Sunday Reading – 08/15/2021


The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

How the California Megadrought Is Affecting Food Prices – The West is currently facing its worst megadrought in at least 1,200 years. This has caused multiple states to impose water restrictions, and it doesn’t look like things are going to get better any time soon. Lake Mead’s water supply, which provides water to Arizona, Nevada, and part of Mexico, is currently at its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was completed in 1936. Other reservoirs from Lake Powell to many in California have followed suit.

All of this is causing major problems for farmers in California, Arizona, and beyond. California produces “over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts” and much of its dairy products, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. That means what’s happening in the West is going to have implications for the entire nation.

As farmers fight for water, multiple types of food could increase in price due to this megadrought. Timothy Richards, an agricultural economist at Arizona State University, said we’re already starting to see this happen.

“So far we’re seeing avocado prices up 10%,” Richards said. “All of the usual culprits that are water-intensive in California agriculture are starting to increase in prices.”

Richards said he also expects the price of lettuce and tree nuts like almonds and pistachios to go up. Growing tree nuts is highly water-intensive, and some California farmers are already ripping out their almond trees, which is a big deal considering it takes about five years just for a tree to produce enough almonds to start selling them, let alone turn a profit. Read More > at Gizmodo

California by the numbers – After months of delay, the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released the raw data that cities, counties and states need to finally start drawing their election maps for the next decade.

A few key factoids

  • California’s population grew by 2.3 million since 2010 — a 6% increase. That was slower than the nation as a whole, which is why we’re losing one of our 53 congressional seats
  • Most of the new Californians are Latinos, who now make up 39.4% of the population and are the single largest ethnic group. Hence the mad dash on both sides of the recall campaign to turn out the Latino vote.
  • The share of white Californians plummeted from 40% to 35%, a decline of 1.2 million people. 

As California goes, so goes the nation: The U.S. saw its first decline in the white population for the first time since the country’s founding

Let the gerrymandering begin? Not in California, where congressional and legislative districts are drawn up by an independent, nonpartisan commission of citizen volunteers. 

Even so, the race is on as activists push for mapmakers to prioritize certain voters over others. This week a new nationwide lobbying blitz began to ensure that LGBTQ-dense neighborhoods are well represented. California is a top target

  • Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc: “We’re in a new era with redistricting where the public expectation is that this isn’t all backroom deals with cigars and data nerds.”
  • Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California: “Every group that’s going to be engaging with the Commission…has its own interests. And it’s the Commission’s job to sift through all that and make a fair decision. And that’s tough.”

Also tough: Getting the maps drawn on time. For months, California’s election officials have been sounding the alarm that they may not have enough time to prepare for the 2022 election. And it will be weeks of more of cleaning and processing before the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission can actually start working with the data.

Even more numbers: Thursday, new voter registration statistics dropped, too. Nearly 89% of the state’s eligible voters are now registered. All 22 million of them can expect to get a ballot in the mail for the Sept. 14 recall election, probably next week. Read More > at CalMatters

New Ballot Measure Proposed to Prohibit Public Employee Unions – On August 9, a proposed initiative was submitted to the Attorney General for title and summary concerning public employee unions. It is 21-0008 and titled “Public Employee Labor Organizations.” Its listed proponent is Timothy Draper. Comments about the proposed ballot measure may be submitted to the Attorney General’s Office through September 8.

The provisions of this proposed initiative measure include:

Section 1. Statement of Findings and Declaration of Purpose – This section includes three major findings: First, most public employees are protected in their jobs under the state’s civil service law. Second, after collective bargaining was authorized, public employment costs have “exploded,” including pensions and lifetime health benefits. As a result, the intent of this measure is “to put an end to this abuse and financial catastrophe.”

Section 2. Constitutional Amendment – This section would add Article VII, Section 1.5 to the California Constitution to provide that no public employee shall have the right to form, join or participate in public employee labor organizations. Public employee would include all state and local employees including school districts, counties, cities, and others. This section would define the terms “public employee” and “public employee labor organization.” In addition, the Legislature or a local legislative body could provide up to 12 months of severance to any employee who desires to terminate their employment within 90 days of the enactment of this new constitutional section.

Once a title and summary are provided for this measure, then its proponent can pursue the collection of signatures to try and get on the November 2022 ballot. Read More > at California Globe

The chip shortage is getting worse – Starting next week, General Motors is again halting the assembly lines of several pickup truck plants because the company doesn’t have enough computer chips. The plants had been back up and running for just a week following a shutdown in July, which was also caused by the chip shortage.

