We are underestimating Zoom


Chris Montgomery/Unsplash

For as long as I can remember, companies have been trying to build and sell elaborate and expensive video conferencing systems with massive screens, near-perfect audio, super high-definition video, and complex networking software layer to make it all work. These were luxury items, geared toward chief executives and their offices.

The arrival of the pandemic forced us all to seek out the simplest product with the least amount of friction. That turned out to be Zoom. And almost overnight, everyone — from late-night television hosts to the presidential candidates — was Zooming.

The prevalence of Zoom has shown us that working from a home office can be better than sitting in traffic for two hours. Even if, at this point, we find ourselves despising Zoom and complaining of persistent Zoom fatigue, we will not be going back to our pre-Zoom ways after the pandemic subsides. Whether Zoom remains the standard or gets overtaken by some upstart, Bill Gates predicts “that over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away.

I love Om’s writing style. It feels like he’s talking directly to me. Even the often cranky tech of blogging software doesn’t get in his way. No harm done, either, when he’s riding the wave of a topic where he is eminently qualified, whether that be the tech industry, software or his gorgeous photography.

Kick the Republican Klownshow to the kerb, it’s time to start over for an Equal Rights Amendment

Next week, the House of Representatives may consider House Joint Resolution 79, which appears to amend the resolution proposing the Equal Rights Amendment to remove its ratification deadline. The problem is that the previous measure, House Joint Resolution 208, no longer exists. It was adopted on March 22, 1972, and included a seven-year deadline for state ratification. When the deadline passed with fewer than the 38 ratifying states the Constitution requires, the resolution expired.

The House knows it. The website of the House Clerk has a tab for frequently asked questions. Number 11 is this: “When does a bill become ‘dead’ or no longer open to consideration?”…

There are 3 answers. 2 don’t apply. The 3rd says the bill is dead.

Which means – you guessed it – we have to rally the troops to cajole, threaten, persuade sufficient members of Congress to restart the whole process – one more time. C’mon, folks, I’m trying to live long enough to see this victory. I’d rather I needn’t be counting my age in triple digits when it happens.

Transforming Rural China


Cellphones still the best rural access to the Web

❝ Xia Canjun was born in 1979, the youngest of seven siblings, in Cenmang, a village of a hundred or so households nestled at the foot of the Wuling Mountains, in the far west of Hunan Province. Xia’s mother was illiterate, and his father barely finished first grade…

❝ In 1990, in sixth grade, Xia saw a map of the world for the first time. Of course, Cenmang wasn’t on it. Neither was Xinhuang, the city that loomed so large in his imagination. “The world was this great beyond, and we were this dot that I couldn’t even find on a map,” he told me. The same year, the Xias bought their first TV, a black-and-white set so small that it could have fit inside the family wok. Market reforms were transforming China, but in Cenmang changes arrived slowly…

❝ Still, rather than becoming a manual laborer, like his parents and siblings, Xia was able to go to technical college, and afterward he got a job at a local company that produced powdered milk…When the powdered-milk company downsized, he decided that it was time to look farther afield. He moved to Shenzhen, a sprawling coastal city, and found a job as a courier, becoming one of China’s quarter of a billion migrant workers.

❝ Then, eighteen months in, an unexpected opportunity arose. Xia had been making deliveries for JD.com, the second-biggest e-commerce company in China, and he heard that the business was expanding into rural Hunan. A regional station manager would be needed in Xinhuang…

❝ Today, Xia oversees deliveries to more than two hundred villages around the Wuling Mountains, including his birthplace. But, in line with JD’s growth strategy, an equally important aspect of Xia’s job is to be a promoter for the company, getting the word out about its services. His income depends in part on the number of orders that come from his region. Across China, JD has made a policy of recruiting local representatives who can exploit the thick social ties of traditional communities to drum up business. Xia himself is not unaware of the irony: after venturing out to the great beyond, he discovered that the world was coming to Cenmang.

