Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 1st, 2017

Kalanick really is cowardly scum: Uber’s Travis Kalanick has canceled his Code Conference interview

leave a comment »

Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg report at Recode.net:

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is not the first exec to deal with sexual harassment and sexism issues. And he’s not the first to be accused of stealing technology. He’s also not the first to anger customers through cloddish statements. And he’s not the first to face significant doubts about his ability to manage a fast-growing startup.

But he is the very first speaker in the 15 years we have been putting on our tech and media events to cancel his interview due to the many embarrassing issues at his company. In this case, because the report from former Attorney General Eric Holder on Uber’s culture and management problems has been delayed until the week of Code at the end of May.

“Due to the delay of the Holder review, Travis is unable to attend this year’s conference,” said an Uber spokesperson. We have been told that Kalanick needs to be with employees at Uber’s offices in Northern California and cannot manage to travel an hour by plane to Southern California to appear at the conference, as he had promised.

We booked Kalanick before the explosive publication of a blog post by former employee Susan Fowler on pernicious sexual harassment and sexism issues at the car-hailing company. But, even after that, Kalanick confirmed his appearance, allowing us to announce it.

Last week, Kalanick’s reps started to waver and then said he could not attend. In his place, they have offered — and we have accepted — director Arianna Huffington, who has been leading the investigation for the Uber board.

Since we also wanted to talk about the business, we asked for venture capitalist and Uber board member Bill Gurley to join her, as he has been deeply involved in Uber’s operations since its founding and has opined publicly about it until recently. He has thus far declined the Code invitation. Gurley also did not respond to a text and an email he was sent, which he has never done before.

Also a “no” so far per Uber were requests for key Kalanick colleague and SVP Emil Michael, board chairman Garrett Camp and board member David Bonderman. One possible person that Uber has said might be able to join Huffington is human resources head Liane Hornsey, but that is currently unconfirmed until closer to the event.

In other words, replacing Kalanick and manning up to address serious gender issues at Uber when the men could not bring themselves to, could be two women.

Yeah, classic Silicon Valley, and all you need to know to understand the problems at Uber.

But understand this, too: We are obviously surprised and disappointed, because this does not happen. In fact, we have had a lot of tech and media executives who have been under pressure appear at our Code and also All Things D events over the years and none has canceled due to those moments of crisis.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates came despite the Vista disaster; Apple’s Steve Jobs came despite the stolen iPhone prototype debacle; various Yahoo chiefs came despite heaps of bad publicity and takeover rumors; Steve Case came soon after the utter humiliation of AOL’s failed merger with Time Warner. Even Ralph de la Vega of AT&T came during controversial network failures. . .

Continue reading.

RELATED: Uber’s culture crisis

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2017 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Notice how police reports abruptly change when video evidence crops up: Shooting of black teen in Dallas suburb did not meet ‘our core values,’ police chief says

leave a comment »

Katie Mettler, Lindsey Bever, and Wesley Lowery report in the Washington Post:

Police have retracted earlier accounts that a vehicle was reversing toward officers in an “aggressive manner” when one of the officers opened fire, striking and killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in a Dallas-area suburb Saturday night.

In a news conference Monday, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said that he initially “misspoke” and that the vehicle had begun to drive away at the time the officer opened fire. He questioned whether the shooting was necessary.

“I unintentionally (was) incorrect when I said the vehicle was backing down the road … in fact I can tell you that I do have questions in relation to my observation (of) the video,” Haber said. “After reviewing the video, I don’t believe that (the shooting) met our core values.”

Haber, who declined to release the video footage of the shooting as well as the name of the officer involved, said that evidence will be presented to a grand jury.

Jordan is the youngest of the more than 330 people who have been shot and killed by police in 2017, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings. About 25 percent of those fatally shot by police this year have been black, and about 7 percent of those killed have been unarmed at the time they were shot. At least 10 people shot and killed by police this year were under  18.

Earlier, the police chief said that officers were dispatched to the 12300 block of Baron Drive in Balch Springs after receiving a 911 call at 11 p.m. reporting several drunken teens walking around the neighborhood.

When officers arrived, they heard gunshots, Haber said. In what police described as an “unknown altercation,” a vehicle then began “backing down the street toward the officers in an aggressive manner.” By Monday afternoon, police had retracted that statement.

