Thursday, September 7th, 2023


Running Down a Scheme

Sometimes you're being tracked so thoroughly online that you just want to jump in a getaway car and push the pedal to the metal. Well, don't bother. The same privacy invasions you're trying to outrun are riding shotgun. Whether you were born to run, born to be wild, want to ride around with Mustang Sally where the streets have no name, or get your kicks on Route 66, someone knows about it. Everyday is a winding road, and your being tracked the whole way. And since regulators have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to the rules of the road, your car might be collecting even more data than your web browser. "Forget snooping smartphones and spying smartwatches. Modern, connected cars are 'the official worst category of products for privacy that we have ever reviewed,' Mozilla concluded after studying two dozen brands." Nearly every modern car shares or sells your data. Some of the carmakers even claim to be able to collect genetic information. You're probably worried that this is yet one more category you have to consider when deciding which car to purchase, but let's pump the brakes. According to Mozilla, "even if you did have the funds and the resources to comparison shop for your car based on privacy, you wouldn't find much of a difference. Because according to our research, they are all bad!" Goodbye Yellow Brick Road...


Menace, Anyone

"He explained to Aleksandrina Naydenova, a Bulgarian player struggling to break into the world's top 200, that she could choose how severely she wanted to tank a set. He sent the texts in English: If she lost her first service game, she would make 1,000 euros, he wrote. If she lost the second one, she would make 1,200 euros. It didn't matter if she won the match, only that she lost those games. Naydenova seemed willing. 'Give me some time to confirm,' she wrote. As Sargsyan waited, a Belgian police SWAT team was on its way to his parents' house." Kevin Sieff with an excellent and detailed looked at the man who built the biggest match-fixing ring in tennis. And it's a sign of things to come that this had nothing to do with the big time tennis like the US Open going on this week. These were small tournaments with low prize money that sometimes took place on high school courts. People will bet on anything. WaPo (Gift Article): The Maestro: Game, Set, Fix.


Mobile Care

"The high court ordered that abortion be removed from the federal penal code. The ruling will require the federal public health service and all federal health institutions to offer abortion to anyone who requests it." While the US is turning back time when it comes to women's medical rights, much of Latin America is moving in the opposite direction. Mexico decriminalizes abortion, extending Latin American trend of widening access to procedure. (Also, Mexico is on course to elect its first woman president.)

+ So far the biggest impact of statewide anti-abortion laws has been geographical. Women are still getting abortions, they're just getting them in different places. (As most experts predicted, this leaves women without the necessary resources to bear the brunt of the bans.) NYT (Gift Article): Abortions Rose in Most States This Year, New Data Shows. More restrictions are coming soon.


You Say Tomato

"Another problem — and where the trickery often begins — is that Rotten Tomatoes scores are posted after a movie receives only a handful of reviews, sometimes as few as five, even if those reviews may be an unrepresentative sample. This is sort of like a cable-news network declaring an Election Night winner after a single county reports its results. But studios see it as a feature, since, with a little elbow grease, they can sometimes fool people into believing a movie is better than it is." Vulture: The Decomposition of Rotten Tomatoes. "The most overrated metric in movies is erratic, reductive, and easily hacked — and yet has Hollywood in its grip." (Wait, you can't believe something you read on the internet?)


Extra, Extra

Label Libel: "Sheehan, forty-four, specializes in consumer-protection class-action suits. Specifically, he focusses on packaged foods, and on the authenticity of their ingredients and flavors. Sheehan has sued the makers of frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts (dearth of real strawberries), Hint of Lime Tostitos (absence of lime), Snapple 'all natural' fruit drinks (absence of natural juice), Keebler's fudge-mint cookies (lack of real fudge and mint), Cheesecake Factory brown bread (insufficient whole-grain flour), Trident original-flavor gum (lack of real mint, despite package's illustration of a blue mint leaf), and many more, generally seeking millions in damages from each." The New Yorker: The Lies in Your Grocery Store. "Most people accept the gimmicks of food labelling. One lawyer can't stomach them." (I read this while lowering my cholesterol with a few bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios.)

+ Space Force: Elon Musk doesn't really get free speech, he's increasingly become a fan of conspiracy theories and antisemitic tropes, he stiffs vendors (including many SF small businesses), and he's ruined Twitter. But he's also one of the most powerful people in the world. "Elon Musk secretly ordered his engineers to turn off his company's Starlink satellite communications network near the Crimean coast last year to disrupt a Ukrainian sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet."

+ No Bench: 67% of Dems say they want a candidate other than Joe Biden as the party's nominee. But "when those respondents were asked who the party's 2024 nominee should be, no other person polled above 3%."

+ Whatever Floats Your Boat: "It took investigators months to unravel the mystery of the engine's breakdown. But this much was clear at the outset: The Freedom's collapse was another unmistakable sign that the Navy had spent billions of dollars and more than a decade on warships with rampant and crippling flaws." The Inside Story of How the Navy Spent Billions on the "Little Crappy Ship." (This seems like a reasonable time to listen to Lyle Lovett sing If I had a Boat which makes it a reasonable time follow that up with Pants is Overrated.)

+ Apple Cored: "China ordered officials at central government agencies not to use Apple's iPhones and other foreign-branded devices for work or bring them into the office." (If my Apple-heavy stock portfolio is any indication, this is a big deal.)

+ A Different Eras Tour: "Bruce Springsteen has canceled plans to play a slate of arena concerts this month, saying the move was recommended by his medical team due to 'symptoms of peptic ulcer disease.'"


Bottom of the News

"A weird thing people don't tell you about getting older is certain smells just go away. I'm not talking about a dulling of our senses, I mean the literal scents that occupy very specific memories or moments in time. I assume it's probably for the best, especially since many of the scents I'm chasing likely aren't available for me to sniff because they'd probably kill my body over time." Jason Diamond with some thoughts on smells from our past: That 1980s Bowling Alley Smell. (I still have double-session football practice PTSD when I smell wet, freshly cut grass.)

+ "Diners have long been known to whip out cameras while eating, with a 2021 poll finding that 44% of people frequently post images of their food on social media. Now, customers, typically younger, are training their cameras on the staff." WSJ (Gift Article): This Is My Job, Not Fodder for Your TikTok.

+ Howard Stern is no longer a shock jock, but his painting skills might shock you.