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Reading

The Weekender

Morning Nuggets – Saturday and Sunday, November 21-22, 2020

Today: Stan Musial was born on Nov. 21, 1920 – 100 years ago.

In 1864, Like in 2020, America Just Got Lucky – The Atlantic – History’s hypotheticals lead easily to scenarios few of us would like to imagine. We have just come close to another moment that would likely have produced a worse future for this country, and, for now, I’m glad we don’t have to find out for sure.

Chris Christie calls the conduct of Trump’s legal team a ‘national embarrassment’ – Washington Post – “The rearview mirror should be ripped off,” Christie said.

San Francisco was flattening the curve — until our urge to gather spiked it. Now we need to reverse the surge – San Francisco Chronicle (Heather Knight) – So what happened? Despite the city’s repeated insistence on following data, science and facts, we don’t have the data, science or facts to identify the exact problem spots.

Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo and the perils of pandemic stardom – Washington Post – Pandemic fatigue is a thing, tempers are short all over, and no one likes scolds or hypocrites — especially when it occurs at a Marie Antoinette level of obliviousness — but that’s hardly the only problem here.

The Lady and the Trump – New York Times (Maureen Dowd) – I’ve been riveted all week by the spectacle of the most famous blond phenom on the planet, a child isolated and miserable living inside a national landmark, lashing out and spiraling into self-destructive acts.

RV Owners Take to the Road With ‘Covid Campers’ – Wall St. Journal – They are turning to “Covid Campers”: specially fitted recreational vehicles—or retrofitted existing vehicles—that offer the comforts of home and office without exposing them to the risks of public restrooms, restaurants and even people altogether.

Google Pay’s Massive Relaunch Makes It an All-Encompassing Money App – The Verge – It turns the app from something that most people think of as a tap-to-pay card repository or peer-to-peer payment system into a much more ambitious service.

The calculus behind new retailer payment methods – A16Z Newsletter (Seema Amble) – These ideas aren’t new. Retailers have been trying to cut down on interchange spend for years, mostly with limited success.

The World in 2021 – Ten trends to watch in the coming year – The Economist (Tom Standage) – Do you feel lucky? The number 21 is connected with luck, risk, taking chances and rolling the dice. It’s the number of spots on a standard die, and the number of shillings in a guinea, the currency of wagers and horse-racing. It’s the minimum age at which you can enter a casino in America…

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Reading

Fall Friday

Friday Morning Nuggets – November 20, 2020

Fall 2020

Iowa’s Covid Wave and the Limits of Personal Responsibility – Wired – “The governor’s reversal this week (on mask wearing) is tantamount to an admission that the policy of personal responsibility isn’t working.” and “The absence of a mask mandate, the open bars, the public gatherings—they created the illusion of normalcy. And if things feel normal, people are going to act like they are.”

When the World Seems Like One Big Conspiracy – New York Times (Yuval Noah Harari) – “The key premise of Global Cabal theories is that it is relatively easy to manipulate the world. A small group of people can understand, predict and control everything, from wars to technological revolutions to pandemics.”

The Pandemic in Six-Word Memoirs – New York Times (Larry Smith) – “The world has never felt smaller.” and “Can’t smell the campfire on Zoom.”

California Wants Its Imperial Valley to Be ‘Lithium Valley’ – Bloomberg Businessweek – “Hot brine trapped beneath the desert floor contains potentially one of the world’s biggest deposits of lithium. Demand for the metal is soaring as automakers worldwide shift to electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries.”

In D.C., a resident tracks the flying machines hovering above on the city’s ‘helicopter highway’ – Washington Post – “At the start of the year, he launched the Twitter handle @HelicoptersofDC as a clearinghouse for all things chopper-related. Now more than 7,700 followers strong, the account uses publicly available data to identify the sources of all that buzzing, often tweeting out photos of the choppers.”

The hit machine has to learn from history – Financial Times (John Gapper) – “The balance is threatened in music because streaming makes the back catalogue more potent.”

An Interview with an Asian Captain at United Airlines – Sam Chui – “What’s your favorite route in the United Airlines system? For me, it is San Francisco to Hong Kong! Bar None.”

The Fraud of Fish Oil Is Exposed. Will Kale Be Next? – Wall St. Journal (Joe Queenan) – “Taking fish oil supplements is just another weird thing people in northern California dreamed up in the 1980s.”

Starlink…Talking to the Heavens – Moose Peterson – Moose is liking his new satellite-based Internet connection!

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Reading

Third Thursday

Morning Nuggets – Thursday, November 19, 2020

Reader – New York – 2014

Today is International Men’s Day.

The Elements of Good Judgment – Harvard Business Review – “I’ve found that leaders with good judgment tend to be good listeners and readers—able to hear what other people actually mean, and thus able to see patterns that others do not.”

