May 17, 2015

People of Sheep, Government of Wolves

Ars Technica reports:

The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.

While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”

“I, the government of the United Kingdom — established for the sole purpose of ensuring the liberty of the people of this land — hereby restrict citizens from hacking into computers. I deem my many extensions and branches, however, completely exempt from prosecution for doing the same thing to citizens, for any reason.”

Is there a more flagrant violation of a people’s rights? Oversight for all, but not government? Made possible behind closed doors?

I know a definition for this.

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May 14, 2015

Call or Message Contacts with Alfred

Every time I needed to use Handoff to contact someone, especially calling, I thought to myself “surely there’s an Alfred workflow that shortcuts all this clicking.”

I finally Googled it this afternoon. Bingo.

Simply precede a contact’s name with Call, SMS, or IM. A tiny quibble is that it opens the Contacts app in the background (minimized) after each query.

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May 14, 2015

Las Vegas, the Next Brooklyn?

Freakonomics radio’s latest show was very intriguing:

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer, presiding over a corporate culture that most corporations wouldn’t recognize. Among Hsieh’s priorities at Zappos: having fun, empowering his call-center employees, and making customers happy at almost any cost. We’ve written about Hsieh and Zappos before – how, for instance, company meetings are sometimes held in a bar. And why customer reps are encouraged to talk to a customer for as long as they want, all without a script, how they authorized to settle problems without calling in a supervisor and can even “fire” a customer who makes trouble for them. And how Zappos gives new employees a chance to quit their brand-new job and get a quitting “bonus” because Hsieh figures he’d rather weed out anyone who doesn’t really, really want to work at Zappos.

Now Hsieh (pronounced shay) has basically bought part of downtown Vegas for $350 million. “The Downtown Project,” as it’s called, is merely interesting per se, but anything this guy does, I want to know more about.

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May 10, 2015

How to Get into Harvard

LRB blog:

WikiLeaks has published all the Sony emails that had been hacked last November, and made them searchable by keyword. In 2014, a senior executive emailed an Ivy League vice-president of philanthropy: he’d like to endow a scholarship, anonymously, ‘at the $1mm level’. In another email, he tells a development officer that his daughter is applying to the college as her first choice. It’s all very decorous. The development staff arrange a ‘customised’ campus tour for his daughter and a meeting with the university’s president; but he asks for no favours and nothing is promised. An email from the president says that his daughter’s application will be looked at ‘very closely’. She gets in. He writes to his sister: ‘David… called me. he is obsessed with getting his eldest in Harvard next year.’ She replies: ‘If David wants to get his daughter in he should obviously start giving money.’ Obviously.

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May 7, 2015

Psychology of Pricing

Compelling yet concise laundry list by Nick Kolenda:

Welcome to a massive list of psychological pricing strategies.

Whether you’re launching a new product, selling items on eBay, or negotiating a deal on your house, you’ll learn how to choose a price that will maximize your profit.

Kolenda got some heat for some of the techniques he mentioned, but to be fair he emphasizes the purpose of his compilation upfront. It’s one surely worth contemplating.

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Pocket Premium: A Review

Yesterday, less than an hour before an entirely different version of this review was about to go live, I received an email from Pocket’s community manager, Justin:

Hello again, Shibel!

I have some great news for you – we finally heard back from our search partner, and were able to track down the the cause of some of the search operator issues that you reported.

The good news were that almost four weeks after I’ve reported a series of bugs, Pocket Premium’s search was no longer dysfunctional. The not so good news, for me at least, were that the 2,508-word review that I was about to publish was rendered irrelevant.

This made me think about why technology fascinates me to the extent it does, especially web and software: If you ship a tangible product with faulty hardware design, like a phone, you’re screwed. At least until your next production batch. If you launch a broken web app, though, you can fix the most significant of issues very quickly. Your only dependencies are your own priorities and skills.

Anyway, here’s the revised review.

The way I organize what I read online, which I wrote about in January, has changed. This is a review of Pocket Premium and my experiences while using it as the sole tool for reading and filing articles. I’ve been using Pocket Premium for almost a month now, testing it very actively for the first two weeks.

Unique Circumstances

For me, a good bookmarking service allows the user to send links independently of where they are, or what OS they’re using. At home, I have a MacBook and an iPad. At work, I’m forced to work on Windows PCs with corporate settings, something that prevents me from customizing them for my needs. I can’t install bookmarklets or browser extensions, let alone applications.