One officer shot at the vehicle, Haber said, striking Jordan, who was in the front passenger seat.

Jordan was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office said he was killed by a rifle wound to the head.

The officer was placed on administrative duty. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office are conducting their own investigations into the shooting, and the Balch Springs Police Department will oversee an internal investigation.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Edwards’s family, said at a news conference Monday that the family is calling on the police department to release the name of the officer as well as audio and video footage of the incident.

“We are declaring war on bad policing. This has happened far too often,” he said. “We are tired of making the same rhetorical demands, of having the same hashtags; our community is fed up with the same tired excuses, once again offered by Balch Springs Police Department yesterday, that this was somehow the fault of the victims — teenage kids with no criminal records, with no motive to attempt to hurt anyone, with no evidence that they ever attempted to hurt anyone.”

“Another family ripped apart by police brutality,” he wrote Sunday on Twitter. “There was absolutely no justification for this murder. We demand justice!” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2017 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Netflix: The secret codes that unlock 1000s of hidden movies

leave a comment »

Anyone who has used Netflix know how lame their “browse” function is (and Amazon Prime is no better). James Titcomb in The Telegraph describes how to find some movies you might not otherwise see:

Netflix’s incredibly niche, personalised subgenres have long captivated movie nerds, from “Steamy Crime Movies from the 1970s” to “Period Pieces About Royalty Based on Real Life”.

The genres, based on a complicated algorithm that uses reams of data about users’ viewing habits to recommend exactly what a particular user is into, number in the tens of thousands.

When Netflix thinks you’ll like sentimental Spanish-language dramas or gritty tearjerkers, they’ll show up on your home screen, but aside from that, they’re not easy to find.

But a simple web address trick has emerged showing how you can find any one of these genres simply by switching a number in a URL.

If you’re logged into Netflix, enter http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/XXXX  into your browser’s toolbar to bring up one of the thousands of genres in Netflix’s library.

“XXXX” is a series of digits – 1089 is “Mind-bending Movies”, for example; while 354 is “Movies Starring Matthew McConaughey” – currently a genre of one film.

Not all numbers will result in a subgenre, and given Netflix’s ever-changing algorithms, they might move around every now and then, while there may be regional differences meaning that some codes don’t work.

Codes for the main genres are available here. At the foot of the list is a link to a list of even more.

NetFlix streaming by alternate genres (main list)
. . .

Continue reading.

The list begins:

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2017 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Technology

Another sign of decline: The entire Barrett Brown case, epitomized in his re-imprisonment

leave a comment »

Ben Makuch reports in The Intercept on an example of authoritarianism by government in the U.S., something that is increasingly common.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2017 at 2:57 pm

Kevin Drum discusses the Orange County Citrus War, a labor action in 1936

leave a comment »

Well worth reading. The Lunchtime Photo thing is because he recently got a new camera and has been regaling us with photos showing the camera’s capabilities.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2017 at 1:12 pm

Another sign of the state of the U.S. (in decline, if you’ve not noticed): Sold for Parts

leave a comment »

It’s been said that a nation can be judged on how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable of those within its borders. The question is: how will nation treat people if it knows it can get away with treating them however it wants. The better those people are treated—treated however the government wants to treat them, because it can—the better the government.

And citizens should be keenly aware of how the government will treat them, once it feels it can get away with it. I think we would want a government that would treat us decently in such circumstances.

What we’ve learned is that you have to work long, hard, and systematically to get such a government and to maintain it, since there will always be those (such as are described in this story) who will treat people badly if they can get away with it.

Michael Grabell reports in ProPublica:

Y LATE AFTERNOON, the smell from the Case Farms chicken plant in Canton, Ohio, is like a pungent fog, drifting over a highway lined with dollar stores and auto parts shops. When the stink is at its ripest, it means that the day’s 180,000 chickens have been slaughtered, drained of blood, stripped of feathers and carved into pieces — and it’s time for workers like Osiel López Pérez to clean up. On April 7, 2015, Osiel put on bulky rubber boots and a white hard hat, and trained a pressurized hose on the plant’s stainless steel machines, blasting off the leftover grease, meat and blood.