As U.S. Passes a Quarter Million Dead, Response Remains Disjointed – New York Times – “With coronavirus cases on the rise in all but one state and a newly reached American death toll of 250,000, this would not seem the moment for the United States to take a patchwork response to the pandemic.”

We know how to reduce the virus’s spread — even though we’re not doing it – New York Times – “We know a lot about how to control the virus’s spread. Mask-wearing makes a big difference. So does limiting indoor gatherings.”

Trump Has Abdicated in the Face of Disaster – The Atlantic – “The nation cries out for leadership, yet amid one of the worst crises to face the country in decades, President Donald Trump is nowhere to be found. He is hunkered down in the White House, not giving interviews or speaking to the public except through his Twitter account, where he is mostly spreading misinformation about the election.”

In the Covid Economy, Laid-Off Employees Become New Entrepreneurs – Wall St. Journal – “To adapt to the pandemic and the job loss it unleashed, more Americans are becoming their own bosses, setting up tiny businesses to work as traveling hair stylists, in-home personal trainers, boutique mask designers and chefs.”

Artificial intelligence is reshaping finance – Financial Times – “Essentially, Barclays and Amazon are linking data with AI analysis to approve credit (or not) and predict what customised services clients will want next.”

African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos – Techcrunch – “African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.”

Deutsche Bank Says Investors Increasingly Prefer Bitcoin Over Gold as Inflation Hedge – Coindesk – “Bitcoin has long been considered by supporters as digital gold, due to its limited, predictable supply and use case as a store of value outside banking influence.”

George Clooney When We Need Him Most – GQ – “So, he says, he’s chosen directing. “Directing is the painter,” he says. “Acting, writing, you know, those are the paints.””

Programmable money isn’t new, we’ve had it for ages – Moneyness – “No fancy blockchains here.”

It’s hard to get rid of a bad boss. Instead, try a ‘soft coup.’ – Washington Post – “A dim bulb isn’t going to change itself. And rotating the room around it instead is terribly inefficient. But those seem to be the options your chief executive prefers over the most direct solution.”

How to prepare your digital assets in case of death – Macworld (Glenn Fleishman) – “Most of us feel macabre talking about death, but dealing with the fussy details ahead of time can solve endless problems later. It’s especially true with digital resources, as giant technology firms, including Apple, may not be responsive to your queries when someone’s gone.”

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Reading

Wet Wednesday

Morning Nuggets – Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Albert_S – Unsplash

Pfizer and BioNTech Conclude Phase 3 Study of COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate, Meeting All Primary Efficacy Endpoints – Pfizer – “We are grateful that the first global trial to reach the final efficacy analysis mark indicates that a high rate of protection against COVID-19 can be achieved very fast after the first 30 µg dose, underscoring the power of BNT162 in providing early protection,” said Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech.

Larry Brilliant Says We’ll Beat Covid—After We Go Through Hell – Wired (Steven Levy) – “And if you are thinking of spending your 2020 Thanksgiving dinner the way an epidemiologist does, go Swanson instead of Butterball.”

Immunity to the Coronavirus May Last Years, New Data Hint – New York Times – “How long might immunity to the coronavirus last? Years, maybe even decades, according to a new study…”

Boeing Responds to FAA Approval to Resume 737 MAX Operations – Boeing – “The FAA’s directive is an important milestone,” said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”

Trump and his supporters are discovering how hard it is to sabotage election results – Washington Post (David Ignatius) – “When the history books about this election are written, (Christopher) Krebs will be one of the heroes.”

How Bill Demchak turned PNC into a US banking powerhouse – Financial Times

How to Get Started with Street Photography – Borrowlenses.com – “Street photography requires a lot of grace.”

Apple announces App Store Small Business Program – Apple – “New program reduces App Store commission to 15 percent for small businesses earning up to $1 million per year…”

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication – Basecamp – “Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.”

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Reading

Third Tuesday

Tuesday Morning Nuggets – November 17, 2020

Glenn Carstens-Peters – Unsplash

M1 Macs review: The Next Generation – Six Colors – “The decision to abandon Intel, seemingly risky when we all first contemplated it a few years ago, has become blindingly obvious in hindsight. These new relatively low-end Mac models, all powered by the M1 chip, are faster than all but the very highest-end Intel Macs.”

The Golden Rule of Pandemic Survival – The Atlantic – “My colleagues’ guidance boils down to this winter’s golden rule for interacting with anyone outside your immediate household: Don’t spend time indoors with other people.”

COVID-19 and Walking Japan – Craig Mod – “What it’s like doing this walk during COVID-19? How stressful is it? How different is it?”

