๐Ÿ‘ The Staircase

The Staircase is a multi-episode documentary which follows the trial of Michael Peterson after the death of his wife under suspicious circumstances in 2001.

There exists countless murder-mystery documentaries, but what grabs my attention about this film is the fact the even after watching the full series, I am completely torn about whether Michael Peterson is guilty. Throughout episodes 1-8, I was led further and further towards believing that Peterson was guilty. His remarkably odd behavior and lack of remorse, along with quite damning evidence, seem to prove his guilt. However, once the verdict is read in episode 8, my opinion almost immediately flipped. Episodes 9-13 suddenly show Michael Peterson in a completely different light which points towards his innocence.

After finishing the last episode, I have no idea how I should feel about the case. The fact that I could assume such strong feelings of both guilt and innocence is remarkable. In the end, I am left with feelings of sorrow about how the tragedy affected the lives of a family.


IMDB
Netflix

๐Ÿคฌ SWAG is no longer stuff we all get

I frequently hear people talking about swag. I’ll see a Reddit post titled “Check out all this free swag company X sent me!” or I’ll hear a podcaster say, “Head to our podcast store to purchase our swag!” These statements bother me because they demonstrate that the person speaking or writing does not understand what the word ‘swag’ means.

SWAG is an acronym which stands for Stuff We All Get. I don’t know where the word originated, but I first heard it used when the company I worked for purchased a bunch of t-shirts to hand out to every employee in the company. In that case, we were truly receiving swag. It was stuff that everyone in the company got.

Nowadays, people not only refer to anything they got for free as swag, they even refer to products they purchased as swag. Clearly, if you had to purchase a product, that product is not something we all get. Only you get it because you paid for it. That’s not swag.

/rant

Further reading: What does ‘swag’ mean? [Merriam-Webster]

๐Ÿง  TIL heat waves kill more than all other natural disasters

When one thinks of natural disasters, events such as flooding, fires, and hurricanes come to mind. Few will include heat waves in that list, but they are in fact natural disasters. What is even more surprising is learning that heat waves kill more Americans every year than all other natural disaster combined.

The combined number of Americans killed by earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, avalanches/land slides, sink holes, volcanoes, tsunamis, blizzards, lightning, and hailstorms totals around 200 to 300 people every year. The total number of deaths from heat waves totals around 1,500 people every year. Most of the heat related deaths occur in areas which are not accustomed to regularly experiencing heat. Cities such as Chicago are known more for experiencing frigid cold wind rather than sweltering hot afternoons. These locations do not have air conditioning installed in all buildings like you would find in other locations like Arizona or Texas. Because of these conditions, the poor, the elderly, and the sick all become vulnerable to overheating.

Currently, heat death statistics are not captured in a way that makes it possible to accurately chart heat related deaths over time. However, given that we live in a warming world it is quite possible that Americans will see heat deaths increase over the coming decades.

Most Deadly of the Natural Disasters: The Heat Wave [New York Times, 2002]

2014 National Climate Assessment

One Planet: Heatwaves and climate change [KALW, 2018]

๐Ÿ‘ California Sun email newsletter

California Sun logo

Every morning when I sit down at my computer I engage in the same routine of checking websites and my email to bring myself up to speed with what is occurring in the world around me. Reddit and the Washington Post provide a view of the larger world, but when it comes to California news nothing beats the California Sun email newsletter.

The California Sun is a daily weekday newsletter written by two men, a former correspondent and a former staff editor for the New York Times. They compile a list of the most important news articles about California and provide the list in a format that is easy to quickly digest. Each newsletter follows the same format: The first section is called The Lede and focuses on the most important California story. Next comes statewide news followed by a section with Northern California stories and another section with Southern California stories. The final section usually contains three stories that do not fit neatly into other sections of the newsletter. Several subjects are summarized in each section and each summary comes with a link to a media outlet for the full story. When relevant, subjects will contain links to multiple media outlets which provide different views.

I have a remarkable appreciation of the California Sun because it is comprehensive and well built. The newsletter allows me to both quickly bring my understanding of the news up-to-speed as well as dive deeply into topics I want to know more about. After reading 6 email newsletters and listening to 7 news podcasts every day, I feel that removing the California Sun would have the largest impact on my understanding of current events.

Give the California Sun newsletter a try for one or two weeks. They wonโ€™t send you anything except the newsletter and unsubscribing is as simple as a single click if you want the subscription to end. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

The California Sun

๐Ÿ‘ Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

Movie poster for Robin Williams: Come Inside My MindThis documentary provides a fantastic look at the life of Robin Williams. I was quite surprised to learn that while he attended the Claremont Men’s College, now renamed to Claremont McKenna College, Williams spent a good portion of his time chasing the girls who attended Pitzer College. This struck me as odd given that CMC is closer to Scripps College, an all-girls school, than it is to Pitzer. I suspect that Pitzer’s drug-loving, hippy reputation had something to do with it.

IMDB
HBO

๐Ÿ“ท Comcast upgrade

Comcast gave me another reason to hate the company last week.

Up until last week, I was paying $150 per month for internet service at 250 Mbps down, 30 Mbps up. Thatโ€™s a preposterousย amount of money to pay for relatively weak internet service, but itโ€™s the only reasonable speed Comcast offered at the time I moved into my apartment. If Comcast decided to release a gigabit speed internet connection for less money per month, youโ€™d think they would automatically sign me up for the new service, discount my current monthly bill, or at the very least advertise the new service to me. Did Comcast perform any of those actions? Nope!

Instead of discounting my 250 Mbps service, upgrading my speed, or alerting me to the new service, Comcast continued to bill me $150/month for 250 Mbps without saying anything. Only months later through a chance browsing of Xfinityโ€™s internet service packages did I discover the gigabit option.

This new gigabit internet service gives me about 900 Mbps down and 40 Mbps up for $127 per month, about $25 cheaper than the previous service that was 300% slower.

Comcast internet speed test

Comcast, I will forever hate you, especially if you keep treating your customers like this.

๐Ÿ‘ Sortem for Amazon – Google Chrome extension

Sortem for Amazon is an extension for Googleโ€™s Chrome web browser which provides an additional sorting option when looking at search results on Amazon.com.

To find the best products, one might think that sorting by product rating (avg. customer review) is the best way to find the highest quality products. After all, if people like a product they will rate it highly. However, that sorting method does not consider that products with fewer ratings are more likely to be rated higher than products with many ratings.

For example, if product A has a single 5-star rating, it will be ranked above product B which has 1,000 4 and 5-star reviews. This is because a single perfect 5-star rating is ranked above 1,000 reviews which average out to a 4.5-star rating.

While sorting by the number of reviews doesnโ€™t magically display the absolute best product as the first result, it does provide a useful sorting option that can be used in conjunction with filtering by product rating.

Sortem for Amazon – Chrome Web Store