Nothing says "America" like Costco "street tacos"

I just got back from the street taco capital of the universe, Mexico City, and went with Amira to Costco to pick up supplies. Lo, I was stunned to discover that Costco is selling “street tacos” in a kind of roll-your-own taco kit.

This product’s got it all: 1) industrial food; 2) cultural appropriation; 3) bandwagon jumping-on; 4) convenience; and 5) plastic packaging. What could be more American?

Google+ and the last HIRL

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Google+ dies April 2, 2019 — one week from tomorrow. You loved it or you hated it. Either way, G+ was the only social network that I’m aware of where lots of people connected there, and then actually connected in real life (such connections affectionately referred to on G+ as a HIRL — Hangout In Real Life).

I believe Google+ really died in 2014, and articulated the fact in my Eulogy published by Fast Company.

In the glory days of Google+, between 2011 and 2014, rabid Google+ fans held numerous HIRLs, and made countless connections. Real connections.

Over the weekend, I enjoyed my last HIRL with Manuel Arciniega, a longtime Google+ friend who lives in Mexico and who invited me and Amira to spend the weekend with him and his family. We did a bunch of fun foodie stuff in the area around Cuernavaca, where he lives, and got to know his family.

We briefly lamented the loss of the world’s greatest social network (over delicious tacos made by Manuel’s wife, Mariana), which most people never appreciated or understood. But for those of us who did grok Plus, we recognize that G+ gave us all numerous world-wide, real-life and lasting friends.

This tape guy has every kind of tape

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American culture teaches us to be suspicious of street vendors and to buy everything at a store (or online). But in Mexico, street sellers are sometimes really great. It took me awhile to figure this out.

Here’s an example. This tape guy outside a market in Cuernavaca, Mexico, has every kind of tape you could want, and probably sells are very good prices. Tape is one of those things you’re not going to make a special trip to the store for. But when you see a tape guy like this on the street, you think: “Oh, yeah. I need some duct tape.”

Street sellers actually appear to be a valuable part of the Mexican economy.

How I decide what I post on Twitter and what I post on my blog

I ate this tamale yesterday at a food market in Tepoztlán, Mexico. And because I experienced it, I’m posting it on my blog. (My wife bought a few more, and we ate them for dinner after arriving back in Mexico City.)

That’s my new criteria — on Twitter I post other people’s news or opinion articles, experiences, witticisms and snark, as well as any small comment I might have about them.

On my blog I post my own Big Ideas, my own journalism, my own experiences and my own opinions.

Of course, everything I post on my blog is auto-posted to Twitter as well. But it’s a nice framework that works for me and prevents me from having to agonize over where to post. And the end result is that my blog is what a blog should be: The unedited expression of a single person. (I’m married, but you know what I mean.)

In other words, I use possession to decide: Is it my information or somebody else’s?

What’s YOUR criteria for what you post on social and what you post on your blog?

Best pulque I ever had today: Walnut and condensed milk pulque!

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Friends today took Amira and me on an awesome road trip, from Cuernavaca to Tepoztlán (both towns south of Mexico City). Knowing my obsession with pulque, my friend Manuel pulled over to this roadside pulque stand, which he knew to sell a top-shelf product.

We tried them all, but I really loved the walnut pulque, which also contains condensed milk. It wasn’t too sweet, and there were walnut bits floating in it. I really loved it.

Here comes the video!

Here are my predictions for Apple's self-driving car

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Apple CEO Tim Cook (a.k.a. “Tim Apple”) told investors last week that Apple is “rolling the dice” on future products that will “blow you away.” Is a car one of those products.

I say yes.

I also point out why I think Apple may not be as far behind on self-driving tech as people think, that their "self-driving car" won't be a car, that Apple will design and sell the whole car, and will also create an Uber-like taxi service and a whole lot of other predictions.

'Rape Day' ban raises hard questions about video game violence

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A horrible new game called “Rape Day” from a company called Desk Plant has the player reading a visual interactive novel that takes place during a zombie apocalypse. It enables the player to choose an “evil choices” mode, where the protagonists harass, rape and kill women. Computer-generated 3D still images reveal the outcomes.

The game became controversial online, users threatened boycotts, so the PC gaming platform Steam announced it will no longer release the game (previously scheduled for an April release).

