Google launched a browser-based drawing tool!

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Google just launched an in-browser drawing tool called Chrome Canvas. You can simply choose the pen style (pen, pencil, marker, chalk), color and thickness, then draw on screen. You can also import a photo and draw on the phone.

When you’re done with your masterpiece, you can export it as a png file.

I love this, because I often want to draw a red circle around something to highlight it for this blog.

To use Chrome Canvas, just type in canvas.apps.chrome in the Chrome address bar — or in the address bar of any browser that supports WebAssembly, such as Firefox.

(Once it’s open, I recommend, create a shortcut to it on your Bookmarks Bar so it’s always a click away.)

Happy sangria day, everybody!

My wife, Amira, is the greatest sangria maker the world has ever known. (Seriously, her sangria is 100x better than the second best sangria I’ve ever tried…)

Anyway, today is National Sangria Day in the United States and I’m hoping that Amira will make me sangria here in Mexico.

Happy National Sangria Day, everybody!

Yes, Michael Cohen is a "Rat"

Fake President Trump yesterday tweeted a missive containing four lies.

The lies:

  1. Executing a legal warrant in a criminal case is not “unthinkable and unheard of” for the FBI. They do it every day as part of their normal work.

  2. The criminal case is not a “Witch Hunt.” A “Which Hunt” is when you whip up a mob with ignorant hysteria accusing someone falsely — like Trump’s Birther Conspiracy Theory — that’s a “Which Hunt.”

  3. The Mueller investigation was not started illegally. Everything about it was perfectly legal.

  4. The FBI didn’t “break into” Cohen’s office. They executed a legal warrant. They knocked on the door, politely gathered their evidence and were thanked by Cohen for being as professional and as non-disruptive as possible.

One part of Trump’s tweet was true, however: Michael Cohen is, in fact, a “rat.”

A “rat,” in mafia parlance, is a criminal underling who commits crimes on behalf of an organized crime leader but who, after getting caught, comes clean and tells the truth about those crimes to police.

Michael Cohen is a “rat.” That’s exactly what he is.

A Declaration of Independence from Facebook

I’m deleting my Facebook accounts. I think you should, too.

I’m deleting my Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger accounts on July 4th, 2019. I’m calling it “Independence from Facebook Day.” (Facebook owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.)

I’m doing this on the 4th of July because I want to give all my family, friends and contacts time to connect with me on other media and for me to connect with them.

I’ll be clear as I possibly can about why I’m doing this: Facebook is a deeply unethical company that does great harm to individual people, human relationships and to the world.  

Each of us has to answer two questions for ourselves

1. Does Facebook harm people? 

2. Does my participation in Facebook enable that harm? 

For me, the answer to both questions is yes. And so I cannot in good conscience continue to participate in Facebook’s harm, despite the inconvenience.  

I’m not alone. Other prominent people in the industry have done the same. Leo Laporte and Walt Mossberg have quit Facebook. So has Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Aaron Sorkin, who wrote a whole movie about Facebook, has quit. Elon Musk says Facebook gives him “the willies,” and he removed the Facebook pages of both his companies: Tesla and Space X.

Facebook is a bad company, and their success was a lucky accident. 

At the moment when social networking went radically mainstream, Facebook happened to be the dominant social network. It became dominant by exploiting human psychology — specifically the FOMO. They rolled out Facebook stepwise, first at Harvard, then Ivy League Schools, then colleges. At every step, those not invited felt left out, like they were missing something. Eventually, when Facebook was opened to the public, everybody rushed in to get in on the private club from which they were formerly excluded.

Facebook began by exploiting human irrationality, and that became the foundation for the entire company.  

Everybody signed up for Facebook, and now Facebook is where everybody is trapped.

The only reason everybody is on Facebook is because everybody is on Facebook. It’s called “network effect.

Normally, a tech company like Apple or Google becomes rich and powerful because lots of people love their products and services. But Facebook has become rich and powerful because people love their family and friends.

Facebook’s business model is to exploit and monetize your love.

Facebook has way too much power. Facebook.com is by far the largest source of news in the world. They determine the political zeitgeist in most nations around the world. And they're responsible for much of the rancor and division we're seeing every day.

Facebook is buggy and insecure, allowing your personal data to get into the hands of criminals and hackers. Even when informed about bugs that harm users, Facebook often doesn’t bother to fix them.

Because of the deep dependence billions of people have on Facebook sites, Facebook's algorithms choose who you have relationships with, and who you do not. They also determine how those relationships are to take place.

All social media is a public performance. On Facebook and Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg and his minions have constructed the rules we all have to obey about how to post, when to post, what to post — as well as what is allowed. Facebook and Instagram users obey. It’s required.

Facebook manipulates you and me on a scale that's impossible to fathom. My friend Kashmir Hill has written about this brilliantly and extensively.

