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Five Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

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Visualization of how the longest running TV shows were rated by viewers over time. IMDB rankings are notoriously inconsistent, but this is still interesting. []

An interesting look by @zeynep of the unvaccinated in the US. A leading indicator is not politics or conspiracy thinking but regular access to healthcare and health insurance. For 65+ folks, Medicare access beats Fox News scaremongering. []

In-N-Out is pushing back on SF's vaccine mandate for indoor dining. "We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government." Oh please...businesses enforce all sorts of govt rules related to customers – over 21 for alcohol, etc. []

Ricky Jay's collection of magical memorabilia is going up for auction later this month. "In keeping with his interest in fraud, for example, Jay also collected spirit photographs..." []

"Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse..." Metaverse? In this economy? Did they move April Fools to mid October? []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

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4 days ago
I’ve heard that In-N-Out is run by a deeply religious family. I guess that correlates to anti-vaccines.
West Coast
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Texas governor bans all vaccine mandates, including from private businesses

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Enlarge / Texas Governor Greg Abbott. (credit: Getty | Montinique Monroe)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order late Monday prohibiting all state entities, including private businesses, from requiring people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Republican governor also noted that he has added the issue to the legislature’s special session so that his executive order can become law.

His executive move bucks the vaccination efforts of the Biden administration, which last month announced sweeping mandates that would apply to federal employees, health care workers, and private businesses. The order is also a reversal for Abbott, who had previously steered clear of interfering with the decisions of private businesses. As the Houston Chronicle notes, it was just in August that Abbott’s spokesperson, Renae Eze, said that "private businesses don't need government running their business."

But in a statement Monday evening, Abbott flipped his position. "The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus but should remain voluntary and never forced," he said. Under the executive order, anyone can refuse to be vaccinated for "any reason of personal conscience."

Vaccine resistance

The change comes amid pressure from political opponents and continued backlash to existing mandates. Abbott is up for re-election next year, and some primary opponents have pushed for bans on vaccine mandates, the Chronicle notes.

Additionally, over the weekend and into Monday, conservative lawmakers blamed Southwest Airlines' vaccine mandate for the cancellation of more than a thousand flights, which left travelers stranded. Southwest blamed weather and air traffic control problems for the cancellations. A union representing the airlines' pilots—which is fighting the mandate in court—insisted that the cancellations were not due to a "sick out" in protest of the mandate. Still, that didn't stop conservative lawmakers, such as Senator Ted Cruz, from blaming President Biden and the airline's vaccine mandate.

Though Abbott had previously indicated he wouldn't interfere with private businesses' decisions on vaccination requirements, he appeared comfortable interfering with local governments and officials. Over the summer, Abbott issued executive orders banning local governments and school districts from issuing mask and vaccine mandates.

Texas has been among the hardest-hit states in the latest delta-variant-fueled wave of the pandemic. According to data-tracking by The New York Times, the state has seen COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths approach record levels since July. Though cases are now on the decline in Texas, more than 4 million people in the state have been infected throughout the pandemic, and more than 68,000 have died. To date, only 52 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.

In August, Abbott tested positive for COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated. At the time, the delta wave was peaking, Abbott was fighting mask mandates, and the state's health care systems were being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

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12 days ago
Isn't an anti-mandate 'big government' and anti-freedom for the companies in the state?
West Coast
9 days ago
It's not really an anti-mandate. It *is* a mandate that restricts the freedom of private entities. This is big government, Republican style.
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Apple’s Burned Trust


John Siracusa, on Twitter:

Sure, your “reader” app can include one (1) approved link to your website … but will you be allowed to have any text near that link explaining why someone might want to tap on it, or is that still forbidden? This is where we are, mentally, when considering App Store rules in 2021.

I heard from one reader in the racket wondering if Apple is going to require these apps to also offer Apple’s IAP to be allowed to include a link to a website. I have another friend, who works on a popular subscription app that does use IAP, now who’s wondering if they’re going to be allowed to have a link to their website now, and doubting it.

That’s how much trust Apple has burned.

The spirit of Apple’s settlement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission is clear: these “reader” apps are going to be permitted to link users to their websites for signing up and buying media like e-books, movies, and music. Within that spirit, of course they’re going to be allowed to have text explaining this, and of course they’re not going to be required to also offer Apple’s IAP for these same purchases.

