Tommy.

A handful of separated Korean families are reunited for a brief moment

I teared up reading this story:

Since 1988, more than 75,200 South Koreans who applied to attend reunion have died without seeing their parents, siblings or children again. More than 56,000 South Koreans, the vast majority in their 80s and 90s, are waiting to be selected by lottery for the next round of reunions, which has yet to be scheduled.

This week, reunited family members are allowed to spend 11 hours together over three days, including a three-hour private meeting and lunch, before being separated once again.

The pictures and parts of the story are heartbreaking:

After more than six decades apart, many relatives could recognize each other only after giving the names of hometowns and parents. Many brought with them old photographs to help retrace memories.

Ahn Jong-soon, a 70-year-old North Korean, kept asking her 100-year-old father Ahn Jong-ho, whether he recognized her. Hard of hearing, Mr. Anh did not respond verbally, but tears streamed down his face.

One can’t possibly imagine how this must feel.

EULA for the Catholic church

Sam Harris. in an intro to his latest podcast, commenting on the horrific revelations from the Pennsylvania grand jury report on systematic rape of children by Catholic priests:

If you had to sign a user agreement for the Catholic church, this should be part of it. Somewhere in the find print it should say: “The ideology of our organization acts as a filter attracting sexually confused and conflicted and conscienceless men. And we employ these people. And hide their crimes. And we have done this for over a thousand years.

Now give us your kids.

Guilty of tsundoku

Tsundoku (積ん読) is the Japanese expression for books that pile up on your nightstand without being read.1

  1. I am guilty of tsundoku not only for books but also for print medical journals and read-later articles in Safari’s Reading List. 

85.000 calories of Nutella for a football

The FIFA World Cup has been a shitshow in advertising since its inception. In Germany, Nutella is one of the most prominent soccer sponsors. During this year’s World Cup, Nutella ran a promotion by which you would score a football when you bought 35 glasses of the sugary spread. The advertiser’s association for self-control in advertisement, Deutscher Werberat, has rejected a complaint by the Green Party against the promotion. They saw nothing wrong with it:

Even foods with a relatively high sugar content are consistent with a healthy and balanced diet, if the amount is right.

35 glasses equals about 85.000 calories and each glass comes with a “best before” date of about 1 year.

It's not the client

Nick Heer on Twitter altering parts of its API which means third-party Twitter clients lose some of their functionality:

When I use the first-party client, I feel like I’m being played around with for business reasons.

When I use Twitter1, I feel like I’m being played around with for business reasons.

  1. When I was using Twitter. 

Way of the dodo

John Gruber commenting on Apple‘s push for subscription-based apps:

Up front paid apps are going the way of the dodo. Whether you think that’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter. That’s where things are going.

I can’t help but feel that apps are going the way of the dodo.1

  1. Apps as in indie apps

Body type selection in elite athletes

Interesting study reported about by the New York Times on how body phenotypes and BMI vary in elite runners versus swimmers:

In competitive running, body type is destiny: If you’re a sprinter powering yourself over a short stretch of track, you better pack a lot of muscle onto your frame. But all that bulk is too much to carry through longer-distance endurance races, which favor more of a whippet type.

Swimmers, though, somehow seem to escape that endurance/speed/size trade-off, according to a new study published in July in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which for the first time closely examines the morphology of a large group of world-class swimmers and runners. Its findings provide evidence that while there is a body type associated with success in each sport’s various distances, in swimming that body type is consistently the same.

When I watched the events at the European Championships last week I was surprised by how some of the body types in certain events appear to have changed over the years. Take for example the women’s 800m final.1 This year was won by Nataliya Pryshchepa from Ukraine. She and here competitors are very slender runners as you would find in longer distances like 1500m.2

I thought back of my youth when the 800m distance was dominated by Maria Mutola.3 In the gallery on the linked page you find pictures from back in the day. Just notice how much more “packed” the 800m runners were back then.

  1. I found this could also be said about the men’s 400m. 

  2. Somewhere in between 200m and 1500m lies a point where the metabolic cost of running with more developed musculature starts to exceed the benefit to generate bigger ground forces. 

  3. Maria Mutola’s personal best for 800 meters is 1:55 while Nataliya Pryshchepa has her best at 1:58. Her winning time last week was 2:00. 

Input Digest, August 2018

Another slice of my media diet this month:

The Americans’ final season. Perhaps my favorite TV series in recent years. Thrilling till the end. I thought the finale was great. (A)

Glow, Season 2, Episode 8. This is the real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling as you would watch it on TV. I loved the episode. (A)

Brain.fm. I have been using this service at work when I need to focus and zone out. An AI generates “neurostimulating” sounds for you. You can choose from different types of music. I prefer the piano sounds. (B)

The new Vainglory heroes Kensei, Kinetic and Anka. Vainglory is the only game I play.1 I have stuck with it since it launched a few years ago and it has continually expanded its greatness. In recent months since the update to a 5v5 gameplay, Super Evil Megacorp has added a bunch of new heroes which are all great. I can never decide between the three. I am also looking forward to the release of Silvernail. (A)

  1. It’s also the only game ever to survive a presentation in an Apple keynote. Remember all those dead games from Clumsy Ninja, Super Mario Run to Anki Drive? 

