5 for Friday: Staying stitious

In the immortal words of Michael Scott from The Office, "I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious." Normally I wouldn't think much of Friday the 13th but with the weather wallop we're poised to see starting this afternoon, I may have to upgrade to full superstition.

As Winter Storm Xanto (Italian for 'golden' -- who knew?) bears down on much of the Midwest and #BoldNorth, we're hunkering down with our week-end round-up sifting through some highlights of the past couple weeks.

Read on for tasty tidbits you can use as conversation kindling around the fire as you question your life decisions that led you to live in a state of everlasting winter (and a shout out to our out-of-state readers who are making better decisions than we are).

  1. From Wired - This article starts with a bang, declaring that autonomous vehicles are almost ready for primetime and going on to explain that this is thanks to advancements in -- and more importantly, less monopoly of -- lidar technology. Lidar is what gives autonomous vehicles the ability to 'see' what's around it using lasers in a dolphin sonar-like way to sense surroundings and assess them accordingly. Now, what 'primetime' really means for autonomous vehicles remains to be seen, but major car corporations are snapping up this technology as fast as they can and putting it to the test.

  2. From Forbes - Following this thread about the big automakers, Forbes asks whether automation will kill off the Goliaths altogether. There's already predicted slowing due to the proliferation of ride-hailing services, but the article posits that with all the technology involved in the future of cars, automakers could see previously unthinkable challenges from companies like Apple and Amazon. These challenges wouldn't necessarily come directly (although I'm jonesing to see Apple's concept car in reality), but from exclusive partnerships made between manufacturers and tech players. There's a lot at stake for companies that want to be nimble but can be too big to turn quickly.

  3. From Fast Company - In case you haven't heard, there's been a lot of discussion lately about the pernicious waste that comes from plastic straws. In searching for a news piece on that topic (here's one), I came across an interesting discussion going on in Starbucks-land about confronting its enormous production of landfill waste (including straws). From the article: 'A decade ago, facing growing complaints about the number of its cups ending up in the trash, Starbucks promised that it would make 100% of its cups reusable or recyclable by 2015. But today, most of its paper cups are still going to landfills. A second goal, to serve 25% of its drinks in reusable containers by 2015, was quietly lowered to 5% in 2011. It didn’t reach even that goal: only 1.4% of drinks are served in reusable containers now.' Apparently, Adrian Grenier is on the case so I guess we have that going for us?

  4. From The Daily - If you haven't taken my recommendations seriously before, consider it now. The Daily is the NYT's excellent weekday podcast that summarizes big stories you have (and sometimes haven't) heard about. Linked here is the first of two episodes this week covering Mark Zuckerberg's testimony regarding a massive Facebook data (and trust) breach. This particular episode is pure tragicomedy as senators struggle to grasp Facebook's massiveness as well as how it actually works in the here and now. Described by the contributor as something like a "five-hour tech support call", this episode does a nice job encapsulating the frustration and fragility of users who can't quite comprehend what bill of goods they've been sold. Might not hurt to call in some experts next time, too.

  5. From Business Insider - Here is a very neat chart that plots the timeline of disruptive (yes, I'm sick of that word, too) technology and how it's impacted our productivity.

That's it for this week. We'll be back soon with more headlines and highlights. For now, wishing you a safe Friday the 13th. Stay stitious, y'all.

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