A Guatemalan immigrant, Osiel was just weeks past his 17th birthday, too young by law to work in a factory. A year earlier, after gang members shot his mother and tried to kidnap his sisters, he left his home, in the mountainous village of Tectitán, and sought asylum in the United States. He got the job at Case Farms with a driver’s license that said his name was Francisco Sepulveda, age 28. The photograph on the ID was of his older brother, who looked nothing like him, but nobody asked any questions.

Osiel sanitized the liver giblet chiller, a tublike contraption that cools chicken innards by cycling them through a near-freezing bath, then looked for a ladder, so that he could turn off the water valve above the machine. As usual, he said, there weren’t enough ladders to go around, so he did as a supervisor had shown him: He climbed up the machine, onto the edge of the tank, and reached for the valve. His foot slipped; the machine automatically kicked on. Its paddles grabbed his left leg, pulling and twisting until it snapped at the knee and rotating it 180 degrees, so that his toes rested on his pelvis. The machine “literally ripped off his left leg,” medical reports said, leaving it hanging by a frayed ligament and a five-inch flap of skin. Osiel was rushed to Mercy Medical Center, where surgeons amputated his lower leg.

Back at the plant, Osiel’s supervisors hurriedly demanded workers’ identification papers. Technically, Osiel worked for Case Farms’ closely affiliated sanitation contractor, and suddenly the bosses seemed to care about immigration status. Within days, Osiel and several others — all underage and undocumented — were fired.

Though Case Farms isn’t a household name, you’ve probably eaten its chicken. Each year, it produces nearly a billion pounds for customers such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes, and Taco Bell. Boar’s Head sells its chicken as deli meat in supermarkets. Since 2011, the U.S. government has purchased nearly $17 million worth of Case Farms chicken, mostly for the federal school lunch program.

Case Farms plants are among the most dangerous workplaces in America. In 2015 alone, federal workplace safety inspectors fined the company nearly $2 million, and in the past seven years it has been cited for 240 violations. That’s more than any other company in the poultry industry except Tyson Foods, which has more than 30 times as many employees. David Michaels, the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, called Case Farms “an outrageously dangerous place to work.” Four years before Osiel lost his leg, Michaels’s inspectors had seen Case Farms employees standing on top of machines to sanitize them and warned the company that someone would get hurt. Just a week before Osiel’s accident, an inspector noted in a report that Case Farms had repeatedly taken advantage of loopholes in the law and given the agency false information. “The company has a 25-year track record of failing to comply with federal workplace safety standards,” Michaels said.

Case Farms has built its business by recruiting some of the world’s most vulnerable immigrants, who endure harsh and at times illegal conditions that few Americans would put up with. When these workers have fought for higher pay and better conditions, the company has used their immigration status to get rid of vocal workers, avoid paying for injuries and quash dissent. Thirty years ago, Congress passed an immigration law mandating fines and even jail time for employers who hire unauthorized workers, but trivial penalties and weak enforcement have allowed employers to evade responsibility. Under President Obama, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed not to investigate workers during labor disputes. Advocates worry that President Trump, whose administration has targeted unauthorized immigrants, will scrap those agreements, emboldening employers to simply call ICE anytime workers complain.

While the president stirs up fears about Latino immigrants and refugees, he ignores the role that companies, particularly in the poultry and meatpacking industry, have played in bringing those immigrants to the Midwest and the Southeast. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2017 at 12:57 pm

Why “War and Peace” is so great: An animated film that made me realize I have time for another read-through

leave a comment »

That is via an Open Culture post that is itself very much worth reading. Read it now. And I’ll add that in my experience the sensation is that it is very fast reading because the chapters tend to be short. Also, when you close the book at the end, you have the feeling that the characters are continuing their lives, moving on, as we do, from the shutting of the book, and that in a few years’ time we feel like we might check in and see how things have turned out for them after that time.

Truly a novel to read. I like the Maude translation, but there’s a new one that has gotten praise. If you read it in book form rather than on an ebook-reader like the Kindle or a browser, note that people have better recall of things they’ve read in a book rather than on-screen, and recall is important when you’re reading a novel of that length.

And when you buy the book, get it in hardback: paperbound editions just don’t hold up. A multi-volume hardbound edition in a good translation is ideal—and in fact the Heritage Club publishes War and Peace in a two-volume edition. Maybe that’s the one for this next reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2017 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Books, Video

%d bloggers like this: