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Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 12, 2020

‘Working From Home — Tips, Tricks and Motivation’

I’ve read a lot of these type of articles this week. This is my favourite. I really like the ‘pairing up’ idea a lot:

Pick a buddy for an afternoon, install Discord, and stay persistently on Discord with them or your team so you can strike up audio conversations at will and feel like you’re interacting more. Hearing other people socialize even if you’re not interacting will help with the isolation.


[New Book] ‘Coffeeland: One Man’s Dark Empire and the Making of Our Favorite Drug’

Near the end of Coffeeland, Sedgewick attempts to quantify exactly how much value a pound of coffee gives an employer (or, put another way, extracts from an employee)… He estimates that it takes 1.5 hours of Salvadoran labor to produce a pound of coffee. That’s enough to make 40 cups of coffee… In other words, the six cents that Hill’s plantation paid for an hour and a half of labor… was transformed into $22.50 worth of value [for the American economy,] an alchemy that reflects both the remarkable properties…

But the symbiotic relationship that coffee and capitalism have enjoyed for the past several centuries may now be coming to a sad close. Coffea arabica is a picky plant, willing to grow only in the narrowest range of conditions: Sunlight, water, drainage, and even altitude all have to be just so. The world has only so many places suitable for coffee production. Climate scientists estimate that at least half of the acreage now producing coffee—and an even greater proportion in Latin America—will be unable to support the plant by 2050, making coffee one of the crops most immediately endangered by climate change. Capitalism may be killing the golden goose.

To be released on April 7, 2020.


Apple Product Updates

Updated iPad Pros with a new keyboard that has a trackpad because iPadOS 13.4 now has ‘pointer’ support! The MacBook Air and Mac mini also have been updated. Daring Fireball has a good summary.


‘For, Then Against, High-Saturated-Fat Diets’

Could eating a lot more saturated fat and a lot less unsaturated help the obesity epidemic? Spoiler: probably not. But this article is still very much worth your time. If only because it doesn’t pretend to know all the answers, which I always appreciate when it comes to articles on nutrition and health.


‘How Saunas Could Boost Your Mental Health’

Jari Laukkanen, a Finnish cardiologist who’s fond of taking a daily sauna, has observed a similar pattern among larger groups. In a 2018 study of more than 2,000 Finnish men, he found a correlation between taking a traditional sauna four or more times a week and decreased risk of developing a physician-diagnosed mental-health disorder.

My current gym is a little bit out of my ideal price range. But I’m still a member because its the only one in town with a sauna and steam room. And I find 25 minutes in a sauna to be a truly wonderful thing. It’s a great way to unwind after a workout or a long week. And while I’ve never been particularly convinced by a lot of the supposed physical health benefits it wouldn’t suprise me at all if it does improve mental health.

I think this paragraph sums up the reason why you have to take a lot of sauna health studies with a grain of salt:

But critics contend that these associations could stem from selection bias — fit people who exercise regularly may just happen to sauna more often. Sauna bathing could also serve as an indicator for people who live in affluent societies and have healthier living patterns.


‘The Stoics in Exile’

Coronavirus self-quarantines are the closest many of us are going to come to being exiled. It’s important to use that time wisely. Learn from the stoics in exile:

Now imagine this. Imagine you’re at your peak in Rome with a remarkable influence, life is pretty good, and you get kicked out, you’re exiled, you go from Rome at its peak to some desolate island in the middle of nowhere. How would you respond to that?

Well, if you’re a Stoic philosopher you’d respond with taking responsibility and looking after yourself properly. That’s what Rufus did. He took exile as an opportunity to practice courage, justice, and self-control. Exile doesn’t prevent anyone from practicing these virtues, he said.


‘TikTok Told Moderators: Suppress Posts by the “Ugly” and Poor’

One document goes so far as to instruct moderators to scan uploads for cracked walls and “disreputable decorations” in users’ own homes — then to effectively punish these poorer TikTok users by artificially narrowing their audiences.

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Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 45, 2019

Any Amount of Running Linked to Significantly Lower Risk of Early Death

When the study data were pooled, any amount of running was associated with a 27% lower risk of death from all causes for both sexes, compared with no running.

You really can’t afford not to be doing a small amount of regular exercise. We’re not talking about marathons or three hour long cycle rides here. There’s been so many studies finding that just twenty minutes of exercise three times a week gives humans massive life extending gains (not to mention the added benefit of the slowing down of cognitive decline). This is a really good deal that your body is offering you. Take it up on the offer and exercise!

There’s a Whole Category of Software to Help People Manage Friendships

While many of the apps have an explicit professional-networking utility, the Irish company Monaru, one of the Y Combinator companies, is focused specifically on users’ 10 to 15 closest relationships. Not only will Monaru remind you of a loved one’s birthday, but it will also suggest specific gifts to buy her. It can help you plan a date night, or remember to call your parents regularly. “Millennials are four times lonelier than seniors,” the company’s homepage reads, probably erroneously. The service costs $20 a month, and its tagline is “Be the most thoughtful person you know.”

