Tommy.

New Boosted Boards

The company behind the orange-wheeled OG electric skateboard has announced some new additions to their line-up, including a more or less penny-board-sized version.

I love my second generation Boosted Dual+. It’s hardly a toy for me. I use it as a ‘serious’ everyday commuter. Although my commute isn’t the longest and I don’t use the board on wet roads, I have logged more than 500 miles on it since I got it last summer.

I haven’t regretted a single penny I spent on the board. If you can use the board for your commute and are in need of some more convincing, I’d say go for it. You will be happy with it.

If you can afford it, go for the new Stealth. After only a few days in I have switched to the fastest riding mode on my Dual+ and haven’t switched back ever since. The full range of velocity plus the extended range battery make a big difference.

A green-haired turtle that can breath through its genitals

The Mary River Turtle is an ancient Australian species dating back more than 40 million years ago that has quite a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s one of the fastest swimmers reaching top speeds of almost 46 mph (75 km/h) and apparently likes green toupees:

It has special organs in its cloaca that allow it to draw oxygen from the water. It can stay underwater for up to three days.

Unfortunately, this awesome turtle is an endangered species alongside many more, fancy reptiles on a list published by the EDGE of Existence programme.

I instantly fell in love with a lot of other reptiles on the EDGE list like the Pig-nosed Turtle, the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle, and the Madagascar Blind Snake.

Sadly, the conservation attention to many of these animals is carelessly low.

★ No Brita-filtered water for my coffee, please.

I’ve become a coffee snob.

Even though I can’t handle the caffeine all too well (I am a slow metabolizer and it tends to mess with my sleep architecture), I have fallen for the whole ritual of hand-grinding, scale-measuring, target-heating, aero-pressing and so on.

It does matter, folks.

I’m also a water snob. Water is the only thing I drink (besides the circa two cups of coffee a day and maybe a cup of tea about twice a week). I stay off all drinks that contain calories, flavors, sugars, and alcohol. On average, I drink about five times as much water as I drink coffee per day.

Coffee is mostly water. 99% to be precise.

So, being a snob in both the water and the coffee domain, which water to use for a good brew?

Last year, I took a home brewing course at Seniman Coffee in Ubud, Bali. That place is fantastic and so was the course. If you travel to Bali and care about your coffee, Seniman Coffee Studio is a must-visit.

One snippet of information that I took home from the course was that you shouldn’t use filtered water for your brew.

Meanwhile, tabletop water filters are a big thing in Europe and the US and there may be benefits of using filtered tap water for the bulk of your daily consumption. I have a filter, too, and I have moved to drinking mostly filtered and unfiltered tap water these days to save on my use of plastic bottles.

Leaving issues like microplastics in water aside, under the presumption that your tap water generally is of high quality - as is mine here in Germany - there is a strong culinary argument to be made to brew your coffee with water straight from the tap.

Brita filters and the like use a combination filtration with activated carbon and ion exchangers which extract mostly calcium and magnesium from the tap water (in exchange for sodium ions). They “soften” your water. A certain amount of hardness, however, is required for your water to extract coffee flavors and achieve a good brew.

Calcium and magnesium cations significantly determine the yield of flavor extraction your brewing water will achieve.

There is real science behind the question.

The paper states:

We […] emphasize the surprising result that Na+ binds weakly to most neutral compounds in coffee beans, suggesting that sodium rich water is of no benefit to the consumer, besides removing the source of scale build up. Thus, if the motivation is to extract the most coffee constituents […], then Mg2+-rich water is most suitable. If the motivation is to achieve the best balance of flavors for a given lighter roast coffee, then both Ca2+ and Mg2+ do a comparable job, with Mg2+ having the added feature of preventing scale formation.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America provides standards on the optimal water composition for great coffee.

According to the SCAA, you should aim for a calcium hardness of 17-85 mg/l and a pH between 6.5-7.5 while sodium should be at or near 10 mg/l.

My own tap water comes at a calcium concentration of 78 mg/l, a pH of 7,5 and a sodium concentration of 22 mg/dl. (You can get an overview of the composition of your tap water from your local provider or your city council.)