The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done – New Yorker (Cal Newport) – “Imagine if, through some combination of new management thinking and technology, we could introduce processes that minimize the time required to talk about work or fight off random tasks flung our way by equally harried co-workers, and instead let us organize our days around a small number of discrete objectives.”

By the Way, Donald Trump Could Still Launch Nuclear Weapons at Any Time – Wired – “Among the authorities he’ll retain until his final minutes in office? The awesome and awful power to launch the United States’ nuclear arsenal on command.”

Introducing Amazon Pharmacy: Prescription Medications Delivered – BusinessWire – “Customers can now purchase prescription medications through the Amazon online store – convenient and reliable access, without leaving home.”

How to Pretend You’re in Paris Tonight – New York Times – There are countless ways to invite Paris into your home. All you need is a little creativity. And perhaps a glass of Champagne.

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Reading

Monday Nuggets

Monday Morning Nuggets – November 16, 2020

Toa Heftiba – Unsplash

Early Data Show Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective – New York Times – Researchers said the results were better than they had dared to imagine. But the vaccine will not be widely available for months, probably not until spring.

Huawei, 5G, and the Man Who Conquered Noise – Wired – “What gripped him most was solving a challenge that Shannon himself had spelled out in his 1948 paper: how to transport accurate information at high speed while defeating the inevitable “noise”—undesirable alterations of the message—introduced in the process of moving all those bits.”

How The “Experts” Invest Their Money – Can I Retire Yet? – The book is a collection of 25 essays written by financial experts, ranging from financial advisors, journalists, authors, and professional portfolio managers. All shared what they actually do when it is time to put their own money where their mouths are.

Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy – The Atlantic – “What I’ve always believed is that humanity has the capacity to be kinder, more just, more fair, more rational, more reasonable, more tolerant. It is not inevitable. History does not move in a straight line. But if you have enough people of goodwill who are willing to work on behalf of those values, then things can get better.”

The Oral History of CNN’s Election Week – Esquire – It took office naps, rousing renditions of Motownphilly, and a whole lot of coffee.

Walmart Retreats Around Globe to Focus on E-Commerce – Wall St. Journal – Walmart has sold three longtime overseas holdings in less than seven weeks, each at the cost of some financial pain.

California, Love It and Leave It – Wall St. Journal – “The harsh truth is that California has fallen into disrepair. Bad policies discourage business and innovation, stifle opportunity and make life in major cities ugly and unpleasant.”

San Francisco sees nearly 7 foot king tides Sunday, more coming Monday – San Francisco Chronicle – High water was reported Sunday morning along San Francisco’s Embarcadero as well as at other flood-prone spots including parts of the bayshore in Mill Valley and Sausalito.

Best books of 2020: Technology – Financial Times – John Thornhill selects his must-read titles.

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Reading

Morning Nuggets

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Case for Political Exile for Donald Trump – Politico – The country needs a clean break, Napoleon-style. And, hey, Trump might like his own island realm and an imperial title to go with it.

Reinventing the Newspaper, Week After Week – New York Times – Imagination is exactly what fuels her team every week for an At Home feature known by its editors and designers simply as “the activity,” a craft, game or other project in which readers learn how to turn the physical newspaper into a unique D.I.Y. creation.

Computer Scientists Achieve ‘Crown Jewel’ of Cryptography – Quanta – A cryptographic master tool called indistinguishability obfuscation has for years seemed too good to be true. Three researchers have figured out that it can work.

DHL, FedEx and UPS Are Ready to Save the World – Bloomberg – The logistics industry faces a mammoth task to safely deliver billions of vaccine doses. Those shipments could further juice the industry’s profits.

The Crown: Yes, Princess Diana’s “Uptown Girl” Performance Really Happened – Vanity Fair – “She walked out for eight counts…and then stopped, looked at the audience beautifully, and there was a gasp from the audience of 2,500 people who took an intake of breath all at the same time. They were speechless, and she was on fire.”

How to make sure winter is welcoming in the time of COVID – San Francisco Chronicle – With temperatures dropping and the days growing short, the Bay Area’s new landscape of parklets and shared outdoor spaces needs to be adapted to the realities of the season.

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Cars

That Car with the Manual Transmission

Thanks to Niklas Garnholz for sharing his work on Unsplash.

Did you have one? When you were younger? Or did you start out in Drive?

The sound, feel and thrill of driving are to be relished, not relegated to the trash heap and memories along with carburetors, fender skirts, steel wheels and hubcaps. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in a sports car with a manual transmission and you too will become a believer.

David L. Scott writing in the Wall St. Journal, September 12, 2020
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Blogs/Weblogs San Francisco/California Weblogs

Why have a Blog?

