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Shana Tova to everyone who celebrates!

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Tonight I needed to use something called a Windi on my baby, and I might need a whole therapy session just for that.

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Pet Door Show

My sister Hannah Werdmuller hosts a new music show, Pet Door Show, on Shady Pines Radio every Thursday from 2-4pm (5-7pm ET, 10pm-midnight UK time). She describes it as “a unique, cross-genre playlist of new music by independent, under-the-radar artists from all over the world” - and Hannah’s eye for equity really shines through. All the music is new and underheard, and it’s all beautiful.

She puts a ton of work into it: it reminds me of John Peel’s old BBC show in both form and quality. There’s lots of really excellent new music I definitely never would have heard otherwise.

The best way to listen is live on shadypinesradio.com, but there’s a collection of old shows over on Mixcloud. It’s all fully-licensed, so musicians are compensated appropriately.

I mean it: it’s really, really great. Worried you’ll miss it? Click here to add it to your calendar. If you download the Shady Pines Radio app from shadypinesradio.com and subscribe to Pet Door Show, you can also receive a mobile notification when it’s on.

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Facebook Report: Censorship Violated Palestinian Rights

“Meta deleted Arabic content relating to the violence at a far greater rate than Hebrew-language posts, confirming long-running complaints of disparate speech enforcement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The disparity, the report found, was perpetuated among posts reviewed both by human employees and automated software.”

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Capitalism and extreme poverty: A global analysis of real wages, human height, and mortality since the long 16th century

“The rise of capitalism from the long 16th century onward is associated with a decline in wages to below subsistence, a deterioration in human stature, and an upturn in premature mortality. […] Where progress has occurred, significant improvements in human welfare began only around the 20th century. These gains coincide with the rise of anti-colonial and socialist political movements.”

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California's dead will have a new burial option: Human composting

“This new law will provide California’s 39 million residents with a meaningful funeral option that offers significant savings in carbon emissions, water and land usage over conventional burial or cremation.”

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US Military Bought Mass Monitoring Tool That Includes Internet Browsing, Email Data

“Multiple branches of the U.S. military have bought access to a powerful internet monitoring tool that claims to cover over 90 percent of the world’s internet traffic.”

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I’ve 100% become one of those people who just talks about his baby and assumes you’re as interested as he is. Suspect this will get worse, not better, over time.

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Most Republicans Support Declaring the United States a Christian Nation

“Fully 61 percent of Republicans supported declaring the United States a Christian nation. In other words, even though over half of Republicans previously said such a move would be unconstitutional, a majority of GOP voters would still support this declaration.”

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A sure sign of a truly toxic culture is badmouthing people behind their backs. When that level of infighting starts, I don't know that it's possible to save a community - particularly if it doesn't see the importance of building something more supportive.

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Came within moments of accidentally pouring the baby a cup of coffee into his bottle this morning, so as you can see, we all had a great night.

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Generating genre novels with OpenAI

I asked OpenAI to write me outlines for some genres of novels, all set in the same post-apocalyptic commune in California. Here they are, verbatim. Prompts in bold are mine; the AI wrote everything else.

 

Write an outline for a horror novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The Last Resort

A group of survivors band together in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse, vowing to start anew in a remote commune in California.

But as they settle into their new life, they realize that the outside world is not as dead as they thought.

Strangers begin to show up at their doorstep, seeking shelter from the harsh conditions.

At first the newcomers are welcomed, but as their numbers grow, the commune members start to realize that they might not be the only ones left alive.

And as supplies start to run low, the group must decide whether to open their doors to the outside world… or close them for good.

As tensions mount, the commune is forced to confront the dark secrets hiding in their own ranks.

And when they finally come face to face with the true nature of the outside world, they realize that the real horror is only just beginning.

 

Write an outline for a zombie novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The novel opens with the protagonist, a young woman named Scout, waking up from a dream in which she is being chased by a horde of zombies.

Scout lives in a post-apocalyptic commune in California that is slowly being overrun by zombies.

The commune's leader, a man named Elias, is Scout's lover and the father of her child.

Elias is a cold and distant man who is more interested in the survival of the commune than in the people who live there.

Scout is torn between her love for Elias and her desire to protect her child from the dangers of the outside world.

When the commune is finally overrun by zombies, Scout is forced to flee with her child.

They are pursued by zombies and Elias, who is determined to get his hands on the child.

Scout and her child eventually find refuge in a safe haven, but not before Elias catches up to them.

In the final confrontation, Elias is killed and Scout and her child are left to rebuild their lives in the safety of the haven.

 

Write an outline for a young adult novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The novel follows a group of teens who have grown up in a post-apocalyptic commune in California. The commune is a safe haven for survivors of a nuclear war that wiped out most of the world. The teens have never known anything else, and they are content with their lives. However, when a group of newcomers arrives at the commune, the teens start to question everything they know. The newcomers are from a different part of the world and they have a different way of life. The teens are intrigued and start to explore the new ways of life. They soon realize that the world is much bigger than they thought, and that there is more to life than just surviving.