The tale proceeds. It is about economics. It is about human interests and access to education, knowledge. It is about building a new life in a new way. The sort of life-changing experience that becomes opportunity in a society experiencing qualitative growth and change.

US-based climate scientists to take their research to France

It is a dream come true for U.S.-based climate scientists — the offer of all-expenses-paid life in France to advance their research in Europe instead of in the United States under climate skeptic President Donald Trump, two of the winners say.

American scientist Camille Parmesan and British scientist Benjamin Sanderson are among the 18 initial winners, including 13 based in the U.S., of French President Emmanuel Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” climate grants…

A scientist from the University of Texas at Austin, Parmesan is a leader in the field on how climate affects wildlife. She lived for a few years in Britain for family reasons and was considering returning to the U.S. until Trump’s election.

“He very, very rapidly has been actively trying to erode science in the U.S.A. and in particular climate science,” she said. “And it’s hard for two reasons: Funding is becoming almost impossible, and in a psychological sense.”

Parmesan answered with enthusiasm Macron’s appeal for climate researchers to come work in France, minutes after Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate accord. “It gave me such a psychological boost, it was so good to have that kind of support, to have the head of state saying I value what you do,” she said.

One positive result of commercial and economic globalization is the spread of technology, the role science and skills play in building healthier, more economically sound worldwide commerce. Now, every time some dolt like George W Bush or his successor at stupid, our Fake President Trump, wins the ignoranus election special – that becomes an opportunity for some other nation with an educated outlook to entice our best and brightest to move their studies and research to their land.

Conservatives Attack Starbucks Holiday Coffee Cup “Gay Agenda”

Another year, another nutball controversy over a Starbucks holiday cup.

This season, Twitter is convinced that the cup features a same-sex couple holding hands. The illustration in question is part of this year’s “Give Good” theme, which lets customers color in their coffee cups.

Starbucks did not confirm or deny “the lesbianism of The Hands.” In a statement, the coffee company said, “Each year during the holidays we aim to bring our customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season, and we will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world.”

In past years, conservatives have criticized Starbucks for the “war on Christmas” and being too secular in its holiday designs. Many also denounced the new cup for its possible “gay agenda,” with some promoting the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks.

Bigoted, backwards and useless for anything but conservative cannon fodder. Please, meatheads, start a campaign for anyone whose mind is this corrupt to enlist in the US military. Encourage them to volunteer for Trump’s warzone-of-the-week. If we’re lucky their prejudice will overcome their natural-born cowardice and they can die for their 19th-Century stupidity.

As for me, even though I think my wife makes the best coffee on the planet, next time we’re in town I’ll have to stop and have a Starbucks Holiday Coffee. Just to stick my finger in the metaphorical eye of some bigot.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

America’s economy rocks — if you live in a blue county


Click into the article for largerLazaro Gamio/Axios

❝ Economic prosperity is concentrated in America’s elite zip codes, but economic stability outside of those communities is rapidly deteriorating.

❝ U.S. geographical economic inequality is growing, meaning your economic opportunity is more tied to your location than ever before. A large portion of the country is being left behind by today’s economy, according to a county-by-county report released this morning by the Economic Innovation Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization. This was a major election theme that helped thrust Donald Trump to the White House…

Not that he has a clue or inclination about repairing any of this.

❝ The fastest growing western cities (such as Gilbert, Ariz., and Plano, Texas) and “tech hubs” (Seattle, San Francisco, Austin) dominate the list of the most prosperous cities in the country. Cities that were once industrial powerhouses in the Midwest and Northeast are now more likely to be on the distressed end of the spectrum, like Cleveland and Newark.

“Today’s jobs are going almost exclusively to people with education beyond high school, and those jobs are going to thriving communities,” said John Lettieri, co-founder of EIG. “It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.”

RTFA. Click through to the article – use the link under the map. Conclusions are wishy-washy. The sort of political analysis that illustrates American dedication to sophistry. But, hey, that’s how the Establishment got to limit the whole political process to two Tweedledee and Tweedledumb parties.