Duncan Davidson
“Our moral responsibility is not to stop the future, but to shape it… to channel our destiny in humane directions and to ease the trauma of transition.” —Alvin Toffler

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


⛅ The weather has shifted here in Berlin and we’re now truly into the fall season and need to break out the hoodies and jackets for daily use. That means whenever the sun is out, it’s essential to get outside for a few hours. Every bit counts with the looming dark season coming on combined with a probable resurgence in COVID-19 cases which will likely bring on new restrictions.

💸 There’s so much in the New York Times report of Trump’s tax information over two decades that should sink him, and would have sunk any previous politician, including this gem: “Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.” Alas, I don’t think that many of Trump’s supporters give a damn what they read in the Times. Fox News seems determined to swamp the coverage with stories about the upcoming debate.

👍 The New Yorker’s endorsement of Joe Biden lays out the case why he must win. And what he’ll need to do next: “If he wins the Presidency, he will have to govern with boldness, urgency, tenacity, and creativity. In the face of such challenges, realism and radicalism are not so far apart. Raging fires and rising seas will not respond to pallid proclamations.”

📅 35 days to go. Do you have a plan for your vote yet? CNET has links to how to track your ballot after you’ve mailed it in for all fifty states. I used the Oregon My Vote search page to confirm my ballot being sent to me in Berlin and will be tracking its return. Closely.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Peering into the future

🧠 I’ve certainly been stuck in the land of depressing gloomy thoughts lately. The world is a challenging place right now and it requires mental discipline and a lot of self care to survive and thrive.

🔮 The four futures framework is a good tool for planning for what may be next. Created by James Dator in his work on futures studies, it states that all the stories we talk about the future fall into one of four categories: continued growth, collapse, discipline, and transformation.

🌎 Back in 2010, Sara Robinson used the four futures model to look at climate change that illustrates how focusing on just one of these categories is a recipie for problems: “A huge government system that’s set up explicitly to perpetuate the Continuation future can’t help but greet the other three futures with varying degrees of incomprehension and resistance.”

📈 The four futures framework dovetails nicely with the S-curve of growth and you can see the various futures playing themselves out everywhere. Digitally driven transformations are all around, and have accellerated during this pandemic year of disruption. At the same time, all sorts of long-standing instutions are in various states of collapse.

🧘‍♀️ No matter what framework you use to deal with the future, meditation helps.

🤗 One specific bit of good news: We’ve long thought that the best way to influence each other is to be in the same physical space. Shane Snow, however, writes in Forbes that influence has more to do with generosity than being physically close. Certainly something to look at and pratice.

👩🏿 #BLM

Thursday, September 24, 2020


🌍 It’s pretty obvious that climate change is now locked in. “Managing climate change, experts said, will require rethinking virtually every aspect of daily life: how and where homes are built, how power grids are designed, how people plan for the future with the collective good in mind.” We won’t be able to escape the impact, but we still have time to moderate and adapt to the change.

📅 40 days until the election that could break America. Baron Gellman at the Atlantic: “Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.” I keep having this conversation with people here in Europe who can’t quite beleive that an Amercian election could be so contested. It just doesn’t make sense if you didn’t grow up with it.

🤴 Hear it from Trump’s mouth directly: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation”

😱 I know. I’m depressed now too.

🗽 Democracy matters.

👨🏿‍💻 #BLM

Monday, September 21, 2020


The Mall at the World Trade Center in New York City, April 2019.

💔 RIP Notorious RBG. God help America.

🛫 I miss America right now. I wish I could jump on an airplane and arrive in New York City about six years ago. Alas, 2020 has given some really strong evidence that time travel isn’t ever possible. Or, if it is, it was discovered in an era so far from this one that nobody thought to try to fix this part of timeline.

🐶 So, I distract myself with other things.

📱 After a few days of removing almost the apps from my iPhone’s home screen, save for the 4 at the bottom in the dock, I really don’t want to add anything back that’s not a widget. I’d rather swipe right and launch the app out of the App Library than add any more boring do-nothing icons to my home screen. Widows Phone’s Live Tiles had this right a long time ago. Now, if only we didn’t have to wait a year for this feature to come to the iPad.

