“This Is Serious”: Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral | Vanity Fair

Years ago, long before Mark Zuckerberg became Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder reached out to a friend of mine who had also started a company, albeit a considerably smaller one, in the social-media space, and suggested they get together. As Facebook has grown into a global colossus that connects about a third of the globe, Zuckerberg has subsequently assumed a reputation as an aloof megalomaniac deeply out of touch with the people who use his product. But back then, when he only had 100 million users on his platform, he wasn’t perceived that way. When he reached out to my friend, Zuckerberg was solicitous. He made overtures that suggested a possible acquisition—and once rebuffed, returned with the notion that perhaps Facebook could at least partner with my friend’s company. The chief of the little start-up was excited by the seemingly harmless, even humble, proposition from the growing hegemon. Zuckerberg suggested that the two guys take a walk.

Taking a walk, it should be noted, was Zuckerberg’s thing. He regularly took potential recruits and acquisition targets on long walks in the nearby woods to try to convince them to join his company. After the walk with my friend, Zuckerberg appeared to take the relationship to the next level. He initiated a series of conference calls with his underlings in Facebook’s product group. My friend’s small start-up shared their product road map with Facebook’s business-development team. It all seemed very collegial, and really exciting. And then, after some weeks passed, the C.E.O. of the little start-up saw the news break that Facebook had just launched a new product that competed with his own.

Source: “This Is Serious”: Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral | Vanity Fair

How Insulin Became Unaffordable | Harvard Political Review

This is appalling. People are dying because they can’t afford insulin.

The U.S. health care is broken. Only single-payer will fix it and I will support any politician who supports it. No one should die over profits!

On May 20, 2017, Smith turned 26, aging out of his parents’ insurance. Because he was a single man with a decent job, Smith didn’t qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The most inexpensive plan Smith and his mother could find on the Minnesota exchange was around $450 per month with a $7600 deductible. Smith could have afforded the monthly premiums, but the deductible made the plan too expensive. Although the family had been researching plans for Smith since February, he had to go off of health insurance entirely.

When Smith went to the pharmacy to pick up his insulin in early June, the bill was over $1300 without insurance. He couldn’t afford the medicine that day, and decided to ration his remaining insulin until he was paid. Smith did not tell his family that he was adjusting his carbohydrate intake so he could lower his dosage.

“He knew the signs of being in trouble with his diabetes,” Smith-Holt told the HPR. “But when your body starts shutting down like that, you’re not making very clear, rational decisions.”

On June 25, Smith went to dinner with his girlfriend, where he complained about stomach pains. It was the last time anyone saw him alive. He called in sick to work the next day. On June 27, Smith was found dead in his apartment.

Source: How Insulin Became Unaffordable | Harvard Political Review

Cheap Renewables Keep Pushing Fossil Fuels Further Away From Profitability – Despite Trump’s Efforts

Rapid cost declines made renewable energy the United States’ cheapest available source of new electricity, without subsidies, in 2017. In many parts of the U.S., building new wind is cheaper than running existing coal, while nuclear and natural gas aren’t far behind. As renewable energy costs continue their relentless decline, they keep pushing fossil fuels further from profitability – and neither trend is slowing down.

This dynamic is apparent in the decade spanning 2008-2017, where nearly all retired U.S. power plants were fossil fuel generation, and was capped by utilities announcing 27 coal plant closures totaling 22 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2017. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts coal closures will continue through 2020, potentially setting an all-time annual record in 2018.

Source: Cheap Renewables Keep Pushing Fossil Fuels Further Away From Profitability – Despite Trump’s Efforts

Raleigh’s in the Running for Amazon’s HQ2. But Do We Really Want the Damn Thing? | Wake County | Indy Week

IndyWeek pretty much repeats what I’ve been cautioning about Amazon HQ2 landing in Raleigh. Be careful what you wish for.

