Google Docs gripe

(I posted this on Mastodon but I might as well share here in the off chance any Googlers still read blogs)

It’s utterly bonkers in the year 2022 you can’t embed a YouTube video directly in a Google Doc.

Each time I’m working on a draft blog post for a client I take a screenshot of a YouTube video, upload it into the draft as an image then add the YouTube URL as a comment for my editor to pick up. It’s an sloppy hack and a tedious waste of time for everyone involved.

Ideally you’d see a new YouTube embed as an option in Google Doc’s Insert menu. Then you’d simply paste in the YouTube URL, and it would appear in your document as a real YouTube video embed with playback/sound/etc controls and your editor could easily copy the URL you embedded into whatever content management system will ultimately be used to publish the final product.

Imagine if someone that worked at Google and used more than one product at the same time could streamline that, it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch to deploy a feature like this.

An interesting Instagram business model

I love seeing how people do things on the edges of what is possible. In this case, how people make a living off being viral/popular on any social network. Most networks don’t have direct mechanisms to pay users, so instead people have to improvise all sorts of other ways to try and make a living within the confines and limits of a social network.

To date, most often you see accepting payment for posts that sell a product, but recently I stumbled across a street photographer with viral Reels where he randomly walks up to strangers and asks to take their portraits.

Here are just his reels if you want to see what I’m talking about.

The people he films are often hesitant, because it seems like he’s bothering them or hitting on them but then he shows them his Instagram feed (screenshots below, they are really good portraits!) and eventually they comply and you see him take a handful of shots quickly and he shows them what’s in the viewfinder. The kicker is the final, fully-developed image is impressively dark and moody and with enough bokeh that you know he’s using an extremely good/expensive lens with the f-stop slammed down. They’re professional-looking portraits that make ordinary people look extraordinary.

The interesting part is what follows. At the end of these, he’s actually selling photo filters to get the same moody, dark look in his portraits for anyone using a photo editing tool like Lightroom. And I assume it’s working since he’s in my Reels feed quite often and shows no signs of stopping.

There’s a whole world of ultra-viral TikTok and Reels out there of people drawing strangers on the street, or shooting photos, or singing to them or whatever, but it’s interesting this guy has taken the format and joined it to selling his own tools to help people get better/more interesting photos while also blending a bit of showing you how he frames a subject and takes a decent shot to begin with.

It’s an interesting mix of a popular viral format to make the viewer feel warm and fuzzy from watching but also throws in some photography lessons so the viewer feels like they learned something too and then the kicker at the end is you can buy a filter to make your photos look like his. It’s something I haven’t seen before done and it’s done well.

California solar is responsible for 10% of all energy production in the state?

My old pal Dinah posted this today:

It’s kind of an amazing stat: just 1.5 million solar installs in a state with nearly 40 million people is responsible for 10% of all electricity generated statewide. I can’t read the reference as it is behind a paywall, but that’s an encouraging and incredible stat. For a place so incredibly sunny, it’s wild we’re not doing everything possible to promote more use of solar in states like California.

update: here’s the story on the NYT

The Muppet Christmas Carol, greatly improved

I had no idea the Muppet Christmas Carol movie I’ve probably seen a dozen times over the last 30 years was missing a key scene. It’s covered well in this video:

Having watched the video it’s clear the movie makes SO MUCH MORE sense with the scene added. I remember seeing this the first time and not quite buying Scrooge’s big turn at the end.

Thankfully, there’s a happy ending to this story: the version on Disney+ that just came out last week includes the missing scene in extras, with an option to watch it with it included.

Keep in mind if you just hit Play on the title, you will see the version we’ve all seen with the missing piece. But if you drop into Extras the “Full Length Version” includes the key scene, which again, I think makes the whole movie way easier to understand even though the song probably does slow the movie down a bit and little kids might get a bit bored.

The Shitty Technology Adoption Curve

A few months ago, I read this post by Cory Doctorow about how shitty tech always tends to move upwards from the most marginalized groups to the more privileged and it’s a thought technology that has stuck with me. I’ve rolled it around like a smooth beach pebble in my hand for weeks and weeks because I keep seeing it in news cycles whenever a disastrous new tech policy is announced.

The gist of it is this: the worst ideas in technology often get deployed first in places like prisons, and then places like schools with young kids who can’t fight back. Then things move up the chain to say, people out on parole and older kids at school but often the people behind these decisions don’t meet much friction until they get to people like college students who can organize and strike against absurd tech, or middle-class people who don’t want to be subjected to constant surveillance and can do things like pay for the ability to opt-out.

I’ve seen it happen many times with GPS tracking technology and always-on cameras and microphones and pay-by-the-minute video conferencing and face and fingerprint and DNA-based recognition systems. You always subject people who don’t have the ability to complain about your new horrible ideas first.

