New Observations Just Drastically Changed What We Know About Venus

Venus and Earth were born at the same time and are almost identical in size, and yet these two worlds have become vastly different environments over the past 4.5 billion years. Earth, bursting with life, is constantly reinventing its geography through tectonic activity, while Venus, an almost laughably inhospitable world with what appears to be an inactive outer shell, at least according to many past studies. 

But our nightmarish sister planet has proved to be full of surprises, and a new discovery shows a never-before-seen type of tectonic motion on Venus. The discovery was newly found in observations originally captured nearly 30 years ago. This detection has major implications for understanding Venus, and could also shed light on distant exoplanets as well as on Earth’s deep past.

Scientists led by Paul Byrne, associate professor of planetary science at North Carolina State University, identified blocks of planetary crust in the Venusian lowlands that appear to have moved around in the recent past, indicating ongoing tectonic motion. The team studied the formations, the largest of which is the size of Alaska, by scouring radar maps of Venus’ surface from NASA’s Magellan mission, an orbiter that studied the planet in the early 1990s until it deliberately plunged into its atmosphere, never to be heard from again.  

The block structures hint at interactions between the surface and interior of the planet that “are not seen elsewhere in the inner Solar System except for continental interiors on Earth,” according to the team’s study, which was published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Venus’ mantle, a layer below the outer crust, appears to be pushing the blocks laterally—or, side to side—in a manner similar to the motion of pack ice structures on Earth. While previous studies have proposed that tectonic strain and potential lateral movements are occurring on Venus, Byrne’s team is the first to identify the detailed motions outlining these blocks, showing what looks like recent activity. 

“For decades, there's been circumstantial evidence that Venus is volcanically active and I would bet a lot of money that it is erupting right now,” Byrne said in a call. “There’s nowhere else in the solar system as tectonically deformed as Venus, except perhaps parts of Earth. So, of course, the world is active, but we've never had definitive evidence from any mission that could prove it or show it. A lot of it's based on inference.”

In other words, the tantalizing discovery of these lateral motions is a rare piece of tangible evidence that Venus is geologically active, or that it is, at the very least, on a transitional continuum from an active to inert state. Though its tectonic motion is nowhere near as expansive as Earth, these movements still makes Venus an outlier compared to most other worlds in the solar system, such as Mars, Mercury, and the Moon.

268046_web.jpg

A 1,100-km-wide, false-color radar view of Lavinia Planitia, one of the lowland regions on Venus where the lithosphere has fragmented into blocks (purple) delineated by belts of tectonic structures (yellow).

Byrne is optimistic that observations captured by Magellan and other past Venus missions contain much more information about these complex processes that can be mined for new information. But enhanced imagery of the planet’s surface will also be necessary to understand exactly how all the weird features on Venus fit together into one model.

Fortunately, NASA just approved two new missions to Venus, and the European Space Agency greenlit one of their own. The trio of spacecraft, which are scheduled to arrive at Venus sometime in the 2030s, will be able to examine the nature of these crustal blocks and their implications for Venus’ modern activity.

As a fascinating yet mysterious world, Venus deserves to be the center of attention in these studies and missions. Even so, it also provides a useful analog for understanding all kinds of other environments, ranging from Earth at a time before the onset of modern plate tectonics to worlds located in distant star systems.

“One of our core questions for Venus is: why is Venus not like Earth?” Byrne said. “Is it just because it started out a little closer [to the Sun] and it was never able to escape the runaway greenhouse effect? Or was it some catastrophe that happened way later in its life? Those are the two models we have.” 

The newly greenlit Venus missions will help to resolve that question, which would 

have big implications for understanding the search for life elsewhere in the universe. If Venus-like planets are likely to become as hellish at the surface as our neighboring world, it could reduce the odds of finding alien life on exoplanets at similar orbital distances. Venus is also instructive in this era of human-driven climate change, as it reveals the extreme consequences of a runaway greenhouse gas effect.