It doesn’t help, either, that I work in a news-desk, which at many stages of the day can be an inordinately busy and chaotic place. This means that I can’t bring my MacBook there, because someone will inevitably spill coffee, sit, or stomp on it. Moreover, I often have to give my seat pretty quickly during sudden emergencies and events, so staying logged in to my web accounts isn’t an option. Try standing in the way of a producer whose interviewee isn’t picking up two minutes before his show starts.

The Previous System

The way things worked previously was that I used Pocket (the free version) not only as a read later service, but also as a “docking station” for stuff that I may want to save to Evernote for future reference. What I save doesn’t have to be an article: it can be a YouTube video, a product homepage that I want to check out later, or a tweet with an embedded image1.

So, at different stages of the day I’d scan my Pocket list, and there would usually be three kinds of items on it:

  1. Articles that I saved to read later: This is the typical use case of Pocket. Some of these articles would be tagged and sent to Evernote once they’re read, and some would get archived inside Pocket.

  2. Articles that I’ve already read and wanted to save to Evernote: Funny, but Pocket was (and is) better at sending bookmarks to Evernote than Evernote’s own apps.

  3. All kinds of other content and media that weren’t really text, but that I wanted to save for one reason or another.

For this type of role, Pocket has a few strong advantages over its competitors:

  1. Wider and better support by browsers and third party developers.

  2. A better sharing system on iOS: Pocket uses its own share sheet and supports export to a plethora of services. Better yet, sharing is done in-house, meaning you don’t have to leave to the destination app to share something from Pocket. For Evernote, you can tag an article quickly from the share sheet, something that isn’t possible in Instapaper because it sends you to the Evernote app. Which, you know, sucks just like Evernote’s apps.

  3. Save by email: I called this the “X factor” in my workflow review in January, and it still is, especially when I’m browsing at work: I don’t have to be logged in to any service, not even my own email address, to add something to my Pocket queue. I just set up Pocket to accept all items sent to from my workplace’s address, and since Outlook is always open there, adding an item is a breeze.

  4. Tags: Instapaper, for example, uses folders, which limits the user to one reference point per article.

My previous workflow was entirely device agnostic, something I always look for in services and products. But its weakest link, Evernote, gave me little incentive to take advantage of the hundreds of items that I’ve accumulated. What made working with Evernote such a bad experience were its iOS and (especially) OS X apps. I don’t think I need to expand on how buggy and slow they are; anyone who’s used them knows. CEO Phil Libin himself admitted in January Evernote wasn’t focusing on “the core experience,” and promised better Evernote apps were coming “in a matter of weeks”.

As I was writing this review, Evernote rolled out version 5.6 of their OS X app, a few days after shipping version 7.5 of their iOS app. On Macstories, Federico Viticci seems impressed with Evernote’s new sharing extension on iOS, and while it does sound versatile, it still does not support tags(!). As for OS X, while Federico writes that he found the new version “to be faster and more reliable than before,” it’s not something I can corroborate since this version hasn’t hit my local App Store yet.

In any case, for me the ship has already sailed.

What Changed

A few things have changed since January, the last time I revisited my workflow:

  • Pocket launched Pocket Premium, with three features that aren’t available for free members. I’ll cover those in a bit.

  • One month later, Pocket began offering a 45% lifetime discount ($25 instead of $45) on its annual Premium plan to original “Read it Later Pro” customers, who I’m one of.

  • iOS 8 was released in September, introducing extensions.

  • Evernote, meanwhile, continues to be Evernote, and I don’t have the patience for it to prove otherwise.

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September 17, 2014

iOS 8 Review on Pixel Envy

Yesterday I was wondering aloud whether I’m the only person on the planet who’s more excited about iOS 8 and Yosemite rather than the new iPhones and the Apple Watch. I got some quick reassurance from a few people, including Sam Hutchings who said:

iOS 8 and Yosemite working together is Magic. iPhones are iterative upgrades, and Apple Watch is just too far away just now.

I don’t know about the iPhones or watch, I’d like to ponder a little more before I make up my mind. But “magic” is exactly the word that came to mind during and after this year’s WWDC. The multitude of new features introduced for both operating systems, and their binding together through Continuity, are more appealing to me than a bigger screen size. And yes, more than being able to pay with a phone.