So, while I’m good for calcium and pH, I’m already off for sodium by a two-fold. My water filter would probably further increase the sodium concentration while lowering calcium and magnesium by who knows how much, basically rendering the water poorly suited for extracting flavors from coffee.

Mineral waters on average contain significantly higher cation concentrations than tap water. I prefer the French Contrex mineral water whose source has one of the highest calcium (468 mg/l) and magnesium (74,5 mg/l) concentrations in Europe. With one liter of Contrex, you can get about half of your daily calcium. Who needs dairy, anyway?

That said, mineral water far exceeds the SCAA standards and is too hard for coffee.

Here are the scientists Hendon et al. again:

It should be noted that there is not one particular composition of water that produces consistently flavorsome extractions from all roasted coffee. Rather, there is water that has the most extracting ability (i.e., cation-rich), and the resultant flavor depends on the balance between both the cations in solution and the quantity of bicarbonate present (acting as a buffer). Furthermore, each bean is roasted to taste optimal when brewed with the water it was roasted to.

So, if your tap water is good, just use that for your coffee, don’t use filtered or bottled water and tweak the quality of your brew with the myriad of other variables involved in making a great cup like origin, roast and grind.

One more time, a finger bone rewrites human history

A recent paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution pinpoints Homo sapiens to Arabia by 85,000 years ago. The scientists describe an intermediate phalanx that suggests early humans left Africa about 25,000 years earlier than we thought.

Axios reports:

The finding […] supports the view that rather than migrating out of Africa 60,000 years ago in a single large migration, small groups of early humans may have left the continent earlier and in more complicated patterns than previously thought.

I find it fascinating how a fragment of a finger bone can tell a story like this.

It was also a finger bone fragment that uncovered the hitherto unknown hominid species of the Denisovans in 2010.

Being more like a bathing macaque

These monkeys simply are the best. The hot baths gets their levels of stress hormones down.

Maybe we should all take more hot baths.

No longer in the business of war and the like

From a letter of Google employees to the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai:

We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.

We are heading towards an AI-based future at breakneck speed and our discussion of the moral and societal implications has hardly even started.

Yet, some people are busy working on the James Cameron version of this future.

I can’t help but feel that the decisions on our future and AI don’t belong in the hands of the most “entrepreneurial” types of people.

Walking out from a business that doesn’t conform with moral standards might just be the one way employees of all types can make a difference. The prospect of skilled workers looking for some other thing that’s good and inspiring carries a lot of weight in it.

It’s not cool working for a company that fosters the development of war robots or whose business is built upon bargaining your data off to bad people. It’s on everyone of us to make a decision.

Why would anyone work for a Tobacco company?

If you have all the choice, why not work someplace else?

Sam Harris is ready to take one more for the team

I must admit I am looking forward to Sam Harris’s upcoming podcast with Ezra Klein. He discussed his decision on his latest episode of Waking Up.

I do follow Vox.com and some of its sister publications like the Worldly podcast but I was utterly stunned by the level of bad faith and mere negligence of journalistic principles that Klein and colleagues have put forward regarding Sam’s podcast with Charles Murray. Not only in Klein’s most recent piece but also in the initial response to the podcast itself (which did make my brain sore).

Let’s see whether this podcast will be a version 2.0 of The Best Podcast Ever.

Patterns of wood

The last male Northern White Rhino on earth has died

A sad story:

War, habitat loss and poaching for rhino horn have decimated populations, and by 2008 researchers could no longer locate northern white rhinos in the wild. But a number of the animals — including Sudan, who was captured in 1975 — remained at zoos around the world.

“Sudan is an extreme symbol of human disregard for nature,” said Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Sudan spent most of his life. “He survived extinction of his kind in the wild only thanks to living in a zoo.”

Hunted to near-extinction, just two [female] northern white rhinos now remain.

There hardly is a stronger condemnation of our irresponsible behavior towards nature than having this species go extinct for our hunger for rhino horn.

“This is a creature that didn’t fail in evolution,” said Thomas Hildebrandt, head of reproduction management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin and one of the project’s leaders. “It’s in this situation because of us.”

It’s a fate that probably all larger mammals on earth like lions, manatees, dolphins and non-mammalian species will face until only survivalists like rats, pets like house cats or industrialized breeds like milk cows will remain.