Apple Has Released a 16-Inch Macbook Pro

‘New’ keyboard with a physical Esc key. Not as expensive as I was expecting. Good short reviews from Marco Arment and Daring Fireball:

No one would ever suggest that the steering wheel for a car be designed by people who don’t drive. But yet somehow the entire Macintosh world has spent the last three years dealing with or avoiding keyboards that were seemingly designed by people who don’t type.3 The whole saga of the butterfly keyboards — their unreliable switches, poor typing feel, and anti-functional layout — betrays a certain arrogance. The more powerful an organization — a corporation, a nation, a sports team, whatever — the more at risk that organization is to hubris. It’s power that allows one to act on hubris.

We shouldn’t be celebrating the return of longstanding features we never should have lost in the first place. But Apple’s willingness to revisit these decisions — their explicit acknowledgment that, yes, keyboards are meant to by typed upon, not gazed upon — is, if not cause for a party, at the very least cause for a jubilant toast.

Seeking the Productive Life: Some Details of My Personal Infrastructure — Stephen Wolfram

This is my third time reading this long and in depth look at Stephen Wolfram’s personal tech setup. I love stuff like this.

Instagram Is Testing Hiding ‘Likes’

Probably a good move. However, in the video linked in the article Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri says “private likes”. So I’m presuming the poster can still see the ‘like’ count, but the outside world can’t. The main reason ‘likes’ are so harmful is because people obsess over how many their photos receive. If they can still see this metric I’m not sure this fixes anything.

All the International Brands That Have Apologised to China

It’s eerie how all the PR press releases from these companies are so similar. “[Company] consistently respects and upholds China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” To the word repetition of the same thing is very dystopian. And let’s be honest, China is very dystopian.

The King (2019)

The Netflix movie “The King” is out. Directed by David Michôd – who also made “War Machine” – this in many ways has a lot of the same disjointed elements. With the lack of flow and continuity in some scenes making the film feel a bit like the effort of an inexperienced first time director. The script is decent and this could have been a much improved movie with a better director involved. However there’s enough here to make it worth the 2 hours 15 minutes of your time. I’m not sure if the restrained realism of the sets was planned or due to budget constraints, but either way it works. I also really like how realistic the light is, considering the period it’s set in. No artificial flood lighting here. Just sun streaking in through the windows. Timothée Chalamet is maturing as an actor and despite his boyish frame and bad posture sometimes undermining the believability of certain moments he leads the film very well. And Robert Pattinson is great in his brief moments on screen. 6/10

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Main Technology

Minor MacBook Pro Refresh

Apple has announced a slightly updated MacBook Pro.

Jason Snell (Six Colors):

These updates don’t bring any changes to the exterior of the MacBook Pro — it’s the same base design introduced in late 2016 — but they do bring 9th-generation Intel processors with up to eight cores to the MacBook Pro for the first time. There’s also been yet another tweak to the controversial butterfly keyboard Apple first introduced in 2015.

I’ve had to buy this (I went with the 15-inch base model). My mid-2012 MacBook Pro died a few months back and I’ve been waiting for an update to the lineup before biting the bullet. I was hoping for a whole new refresh with ARM chips. But that was always a little hopeful.

But the main reason I didn’t go out and buy a new one straightway is due to the unreliable butterfly keyboards on this current generation of MacBook Pro’s. I wasn’t waiting for a refresh for that sweet new industrial design. I was waiting simply because I wanted a keyboard that would work reliably.

This update does have an ‘updated’ keyboard though. John Gruber (Daring Fireball) has some info:

First, these new MacBook Pros still have the third-generation butterfly-switch keyboard that debuted with last July’s updated MacBook Pros. But Apple has changed the mechanism under the hood, using a new material for at least one of the components in these switches. The purpose of this change is specifically to increase the reliability of the keyboards. Apple emphasized to me their usual line that the “vast majority” of users have no problem with these keyboards, but they acknowledge that some users do and say they take it very seriously.

Fingers crossed that his update fixes a lot of the keyboard issues. But the simple, sad truth is this: a fancy MacBook Pro is being delivered to my house tomorrow and I’m more apprehensive than excited. Will this new machine last 6 years like my old one? We’ll see.

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Technology

ARM Macs This Year?

Intel have been dragging their feet when it comes to advancements in laptop-class CPUs for a while now. And it’s costing the Mac dearly. The iPad Pro is a more powerful device than most MacBooks! So for a few years it’s been rumoured that Apple is going to switch to ARM processors like their iOS devices.

In my head this was still a year or two away. But maybe not. Tim Cook:

For our Mac business overall, we faced some processor constraints in the March quarter, leading to a 5 percent revenue decline compared to last year. But we believe that our Mac revenue would have been up compared to last year without those constraints, and don’t believe this challenge will have a significant impact on our Q3 results.

As someone who just had their 6-year-old MacBook die on them and is waiting for WWDC before biting the bullet for a new one I really do hope ARM chips arrive this year.

{via Daring Fireball}