There’s been something surreal about watching cities all over the country prostrate themselves before Amazon in hopes of landing HQ2, the company’s second headquarters, which will employ some fifty thousand workers and pump $5 billion into the local economy over the next two decades. Newark has offered the internet behemoth $7 billion in incentives. Philadelphia offered as much as $2 billion over ten years. Missouri offered in excess of $2.4 billion (which wasn’t good enough; Amazon rejected bids from Kansas City and St. Louis). Other cities that have made their incentive packages public aren’t far behind. For those that haven’t—including North Carolina—it’s difficult to imagine that figure not reaching the billions.

Source: Raleigh’s in the Running for Amazon’s HQ2. But Do We Really Want the Damn Thing? | Wake County | Indy Week

Could a bubbling Canaries volcano see Britain engulfed by killer tsunami?

A tsunami wave, perhaps 100 feet tall, will wreak havoc on the U.S. east coast the day that the Canary Islands’ La Palma volcano blows up. Increased seismic activity has experts worried that day is coming sooner rather than later. Are we ready?

WHEN you think about tsunamis, you don’t tend to picture the killer waves crashing down on British beaches.But with a volatile volcano in La Palma ready to blow, the government is now drawing up plans for dealing with monster waves on the British coast.

The terrifying truth is that we’re largely in the dark about tsunamis, and it’s difficult to say with any certainty when Britain will next see a killer wave.But many volcano experts point to Cumbre Vieja, an active volcanic ridge on La Palma, in the Canary Islands, as a probable source of a future tsunami.

With seismic activity picking up in the area, volcano monitors are on high alert over fears that an eruption could send a huge chunk of the mountain crashing into the sea – triggering a monster tsunami.

There’s still debate around how big the tsunami would be by the time it reaches Britain, although there are fears that waves as high as 25 metres could threaten New York and Miami.

Source: Could a bubbling Canaries volcano see Britain engulfed by killer tsunami?

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace – The New York Times

Speaking of Amazon, here’s an NYT piece from 2015 on its workaholic ways. This is largely confirmed by former Amazon employees I know.

I read this stuff and wonder why I give my money to Amazon. And then I do it anyway.

On Monday mornings, fresh recruits line up for an orientation intended to catapult them into Amazon’s singular way of working.

They are told to forget the “poor habits” they learned at previous jobs, one employee recalled. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall,” others reported. To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on handy laminated cards. When quizzed days later, those with perfect scores earn a virtual award proclaiming, “I’m Peculiar” — the company’s proud phrase for overturning workplace conventions.

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Source: Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace – The New York Times

From Seattle, a former Raleighite advises about living with Amazon | News & Observer

Again, be careful what you wish for, Raleigh. The question we should be asking Amazon is “what will you do for us?

Well, congratulations, Raleigh! You made the cut! You’re one of 20 cities that Amazon is considering for its second headquarters, better known as “HQ2.” (Best to get hip to the lingo if you want to stay in the game.)

Best, too, to know what you’re in for if you win the online retailer’s heart – the existence of which some Seattleites wonder about. Like Sasquatch, or sunshine past September.

But let’s not get into that just yet.

This civic lottery means one hell of a windfall: Amazon promises a $5 billion capital investment and 50,000 new tech jobs.

Win it, and the Triangle will be brimming with new energy, new money and that trademark Tar Heel satisfaction that comes from besting those bank nerds in Charlotte.

hBut I know the charm and ease of Raleigh; I lived there for 1994 to 1998. I know what’s at stake.

And I’ve lived in Seattle through Amazon’s explosive growth, which has been going on for several years and hasn’t let up.

Source: From Seattle, a former Raleighite advises about living with Amazon | News & Observer

‘Kernel memory leaking’ Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign • The Register

A massive security issue has been found in Intel’s processors that will very shortly have a huge performance impact on almost all computers. Details are sketchy at the moment but it’s not looking good.

Remember the Year 2000 (Y2K) bug? This is likely to eclipse Y2K. Why? Because patching broken software is trivial but patching broken hardware is all but impossible. We will feel the effects of this design flaw for years. Soon nearly all computers you interact with (including online services like Facebook, SalesForce, Netflix, etc) could be from five to thirty percent slower.

