Landfill Capitalism: You only have two weeks to gather up all those free microcontrollers, servos and batteries that are littering the sidewalks of San Francisco!

Scooter Companies Have Two Weeks to Get Off the Streets:

A joint ruling was issued today by the City Attorney of San Francisco, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and San Francisco Public Works. It orders the startups -- the most well-known being Bird, Spin, and Lime -- to remove their scooters and cease operations by June 4. Bird alone has more than 1,600 scooters in San Francisco, according to recent estimates by the company. [...]

Any scooters left on the street will be impounded, and could also result in daily fines of $100 per scooter. Refusing to remove its scooters will disqualify a company from obtaining a permit, said SFMTA.

Disrupting the Commons: Dockless Bikes and Scooters Create Layers of Community Instability:

This has created a problem that has not been seen before: voluntary, intentional, migrating, mobile, functional, litter.

The bikes and scooters are disruptive to the locations where they are abandoned and, because they are constantly moving, the issues of abandonment and refuse are constantly cycling (sorry) throughout an urban region. Yesterday's bike or scooter blight might be around today, or it might move for a few days and then return. In short, the bikes and scooters share a civic pattern similar to that of homelessness. Thus, in an unexpected way, the dockless bikes and scooters are also competing with the homeless for pieces of urban space upon which to temporarily rest. [...]

It is one thing to create a transportation sharing system with vehicles that require, either due to sufficient expense or size, some type of accountability or responsibility. It is another to dump a set of bikes and scooters in a city without racks, or places to "put" them. When companies "disrupt" the Commons by installing products aimed at "disruptors," there will be disruption. However, for those disruptive companies to expect their customers to then follow rules, is naive at best.

One argument against these transportation-share companies area is similar to one that has been made against Google busses, Uber, and Lyft: that these companies profit from using publicly funded roads, bus stops, and other parts of the Commons, without significantly contributing to their upkeep, and without concern for others within them. The strongest argument for San Francisco has been that the abandoned (parked) bikes and scooters are dangerous and create safety hazards.

Meanwhile, back to the headline:

We can see from the photo at the top that these scooters have a Particle Electron inside: that's a microcontroller with 1MB RAM, built-in cellular modem and 30 GPIO pins. It's like a $70 value! I haven't seen a breakdown of what other gear is in there, but it's safe to assume that there are two pretty hefty electric motors and a sizable battery. I'll bet you could make a pretty decent robot, or even a drinkbot out of these parts.

I eagerly await reading someone's "Instructable" tutorial on such a project. Maybe you can re-purpose this parasitic, Commons-destroying litter into something fun.

Please get on that.

But don't be a Joey. Disconnect the modem or pop the SIM before you take it home.

Given my general anti-car stance, a few people have expressed surprise that I'm so down on these (fucking) scooters. While getting people out of cars and into other modes of transport is generally great, I can't overlook the vileness of the business model of the people behind this. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. As the article above enumerates, these companies follow the same business model as Uber and AirBnB: "Move fast and raid the Commons". Build your business on by turning the majority of (what should be) your business expenses into "externalities" that you get someone else to pay for.

I call these companies "Landfill Capitalism".

Here's their business model:

  1. Get a bunch of funding from VCs;
  2. Dump a bunch of cheap, junk hardware onto the sidewalks;
  3. Have no maintenance or recycling plan;
  4. Collect underpants;
  5. Eventually be felled by the grim specter of regulation, from that slow-moving "legacy" operation we call "the Government";
  6. Go bankrupt, close the doors, cancel your AWS account, and walk away;
  7. Leave it to DPW or MTA to drag all those now-bricked and un-ridable scooters to the garbage dump.

See? The Market works!

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Today in Uber Autonomous Murderbot News

The Uber executives who put this software on the public roadways need to be in jail. They disabled safety features because they made testing harder. They disabled safety features because they made the ride rougher.

NTSB: Uber's sensors worked; its software utterly failed in fatal crash:

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the fatal March crash of an Uber self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona. It paints a damning picture of Uber's self-driving technology.

The report confirms that the sensors on the vehicle worked as expected, spotting pedestrian Elaine Herzberg about six seconds prior to impact, which should have given it enough time to stop given the car's 43mph speed.

The problem was that Uber's software became confused, according to the NTSB. "As the vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle with varying expectations of future travel path," the report says.