But very reasonable, smart people are genuinely skeptical that Apple is going to adhere to the spirit of this settlement.

Call me a fool, but I think Apple is going to follow through and do the right thing by these apps. There are a lot of negative adjectives that I’d apply to Apple regarding the App Store. Greedy, inconsistent, frustrating, shortsighted, capricious, officious, technically illiterate. Did I say greedy? But one thing Apple is not and never has been is devious. Apple does not play tricks. And the JFTC would not take kindly to tricks.

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54 days ago
You’re an idiot.
West Coast
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53 days ago
> Call me a fool, but I think Apple is going to follow through and do the right thing by these apps.

What have they done lately to earn this assumption, beyond leading Gruber around on a leash for years?
Portland, OR

Activision Blizzard Sued by California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Over ‘Frat Boy’ Culture, Harassment


Maeve Allsup, reporting for Bloomberg Law:

According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, female employees make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” including “cube crawls,” in which male employees “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

The agency alleges male employees play video games during the workday while delegating responsibilities to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape, among other things.

Female employees allege being held back from promotions because of the possibility they might become pregnant, being criticized for leaving to pick their children up from daycare, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male colleagues could use the room for meetings, the complaint says.

Some seriously fucked-up allegations, to say the least.

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96 days ago
West Coast
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Chair of Trump’s 2017 Inaugural Committee Arrested on Charges of Being a Foreign Agent

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The AP:

The chair of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he conspired to influence Trump’s foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates and commit crimes striking “at the very heart of our democracy.”

Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent as they tried to influence foreign policy while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president. […]

Prosecutors said Barrack not only agreed to promote UAE foreign policy interests through his unique access and influence, but also provided UAE government officials with sensitive information about developments within the Trump administration — including how senior U.S. officials felt about the Qatari blockade conducted by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

I’m starting to think Donald Trump didn’t surround himself with the best people.

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97 days ago
How long before people accidentally on purpose conflate “Tom Barrack” with “Barack Obama” and blame Obama for this?
West Coast
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Going Full Pascal

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First-year of college at UCSC. First computer science class. Introduction to Programming. The language: Pascal.

Failed it. Failed it badly. Knew I was going to fail it halfway through the class.

This was my chosen profession. I’d been a grocery store clerk, a butcher, a video store clerk, the guy who backs up the system to tape drives on Saturday, and a bookseller. I wanted to be a computer scientist, and I failed my first class… badly.

There were situational reasons. First-year in college. Adjusting to living in a dorm. Meeting all sorts of strange new people. The distractions were innumerable, but the real reason was character.

This is how I work. I walk into a situation, and I’m furiously trying to figure it out, “Which situation is this?” I am parsing the people, the words, and the mood, and I’m searching for familiarity. I am not calm until I find this familiarity, and when I do BAM Ok, what’s next? How do we make progress from here? Let’s go. Like… now.

You think this results from years of being a leadership type who is constantly thrown into random situations where I am required to build situational awareness quickly, and you’d be partially correct. Here’s the rub: I’ve always been this way.

Voracious consumer of information, professional introvert, and ownership of a painfully short attention span. Combine all those, and you get me: usually well-informed, very aware of what those other shifty humans might be plotting, and probably already thinking about something else. Ta-da.

There are situations where this particular set of skills is advantageous, particularly in situations where I have relevant experience. In these situations, I can hit the ground running, quickly assess, and equally quickly get us moving in a credible direction.

There are an equal amount of situations where my skills/habit put me at a disadvantage. Which takes us back to Pascal.

Incapable of Achieving Your Dream

I’d programmed a bit on my Atari 400 and a lot on my Apple ][ and IBM PC, but this was hacking. Slowly trying to figure out how it all worked, copying code snippets out of magazines, and attempting to convince myself that I understood how a computer worked. When I arrived in my first computer science class, my prior experience gave me the impression that the class was “been there, done that.” It looked like code, so, yeah, I understand what’s going on here.

When it quickly became apparent that I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t ask for help (introvert), nor did I focus on solving the core problem (short attention span). I missed the basic rules of how a programming language is structured. Essential details that I’d never seen before. When it came time to demonstrate applied knowledge, my YOLO shenanigans failed me. Worth noting: I was moderately successful in high school with YOLO shenanigans. Hustle. Bluster. Call it what you want; you can’t hustle your way through the necessity of hard work.

