Almost Everything About Goodreads Is Broken

Angela Lashbrook, writing for OneZero:

What Goodreads is good for is keeping your own list of books you want to read or have read this year. It’s a list-making app. And while that’s useful, it doesn’t live up to the company’s full promise of being a haven for readers. Readers and authors deserve a better online community. And while Amazon has at least some nominal interest in improving many of its other products — Alexa, for example, becomes more advanced with each passing year — Goodreads lingers in the dustbin of the early aughts, doomed to the hideous beige design and uninspiring organization of a strip mall doctor’s office.

I use Goodreads to keep a log of the books I’ve read, but that’s all it’s ever been useful for to me. The recommendations have never been any good and don’t seem to change no matter how many books I add and rate. Amazon’s Kindle Store seems to do a much better job at showing me books I might be interested in and they could presumably use the same data and algorithm, so I don’t get it.

I think I’ll start just keeping a log on my own website.

How Fan Culture Is Swallowing Democracy

Amanda Hess, writing in the New York Times:

We are witnessing a great convergence between politics and culture, values and aesthetics, citizenship and commercialism. Here, civic participation is converted seamlessly into consumer habit. Political battles are waged through pop songs and novelty prayer candles and evocative emoji. Elizabeth Warren is cast as a “Harry Potter” character and Kamala Harris is sliced into a reaction GIF. This is democracy reimagined as celebrity fandom, and it is now a dominant mode of experiencing politics.

These are truly terrible times we live in. Fun web design, though.

As Rising Heat Bakes U.S. Cities, The Poor Often Feel It Most

Meg Anderson and Sean McMinn, for NPR:

When Shakira Franklin drives from West Baltimore to her job near the city’s Inner Harbor, she can feel the summer heat ease up like a fist loosening its grip.

“I can actually feel me riding out of the heat. When I get to a certain place when I’m on my way, I’ll turn off my air and I’ll roll my windows down,” says Franklin. “It just seems like the sun is beaming down on this neighborhood.”

Franklin isn’t imagining that. Her neighborhood, Franklin Square, is hotter than about two-thirds of the other neighborhoods in Baltimore — about 6 degrees hotter than the city’s coolest neighborhood. It’s also in one of the city’s poorest communities, with more than one-third of residents living in poverty.

Most people know about the urban heat island phenomenon where cities are hotter than surrounding areas because there’s less green spaces and heat gets trapped by asphalt pavement and tall buildings, but it was surprising to me that there’s such a strong correlation between heat and income level in so many American cities.

Also interesting is the data NPR posted on GitHub if you’d like to explore the topic more.

The Scourge of Worker Wellness Programs

Lena Solow, writing for the New Republic:

When teachers and other school staff in West Virginia walked off the job in 2018, news coverage of the historic strike focused on bread-and-butter issues like their rising health-care premiums and low wages. There were horror stories of teachers working extra jobs and struggling to pay for emergency medical costs. But there were other galvanizing factors that, though less discussed, were no less galling—indignities that have become increasingly familiar to workers across the country.

As Brandon Wolford, a teacher from Mingo County, West Virginia, told a packed room at the LaborNotes conference in Chicago last year, he and his coworkers were moved to action when they were required to either pay a fee or participate in a workplace wellness program called “Healthy Tomorrows,” which penalized members for not scoring “acceptable” on a series of biometric measures. “The next thing you know we get a paper in the mail,” he said. “It says you have to go to the doctor by such and such a date. Your blood glucose levels must be at certain amounts, your waist size must be at certain amounts, and if it is not, you don’t meet all these stipulations, then you get a $500 penalty on your out-of-pocket deductible.”

Wellness programs seem like a good idea at first glance, but they benefit employees a lot less than employers, who have found them to be yet another way to control the lives of their employees outside of the workplace.