Critics said “Rape Day” glorified and normalized rape. They also slammed Steam for its reason for pulling the game. Steam cited "unknown costs and risks” — fears that boycotts would hurt their revenue — and did not verbalize any objections to the game’s content. Someone created a Change.org petition, which garnered more than 7,000 signatures.

Basically, the world rejected this horrible game, and that rejection has so far prevented its release on one of the major game platforms.

I have no idea why anyone would want to play such a game, why any game company would want to create such a game, or why any gaming platform would want to host such a game. I’m glad it’s banned; it should never have existed in the first place.

However, the successful campaign to ban the game raises some challenging questions nobody wants to ask and that may be impossible to answer.

I’ll at least ask those questions here:

  1. The main objection to “Rape Day” is that it glorifies and normalizes rape and the harassment of, and violence against, women. But we constantly hear what is essentially a consensus around this point when it comes to video game violence in general, which is that video game violence does not glorify or normalize and therefore first-person shooters and games like Grand Theft Auto should not be banned. So which is it? Do video games glorify and normalize or don’t they?

  2. It’s a statistical truth that many video games are violent, and that the vast majority of violence is against men. This violence is largely considered acceptable, which is to say that games depicting killing, torture and dismemberment are legal, broadly acceptable to the public and widely available on mainstream online and brick-and-mortar stores. So, do we as a society have an unspoken rule that violence against men is OK but violence against women is not OK? Or…

  3. In video games like Grand Theft Auto, game players are encouraged to run people over — both men and women — punch them, club them to death, throw them off buildings and so on, and this is game is socially acceptable. So is the unspoken rule that it’s OK to kill and torture women (and men) but that rape the one form of violence that is not OK? Or…

  4. Depictions of all kinds of violence, including rape, are social acceptable in movies, TV shows, novels and other media. So is the unspoken rule that rape is OK in movies, TV shows, novels and other media, but that it’s not OK in video games?

How would YOU answer these questions?

If it’s right to ban “Rape Day” but wrong to ban “Grand Theft Auto,” then why? Or should Grand Theft Auto be banned, too? And how about Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption, Hit Man and hundreds of others?

One one end of the spectrum, we would ban all violence in all media. At the other, we allow any violence in all media. I think most people want something between these extremes.

But where do we draw the line? How do we articulate the “rules”?

What do YOU think?

Don’t believe your eyes: Deepfake videos are coming to fool us all

Most deepfake videos today are either pornography featuring celebrities, satire videos created for entertainment or research projects showing rapidly advancing techniques. But deepfakes are likely to become a major security concern in the future. Today’s security systems rely heavily on surveillance video and image-based biometric security. Since the majority of breaches occur because of social engineering-based phishing attacks, it’s certain that criminals will turn to deepfakes for this purpose.

Who wants to experience Mexico City in style?

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Our exclusive Mexico City Gastronomad Experience happens March 26 through March 31 -- five days and five nights of exploration of the best food and drinks Mexico City has to offer.

We have space left for only one more couple! Email me if you’d like more information: mike@elgan.com

Here's how it all works:

* We'll pick you up at the airport on March 26 and drop you off on March 31.

* Our small group stays at a beautiful, luxury, central location (you'll have your own room and bathroom)

* Wine-tasting and learning about Mexico's growing, 500-year-old wine industry

* Exploration of the beverages of agave: Mezcal, tequila and pulque

* Exclusive cooking and Mexican-food making instruction with some of Mexico's top chefs and food visionaries

* Floating picnic on ancient Aztec canals

* Special chocolate experiences

* Quality time at the city's famous markets, including the world's 2nd largest fish market

* Exclusive dining experiences at Mexico City's very best restaurants

* Professional-quality, Instagrammable photos of everything you do means you can enjoy yourself and not worry about taking pictures.

* And an many delightful and secret surprises!

Mexico is where some of the world's greatest foods originate -- chocolate, vanilla, corn, avocados, tomatoes, chili peppers and so many others. And while these popular foods have gone global, the most creative and delicious uses of them still happen in their nation of origin. Mexico is gastronomad heaven, and in Mexico City all that delicious food culture is concentrated and perfected.

During the Mexico City Experience, you'll learn everything about all these foods -- learn to cook with and make them -- as well as taste and explore Mexican wine, mezcal and tequila, chocolate, chilis and so much more. You'll learn to bake and cook truly authentic, profoundly delicious Mexican foods. And you'll experience the best restaurants in the city -- and the best street food.

