Activision Blizzard Studios are planning for potentially years of Call of Duty movies, drawing inspiration from the interwoven Marvel Cinematic Universe. Activision reckon that Call of Duty could carry a series, jumping between the first-person shooter’s sub-brands for different perspectives on war. Chinny reckon.

The idea of shared universes is the current hotness in Hollywood, a trend soon to give us exhumations of Universal’s monster movies, endless indistinguishable Marvels, and more DC Comics duds. (At least we’ve narrowly missed crossovers between G.I. Joe and Transformers and Men in Black and 21 Jump Street.) Activision want in.

The co-presidents of Activision Blizzard Studios, Stacey Sher and Nick van Dyk, talked recently about their plans with the Guardian. They explained they’re looking to start on CoD with one movie, starting filming perhaps as early as 2018. Then, if that goes well, Sher says they “have plotted out many years” of CoD movies.

“We put together this group of writers to talk about where we were going. There’ll be a film that feels more like Black Ops, the story behind the story. The Modern Warfare series looks at what it’s like to fight a war with the eyes of the world on you. And then maybe something that is more of a hybrid, where you are looking at private, covert operations, while a public operation is going on.”

Van Dyk added that they want to emulate how Marvel has “these individual universes that interconnect and a timeline that makes sense with consistent themes and Easter eggs.”

Call of Duty has brand recognition, which is more than original scripts start with, but not much else. As much as I do enjoy the spectacle of Call of Duty singleplayer campaigns, beyond recalling a few exciting set pieces I couldn’t tell you what happens, why, or with whom. You’ve got Soap MacTavish and Johnny Tache, the one-armed man, Jon Snow, Kevin Spacey, something about Russia, that kid who cussed your dad out after noscoping you, moonmen, and an excess of jingoism suitable only for B movies or critical dissections. It’s all tosh, and not why CoD is fun.

Though Transformers 5 is out in June so, you know, building on only brand recognition and explosions clearly doesn’t mean a movie will be a commercial failure.

The interview also talks about considering a CoD TV series looking at different historical conflicts, as well as maybe something Overwatch-y and a spot of StarCraft. It even raises the idea of eventually raiding the Activision archives for vibrant nostalgic brands like Pitfall, so in comparison CoD sounds a cracking idea.

Go on, do it. I’ll watch it on Netflix. I’ve seen Hasbro’s Ouija movie and two whole Transformerses. I’ve watched a Transmorphers and all. I’ll see Call of Duty and then The Asylum’s inevitable Duty Calls. I’ll engage with every brand, just you see.

An interesting read via Rock, Paper, Shotgun

The most reliably impressive technology I’ve played with this decade is projection-mapping: using powerful LCD projectors to paint 3D surfaces with images tailored to map exactly over those surfaces, turning plaster and paint into stone, wood, or animated surfaces.

I just got back from speaking at a conference in Orlando, where I snuck off one night and rode the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, where projection mapping is used both inside robots (to paint animated faces on translucent face-shapes) and the walls around them — it was literally breathtaking, and then I saw the same effects on the new Epcot Frozen ride and totally lost it.

Anyway, a company called Lightform is proposing to bring projection mapping to our homes, with a tool that maps out the geometry of your rooms, then skins them with lighting effects. I’m pretty much 100% disinterested in fancy, horribly insecure LED lightbulbs that provide “mood lighting,” but the idea of projection mapping my home makes me excited beyond words.

But Lightform’s software automates the mapping process. It handles all the calculations, and can even fine-tune its alignment when objects move. “They’re helping solve the randomness of 3-D space,” says Mark Rolston, a co-founder of Argodesign who’s been exploring projected interfaces for the better part of a decade. “When you think about the wildness of the world, that’s a non trivial problem to solve.”

Lightform’s technology sets the stage for more complex and immersive forms of interaction. The company aims to develop high-resolution augmented reality projections that track objects and respond to human input in real time. Its ultimate goal: Make projected light so functional and ubiquitous that it replaces screens as we know them in daily life life. “Really what we’re doing is bringing computing out into the real world where we live,” Sodhi says.


Lightform: The Magical Little Device That Transforms Whole Rooms Into Screens [Liz Stinson/Wired]

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An interesting read via Boing Boing

The Inuit carve portable, waterproof, floating maps out of driftwood for use in navigating the littoral.