Things got worse from there.

At 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed to mitigate a collision. According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator.

Deadly Accident Likely Caused By Software Set to Ignore Objects On Road:

The car's sensors detected the pedestrian, who was crossing the street with a bicycle, but Uber's software decided it didn't need to react right away. That's a result of how the software was tuned. Like other autonomous vehicle systems, Uber's software has the ability to ignore "false positives," or objects in its path that wouldn't actually be a problem for the vehicle, such as a plastic bag floating over a road. In this case, Uber executives believe the company's system was tuned so that it reacted less to such objects. But the tuning went too far, and the car didn't react fast enough, one of these people said.

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Hey buddy, eyes are up here

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Weaponized Classical Music

Bach at the Burger King

At The Corner of 8th and Market in San Francisco, by a shuttered subway escalator outside a Burger King, an unusual soundtrack plays. A beige speaker, mounted atop a tall window, blasts Baroque harpsichord at deafening volumes. The music never stops. Night and day, Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi rain down from Burger King rooftops onto empty streets.

Empty streets, however, are the target audience for this concert. The playlist has been selected to repel sidewalk listeners -- specifically, the mid-Market homeless who once congregated outside the restaurant doors that served as a neighborhood hub for the indigent. [...]

This tactic was suggested by a cryptic organization called the Central Market Community Benefit District, a nonprofit collective of neighborhood property owners whose mission statement strikes an Orwellian note: "The CMCBD makes the Central Market area a safer, more attractive, more desirable place to work, live, shop, locate a business and own property by delivering services beyond those the City of San Francisco can provide." These supra-civic services seem to consist primarily of finding tasteful ways to displace the destitute. [...]

Baroque music seems to make the most potent repellant. "[D]espite a few assertive, late-Romantic exceptions like Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff," notes critic Scott Timberg, "the music used to scatter hoodlums is pre-Romantic, by Baroque or Classical-era composers such as Vivaldi or Mozart." Public administrators seldom speculate on the underlying reasons why the music is so effective but often tout the results with a certain pugnacious pride. [...]

One London subway observer voiced the punitive mindset behind the strategy in bluntest terms: "These juvenile delinquents are saying 'Well, we can either stand here and listen to what we regard as this absolute rubbish, or our alternative -- we can, you know, take our delinquency elsewhere.'"

Take your delinquency elsewhere could be the subtext under every tune in the classical crime-fighting movement. It is crucial to remember that the tactic does not aim to stop or even necessarily reduce crime -- but to relocate it. [...]

Thus music returns to its oldest evolutionary function: claiming territory.

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Sorry, But I Don't See How Nyarlathotep's Death Cult Is Negatively Affecting American Discourse

Look, All I'm Saying Is Let's At Least Give Nyarlathotep a Chance (2016)

Like it or not, Nyarlathotep -- God of a Thousand Forms, Stalker Among the Stars -- is our Commander-in-Chief now. And you know what, Jerry? Color me curious. I know a lot of really heated rhetoric and seemingly reckless policy proposals have been bandied about over the past few months -- that bit about "delighting in this dust speck you call Earth's senseless suffering" still bugs me -- but hey, the least we can do is see how He adjusts to His new responsibilities.

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the election humbled the Black Pharaoh just a tad. [...] I'm telling you, once Nyarlathotep sits behind that desk in the Oval Office, I think the weight and solemnity of the position will start sinking in pretty quickly.

Think about it, Jerry. Does anyone really even expect Him to make good on His promise to cull a maddened horde from the populace that will traverse the globe like ravenous locusts, spreading His malevolence and contempt to all corners of the land? Who's gonna pay for that? It was probably just a soundbite, nothing more. Nyarlathotep knows how to play the game, Jerry. He knows exactly how to manipulate the headlines. And fever dreams, too.

Sorry, But I Don't See How Nyarlathotep's Death Cult Is Negatively Affecting American Discourse (2018)

So, no, I don't see any problem with the death cult's High Priest getting a recurring op-ed in the New York Times. He worked hard to get where he is, and last I checked, this is still the country where, if you put in enough hard work, time, energy -- and self-castration to please the abhorrent Anti-God, apparently -- you can make it. The cult is a small but troubling percentage of our population, but we can't just silence them because they call in eerie unison for a "Great Offering." Yeah, if I was on the editorial board I might see about diversifying with another woman, or perhaps a person of color, or hell, even someone slightly left-of-center, but I imagine it's pretty hard to quickly turn a ship as large as the USS Gray Lady. These institutions don't change overnight. Unless Nyarlathotep wills it, I suppose. [...]