UCSC at the time had an option where there were no grades. You could select a written evaluation, and while I do not remember the specific words, I vividly remember how it made me feel: “The thing you’ve wanted to do all your life. You are incapable of understanding, let alone doing the work.”

Deep breath. New strategy.

Next semester. Different professor, but same course. First day and every day, I took copious notes. First homework assignment. 25 problems. I answered every problem, and if I had a hint of confusion about my answer, I went back to the book and re-read the section to make sure the answer was understood and defensible.

Next week, the professor announced a separate extra credit lab where we’d learn a new language called “Scheme.” Totally optional. I signed up. First tutorial, there were 10 of us in the lab. Scheme, a language based on recursion, was confusing. I never missed a lab.

Next week. First programming assignment, which included a bonus objective. I wrote the code, and I obsessed about the bonus objective. Ten points for the assignment. I got 12 total with the bonus. Eventually, our first test. 100 points possible. I got 110 for answering the Scheme extra credit question.

Every week.

Fast forward to the end of the semester. Our final programming assignment was a contest to see who could design the most efficient version of an algorithm. Work together as a team. Ask for help. I took the assignment to my extra credit lab, which was now just the Teaching Assistant and myself talking about Scheme. I told him about the contest, and we spent the lab whiteboarding different approaches. The result: a contest win and more sweet, sweet extra credit.

My grade-less report card still sits in a drawer in the cave. The phrase I remember, “Best in class.”

Deep Vertical Knowledge

This article is not how I became an amazing software engineer. My academic ups and downs at UCSC continued. Data Structures blew my mind. C++ blew my confidence. When I started at Borland, I was a below-average junior engineer. Improving steadily over the years and in awe of those talented humans around me who made it look so easy.

Seven years later, when I became a manager, I was average again. The learning cycle restarted. Sitting here now, years later, I am very clear I have strengths and areas I need to invest in. Took years to figure that out.

As a leader, these days a senior leader, I preach delegation a lot. It’s the complicated act of giving accountability for the work to others. You often delegate works you know you could complete, but your job as a leader is to give others opportunities while also learning how to coach and guide them towards the essential lessons better learned via experience than lectures.

Delegation is an art. When handing off a set of work to another human, it needs to feel like support, not avoidance. Well-executed delegation feels like a vote of confidence. Poor delegation looks like abdication. Great, my manager just handed me a disaster. Now what? Poor delegation re-enforces the perception that managers are out of touch and unaware of what is going on.

This article is about preventing this perception and understanding when it is in your best interest to Go Full Pascal. Contrary to what I suggested earlier, Going Full Pascal isn’t just hard work because the work should always be some version of hard. Going Full Pascal is when it is necessary to work hard and acquire deep vertical knowledge so that you understand every single nook and cranny of the complicated situation in front of you.

This is not a move you attempt in every situation; it’s the one you keep in your back pocket for when the sky is falling, and you don’t need to prop the sky up; you need to prevent it from falling ever again. You’ll know you’ve done this when you’re done, and everyone sees the solution, and they clap. Loudly.

Not Micromanagement

A few years ago, I revised my thinking about managers continuing to code. I went from “No way” to “Stay programming limber.” Like coding, you can send deeply confusing messages to the team when you Go Full Pascal. You’re always one poorly formed sentence from signaling to the team that you’ve Gone Full Micromanager.

How to avoid the micromanager label? That’s another important article. Today I want to remind you that just because it says manager in your title doesn’t mean you are absolved for doing the hard work of deep vertical knowledge.

I’m built to be a competent leader. I seek information so that I understand how the world works. My introversion has made me into a good listener because you talking is less scary than me talking. My short attention span means that chances are, when you speak to me about what I’m working on, I’m giddy excited because I seek stimulating situations that hold my attention.

I’ve become a better leader because I know when my skills and habits are a detriment. I’ve come to understand bias and how it impacts my team. I’ve worked hard to be a good public speaker who conveys excitement and speaks slowly and clearly. I have objects on my desk right now that I hold in my hand to remind me to focus my attention when it wants to wander.

And I know when to Go Full Pascal.

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135 days ago
Good article. And a good reminder of when to push yourself.
West Coast
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