Thursday, July 15th, 2021


OK, Bloomer

"If someone had wanted to invent a surreal provocation designed to unnerve Americans in the summer of 2020, it's difficult to conceive of a better one than a deluge of unsolicited Chinese seeds. For one thing, in those first months of the coronavirus pandemic, references to China triggered associations—rational or otherwise—with contagion. For another, these objects were invading private spaces at a time when most of us were newly hypersensitive to our surroundings." In The Atlantic, Chris Heath digs deep and unearths all the dirt about one of the pandemic-era's weirdest mysteries. The Truth Behind the Amazon Mystery Seeds. Who was spreading their seed, and why did so many Americans receive strange packages they didn't think they'd ordered? The plot really thickened when it looked like nobody had botany seeds lately. OK, these puns may not be your thing. I'll cede that point. But check out the article. I know what makes your garden grow.


Reichstag Team

"In the waning weeks of Donald Trump's term, the country's top military leader repeatedly worried about what the president might do to maintain power after losing reelection, comparing his rhetoric to Adolf Hitler's during the rise of Nazi Germany and asking confidants whether a coup was forthcoming." Joint Chiefs chairman feared potential 'Reichstag moment' aimed at keeping Trump in power. (What you saw was what happened.)

+ It's not just us. Authoritarianism advances as world battles the pandemic. "COVID is a dictator's dream opportunity."


Euro Flood Zone

"At least 43 people have died and many more are missing after severe floods in western Germany. Another six are dead in Belgium, and the Netherlands has also been badly affected." BBC with the latest: Dozens dead and more missing in Europe flooding. And here are pictures from the scenes.

+ Moon, River. How's this for a forecast: "A new study on high tide flooding predicts that the mid-2030s could be catastrophically wet in U.S. coastal regions — and it could stay that way for an entire decade." A Study Predicts Record Flooding In The 2030s, And It's Partly Because Of The Moon.


Checks Draw a Blank

"More than half of likely voters said they knew 'little or nothing' about the program in a May poll conducted by Data for Progress, a statistic borne out by Lysen and Fallon's canvassing. Some of the parents who answered the door had no idea what the two were talking about; most others said they had heard of the child tax credit but had no idea who would get it, how, or why. Nobody really understood what it was, aside from the drenched guys with their clipboards." The new child tax credit is starting to hit bank accounts and could radically reduce poverty ... for those who know about it. The Atlantic: Cash for Kids Comes to the United States.


It’s Face Time

"Facial recognition is just one of several technologies store chains are deploying to enhance their security systems, or to otherwise surveil customers. Some retailers, for instance, have used apps and in-store wifi to track users while they move around physical stores and later target them with online ads." From Macy's to Ace Hardware, facial recognition is already everywhere.


Still Doing It Foggy Style

"Bumper-to-bumper traffic has returned to the region's bridges and freeways. Tech commuter buses are reappearing on the roads. Rents are spiking, especially in San Francisco neighborhoods where tech employees often live." NYT: Tech Workers Swore Off the Bay Area. Now They're Coming Back.

+ If you're looking for those who did leave, I'd try Texas first. SF Chronicle: Austin was 'the biggest winner' of COVID tech migration.


The Dems’ Breyer Patch

"Breyer has shown no desire to leave the bench at this point, especially as he has obtained more power as the ranking justice on the left after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year." Stephen Breyer says he hasn't decided his retirement plans.


Talk Therapy

"It will take years of additional research but the study, reported Wednesday, marks an important step toward one day restoring more natural communication for people who can't talk because of injury or illness." Paralyzed man's brain waves turned into sentences on computer in medical first.


Netflix and Joysticks

"As Netflix has grown to more than 207 million subscribers worldwide, it has long pointed out that its competition extends beyond the traditional TV and movie companies that go head-to-head with it. The company has repeatedly called out gaming phenoms like Fortnite." Netflix to add video games on its service at no added cost in the next year. Games are good, but Netflix should focus on live content. It's a better brand fit and a more urgent need. They should also rent out many of the now-vacant movie theaters and debut content there. The movie marquee signs are permanent billboards.


Bottom of the News

"Most of the time, gimmicky food mashups are the definition of disappointing. While the idea of candy-flavored cheese or ice cream infused with the flavors of an everything bagel might be compelling to some, most people are so put off by the concept of such a bizarre combination that the idea of eating something that weird is off the table. The products purpose is less for eating and more for Twitter gags and outrage, which is often how the brands intentionally designed them. This, however, is not the case with New York creamery Van Leeuwen's new macaroni-and-cheese flavor, which is nothing short of magical."

+ HBO paid James Gandolfini $3 million not to star in The Office.