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Month: August 2018 (Page 1 of 2)

Headline of the Day: ‘Goats prefer happy people’

That’s from The lede:

Goats can differentiate between human facial expressions and prefer to interact with happy people, according to a new study led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London.


The study, which provides the first evidence of how goats read human emotional expressions, implies that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of domestication as companions, such as dogs and horses.

Intersting. And intuitive. Everyone/thing appreciates a good smile! 🙂

Mobile Money Heats Up in India as Google Doubles Down

That’s the headline of my most recent story, which came out yesterday. It begins:

NEW DELHI–Alphabet Inc.’s Google is raising its mobile-payments game in India with new functions and services as global players race to woo the nation’s legions of consumers who are skipping credit cards and transacting on smartphones instead.

A day after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said it had invested in the parent company of India’s largest digital-payments firm, called Paytm, Google said it is expanding its mobile money service in the South Asian nation. It is partnering with several local banks to offer consumer loans from within its app in the coming weeks, aiming to assist users seeking cash to cover expenses such as school fees.

Google is also expanding its tie-ups to more online merchants as well as to physical retail shops such as India’s ubiquitous mom and pop stores.

Click through to read the rest.

NN 144: Elon’s Amazing Interview; the New Facebook; Goats on the Lam

The latest edition of my email newsletter went out last week. Subscribe to receive it before it’s posted here.

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.
So, apropos of nothing: I saw something (especially) funny while in traffic here in Delhi today.

Hint 1: It was a passenger vehicle full of animals.

Hint 2: These particular creatures have been in the news in the U.S. this week.

Hint 3: They are almost as awesome as llamas.

Give up? Click here to see my pics.

And now, baaaack to our originally scheduled newsletter (#sorrynotsorry)…

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

⚡ 1) Elon Musk Details ‘Excruciating’ Personal Toll of Tesla Turmoil [New York Times] – An astounding interview. I pointed out in a post what I see as the most remarkable passages.

🇷🇺 2) Russian Hackers Target Conservative Groups in Widening Cyberattacks [WSJ] – Just out from my colleagues Dustin Volz and Robert McMillan: “Russian hackers linked to the 2016 election cyberattacks on the Democratic Party are widening their targeting for the coming midterms to include the U.S. Senate and well-connected conservative groups, according to new research from Microsoft…”

📱3) Modern Horror Films are Finding Their Scares in Dead Phone Batteries [The Verge] – Tasha Robinson on the “new standard trope.”

✈️ 4) How TripAdvisor changed travel [The Guardian] – “Over its two decades in business,” Linda Kinstler writes, “TripAdvisor has turned an initial investment of $3m into a $7bn business by figuring out how to provide a service that no other tech company has quite mastered: constantly updated information about every imaginable element of travel, courtesy of an ever-growing army of contributors who provide their services for free.”

💬 5) College chat app pulls a page from Facebook [Axios] – Kia Kokalitcheva on a messaging app called Islands that’s big on college campuses in the U.S. “We launched Islands and our thesis was the group chats are the new social network,” the company’s founder says. (Note: I think he’s right about this. Who needs Facebook when you have WhatsApp groups?)

👂6) The future is ear: Why “hearables” are finally tech’s next big thing – Apple, Amazon and Google are all “working on products that combine the utility of the hearing aid with the entertainment value of a pair of high-end headphones,” reports Peter Burrows.

🚀 7) Tech-related #longread of the week: Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man [New Yorker] – Nicholas Schmidle on the “ace pilot risking his life to fulfill Richard Branson’s billion-dollar quest to make commercial space travel a reality.”

🌭 8) Fun, useless link of the week: is a website that allows you to…“put words between buns.”

⚽ 9) Soccer video of the week: Wayne Rooney’s Incredible World class tackle and Assist vs Orlando City [YouTube]. Honorable mention: trailer for Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer to Never Play Football [YouTube].

🐶 10) Adorable dog video of the week: Kirk, a female Border Collie, watching herself win the 2017 Purina Pro Challenge [Twitter].

If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. If you received this from a pal, you can sign up here.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Invests in India Mobile-Payments Firm

That’s the headline of my most recent story, which came out yesterday. It begins:

NEW DELHI—-Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is getting into the mobile-payments business.

The Omaha, Neb., conglomerate said Monday it invested in One97 Communications Ltd., the parent company of Paytm. The Noida, India-based company is India’s largest mobile-payments firm. It makes a popular smartphone app that can be used to pay for everything from movie tickets to auto-rickshaw rides.

Mr. Buffett’s assistant Debbie Bosanek said that Mr. Buffett wasn’t involved in the deal. She didn’t immediately confirm the size of the investment. Berkshire was in talks to invest 20 billion to 25 billion rupees ($285 million to $357 million), according to a person familiar with the matter.