At the same time, tectonic motions on modern Venus may be somewhat analogous to the motions of Earth billions of years ago, during the time when the seeds of life were first planted on our planet. In this way, Venus is not only a land of mystery that has defied easy explanations for decades, it is also a crucial window into the emergence of life on Earth and, potentially, beyond our planet.

“We don't have a good working model for what we would call the geodynamics— the motion, the power, and the processes—shaping Venus today,” Byrne said. “We need one, and our paper helps add to this discussion and hopefully, adds the momentum of people actually studying it.” 

“We don't understand Venus at all,” he concluded. “Not really.”

New Observations Just Drastically Changed What We Know About Venus syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

Smart Thermostats Are Turning Down Air Conditioners During Heatwave

As the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) urged residents last week to limit their energy use and avoid shorting the grid amid high temperatures and demand spikes, a number of Texans with smart thermostats were dismayed to find that this was being taken care of for them

Brandon English, of Deer Park, Texas, for example, returned home from work last week to find his house right at 78 degrees fahrenheit, the temperature ERCOT recommended to reduce grid strain. But English wasn’t the one to set it there: It had been changed by a third party while his wife and child were napping. 

“They woke up sweating,” English told local Houston CBS-affiliate KHOU 11. “Was my daughter at the point of overheating? She’s 3 months old. They dehydrate very quickly.”

English—like other Texans with similar setups—was caught off guard by the change. But his device was doing something it was designed to do: Limiting his energy use during a period of high demand to prevent large-scale blackouts and reduce the need for fossil-fuel peaker power plants, which only go online a few times a year around times of peak demand, but are typically inefficient and have higher emission rates than traditional power plants.

English didn’t realize when his family started using a smart thermostat that he’d enrolled in a grid-response program called “Smart Savers Texas,” operated by software company EnergyHub, which works with utility companies like ERCOT to power down customer-owned devices during peak demand. They were brought into the program through a sweepstakes’ English told KHOU 11 he swiftly unenrolled from upon learning he’d handed partial control over his thermostat to a third party. 

The company says participants “actively agree” to grid responsiveness services, and have the ability to opt-out at any time, as English did. 

“During a demand response event, Smart Savers Texas increases the temperature on participating thermostats by up to four degrees to reduce energy consumption and relieve stress on the grid,” Erika Diamond, vice president of customer solutions at EnergyHub told Motherboard in a statement over email. “The ability to reduce energy consumption is critical to managing the grid, in Texas and nationwide.” 

Incentive programs for smart thermostats have become relatively common across the U.S. as a method for increasing energy efficiency en masse. Utilities and smart thermostat device and platform companies alike are running sweepstakes in states like California, Illinois, Maryland, Rhode Island, and New York to encourage their use, offering free or reduced-cost thermostats or other prizes for enrolling in grid response services.

Smart thermostats offer the promise of helping communities manage possible blackout events, but they are also part of a trend of smart appliances that has, broadly speaking, given the manufacturers of devices a huge amount of control over devices that consumers nominally own. Connecting hardware that was once "dumb" to the internet has ramifications for a person's digital security and autonomy—though a user may own a device, they often have to agree to onerous End User License Agreements that given companies wide control over how their devices are used. Think coffee machines that only brew pods from approved manufacturers, refrigerators that don't take "unauthorized" filters, and connected lights and smart home hubs that brick themselves because of software updates or because the manufacturer goes bankrupt.

In many cases, smart thermostats simply give users more control over their energy consumption and give them the option to reduce energy waste when they’re not home. If you’re at work and realize you left your air conditioning on during a heat wave, for example, a smart Nest, Honeywell, or Ecobee thermostat allows you to turn it off through a mobile app, saving you a few dollars on utility bills and lightening the load on your local grid. 

But grid responsiveness tools give operators like EnergyHub the ability to turn off people's thermostats on their own, alarming users who sign up for free thermostats without realizing they’ve also enrolled in automated power-down programs. 

