Slow and Furious

SF Goes Full Driverless, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

The San Francisco Giants recently joined the Major League trend of teams putting marketing on their jerseys. While the move towards ever more advertising seems inevitable, the Giants incurred a little more wrath than other teams because they sold their hitherto ad-free jersey sleeve real estate to Cruise, one of the self-driving cars San Franciscans love to hate. As inevitable as more ads are, driverless vehicles are even more so. And SF just took put the pedal to the metal. Robotaxis can now charge for 24/7 rides in San Francisco “After several hours of public testimony, the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday granted permits to allow both Cruise and Waymo to charge for rides around the clock in San Francisco.” Expect road rage to follow. It turns out that screaming at a car without a driver is even more satisfying than screaming at a vehicle with one.

+ “Cars without drivers have become a common sight on San Francisco’s winding, hilly and often foggy streets. Thursday’s vote stripped most limitations on operating and charging for rides, essentially creating more ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft — just without the drivers. It’s a pivotal moment for the autonomous transportation industry, expanding one of the biggest test cases for a world in which many companies envision not needing drivers at all.” WaPo (Gift Article): California just opened the floodgates for self-driving cars. (Now if we can just get these cars to frequent some local businesses and rent some office space, we’ll be set.)

+ While it may seem hard to believe that computers could be any worse at driving than humans, a lot of first responders are finding that’s the case (at least for now). California allows robo-taxis to expand and emergency responders aren’t happy. “The incidents include running through yellow emergency tape, blocking firehouse driveways and refusing to move for first responders.” This controversy reminds me of the introduction of Google Maps. My wife and I used to yell at each other about directions, but after software took over, we were both on the same side, yelling at Google. (I’m convinced that Google still sends me on the slowest route everywhere in retaliation.)


You Guys, Suck

“The US Department of Energy announced today that it’s providing $1.2 billion to develop regional hubs that can draw down and store away at least 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year as a means of combating climate change. The move represents a major step forward in the effort to establish a market for removing the planet-warming greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, using what are known as direct air capture (DAC) machines.” One of the companies receiving the carbon removal money is Occidental Petroleum. Some people think that sucks.


A Close Call

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. And dog walking. NYT (Gift Article): The Dog Walker With the Chuck Close Painting Finally Has His Day. “The story of Mr. Herman’s painting involves a First Amendment lawsuit, a truculent retired professor, a dogged archivist, a New York Times article and a toy poodle named Philippe. Mr. Herman’s instinct was: Coen brothers.”


Weekend Whats

What to Review: “In exchange for a $6 billion dollar payment from the Sacklers, the arrangement would block future opioid lawsuits targeting them.” The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a deal that would have limited future damages to the family behind the deadly opiate crisis. So this is a good time to refresh your understanding of just how damaging that family business has been. The latest show on the topic is a Netflix series starring Matthew Broderick and called PainKiller. And some great reads on this topic include: Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain (the definitive work on the Sacklers and an amazing history of how drug marketing started and thrives). John Temple’s American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic. And Eric Eyre’s Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic. Of course, all the content and lawsuits in the world don’t seem to be able to make a dent in the problem. My hometown is like your hometown. Marin overdoses become leading cause of death for 55 and younger.

+ What to Watch: Win or lose, we booze. That was one of the takeaways from the Netflix doc on Johnny Football. There are many others. The story is as much a look at fandom and college sports as it is a look at one guy’s downfall.

+ What to Doc: Rodriguez, the singer-songwriter whose unlikely career was the subject of Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, has died at 81. That news makes this a good weekend to re-watch the excellent doc Searching for Sugarman, which is streaming on Max. If you haven’t seen it before, lucky you.


Extra, Extra

That Dog Don’t Hunter: Well, the nonsense BS garbage argument that the Justice Dept has been weaponized against Trump has met an obstacle (in addition to reality). “The Trump-appointed US attorney who is investigating Hunter Biden has been given special counsel status after plea talks between the Justice Department and the president’s son fell apart.” Meanwhile, the judge in the coup case has limited what Trump can share about the case. “Your client’s defense is supposed to happen in this courtroom, not on the internet.” This could be the first time anyone has ever forced Trump to limit what he says about anything anytime. Today should be turned into a national holiday. Happy STFU Day!

+ Recruiting Front: “Volodymyr Zelenskiy has announced the dismissal of all the heads of Ukraine’s regional military recruitment centres in the latest drive to root out corruption after officials were accused of taking bribes from those seeking to avoid the frontlines.”

+ Maui Update: “Residents of the hard-hit town of Lahaina are expected to be allowed back into their homes today, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Friday. He cautioned: ‘They will see destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives.'” Here’s the latest from CNN.

+ Suicide Notes: “My son should not have died,” she said. “I know it’s complicated, I really do. But we have to be able to do something. Something that we’re not doing. Because whatever we’re doing right now is not helping.” US suicides hit an all-time high last year.

+ Hittin on the Dock of the Bay: “In 2023, coming after a cultural period of intensifying racialized protests, a group of white people whaling on an unsuspecting and defenseless Black man could have led to tragic consequences or, at the least, traumatized victims and onlookers. What the video shows happening next, however, flipped the script.” I haven’t linked to much about this story, but this is good overview and provides some interesting context. The Montgomery boat brawl and what it really means to ‘try that in a small town.’

+ Civil Suits: “In America, unprecedented success begets unprecedented wealth. When Michael Jordan wins six championships or Mark Zuckerberg invents social media, they earn billions. And not only them but also their teammates — the people whose contributions weren’t just meaningful but necessary. In success, they get paid, too. But not in Hollywood. Here, when you write for a show that becomes an unprecedented success, there is no such windfall.” I helped write the surprise Netflix sensation ‘Suits.’ My reward? $259.71.

+ Mock Tale: “Nonalcoholic beers used to be a lowly punch line—until Athletic Brewing Company came along and transformed the whole industry. Here’s the story of how, in just a few short years, its cofounders built a modern $60 million brand.” GQ: How Athletic Beer Won Over America. (Non-alcoholic drinks and cutting back on booze in general is a growing trend. It will also be the root of America’s next culture war.)


Feel Good Friday

There’s little to feel good about in Maui these days. But at least there’s this sign of hope. Scorched by Maui wildfire, historic Lahaina banyan tree appears to be still standing.

+ Want to support fire victims? Donate to the Maui Strong Fund. (The site has been overwhelmed and down for part of the day, but keep trying.)

+ “Gently holding a baby hummingbird between her hands, Catia Lattouf says, “Hello, cute little guy. Are you very hungry?” It’s the newest patient at her apartment in a toney section of Mexico City where she has nursed hundreds of the tiny birds back to health over the past decade.” Ailing and baby hummingbirds nursed to health at woman’s apartment-turned-clinic in Mexico City. More in this video.

+ “Walrus pups in the wild rely on near-constant maternal care in their first two years of life, so the orphaned calf was clearly in trouble.” Walrus pup rescued in Alaska needs 24/7 human cuddling. (Luckily, my beagles only require cuddling 23/7, so I can get a break.)

+ WaPo: Her wedding gown was donated in error. The community rallied to get it back.

+ Reminder: We’ve got a new I Am the Algorithm Shirt in the NextDraft Store. Plenty of other great stuff, too!

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