What drives Facebook’s decisions about who you know, what you see and what you believe, are nothing more than manipulation and exploitation for the purpose of selling ads. So much lost. So little gained. It’s just not worth it.

Facebook has damaged journalism, and with it our political culture. They provide the most effective platforms for shameless despots to manipulate our democracy. They drive depression and suicide among teens. And they facilitate the spread of harmful disinformation, bullying, hate speech and trolling.

And maybe worst of all, they hijack our psychology deliberately like rats in some kind of sick experiment to keep us pushing buttons for that dopamine reward of approval.

Facebook steals our precious time by manipulating us into spending hours on Facebook and/or Instagram each day. Like fast-food companies who have long employed scientists to discover the perfect combination of salt, fat and sugar to add to junk food — and thereby addicting people to overeating even as the obesity rate approaches 40% — Facebook researchers are constantly tweaking algorithms that exploit human frailty. Their explicit goal is to trick and manipulate users into spending more and more hours poking and liking and following and unfollowing and commenting — enormous time and effort spent on essentially nothing. And they succeed.

We reflexively jump through the hoops Facebook has constructed, instead of reading books, spending time with loved ones and enjoying the Real World and genuine human connection.

Facebook tracks everyone online -- even people who explicitly turn off location tracking. Even people who have never signed up. They maintain data on you and everyone else that you never added to Facebook -- they find it by other means (they're called "shadow profiles").

Facebook was even caught sharing your private messages with a long list of other tech companies.

Facebook delivers your posts to only a tiny and shrinking minority of the people who are your friends or who follow you. If you have 1,000 people who have friended or follow you, Facebook delivers any given post of yours to around 30 or 40 people. Most users neither know nor care that Facebook is censoring their relationships. They’re on Facebook sites for the dopamine reward, and they get it.

It's even worse for businesses. Something like 1.2% of the people who follow a company on Facebook ever receive any given post by that company. (It’s called organic reach.) Facebook wants you to pay through the nose for advertising for companies to reach their own fans and customers. (It’s called monopoly pricing.)

Facebook is a racket — the scam of the century.

And when Facebook is criticized, they resort to unethical dirty tricks, such as hiring a PR firm to launch anti-Semitic attacks against George Soros. Facebook uses it’s own algorithms to suppress criticism of Facebook on their sites.

They provide fake and superficial connection, which replaces authentic and meaningful connection. They’ve somehow convinced us that we can’t live without them. But it’s a delusion. We can live better without them. We can connect in person, by phone calls, by email and by other social networks that do far less damage to us and to the world. Best of all, we can replace social with personal websites.

And it’s easier than you think to live without Facebook. We’ll be fine.

To recap, I’m deleting Facebook sites and services on the 4th of July because: 

* Facebook and Instagram damage human relationships

* Facebook and Instagram are harmfully addictive, like gambling  

* Facebook and especially Instagram compel users into a specific kind of public performance, where it feels like performing a fake version of one’s life is necessary to exist as a person

* As the largest source of news in history by far, Facebook creates the algorithms that decide what people know, what they believe and how they vote

* Facebook divides people, relentlessly driving the divisions that are tearing apart our democracies

* Facebook benefits authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, which can manipulate Facebook into conveying their propaganda and disinformation

* Facebook tracks people, even non-users, with invasive and sophisticated methods their users can barely comprehend

Organizations like Freedom From Facebook seek to compel the government to break the company up, so they don't have so much influence and control over so many billions.

Personally, I would prefer that people choose to delete Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger voluntarily -- because it's the right thing to do and makes the world a better place.

So that's what I’m doing. I’m backing off on using Facebook sites immediately, and will delete my accounts completely on the 4th of July. (Most of my use of these sites will be to advertise and promote Independence from Facebook Day.)

(And I’ve replaced Facebook with a concept I call “Nicebook”).

I still want to stay connected with you.

Here's where you can connect with me instead of Facebook and Instagram:

My phone number: (646) 355-8388

My email: mike@elgan.com

My blog: https://elgan.com/blog

My blog’s RSS feed: https://elgan.com/blog/?format=rss

My Nicebook: https://photos.app.goo.gl/UhHg6Qs5Jj4dGp958

My email newsletter: https://elgan.com/mikeslist

My Twitter account: https://twitter.com/MikeElgan

The Gastronomad email newsletter: https://gastronomad.net/newsletter

Please let me know where I can connect with you by adding your social or email account info in the comments below — or tell me privately by sending me an email.

And finally, promote this cause using this shortened link to this post: https://elgan.com/facebook

Putin's East German Stasi ID pass found in secret police archives

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An ID pass used by current Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has been found in Stasi archives in Dresden, formerly part of East Germany.