In California, for example, residential energy use platform OhmConnect launched a program called EndCABlackouts, doling out one million smart thermostats and enrolling users in an energy-saving grid response service. The program reduces users’ energy footprint in one of two ways: By alerting them of peak demand periods, when shutting off their devices on their own can earn them savings, or by doing this on its own, automatically modifying a home’s temperature schedule when utility companies ask them to. In both scenarios, the company sells energy saved back to the grid, takes a cut of its own and delivers cash or prize savings to customers. 

The company recently launched the City Energy Challenge to encourage enrollment in smart thermostat programs in San Jose, Oakland, Fresno and Bakersfield, and will award $50,000 in educational scholarships to the city that sees the highest adoption rate. The company boasts saving 1 gigawatt-hour, or 600,000 homes worth of energy through grid-responsiveness tools, preventing six days of blackouts during last August’s heat wave. 

Don Whaley, president of OhmConnect’s Texas region, says communication is a crucial part of what the platform offers participants: Text notifications alert users in advance of periods where their devices might power down, at which point they have the option to plan ahead or opt out. 

“We'll let you know the hours during which we'll be cutting back demand, so if you want to participate in the event and you're afraid your house might get hot, well it's a good time to go shopping,” Whaley told Motherboard over the phone. “So you’re not caught going, ‘Who the heck turned up my thermostat?’” 

On Reddit, some OhmConnect customers said they like being able to reduce their energy impact without the hassle of monitoring their circuit breaker on their own. But others complain that the savings they reap (one-tenth of a penny per watt, users estimate) aren’t worth the sacrifice of shutting off AC during heat waves like the one California is experiencing right now. And others fear that handing power over their home’s devices to a third party could open control of their house to a company or the government.

“Be very careful about agreeing to this,” one Reddit user said of demand response incentive programs Friday. “In Texas during the middle of a heatwave ERCOT has set thermostats to 80 … I will never be agreeing to that in my home.” 

These programs raise questions of responsibility for blackouts: Rather than addressing grid reliability issues at the source or reducing fossil fuel emissions from peaker plants by replacing them with renewable alternatives, grid-response programs put the onus on users to live in uncomfortable conditions to avoid shorting the grid. 

For English, that was heat that he feared would be unsafe for his sleeping 3-month-old. 

“I wouldn’t want anybody else controlling my things for me,” English told KHOU 11.

Smart Thermostats Are Turning Down Air Conditioners During Heatwave syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

From Dresses To Electric Cars, Why Are These Stripes All Over Social Media?

These warming stripes, as they are known, are a visualization of global warming from 1850-2020, with each stripe representing one year, and each color a temperature value. One look at the graphic tells a story: the world has become much hotter, and it has done so very recently.
From Dresses To Electric Cars, Why Are These Stripes All Over Social Media? syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

Hyundai Acquires Boston Dynamics, Company Most Famous for Robot Police Dogs

Boston Dynamics, the company that makes those dystopian dancing robot dogs that also work for the cops despite being easily defeatable in mortal combat, has been purchased by the car company Hyundai.

The deal values Boston Dynamics at $1.1 billion, according to a Hyundai press release, and sees Hyundai assume an 80 percent controlling stake in the robot company. Softbank will retain a 20 percent stake. Before the Softbank acquisition in 2017, the company was previously owned by Google's parent company Alphabet.

It is hard to tell what Hyundai wants out of Boston Dynamics from the press release, which is laden with technobabble. Robots in car manufacturing are nothing new, but Hyundai says the acquisition is "another major step toward its strategic transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider" such as "autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI), Urban Air Mobility (UAM), smart factories and robots," which seems to speak to the company's ambitions beyond car manufacturing. Hyundai says it hopes to "develop advanced technologies that enhance people's lives and promote safety, thereby realizing the progress for humanity."