I’ll leave the analysis and sales predictions regarding the Sixes and the watch to Apple’s certified pundits, but iOS 8 and Yosemite are (supposed to be) a revolution, no less, as far as heavy users are concerned.

For its release today, Nick Heer of Pixel Envy published a comprehensive review of iOS 8:

This is what I have gleaned from using iOS 8 every day since June 2 on my primary (and only) iPhone 5S and my Retina iPad Mini.

I usually try to extract a longer pull quote to give readers a better idea of what they’re about to read, or highlight something that was especially relevant to me. I couldn’t quite do that with Nick’s review. I’ll tell you, and this is coming from someone who thinks superlatives are the devil, that this is the best software review I’ve read in years.

The first public version of iOS 8 is a step forward, but Apple clearly has work to do before it can function anywhere near what we saw during the announcement in June.

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Welcome to The Pickle Theory

If everything worked as planned, you are reading these lines on a new domain name, and if you’re not reading these lines inside an RSS reader, you’ve probably noticed the new look, too.

Welcome to The Pickle Theory.

Let’s start with some administrative notes:

  • The domain name is now You’ll still get here if you type in the old address, so previously saved bookmarks should work just fine.

  • Accordingly, the RSS feed is now at Subscribers to the old feed should be redirected automatically without having to worry about any of this, but if you do experience any hiccups, switching to the new one should help. Apologies for the inconvenience.

  • The site now has a dedicated Twitter account at @pickletheory, which will auto-tweet newly published articles.

  • There’s a new weekly newsletter for those who prefer to receive updates to their inbox. You can sign-up here.

The Name

Here’s “the story” behind this very unconfusing name as it currently appears on the new about page:

The Pickle Theory is a hedge against a change of mind or taste.

The toxic combination of perfectionism and indecisiveness has led this site to several different directions over its short lifespan. Seeing as it already went through more drastic changes than it should, I wanted to protect myself from myself or any future pivots by choosing a name I could relate to today and in the long haul.

But how can one protect against change when we all know change is inevitable? And that what you write about today may not be what you write about in two years? That not only your interests and priorities are bound to change with time, but that your personality — you — might as well?

Life takes you to places you could never expect to be, and it might in time alter things that you hold high and take pride in: opinion, philosophy, belief.

So I had to pick a constant. I figured that no matter who I am in three, five, or ten years, pickles are something that I’ll always enjoy. A radio guy or a businessman; writing about technology or Chivalric romance; rich or broke; it doesn’t matter. The pickle will always be there for me.

And this is The Pickle Theory. It’s the cold realization that, after all, our most durable characteristics may also be our most frivolous.1

I’ve talked with fellow writers about this, and they all said they liked “The Typist”. It’s a good name, with “a sort of allure to it,” as one of them put it. But the truth is I knew from day one it was temporary, and for many reasons. It implies singularity and author-focus, and is a tad bit too romantic. I’ve been sitting on this decision for a while now, but I wanted to couple it with the unveiling of my name so this weblog doesn’t become a diary about itself.

The Design

Unlike previous redesigns, this one isn’t a mere facelift: it’s almost 40 hours of typography research, sketches, fonts, color schemes, CSS, and PHP. Every element you see has been modified, line by line. Don’t worry, I’m not going to document each one of them.

One thing I do want to talk about though is the typography: Earlier this year, I had decided to change the main typeface from the very humanist Ideal Sans to a less pretentious, plainer one. I went with Proxima Nova, the deservedly acclaimed font by Mark Simonson.

With this overhaul, I’ve gone even further within the geometric sans-serifs family, to Avenir. Avenir isn’t available on non-Apple devices, so those devices will be served with Segoe UI. Titles are set in Tablet Gothic.

Making a geometric typeface readable is quite a challenge. I’ve spent much of my time adjusting line-heights and margins, but most of the attention went to characters per line (CPL), so even though the body text is bigger than it was before, the content area has been narrowed. This means less words per line, and hopefully less eye travel and neck strain.

But I think the biggest practical improvement is the new mobile design: Over 47% of this site’s visitors in the last 3 months were on a mobile device, and the previous version — while responsive — didn’t treat this segment too well. The fonts are now bigger, the layout tighter, and there are three breakpoints instead of one, which will ensure proper typography for both smartphone and tablet users.