These production halts may not stop anytime soon. “I do think we’ll continue to see impact this year, and it will have a tail into next year,” warned CEO Mary Barra on Wednesday. And Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger similarly predicted last month that things won’t get back to normal for at least a year or two.

Now, the impact of the supply crunch is spreading to consumer tech. Apple CEO Tim Cook warned last week that a limited supply of semiconductors would hurt sales of iPhones. Microsoft is struggling to make enough Xbox consoles and Surface laptops. Elon Musk told a court last month that the chip shortage meant Tesla would only be able to manufacture about half as many Powerwall home batteries as it thinks it can sell. One San Francisco sex toy company even stockpiled microcontrollers to fend off future supply chain problems.

It’s clear that the global chip shortage shows no sign of abating anytime soon. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. While the White House is racing to expand chip manufacturing in the US to avoid future shortages, it could be years before that government investment actually pays off for consumers. So for now, the chip industry will continue to be hampered by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, as products ship with missing features and higher prices — often after long delays. Read More > at Vox

Home prices in the U.S. soar 23%, the fastest rate on record – U.S. home prices rose the most on record in the second quarter as buyers battled for a scarcity of listings.

The median price of an existing single-family home jumped 23% from a year earlier to an all-time high of $357,900, the National Association of Realtors said in a report Thursday. About 94% of 183 metropolitan areas measured had double-digit gains, up from 89% in the first quarter.

Low mortgage rates have stoked the hot U.S. housing market for more than a year, with a shortage of inventory pushing prices ever higher. Buyers are having a hard time finding properties they can afford: Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. fell for a fourth straight month in May. Read More > from Bloomberg

California ran up a $23 billion tab for unemployment benefits. Who will pay off the debt? – Even with a historic surplus, California lawmakers took their summer break without addressing a looming debt the state owes to the federal government for the unprecedented unemployment benefits it doled out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked lawmaker to pay off a fraction of the $23 billion California owes. But with much of the payments not due for years, legislators and Newsom are still negotiating on how much money to send back to Washington, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance.

The standoff worries some business owners because of the way the state funds unemployment benefits. It taxes employers and they’re concerned they’ll be on the hook for years to come for a debt the state in theory could pay off with its budget windfall.

…Every year, employers pay into both state and federal unemployment insurance, up to nearly $500 per employee per year. The state money goes into a trust fund to pay for benefits during economic downturns.

California started 2020 with $3.3 billion in its trust fund, but it became insolvent by that summer as the state dealt with a flood of claims for unemployment.

The state now has a $23 billion unemployment debt — more than double of what it had at the peak of the Great Recession — as it has been taking out federal loans to continue paying benefits.

Even though 13 other states have taken out the loans as well, California’s debt represents more than 43% of what’s owed in total to the federal government. Read More > in The Fresno Bee

The Summer of the Governors: What NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Resignation Means for the CA Recall ElectionNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned on Tuesday amid a flurry of sexual harassment claims, becoming the first New York Governor to resign in 13 years.

For the last several weeks, Cuomo faced mounting calls to resign due to the growing number of sexual harassment claims, with prominent Democrats such as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) joining the call in recent days.

In his resignation speech, Cuomo denied any sexual harassment wrongdoing, he did admit to touching the women in ways he didn’t realize was inappropriate due to “cultural and generational” shifts…

The ousting of a once popular Governor has shaken up several states. And across the country, the state that is now feeling the effect the strongest is California.

Right now, the Golden State is facing the question of ousting the once-popular Governor, Gavin Newsom, as well. A recall movement, fueled by poor policy choices, worsening state problems both during and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as many social and economic issues, made it to the ballot earlier this year with over 2 million people signing the recall petition. The election itself is only a month away, to be held on September 14th.

…“It’s too early to see the longer-term affect as the resignation is less than a day old right now, but it’s already starting to encourage more Californians not to stick with Newsom,” explained Carrie Weiss, a Stockton-area pollster, to the Globe on Tuesday. “We mainly deal with the Sacramento area, the Bay area, and the Central Valley past Modesto to around Fresno. But this morning, we have seen things turn quickly.”