Apparently, the "progress of humanity" means a lot less of it. To celebrate the purchase, Hyundai released a bizarre hype video featuring a seeing-eye robot dog, a nurse robot dog with a tablet mounted on its head that allows the patient to nod at a doctor who is somewhere else, and a teen dancing with a robot in the street. In other words, Hyundai envisions a lonely future in which social cohesion between humans has broken down and robots are our only friends. That's all bad enough, but why anyone would want a seeing eye robot dog instead of a real dog is beyond comprehension. 

What's important to remember is that some of Boston Dynamics' robot dogs' most notable implementations are as guard dogs at corporate headquarters, as police tools, and as dystopian patrollers of homeless encampments. This current reality is not presented in the advertising video.

Hyundai Acquires Boston Dynamics, Company Most Famous for Robot Police Dogs syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

Amazon Workers Call for Strike on Prime Day in Germany

Germany’s second largest trade union, Verdi, called Sunday for Amazon warehouse workers across the country to go on strike as the retail giant launches its annual Prime Day. 

In a statement emailed to Motherboard, the union announced a strike at Amazon warehouses in the German cities of Werne, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Bad Hersfeld, Koblenz, and Grabenin beginning on Monday evening and ending on Wednesday. 

“Amazon spends millions on advertising and earns billions in sales on the days of the [Prime Day] promotion,” Orhan Akman, a representative at Verdi, said. “The workers in the warehouses have to cope with a high influx of customers and don’t even receive a cent for the increased workload. The profits only flow into the pockets of the group and its shareholders.” 

The strike is the latest in a series of similar actions spearheaded by Verdi. In March, Amazon workers across Germany went on a four-day strike. They also went on strike during last year's Prime Day, in October of 2020. 

The workers grievances range from low pay to poor working conditions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Verdi described Amazon’s pledge to increase starting wages in Germany to €12 euros an hour as "cynical and a far fetch from recognition and respect for workers by the company," and accused the company of only raising wages after strikes. 

In 2020, Motherboard reported that Verdi had been one of the targets of a surveillance operation conducted by Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center. 

In a statement to Motherboard, an Amazon spokesperson shrugged off the strike as the “usual situation we have in Germany.” 

“The fact is, Amazon already offers excellent pay, excellent benefits and excellent career opportunities, all while working in a safe and modern environment—the unions know this,” the spokesperson wrote. “There has been no customer impact caused by today’s action. It was limited to 7 of our 16 FC German fulfillment centers and at those 7 centers the vast majority of our employees are working as they do every day to meet the needs of our customers, including the small and medium-sized enterprises and German entrepreneurs who rely on Amazon.” 

Verdi is not the only organization to speak out against Amazon on Prime Day. In a press release sent to Motherboard, UNI Global Union expressed its solidarity with Amazon workers around the world, and said: “The Amazon system is, by design, chewing workers in and spitting them out.” 

Meanwhile, 35 organizations including Color of Change and Fight for the Future penned an open letter to lawmakers calling on them to end Amazon’s “Time Off Task” system, which monitors workers’ movements during breaks. 

Amazon Workers Call for Strike on Prime Day in Germany syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

Is This The End For The Hubble Space Telescope? Its Computer Has A Memory Problem, Says NASA

Launched into low Earth orbit 41 years ago, the ageing space telescope has made thousands of discoveries.
Is This The End For The Hubble Space Telescope? Its Computer Has A Memory Problem, Says NASA syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

Twitter and OnlyFans Suspend Accounts for Leaking BDSM Video of City Council Candidate

Twitter and OnlyFans have suspended accounts that non consensually shared a BDSM video of Zack Weiner, a 26-year-old running for city council in District 6 in New York City.

"Whoops, I didn't want anyone to see that, but here we are," Weiner said in a statement posted to Twitter. "I am not ashamed of the private video circulating of me on Twitter. This was a recreational activity that I did with my friend at the time, for fun."

Twitter suspended an account that shared the video hours after it was posted. The account claimed it obtained the video from a dominatrix friend. The company told Motherboard that the account was suspended for violation of Twitter's rules on spam and platform manipulation. Notably, the account was not suspended for Twitter's non-consensual nudity policy, even though the video appears to be what is colloquially referred to online as "revenge porn." 

