Tidbits | Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

Interesting articles, videos and other tidbits from around the web.

The Story of Nearest Green  

Emmy-Award winning actor Jeffrey Wright narrates the story of Nearest Green.

This beautifully shot short film tells the extraordinary legacy of the first known African-American master distiller. It’s a story of honor, respect, and an unlikely friendship, that would forever change the whiskey industry. Perhaps the greatest American story you never heard.

Linear  

German artists Wolfgang Aichner and Thomas Huber went on a 4-week art performance, carrying an oversized pen painting a virtual rectangle over the scenic landscape of three US states.

In the past they pulled a red boat over the alps and carried out a powerwalk in Iceland.

Thomas Huber painted the Buntschwein I bought in 2014.

The Life and Possible Death of the Mekong Delta  

Saigoneer editor-in-chief Michael Tatarski explains why the water of the Mekong is brown:

“If in the future all of the planned Mekong River dams are built, 96% of sediment will be trapped, while 50% is already trapped by the cascade dams in China,” he adds. “If this happens, the coastal water will become transparent, while right now it’s chocolate-colored for 30 kilometers from shore.”

And why that’s a good thing:

Additionally, the loss of sediment would not only starve sea life of nutrients, but would also expose the delta to dangerous storms and waves, as sediment-filled water is heavier than open ocean water and absorbs wave energy.

Concentration and Diversification  

I like this thought of James Clear in his 3-2-1 Newsletter:

Concentration produces wealth.

Diversification protects wealth.

How to Tackle a Giraffe  

For The Atlantic Ed Young followed scientists studying the last giraffes alive.

In 2010, eight times as many Sophie the Giraffe teething toys were sold in France alone as there are actual remaining giraffes. In 2016, the number of Britons who watched a giraffe kick a lion in Planet Earth II exceeded the giraffe population by more than a hundredfold. That same year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reclassified the giraffe as “vulnerable” to extinction.

He has a wonderful way of telling the story.

She loses her footing and careens forward, her legs splaying out behind her. But her seven-foot-long neck still stretches resolutely skyward. A woman leaps from behind her back, collides with her neck midair, and rugby-tackles it to the ground. People run over, carrying a hood and a drill. The giraffe—an emblem of verticality—is now fully horizontal.

Turns out there are many things we don’t know about giraffes.

Prototyping at Apple  

Apple prototype collector Giulio Zompetti describes what he thinks might be the company’s development and prototyping process.

Shanghai, a 195-Gigapixel Panorama  

Chinese Chingkun Tech crated a 195-gigapixel panorama of Shanghai:

After taking photos in the Oriental Pearl Tower which is 230 m high and after data treatment for two months, we successfully created this picture, the world’s third largest picture and Asia’s first largest picture, marking that our team became a top creative image production team of the world.

I found my old appartment building, my university, friends’ houses, … Pure nostalgia…

The CIA Secretly Bought a Company That Sold Encryption Devices Across the World. Then Its Spies Sat Back and Listened.  

The Washington Post’s national security correspondent Greg Miller tells the story of Crypto AG, a trusted cryptography company with many countries among its clients:

But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.

The CIA exited 2018. Imagine what else they might be running.

Coronavirus: What’s Behind Vietnam’s Containment Success?  

Chris Humphrey writing for the South China Morning Post:

“Vietnam responded to this outbreak early and proactively. Its first risk assessment exercise was conducted in early January – soon after cases in China started being reported,” Park says.

I’m impressed with Vietnam’s reaction to this crisis. They closed cinemas, bars, karaoke parlors early, then restricted access to restaurants and finally closed everything that’s not absolutely necessary.

The Life of a Backpacker in Asia in the 1970s  

Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly was a backpacker before being a backpacker was a thing.

I knew nothing about Asia, or even travelling; I had never even been out of New England. I knew nothing about what to expect. I went to the bookstores and it was really hard to find any information. There were these Fodor’s guidebooks for people who had a lot of money. I didn’t have any money. They barely covered places like Taiwan, so these books weren’t of any use to me. There was no internet, of course, and the libraries didn’t have much. I travelled kind of blindly because I had to.

Heads Up: The Oral History of Iron Man’s Original HUD  

Visual effects and animation journalist Ian Failes (isn’t that an amazing title?) interviewed the creators of the original Ironman heads-up display.

Kent Seki: I have to say that ‘First Flight’, in which Tony dons his silver Mark II suit, is one of my favourite parts. In the beginning of the sequence, you see components of the armour being applied, followed by a POV of the mask coming up to his face, then the very first HUD shot of Tony as the graphics turn on. This is the moment where the HUDs could succeed or fail. Luckily for us, we got things more right than wrong. The audience was with us.

That’s what it looks like in the movie:

A Conference Call in Real Life

I used to take part in many conference call that were exactly as depicted.

These days I’m doing mostly video calls which are much better.

Uber’s Path of Destruction  

Transportation consultant Huber Horan wrote my favorite article about Uber:

An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets. Its costs are simply much higher than the market is willing to pay, as its nine years of massive losses indicate. Uber not only lacks powerful competitive advantages, but it is actually less efficient than the competitors it has been driving out of business.

Horan then compares Uber’s business model to that of the taxi industry and concludes that “Uber has not increased taxi productivity or solved long-standing industry problems” but instead subsidizes fares so that it can offer prices consumers are willing to pay.

Go read the whole article. It’s fascinating.

Horan has a PDF version (and more articles about Uber) on his website.

Heaven or High Water  

In the next fifty years Miami Beach is going to disappear in the ocean. Sarah Miller tried to buy property:

I did not ask if Mother Nature would respect the zoning requirements, but I did say it was amazing to me that such a famous architect was taking the time to build in a city so threatened by climate change. (I do not think that, by the way. I think he is getting paid a lot and he will get to see what he created and in a world where people tell you with a straight face that no, this city will be wiped off the map in fifty years, not thirty, and you’re supposed to be like “Oh, I feel so much better now,” I am not at all surprised by an architect building an enormous luxury apartment building here.)

A Room People Love  

On his great 3-2-1 newsletter James Clear quotes architect Christopher Alexander (A Pattern Language) about designing a room people love:

Light on two sides of every room. When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.

This pattern, perhaps more than any other single pattern, determines the success or failure of a room. The arrangement of daylight in a room, and the presence of windows on two sides, is fundamental. If you build a room with light on one side only, you can be almost certain that you are wasting your money. People will stay out of that room if they can possibly avoid it…

The importance of this pattern lies partly in the social atmosphere it creates in the room. Rooms lit on two sides, with natural light, create less glare around people and objects; this lets us see things more intricately; and most important, it allows us to read in detail the minute expressions that flash across people’s faces, the motion of their hands … and thereby understand, more clearly, the meaning they are after. The light on two sides allows people to understand each other.