“We had to add a new question to ask people who are Democratic, other party, or non-affiliated because we saw their numbers voting to recall jump so much from previous days. And the reason it went up is because of [Cuomo] resigning. If this is happening elsewhere, why not here? That kind of thinking is just now showing itself and it will be very interesting to see where this leads. All we know here is that it is already having a major affect in at least these 3 areas. Sacramento and the Central Valley, you know, it can be mixed when it comes to voters, but the Bay area is solidly Democratic. And some of those voters are now switching because they saw what was happening over in New York. They know that a resignation and a recall aren’t remotely the same thing, but it’s still affecting them.” Read More > at California Globe

Golden State Reckoning – California has long been regarded as a bellwether state, a window into the social, economic, and political trends that are about to extend across the land. In 2018, Golden State voters elected Gavin Newsom as governor with 62 percent of the vote. What, then, does the ongoing recall effort of Newsom suggest about what lies ahead?

For more than a year, efforts to recall Newsom felt futile. The Democratic governor had weathered the French Laundry scandal, in which he attended a birthday party held at a swanky Napa Valley restaurant while wearing no mask and mingling closely with a group of other maskless guests—thereby contravening masking orders that he set down for others. Even when the recall push gathered enough signatures to force an election months ago, removing him from office seemed a longshot. After all, party registrations in California favor Democrats over Republicans 46 percent to 24 percent. Recall supporters would be no match for the Democrats’ sheer numbers.

Suddenly, though, the governor doesn’t look as safe. A University of California, Berkeley poll reported at the end of July that among likely voters, 50 percent said they would keep Newsom in the September 14 election, while 47 percent said they would recall him. The most recent Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll shows an even closer race: 48 percent of likely voters say they want to keep Newsom, while 46 percent say he should go.

Both polls followed the entry of radio talk-show host Larry Elder into the recall election. Elder’s presence has shaken up the race. Surveys show that, so far, Elder leads all recall candidates; Inside California Politics/Emerson College ranks him as the only candidate among the nearly 50 running to replace Newsom who has double-digit numbers. His top challengers, Republicans John Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and Kevin Faulconer, lag far behind.

So does the recall effort herald major changes? Lane Scott, a small-farm owner in California’s gold country, believes a “dissident California right” stands at the edge of a national movement that hasn’t caught up yet. Following decades of left-wing dominance, “no honest person in the state can be ignorant of the actual political system and its objective anymore,” she writes. Scott is careful to distinguish “the right” from Republicans—the first group, one infers, made up of a not-necessarily-partisan opposition to the state’s current path. Just last week, an essay in The Atlantic noted that an increase in GOP turnout in California’s 2020 elections “led to victories in four competitive House races with large Latino populations.” Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll shows 54 percent of Hispanics saying that they support recalling the governor. Read More > at City Journal

An inconvenient truth (about weed) – Marijuana has never been more popular in the U.S. — and its carbon emissions have never posed a bigger threat to the climate.

America’s patchwork approach to legalizing weed has helped make cannabis cultivation one of the most energy-intensive crops in the nation. And as states increasingly embrace marijuana, a growing source of greenhouse gases is going essentially unnoticed by climate hawks on Capitol Hill.

Nationally, 80 percent of cannabis is cultivated indoors with sophisticated lighting and environmental controls designed to maximize the plant’s yield. It’s a setup that can consume up to 2,000 watts of electricity per square meter, 40 times what it takes for leafy greens like lettuce, when grown indoors.

“For being such a ‘green’ industry, there’s some skeletons in the closet,” said Kaitlin Urso, an environmental consultant with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Read More > at Politico

Census experts puzzled by high rate of unanswered questions – Census Bureau statisticians and outside experts are trying to unravel a mystery: Why were so many questions about households in the 2020 census left unanswered?

Residents did not respond to a multitude of questions about sex, race, Hispanic background, family relationships and age, even when providing a count of the number of people living in the home, according to documents released by the agency. Statisticians had to fill in the gaps.

Reflecting an early stage in the number crunching, the documents show that 10% to 20% of questions were not answered in the 2020 census, depending on the question and state. According to the Census Bureau, later phases of processing show the actual rates were lower.

The rates have averaged 1% to 3% in 170 years of previous U.S. censuses, according to University of Minnesota demographer Steven Ruggles.

The information is important because data with demographic details will be used for drawing congressional and legislative districts. That data, which the Census Bureau will release Thursday, also is used to distribute $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year. Read More > from the Associated Press

Can Walking Reverse Brain Aging? – The brain is mainly made up of two types of substances: gray and white matter. White matter is made up of myelinated axons that connect different parts of the brain. They generate electrical signals and release chemicals to transmit information. As we age, white matter deteriorates; as a result, the signal becomes slower, misdirected, or lost. White matter degeneration is even more severe in people with cognitive impairment and/or dementia.

