply wonderful place to sit down and while away the hours — or indeed the decades.

a 93-year-old Tokyo bar owner

a 93-year-old Tokyo bar owner

a 93-year-old Tokyo bar owner

an old Tokyo bar

02 Jun 08:34

On current events

by Jason Fried

It’s easy to say what a year, what a week.

But that’s a shortsighted, privileged point of view. I’m guilty of holding that occasional perspective. It’s moments like these that jolt me into recognizing the deeper reality.

What we’re seeing is the culmination of years – decades, generations, and centuries – of unjust treatment against black people, minorities, and other marginalized communities.

This country’s racist history is shameful, and so is its present.

Deep systemic racism + the militarization of police (both physically in terms of gear, and mentally in terms of mindset) is a powder keg. We’ve seen sparks before, now we’re seeing the explosion.

If you’re surprised, you’re not paying attention.

I don’t like the violence, but I get it. This is what happens when people are squeezed, compressed, and backed into a corner with no way out. For years, for generations. We’re all humans – if your lot in life was different you just might do the same.

I support peaceful protests, I support the fight against racism, against oppression, and against injustice – wherever it hides.

There’s exceptionally hard work ahead. I recognize this work has been happening for years, often ignored or unappreciated by many people, including me. How frustrating it must be to work so hard, and see such little progress, on something so elemental.

Change will require a massive, sustained effort by millions over many years. A change in perspective, mindset, and approach. And that work will certainly be met with future setbacks, which is why change requires optimism, too (which is in short supply in moments like these). I hope we can find it, and support those who need it.

I’ll be working to educate myself, and break my own patterns of ignorance. This sense of urgency is, embarrassingly, new to me, so I have a lot to learn – which organizations to support, what books to read, what history to absorb, and who to listen to. I’m starting on that today. If you’re like me, I hope you’ll do the same.

-Jason Fried, CEO, Basecamp

29 May 07:04

DoorDash and Pizza Arbitrage

by John Gruber

This piece by Ranjan Roy for his Margins newsletter is such a perfect example of counterfeit capitalism. Roy has a friend who owns a few pizzerias. They were getting complaints from customers whose deliveries were cold. What made that really odd is that his pizzerias weren’t offering delivery service. What happened is that DoorDash, with no permission, registered a phone number with Google under his restaurant’s name. The fun part of the story:

DoorDash was causing him real problems. The most common was, DoorDash delivery drivers didn’t have the proper bags for pizza so it inevitably would arrive cold. It led to his employees wasting time responding to complaints and even some bad Yelp reviews.

But he brought up another problem - the prices were off. He was frustrated that customers were seeing incorrectly low prices. A pizza that he charged $24 for was listed as $16 by DoorDash.

My first thought: I wondered if DoorDash is artificially lowering prices for customer acquisition purposes.

My second thought: I knew DoorDash scraped restaurant websites. After we discussed it more, it was clear that the way his menu was set up on his website, DoorDash had mistakenly taken the price for a plain cheese pizza and applied it to a ‘specialty’ pizza with a bunch of toppings.

My third thought: Cue the Wall Street trader in me… ARBITRAGE!

The arbitrage is good fun, but ultimately the whole thing shows how predatory these VC-backed delivery services are:

You have insanely large pools of capital creating an incredibly inefficient money-losing business model. It’s used to subsidize an untenable customer expectation. You leverage a broken workforce to minimize your genuine labor expenses. The companies unload their capital cannons on customer acquisition, while this week’s Uber-Grubhub news reminds us, the only viable endgame is a promise of monopoly concentration and increased prices. But is that even viable?

29 May 07:03

‘The Unicorns Fell Into a Ditch’

by John Gruber

Matt Levine, in his excellent Money Stuff column for Bloomberg:

If restaurants and drivers complained about DoorDash but DoorDash was raking in juicy profits, you could be like “what do you want, innovate or die, the market has spoken.” But in fact restaurants and drivers complain about DoorDash, and it lost $450 million in 2019 on about $1 billion of revenue. Arguably the market has spoken and said “stop it, come on, this is dumb.”

In the old economy of price signals, you tried to build a product that people would want, and the way you knew it worked is that people would pay you more than it cost. You were adding value to the world, and you could tell because you made money. In the new economy of user growth, you don’t have to worry about making a product that people want because you can just pay them to use it, so you might end up with companies losing money to give people things that they don’t want and driving out the things they do want.

That sounds like a joke but it’s not even an exaggeration.

Bonus burn on counterfeit capitalism poster child MoviePass:

Meanwhile MoviePass itself is up for auction in its Chapter 7 bankruptcy, with bids due next month. Naively I would think that a pandemic would be good for MoviePass: If your business is buying movie tickets for $14 and selling them for $10 a month, months when all the movie theaters are shut down should be relatively profitable.

28 May 12:56

Listen to the original NPR radio drama adaptations of the first STAR WARS trilogy

by Thom Dunn

In my 90s childhood Star Wars obsession, I remember hearing a lot about the fabled NPR radio drama adaptations (read: "podcast") of the original trilogy. They were supposed to be canonical, in-as-much as they were Lucas-approved stories that expanded on the familiar ones we already knew.

Now, someone has finally compiled them all on YouTube (although apparently you can find the MP3s on as well). And wow, they are expanded — the A New Hope radio drama is 13 hours long!

