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The end of the Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy

What goes up must come down. In this case with prices of services backed by VC firms, the reverse is true…

For years, these subsidies allowed us to live Balenciaga lifestyles on Banana Republic budgets. Collectively, we took millions of cheap Uber and Lyft rides, shuttling ourselves around like bourgeois royalty while splitting the bill with those companies’ investors. We plunged MoviePass into bankruptcy by taking advantage of its $9.95-a-month, all-you-can-watch movie ticket deal, and took so many subsidized spin classes that ClassPass was forced to cancel its $99-a-month unlimited plan. We filled graveyards with the carcasses of food delivery start-ups — Maple, Sprig, SpoonRocket, Munchery — just by accepting their offers of underpriced gourmet meals.

These companies’ investors didn’t set out to bankroll our decadence. They were just trying to get traction for their start-ups, all of which needed to attract customers quickly to establish a dominant market position, elbow out competitors and justify their soaring valuations. So they flooded these companies with cash, which often got passed on to users in the form of artificially low prices and generous incentives.

Now, users are noticing that for the first time — whether because of disappearing subsidies or merely an end-of-pandemic demand surge — their luxury habits actually carry luxury price tags.

Source: Farewell, Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy | The New York Times

Briar now does pictures

Briar isn’t the kind of app you necessarily use every day and, in fact, it positions itself as a something used by activists. That being said, it’s really useful that there’s now the ability to send images to other users.

I’ve tested the feature (which requires both parties to be on v1.3) and it works well.

The Briar Project released version 1.3 of its Android app today. Thanks to support from eQualit.ie, this release adds several new features that have been requested by many users over the years.With today’s release, users can upload profile pictures that will be visible only to their contacts.Lots of people have asked for a way to send images via Briar. We listened! This release adds the ability to send images in private conversations. Images are still heavily compressed, so high resolution images might show pixel artifacts.

Source: Briar 1.3 released 

Who’s the pet? Tarantula or tiny frog?

I read recently that some tarantulas keep tiny frogs as ‘pets’. Of course, I had to do some more digging and found out that’s not quite true, and if it were, it would be more like the other way around (as some tarantulas are so docile!)

I’ve seen some “sources” (and I really do use the word source here in it’s least possible capacity) try to say that the frogs eat potential nuisances to the spider like ants, mites and other nasties which is why the spider keeps it around. This is silly for a few reasons. 1. Tarantulas line the entire length of their burrow (which can be several feet deep) with thick sticky web. This prevents things like small insects from burrowing into or walking into their homes. Anything large enough to do so is too big to be eaten by the frog. 2. These frogs don’t even eat stuff like mites or springtails. The prey items are far too small for them to bother with. 3. If there are enough ants to bother a tarantula of this size the frog is going to die if it sticks around anyway.

Source: Is it true that some tarantulas keep tiny frogs as pets? – Quora

More US electoral chaos to come in 2024?

Difficult to argue against this scenario.

The scenario then goes like this. The Republicans win back the House and Senate in 2022, in part thanks to voter suppression. The Republican candidate in 2024 loses the popular vote by several million and the electoral vote by the margin of a few states. State legislatures, claiming fraud, alter the electoral count vote. The House and Senate accept that altered count. The losing candidate becomes the president. We no longer have “democratically elected government.” And people are angry.

Source: The Last Free Election in America | Kottke

Epistemological chaos and denialism

Good stuff from Cory Doctorow on how Big Tobacco invented the playbook and it’s been refined in other industries (especially online) ever since.

Denial thrives on epistemological chaos: a denialist doesn’t want to convince you that smoking is safe, they just want to convince that it’s impossible to say whether smoking is safe or not. Denial weaponizes ideas like “balance,” demanding that “both sides” of every issue be presented so the public can decide. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a believer in dialetical materialism as you are likely to find, but I also know that keeping an open mind doesn’t require that you open so wide that your brains fall out.

The bad-faith “balance” game is used by fraudsters and crooks to sow doubt. It’s how homeopaths, anti-vaxers, eugenicists, raw milk pushers and other members of the Paltrow-Industrial Complex played the BBC and other sober-sided media outlets, demanding that they be given airtime to rebut scientists’ careful, empirical claims with junk they made up on the spot.

This is not a harmless pastime. The pandemic revealed the high price of epistemological chaos, of replacing informed debate with cynical doubt. Argue with an anti-vaxer and you’ll soon realize that you don’t merely disagree on what’s true — you disagree on whether there is such a thing as truth, and, if there is, how it can be known.