These three wooden maps show the journey from Sermiligaaq to Kangertittivatsiaq, on Greenland’s East Coast. The map to the right shows the islands along the coast, while the map in the middle shows the mainland and is read from one side of the block around to the other. The map to the left shows the peninsula between the Sermiligaaq and Kangertivartikajik fjords.

From The Decolonial Atlas, an antidote to all the other ones: Kurdistan in Kurdish, Lakota Territory, Agricultural Maps.

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An interesting read via Boing Boing

As news spreads around the world that President Trump ordered the launch of 59 missiles to an airfield in Syria, you are likely feeling horror, fear, uncertainty and, perhaps, some confusion about the Trump administration’s weapon of choice: the Tomahawk missile. 

The United States has an arsenal of some of the most powerful, most stealth, and most technologically advanced methods of warfare in the world. But there’s a reason why Trump, who’s bragged about his desire to upgrade our military, selected this older warhead that was mainly developed and deployed more than 25 years ago during the Gulf War in 1991. It turns out this particular missile sends a global message that’s more complicated than we might realize and worth taking a moment to decode.

Yes, this is all still unfolding, but there are two key reasons why he was likely advised to green light the Tomahawk. Those two reasons are potentially important to those of us who are largely against mass weaponry and haven’t exactly been keeping up on advanced military technology. 

We already know the why:  for one of the worst chemical attacks since the Syrian war began happened on April 4, and the scores of innocent lives lost—and mass suffering of civilians—were unspeakably atrocious.

Now let’s dig into the how, and what the Tomahawk’s use potentially means:

The target area identified for the missile launch was an airfield, with Syrian military airplanes the “softest of soft” targets for a missile, according to a defense analyst in an interview with the Washington Post.  Tomahawks have a less explosive reach than a larger bomb,  with “cluster munitions” that destroy vehicles and aircraft. Tomahawks are also unmanned, with a 1,000-mile reach when launched from the secure area of a Navy ship. The tactical upshot of selecting the Tomahawk? No American lives were risked, while the scope of destruction (apparently) was intentionally contained to Syrian military property. 

The second reason is more nuanced—that is, if a giant-ass smart bomb can be nuanced. The Tomahawk is a 20th century old-school warhead, and globally recognized as a weapon used for “clarity” — not obliteration. For some reason, spending billions to launch these particular 20-foot-long missiles from an airship is a very dark, very expensive, and very destructive version of taking someone to the woodshed. As Ben FitzGerald, an adjunct fellow with the Center for a New American Security, told Defense One in a 2013 interview: 

“Using newer technology in this situation leaves opportunity for misinterpretation. If we executed a cyber-strike would the Syrians and the international community understand what we meant? It could be seen as a less serious deterrent than a kinetic attack. The messaging associated with more traditional weapons, like Tomahawks, is less ambiguous. They’ve been used before and precedents have been set. Clarity and certainty is more important than sophistication.”

Note this interview is from 2013, when the Obama administration considered nearly the exact same strategy to put an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons, nearly four years ago. Of course back then, pre-POTUS Trump had all the answers and was advising Obama from his Twitter-throne.

But the message, according to Obama’s advisors back then, is the same as it is for Trump now: There are ways to signal severe consequences to using chemical warfare–without suggesting the initiation of a war. 

Should that make anyone feel better about a bunch of missiles flying into the most volatile parts of the world, dispatched by one of the most volatile presidents in history? Hell no. Should we strive for peace and stop this insanity? Yes. But understanding what the intent was behind this giant act of violence, may help inform this precarious moment in a complicated world.


An interesting read via GOOD

It hungers for --new blood--

I appreciate that headline inclines a little towards melodrama, but this is really the situation: with AMD having spent the past year as something of a sleepy giant, Nvidia have been engaged in serial one-upmanship with themselves. Just under a year ago, their GTX 1080 GPU became handily the world’s most powerful consumer graphics card, followed by the even beefier 2016 Titan X shortly afterwards, which was then marginally pipped by the comparatively affordable GTX 1080 Ti last month. Now they’ve leapfrogged themselves once again with a new $1,200/£1,180 brute known as the GTX Titan Xp.

