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LanceLetter: Road tripping post-COVID; Google I/O Highlight; UFOs; Apple in court



May 25 · Issue #230 · View online

Stuff that matters.

Pondered while escaping New York

Enjoy this photo from my road trip. It's from the deck of the Battleship North Carolina
Enjoy this photo from my road trip. It's from the deck of the Battleship North Carolina
Road tripping post-COVID
I finally left New York, not permanently, just for a road trip. Still, leaving the state on the cusp of Vaccines Spring/Summer was a glorious and eye-opening experience.
Even though I, along with almost 40% of the population are vaccinated, it’s never quite clear who is and isn’t vaxxed and whether or not we still need to wear masks (thanks CDC).
Traveling south is like tugging on your own mask, slowly pulling it aside until, at least in certain spots, there’s no longer a mask on your face.
Even though I have a New York State Excelsior Pass on my iPhone and a physical card that can show I’m full-up on Moderna–though not a single person asked to see it–there’s no national way of indicating that I’m 100% vaccinated. That’s a shame since there’s clearly myriad technologies that could make that so. I would’ve loved an NFC card system I could use to tap a little vax pad wherever I went.
Instead, we relied on the honor system, walking into stores with masks, finding clerks and proprietors both with and without masks. We’d say “We’re vaxxed.” They’d respond, “So are we!” and off the masks went.
However, in more crowded venues, with more people wandering curio shops, we found that maybe 50% still wore masks. Being vaxxed, we felt more or less safe, but also a little confused and uncomfortable.
In some places, it was a mask-free free-for-all.
I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. I want to leave the mask behind but know that there are still so many unvaxxed people. So, what to do? Play it by ear?
Reflecting on a Google I/O Highlight
Google announced updates to Android, search, Chrome OS, skin health, and more during its annual (but all digital) I/O developer conference, but I’m still most intrigued by Project Starline. The video conferencing technology is something straight out of Star Trek. It uses 3D imaging, video compression technology, and a 3D display to create a realistic version of your call participant.
In the video Google shared, you can see people talking to their friends through what looks like a prison visitor glass. Behind the glass, though is the screen and the generated image has only a few tell-tale signs that it’s not real person, but instead a life-size 3D image. It looks remarkable, but I could see, for instance, little weird pixiation (or Max Headroom glitchiness) around the edges of someone’s hair. Even so, it was an impressive demonstration, and I can’t wait to see if Google runs with it or, eventually drops it as another impractical moonshot project.
UFOs among us
Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) are real. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean aliens are real but there is now a grudging acknowledgment across government, experts, and skeptics, that the things people have been spotting the skies of for 75 years or more are not figments of the imagination.
In recent weeks both The New Yorker and 60 Minutes have released extensive reports on how the official community view is changing. If you have the time, I suggest reading The New Yorker story, it provides the fullest and clearest picture of how the U.S. government has, until recently, sought to squash and discredit these investigations.
Now, nobody seems to know what these things are, and, to date, no one has officially acknowledged finding a UFO and storing it in their basement. We have no First Contact. What we do have is an apparent promise to start taking these sightings much more seriously, which may help us finally figure out what they are–and aren’t.
Apple in court
The Apple versus Epic court case (yes, it’s also an epic case) is wrapping up and I think everyone is on pins and needles as they await the decision of a Federal Judge, one who asked witness and Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed questions.
From what I can tell, Epic’s lawyers scored some points throughout (though maybe not as many as the judge), but probably not enough for Epic to win. A win for Epic could force a sea change in how Apple works with developers, charges commission, and allows or disallows side-loaded apps.
In this last area, I generally side with Apple. I have no issue getting my apps from the App Store and nowhere else. I do hope, though, that Apple comes out of this with even more stratification in its app commission scheme, one that doesn’t favor big partner friends over the little guy.
More media consolidation
While I was away, Warner and Discovery merged (though the process will probably take a year) and now Amazon is set to scoop up MGM for a reported $9 billion.
The fractured media landscape is starting to look like the Utah Salt Flats and it’s all because these streamers and media companies are desperate for content and intellectual property–it’s the only way to keep customers coming back.
In my own house, we’ve gone through so much Netflix content that now we’re watching foreign sitcoms. Granted, Call My Agent is excellent, but I never thought I’d be watching episodic TV with French subtitles.
Where does this all end? It doesn’t. I think the only thing that stops or slows it down are competitive concerns from regulators. However, the reality is that there’s still a ton of variety and competition out there. Plus. the Warner/Discovery deal showed that owning the pipe and the content (AT&T and Warner Media) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
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