22 November, 2022

Union Station has fallen on hard times. Can it be saved?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2022/11/13/union-station-dc-rail-renovation/ Residents, commuters and workers say they are worried about the fate of the 115-year-old landmark, a once-vibrant gateway into D.C.

19 November, 2022

Jon Bell on twitter design research


2/ As a Mastodon user, you're waaaaaay more likely than the average user to love reverse-chron with no algorithm. It's one of the main selling points for Mastodon!

But it's not rooted in what we saw in seemingly hundreds of different #designresearch findings.

The reason Twitter almost died so many times at the start is that normal people aren't looking for an IRC or RSS experience. So people joined, got frustrated, and left.

It took THREE YEARS to turn users into "healthy users." That's bad. 

Power Struggles Among Nice People


Most of my clients are CEOs of growing companies, most of the rest are C-level executives in similar settings, and a number of others are leaders in investment or professional services firms. In order to be effective in these roles they must be able to influence others, wield authority, and maintain status. At the same time my clients are conscientious people who care about the well-being of their employees and colleagues, aspire to make a positive difference in the world, and are striving to do their best.

As a result of these factors, a theme in my practice is what I describe as "power struggles among nice people." And yet a challenge is that many of us imagine that people who engage in power struggles aren't very nice, and that nice people shouldn't struggle for power. This leaves us with a stark choice: Be an asshole and win, or be a decent person and lose--but it doesn't have to be that way.

OlivesAwl on business and profits


My Dad owned a business my whole life. It was profitable, but it didn’t expand. I ask him once why he never grew it, and he said it’s nearly impossible without climbing on someone’s back–your vendors, your customers, your employees. Particularly that last one. You don’t wait until your business is big to be a good human being. The very first time you have to choose between your own profit and your employees health insurance, you choose the later. You give maternity leave even though the government doesn’t make you. You dock your own salary to not lay people off during a recession. You have adequate staffing and reliable hours. Anybody who says you can’t run a retail business on a normal, reasonable, predictable schedule you know in advance is full of shit. My Dad did it for 35 years (always have one more person than you think you need, and 98% of your staffing problems vanish). It’s just not maximum profit. If you don’t prioritize extracting profit from every corner of your business, you never become rich enough to give billions away. 


18 November, 2022

What happened at Alameda Research


  • SBF, Trabucco, and Caroline were (probably) initially well-intentioned but not especially competent at running a trading firm
  • Alameda Research made large amounts of book profits via leveraged longs and illiquid equity deals in the 2020-2021 bull market
  • Although Alameda was likely initially profitable as a market maker, their edge eventually degraded and their systems became unprofitable
  • Despite success with some discretionary positions, on net, Alameda & FTX jointly continued to lose large amounts of money and liquid cash throughout 2021-2022 as a result of excessive discretionary spending, illiquid venture investments, uncompetitive market-making strategies, risky lending practices, lackluster internal accounting, and general deficiencies in overall organizational ability
  • When loans were recalled in early 2022, an emergency decision was made to use FTX users’ deposits to repay creditors
  • This repayment spurred on increasingly erratic behavior and unprofitable gambling, eventually resulting in total insolvency

On Tipping


Anecdote: My boss decided to axe tipping, raise prices 20%, and give the whole staff large raises and expanded healthcare benefits. We lasted about a month and a half like this- after an initial bump, sales plummeted and we were showered with reviews and feedback that the food was too expensive, had dropped in quality (it was the same food made by the same staff) and that the servers acted "entitled" because we didn't have to earn our tips. Even though the food was literally no more expensive than what it would have been with tip. We had to go back to a tipping model. Thankfully the owner kept the healthcare. Point is, the Average American resturant consumer is actually insane, as much as people complain about tips, most consumers do not want to pay what their meal actually costs unless they also get to pretend to evaluate someone's work preformance. Americans love tipping because its an expression of individuality AND its a class-based hierarchy, two things ingrained in American culture.

14 November, 2022

Livingston, Tennessee's Black Mayor is a Member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans


In fact, this story is the perfect example of the perfect storm of conditions that continues to reinforce the Black Confederate myth, especially in cases that involve African Americans.