Specs’n’that below, but I think the bigger question here is ‘why are they doing this?’ Are they scared of AMD’s long-delayed riposte, or are they trying to trounce yesterday’s reveal of Microsoft’s new 4K Xbox?

Here’re the main numbers for the already-available Titan Xp:

NVIDIA CUDA Cores: 3840
Boost Clock (MHz): 1582
Memory Speed: 11.4 Gbps
Standard Memory Config: 12 GB GDDR5X
Memory Interface Width: 384-Bit
Memory Bandwidth: 547.7 GB/s

It’s a higher-spec refresh of the existing Pascal architecture rather than new-new, but the main thing it does is re-establish Nvidia’s ‘Titan’ brand as their biggest dog – the 1080 Ti having recently trumped (sorry) 2016’s Titan X for around two-thirds of the price.

Here’re the Ti’s numbers for comparison:

NVIDIA CUDA Cores: 3584
Boost Clock (MHz): 1582
Memory Speed: 11 Gbps
Standard Memory Config: 11 GB GDDR5X
Memory Interface Width: 352-Bit
Memory Bandwidth: 484 GB/s

So it’s a leap, but maybe not a gigantic one – the cores are the most meaningful gain there, as the other improvements can be obtained via surprisingly pain-free Ti overlocking. Make no mistake, the Titan Xp is more about bragging rights than anything else. A status symbol both for the company that makes it and for well-monied PC owners. Sucks to be anyone who bought a Titan X last year though (other than all the ways it doesn’t because they’re surely swimming in gold).

In many respects, the Xp is a repacking of the $5000 Quadro P6000 workstation card, which makes it a relative bargain if you’re a professional rendering sorta person. But though it’s based on the same Pascal GP102 chip, RAM is halved from 24GB to 12GB.

Anyhoo: while undeniably an impressive and desirable slab of technology, especially so soon after the last time Nvidia did this, no-one outside of that industry actually needs this card. There are very, very few usage scenarios where all that power will provide a meaningful benefit over what the £700 GTX 1080 Ti can do – multi-monitor gaming and absurd amounts of anti-aliasing at 4K, perhaps. It might be slightly longer before you ‘need’ to upgrade again, but if you’re the sort of person who can even begin to countenance spending $1200 on a graphics card then I imagine that’s an academic issue anyway.

Onto the why. I have three theories for you.

1) Because they can. 2016’s Pascal’s clearly been a particularly fruitful architecture for them and, for whether long-term planned-for or not, they seem able to keep on raising its ceiling in a way. In the absence of new top-end competition from AMD, who have stuck to smartly-priced mid-tier cards for the past year or so, they’ve had an open goal for free PR. They could possibly have jumped straight to 1080 Ti-level specs for the initial 1080, but this way they get more rounds of publicity (hello sorry).

2) Because they’re terrified of AMD’s much-anticipated Vega GPU, and are doing all they can to sell cards and/or overtake it in the performance stakes before its planned Q2 release (which, not being sure whether they mean real Earth quarters or AMD financial year quarters, could be any time or now, or not until deep into summer). No-one outside of AMD and their partners (including Bethesda, who they recently announced something of an alliance with) knows the full capabilities of Vega, but it has been seen running maxed-out 4K Doom at super-high frame rates, which at the very least suggests toe-to-toeing with the 1080, in the right games at least.

It may be that it whips anything Nvidia has to offer, or it may be that if offers similar performance for a fraction of a cost – either would be be a big shake-up for the market. Hence, speculation that Nvidia have been putting out new cards like there’s no tomorrow and released the Titan X-beating 1080 Ti for ‘just’ $700 because they’re running scared of Vega is understandable, if as yet unproven.

If that has been the thinking, I imagine it’s been successful too. Anecdotal I know, but I’ve been holding out for Vega to power my 3440×1440 Freesync monitor for quite a while, but gave up waiting and, though it’s cost me adaptive sync, now have a 1080 Ti all but guaranteeing me my sixty frames for the next couple of years and hopefully beyond. I very much doubt I’m alone, particularly because the vanilla 1080 saw a price cut in the wake of the Ti.