Everything we experience will be the best in the city -- every bite you take, everything you drink will be the best of its kind the city, the country and the world has to offer; everything you do will be exclusive to our group.

Send me an email here if you're even thinking about joining us: mike@elgan.com

Food, fun and fantastic wine at Donkey & Goat's Spring Release Party!

Amira and I had a wonderful time at Donkey & Goat’s sold-out Spring Release party in Berkeley, California! Winemakers and owners Jared and Tracey rolled out seven new wines, all of which were incredible, as usual.

Amira and I had a wonderful time at Donkey & Goat’s sold-out Spring Release party in Berkeley, California! Winemakers and owners Jared and Tracey rolled out seven new wines, all of which were incredible, as usual.

Donkey & Goat’s  2018 Isabel's Cuvée Rosé  is an astonishing and (this vintage) spectacularly unfiltered rosé that’s so light and fruity that it’s almost like a fruit punch. Summer can’t come soon enough.

Donkey & Goat’s 2018 Isabel's Cuvée Rosé is an astonishing and (this vintage) spectacularly unfiltered rosé that’s so light and fruity that it’s almost like a fruit punch. Summer can’t come soon enough.

Winemaker Jared was chained to a tasting table, so we were able to dragoon him into a picture. (Tracey was on the loose and not so easy to capture photographically.)

Winemaker Jared was chained to a tasting table, so we were able to dragoon him into a picture. (Tracey was on the loose and not so easy to capture photographically.)

Snacks made by Reem’s, a James Beard Award semi-finalist and winner of Food & Wine’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018.

Snacks made by Reem’s, a James Beard Award semi-finalist and winner of Food & Wine’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018.

Jessica Malone provided the music.

Jessica Malone provided the music.

Thank you to Jared and Tracey for making the most wonderful wine in the world. You really should join the Donkey & Goat wine club, where you’ll get happiness in a bottle delivered right to your door, including wine club exclusives like the astonishing new 2018 Mon Amie, Pinot Noir. If you’re ever in Berkeley, do yourself a favor and visit the tasting room.

(Full disclosure: We are friends of Jared and Tracey and investors in Donkey & Goat.)

Get ready for the age of sensor panic

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A passenger on a Singapore Airlines flight recently noticed a small, circular indentation below the image playing on the seatback in-flight entertainment system in front of him. Could that be, he wondered, a camera?

The passenger did the only logical thing: He tweeted out a photo and asked the Twitterverse for opinions, setting off a chorus of complainers on Twitter.

Google is under fire as well for failing to disclose the existence of microphones in all Nest Guard home security systems, a product that has been on the market since 2017.

As with the Singapore airlines controversy, this one generated complaints and panic among users and even governments.

Welcome to the age of sensor panic. This is just the beginning.

Word of the moment: "kidfluencer"

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The New York Times published a piece about children on YouTube hawking products and making coin. Some have big followings and stage parents. Is this OK?

Seven-year-old Ryan plays with toys on YouTube, and has reportedly made $22 million. Some 15% of Ryan’s earnings are placed into a Coogan account, which is a kind of account for minors that squirrels the money away until kids turn 18. Where does the rest go?

And they start young. An Instagram “kidfluencer” named Halston Blake had at the time I posted this 113,000 followers, and he’s not even born yet.

They even have ad agencies and kidfluencer specialist talent agencies now.

As far as I can tell, it’s legal for kids to have their own YouTube channel. But if kids can make a ton of money on YouTube, what’s to stop parents from forcing or manipulating their kids into performing for the camera in an exploitative way?

The most gangster wine move I've ever pulled in a restaurant

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Amira and I browsed the very small wine menu at an exquisite villa restaurant in South-Western Morocco, and learned that the menu contained just one organic wine. We also knew the wine to be from a super great Moroccan winery. So, of course, we ordered a bottle.

The waiter said: “I’m sorry, but we don’t have that wine at present.”

I said: “Well I do,” and I got a bottle out of our luggage and asked him to pour it — the very same wine and vintage and everything!

(We had been recently tasting with the wine-maker — 30-year French ex-pat from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape area of Provence.)

Hilariously, the waiter stopped pouring when the first glass was half full because he wasn’t sure if we should taste it or not. “Of course not!,” I said: “We’ve already paid for it!”