"The business choices of internet platforms have enabled an explosion not only of white supremacy but also of Covid denial and antivax extremism, which have variously undermined the nation’s pandemic response, nearly sabotaged the presidential election, and played a foundational role in the violence at the Capitol. A huge industry has evolved on the platform giants to raise money from and sell products to people in the thrall of extreme ideologies."
Also, their monopoly power means no meaningful alternatives can exist for businesses who want to advertise or people who want to socialize on platforms that act ethically.
"Americans voted Trump out of office, but instead of accepting that result, he has sought to overturn it. By inciting the violent occupation of the US Capitol, Trump has given up any legitimate claim to power. In 14 days, barring catastrophe, he will be out of office. The only question is how much damage he will do in the meantime — and we know, based on long experience, that his Twitter and Facebook accounts will be among his primary weapons."
Taking away some ability to incite violence would be a good step.

Update (1/7): Facebook bans Trump for his remaining time in office right after congress confirmed the electoral college votes and the Georgia election determined Democrats would control Congress.

Update (1/9): Twitter permanently bans Trump. And all attempts to use related accounts.
BuzzFeed News
"The employees were scared and frustrated, and some came to the realization that the platform they had helped build and operate had contributed to the wave of fear, disinformation, and chaos that flooded Congress."
Facebook had to stop their employees from discussing the coup attempt today.
Washington Post
"The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security."
I agree with the Washington Post Editorial Board. Time for quick action before he does more damage.
Washington Post
"As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, 'there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.' Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic."
The fact that all living former defense secretaries felt the need to send this warning is chilling.

Nine Things That Keep Me Going

I really enjoyed Jason's end of the year post 21 Things That Kept Me Going. Several things that kept me going were on his list and I thought I'd share a few of my own.

King Arthur Baking. I got into baking sourdough early in the pandemic and tried following the method in Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. I had moderate success and eventually moved on to yeast breads which I still bake like a fiend. I've found the recipes at King Arthur are a nice mix of accessible and delicious. I make this No-Knead Harvest Bread every week and have it for breakfast every day.

GarageBand. I already posted about how I started using GarageBand much more this year and it has been a good way to motivate myself to keep playing music. And JamKazam gets an honorable mention for making live jam nights with friends possible.

Board Game Arena. I've had at least two or three asynchronous board games going with friends since March and this site makes it possible. Slow, thoughtful games seem to work better than face-paced games in this format but they're all a good way to stay loosely connected with friends. Honorable mention goes to Tabletop Simulator on Steam which powered many live game nights. (Blood Rage is a great one!)

Slack and Discord. My friends and I use Slack as an always going conversation and Discord for events like game or jam nights. Why the split? I think it's because Slack handles text and notifications well and Discord handles realtime video chat well. I rarely think about these tools but remote socializing would be less fun without them.

Dune Universe. I got caught up in the Dune movie hype and remembered how much I enjoyed that world. I reread my favorites God Emperor and Children of Dune and I've been enjoying listening to Dune Pod. Bonus hot take: the David Lynch movie is good.

Election Profit Makers. I found this surreal political year difficult to process so it helped to have this podcast of like-minded people to listen to. It's ostensibly about election prediction markets, but it's really about Starlee, Jon, and David humanely working through inhumane political news. I hope it continues past election season.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. I kicked off the pandemic year with this novel about a generation ship traveling to a new planet. Maybe a meditation on isolation and survival was not the best choice but I'm still thinking about this story.

The Atlantic. More than any other news source, The Atlantic helped me make sense of the pandemic. Ed Yong continues to be especially prescient and accurate throughout. They also get the small things like their overall design, app, and the tone of their newsletter right consistently and those aren't small things.

Duolingo. My son picked up Duolingo and started learning German and soon the whole family was hooked. It's a nice mental diversion and Duolingo has a fun system that makes it like a game. Oh how I hate their hearts system though!
Today in Tabs
Today in Tabs was THE newsletter before newsletters knew how to newsletter. Five years later we still have tabs to ignore and Rusty is going to summarize them for us again. This is a big get for Substack in the email newsletter platform wars. Subscribe now while email is still an open platform!

Music: Clay

an abandonded structure in a forest with hue-shifted colors

Streaks App

As I write this I've been using duolingo for exactly 74 days. How do I know? Because the app tells me I have a 74-day streak going. I've found that slight external motivator is enough to keep me conjugating verbs even when it's the last thing I want to do. The psychological pain of breaking that streak forces me to pick up the app and at least do the minimum required. Sometimes I pick it up and spend a long time learning the gender of German words, but the streak gives me a minimum requirement for days I don't have any motivation.

Years ago I heard that Jerry Seinfeld used this unbroken chain method to improve his writing productivity. I filed it away as something that might work, but it always seemed like something I should use for one big life task of some kind. Using it for a small thing like working in an app for 10 minutes means I have a constant sense of forward progress even if it's slight progress. I'm much less likely to put down the app for days at a time and eventually stop using it.

Now that resolution season is upon us I wondered if there was a way to create unbroken chains in other small areas of my life. Of course there's an app: Streaks. I've been using Streaks for exactly three days (guess how I know) and I've already found it's having a similar duolingo effect. I was already walking a certain amount each day, but seeing even the small number of days add up as a score is an extra push out the door.

Streaks integrates with other apps on my phone like the Apple Health app, so tasks like walking a certain number of steps checks off automatically. Non-automatic tasks are easy to schedule and it has a thoughtful interface for completing tasks. There are calendars and charts and everything you'd expect to visualize streaks. It has a large icon library so you can pick an appropriate visual ID for your task, like this:

screenshot from the Streaks app that shows a banana icon with the words 'Eat A Banana'

One annoyance I've found so far is a hidden action (shaking the phone) to undo an accidental task completion. Otherwise I highly recommend Streaks as an extra motivator for tasks small and maybe even large in the new year. In February I'll report back how many days I actually ended up using it.

Zombie Python

Back in 2015 I ruined good art by Audubon, Rothko, and Albers with a Python script that creates a low poly version of an image. I put the script on GitHub and forgot about it.

Until today! Someone submitted a pull request that updates the script for python 3 and some newer versions of the dependencies. I got it running again to test it out:


This is a low poly version of Van Gogh's Wheatfield with Crows.

In conclusion, coding in public is good and maybe there's a hidden demand for generating triangles with Python.

Oddly Specific YouTube Genre

Not since 80's music playing in an abandoned mall has there been a YouTube genre that speaks to me like Muffled Christmas Music From Another Room. Stumbled on this via the latest Links I Would Gchat You If We Were Friends which, well, hmm.

Music: Sunbreak

a row of trees with the sun overhead; hue-shifted colors

More guitar noodling in GarageBand. Having fun recording the piano chords and bass and then wondering if I can make a guitar line work. I tried something different with the drums this time but it still feels pretty far away from what I'd like to hear.

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