Madison tests electric cargo bike from local manufacturer Saris

(madison.com)

Technically a trike, with one big wheel in back and two smaller ones under the front cargo bin, it can carry up to 660 pounds — not including the rider. A 1,000-watt Bosch motor powered by twin batteries does most of the work, but only when someone is turning the pedals.

Smaller and more nimble than a truck, the bike is also cheaper to operate and maintain and can go places other vehicles can’t. It has no tailpipe emissions, uses far less energy, and it provides users a little exercise.

Estimated price tag I found in the article was in the $10,000-$12,000 range and that's completely competitive with all the gas powered light utility vehicles and golf carts we use on campus at work. Hopefully we'll start seeing a lot more vehicles along these lines in the near future.

'TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL' — a comic book about how Trump ignored science, planning, and his own team when the virus struck. And how 194,000 Americans paid the ultimate price.

(www.insider.com)

The US practically invented the playbook of how to confront pandemics. Presidents — both Republican and Democratic — worked to ensure that if a pandemic came, there would be an effective plan to respond. Yet while other countries used that playbook and succeeded in doing what was necessary to get the coronavirus under control, the Trump administration threw out the plan.

What happened?

To help Americans understand precisely what went wrong, Insider hired the comics creators Anthony Del Col and Josh Adams to depict the Trump administration's course of action that put America into this position.

I didn't need a comic book to convince me that Donald Trump is a monstrous moron, but this is pretty good.

Marshallese people represent 1% of Spokane County's population and a quarter of its COVID-19 cases

(www.spokesman.com)

Jeffery Yoshikawa was at work in early April when he got the call.

His mother-in-law was running a high fever, and the dialysis clinic at which she was getting treatment suspected she had COVID-19.

He left immediately to take her to the hospital. On the way, her symptoms worsened.

When they arrived, she tested positive for COVID-19. Yoshikawa asked to be tested, too, since he had spent so much time with her.

They both had COVID-19, it turned out, becoming two of the 341 Marshallese people in Spokane to be diagnosed with the disease. With that number of cases, people from the Marshall Islands account for about 30% of the county’s COVID-19 cases – despite making up less than 1% of the county’s population, according to Thursday’s data from the Spokane Regional Health District.

Thankfully Mr. Yoshikawa and his mother-in-law pulled through, but this is so heartbreaking. I remember first hearing that Spokane had a fairly sizable population of Marshallese people a few years ago, but Spokane is big enough and they are a small enough group that I've never really interacted with anyone from their community. Hearing about their plight absolutely confirms on a local level everything I've read about minorities being the most the heavily impacted by Covid-19 in the United States. Our inability to protect low income and vulnerable groups is both shameful and dangerous to the health of our county as a whole.

Canoeing with the Cree

(www.goodreads.com)

📚Originally published in 1935, Canoeing with the Cree (★★★★) is a classic true life adventure story from a bygone era when two high school buddies pulled off an epic canoe journey from Minneapolis to Hudson's Bay during the summer of 1930. My main dissatisfaction with an otherwise excellent tale is that despite the pair's obvious respect and admiration for the Cree as masters of the Canadian wilderness, they ultimately still considered them uncivilized and lesser.

How I Became a Poker Champion in One Year

(www.theatlantic.com)

Three years ago, Seidel began to teach me how to play poker. Why on earth would a professional poker player—the professional poker player—agree to let a random journalist follow him around like an overeager toddler? It’s not for money or exposure. Seidel is notoriously reticent, and he hates sharing his tactics. I was, however, an ideal pupil in a few ways. Most important, I have a Ph.D. in psychology, and so I was well positioned to understand Seidel’s style of play. I also never had much of an interest in cards, meaning Seidel wouldn’t have to rid me of any bad habits. My academic training and my inexperience made me a perfect vehicle for an experiment to see if Seidel’s psychological game could still triumph over a strictly mathematical style.

After reading the excerpt in the Atlantic I definitely want to read the rest of Maria Konnikova's new book, The Biggest Bluff because it sounds like a fascinating story. Deadspin also has a pretty good interview with her about the book and her poker playing career.

inessential: One Advantage of the App Store That's Gone

(inessential.com)

The best part of the App Store, years ago, from this developer's point of view, was that it was easy to charge money for an app. No need to set up a system — just choose the price, and Apple takes care of everything. So easy!

Great insight from Brent Simmons about the realities of Apple software development and making money in the App Store. Today you have to do in app purchase and subscription to be sustainable long term and those are a huge headache to implement.

White Elephant owners ending 74-year legacy in Spokane

(www.spokesman.com)

The history of the White Elephant stores mirrors the story of Spokane: A somewhat unconventional place that provides nearly everything that matters at an affordable price.