Because the global incidence of dementia is projected to double every 20 years, developing effective strategies to slow down cognitive decline—in both healthy and unhealthy brains—is critical. Learning about the brain pathologies that underlie age-related cognitive decline can help point scientists in the right direction. White matter deterioration, for example, leads to cortical “disconnection,” which is one of the main mechanisms of cognitive decline in healthy aging.

Fortunately, there is room for reclaiming white matter integrity even in our 60s and beyond. What’s more, improvement or decline in brain health can occur in a relatively short time. One study showed that a decline in white matter integrity can occur over a short period of only six months in healthy older adults.

…Both the walking and dance interventions resulted in an increase in white matter and/or reduction in decline rate. However, the walking group showed more widespread positive effects as compared to either the dance group or the control group. What’s more, the post-program improvements in white matter integrity correlated with improved memory only for the walking condition.

In other words, the dance intervention led to limited improvements in white matter and no impact on memory as compared to walking. And the participants in the walking group who showed the most white matter improvements also showed the most memory enhancements after completing the exercise program. Read More > at Psychology Today

Could humans have contaminated Mars with life? – Trundling across the surface of Mars as you read this is a remarkable machine. Perseverance – the car-sized rover that safely touched down on the Martian surface on 18 February this year – might only have a top speed of less than 0.1 miles per hour (152m/hr), but it carries a wide range of tools, instruments, and experiments that have already made some groundbreaking achievements.

Included on board the 10ft-long (3m) rover is a machine that has turned the thin, carbon dioxide-rich Martian air into oxygen and a helicopter the size of a tissue box that made the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another planet. The helicopter, called Ingenuity, has now made three successful flights, each longer and higher than the last.   

But did anything else come along for a ride with all this hardware? Could a trace bacterium or spore from Earth have accidentally been carried into space and survived the trip to make its new home on Mars?

Nasa and its engineers in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have precise and thorough protocols to minimise the number of organisms that might inadvertently hitchhike on a space mission. Internationally agreed standards guide how rigorous these protocols should be and Nasa meets, and in some cases, exceeds them. Yet, two recent studies highlight how some organisms might survive the cleaning process and also the trip to Mars, and also how fast microbial species can evolve while in space.

Spacecraft are built rooms with air filters and strict biological control procedures. These are designed to ensure that only a few hundred particles can contaminate each square foot and ideally no more than a few dozen spores per square metre

But, it is almost impossible to get to zero biomass on a spacecraft. Microbes have been on Earth for billions of years, and they are everywhere. They are inside us, on our bodies, and all around us. Some can sneak through even the cleanest of clean rooms. Read More > from BBC

Ten Takeaways From a Very Weird Summer Olympics – The Tokyo Olympics were unlike any other, held in the middle of a pandemic, with no fans, with all participants largely isolated from the world they came to represent. Many thought the Games would never get started, but now, somehow, they’ve been successfully completed. Well, maybe “successful” isn’t the right word. But they are finished. Here’s a look back at ten takeaways from an Olympics that, with any luck, will never resemble any other again.

COVID couldn’t stop the Games

Nearly every story leading up to the Olympics (and most of them over the first few days once they began) focused on positive COVID tests, the citizens of Tokyo desperately wanting the Games to go away, and the seeming insanity of having people come in from all over the world at the exact moment the host city was having a surge in cases. One expert said the Olympics could be a “super evolutionary event” for COVID…

Simone Biles ended up being the biggest story, but not in the way we all thought

Biles was expected to dominate the coverage of these Olympics, and she did. But it was how she did it that mattered. Her withdrawal from the team competition led to an all-encompassing debate about mental health in sports, and for all the gross hot takes out there, the conversation ended up being a productive one:..

Americans were not watching and NBC is still smarting, but who cares?

Even if you enjoyed aspects of these Games, there is no question that, without fans, much of the joy was sucked out of many of the events, a tone set by the Opening Ceremony, which felt like it was happening in an abandoned airplane hangar. That lack of joy led to some dreadful television ratings, which is a big deal for NBC but, well, I’m never quite sure why the rest of us are supposed to care about whether big corporations make enough advertising money to please their stakeholders…

Also, NBC did a pretty terrible job

It is always difficult to broadcast an Olympics that is happening halfway around the world, with no major events happening in American primetime. It’s especially complicated when you are attempting to introduce a high-stakes streaming service you’re desperately trying to promote through these Games. But still: It does seem sort of important that when you pay billions of dollars to air a sporting event, you should make it easy for people to watch said sporting event. Viewers lacked the basic ability to figure out when these events were airing, and on what channel, and whether or not they were on the right Peacock subscription tier to watch them anyway… Read More > in the New York Magazine

Trucking crisis has U.S. looking for more drivers abroad – A shortage of truckers across the U.S. has become so severe that companies are trying to bring in drivers from abroad like seemingly never before.