Though the AMD vs NVIDIA war is fought loudly and constantly on the internet, for most of us there’s no brand loyalty – it’s just about which card will best offer us a good whack of performance for a good amount of time, and that’s been a conversation Nvidia have been able to control for the past year. Although, conversely, AMD’s smartly-priced RX 480 has done a grand job of tying up what is now the lower tiers of the mid-range. Anyway: Vega’s going to be fascinating, as either it’s an enjoyably rug-pulling strike back or Nvidia’s stream of recent new cards has set the bar impossibly high.

3) Yesterday saw Eurogamer/Digital Foundry’s world exclusive reveal of the hardware powering Microsoft’s Xbox One Point 5, aka Project Scorpio, aka whatever they actually end up calling it. You should read their piece for full details and oh-so-many numbers, but the long and short of it is on-paper PS4 Pro-beating 4K performance (and a boost to 1080p performance to boot).

Scorpio uses a custom GPU that reads like a turbo charged Radeon RX 480 and is, in practice, liable to fall somewhere between the capabilities of a GTX 1060 and GTX 1070. (Though actual game performance is likely to be significantly better than that might imply, thanks to their being optimised for a fixed console spec, something that PC gaming does not enjoy).

More to the point, Scorpio’s GPU uses AMD architecture, which means the red team get to brag that they’re powering the world’s beefiest console. The Titan Xp can thus be read as a “yeah, but check this out” on Nvidia’s part.

Or, all of the above. Or, this was was always the pipeline. Alls I know is that, given how much has happened since, last year was, in hindsight, a bad time to buy a graphics card, even though it seemed like the opposite was true at the time.

An interesting read via Rock, Paper, Shotgun

If you’re not reading Saga yet, Book 7 proves you should get caught up RIGHT NOW

If you’re not reading Saga yet, Book 7 proves you should get caught up RIGHT NOW

Saga is Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ magnificent, visually stunning, adventurous, funny, raunchy, complex and provocative graphic novel; the first six volumes of collected comics moved from strength to strength, fleshing out a universe that was simultaneously surreal and deadly serious, where cute characters could have deadly-serious lives: now, with volume 7, Staples and Vaughan continue their unbroken streak of brilliance.

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You know that bit at the start of The Princess Bride where the narrator’s father (or grandfather, in the movie) is selling the book to the young boy? All the virtues he enumerates? “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”

That’s Saga for you. Volume 7 fleshes out some of the series’ best villains (Prince Robot is such a perfect, well-rounded baddie now!); introduces an entire new species of fatalistic weasels as well as impossibly vast, planet-eating babies; gives us vengeance and bravery; comeuppance and self-sacrifice; and heart-ripping tragedies.

Saga feels like it’s hitting the balance George Lucas got so horribly wrong with his three prequels: mixing real politics (and realpolitik) with fast-paced adventure and some of the most eyeball-kicking visuals this side of Mos Eisley Cantina (or Metal Hurlant). Vaughan is nominally the writer and Staples the illustrator, but from Vaughan’s own descriptions, I know that Staples is really best thought of as a co-writer, and the collaboration is so very fruitful.

I know that it’s hard to imagine jumping into a series that’s already produced seven collected volumes, but if there’s one thing Staples and Vaughan keep proving, it’s that this is a series that will repay your investment of time and attention.

Saga Volume 7 [Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples/Image Comics]

Previous reviews:

Volumes 1/2 (2013)

Volume 3 (2014)

Volume 4 (2014)

Volume 5 (2015)

Volume 6 (2016)

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An interesting read via Boing Boing

Last October, Google launched support to highlight fact-checking articles within Google News in the US and the UK. Now those articles will get special presentation as part of general Google searches worldwide.

Fact checks as part of regular Google search

Here’s an example of how the expanded fact-checking looks, which begins today. Below is a search for whether Hillary Clinton sold uranium to Russia, something many have claimed, including President Donald Trump recently. A fact check from the popular Snopes fact-checking site appears first, saying the claim is false:

This is actually just a regular web search listing with special callouts (also known as “rich snippets“) to show who has made a particular claim and the verdict. In the example above, you can see the claim is attributed to the internet generally and that the claim is dismissed as false.

Here’s another example, for the claim that Trump has opened US national parks for coal mining:

Again, Snopes is the fact-check source saying that the claim is a mixture of true and false.

Here’s one more example, about whether US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been disbarred:

In this case, you can see that Snopes rates this claim false.