Source: I quit. | Cory Doctorow | Medium

Information cannot be transmitted faster than the [vacuum] speed of light

It’s been a while since I studied Physics, so I confess to not exactly understanding what’s going on here. However, if it speeds up my internet connection at some point in the future, it’s all good.

“Our experiment shows that the generally held misconception that nothing can move faster than the speed of light, is wrong. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity still stands, however, because it is still correct to say that information cannot be transmitted faster than the vacuum speed of light,” said Dr. Lijun Wang. “We will continue to study the nature of light and hopefully it will provide us with a better insight about the natural world and further stimulate new thinking towards peaceful applications that will benefit all humanity.”

Source: Laser pulse travels 300 times faster than light

You don’t have to monetize your joy

A useful reminder.

Adam J. Kurtz, author of Things Are What You Make of Them has rewritten the maxim for modern creatives: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life work super fucking hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally.” Which, aside from being relatable to anyone who has tried to make money from something they truly care about, speaks to an underrepresented truth: those with passion careers can have just as much career anxiety as those who clock in and out of the mindless daily grind.

[…]

How did we get to the point where free time is so full of things we have to do that there’s no room for things we get to do? When did a beautiful handmade dress become a reminder of one’s inadequacies? Would the world really fall apart if, when I came home from a long day of work, instead of trying to figure out what I could conquer, I sat down and, I don’t know, tried my hand at watercolors? What if I sucked? What if it didn’t matter? What if that’s not the point?

Source: The Modern Trap of Feeling Obligated to Turn Hobbies Into Hustles | repeller

Peer review sucks

I don’t have much experience of peer review (I’ve only ever submitted one article and peer reviewed two) but it felt a bit archaic at the time. From what I hear from others, they feel the same.

The interesting thing from my perspective is that the whole edifice of the university system is slowly crumbling. Academics know that the system is ridiculous.

This then is why I was so bothered about how Covid-19 research is reported: peer review is no guard, is no gold standard, has little role beyond gate-keeping. It is noisy, biased, fickle. So pointing out that some piece of research has not been peer reviewed is meaningless: peer review has played no role in deciding what research was meaningful in the deep history of science; and played little role in deciding what research was meaningful in the ongoing story of Covid-19. The mere fact that news stories were written about the research decided it was meaningful: because it needed to be done. Viral genomes needed sequencing; vaccines needed developing; epidemiological models needed simulating. The reporting of Covid-19 research has shown us just how badly peer review needs peer reviewing. But, hey, you’ll have to take my word for it because, sorry, this essay is (not yet peer reviewed).

Source: The Absurdity of Peer Review | Elemental

How to recover from burnout

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines occupational burnout as “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

Based on that definition, I’ve experienced burnout twice, once in my twenties and once in my thirties. But what to do about it? And how can we prevent it?

I read a lot of Hacker News, including some of the ‘Ask HN’ threads. This one soliciting advice about burnout received what I considered to be a great response from one user.

Around August last year I just couldn’t continue. I wasn’t sleeping, I was frequently run down, and I was self-medicating more and more with drugs and alcohol. It eventually got to the point where simply opening my laptop would elicit a fight or flight response.

I was lucky enough to be in a secure enough financial situation to largely take 6 months off. If you’re in a position to do this, I highly recommend it.

I uninstalled gmail, slack, etc. from my phone. I considered getting a dumb phone, but settled for turning off push notifications for everything instead. I went away with my girlfriend for a week and left all my tech at home except for my kindle (literally the first time I’ve been disconnected for more than a couple of days in probably 20 years). I exercised as much as possible and spent time in nature going for walks, etc.

I’ve been back at it part time for the last few months. Gradually I felt the feelings of burnout being replaced with feelings of boredom, which is hopefully my brain’s way of saying that it’s starting to repair itself and ready to slowly return to work.

I’m still nowhere near back to peak productivity, but I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I may never get back there. I’m 36 and probably would have dropped dead of overwork by 50 if I kept up the tempo of the last 10 years anyway.

I’m not ‘cured’ by any means, but I believe things are slowly getting better.

My advice to you is to be kind and patient with yourself. Try not to stress about not having a side-project, and instead just focus on self-care for a while. Someone posted this on HN a few weeks back and it really hit close to home for me: http://www.robinhobb.com/blog/posts/38429

Source: Ask HN: Post Burnout Ideas | Hacker News

Portals to another world (or town)

I love this idea. I can think of many ways it could go wrong, but that’s not the point. There’s also lots of ways it could be awesome.

Vilnius, Lithuania, has installed a “portal” that allows residents to make contact in real time with the inhabitants of Lublin, Poland. Each city hosts a large circular screen and cameras by which residents can interact in real time via the Internet.

Source: Neighbors – Futility Closet