 

Write an outline for a literary fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The novel follows the story of a group of survivors who band together in the aftermath of a global apocalypse. They set up a commune in the California desert, where they struggle to build a new society while battling the elements and fighting off raiders. Through their trials and tribulations, they come to realize that the world is not what it once was, and that they must work together if they want to survive.

 

Write an outline for a romantic novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

In the wake of a devastating global war, a small group of survivors band together to create a commune in the remains of California. Through hard work and determination, they are able to create a self-sustaining society, but not without cost. The commune is constantly under threat from raiders and other groups seeking to take what they have built. But the biggest threat to their way of life comes from within, as tensions begin to rise between those who want to maintain the status quo and those who yearn for something more.

As the commune begins to unravel, two people emerge as the leaders of the two factions. On one side is Sarah, a young woman who believes that the commune can be a force for good in the world and that they should reach out to other survivors. On the other side is Aaron, a man who is convinced that the only way to protect the commune is to cut themselves off from the outside world.

As the two sides clash, Sarah and Aaron find themselves drawn to each other, even as they realize that their relationship could tear the commune apart. But with the commune on the brink of collapse, they must choose whether to save it or follow their hearts.

 

Write an outline for a humorous novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The world has ended, but a group of Californians have survived and formed a commune.

They are a self-sufficient community, but they are also bizarre and quirky.

They have to deal with the everyday challenges of post-apocalyptic life, but they also have to deal with the fact that they are living in close quarters with a bunch of weirdos.

They manage to get by, but just barely. And they do it all with a sense of humor.

 

Write an outline for a crime fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

Life in the commune is hard, but it's the only life Kate knows. She's never known anything else.

The commune is run by a ruthless leader who will do anything to keep everyone in line.

There are rumors of a rebellion brewing, and Kate finds herself at the center of it.

She's not sure if she wants to be a part of the rebellion, or if she just wants to stay alive.

With the commune's leader on one side and the rebels on the other, Kate has to choose sides.

She's not sure who to trust, but she knows she has to make a choice.

Kate has to decide whether to fight for the life she knows, or risk everything for a chance at something better.

 

Write an outline for a children's novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The novel follows a group of children who live in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The commune is a safe haven for the children, who are able to live and work together in harmony.

However, when the outside world begins to intrude on their peaceful existence, the children must band together to protect their way of life.

Along the way, they learn about the value of cooperation, teamwork, and self-sacrifice.

In the end, the children are able to triumph over the forces that threaten their commune, and they emerge stronger and more united than ever before.

 

Write an outline for a magical fantasy novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

In a post-apocalyptic world, a group of survivors come together to form a commune in California.

The commune is a magical place, where the residents can use their powers to help the community thrive.

However, not everyone is happy with the commune. Some people want to exploit its power for their own gain, while others believe that the commune is a sign of the end times.

As the commune faces challenges from both within and without, the residents must band together to protect their home.

Along the way, they will discover new powers, make new friends, and battle enemies old and new.

Ultimately, the commune will face its biggest challenge when a group of powerful outsiders threatens to destroy it.

But with the power of magic on their side, the residents of the commune will fight back and prove that they can build a new world from the ashes of the old one.

 

Write an outline for a Russian novel set in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

The novel opens with the protagonist, a young woman, waking up in a post-apocalyptic commune in California.

She has no memories of her life before the apocalypse, and is taken in by the commune's leader, a woman known as The Mother.

The protagonist quickly learns that the commune is a safe haven for survivors of the apocalypse, and that they are constantly under threat from raiders.

The commune is self-sufficient, with a garden, livestock, and a small store of supplies.

The protagonist begins to settle into life at the commune, making friends and helping with the daily tasks.

However, the peace is shattered when the commune is attacked by raiders.

The Mother is killed and the commune is destroyed.

The protagonist is captured by the raiders and taken to their base.

The raiders are a group of survivors who have banded together and live by raiding other communities.

The protagonist is forced to work for the raiders, and soon becomes one of their deadliest members.

The novel ends with the protagonist leading a raid on her former commune, killing all of the survivors.

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Wanted: ProductHunt for indie tinkerers and developers outside of a startup context. (I love ProductHunt; I just also want something else.) Does that exist? Could it?

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Your 401(k) hates you

This is an edited version of a piece I wrote a few years ago elsewhere, which I’m now updating and publishing here. At the time, I was working on understanding what might be an interesting evolution of retirement plans.