Fact checks allowed by any publisher

The examples above are all from Snopes. But any publisher on the web is eligible to gain the special fact-checking callouts.

Here’s an example Google provided that shows PolitiFact as a source:

Here’s another Google provided that shows what happens if more than one fact-checking article is deemed worthy to appear for a particular search:

On mobile, you get a fact-check carousel, as shown above. On desktop, you get multiple fact-checking articles showing up as part of the regular web search results.

While both the articles are from Snopes in the example above, in other cases, a variety of publications might be represented in the mobile carousel format or in desktop results.

Conflicting conclusions may be presented

Since Google will list multiple fact checking articles, this means that in some cases, you might get fact checks that disagree or conflict with each other, as Google notes in its blog post about today’s expansion:

This information won’t be available for every search result, and there may be search result pages where different publishers checked the same claim and reached different conclusions.

These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgements.

Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree.

Potentially, fake fact checks could emerge

Possibly, the new feature could mean that hyperpartisan sites of any persuasion could present “fact check” conclusions that are not really fact checks at all.

This is because any site can mark up its content as a fact-checking article. Put the right invisible meta data on your page and voila, you’ve taken a key step toward becoming a fact-checking resource.

You also have to ensure that you’re doing things like being transparent about your sources and methods in fact-checking, but those guidelines don’t really cover whether your sources themselves have to show proven veracity.

The algorithm is the ultimate arbiter

Markup alone isn’t enough, however. Google says that its search algorithm also has to determine if a publisher is deemed an “authoritative source” for inclusion.

What’s an authoritative source and how is that determined? Google’s blog post doesn’t explain this, nor did Google share more in a follow-up response to Search Engine Land other than to say its algorithm uses a lot of signals to figure this out.

Google did tell Search Engine Land that sites that violate guidelines against things like promoting violence or hatred wouldn’t be eligible. But that restriction still might not prevent hyperpartisan sites from “fact-checking” things with their own particular spins on the facts. How it will ultimately play out remains to be seen.

As for when fact checks are triggered, Google told Search Engine Land it will depend on whether a particular search finds fact check material among all the content that it considers when creating results.

For example, a search for “is the world flat” might not trigger a fact check unless there’s a formal, marked-up fact-check article on the topic. But if someone’s taken the time to do that — and the algorithm deems that to be from an authoritative site — then the article might appear with the special fact check callouts.

Google said that fact-checking articles get no special rank boost to move them to the first page of results, or even necessarily to the first listing.

For more information, see Google’s blog post today and the documentation from Google about creating fact-check articles. Also see our article from earlier this week on how this move may help with some of Google’s recent issues relating to search: A deep look at Google’s biggest-ever search quality crisis.

An interesting read via Techmeme

Waterfield Designs is one of the legions of San Francisco boutiques catering to the personal tech transportation needs of the city’s wealthy hipsters. Think Peak Design before Peak Design existed. For the past few months, I have been testing two of Waterfield’s backpacks, both costing $329: the svelte and minimalist Staad and the fit-your-entire-life-in-it Bolt. It’s good that I’ve had them for so long, because it took me a while to get accustomed to their peculiarities, and another while longer to fully appreciate the quality of their materials. Now, though, I’m a fan.

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first: you don’t need to spend upwards of $300 for a decent backpack to house your laptop, camera, and Nintendo Switch. Just like you don’t need to upgrade your flight to business class and you don’t need a BMW in a world full of Volkswagens. Economy and business passengers all land at the same time, and with speed limits, all cars trudge along at the same speed. But we spend more on those higher-tier goods and services because of how they make us feel.

Waterfield Designs Bolt backpack
Waterfield Designs Bolt backpack

Bolt backpack
Waterfield Designs

And how do I feel about Waterfield’s backpacks? Very positive. They’ve proven themselves reliable over a wide range of testing circumstances, and I’ve now replaced my Peak Design Everyday Backpack with the Waterfield Staad. Waterfield’s rustic and not at all techie aesthetic feels refreshing, and there’s an honesty in the materials used, which are exactly what they look like: real, thick leather and, depending on the model you choose, waxed canvas for a retro look or ballistic nylon for an indestructible one.

