How Warming Winters Are Affecting Everything

The new normal is seemingly mild, slushy, and wet winters. Migrations are out of wack, and endanger our already delicate food chain.

Pier 1 Files for Bankruptcy Protection Amid Online Challenge

The Fort Worth, Texas-based home goods supplier filed for bankruptcy protection. Failure to compete with Amazon and others in the e-commerce retail space may be to blame.

Mondo releases an Original MSX2 Metal Gear Video Game Soundtrack 10″

Music by Konami Kukeiha Club. Original Artwork by Paul Mann. Stealthy.

Two States, Eight Textbooks, Two American Stories

This is what happens when politics infiltrates State Boards of Education. American History textbooks in Texas and California are re-written with political bias in subjects such as race, immigration, gender and sexuality.

Brandless is the first SoftBank-backed startup to close-up shop

SoftBank’s $100B Vision Fund isn’t looking so visionary

Foxconn’s production continues to be recalled as Coronavirus takes hold

Foxconn and the rest of Shenzhen is in serious trouble.

Apple generates $27M in profit every couple of hours.

That’s important to understand because the fuel for that economic furnace is powered by people. You’d think it’s devices (and it is really), but at the end of the day, it’s people who assemble these ivory devices. Apple’s device sales generate the bulk of their cash. That’s why Apple has been focused on other revenue segments such as services and entertainment recently. Foxconn, is Apple’s primary fabricator and production darling, located in Shenzhen.

The majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases are in China, and as The People Republic of China contains its spread, only a fraction of workers are allowed to go back to work. Foxconn is deeply affected by this. Only about 10% reported back to work in Shenzhen last week. That’s painful for Apple, but for Foxconn, every day they aren’t producing, it eats into their margins as production estimates slip. They’ve begun to recall workers back to their factories in phases according to the Financial Times.

If only Foxconn would’ve built this mysterious factory in Mount Pleasant sooner. In fact, Foxconn has yet to manufacture a single thing in Wisconsin at all. They risk losing their Republican-apportioned tax credits and now they risk their razor-thin margins due to an outbreak that could have been contained much sooner.

Check out the Nordic island that has its own little cloud

A beautiful Nordic island has a penchant for Lenticular cloud formations.

The cute little island is called Lítla Dímun. It’s part of the Faroe Islands, which is a self-governing archipelago about 450km southeast of Iceland. Despite the proximity, the islands are actually owned by Denmark.

Supposedly, visitors can visit most of the islands, but Lítla Dímun is off limits due to wildlife preservation and pretty frequent has inclement weather which obstructs the view of the island. Atlas Obscura recommends getting a glimpse of the island from the villages of Hvalba or Sandvík, on the island of Suðuroy. But, looking at maps, it appears you can likely trek from Trongisvágur to Hvannhagi, a spot the overlooks the bay, from what looks like the remnants of ancient caldera:

Standing at Hvannhagi looking toward Lítla Dímun
Múlafossur Waterfall, another tourist favorite on the Faroe Islands.

Why is the Coronavirus called COVID-19?

Turns out that a formal name designation really matters when fighting an epidemic.

The WHO announced that the Coronavirus has an official name now. It’s pretty easy to remember too. It’s called, COVID-19. But, why the formal name?

Well to explain why, we have to go back to the beginning. It turns out that ever since the Coronavirus broke out in China, xenophobic and racist attitudes were on the rise too:

We had the same problem with the H1N1, also known Swine Flu. The WHO had to step in with an alternate name to dispel the connection between pigs, pork, the food industry and the disease (it was discovered that pork prepared properly would prevent infection by H1N1).

So the first reason for the new name is to dispel and qualm any racist, xenophobic and/or misinformation. The second reason, is very simple. It’s for tracking future outbreaks or mutations of the virus.

COVID-19 follows a naming convention the WHO employs and it’s simple to see the framework for tracking future outbreaks:

  • CO stands for Corona (this type of virus has “crown-like structures” on its surface)
  • VI stands for virus
  • D represents Disease
  • 19 is the year of the outbreak for this specific viral outbreak (e.g. 2019)

Finland to give equal months of paid leave to both parents

While the world is still catching up, Finland announces a plan for mothers and fathers to take up to 6.2 months of leave. A combined total of roughly 14 months of leave are allowed.