Many of you have kindly taken out of their time to preview this design and give feedback, and it proved immensely helpful. Thank you. There isn’t enough space between these lines to express my gratitude.

If you see anything out of place, or have any suggestions, let me know on Twitter or send an email.

Also get in touch if you want to take the 1-year over on the next redesign..

  1. But really, I was just getting sick of trying to come up with a name. 
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My Name

My name is Shibel Karmi Mansour1 and I’ve been writing this weblog (in its current incarnation) anonymously since December 2013.

Not a lot will change now that I’m writing under my real name, but I guess an explanation is appropriate for those who’ve been following this site during the past few months and who might have noticed some narrative holes in certain pieces.

So let me explain. There are two notable radio stations that cover news here in Israel. Both are public, and together they compete for (and hold) the lion’s share of talk radio listenership. I work as the lead news anchor for one of them.

I was appointed to this role by the station’s then-new CEO2 in September of 2012. At the time, I was hosting a one-hour weekly show, studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and pretty much settled with the idea that my future wasn’t in journalism. The offer presented to me was one that I couldn’t refuse, and so I took it.

I was younger (22) and even more inexperienced at the time, so the credit given to me was… well, huge. The transition was accompanied by some media attention, but more importantly it came with a journalistic responsibility that warranted thoughtfulness and diligence.

I feel fortunate and privileged, not only for the opportunity, but also — perhaps more so — for the environment it took place in. I was surrounded by smart, experienced, and supportive people who offered genuine advice that I really can’t put a price on.

Anonymity, to me, was primarily a hedge against unforeseen conflicts or developments. If stripped of its original context, I think Donald Rumsfeld’s controversial “Known Unknowns” can help explain some of my motivation behind the decision to start out anonymously:

There are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

There were things I knew that I knew, like the fact I wanted to write, mainly about technology. There were things I knew that I didn’t know, like whether writing a weblog as a hobby in my spare time would be in significant conflict with working as a news-anchor for a public media outlet. I didn’t see anything wrong with it to start with, but again, considering my age, I assumed there were more things I didn’t know than things I could possibly know; so I decided to take a hedge. Then, along the way, there were things that I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

I’ve been writing here for a little under a year and I have a better idea of what kind of writer I am. I’ve also learned a great deal about what type of journalist I am, in my two years here at the station. I still have a lot to learn in both areas. But as things stand now — with many unknowns out of the way — I don’t see a reason to keep maintaining my anonymity. It was annoying and counterproductive. The hedge is no longer worth its premium. And so here I am.

What’s Next?

Except for an upcoming design overhaul and a name change, I don’t foresee any major changes. I will continue to impose certain limitations on the scope of topics I write about, but since this was the case from day one, I don’t think the typical reader will notice a difference in style or content before and after this announcement.

Thank you for reading.

  1. First name pronounced like nickel ,giggle, pickle, or what have you. 
  2. Who’s someone I respect on so many different levels and go to for all sorts of advice. My bosses were made aware of this weblog’s existence since its inception. 
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August 14, 2014

Why It’s Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

Typos are mostly a solved problem in our day and age, but the psychological explanation in this WIRED article is interesting nevertheless:

Generalization is the hallmark of all higher-level brain functions. It’s similar to how our brains build maps of familiar places, compiling the sights, smells, and feel of a route. That mental map frees your brain up to think about other things. […] We can become blind to details because our brain is operating on instinct. By the time you proof read your own work, your brain already knows the destination.

This explains why your readers are more likely to pick up on your errors. Even if you are using words and concepts that they are also familiar with, their brains are on this journey for the first time, so they are paying more attention to the details along the way and not anticipating the final destination.

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August 14, 2014

Bathymetric Wood Charts by “Below the Boat”

Below The Boat — Manhattan Chart

I’m not big on art, but I totally see myself buying a couple of these when my future home is ready. The hard part will be choosing which ones to get. Below the Boat is a Bellingham-based, husband-wife company. The charts are “designed in the United States, crafted in a family-owned shop overseas, and imported”:

Starting with a bathymetric chart (the underwater equivalent of a topographic map), the contours are laser-cut into sheets of Baltic birch and glued together to create a powerful visual depth. Select layers are hand-colored blue so it’s easy to discern land from water, major byways are etched into the land, then the whole thing’s framed in a custom, solid-wood frame and protected seamlessly with a sheet of durable, ultra-transparent Plexiglas.