This essentially is the playbook:

  • devise a terrible new flavor of technology and/or policy
  • deploy it to people with no rights and no ability to resist
  • test and refine, and give it time to feel “normal” to those populations
  • widen your deployment to larger populations (who have more autonomy) only after devising metrics that allow you to establish a track record of it “working” on the people you initially subjected it to
  • repeat all the way up

Once you see the pattern, you can’t unsee it, and you start to see it everywhere.

Said the Gramophone’s best music of 2022 is out!

Said the Gramophone is one of my favorite old school blogs that’s focused on music. I wouldn’t say music is absolutely vital in my life, but I do like to hear new bands and go to shows occasionally, but ever since I left college I basically have no time to keep up on new music. So for my own selfish reasons, I always loved checking in on music blogs like StG and Glorious Noise and Jay Smooth’s Ill Doctrine back in those early days of blogging to see which new bands and records they said were worth tracking down.

My favorite thing about StG was back in the mid-2000s every year around December I’d stumble on their best-of-the-year list and in those early days, it used to mean significant work to even hear their list of music. You’d plumb the depths of music sharing apps and jump on torrents split into multiple parts that often would take hours to days to fully track down, as 100 songs can approach a gigabyte in size.

But every year I knew it was worth the effort so I’d download the songs, unzip and add to iTunes as a Said the Gramophone (year) playlist and to this day I still have tons of them in the Apple Music app as custom playlists.

The best thing about StG’s annual list is the eclectic taste. Maybe a third of the songs are from bands I’ve heard of, or songs I’ve actually heard playing somewhere during the year.

But that means the majority is stuff I’ve never heard and would never find on my own. Even though much of the playlist is unfamiliar, I listen to it non-stop on shuffle for a several weeks and inevitably after all those listens I end up with a new favorite Nigerian band or Russian hip-hop track, in addition to any big pop songs I missed.

This is a long-winded way of saying THE 2022 LIST IS OUT NOW AT THIS LINK and you should grab a copy of everything, listen to it on shuffle/repeat for a few weeks and I guarantee you will find tons of new songs and bands to love.

Also, a fun thing about living in the future like we do now is that it no longer takes hours or days to track down all the songs. You can just follow a Spotify playlist to hear 99 of the selected 100 best songs (damn you music licensing for not letting it be all 100) of the year according to Sean and the gang at Said the Gramophone.

An important verified checkmark in real life

The other day I realized (at least in Oregon) there’s a verified checkmark in real life that’s important, and it’s the one you find on exempt license plates on government vehicles. There’s no way for a civilian to get one, so they’re only found on official cars and trucks. Most often they start with a E or a E with a circle around it. Once you know about this, you see them everywhere (especially near your state’s capital).

But last year in Oregon, the state passed a law saying undercover cops are now allowed to run normal civilian license plates on normal civilian looking cars. Now, I get why undercover cops want this, as in the old days you could always spot an undercover cop because they drove drab colored Crown Victorias that looked like existing cop cars just without the black/white paint. Then some of them got normal cars, but they always had the plate that could gave them away. And yet I always felt it was a necessary, vital thing—even if it hindered their undercover work.

What sucks about it is a scene like this now:

That’s an undercover Oregon cop in a Toyota RAV4 that pulled someone over.

There’s no exempt plate and I would have a tough time pulling over for this car. Would the cop understand it looks like they’re an impersonator? I bet you can get red LED light and blue LED light combos on Amazon for $20 to complete the look. Anyone can get a cop uniform and real-enough looking badge.

Would I get slapped with evading arrest if I refused to pull over and instead wanted to drive to the nearest police station just to make sure?

There’s a long history of people dressing up as cops and abusing others by taking advantage of them. In Oregon, exempt plates are impossible to get unless it’s on an official vehicle and now I don’t feel any safer knowing there are undercover cops randomly pulling people over in regular cars now and I need to simply trust they’re all the real deal.

US Healthcare

American healthcare is split into 2 piles:

  • Face holes
  • Not face holes

Here’s a quick FAQ/explainer:

What happens if I break my leg?
That’s no face hole healthcare which most people here shorten to just “healthcare.” That healthcare pays for most of your doctor visits. Talk to someone in the stethoscope and take a cast for your leg when you’re done.

What if I need new glasses?
So those are face holes and since we have just the two options, anything involving your eyes isn’t healthcare. You need a specific other version of healthcare that is strictly for eyeballs.

What if I chip a tooth?
Your teeth are located inside a face hole, so technically not healthcare, it requires something else entirely just for your mouth (also separate from the eyeball plan).

What if something goes wrong with my hearing?
It would be a classic rookie mistake to consider ears as some of your face holes and therefore not normal healthcare, but shockingly despite being holes on the sides of your face your regular, no face holes healthcare plan should cover it.

What is going on over there? Is everything ok?
This all makes sense. It’s America. This is the best way on earth to stay healthy.