Outside the Division Street store, the mechanical elephant, which still only costs a dime, is about to offer its last ride.

The Conley family has decided to close its stores in Spokane and Spokane Valley, ending its patriarch’s legacy that started 74 years ago when John R. Conley Sr. started offering Army surplus before converting the business into a sporting goods and toy destination.

The White Elephant was THE toy store of my childhood. Its narrow aisles, crammed shelves, and grease-pencilled prices were the antithesis of a modern box store and only added to its appeal as I grew older. I bought countless Lego sets, tabletop games, model rocketry kits, Transformers, Playmobil sets, and a variety of general sporting goods there over the years. During the winter I still occasionally run in a garish wool stocking cap that I bought at the Spokane Valley store in the early 90s. The original Division street store is quite close to where I work so it's continued to be my go to store if I needed to pickup a fun game, toy or birthday present. My older kids are familiar with it and have shopped there a little bit over the years when they've had money saved up, but I'm bummed out that my youngest three won't really understand. This kind of thing is inevitable, but I'm truly sad to see such a treasured local institution finally close its doors.

Post Pandemic Podcast Economy

In the last couple days the impact of the post COVID-19 economy finally hit home in a way that took me by surprise, but probably shouldn't have: podcast advertising. Advertising spend is down everywhere, but it was kind of fascinating to have this week be the one where I finally connected the dots. Three shows that I listen to regularly were directly impacted in obvious ways.

First Ubuntu Podcast made a special announcement episode explaining that one of their longtime sponsors will no longer be providing editing support so they've created an Ubuntu Podcast Patreon solely for the purpose of funding a professional sound editor. None of the hosts have the time or inclination to do it themselves so this seems totally reasonable. Thankfully, as I hoped and expected the community quickly stepped up to the plate and it looks like they should be covered.

Relay.fm's Rocket podcast was the second one that caught my attention. Historically they've had a fair amount of advertising fluctuation, but two to three ads per episode was the tier they were operating at for most of last year. This week no ads. That said, as I look back over the year so far they've actually only been garnering a single ad per episode for most of 2020. So I'm curious if they will bounce back in June or if this is it for a while.

The really big sign to me was this week's Accidental Tech Podcast. ATP had been a solid three ad per episode podcast powerhouse for it's entire run of 7 plus years. This week a solitary Basecamp ad. And in fact looking back at their feed I see as of April they were only doing two a week- it just didn't cross the threshold of being noticeable to me at the time. So it's very clear why the membership rumblings have been happening in these circles for the last month or so. Podcasting ad spend is clearly drying up.

It's certainly depressing when the real world intrudes on yet another one of my favorite sources of entertainment. The good news is that all three of these podcasts have the backing of communities that are large enough to help keep them going even in the face of economic shifts like the one we're in, and they're unlikely to just go away. I am very curious to see what ATP is going to offer with their as yet unlaunched membership program because that's a completely new direction for them. Relay.fm has had a paid membership program for quite a while. I've yet to sign up, but I feel like what they're offering now (private community Discord, special episodes, member only podcasts) is way more compelling than when they first started out. Change is inevitable and it's not always good, but in this case I look forward to the opportunity to continue to support and learn from some of my favorite podcasts as they work through this challenge.

NASA will pay a staggering $146 million for each SLS rocket engine

(arstechnica.com)

It is true that the shuttle main engine, or RS-25, is the Ferrari of rocket engines. NASA designed these brilliant engines in the 1970s for the space shuttle program, during which they each flew multiple launches. A total of 46 engines were built for the shuttle at an estimated cost of $40 million per engine. But now these formerly reusable engines will be flown a single time on the SLS rocket and then dropped into the ocean.

There are four engines on a Space Launch System rocket. At this price, the engines for an SLS rocket alone will cost more than $580 million. This does not include the costs of fabricating the rocket's large core stage, towering solid-rocket boosters, an upper stage, or the costs of test, transportation, storage, and integration. With engine prices like these, it seems reasonable to assume that the cost of a single SLS launch will remain $2 billion in perpetuity.

I knew the SLS had some serious issues, but this is super troubling. And ten years out the Space Shuttle program continues to be an anchor around NASA's neck. If I was miraculously given authority over this boondoggle I would immediately cancel it and simply blame it on the post COVID-19 economy.

Here's what to expect as SpaceX launches its first human crew to space

(www.theverge.com)

On the afternoon of May 27th, SpaceX is slated to launch its very first passengers to space, potentially heralding a new era of human spaceflight for the United States. It’ll be the first time in nearly a decade that people have launched to orbit from American soil, and it’ll be the first time that a private vehicle takes them there.

It's been a long time coming, but I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes tomorrow. Still not sure how I feel about the Space-X sci-fi spacesuits that look like style was the number one priority.