For the first time in her 10-year trucking career, Holly McCormick has found herself coordinating with an agency in South Africa to source foreign drivers. A recruiter for Groendyke Transport, McCormick has doubled her budget since the pandemic and is still having trouble finding candidates.

The U.S. has been grappling with a chronic lack of drivers for years, but the shortage reached crisis levels because of the pandemic, which simultaneously sent demand for shipped goods soaring while touching off a surge in early retirements. The consequences have been both dire and far-reaching: Filling stations have had gasoline outages. Airports have run short on jet fuel. A stainless-steel maker declared force majeure. And lumber prices hit a record, with some suppliers partly blaming delivery delays.

As McCormick put it: “If we’re not able to haul these goods, our economy virtually shuts down.”

Trucking has emerged as one of the most acute bottlenecks in a supply chain that has all but unraveled amid the pandemic, worsening supply shortages across industries, further fanning inflation and threatening a broader economic recovery. Read More > at the Press Herald

America’s Automotive Future – The challenge of moving to zero emission electric vehicles underscores the bigger challenge, moving to a zero emissions industrial economy. According to conventional establishment wisdom, this is necessary to avoid a catastrophic collapse of planetary ecosystems. But unacknowledged in this establishment wisdom is that while moving to a zero emissions industrial economy may or may not prevent a global environmental catastrophe, making such a move prematurely guarantees a global economic catastrophe.

These numbers are so well documented it’s tiresome to have to repeat them, but here goes: According to the most authoritative source in the world, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, in 2020 worldwide, oil provided 31 percent of all global energy, natural gas provided 25 percent, and coal provided 27 percent, for a total of 83 percent. Then the “zero emission” fuels, which are out of favor with environmentalists, were nuclear, providing 4.1 percent, and hydroelectricity, providing another 6.8 percent. Renewables, which would include wind, solar, and “carbon neutral” biofuel, all combined, only provided 5.7 percent of all energy produced worldwide in 2020.

Another easily verified and incontrovertible statistic concerns what ought to be realistic energy production goals worldwide. There are 332 million Americans, who in 2020 consumed 16 percent of all worldwide energy, despite representing only 4 percent of the total population on Earth. If everyone on Earth were to consume half as much energy per capita as Americans currently consume, which seems minimally reasonable, global energy production would have to double.

…Electricity is energy, but it has to be generated using some other type of fuel. And the “renewables” contribution to the global fuel supply remains insignificant, at the same time as there is an urgent need to rapidly increase global energy production. Read More > at AG

The Neurological Differences Between Psychopaths and Sociopaths – The labels “psychopath” and “sociopath” are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Here’s a few of the traits that render these disorders unique.

Both psychopaths and sociopaths are severe types of an antisocial behavior, capable of extreme violence and a disregard for the feelings and experiences of other individuals. While they both undoubtedly present a danger to society, they also have significant differences, which start to manifest at birth.

“The psychopath is born with a psychopathic brain, which … doesn’t function properly to allow for normal social experiences,” explains Scott Johnson, a psychologist and independent consultant who provides forensic mental health training to law enforcement and prosecutors. “The sociopath, on the other hand, we believe is born with normal brain, but something goes wrong during their nurturing.”

Childhood neglect and abuse is a major predictor for serious antisocial behaviors such as sociopathy in later life. That isn’t to say that everyone – or even most people – who were abused as a child go on to become a sociopath, but studies have consistently shown that sociopaths are more likely to have been a victim of child abuse than the general population. Psychological trauma as a child is thought to interfere with proper brain development, which may explain why this a link, says Johnson.

Though the cause may differ, psychopaths and sociopaths both have brain differences, particularly when it comes to their morality centers. This often shows up on CT and PET scans. They also tend to lack empathy and sympathy almost entirely, particularly psychopaths. “They often just seem like don’t care for other people at all,” says Johnson. They might enjoy the feeling of inflicting pain or exercising control over others, unincumbered by feelings of guilt, anxiety or remorse.