The pass was used by Putin to gain access to Stasi buildings. The Stasi, really a nickname for the East German Ministry of State Security, was East Germany’s brutal and repressive secret police during the communist era.

Putin was a KGB thug in the 80s, and was posted to East Germany in 1985 at the age of 33 and stayed there until 1989 when the Soviet Empire collapsed.

Interesting side note: Putin walks funny, and the reason is probably his intensive KGB training.

Google Image Search gives me an amazing view of my travels

I’m the biggest fanboy in the world of the Google Search site: operator, especially when it’s applies to Google Image search.

It’s the quickest way to search any site visually. Just add site: followed by the domain (with no space after the colon).

If you want to see what a site has added, say, in the past 24 hours, you can limit the image search to that range of time, and see in seconds what it would otherwise take you minutes to see.

I love applying this tip to our own Gastronomad site. My wife and I have been international gastronomads (traveling foodies) for most of the past 12 years. You really get a sense of it using the site:operator. How amazing is THIS:

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You also get the best glimpse possible into our Gastronomad Experiences, which we’ve been doing for 15 months now. You can really see what it’s like.

Anyway, embrace the site: operator when searching for stuff. And take advantage of the world’s most powerful visual recognition computer system (i.e. your human brain).

What's the best podcast app on Android?

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I occasionally switch between carrying an iPhone and an Android phone. My recent switch brought me back to Android.

I need the best Android app for playing podcasts.

Here are my requirements:

  1. Automation — I need podcasts to download automatically.

  2. Continuous play in reverse-chronological order. I need to listen to the most recently posted podcast, and have it go automatically to the next most recent.

  3. Fast talking. I need to be able to turn the speed up to 1.5x

So what do you recommend for a podcast app on Android?

(Photo of giant bugs made out of twigs in Mexico City park not necessarily related)

Google to kill Google+ early: April instead of August

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Google+ is closing 4 months earlier than previously planned.

The company announced today in a blog post that they found another bug (separate from the bug they used to partly justify the social network’s closure in the first place).

The new bug impacts more than 52 million users.

As a result, all Google+ APIs will close down in 90 days and the site itself will close to consumers in April, rather than the previously planned August closure.

Note that you can export all your Google+ content using the Google+ Exporter.

The only bad thing about getting Google Fi is giving up Google Voice

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You can use Google Voice or you can use Google Fi, but you can’t use both. I just bought a Google Pixel 3 in order to move off AT&T and onto Google Fi fulltime.

(We used to use Google Fi using my wife’s account, but only as a WiFi hotspot while traveling abroad.)

It’s kind of a bummer, because Google Voice has a few features Fi doesn’t.

Pizza with extra grasshoppers

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Amira and I stumbled across a pizza joint in Mexico City serving a variety of toppings, including grasshoppers! I had to try it!

Grasshoppers, specifically chapulines (from the Nahuatl word chapolimeh), have been consumed in Mexico for millennia before the Spanish era. They’re often eaten in traditional ways, like roasted and flavored with chiles.

You can find grasshopper foods all over the Roma neighborhood in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City, which is also where I ran across this pizza joint.

The grasshoppers weren’t “good” to my palate. But they weren’t bad, either. (The worst part of this pizza was the crust, not the insects — tasted like it was made from Bisquick or something.)

The worst part of eating grasshoppers was that Amira wouldn’t kiss me for the rest of the day.

Anyway, I just wanted to try it. When in Roma…

Mexico City has a three-day internet meme museum #museodelmeme

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We happened to wander past today something called the Meme Museum, which turns out to be a pop-up museum that opened yesterday and closes tomorrow.

The museum, which is housed on Mérida Street, in Mexico City’s Roma Norte neighborhood, shows historic memes, some of which are re-created live by performance artists.

The museum is free, and the place had a line of millennial hipsters all the way to the end of the block. Amazing!

I think my phone might be scratched by September

My new Pixel 3 arrives this week. I’ll be retiring my iPhone.

My iPhone is in good shape because I’ve always used a case for it. However, the screen has been exposed for the last couple of years, and it’s covered in scratches.

That’s why I intend to use a screen protector for the Pixel 3.

Buying one on Amazon was eye-opening. So many of the reviews contraction each other. The positive reviews saying the negative ones are fake, and vice versa.

But the strangest thing I encountered was this product, which has over 1,100 reviews and over 3.5 stars. Sounds pretty good. But the ship date is September of next year. Helpfully, they allow you to pre-order it.

WTF?

Word of the moment: "pause-vertising"

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Advertisers have found a new place to drop ads: on your video when you hit the “pause” button.

Hulu and AT&T (which owns DirecTV and U-verse) plan to introduce “pause-vertising” next year.

Sounds annoying, but as long as you can stop the ad by hitting “play,” it’s better than those pre-roll video ads you can’t stop until the timer runs out.