Paytm, which says it has more than 300 million users, saw its usage skyrocket in 2016 when India’s government nullified its largest-denomination notes, a bid to root out tax evasion and corruption that triggered a cash shortage.

Click through to read the rest.

Animal Crackers, Redesigned for 2018

File under: Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes…(Turn and face the strange).

The lede of this New York Times story by Matthew Haag:

After 116 years of captivity, animal crackers have been freed from their cages.

It was a symbolic victory for animal rights activists, notably People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which had argued that the immediately recognizable yellow-and-red boxes by Nabisco portrayed a cruel bygone era when traveling circuses transported exotic wildlife in confinement.

The new boxes are expected to arrive in stores this week. They show a zebra, an elephant, a lion, a giraffe and a gorilla roaming free side-by-side in a natural habitat, a sweeping savanna with trees in the distance.

And here’s what the old packaging looked like:

As the great David Bowie once sang (emphasis mine):

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

Link: Michael Cohen Deals a Blow to His Former Boss

The WSJ‘s Gerald Seib, who knows a thing or two about DC, on yesterday’s stunning events (snips from the piece, with my emphasis):

Yet the contours of the story Mr. Cohen obliquely referred to—payoffs to two young women who alleged extramarital affairs with Mr. Trump—aren’t hard to understand. Some in Mr. Trump’s orbit had long worried that his exposure on that front, legally and politically, could well turn out to be higher than his exposure to the Russian collusion charge. On Tuesday, at least, that appeared to be true.

Politically, the results now will be twofold. Republicans in Congress will have to decide whether the Manafort and Cohen court proceedings affect their willingness to protect the president. Odds are they won’t, at least for now.

Yet the Cohen charge now figures to be wrapped into whatever report Mr. Mueller prepares at the end of his investigation, at which point the question will become whether prosecutors have uncovered any actions that could result in impeachment.

And at that point, Democrats hope they will have taken control of Congress and will be in position to make the decision. Ironically, Mr. Trump was in West Virginia trying to ensure that Democratic takeover doesn’t happen.

New Delhi Snapshot: Goats in a Passenger Van

The things you see in New Delhi traffic. Never a dull moment 🙂 🐐

Previous Delhi/goat-related goodness:

  • Delhi Snapshot: Goat Eating a Paratha (Sept. 2016)
  • Delhi Snapshot: Family of Four — Plus a Goat — on a Motorbike (June 2018)
  • New Delhi Snapshot: Intriguing Gadget for Washing Dogs

    Putting the “dog” in the Japanese term “chindōgu” (珍道具).

    Spotted at Khan Market here in Delhi. Sadly, I didn’t inquire as to the price.

    Something tells me Ginger would not abide.

    Weekend Watercolors: Bangkok Temples

    The latest in my ongoing weekend attempts to master* the watercolor medium.

    Here we see temples in Bangkok, with skyscrapers in the background, done from a reference photo.

    I like that I was able to keep everything in proportion in the line drawing. I’d hoped for bolder, more saturated colors, but couldn’t seem to produce them without adding gobs of paint and muddying things up. Perhaps higher quality pigments will help.

    Watercolor painting is deeply humbling. The colors seem to have a mind of their own, and how they end up appearing once laid done seems highly unpredictable. But that’s also what creates the unexpected effects, which is cool.

    Onward and upward!

    *Ha. I’d settle for “become proficient in”! 🙂

    Link: Elon Musk Details ‘Excruciating’ Personal Toll of Tesla Turmoil

    This is an amazing New York Times interview.

    Among the most remarkable parts, considering Musk is chief executive of a publicly listed company with a market capitalization north of $50 billion:

    In an hourlong interview with The New York Times, he choked up multiple times

    Obviously CEOs are human, and many great leaders are risk takers prone to highs and lows, and work ridiculous hours, but still. He has granted the NYT an interview and cried in front of its journalists. How do you think Tesla shareholders or staff feel about all of this?


    He decided to round up to $420 — a number that has become code for marijuana in counterculture lore.

    “It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419,” he said in the interview. “But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There’s a reason for the word ‘stoned.’ You just sit there like a stone on weed.”


    To help sleep when he is not working, Mr. Musk said he sometimes takes Ambien. “It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien,” he said.

    But this has worried some board members, who have noted that sometimes the drug does not put Mr. Musk to sleep but instead contributes to late-night Twitter sessions, according to a person familiar with the board’s thinking. Some board members are also aware that Mr. Musk has on occasion used recreational drugs, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Perhaps most the unsurprising bit, from a earlier in the story:

    Some board members, however, have recently told Mr. Musk that he should lay off Twitter and focus on making cars and launching rockets, according to people familiar with the matter.

    I think it goes with out saying: This is not typical behavior for a chief executive.

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