Thank god for cmd + + in Safari.

18.4

The workout 18.4 of this year’s CrossFit Games Open has been announced:

For time: 21 deadlifts, 225 lb. 21 handstand push-ups 15 deadlifts, 225 lb. 15 handstand push-ups 9 deadlifts, 225 lb. 9 handstand push-ups 21 deadlifts, 315 lb. 50-ft. handstand walk 15 deadlifts, 315 lb. 50-ft. handstand walk 9 deadlifts, 315 lb. 50-ft. handstand walk

Time cap: 9 min.

I signed up for the WOD class tonight. Just a walk in the park…

★ To the Don Quixotes of the Open Web

Jason Kottke’s blog turned 20, recently. It’s been an inspiration of mine for a long time. It’s one of the old web’s bastions against the hegemony of internet monopolies that want to dominate our attention.

The web itself now turned 29. Like web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, you could paint a grim picture of what it is today and what is seized to be:

The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today. What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms. This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.

In this dystopia of social media, it brings me joy to see independent writers, even with small audiences, still going strong.

One of my favorite bloggers, Marius Masalar - whom I’ve ironically come to know through Twitter and Medium - recently re-celebrated his optimism for writing for the web:

It’s important because blogging is less about the information and more about its means of transmission. It’s not about the news, it’s about how your friend tells you about the news. Each blog is a re-framing of the world through the eyes of someone whose personality you’ve come to know, whose opinion you’ve come to trust, and whose views either challenge or support your own in constructive ways.

I firmly believe that’s a crucial part of any media consumption diet these days.

As part of a (renewed) theme of scaling back this year, I try to become more deliberate about the sources I follow and how I navigate the web. Newsfeeds, timelines and instant notifications have wreaked a lot of havoc on my attention span in recent years. They hardly ever made me a better informed or better connected person, though.

In 2018, my phone is dinging less. I have turned off all notifications and only gradually turned those back on that I depend on, after all. I still haven’t checked Facebook and I no longer use Twitter. I thought about maintaining the ladder to follow only selected persona (inspirational figures like Elon, companies like Tesla, captivating topics like space exploration or CRISPR and people like Marius) but Twitter is a rabbit hole. “Mindful usage” of social media is not how it works for me.

So, what’s the viable alternative? If the small guys like you and me keep on writing, what’s telling us that someone cares about what we have to say? After all, being read is one of the joys of writing.

I hope that we have the right glue to keep us together.

Better not to name your child Donald Trump

Here is a glimpse of the bad luck that might follow if you name your son Donald Trump.

The extended range battery for my Boosted Board V2 will ship in two to three weeks. I’m very excited for Spring to come!

Guy who claimed to get his news from print papers didn't really turn off Twitter

I feel sorry for linking you guys to the piece of Farhad Manjoo yesterday. Even though he brags about unplugging from Twitter in his story, he probably just scammed us:

The evidence is right there in his Twitter feed, just below where he tweeted out his column: Manjoo remained a daily, active Twitter user throughout the two months he claims to have gone cold turkey, tweeting many hundreds of times, perhaps more than 1,000. […]

He retweeted news stories from others and commented on others’ tweets about the news on most days during his period of being “unplugged.” […]

After trying, and failing, to get him to own up to the fact that his assertion that he had “unplugged” from social media was not true, I asked him whether perhaps his use of social media was messing with his own self-perception. He didn’t respond to that question.

It’s fine if you use social media. None of us can probably avoid it completely. Just own it. Don’t claim how “unplugging” has made you a better person, when in fact you just stayed the same dude.

Nick Heer:

Beyond that, it’s 2018 — telling people not to follow news accounts on Twitter is just yelling into the wind.

Only the “I get my news from Twitter” is a mantra with tech writers, bloggers and podcasters all around the web.

Sticking with the analogy, “mindfulness guidelines” on how to use Twitter and Facebook for news are the “filter and light cigarettes” of our days.

Slow Jammin' the News

Farhad Manjoo in a story for The New York Times:

In January, after the breaking-newsiest year in recent memory, I decided to travel back in time. I turned off my digital news notifications, unplugged from Twitter and other social networks, and subscribed to home delivery of three print newspapers […].