★ Podcasters are hard at work to turn podcasts into network TV

In recent years, advertisement on podcasts has grown distinctively. On shows like those from the indy network Relay.fm or John Gruber’s The Talk Show, a single show is usually interrupted for three or more ad breaks.

It’s a disappointing development.

A notable exception to the trend has been Sam Harris with his podcast Waking Up. He relies entirely on listener support. Recently, he has been running a several minute long explanation at the start of his shows on why he doesn’t run ads. It’s a great statement that a lot of other producers should take to heart.

In his opinion, asking for direct support is the most straight forward relationship he can have with this listeners. He describes ads as a cost to the host’s honesty:

If I spent the first five minutes of every show trying to sell you a mattress, you could reasonably worry about whether my enthusiasm for it was sincere. What else might I exaggerate if I’m willing to assure you, week after week, that memory foam will solve all your sleep problems?

I assume the folks from Relay.fm or John Gruber don’t like ads on TV. Yet, they are bringing one of the worst things about television over to podcasts.1

Why should we expect great podcasts to be free?

  1. Some shows by Relay.fm podcaster Jason Snell have even run ads for online gambling and home delivery services for alcohol in the past. 

Smoking three cigarettes at once - The downfall of former cycling legend Jan Ullrich

Former German competitive cyclist Jan Ullrich, once considered the only athletic contender to Lance Armstrong, is on a free fall into a swamp of drug abuse, prostitution and criminal violence against women:

Because he is said to have choked an escort lady in a Frankfurt luxury hotel, the 44-year-old sits provisionally in police custody. During the act he is said to have been under “massive alcohol and drug influence”.

A few days before, he had been arrested in Mallorca because of a violent argument with his neighbor while on drugs.

Waiting for his plane back to Germany, he was filmed smoking three cigarettes at once.1

  1. Why would someone who arguably used to be the best endurance athlete on the planet ever start start smoking? 

A Theranos for AR?

The latest report on the Magic Leap One “Creators’ Edition” on The Verge has left me unimpressed. Again. The more we get to know about this product, the more of its hype falls off in big flakes.

Wasn’t the Magic Leap supposed to be a set of “cool-looking” glasses that augment your vision? Isn’t it supposed “to tap into your visual cortex”?

Scrolling through Magic Leap’s website does tap into my vestibular system and makes me seasick. The device itself looks like an ugly pair of modern Frenzel goggles and it has a computer attached to it by a wire. The software seems buggy and the UI is confusing. Meanwhile 1.500 people are supposed to be working on this thing.

How is this ever going to position itself against the smartphone?

If you ask me, this is the lame sequel to Google Glass.

When it comes to products like this and the surrounding buzz, I have grown suspicious of Silicon Valley startups.

I’d call this “dead before arrival”.

Mangosteen on MH370

There still is no explanation why and how the plane MH370 went missing in Southeast Asia four years ago. From the report the Malaysian government issued yesterday, this strangely stood out to me:

Other possible factors — like lithium-ion batteries that could have caught fire and the presence of mangosteen fruit in the plane’s cargo, which was considered unusual — were considered. But such materials had been carried dozens of times before on the same route without incident, the report said.

How could a mangosteen down1 a plane?

  1. An American lawyer found a piece of debris from the aircraft’s wing in Mozambique back in 2016. 

Should you wear a necktie?

From a study on the effects of wearing a necktie in the journal Neuroradiology:

The examination resulted in a statistically significant decrease of CBF [cerebral blood flow] after tightening the necktie (p < 0.001) while the venous flow did not show any significant changes.

Here comes the sunscreen

Let these photographs brighten your day.

The 2018 CrossFit Games

The Games are coming up on August 1st and this year I am pretty excited. The women’s roster is fantastic with so many incredible athletes and it’s hard to tell who will make it to the podium. I am vouching for Katrin Davidsdottir, Tia-Clair Toomey and Annie Thorisdottir. Annie is looking stronger than ever! I am also very much looking forward to the team competition. It’s always great fun to see the teams. I am not so much interested in the men’s competition, though. Not really a male athlete that is relatable and sympathetic to me. (Maybe Wellner and Bridges.) This year, the girls is where the action is, for sure.

How to edit your pictures of the lunar eclipse: wipe your messy display first. (Found this out after unsuccessfully trying several “spot removal” techniques in Affinity Photo..)

Siding with the Kiwis

In the current debate about whether Australia should get its own flag design because New Zealand “got there first”, I’m picking sides with the Kiwis.

Personally, I prefer the five-pointed red stars on the NZ flag over the seven-pointed white stars on the AU flag.

Also, there is a global conspiracy to keep New Zealand off of world maps. Check out this Tumblr.