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August 13, 2014

Robin Williams and Suicide Porn

Vaughan Bell, on Mind Hacks:

One of the first things I do in the morning is check the front pages of the daily papers and on the day following Robin Williams’ death, rarely have I been so disappointed in the British press. […]

It seems counter-intuitive to many, that a media description of suicide could actually increase the risk for suicide, but it is a genuine risk and people die through what is sometimes called suicide contagion or copycat suicide.

Sometimes I wonder if the extent to which this stuff frustrates me is disproportionate.

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Adblock & Collective Punishment

In an interview for The Next Web, the guy behind @evleaks and serial tech leaker Evan Blass explains the motives behind his decision to retire:

I also started a website, and it’s actually done somewhat respectably, but with all the leaks going out on Twitter anyway, people have little incentive to visit, and most of my tech-savvy-heavy audience seem to be pretty heavy ad-block users, as well. It all adds up to an unsustainable living, and with a progressively worsening disease [Ed; Blass was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis], I need to make sure I can prepare myself better for the future, financially.

I think the fact “evleaks” was born on Twitter and continued to be Twitter-first even after the website went live was the dominant factor in Blass’s (financial) failure. That’s a discussion for a different day though.

Adblock is one of the first extensions I install upon getting a new computer. And I’m not alone: A report published by PageFair last August showed the percentage of visitors using ad-blocking tools to be as high as 23% and growing at 43% a year. The numbers for technology websites should be even higher.

I’ve been contemplating this for a while, and I should have done it from day one, but from now on I will use Adblock in “blacklist” mode: This means the extension will be enabled only for specific domains that I add. For me these are mainly news websites: The local ones here are plagued with ads.

The truth is, most of the websites I enjoy reading are written by independent individuals. A non-negligible number of them are relatively unestablished and rely on advertising to offset some of the expenses or justify their time commitment. Coincidentally, none of them use the sketchy strategies of big, traditional websites, and most of them have only one little ad placed in unintrusive areas. I’ve previously whitelisted a handful of websites, but I don’t want to rely on my memory anymore. If I’m annoyed enough, I’ll bear the 30 seconds it takes to add a website to the blacklist.

Yes, the web is full of bad practices and Adblock successfully deals with some of them, but to use it indiscriminately is to automatically punish the minority of honest publishers. And guess who’s more likely to close shop because of such sanctions? I mean, not everyone are as venerable as The New York Times to get on this new big thing called native advertising.

When I hear people randomly saying “I don’t want any ads” as some sort of a blanket policy, I wonder whether they would be willing to sustain alternative models.

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Four Years in Apple’s Ecosystem: An Expenses Report

By late 2009, when carriers and official retailers began selling the iPhone here in Israel, I was already an owner: My father had gotten me the original model a few months after it came out in 2007. I can get reminiscential here, but there’s a lot to cover in this piece as it is. I’ll only say that like many others, I never imagined the iPhone would become such an elementary object in my life. As of today, I own an iPhone 5S, a first-gen iPad mini, and a beefed-up 13’’ MacBook Pro (2013 model).

My first iTunes receipt dates back to July 7, 2010. Apple’s App Store launched in July 2008, so I can think of two reasons for why I’ve only bought my first app two years later:

  1. I’m pretty sure that like the iPhone, Apple’s App Store became available in Israel only at a later date. No matter how I phrased my search queries though, I couldn’t corroborate this remembrance, so there is a possibility I’m mistaken.

  2. Since getting my first iPhone, I’ve left iOS for two, separate and brief periods: The first time was to try a phone with a real, physical keyboard. Remember those? Anyway, it was the less-than-horrible Nokia N97. Later, in mid-2010, I wanted to find out what the Blackberry craze was all about — fittingly, after the craze had already died — so I got myself a BlackBerry Bold. If you haven’t closed this page yet, things only get better from here..

The primary goal behind this compilation was to become more familiar with Apple’s Numbers, to satisfy my growing interest in statistics, and learn more about data visualization. See, my lifelong mission is to one day become half as good as Horace Dediu. I guess it doesn’t hurt to also have my Apple related expenses in check, but that’s just collateral mental damage.