When I purchased a new Intel processor last year, I did so thinking it would give me a decade or more of service. Now it’s already obsolete. If any class-action lawsuits spring up over this I would be willing to join in. This is ridiculous.

A fundamental design flaw in Intel’s processor chips has forced a significant redesign of the Linux and Windows kernels to defang the chip-level security bug.

Programmers are scrambling to overhaul the open-source Linux kernel’s virtual memory system. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to publicly introduce the necessary changes to its Windows operating system in an upcoming Patch Tuesday: these changes were seeded to beta testers running fast-ring Windows Insider builds in November and December.

Crucially, these updates to both Linux and Windows will incur a performance hit on Intel products. The effects are still being benchmarked, however we’re looking at a ballpark figure of five to 30 per cent slow down, depending on the task and the processor model. More recent Intel chips have features – specifically, PCID – to reduce the performance hit.

Similar operating systems, such as Apple’s 64-bit macOS, will also need to be updated – the flaw is in the Intel x86 hardware, and it appears a microcode update can’t address it. It has to be fixed in software at the OS level, or buy a new processor without the design blunder.

Source: ‘Kernel memory leaking’ Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign • The Register

Bonus link: Some technical speculation on the bug from “pythonsweetness.”

Cheap Thoughts: Microcell towers

A microcell site outside of the gas station at Raleigh’s Costco.

I’d been a bit puzzled by all of the microcell sites I’ve seen popping up around town. The first I found was the one behind Adventure Landing on Capital Boulevard a few years ago. Since then, more and more have appeared at locations like Hillsborough Street near N.C. State, Cameron Village Shopping Center, Red Hat Amphitheater, St. Augustine University, outside the Subway on Creekside Drive, and the one pictured above outside of Costco on Six Forks Road near Wake Forest Road.

Many of these new towers sit almost literally in the shadow of massive, existing towers. Why were all of these micro towers going up in places that already have clearly good coverage?

Then the Eureka moment hit me. These cheap, utility-pole cell sites are poaching cellphone users away from the massive towers and collecting the connection fees!
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I-Team Exclusive: Sen. Reid discusses UFO study | LasVegasNow

Former Senator Harry Reid discusses his Pentagon UFO study project.

Did anyone notice what just happened here?

1. The U.S. Government has confirmed it has been studying UFOs.
2. This study has been quietly supported at some of the highest levels of government.
3. A video of a compelling UFO encounter has just been officially released by the U.S. Government.
4. One of the highest ranking former members of Congress didn’t run away from these events but proudly claimed them.
5. In spite of all this, the world didn’t end. People didn’t run for the hills. Mostly everyone shrugged.

These are all remarkable events and unthinkable even a few years ago. If all the people who made this happen escape without being publicly crucified we may see more of these disclosures.

Is society becoming ready to accept the truth of other life in the universe?

The existence of the UFO study was first reported by the I-Team back in October. That’s when a high-ranking intelligence officer in charge of the program quit to take a job with a private company.

Over the weekend, news of Harry Reid’s role in the study surfaced in news reports. The senator gave his only on camera interview to the I-Team’s George Knapp.

Harry Reid’s interest in UFOs dates back to 1989 because that is when George Knapp first had conversations with him on the topic.

In the years since, Reid quietly collected more information, met with scientists, intelligence officials, and other experts, and finally authorized a study that was carried out by a company created by a Las Vegas billionaire.

Since the story broke on Saturday, Reid has been bombarded with media requests, but he gave his only on camera interview to the I-Team.

The release this weekend of videos recorded by military pilots is unusual because, officially, the U.S. government stopped collecting information about UFOs back in 1969, when the Air Force canceled Project Blue Book. But in the decades since, pilots and others continued to encounter technology that is beyond anything known on earth.

Source: I-Team Exclusive: Sen. Reid discusses UFO study | LasVegasNow