Experts reveal the IowaReporterApp is an “off-the-shelf” starter app hastily thrown together

Hard-coded API keys, shoddy infrastructure and a lack of quality control around secure protocols. We’re lucky it wasn’t worst than that.

eBay was pretty close having a new home

After longtime CEO Devin Wenig stepped down last September, eBay was rumored to be looking for a buyer. NYSE owner Intercontinental Exchange, was purported to be be in talks but talks appear to have fallen apart.

Houston is less affordable than New York City

Housing costs might be cheaper in The Lone Star State, but when transportation costs are factored into the mix, Houston loses by a 38% higher cost margin.

Houston, infamous for it’s Viet-Cajun cuisine, the Johnson Space Center, the old Astrodome, and notably its sprawling highways and blacktops. For those who have never visited Houston, the marshes of Texas’ coasts can be unforgiving. The prairie regions surrounding the port of Houston had to be transformed to solidify its foothold as the energy export capital of Texas. City planners replaced natural creek-beds, prairie lands, and marshy ditches with concrete culverts and drain-ways — sealing Houston’s fate as a flood-prone metropolitan city forever.

Apart from the occasional hurricane, and the muggy summers, the cost of living in Houston used to be relatively inexpensive — at least until recent decades. The rising economic cost of flood damages, growing gridlock, gasoline prices, and maintaining a car during the era of tumultuous climate change has made it difficult for the middle class to thrive. In fact, it’s much worse than we thought.

According to reporting from Texas Monthly, Houston’s affordability has dried up along with its protective prairie lands:

Furthermore, when considering housing and transportation costs as a percentage of income, Houston (and Dallas–Fort Worth, for that matter) appear significantly less affordable than cities with much more expensive housing, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. The annual median household income in Houston was just under $61,000 in 2016, while in New York that same figure was just over $69,000. As a result, Houstonians spend just under 50 percent of their income on those combined costs, whereas New Yorkers spend just over 45 percent.

It may be a cheaper opportunity cost to move and to live in Houston. For example, buying a house in a Houston suburb is vastly cheaper than buying a home just about anywhere outside the Tri-State area in New York. But, transportation and environmental costs continue to mount in Houston.

Until Texas Central builds a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, I’m afraid that all Texas metropolitan areas will face the same fate. Cars and highways don’t scale well when the vast majority of city residents live in suburbia.

The Coronavirus is causing the world’s largest work-from-home experiment

The Coronavirus is essentially a flu-like respiratory-illness. Here’s what we know so far:

  • It’s contagious like SARS, and about 2x more infectious than the seasonal flu.
  • So far, the fatality rate is less than 3%. There’s already been more fatalities than the last SARS outbreak in China. Keeping that number low is going to have to be a global effort. Young children and the elderly are at a higher-risk of respiratory issues.
  • The period for symptoms to fully appear is roughly 2-weeks. This is what makes this virus especially difficult to detect and prevent. The virus can easily spread from person to person prior to showing any symptoms.
  • The virus has already spread across multiple borders. Primarily mainland China has the most confirmed cases. Russia, Unites States, United Kingdom, Thailand, Turkey, Japan, Australia and have had infected travelers confirmed.
  • The WHO has declared the Coronavirus a global health emergency which should catalyze superpowers to work to contain the spread of the infectious virus.
  • To prevent further spread of the disease, many Chinese companies are asking their corporate workforce to work-from home:

Tiko Mamuchashvili, a senior event planner at the Hyatt hotel in Beijing who was supposed to return to work on Friday, was initially told her vacation would be extended until Feb. 3. Then she received a notification to work from home for two additional days. A few days later, the directive was extended until Feb. 10. She has to notify her department each morning about her whereabouts and report whether she is running a temperature.

“Usually going back to work from holidays feels a little weird, but working from home this time with such short notice feels even more unusual,” she said. With hotel event cancellations rolling in on a daily basis, “basically, all I can do is answer emails,” she said.

Wuhan’s concerted effort to fight the spread of this virus abroad and within its border is remarkable. But, other metropolitan areas like Hong Kong are not getting the same countermeasures. Reportedly there’s been 15 confirmed cases in Hong Kong. Hopefully others can and will emulate Wuhan’s work-from-home experiment and their hyper-mobilized efforts to quarantine, treat and contain the spread:

Joywave’s, “Obsession” music video features incredible fictional movie title screens

An homage to a century of filmmaking. The Video was created and produced by Laura Gorun Cooper Roussel & Dimitri Basil

Joywave, a rad indie band that hails from Rochester, New York is known for their penchant for the meta and the weird. Just watch their 2015 music video for Somebody New and you’ll see what I mean. In 2019, Joywave released the single Obsession, in preparation for the full-length Possession slated for March 2020. The single came with goodies, a delicious music video that is oozing with nostalgia and American culture.