Some of my favorites are the Star Trek: First Contact shot from space, “multicultural” (“most cultures, at least”) and the Pyongyang International Airport map (“Hopefully they use the same map in the rocket launch command centre.”).1

Ebola infection can persist for over a year after remission

A woman from Liberia may have spread Ebola to her family members over a year after recovering from the disease. From a report in The Lancet:

Based on serology and epidemiological and genomic data, the most plausible scenario is that a female case in the November, 2015, cluster survived Ebola virus disease in 2014, had viral persistence or recurrent disease, and transmitted the virus to three family members a year later.

Wired tub-thumps for the Juul

I was abhorred by the praise that Wired’s latest Gadget Lab podcast gave to the company Juul and their highly addictive nicotine stick.1 The Wired editors even called it an “Apple-esque” device which should be a reason for firm blow-back from Apple.

Juul is an unregulated product marketed to minors and young adolescents that’s aimed at causing deadly nicotine dependence in its users. The company claims it has only the well-being of current smokers in mind, while its shady practices and hunger for quick profits show otherwise.

Part of the reason that people are falling for e-cigarettes and their harm are uncritical endorsements by parts of the media and their portrayal as being “cool”. Especially society’s more vulnerable parts like school children and people with lower incomes are put at risk.

  1. I found this “ad for the Juul” even more despicable than the real ads for online gambling and alcohol delivery services that ran a while ago on podcasts like those of tech writer Jason Snell. 

Pictures of the week: Fire & Ice

I couldn’t get these two images out of my head this week. They are of two different kinds of mountains:

Anak Kraktau spitting fire. This is about as “volcanic” as it can get. 1

This giant iceberg in the bay of Innaarsuit, Greenland. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like looking out of your kitchen window with your morning coffee in hand and this thing suddenly in your view.

  1. The rest of the curated pictures on the page are fantastic, too. 

Wet noodle

Arnold said it best with his description of Trump and his performance with Putin.

The social network cannot answer

Facebook is trying to make sense of what stays on Facebook and what goes:

Facebook is deeply committed to free expression and will allow people to post just about anything, including even denying the Holocaust.

You can’t possibly be more wrong about free speech as Facebook is. This attitude is putting our values of democracy at risk.

Free-speech is not about allowing everything to be said, it’s about committing to the principles of the Enlightenment.1

On Wednesday, Facebook also rolled out a new policy on misinformation that complicated matters some more. The company said it had decided that, actually, it would remove — and not just downrank — certain false posts if it determined that they might lead to imminent violence.

The policy is global, but so far it is operating only in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, where Facebook posts have been linked to ethnic cleansing and genocide. And what exactly constitutes imminent violence is a shifting line, the company said — it is still “iterating on” its policy, and the rules may change.

Intuitively (but unfortunately less so because of well-reasoned intentions), Facebook does get something right here.

Not all cultures and societies are equal.

Democracy means drawing a line in the sand where the principles of Enlightenment are neglected. This is the guide to separate between the good and the bad in the world.

It’s what should determine what stays on Facebook and what goes.

Zuckerberg is ok with Holocaust deniers on Facebook

I hope at least some of our conscientious law makers here in Germany listened to Zuckerbergs interview with Kara Swisher on Recode Decode:

Zuckerberg: I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong, but I think—

Swisher: In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.

Zuckerberg: It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, “We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.”

Here is to hoping the public attention picks up on his absolutely mistaken views on how to deal with Holocaust-denying Nazis and he is sent an appropriate response.

Don’t let him off the hook. Again.

JOMO

Something to live by this summer and beyond:

JOMO, is not a misspelling of “mojo” but, rather, stands for “joy of missing out.” The antithesis of FOMO (fear of missing out), JOMO is about disconnecting, opting out and being O.K. just where you are. […]

We need our technology devices; we just don’t need them as much as we think we do. JOMO is about finding that balance. […]

Don’t think of JOMO as a detox, but more like an integral part to a healthy, well-balanced nutrition plan for your brain.

Input Digest, July 2018

A slice of my media diet this month:

Ramin Djawadi. One of my favorite contemporary composers. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, he has composed - among others - the soundtracks of Game of Thrones and Westworld. Dragonstone, A Lannister Always Pays His Debts and Sweetwater are some of my all-time favorites. I had the linked playlist on repeat throughout the week while writing on a scientific paper. (A)

Red Card by Ken Bensinger. A thrilling and well-researched account of the corruption that runs deep through FIFA. It’s staggering how this criminal organization can continue to operate in the shadows of the public‘s love for soccer. I wonder what else we will learn about the FIFA mafia in the wake of the world cups in Russia and Qatar. (B+)

Kiksuya - Westworld Season 2, Episode 8. This episode is one of the best TV I have ever watched. The highlight of the season. I compare its punch it had on me to San Junipero from Season 3 of Black Mirror. A perfect episode. (A+)

Converge with Casey Newton. Casey is my favorite writer of The Verge and his show Converge is great. It’s a game-showy take on tech interviews with Silicon Valley and startup persona. It’s one of the last remaining tech podcasts that goes straight into my Castro inbox. I love that it has a laugh track and its jingle has been stuck in my ears for weeks now. (B+, A+ for the jingle and the laugh track)