One of the ways the SCV has attempted to defend its organization and mission in recent decades is to admit African-American members by claiming that Black men served as soldiers in the army. It’s a way of defending the legacy of their ancestors from the fact that the Confederacy was fighting to create an independent slaveholding republic.

The most obvious problem is simply not understanding the basic history of the Confederacy and the ways in which they utilized slave labor for military purposes throughout the war. This failure leads directly to the misintepretation of key docoments. In this case, pension applications.

13 November, 2022

Iran and China Use Private Detectives to Spy on Dissidents in America


Across America, investigators are increasingly being hired by a new kind of client — authoritarian governments like Iran and China attempting to surveil, harass, threaten and even repatriate dissidents living lawfully in the United States, law enforcement officials said.

Federal indictments and complaints in the past two years detail cases in which private investigators were drawn into such schemes in New York, California and Indiana, and F.B.I. officials say they believe others have been as well. Most appear to have been used unwittingly, and later cooperated with the authorities; a few, however, were charged.

Russia Tried to Absorb a Ukrainian City. It Didn’t Work.


One strike by a precision guided HIMARS rocket, she said, had hit a Russian garrison in a residential district about 150 yards from her home, blowing out windows but harming no civilians. “It was a beautiful explosion,” she said.

“Thank God for America, Canada and Great Britain, and thank God for Grandfather Biden,” she said, noting the Western military aid that helped Ukraine repel the Russians from her city.

12 November, 2022

How The Lion King Became a $9 Billion Broadway Smash


Few of Taymor’s team came from Broadway: Michael Curry, designer and builder of puppets; Richard Hudson, from Zimbabwe and an operatic set designer; Garth Fagan, a Jamaican modern dance choreographer; and lighting designer Donald Holder, who had lit Juan Darien. Lebo M. continued to write new music, with Taymor pitching in to write the lyrics to “Endless Night.” Taymor put together a diverse cast, with a chorus of singers from South Africa whom she planned to fold into the show as the landscape. At one point they would wear boards of grass on their heads to symbolize the grasslands. At a studio on 27th Street, Taymor, Curry, and an army of designers sculpted mask headdresses out of clay and silicone rubber—the regal Mufasa; the demented Scar; the serene Sarabi. They were working around the clock in the summer of 1996 to prepare for the first reading and presentation of their designs to Eisner and the “California crowd,” as one person nicknamed them.

Taymor displayed her creations at 890 Broadway, a hive of theatrical activity once owned by Broadway director Michael Bennett. The actors read through the script and demonstrated puppet techniques. Mario Cantone, a comedian, played Timon. “He was very funny, but he upstaged the puppet,” Taymor said. As the day wore on, the Disney team became more and more skeptical. One of the executives could not grasp the idea of a mask on top of an actor’s head. Is the audience, he asked, going to look at the actor or are they going to look at “that African-type headdress, whatever it is up there?”

“Do you know Bunraku?” Taymor asked. He had no idea what she was talking about. Schumacher shot her a look that said, “They’re film people.” “Have you seen my work?” Taymor persisted. “Of course he had not,” she said, “so I just shut up at that point.”

18 October, 2022

Governance, not Moderation: remarks at the Trust and Safety Research Conference


I have many regrets about my work building a company that helped pave the way for Friendster, MySpace and ultimately Facebook and Twitter. I’ve spoken before about my regrets about creating the pop-up ad, and if you find me after this talk, I will tell you the story of how our tools to keep pornography off Tripod cost our investors at least a billion dollars.

But my biggest regret is that we unquestioningly adopted a model in which we provided a free service to users, monetized their attention with ads and moderated content as efficiently and cheaply as possible. We didn’t treat our users as customers: had they paid for their services, we probably wouldn’t have been as quick with the delete key. And we certainly didn’t treat our users as citizens.

Here’s why this matters: since the mid-1990s, the internet has become the world’s digital public sphere. It is the space in which we learn what’s going on in the world, where we discuss and debate how we think the world should work, and, increasingly, where we take actions to try and change the world. There is no democracy without a public sphere – without a way to form public opinion, there’s no ways to hold elected officials responsible, and no way to make meaningful choices about who should lead us. This is why Thomas Jefferson in 1787 told a friend that he would prefer a republic with newspapers and no government over a government without newspapers.