⌚ I really like the handwashing timer in the latest version of watchOS. While I remember being coached to wash for longer as a kid, as an adult I’m sure that I’ve averaged way less than I’d care to admit. The feature is totally seamless, kicks in automatically, and gives that extra encouragement to go at least 20 seconds—which feels 5 (or maybe even 10!) seconds longer than I would spend normally.

😷 The six-month wall in any crisis is always difficult, says Dr. Aisha Ahmad. “In my experience, this 6 month wall both arrives and dissipates like clockwork. So I don’t fight it anymore. I don’t beat myself up over it. I just know that it will happen & trust that the dip will pass. In the meantime, I try to support my mental & emotional health.” Good advice and I’ll do my best to take it to heart, especially since this six-month wall comes as the 2020 political campaigns round into the final stretch.

📅 Speaking of politics: 43 days. Tick tock.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


📲 iOS 14 is out. Finally, the updates to the home screen arrive, letting us put widgets on our screens and hideaway apps that we don’t use all the time into an App Center. I’m considering removing all the apps from my home screen and then adding back in just the ones I use often. It feels both kind of extreme and like it might be a cleansing experience.

📝 Everynote’s big rewrite has started shipping. The previous version of the application had grown into a mess that was preventing the company from shipping new features, a situation for which I have a lot of sympathy having been in a similar situation. Kudos to CEO Ian Small for making the hard call, and for seeing it all the way through. Now we get to see if it works out for them.

🔒 In the news from my day job department: Abnormal Security and Microsoft are partnering up to combat business email compromises. This is an outcome of a continuing the focus at Microsoft for Startups on providing promising business to business startups with benefits that go way beyond just credits.

🔥 Abrahm Lustgarden has been studying how climate change will influence global migration. What he didn’t expect was how fast he’d ask himself: Is it time to move?

🌏 Brennan Spellacy and his team have officially launched Patch, a platform for negative carbon emissions. The easy to use API reminds me a lot of the launch of Stripe, allowing you to estimate and offset emissions for a variety of use cases, such as shipping a package, right at the point you do it.

📅 47 days, y’all. Got your plan to vote? I’m still waiting on my ballot to arrive here in Beriln… and getting a bit stressed out. I’m definitely considering to use FedEx to send it back to the states.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Will it be Oratok or Tikacle?

🕺 ByteDance turned down Microsoft’s proposal to buy TikTok’s US operations. I guess that means that we won’t be seeing the TikTok Teams Enterprise 2020 Edition with the bonus 1980s Flight Simulator Filter Pack anytime soon. Thank goodness. It’s for the best, really.

👍 Codespaces will be exclusive to GitHub instead of being part a GitHub and Visual Studio offerings: “We believe that by consolidating the current Codespaces experiences into one, we can eliminate confusion, simplify the experience for everyone, and make more rapid progress to address customer feedback.” Having tested (and been really stoked by) both, I’m glad to see this consolidation. There’s a lot of potential in Codespaces and taking some complexity out of both building and explaining it is a net positive.

😷 I’ve long been fascinated with the differences in the crossing points between the US and Canada border. Going north has always been pleasant and going south, well, not so pleasant. David Frum’s story of crossing the US-Canada border twice in two months during the pandemic is a sad study in the contrast between a government that’s paying attention to the right priorities, and one that isn’t.

🦍 There’s a new grocery delivery service startup in Berlin called Gorillas that delivers in 10 minutes if you live near one of their bases. They’ve got quite a nice selection of things, including our family favorite Oatly. And, in a huge bonus for Berlin, they deliver on Sunday.

🔔 I might just have to build one of Aaron Patterson’s analog terminal bells. The video explaining it is pure gold.

🤣 Update: So much for the OraTok joke. Turns out neither Microsoft nor Oracle get to buy TikTok. This whole thing has been looney tunes from the start and it’s just getting sillier by the day.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Plastic not so fantastic

🥤 Used plastic isn’t all that valuable, and has never been, according to NPR and PBS Frontline. All that effort you’ve been making to separate plastics… It might well be for naught, depending on where you live. Less than 10% of all plastic has ever been recycled. Furthermore, it can’t be used more than once or twice since it degrades every time it is recycled.