Photo by Derick Daily on Unsplash

Enjoyed this from Austin Kleon:

I didn’t start a blog because I had something to say, I started a blog to find something to say.

And:

Most writers don’t write to express what they think. They write to figure out what they think. Writing is a process of discovery.

I started this version of my blog on November 24, 2001. Ironically, it’s a link to a San Francisco Chronicle story about why writers enjoy living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

So why is it authors multiply here like cheap noodle restaurants?One reason the Bay Area is such a good place for writers may be the same reason it’s such a good place for arbitration lawyers and podiatrists – it’s a terrific place to live.

So much has changed in the almost twenty years since that article was written. Local bookstores, great restaurants, group events, …

After the last few weeks of fires, heat, etc., recent articles seem to talk much more about the problems – asking “why bother living in San Francisco (or California)?”

For example, this Washington Post article titled “Warmer. Burning. Epidemic-challenged. Expensive. The California Dream has become the California Compromise.

The cityscape resembles the surface of a distant planet, populated by a masked alien culture. The air, choked with blown ash, is difficult to breathe.

There is the Golden Gate Bridge, looming in the distance through a drift-smoke haze, and the Salesforce Tower, which against the blood-orange sky appears as a colossal spaceship in a doomsday film.

San Francisco, and much of California, has never been like this.

California has become a warming, burning, epidemic-challenged and expensive state, with many who live in sophisticated cities, idyllic oceanfront towns and windblown mountain communities thinking hard about the viability of a place they have called home forever. For the first time in a decade, more people left California last year for other states than arrived.

Indeed. Life is so rich…it’s all about finding something to say.

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Living

A Sunday Morning – Late Summer 2020

I’m feeling a bit melancholy this morning – aren’t we all in some way?

But it’s a lovely day shaping up outside – the local lightning-caused wildfires are gradually coming under control, the air quality is slowly improving and the sun is bright.

But my mood is not so bright. Brad Feld shared his feeling – asking “Are You At Your Best Right Now?

Everyone I know is some element of tired, stressed, anxious, frustrated, or just running at maximum speed trying to keep it all together. People are short-tempered, irritable, irrational, and lashing out or thrashing around.

And he shares some good advice:

Give yourself a break and acknowledge to yourself and your loved ones that you are not at your best right now.

After reading Brad, I came across the latest from Ming Thein. He’s been a long-time inspiration for me in photography. In “Full Circle“, Ming writes:

“If things are starting to take on a tone of finality, that’s because this is the point at which I confirm the suspicions you’ve been having: MT the writer and mingthein.com are both going into retirement.”

My friend Doug Kaye and I took a San Francisco street photography workshop from Ming back in 2014. We spent a couple of days walking with him on the streets, watching him make his images, and benefiting from his critiques of ours. He proved to be perhaps the most challenging “coach” I’ve had among the many photography mentors I’ve had along the way. While he’s stepping back for now, I’m hoping it won’t be long before we are inspired again by Ming and his work.

Picking up this morning’s Sunday San Francisco Chronicle to read at breakfast added to the melancholy mood of my morning! With headlines like: Understanding 2020’s confusion, As workers at big businesses stay home, downtown SF’s small businesses suffer, and Willie Brown’s latest column Burning and looting in the name of justice will hand election to Trump.

And then there’s this: Chadwick Boseman helped us understand our history. His death shatters our hearts. Reading the news certainly doesn’t help swing one’s mood back to positive and out of the melancoly!

But setting the news aside, there are lots of positives to see and feel if I just pause and reflect a bit. Things like the wonderful creativity of people like Craig Mod, the inspiring work of the creators on KickStarter, the wonderful photography of my friend and teacher Cira Crowell.

Craig has it right when he talks about the benefits of walking:

“Those walking are almost certain to have clearer minds than those sitting at home or standing around with guns. Long walks may not solve all problems, but over time they have unquestionably activated groundbreaking insights of scientific reasoning, creativity, and philosophy. And have unlocked equality in the eyes of the law and the world.”

And

“It can be difficult to sometimes remember, but there is a lot of good still out there. Look well, look closely.”

Such a great reminder! I find it helps even more if you think about using your camera in those moments to slow down, breathe in and just see!

Sunday is a day for remembering the best, not dwelling on all that melancholy trying to wave over us. And, just maybe it’s just another perfect day for taking a walk…

Update: Oh, one more cheerful thing – it’s Warren Buffett’s 90th birthday today. Bill Gates shares some memories and makes him a birthday cake! And quotes some wisdom from Warren:

“You will move in the direction of the people that you associate with. So it’s important to associate with people that are better than yourself. The friends you have will form you as you go through life. Make some good friends, keep them for the rest of your life, but have them be people that you admire as well as like.”