I took the Staad to CES in Las Vegas this January, putting it through the most gruelling test on my annual schedule. On any CES trip, my backpack has to contend with the contradictory demands of fitting every piece of equipment I have and giving me easy and immediate access to all of it. There’s no option to dash back to my hotel room to pick up a forgotten lens, and, ironically for a show touting the supposed imminence of our wireless future, I’m constantly reaching for a cable, charger, or wired accessory.

Waterfield Designs Staad Slim and Stout
Waterfield Designs Staad Slim and Stout

Staad Slim and Stout backpack sizes
Waterfield Designs

The larger, so-called Stout version of the Staad, which I’ve been using, is still a beguilingly slim and minimal bag. When I only carry a laptop and other small things in it, it’s practically flat, but it has an uncanny ability to expand and accommodate huge items like full-frame DSLRs as well. I was switching between two mirrorless Sony cameras during CES, with the bulkier Alpha 7R II sliding in and out of the Staad with ease. When fully loaded out, this backpack reminds me of competitive eaters like Takeru Kobayashi and Matt Stonie: it fits vastly more inside of it than its exterior looks would suggest.

I had no shortage of space for my CES loadout with the Staad, but organizing my assortment of cables, chargers, external batteries, headphones, and spare smartphones was not an easy task. Being a top-loading bag, the Staad basically necessitates that I stack everything inside of it, and I’m already on the record saying that side-loading access is the best way to design any backpack. What I wound up with was a very stylish, classy-looking bag that contained a veritable mess of tech paraphernalia. Two particular issues worth highlighting: the price for the Staad’s sleek looks is the absence of a water bottle holder on the side, I miss that; and the leather flap at the top is big enough to cover and accommodate more stuff, but it only cinches in one position, whereas some alternatives like the Everyday Backpack from Peak Design will expand to fit more.

Staad Stout backpack interior
Staad Stout backpack interior

Staad Stout backpack interior
Waterfield Designs

So the trial by fire at CES was far from flawless, but the Staad remained a favorite of mine because of the way it fit me and, vain though it may be, for its gorgeous looks. The shoulder straps on this and the Bolt backpack are sheer luxury. They have just the right amount of padding to never dig into my shoulders, and I consider their lack of sternum or waist straps a bonus. Waterfield deliberately designed the straps on its backpacks to be a little closer together to keep the pack more stable when worn with a full load. So I never feel the need for extra stability, and I appreciate the cleaner look.

Another couple of clever design touches on the Staad are worth mentioning. The buckle holding down the top flap is borrowed from World War II ammunition clips and it’ll resist even the strongest of tugs on the cover itself, but opens with ease when its tab is pulled. Once you open it, you can still carry the bag by the top handle, because the pack’s weight is properly distributed and it retains an upright shape instead of spilling all your stuff on the floor. That may seem like a weird scenario, but rushing around with an open backpack was actually quite common for me during CES.

My perseverance with the Staad paid off in the end, as I did figure out a better way to use the bag, and the answer was to go modular. I came across a disused makeup travel kit that happened to be the perfect size to house the majority of my floating gadgets, then I assigned charging cables to one of the interior pockets and data cables plus card readers to the other, and suddenly the interior of the bag was as neat and tidy as the exterior. The two external pockets deserve a mention too, because they also fit big and useful things and make them available in a snap.

Bolt backpack in ballistic nylon and chocolate leather
Bolt backpack in ballistic nylon and chocolate leather

Bolt backpack in ballistic nylon and chocolate leather
Waterfield Designs

The Waterfield Bolt, on the other hand, was a far less complicated beast. This backpack is designed for weekend trips or gym excursions, and as such, it fits roughly half a wardrobe’s worth of clothing. I used it as my primary piece of luggage on a half-week trip to Amsterdam and it was plentiful. In terms of space for tech gear, I can jam a full 15-inch Alienware gaming laptop into its laptop compartment plus an ultrabook like the Razer Blade Stealth into the slot supposedly designed for tablets. No matter how hard I try, I still haven’t been able to find a thing in my possession that’s misshapen or large enough to not fit into this cavernous backpack.

Like the Staad, the Bolt is replete with hand-stitched leather detailing, high-quality splash-proof zippers, and a golden interior. Unlike the Staad, here you’ll find two bottle pockets, a big zippered front pocket, and two more slots at the front for keeping things like your passport or a small book. This bag has roughly double the amount of space that I need on most days, so it really wasn’t the one for me. If you’re not going to fill it up, the Bolt doesn’t wear too well, and I often found the weight of my stuff digging into the back of my waist just because it was all sitting at the bottom of such a big chasm of space. On the odd occasions where I needed to really load up on stuff, though, it was nice to have this bag around.