I know for a fact that even with this statistically meaningless set of data, I’ve done some mistakes and missed some key points, so I’m happy to hear from you (via email or Twitter) and improve it after it’s published. I am aware this data is anecdotal by nature. I’m also aware that becoming half as awesome as Horace is quite a challenge.

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July 25, 2014

Brain Crack

Hello Internet, a podcast by YouTube star CGP Grey and Brady Haran, is climbing rather quickly on my favorites list. Check it out if you’re interested in web culture. In episode #16, CGP shares the concept of “brain crack”, coined by vlogging pioneer Ze Frank. I found the original video from 2006 on YouTube, and here’s a mildly edited transcription of CGP explaining what it is:

[41:36] This is from Ze Frank from ages ago, and his best episode is this episode where he talks about the notion of brain crack, and it’s a very useful thing to think about: The idea is that what can happen sometimes if you make things is that, you have an idea… and what can happen is over time, if you don’t actually work on that thing, you start to think about how good it will be, as opposed to thinking about “How am I going to get this thing done?” As time goes on, your kind of abstract notion of how good this thing will be becomes very large, and very outsized [sic] anything that could possibly happen.

I suffer from brain cracks very often, particularly with ambitious or longer essays. One good example is “The Future of Information”, a piece I plotted in my head for a very long time. By the time I began writing it, my expectations and perception of the idea had become so grandiose that I couldn’t possibly be satisfied, no matter how many times I re-wrote it or edited my text.

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July 18, 2014

The Price (and Cost) of Cheeseburgers

The average cheeseburger price in the US is $4.49, but what is the cost of one? Mark Bittman explains the difference between the two and the implications in this interesting New York Times column: (via Khoi Vinh)

Almost everything produced has externalities. Wind turbines, for example, kill birds, make noise and may spin off ice. But cheeseburgers are the coal of the food world, with externalities in spades; in fact it’s unlikely that producers of cheeseburgers bear the full cost of any aspect of making them. If we acknowledge how much burgers really cost us we might either consume fewer, or force producers to pick up more of the charges or — ideally — both.

Our calculation of the external costs of burgers ranges from 68 cents to $2.90 per burger, including only costs that are relatively easy to calculate.

Related archive item: “The American Grocery Bill” — notice the inverse correlation in the chart I’ve put together in that piece. It was partly inspired from a show I had watched on the Discovery channel: The change in food expenses and that in healthcare spending were plotted on the same graph, which resulted in an almost perfect “X” shape — one down, the other up.

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July 18, 2014

“Explore Your Creativity” Promotion in the Mac App Store

Some good apps running at 50% off right now in the Mac App Store. Among them is Pixelmator, which I own and think is a real steal at $16 if you need a good photo editing app. I’ve also got the trial version of the acclaimed text-editor Ulysses (currently $21.99), and while Byword does the job just fine for me, I’m tempted to pull the trigger.

Here are the other participating apps:

I’ve read many praises of Scrivener and Slugline, too.

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July 17, 2014

Google Launches Official Analytics App for iOS

I’ve tried many Google Analytics apps over the years, and all of them, including the paid ones, came with one or more deal breakers: Lack of elementary features, bugs and crashes due to poor maintenance, or/and horrible usability. I’ve only been playing with it for an hour so, but Google’s just-released app looks very promising.

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July 16, 2014

‘All Art to Me Is About Problem Solving’

A great Esquire interview with director Steven Soderbergh:

I think about art a lot only in two contexts. One is narrative. That we’re a species that’s wired to tell stories. We need stories. It’s how we make sense of things. It’s how we learn. When we look at what’s going on in the world and we see the immense level of conflict that seems to always be happening — you can always trace it back to competing narratives.

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July 14, 2014

Lessons on Meditation

Ian Welsh has been meditating intensely for the last two months. Intensely as in five hours a day on average, and as much as ten (!) hours on some days. I’ve had a lot of colleagues and friends invite me to try meditation over the years, but Welsh’s remarks make it sound attractive (and scary) for the first time:

Meditation has a “woo” reputation, an idea that it’s peaceful and serene and lovely. Now maybe that’s where you’re aiming to get, but meditation is a tool, a process, and it is hard bloody work and often unpleasant.

Meditation gives you a good hard look at your mental habit and fixations, and you probably won’t like what you see.

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