It's quite a stark departure from the movies I'm used to. The first chapter focuses exclusively on Luke, and highlights his relationships with his friends at Tosche Station — Cammie, Fixer, Deke, and the OG prodigal son, Biggs Darklighter (there's a version of some of this material floating as a deleted scene, but it's not nearly as expansive as this). Chapter Two turns more attention to Leia and her relationship with her father, as well as the information that lead them to the Death Star plans in the first place. It's not even until the third chapter that we get to the opening scene of the movie (that's as far as I've listened yet). It definitely conflicts with the newly established canon, especially Rogue One, but I'm enjoying the experience of re-discovering this world in a different format, with different and exciting details filling out the edges. I'm eager to find out what other ancillary characters might get more of a spotlight treatment here.

From the editor who posted these compilations on YouTube:

I have combined all episodes of the original radio drama using excerpts from John Williams' original soundtrack and Ben Burt's sound effects for a more seamless blending from one episode to the next. This is how I want to experience this fantastic piece of work.

I hold no right to the material nor claim any credit for the final product. All content ownership remains with the proprietor of the original works. No breach or infringement of rights intended.


A reoccurring question is about the running time of the radio drama. "What has been cut to reduce the original running time? I have removed the narrated intros, outros and end credits from each episode to created the seamless story. This has reduced the over all running time for each complete drama.

From Open Culture:

When the Star Wars radio drama was first broadcast in the spring of 1981, fans of the movie would have heard a mixture of the familiar (including the voices of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO) and the unfamiliar. With science-fiction novelist Brian Daley brought on to add or restore scenes to the script of the original dialogue-light feature film, the story stretches out to thirteen episodes for a total runtime of six hours. The series thus stands as an early example of the expansion of the Star Wars universe that, in all kinds of media, has continued apace ever since. An Empire Strikes Back radio drama followed in 1983, with Return of the Jedi following, after prolonged development challenges, in 1996.

A New Hope on YouTube / MP3s via

Empire Strikes Back on YouTube / MP3s via

Return of the Jedi on YouTube / MP3s via

28 May 11:17

A disappearing old Tokyo shopping district

by Lee

When danchi (public housing complexes) began to appear in and around Tokyo during the mid-1950s, so did shopping areas designed to cater for the new residents. Some tower blocks had shops on the ground floor, whereas little areas of commerce naturally evolved near others. Public spaces that back in the day would have been bustling with local families, but changing shopping habits, as well as a massively altered demographic, have caused many of them to slowly fall into dereliction and disappear. A sad fate that the district below also seems destined for.

a derelict old Tokyo shopping district

a derelict old Tokyo shopping district

a derelict old Tokyo shopping district

a derelict old Tokyo shopping district

a derelict old Tokyo shopping district

a derelict old Tokyo shopping district

a derelict old Tokyo shopping district

28 May 06:32

Hesekiel 25:17 enligt Sonny Chiba (och Tarantino)

by Hexmaster

"The path of the righteous man and defender is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the father of lost children. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious anger, who poison and destroy my brothers; and they shall know that I am CHIBA the Bodyguard when I shall lay may vengeance upon them." – EZEKIEL 25:17
- Förtexten till The Bodyguard (1976), den amerikanska versionen av Karate Kiba (1973) där den inte fanns

Sonny Chiba är artistnamn för skådespelaren Sadao Maeda, och även rollen i den japanska karatefilmen som baseras på en serie av Ikki Kajiwara.
"And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
- En av några lätta justering av Jules Winnfield (t v i bild)

Samuel L. Jacksons torped i Pulp Fiction har en drapa som han alltid läser upp för sina offer när det är dags. I stort sett samma text som Chiba, alltså från Hesekiel 25:17 – säger han ... Men den som slår upp den goda boken där hittar bara följande:
And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
I vrede skall jag straffa dem, och jag skall utkräva en fruktansvärd hämnd. Och när jag låter min hämnd drabba dem, då skall de inse att jag är Herren.
- Hesekiel 25:17 (King James Version + Bibel 2000)

Det är bara de sista orden i det långa citatet som kommer från Bibeln. Resten kommer inte från Quentin Tarantino som jag först trodde – tack Joakim E! – utan från en japansk 70-talsrulle, inklusive bibelhänvisning (och, något otippat, "CHIBA the bodyguard"). Det är alltså inte bara ett påhittat kvantum trovärdigt bibelsnack utan även en mycket tarantinsk referens. (Maeda fick senare en roll i Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) – Youtube.) Det finns också en ironi i att Chiba arbetar mot ett knarksyndikat av samma sort som Winnfield arbetar för.

De som ska straffas hos Hesekiel är för övrigt filistéerna och kereteerna (de senare är kreti i uttrycket "kreti och pleti"), eftersom de uppges vara "hämndlystna och fulla av förakt".

Kuriosa: Något som jag först trodde var en källa men som visade sig vara något ännu mer otippat: Ett lån från Chibas livvakt och Tarantinos torped till en religiös skrift. Gravt förvillat och förvirrat men skrivet på allvar. Citatet är inte med i något särskilt populärkulturellt sammanhang eller så utan står rätt upp och ner.
Blesseth is he whom in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness and the shadow of death, for he is truly his brother's keeper. God will execute great vengeance against him who poison and destroy his brother. They shall know that I am the Creator God of Afrika [sic], the Divine giver of life and light to the world.
- Shaka Saye Bambata Dolo, Genesis of the Bible (2012)

Herr SSBD:s Genesis kan beskrivas som en svart Atlantica: Varje plats, händelse och person av vikt i bibeln placeras i Afrika (stavat just så). Spridda nedslag indikerar en oläsbar ohygglighet. Den hör till den pseudovetenskapliga genren afrocentrism, nog mest känd genom boken Black Athena (första volymen utgiven 1987) som på samma sätt, om avgjort läsbarare, försökte placera klassisk grekisk historia i Afrika.