I tested the Bolt in the ballistic nylon finish and the Staad in the waxed canvas, but you can have either bag in either material. The nylon really feels like it’ll last for centuries, and I’ve been unable to do anything to tarnish it during my review. But even so, I think it’d be a crime to get a Staad in nylon, because the style of that bag is perfectly matched to the old school canvas look. That’s still a hardy material, but it just feels nicer to the touch than the nylon and will age beautifully along with the full-grain leather.

The best way I can summarize Waterfield’s backpacks is that they feel like something my grandfather might have used. And I mean this in the best possible way: they exhibit a practical, low-tech, but thoughtful use of materials, and their unrefined look feels organic and inviting to the touch. The Staad has remained unchanged since its introduction more than three years ago because it really is a great and enduring design. It’s too soon to say the same about the Bolt, but both backpacks exhibit the high quality of Waterfield’s handiwork.

An interesting read via The Verge – All Posts

President Donald Trump leaves the podium after speaking at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, April 6, 2017 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The US military launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase last night, and the President of the United States announced it by uncharacteristically invoking God three times in his three-minute speech. The baby known as Cold War II was conceived long ago. But last night, President Trump helped give birth. Congratulations! It’s a war!

There are a lot of things I don’t know. I don’t know how Trump personally feels about Russia; I don’t know what the US will do now that it launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Assad regime in Syria; I don’t know if a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton would’ve done things any differently. But I feel pretty confident that I know one thing: The history books will mark 2017 as the official start of the Second Cold War.

Now, this isn’t altogether fair to the concept of the Cold War. As I’ve argued before, the Cold War never really ended, it just got a bit colder during the past two decades. But history books demand dates. These books need coherent stories with a beginning, middle, and an end. They need characters, big and small—some good, others bad. These history books need valor and cowardice and heartbreak and redemption and money and piles of dead bodies. So many dead bodies.

And with all of that, it looks like 2017 is going to be our mark for the beginning of Cold War II. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Much like the first Cold War, it’s all a matter of perspective and highly dependent on whether any US or Russian forces or allied armies bombed your neighborhood in recent weeks. Other echoes of the first Cold War include strange bedfellows, uneasy alliances, and plenty of proxy wars where a lot of people die. A war is never really over until enough humans die.

Go check out the Cold War on Wikipedia—the community-edited encyclopedia will tell you that the Cold War started in 1947 and ended in 1991. And there’s nothing wrong with saying as much. It’s simplistic, sure, but it’s also a useful jumping off point to discuss that particular period in history. The Cold War spills off into both sides, starting long before 1947 and, as I said, never really ending.

We like to slice up history into segments that are easier to digest. Sometimes we carve them into generations, separating Generation X from Millennial and Baby Boomer from The Greatest Generation. Sometimes it’s political eras, separating the Bill Clinton era from the George W. Bush era. Again, these are all sloppy and simplistic, but they’re a place to start if a 5-year-old asked you what Sputnik was.

What do you think you know about someone if I tell you that they were a member of the Greatest Generation? You can say definitively that they were born between 1901 and 1924? Okay, but how much does that tell you and what license do you have to speak broadly about that group as a whole? What does everyone in the Greatest Generation share? Anything?

What does a wealthy white man from Wisconsin born in 1901 who never served in World War II share with a poor black woman from Alabama born in 1921 who served her country as a nurse in the Pacific theater, only to then live under Jim Crow after she returned? It’s an extreme comparison, sure, but you get the idea. They’re both part of the Greatest Generation, so what?

And with that “so what” we rush headlong into the Second Cold War with our starting year, 2017. And that doesn’t mean that it’s true or that everyone’s experiences of it will line up, even if you’re close to someone else in age, sex, or geography. It just means that we’ll start to see stories told about Cold War II that are going to be held up as definitive accounts—again with plenty of lies and money and death along the way.

Why 2017? What changed? Well, you can point to one big, recent development in particular, as anyone might guess. The second season of Cold War just cast a new character: President Donald J. Trump, reality TV host and sometime sexual predator who now controls the world’s largest supply of nuclear weapons.