Fixing snapd in Hyper-V's pre-built Ubuntu virtual machines

For some time now, Microsoft and Ubuntu have offered pre-built optimized versions of the operating system for Hyper-V that you can quickly create with support for enhanced sessions built right in. It’s so much quicker than manually creating a virtual machine, installing Ubuntu and then installing and configuring things to get better performance, higher display resolutions and clipboard integration with your host machine.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that the pre-built images for Ubuntu 18.04.2 and 19.04 have been somewhat broken for at least the last month or two, perhaps longer. When trying to run Software Updates (or manually using sudo apt upgrade in the terminal), things would eventually get stuck due to issues with ‘snapd’ process.

The last time I ran into this issue, I just trashed the virtual machine and just manually did everything myself following Microsoft’s guide. But I had to create a new virtual machine for something today and decided to try using Microsoft’s pre-built Ubuntu 18.04.2 virtual machine and ran into this issue again.

This time, I decided to do a bit more googling and discovered it’s relatively simple to fix.

After quick-creating the virtual machine in Hyper-V, connecting, and logging in to it, open the Terminal application and run these commands:

sudo rm -r /var/cache/snapd/aux

sudo apt purge snapd

sudo apt install snapd

sudo snap install core

Then, after restarting the virtual machine, updating the system through Software Updates or the terminal should now be working perfectly again.

Hopefully, Microsoft and/or Ubuntu fix this issue with the next pre-built images they release, presumably for version 19.10.

California’s Forgotten Confederate History

Kevin Waite, writing in the New Republic:

Earlier this month, the last major Confederate monument in California came down. It was a curious one: a nine-foot granite pillar in an Orange County cemetery, bearing the names of several Southern leaders, including Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who never even set foot on the Pacific coast.

Dead Confederates are hard to find in California. Yet the Golden State once contained far more rebel tributes than any other state outside the South itself.

Beginning in the early twentieth century and continuing into the twenty-first, Confederate memorial associations in California established more than a dozen monuments and place-names to the rebellion. They dedicated highways to Jefferson Davis, named schools for Robert E. Lee, and erected large memorials to the common Confederate soldier.

The Confederacy’s post-Civil War spread across the United States is odd and this is an interesting look at how it happened in California.

I’ve been in El Paso, Texas for the past few months and while it is Texas, the city is on the far northwest end and >80% Hispanic so I was not expecting to see so many roads and streets named after Confederate politicians, soldiers or related terminology here.

How Segregation Caused Atlanta's Traffic Jams

Kevin M. Kruse, writing in the New York Times:

Atlanta has some of the worst traffic in the United States. Drivers there average two hours each week mired in gridlock, hung up at countless spots, from the constantly clogged Georgia 400 to a complicated cluster of overpasses at Tom Moreland Interchange, better known as “Spaghetti Junction.” The Downtown Connector — a 12-to-14-lane megahighway that in theory connects the city’s north to its south — regularly has three-mile-long traffic jams that last four hours or more. Commuters might assume they’re stuck there because some city planner made a mistake, but the heavy congestion actually stems from a great success. In Atlanta, as in dozens of cities across America, daily congestion is a direct consequence of a century-long effort to segregate the races.

Atlanta’s a lovely city, but would be so much better if you didn’t have to spend so much time in your car to get anywhere. It’s unsurprising to learn that much of that problem is the result of racism.

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg on what’s next for Tumblr

The Verge’s Nilay Patel and Julia Alexander interviewed Matt Mullenweg about Automattic’s recent acquisition of Tumblr.

Tumblr was once such a great blogging and social networking platform and I enjoyed using it before its years of stagnation under ownership by Yahoo and then Verizon. I hope they’re successful in reviving it. Maybe I’ll switch this blog back to Tumblr again.

In God’s country

Elizabeth Bruenig, writing in the Washington Post:

White evangelicals’ electoral drift toward Trump added an element of mystery to a story that was already startling. That the thrice-wed, dirty-talking, sex-scandal-plagued businessman actually managed to win the steadfast moral support of America’s values voters, as expressed in routinely high approval ratings, posed an even stranger question: What happened?

It’s easy to say that abortion and simply getting justices on the Supreme Court that might overturn Roe v. Wade is enough for evangelicals to support Trump despite everything else, but Bruenig does a great job examining other reasons.