Honestly, I think we as a society have forgotten the art of civil discourse. There was a time when conservatives and liberals could disagree in a debate, and then buy each other a round afterwards. Now everyone's shouting at one another about how wrong they are, how destructive and inhumane their policies will be, how we should be investing our tax dollars into the education of our few remaining children instead of a massive ziggurat aligned with some extra moon that suddenly appeared in the sky last week. We gotta figure out how to agree to disagree again.

And, look, call me crazy for suggesting this -- but what if guys like the High Priest and his death cult are right some of the time? Hey hey, calm down. I'm just playing Elder God's advocate here. I know it might "trigger" some overly sensitive folks, but on a purely rhetorical level, it helps to try seeing things from their side.

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Rekognition

Amazon Teams Up With Law Enforcement to Deploy Dangerous New Face Recognition Technology

Amazon is marketing Rekognition for government surveillance. According to its marketing materials, it views deployment by law enforcement agencies as a "common use case" for this technology. Among other features, the company's materials describe "person tracking" as an "easy and accurate" way to investigate and monitor people. Amazon says Rekognition can be used to identify "people of interest" raising the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments -- such as undocumented immigrants or Black activists -- will be seen as fair game for Rekognition surveillance. It also says Rekognition can monitor "all faces in group photos, crowded events, and public places such as airports" -- at a time when Americans are joining public protests at unprecedented levels.

Amazon's Rekognition raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns. Today, the ACLU and a coalition of civil rights organizations demanded that Amazon stop allowing governments to use Rekognition. [...]

The documents also revealed that Amazon offered to connect Washington County with other Amazon customers interested in Rekognition -- as well as a body camera manufacturer. Indeed, Amazon's promotional materials previously recommended that law enforcement use Rekognition to identify people in police body camera footage. The company removed mention of police body cameras from its site after the ACLU raised concerns in discussions Amazon. That appears to be the extent of its response to our concerns; this and other profoundly troubling surveillance practices are still permissible under the company's policies.

With Rekognition, a government can now build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone. If police body cameras, for example, were outfitted with facial recognition, devices intended for officer transparency and accountability would further transform into surveillance machines aimed at the public. With this technology, police would be able to determine who attends protests. ICE could seek to continuously monitor immigrants as they embark on new lives. Cities might routinely track their own residents, whether they have reason to suspect criminal activity or not. As with other surveillance technologies, these systems are certain to be disproportionately aimed at minority communities. [...]

People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government. By automating mass surveillance, facial recognition systems like Rekognition threaten this freedom, posing a particular threat to communities already unjustly targeted in the current political climate. Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely difficult to undo.

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Finger Machines

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I'm not a robot.

I'm not a robot.

Also, Google Removes 'Don't Be Evil' Clause From Its Code of Conduct:

Google's unofficial motto has long been the simple phrase "don't be evil." But that's over, according to the code of conduct that Google distributes to its employees. The phrase was removed sometime in late April or early May, archives hosted by the Wayback Machine show. [...]

Despite this significant change, Google's code of conduct says it has not been updated since April 5, 2018.

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Students Not Smiling At School Will Be Punished

Students who don't have a smile on their face while in the hallways between classes are told to either smile or go see a guidance counselor to discuss their problems.

Even though smiling in the hallways is not a written rule at the school district, it is something that Assistant High School Principal Benjamin Wenger has taken upon himself to enforce, according to several teachers. The teachers who spoke to Lebanon Daily News asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the school district.

While Wenger -- who has been accused of throwing around a sex toy in the office during school hours (along with High School Principal Jennifer Hassler and Middle School Principal Brad Reist) -- may care about whether or not students are smiling between classes, parents and teachers have bigger concerns. Both say Wenger and his fellow administrators don't care enough about the bullying and harassment taking place in the school district. Teachers are aware that a child without a smile in the hall can be sent to the guidance counselor.

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Rotary

"Our hotel room has a rotary phone...and there's a QR code on the wall to download a video that explains how to use it."

...and of course the QR code goes to a 404.

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