Here’s a few of my favorites stills from the music video:

The music video is well produced. It’s also very visibly Los Angeles. THat’s not a slight either. It’s really beautiful. It has the weight of a hundred films, and shows just how flexible the Los Angeles landscapes can be for filmmakers. Check it out:

Metropolitan Cats

Over 1,000 years of cats in art.

The Met turns 150 years old this year. Its collection is as vast as it is priceless. Within their enormous collection, there are over a 1000 years of cats in art. Quite an impressive catalog of cats! This film, was produced in 1983 and there’s even a companion catalog book (used hardback) published by the museum a couple of years prior available on Amazon. This was unearthed from the archive to commemorate their 150th anniversary. Each month, the museum plans to release more films from the archive.

From the video description:

As part of The Met’s 150th anniversary in 2020, each month we will release three to four films from the Museum’s extensive moving-image archive, which comprises over 1,500 films, both made and collected by the Museum, from the 1920s onward. This includes rarely seen artist profiles and documentaries, as well as process films about art-making techniques and behind-the-scenes footage of the Museum.

The closing credits go to Robin Lehman as producer and director for this short film. It’s unclear if it is the same Robin Lehman on IMDB, but what a lovely, charming and informative short.

Our closest red supergiant, Betelgeuse will become a violent and bright supernova soon(ish)

The edge of an interstellar cloud encroaches on the star while it prepares to explode as a supernova.

The last supernova that was remotely visible by the naked eye was Supernova 1987A. It was an impressive display then. But will we see another supernova again?

For context, our closest red supergiant star is Betelgeuse. It is currently on the cusp of exploding, as it transforms into a supernova. The star is already spewing gases from its surface as it prepares to ascend into supernova — superheating nearby celestial gas and dust into a spectacular light-show.

As the star prepares to self-destruct, there’s a nearby wall cloud formation of dust. According to the ESA, it’s technically the edge of a nearby interstellar cloud, being illuminated by Betelgeuse. The two are posed to collide:

If the bar is a completely separate object, then taking into account the motion of Betelgeuse and its arcs and the separation between them and the bar, the outermost arc will collide with the bar in just 5,000 years, with the red supergiant star itself hitting the bar roughly 12,500 years later.

This image of Betelgeuse is comprised of bow shock (right) and a wall cloud of dust and debris (left). It will take thousands of years for the two to collide. Photo: ESA
The first photo of a star other than our sun, was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1996. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant in the constellation Orion. This photograph is an ultraviolet image. Pictured on the right is the full constellation Orion, with Betelgeuse marked by the yellow cross. Note just how large the size of the star is compared to the size of Jupiter’s orbit. Enormous.

Check out more photos of Betelgeuse at WIRED,

BlackRock will divest from fossil fuel industries — CEO letter to investors states ‘climate risk is investment risk’

Larry Fink’s annual letter to investors, he recommends divesting from fossil fuel producing industries and confronting climate change.

Bill McKibben at The New Yorker writes:

By one estimate, there’s about eighty trillion dollars of money on the planet. If that’s correct, then BlackRock’s holding of seven trillion dollars means that nearly a dime of every dollar rests in its digital files, mostly in the form of stocks it invests in for pension funds and the like. So when BlackRock’s C.E.O., Larry Fink, devoted his annual letter to investors to explaining that climate change has now put us “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” it marked a watershed moment in climate history.

He’s right about the financial future, of course—one can’t look at the clouds of smoke now obscuring the Australian continent and come away thinking that we can maintain our present course. But anyone paying attention—which includes investment-fund C.E.O.s—has known the score for years. What’s changed now are a couple of factors.

This is impressive, and Larry Fink is completely right. “Climate risk is investment risk,” as he states in his letter. If we don’t start acting right now — we might not have an opportunity later. It begins here, with the reshaping of how we invest. Taming the river of money, will make considerable waves in the future.

It wasn’t that long ago that CEO’s and leaders from blue-chip giants of the Business Roundtable were meeting to redefine the responsibility companies should play in society. There’s serious momentum, for the first time in nearly a century to re-think and re-model companies, businesses, and Wall Street — from the top-down. We’re entering an era where leadership is finally understanding just how important it is to put money where it matters most: engaging on middle-class wealth, diversity/inclusion and perhaps most importantly, environmental protection.