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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.

    New Delhi Snapshot: Connaught Place, Seen from Above

    Here’s one of New Delhi’s most bustling areas as glimpsed from Parikrama, a rotating restaurant 24 stories high.

    Not a view you get to take in every day.

    NN 143: Alex Jones’s Very Bad Week; Wither Snapchat?; White Shark Breach

    Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

    Here are ten items worth your time this week:

    🖥️ 1) By me at Book Notes: ‘The Master Switch,’ by Tim Wu. The book’s subtitle: “The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.” An archive of my Book Notes posts is here.

    🚫 2) Apple Kicked Alex Jones Off Its Platform, Then YouTube And Facebook Rushed To Do The Same [Buzzfeed News] — “In all, the actions will currently seriously limit Jones’s ability to reach his massive audience,” John Paczkowski and Charlie Warzel wrote. “Twitter and Periscope remain one of the sole major platforms to still host Jones.”

    ↘️ 3) Snapchat’s Users Slide in Latest Setback for Social Media [WSJ]– After it appears that user growth is slowing at Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat “reported its first quarterly decline in daily users, sending its stock price gyrating,” my colleague Marc Vartabedian reported. The number of daily users fell 2% to about 188 million, the first such decline in seven years.

    🤖 4) Robotics-related link of the week: All Is Full of Björk Bots [Slate] — “I couldn’t escape the feeling I’d seen this sort of robot design before, and in a strikingly similar context,” Benjamin Frisch writes. “Then I realized where I recognized it from: the seminal video for Björk’s ‘All Is Full of Love.’”

    📹 5) This week in surveillance/fashion-related news: Camouflage from face detection [CV Dazzle] — Click through to read how “avant-garde hairstyling and makeup designs” can be used to “break apart the continuity of a face.”

    📚 6) Shot: Gutenberg’s Revenge [Strategy+Business] — Why “the consumer market for physical, printed books is holding its own in an increasingly digital world.”

    💯 7) Chaser: 17 Places Book Lovers Need to Visit [Conde Nast Traveler] — Gorgeous pics, ranging from a trippy bookshop in Yangzhou, China to a three-story library in Rio de Janeiro and a monstary in Prague.

    🔥 8) No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man [Smithsonian American Art Museum] — In the first exhibit of its kind, the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. is showing artwork from the legendary desert party.

    🗣️ 9) 10 of the best words in the world (that don’t translate into English) [The Guardian] — My favorite: “sisu.” Runner up: tiáo (条).

    🦈 10) Crazy-ass shark-related video of the week: White shark surprise breach off Wellfleet, MA. [YouTube/Atlantic White Shark Conservancy] — Title says it all. (Thanks, Milo!)

    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,

    India Looks to Curb U.S. Tech Giants’ Power

    That’s the headline of my most recent story, which came out Monday and was in Tuesday’s print Wall Street Journal. 

    It begins:

    Indian policy makers are looking for ways to tamp down American tech behemoths, a shift that could crimp growth potential in one of the biggest remaining open markets for their expansion.

    India wants to slap new rules on Inc., Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and other firms, using a page from China’s playbook to take control of its citizens’ data and shelter homegrown startups.

    The proposed rules, which have emerged in recent weeks in a series of private, draft government policies, have U.S. tech companies concerned, according to   familiar with the matter. American firms are betting billions on the Indian market because, unlike China’s, it has been relatively open to foreign competitors. That might be about to change.

    “It is unprecedented and it needs to be taken very seriously,” said Vinay Kesari, a Bangalore-based technology lawyer specializing in regulatory matters who has worked with U.S. tech firms. “It could have huge implications.”

    Click through to read the rest.

    Book Notes: ‘The Master Switch,’ by Tim Wu

    From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited recently after many years.

    These posts are meant to help me remember what I’ve learned, and to point out titles I think are worth consulting. They’re neither formal book reviews nor comprehensive book summaries, but simply my notes from reading these titles.

    For previous postings, see my Book Notes category.

    The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

    Published: 2010
    ISBN-13: 978-0307269935
    Amazon link

    Brief Summary

    All new communications media are at first open, but come to be dominated — closed — by corporations. “The cycle” is happening again with the internet.

    My Notes

    In this meticulously researched and prescient* 2010 book, Columbia University Law Professor Tim Wu, who famously coined the term “network neutrality,” shows how radio, film, television and cable all began as wide-open playgrounds for hobbyists. Then large corporations took over, exercised monopoly control, and have stifled innovation.

    Wu says this represents “the cycle.” As he writes, “information empires” eternally “return to consolidated order however great the disruptive forces of creative destruction.”

    What is “the master switch“? Wu takes the phrase from CBS executive Fred Friendly, who:

    …thought that the shortage of TV stations had given exclusive custody of a ‘master switch’ over speech, creating ‘an autocracy’ where a very few citizens are more equal than all the others.’

    • It’s important to note that the book was published in 2010, the same year that the Arab Spring began. Eight years ago there was, in my mind, a much more utopian view of what the web could become: a place for free speech to blossom, where everyone can have a voice and speak truth to power.

    That was, of course, long before the rising skepticism of how platforms like Facebook and Twitter wield their power, and long before “fake news” and Russian trolls. And it was, of course, before Obama’s 2015 net neutrality rules — and before FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rolled them back last year.

    My notes on other tidbits from history that I enjoyed reading about:

    • RCA dominated radio, then suppressed the release of TV until they could control the medium, Wu writes.
    • In the 1940s AT&T killed through a series of lawsuits an inventor’s simple, useful contraption called the Hush-a-Phone; it was, Wu writes, an example of a corporation stifling innovation.
    • The breakup of the Hollywood monopolies, in which studios owned theaters and produced fairly bland content, gave rise to the “new Hollywood” and classic films of the 1970s, such as “The Godfather” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”
    • At Apple, Steve Wozniak wanted openness (i.e. Apple II, which could be tinkered with); Steve Jobs wanted things closed (i.e. the Mac, which was sealed). Wu says Wozniak told him “That was Steve. He wanted it that way. The Apple II was my machine, and the Mac was his.”
    • Google wants the web to remain open, even though it has enormous power. Wu writes:

      In fairness, it must be allowed that Google has remained more committed to openness than any information empire before it. What now seems possible, if unprecedented, is a well-defended Internet monopolist running a mostly open system.

    • Wu recounts an interesting Google anecdote:

      In the fall of 2010, I was on Google’s campus speaking of cycles, of open and closed, centralization and decentralization. A senior employee raised his hand. “You have a good point,” he said. “When you’re a new company, getting started, openness seems really great, because it offers a way in. But I have to admit, the bigger you get, the more appealing closed systems starts (sic) to look.”

    • Finally, Wu says the stakes are much higher when it comes to the web, compared to other media. That’s because “our future…is almost certain to become an intensification of our current reality: greater and greater information dependence in every matter of life and work, and all that needed information increasingly traveling a single network we call the internet…already there are signs that the good old days of a completely open network are ending.”

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