Phrase of the moment: "enhanced scarcity"

I stumbled across this bad-ass Land Rover, which has been customized and optimized by a company called Arkonik — a company that specializes in such customization and optimization.

What caught my eye was this shameless bit of marketing-speak: “enhanced scarcity.”

In other words, they’re deliberately making fewer of them and touting that limitation as a benefit (i.e. as a reason why they can jack the price up to $150k.)

I want this Land Rover, to be sure. But sadly, the dollars in my bank account also feature “enhanced scarcity.”

Why the Jim Acosta story isn't all that important

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Journalists and media outlets are all atwitter on Twitter today about the latest development in the feud between narcissist president Donald Trump and narcissist TV journalist Jim Acosta.

If the wall-to-wall coverage is any indication, this story ranks higher than just about every other story out there.

But there’s one and only one reason why it’s being treated as a big story: Because it’s about a journalist.

In truth, all White House press briefings are televised live; anyone, including any journalist, can catch every word spoken from anywhere in the world using any internet-connected device.

Secondly, the whole point of the White House press briefing is to spin, lie and deflect — to prevent the facts from getting out there.

Third, the US political press are pussies and never hold the White House accountable in any significant way. The president’s game plan is to lie and move on. He gets away with it because the political press goes along with that program and stops asking about the latest lie after one flaccid attempt.

They’re so compliant and subservient as to be enablers and co-conspirators in the fabrication of reality by this White House and the destruction of our democracy. You can tell they’re just giddy to have the prestige of being in the White House Press Corps that they don’t want to blow it by actually doing their jobs as journalists. They’re like the tech press at an Apple event.

That sounds like armchair criticism, but I assign me the job and I can assure you that I’ll cause a crisis for Trump’s presidency by simply shining a stark light on his criminality. (Note that I have been blocked by Trump himself for attempting to hold him to account. I’m also banned from Apple events, simply for doing my job as a technology columnist and writing honest opinion about Apple, rather than fawning and genuflecting in my articles.)

The subservience of the White House Press Corps stands in stark relief to the rare times when Trump’s lies are confronted in an interview like this one.

Jim Acosta being expelled, then restored, to the White House Press Corps is a minor story to American citizens and to the world, but a big story for journalists. Ergo, wall-to-wall coverage.

It’s not nearly as important as it appears.

Google is blowing it with their users, and here's proof

When Google killed Inbox (after getting its most passionate users to adopt, use and rely up on it), I wrote this column warning Google about the perils of constantly launching new products, getting its passionate users excited about them, then killing them off.

Since then, Google announced the closure of Google+, the social network shunned by many but adored by Google’s most passionate users.

This week, Google announced a really cool new product called Squoosh for easily shrinking and converting images to optimize them for the internet. I posted about it here, and also (since there are still Google-product fans on Google+, and posted about it there as well.

Oh, man. The comments! Here’s a sample:

“Scheduled to be sundowned sometime in 2019.”

“Let's assume it has been shut down and move on...”

“What's the "sunset" date on it?”

“Don't get attached. it'll get shut down in the near future anyway. i'm tired of being googles test dummy beta tester of features.”

“I don't want another "sudden closed" Google service.”

“Beware becoming dependent upon any tool from Google. Just sayin'.”

“I find it VERY difficult to trust them with a new software service. (How many Messengers do they have? How many have been pulled?) G+ being the latest causality.”

Wow. Again, this is on Google+, where the Google superfans are. A few other comments complained about this tool because it wasn’t integrated into Google Photos.

Google has become so notorious for closing services that someone made a Google Cemetery to keep track of all the closed services.

In my column, I warned that Google was at risk of alienating its most passionate users. I’d say that alienation is now complete. An exciting new and free product is met by former Google fans with sarcasm and an unwillingness to even try it.

Way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Google.

(Pic props)

New drone controller is called the "Palm Pilot." Wait, what?

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Zero Zero Robotics plans to ship their second Hover drone in March. You’ve seen the first one; it folds open like a book, and hovers in space for selfies.

The new one is more like a full-featured drone. It can be controlled from more than 3 miles away. It takes 4k video and 12 megapixel photos. It uses AI to follow and track you while avoiding obstacles. And it starts at around $400.

Their Kickstarter campaign is already successful.

They’ve published sample footage from the drone.

One minor factoid of note: The Hover 2 handheld controller is called the “Palm Pilot.” Where have I heard that before?

Why I'm tasting natural wine in Mexico

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We spend months planning every Gastronomad Experience.

Right now, we're here in Mexico City, where we'll spend most of the rest of the year working on our New Year's Eve Mexico City Experience (December 28 - January 2).

This is the phase of our research where we taste everything.

We're exploring Mexico's nascent natural wine movement, starting with Bichi Wines' No Sapiens red table wine.

Here’s what I’ve learned about this mysterious and intriguing wine.

Are your smartphone apps stealing your data?... Like right now?

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Unsavory actors gain access to phones through breaches, physical access to the device or, increasingly, by hiding code in mobile apps that “phones home” and sends target data back to the perpetrator. (This method is especially attractive for criminals because users are in control of app installations and physically carry phones right inside company firewalls.)

Here’s how to protect yourself against this aggressive new hack.

Google releases an easy way to shrink and convert images for the internet

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The internet is too slow. Google wants to make it faster. One way for them to do that is to encourage the use of innovative image file formats that shrink image file sizes while barely affecting picture quality.

That’s why the company’s Chrome Labs just released a free online tool called Squoosh, which lets you control all the parameters of photo compression and see a big, side-by-side comparison of the compressed image with the original.

In the example above, I compressed a nearly 8 megabyte file down to around 1.6k — a 98% reduction in size without compromising quality.

You can also convert the file format into any other format, including OptiPNG, MozJPG, WebP, Browser PNG, JPG, and WebP.

Squoosh works in all major browsers. It’s great for a Chromebook.

And I can testify that Squoosh is very easy to use. The only downside is that it cannot do bulk conversions. You’ve got to modify one image at a time.

Google encourages faster web pages by offering this free tool. They also do so by rewarding faster pages with higher search rankings. So make sure you’re compressing your pictures.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the CDC warns of a growing turkey salmonella outbreak

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just added 74 confirmed cases of salmonella in turkeys, bringing the total number of infections to 164.

The CDC has been investigating the outbreak for a year, during which time one has died, at least 150 people have gotten sick and 63 have been hospitalized.

The salmonella strain is “multidrug-resistant,” which suggests it has evolved to overcome veterinarian antibiotics.

The best defense is to fully cook turkeys, and to wash thoroughly after touching raw turkey.

What wines pair with Thanksgiving?

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Thanksgiving is a strange meal to pair wine with. I suspect most Thanksgiving hosts and eaters don’t really even try — they just choose a wine type they like and run with it, which is fine. 

But I tend to think that Thanksgiving flavors are so unusual and varied and special that it’s fun to look for equally special wines that go better with turkey, cranberry sauce and all the rest than your standard Pinot or Chardonnay. 

Essence just published an article on Thanksgiving wine pairing that featured my favorite California winery, Donkey and Goat. But the D&G wine they picked was Linda Vista, which is a wonderful Chardonnay. 

To me the ultimate D&G Thanksgiving wine is their Stone Crusher, an orange Roussanne — that’s what we’ve poured (among other wines) for the past couple of Thanksgivings.

This year, however, we brought back from Italy some choice bottles of another orange wine, which is VETO from Sara Meneguz. The wine is great chilled or not. I think we’ll not chill it for Thanksgiving.