There are some significant differences between the two phenomena, however. Psychopaths are better at delaying gratification. Subsequently, they can meticulously plan their wrongdoings – not all of which are inevitably violent. Psychopaths also commonly commit financial fraud. “A psychopath doesn’t necessarily need to hurt someone physically, their motivation can be narcissism and a thrill of what they perceive as ‘the game’ and that can be achieved in different ways,” explains Johnson. “Approximately 70 percent of psychopaths cross the line into sexual or physical violence.”

Sociopaths, however, are even more likely to be violent, but less likely to be calculating. They struggle to delay their gratification and frequently lash out. “Almost all sociopaths cross over the line into violence. They’re not cunning enough to prepare an attack, they act on impulse.” Because of this, sociopaths are more likely to be caught than psychopaths.

Psychopaths are probably more dangerous the long run, says Johnson, precisely because they can hide it for longer ­– possibly why they get more mention in popular culture than sociopaths. Read More > at Discovery Magazine

“This Is Going to Change the World” – In January of 2001, a startup news website broke a huge technology story: A charismatic millionaire was secretly developing an incredible invention, one that would change the world, in his lab in New Hampshire. The news came via a leaked, secret book proposal, which had just sold to the academic publisher Harvard Business School Press for $250,000. Within hours, the story was everywhere.

The proposal quoted Steve Jobs saying the invention would be “as significant as the personal computer.” Jeff Bezos said it was “revolutionary.” But what was surprising about the book deal wasn’t merely the praise the invention and its inventor, Dean Kamen, garnered from tech world luminaries. It wasn’t merely the substantial investment the inventor had received from famed venture capitalist John Doerr, the largest in the firm Kleiner Perkins’ history. What stood out most of all was the detail that Harvard was paying a quarter-million dollars for the book—and it didn’t even know what the invention was. The inventor was paranoid about leaks, and the book’s author withheld that information from the proposal. No one—not even the literary agent who had submitted the proposal to editors, swearing them to secrecy—knew what the invention was. All they knew was the single word of the book’s title: IT.

The tech bubble was bursting, and all across Silicon Valley, paper fortunes were vanishing. Now here was something different, something that felt new because it was old: a real invention, not just lines of HTML. Soon IT was on Lycos, on NPR, in the New York Times, on late-night talk shows. An IT message board thrown onto the internet by two entrepreneurial brothers received 100,000 hits in its first 24 hours. The explosion of the IT story in the winter and spring of 2001 represented an entirely new kind of media frenzy, the birth of virality as we now know it.

And then IT, too, popped. In December 2001, a year after the initial leak, the world finally learned what IT was, as Dean Kamen presented his invention on Good Morning America. With great fanfare, an actual curtain raised to reveal a bulky two-wheeled scooter.

“The Segway,” Kamen announced proudly.

“That’s it?” Diane Sawyer asked. “That can’t be it.”

The Segway did not change the world. It was not bigger than the PC. It ended up a joke, the province of mall cops and G.O.B. Bluth on Arrested Development. The Segway flopped so badly that one of its first boosters still keeps his in the garage, “to remind me,” he said, “of my own fallibility.” Read More > at Slate

The Voices We Make When We Pretend Our Dogs Can Talk – Dog ownership is weird. You get to know another creature’s quirks and habits. You give them silly nicknames like “Boo Boo” or “Piggy.” You spend way too much time keeping tabs on their bathroom habits. You learn to understand each other, even though you don’t speak the same language.

But many dog owners are inclined to bridge that conversational gap, filling in the loaded silences with what they think — what they know — their dog is saying.

With dogs, funny voices are a way for families to deepen connections with each other and their pet.

“A pet is essentially a friend, and for couples, this is another friend that they have in common,” he says. “It seems like a communal story-building activity that the two folks can do together that bond them together a little more with this third friend.”

…Those are some reasons we make our dogs say the things they say. But why do we make them sound the way they sound? For some people and their pets, that might be a high-pitched baby voice, or a slow and low drawl, or a sassy, indignant vocal fry.

New York dog behaviorist Michele Wan says dogs sometimes seem to understand that a higher-pitched “baby talk” voice is directed to them and will be more responsive to it, even if they don’t understand the words. People who might not speak for their dogs often speak to them in this tone, which some owners adopt “almost subconsciously,” a team of Austrian researchers noted in a 2019 study. Read More > in The Washington Post

About Kevin

Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-UPI, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Trustee RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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