Monday, August 29th, 2022


Get Off of My Cloud

Who'll stop the rain? It's not the question anymore. In many parts of the world, the question is, "Have you ever seen the rain?" This is especially true in parts of Northern African and the Middle East where raindrops don't keep falling on their heads and soon everyone will only be happy when it rains. The only thing worse than being a fool in the rain is being a fool in life threateningly dry conditions, all of which brings us to the cloud wars of the Middle East. "Countries in the region have embarked on a race to develop the chemicals and techniques that they hope will enable them to squeeze rain drops out of clouds that would otherwise float fruitlessly overhead. With 12 of the 19 regional countries averaging less than 10 inches of rainfall a year, a decline of 20 percent over the past 30 years, their governments are desperate for any increment of fresh water, and cloud seeding is seen by many as a quick way to tackle the problem." But it's not so easy to make it rain. The cloud seeding programs have been largely unsuccessful, but that hasn't stopped countries like Iran from accusing its neighbors in the region of stealing their rain before their clouds arrived. This, after all, is the Middle East where even though it's desert-dry, when it rains it pours. NYT (Gift Article): Cloud Wars: Mideast Rivalries Rise Along a New Front.

+ Water is the new oil in the Middle East, except the former is even more vital to survival. That's a big part of the reason we're seeing many of Israel's traditional enemies reaching out to make peace deals. Israel has built an exceptional, resilient water economy. Like many freshwater lakes, the Sea of Galilee is drying up. Israel "plans to pump water from the Mediterranean sea, take the salt out of it and send it across the country to top up the lake when needed."

+ Pumping water out of the seas seems like a good idea, because the seas are rising. Maybe desalination can help us drink our way out of the problem. The latest? ‘Zombie ice' from Greenland will raise sea level 10 inches.

+ Thirst Trap: A little closer to home, California is set to attempt a program that seems like it could be a win-win. The state will cover some aqueducts with solar panels, which will reduce evaporation and produce energy at the same time.


Trouble is Brewing

"Companies elsewhere have put former gang members to work packaging tuna and making vintage-inspired collegiate wear; most notably, Homeboy Industries, which was founded by a Jesuit priest named Greg Boyle, in Los Angeles, has employed hundreds of former gang members at a bakery, a grocery, and other businesses. Boyle began by creating a job-training program, and four years passed before his organization launched its first retail venture. Homeboy Industries remains a nonprofit, and requires that anyone seeking employment leave gang life behind. Taylor took a different approach. He recruited purported gang leaders in Wilmington, and said that he wanted them to remain active in their gangs, in order to maintain their influence." Charles Bethea in The New Yorker: TRU Colors attracted interest—and investment—by employing active gang members. But a double murder last summer has prompted criticism of its approach. A Brewery's Anti-Violence Mission, Complicated by a Killing.


Meow (Re)Mix

"The urge to converse with animals is age-old, long predating the time when smartphones became our best friends. Scientists have taught sign language to great apes, chatted with grey parrots and even tried to teach English to bottlenose dolphins. Pets — with which we share our homes but not a common language — are particularly tempting targets. My TikTok feed brims with videos of Bunny, a sheepadoodle who has learned to press sound buttons that play prerecorded phrases like 'outside,' 'scritches" and 'love you.' MeowTalk is the product of a growing interest in enlisting additional intelligences — machine-learning algorithms — to decode animal communication." NYT (Gift Article) Did My Cat Just Hit On Me? An Adventure in Pet Translation. (Let me save you the time, money, and effort. Your dog is saying I'm hungry. Your cat is saying f%*k you.)


You Must Whippet Good

When a problem comes along, You must whip it. Before the cream sits out too long, You must whip it. When something's going wrong, You must whip it. In an effort to stop teens from inhaling nitrous oxide, it's now illegal for anyone under 21 to buy canned whipped cream in New York. "The law, which went into effect in November 2021, is meant to prevent teenagers from using canned whipped cream to inhale nitrous oxide, otherwise known as 'whippets.'" (My blood sugar levels are so high that my doctor prefers that I just consume the nitrous...)


Extra, Extra

Shots in the Dark: The vaccine landscape is getting a little complicated. "There is, however, a simple rule of thumb that nearly everyone can follow to maximize the uncertain gains from a shot: Wait three to six months from your last COVID infection or vaccination." The Atlantic: A Simple Rule for Planning Your Fall Booster Shot. And, Omicron COVID-19 booster shots are coming: Here's what you need to know. "While the original vaccines still do relatively well in keeping people out of the intensive care unit and dying, he said, their effectiveness in preventing infection has declined over time because of the evolution of the omicron strain."

+ This Really Burns My Ass: "The German carmaker has been putting extra features like high-beam assist behind a paywall for a couple of years now, and you pay to access the pre-installed software feature. But heated seats are hardware: Pads are integrated in the seat during production, there is wiring and switches. And to top it all, drivers have already bought and own this physical kit, hardware that will not benefit from software updates or regular over-the-air upgrades." Car companies are desperate to turn you from a buyer/owner to a buyer/subscriber. But BMW's Heated-Seats-as-a-Service Model Has Drivers Seeking Hacks.

+ High Rise Low Blow: "There were countdowns, livestreams, and even viewing parties. Photographers camped outdoors for hours to get the perfect shot. On Sunday, thousands in India turned up in Noida city's Sector 93A, some 50 kilometres from the capital New Delhi, while millions were glued to their TV screens, as two mammoth buildings exploded." Developers broke the rules. Activists won a fight. And the conclusion was a couple of very big booms. India Blew Up Apartments Worth $87 Million to Send a Message.

+ Mantle Piece "Move over, Honus Wagner, there's a new king of baseball memorabilia in town. A nearly flawless Mickey Mantle card sold for a record $12.6 million at auction at Heritage Auctions." (For that kind of money, I expect my card to be totally flawless, not just nearly...)


Bottom of the News

"On Saturday morning in Nebraska, 60-year-old Duane Hansen set out at around 7:30 a.m. to paddle the Missouri River from Bellevue to Nebraska City, along the midwestern state's eastern border with Iowa. But Hansen wasn't completing the voyage using a typical vessel." Man breaks world record for floating down a river in a pumpkin. (The Coast Gourd should hire this guy.)

+ An Ode to Pickle Juice.