♻ According to the EPA, 8.7% of plastics were recycled in 2017 in the United States. Everything else was burned, landfilled, or ended up discarded in nature. The most recycled plastics: PET (recycling code 1) and HDPE (recycling code 2) bottles, which had recycling rates of 29% and 31% respectively.

🌊 The ocean is the final destination for quite a lot of plastic. An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. Given that half of the total plastics in the world were made in the last 13 years, well, that’s probably only going to get worse.

🤷‍♀‍ What to do? We have to stop the use of single use plastic. Easier said than done, I know. Consumer choice isn’t enough. We need to demand that the companies that make the products we use change.

Friday, September 11, 2020


Nineteen years ago, I was living in San Francisco and was woken up by the news of the attack in New York. My first thought was that the world would never be the same again and I imagined a dozen different ways the world would be impacted. None of them were even close to how it turned out.

🎥 Tribute in Light, made nine years ago with the help of several friends, remains one of my favorite short film projects. Fact: one of the slight pans in the film was actually caused by my camera slowly moving on the tripod because I hadn’t tightend one of the locks enough.

🛀 Quote of the day: “If someone tells you they want a government so small they can drown it in a bath tub], what they really mean is they don’t want a government powerful enough to protect civil rights or competent enough to deliver mail.” – @bdowney

The thing that the people behind 9/11 – and many others like them around the world who supported their actions – wanted more than anything was to get America to consume itself on fear and hate. They got what they wanted, unfortunately, and there’s very little time left to do anything about it.

53 days… You know what to do.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

5 for Tuesday

🏡 Working from home during pandemic is different than working from home. And working from home during pandemic with kids? Don’t even get me started. If I hear one more non-parent complain about having reached the end of Netflix… Some people without kids, however, aren’t so understanding and there’s growing resentment of parent employees during COVID-19.

🕗 If you have access to FT, I highly recommend James Suzman’s article The 300,000-year case for the 15-hour week:

We passed the thresholds Keynes argued would need to be met to achieve a “golden age of leisure” decades ago. Yet most of us now work longer hours than Keynes’s and Russell’s contemporaries did. And as automation and Covid-19 corrode the employment market, we remain fixated on finding new work for people to do — even if that work often seems to have no point other than to keep the wheels of commerce turning and pushing growth back into the black.

Of course, the pandemic gives us an opprotunity to completely reimagine how we structure our lives. Maybe we can find some ways to make it better in an among all the chaos we’re going through.

🔦 Meanwhile, back to the current moment: A new spotlight feature is coming to Microsoft Teams to let a presenter control what shows up in the main view for participants. Thank goodness. This is one feature that will make my working from home day nicer for sure.

📫 I love the idea of applying to a job with a HTTP POST request, like Maggie did and wrote about on Dev.to. I hope she gets the job.

🕵️‍♀️ One third of Germans believe in conspiracy theories as surveyed by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. “Living in east or west Germany, being young or old, or being male or female did not affect belief…” Voting for the far-right wing AfD party, however, did indicate that a respondant was prone to belief.

🤪 I’m not surprised, tho I think the causation probably goes the other way.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Thursday snuck up again this week

⏲ Somehow, this week back to work after the summer break has really just leaked away – much in much the same manner as pretty much all the weeks have since COVID put the world in a strange place. I wonder if the flow of time will ever quite return back to normal.

🎁 GitHub Container Registry launched this week, improving how containers are handled in GitHub Packages. No matter what cloud a software team deploys to – Azure, AWS, or GCP – the combination of Actions, Packages, and Container Registry is an awesome force multiplier for development teams.

📹 I’m looking forward to if the Microsoft Video Authenticator helps catch deepfakes during this election season. The disinformation is thicker than ever this year and every bit that helps expose it is super helpful.

📧 I just got a notice that Oregon will be mailing ballots on September 19th. I’ve never stressed about getting my ballot in Berlin and then returning it until this year. Now, I’m super stressed over it. I’ve even started to wonder if sending it back to the states via FedEx or DHL is something that I should consider.

🧊 Chill. It’s all going to be ok. I keep telling myself that.