I have reduced my digital input significantly in recent months, as well. It had all become a cluttered, noisy and attention-draining mess. I still get my news from selected online sources only, though, and I tend to avoid paper whenever possible as it tends to always grow in piles. Piles only grow bigger, never get read and tend to stress me out. I have curated my news sources down to what I believe to be a reasonable balance between breadth, inclusivity and personal sentiments. However, I haven’t used Facebook and Twitter in all of 2018 and so far I haven’t missed a thing.

Turning off the buzzing breaking-news machine I carry in my pocket was like unshackling myself from a monster who had me on speed dial, always ready to break into my day with half-baked bulletins.

The “newsfeed” is the new smoking.

The World's Oldest Message in a Bottle

Tonya Illman found the oldest message in a bottle ever recorded on a beach in Australia. It had been set adrift from the German ship Paula over 131 years ago in 1886. Megan Specia in a story for the New York Times:

When the bottle was set adrift, Grover Cleveland was the president of the United States, Queen Victoria was shortly to celebrate 50 years on the throne of England, and the Industrial Revolution was in full swing.

The Illmans created a website dedicated to the bottle and its backstory.

Horror story of the week: "When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home"

Kathryn Schulz in a story for The New Yorker:

Stone and Zimmerman live just outside Landrum, South Carolina, in an A-frame cabin; upstairs in their bedroom, French doors lead out to a raised deck. That week, autumn had finally descended on the Carolinas, killing off the mosquitoes and sending nighttime temperatures plummeting, and the previous evening the couple had opened those doors a crack to take advantage of the cool air. Now, sitting in front of the TV, Stone suddenly realized that she’d left them open and went up to close them.

Zimmerman was still downstairs when he heard her scream. He sprinted up to join her, and the two of them stood in the doorway, aghast. Their bedroom walls were crawling with insects—not dozens of them but hundreds upon hundreds.

I can’t stop scratching myself.

★ Unfounded criticism of third-party apps on Apple Watch

For some bloggers, third-party apps on Apple Watch have hardly any value. It’s either because the frameworks to develop apps for the watch suck - which might be the case - or just in principle because the whole app on the watch thing is a failure and Apple should focus on the watch as a timepiece instead with customizable watch faces and an always-on display.

I don’t get this criticism at all. On the contrary, I’m glad Apple still regards third-party watch apps as a priority.

To me, third-party apps are what make the Apple Watch a great device, one that I wear daily and don’t leave the house without. Perhaps, with deeper support for developers, third-party watch apps could be made even better, but the truth is there is hardly stagnation in development for the watch.

In recent months, many watch apps have received great updates that take the functionality of the watch to yet another level. For instance, Slopes, my favorite app for tracking ski and snowboard runs, and Carrot Weather, probably the best app ever, have become so good with their latest updates that if Apple somehow cut watch support for them, it would break my heart. Besides the aforementioned, I use complications for Just Press Record, a better voice recorder, and WaniKani, a tool to learn Japanese Kanji - two apps that go beyond fitness tracking and notifications which supposedly are the only things the watch is good for.

On the other hand, I don’t think making the watch a “better” timepiece would make it any more compelling to me. Depending on the implementation, I would probably be annoyed by a shining always-on screen on my wrist which has to be micromanaged and turned off anytime I find myself in dimly lit situations like in a car after hours or in bed. Also, I would rather have only Apple’s current line of watch faces than an AppStore flood of poorly designed free-with-ads custom watch faces.

I would be less compelled to wear my watch if Apple somehow turned back the clock on third-party app support. If anything, make the watch an even better platform for developers.

The craziest line a snowboarder has ever done

I was surfing the web for Transworld Snowboarding magazine before my winter vacation in the Swiss Alps. You know, checking out the pros to kinda get the mojo flowing. This was when I stumbled upon the cover shot for the March 2014 edition. The picture features snowboard legend Jeremy Jones standing in a 21,500 foot high vertical wall of icy spines that makes the Pass of Caradhras look like snow kindergarten. The whole thing got my nails so rolled up, I had bad dreams for days after watching the behind the scenes and the video of the actual descent.