Previous “Links” posts

Macks Are the Hot Fish 

Get in on the ground floor!

It’s been almost exactly a year since I wrote about FTX, after the company evaporated billions of dollars of customer money. Since that time, the company’s founder Sam Bankman-Fried has been convicted of fraud and money laundering. He now awaits sentencing, which may see him jailed for the rest of his life.

That’s pretty rough, but at least he can keep doing what he loves, using a non-standard currency to buy things.

What’s the Opposite of “Undefeated”? 

It’s all very exhausting and stupid.

A few years back, I was unfortunate enough to learn of the existence of the idiotic “sovereign citizen movement”. Wikipedia describes it as:

a loose group of litigants, anti-government activists, tax protesters, financial scammers, and conspiracy theorists based mainly in the United States. Sovereign citizens have their own pseudolegal belief system based on misinterpretations of common law and claim to not be subject to any government statutes, unless they consent to them

Every so often, I’ll read about a court case where a sovereign citizen attempted to avoid punishment by spouting a whole bunch of nonsense. I have never once seen it work. Most recently, this tactic failed for January 6 insurrectionist Taylor James Johnatakis, who was found guilty of multiple charges.

Somehow, the 100% failure rate of sovereign citizen gobbledygook doesn’t deter people. They may not be the sharpest crayons in the box.

Plex Has Sprung a Leak 

Defaults matter, and this feature should at least be opt-in, if it should exist at all.

Streaming service and media server app Plex has started mailing users a “week in review” email, which includes information on what other people the user knows have been watching. That’s not always something someone wants to share.

I’d Rather Have Flanders 

But perhaps we could hope for better.

Mike Johnson is an extreme Christian fundamentalist, and sadly, the current speaker of the House of Representatives. He also talks a lot like Ned Flanders.

A Temporary Stay of Execution 

This is not as heroic as the headline implies.

When massive flooding inundated Vermont back in July, 120 turkeys were probably happy to be rescued. In November, however, things presumably look quite a bit different for them.

Making the Least Bad Decisions 

That really is a terrible personal brand.

Over at Wired, there’s a great interview with Del Harvey, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety. It provides a good look at what a difficult task it is to moderate a major social media platform. It also includes this amusing quip:

When your friend called you and told you about the Twitter job in 2008, why did she think you’d be right for it?

She said at the time, “I thought you might be a good fit for this because when I think about bad things on the internet, I think about you.” And I thought, “This is a terrible personal brand.”

After almost decade and a half, Harvey left Twitter (and tech entirely) in 2021. Since then, things have changed quite a bit, and not for the better. Most notably, Elon Musk bought Twitter (now officially known as “X formerly Twitter”), and gutted the trust and safety team. In a move absolutely everyone could possibly have seen coming, there’s been a dramatic rise in antisemitism and other bigotry on the platform.

For some time, I’ve had the notion that if it’s impossible to properly moderate a platform due to its size and scale, perhaps it shouldn’t exist at all. Like the thought that perhaps billionaires shouldn’t be permitted to exist, this idea isn’t fully fleshed out. But when we read about the difficulty of moderating Twitter, as well as countless horror stories from moderation teams for all sorts of social media, it seems reasonable to ask if more harm than good is being done by the very existence of these platforms.

On an unrelated but happier note, you can subscribe to Wired for $5 right now. I’m a sporadic Wired reader, but this article alone felt worth a couple bucks, which led me to pony up.

The Jail Wants to Be Fed 

They jumped ahead to the ending.

Down in St. Louis, a shuttered city jail is proving it’s still up to the task, after three trespassers managed to accidentally lock themselves in a cell. Eventually, they called 911, and my oh my would that be an embarrassing call to make. The story states “[p]olice helped free the men from a cell and then arrested them”, presumably transporting them to a different jail and placing them in a different cell. This is very dumb.

Bad Bike Lanes 

Do better, urban planners.

Quality bike lanes are good for cyclists, as well as drivers and pedestrians. Bad bike lanes are good for a bit of amusement, but very little else.

An obstruction in the middle of a bike lane, painted to match the bike lane’s color

I can’t believe this one hasn’t killed someone.

A Temporary Skywatching Target 

Not all space accomplishments are worthy of praise

If you have a pair of binoculars and you’re looking for a fun weekend activity, you might try to spot the tool bag astronauts recently dropped by accident.

A lost toolbag floating in space, with the Earth in the background

Don’t wait too long though, as within a few months, the tool bag will re-enter our atmosphere and burn up.

Unsafe at Any Snake 

Don’t bring pythons home for your kids either.

I would venture to guess that most snake misidentification by amateurs exaggerates the danger of the snake in question. After all, treating a nonvenomous snake as venomous won’t get you killed. The reverse very well might, however, as one Australian father recently found.