The 401(k) was created by accident as a result of tax reform in the late seventies. Section 401(k) of the 1978 Revenue Act allowed employees to defer bonus or stock option compensation without incurring taxes. An enterprising benefits consultant suggested that this could be a good way for companies to provide a retirement savings account — essentially a hack on top of the Revenue Act clause — and the rest is history. When the IRS declared that ongoing salary deductions could be put into these savings accounts a couple of years later, the race was on.

By the mid eighties, over half of all the large firms in America offered a 401(k). Today, the 401(k) is simply how retirement plans are done.

There was a simple reason for the change. Even though the returns for employees were less certain than a traditional pension plan, they were far cheaper and more predictable for employers. This was a double-edged sword: on one hand, employees didn’t have the security they had previously enjoyed. On the other, more employers could provide retirement plans at all.

The net effect, however, is that employees are essentially bribed to take part in the stock market in the name of protecting their retirements. As we’ve seen, the dynamics of the stock market are not necessarily in their favor — and as it turns, out, most people saving for retirement don’t get to choose where their money goes.

In practice, the 401(k) is a support plan for fossil fuels, arms companies, and all kinds of heinous shit.

Clearly, retirement plans need regulation in order to protect the ordinary people who are trusting their futures to them. But the legislation that governs 401(k)s, ERISA, actually makes it hard for providers to let people invest in anything other than that default basket of heinous goods. ESGs — Environmental, Social, and Governance investments — are difficult to add to a retirement plan’s lineup. The Trump administration made it even harder for a retirement plan to add them.

Care about climate change? You’re shit out of luck.

Don’t want to invest in arms? You’re shit out of luck.

Private prisons? You get the idea.

If you want to save for retirement based on your values in a 401(k) plan, you’ll more than likely find you can’t. And most of the traditional target date funds contain companies that you’d probably be upset to know you were investing in. Some plans let you open a brokerage window and pick your own investments instead of the default funds, but it’ll cost you more.

The total AUM in these retirement plans is north of $28 trillion, while the total US stock market value is somewhere around $85 trillion. In other words, a third of the markets are invested in by people who don’t have full control over their investments. While, clearly, segments like private prisons are a small portion of an individual’s retirement investments, in aggregate these allocations represent enormous sums. Investments on the public markets prop up the share price of these companies, incentivizing investments in harmful industries. Investment advisors are financially incentivized to keep you within this system, perpetuating the harm. And even when these plans work, they only work for the relatively wealthy people who have the financial access and means to contribute to their maximum levels.

What’s the solution? If we have to move forward with 401(k)s and similar products, we need to allow more sustainable investments to be part of a lineup, while maintaining strong consumer protections. Eventually, we need to move to a world where everyone can invest directly into their communities instead, through public means, in an inclusive way. That will take real change, and real will. I’m not sure if that’s a place we’ll get to, but it’s something I’d love to see.

 

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

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Food Means Home

A recipe book collated by 30 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. Just completely lovely.

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Pentagon reviews psychological operations amid Facebook, Twitter complaints

“The Pentagon has ordered a sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare after major social media companies identified and took offline fake accounts suspected of being run by the U.S. military in violation of the platforms’ rules.”

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More US Employers Are Trapping Workers in a New Form of Indentured Servitude

“Bosses in industries such as retail, health care and logistics are reverting to an old tactic and trapping people in miserable jobs by threatening to saddle them with debt if they quit. Workers across the United States in fields ranging from nursing to trucking have been discouraged from leaving jobs they hate or can’t afford to keep because employers vow to charge them for training costs if they quit before an arbitrary deadline.”

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The Internet We Could Have Had

“The internet we do have, however, is figured much differently. It is figured as a tool of political domination. It is the apotheosis of the forms of domination secretly hidden inside the stories of progress and liberation. It is capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and environmental destruction all rolled into one hideous hydra whose heads are Zuckerberg, Bezos, Pichai, Cook, with Musk and Thiel at the ass end.”

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The smoking gun in Martha's Vineyard

“Migrants from Venezuela were provided with false information to convince them to board flights chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The documents suggest that the flights were not just a callous political stunt but potentially a crime.”

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To be honest, when people said that parenting was the hardest thing they’d ever done, I thought they meant emotionally or spiritually.

In unrelated news, will I pass out randomly during the day today? Let’s find out

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TV show pitch: a gritty Golden Girls reboot set 200 years in the future.

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Gender differences and bias in open source: pull request acceptance of women versus men

“Surprisingly, our results show that women’s contributions tend to be accepted more often than men’s. However, for contributors who are outsiders to a project and their gender is identifiable, men’s acceptance rates are higher. Our results suggest that although women on GitHub may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless.”

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How a news investigation shed light on potential patient privacy violations

“The health system said the tracking tool was intended to help track the success of a promotional campaign to connect more patients to its MyChart patient portal, which involved Facebook advertisements. But it was configured improperly, which allowed Meta to obtain patient information such as email addresses, phone numbers, computer IP addresses, contact information and appointment details.”

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