Trump isn’t exactly a fresh face for our viewers at home who are more accustomed to seeing him fire people like a big boy on the TV set and hug purple monsters to sell hamburgers. But seeing Trump in this new job is obviously a bit jarring. His new role as President of the United States is objectively strange. But like most strange things that we can’t help ourselves from binge-watching after investing so much emotional capital, viewers have just suspended their disbelief and tried to follow the plot. And what a messy plot it’s been so far.

Season 2 of the Cold War has espionage, messy break-ups, and a seemingly endless supply of catfights. And this one has characters that look decidedly different than the first season. China may or may not be trying to vote North Korea off the island, there are proxy wars in the Middle East between Iran, ISIS and Saudi Arabia, and to top it all off, there’s a cloud of suspicion about who the American president will align with. Will he give Putin a rose or is it all a big distraction? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

And Season 2 has continued a very compelling storyline from the last administration that includes dropping bombs in places like Syria. What makes last night’s bombing unique, of course, was the target. The American military has carried out at least 7,469 airstrikes in Syria since 2014 that we know of, but this was the first one that intentionally targeted members of the Assad regime.

How else can we tell that 2017 is the official start of Cold War II? The media are beating the drums of war, preparing the American people for major conflict, whether it’s in Syria, North Korea, or Timbuktu for all we know.

For some members of the media, it doesn’t really matter where the war is taking place, they’re just sitting back for the optics. Some proclaim State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson “brilliant” for saying that all options are on the table for invading North Korea and that we’re done talking. It should probably be noted that the mission of the State Department is diplomacy, so two sentence statements wouldn’t be seen as “brilliant” during any “normal” administration.

Other members of the media are just here to cover the “beauty” of this new Cold War. Yes, last night on MSNBC, anchor Brian Williams described the 59 missiles being launched into the sky as beautiful, and even quoting Leonard Cohen, in a video that I still can quite believe.

But I should believe it. Because the media are very plainly preparing the American public for war. Not because they personally profit from the bombs dropping or some other InfoWars conspiracy theory bullshit. They’re preparing the public for war because war is both possible and scary. And the threat of a scary thing happening is by definition news.

Some craven media figures all have their own reasons for applauding wars rather than reporting critically of them, but at the end of the day it’s mostly because they’re playing stupid while dressed up as being patriotic.

On Tuesday night, NBC News anchor Lester Holt reported from South Korea, giving Americans at home an “exclusive look” at military training exercises in the region. If you lived through the build-up of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq you might be getting the vague sense of deja vu.

Holt and viewers at home were given a highly choreographed demonstration of what the US and South Korea are doing to prepare for potential war with North Korea. The choreography is evident by the camera angles and the mere fact that NBC announced that they were being given special access. The US military doesn’t give special access out of the kindness of its heart. It’s public relations, and the value is in putting a floor in so that Americans aren’t completely caught off guard when an invasion occurs in their name.

But somehow Holt managed to present viewers with the impression that this reporting wasn’t a coordinated media encounter. While interviewing Lt. Col. Teddy Kleisner, Holt was interrupted by the sounds of a helicopter.

“As if on cue, Colonel Kleisner is interrupted by a rescue chopper,” Holt explains to viewers who may have forgotten that this entire exercise was being performed for the media—something that was evident to any college kid who’s taken a Media Studies 101 course.

There’s nothing wrong with covering what’s happening in South Korea, but my email inbox is already being flooded with people calling me un-American for what they view as not being sufficiently deferential to the idea currently being floated that North Korea poses a grave threat to the national interests of the United States. Again, it’s that noxious plume of deja vu smoke that instantly transports me to late 2002.

Yes, the New Cold War has officially begun. And with that, we must do our best to put on our media criticism goggles. Again, I don’t know everything. In fact, I don’t know most things. But I do know that 2017 is the beginning of Cold War II. As I’ve said before, it’s a miracle that anyone survived the first Cold War, given the number of times we almost blew up the entire world on accident. Looks like we’ll be rolling the dice on that shitshow again.

The view from the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter as it launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian airbase on April 7, 2017 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Good luck, everyone.

An interesting read via Gizmodo

An interesting read via Wired News