Twitter also told Motherboard that a New York Post tweet sharing the publication's story about the video, which features a still from the video clearly showing Weiner, was not in violation of Twitter's rules. Twitter famously blocked the publication from its platform last year because it shared an article about Hunter Biden that Twitter said contained hacked data.

An OnlyFans account with an identical username and profile picture to the one that posted the video to Twitter also shared and sold clips from the same video. OnlyFans only removed the video more than 24 hours after Motherboard reached out to the company for comment, saying it was in violation of OnlyFans’ Terms of Service. 

Weiner did not respond to Motherboard's request for comment. 

Mistress Harley, a dominatrix, told Motherboard that it's common for clients to request to be filmed, but that it is a severe violation of client privacy for this video to be released without consent.

"Visa and Mastercard have stopped working with Pornhub over exactly these issues and legally speaking not only is it bad for the reputation of the dominatrix to release these videos without consent, but in many states it is a violation of revenge porn laws," Harley said. "I suspect that the dominatrix in question is probably new to the business and does not have a lawyer that would have advised her against this course of action."

Harley said that sometimes clients request to be filmed because they want to be able to look fondly back on their experience. "Think of it like a Bar Mitzvah video where the only person that might ever watch it again is the client," Harley said.

Some people fetishize being exposed in this manner, which is why Harley runs LoserHallofShame.com, a website where men pay to have their images and videos shared with the public.

Harley said that it's so common for clients to request this, she has a section on her website explaining that clients that want to be filmed have to sign a model release form and share a picture of their ID. 

Weiner's situation is one that is becoming increasingly common as a generation of people who grew up with the internet are getting into politics. In 2018, opponents of Eric Brakey, who won the Maine Republican nomination for US Senate, dug up a video of him doing the Harlem Shake in Speedos. 

At the time, Motherboard wrote:

We’re on the cusp of a major generational shift in politics: The people running for office in the coming years are the first generation to be extremely online for most of their lives. People who’ve never known a time before the internet—yes, Millennials—are now running for political office, and that means their online histories are on display and preserved in a way no previous generation of politicians ever had to contend with.

As long as these online histories don't reveal the kind of bad judgment and character that can harm others (for example, audio of the candidate openly talking about sexually assaulting women) none of that should matter. We all have mistakes filed away online, after all. It’s where we grew up, and part of growing up is making a bunch of mistakes.

As Weiner himself said in his statement, "Like many young people, I have grown into a world where some of our most private moments have been documented online. While a few loud voices on Twitter might chastise me for the video, most people see the video for what it is: a distraction." 

"I encourage everyone to explore their sexuality safely but this is why it is very important for clients to research who they are interacting with," Harley said. "Personally I do not feel that Zack should suffer any negative repercussions out of his private life being released to the public, his right to privacy was violated and if anything he is the victim in this story."

Twitter and OnlyFans Suspend Accounts for Leaking BDSM Video of City Council Candidate syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

Ohio Republicans Are Trying To Kill Community Broadband

Ohio state lawmakers are attempting to ban community broadband at the demand of telecom giants. If approved, the effort would severely harm the ability of local communities to build and expand better, faster, and cheaper broadband.

On June 9, the Ohio Senate approved a new budget bill. But a last-minute amendment shoveled into the bill is angering state residents and locally-owned ISPs, who say it’s an underhanded effort by AT&T and Charter to protect their regional broadband monopolies.

The amendment would ban the building of community run broadband networks in any areas where consumers already have access to broadband speeds of 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up. Such a standard doesn’t even meet the FCC’s definition of broadband (25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up), and community ISPs routinely deliver far faster options.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, built a fiber broadband network on the back of its local energy utility providing fiber broadband as fast as 10 Gbps. Studies have repeatedly shown community networks better, faster, and cheaper options, forcing regional monopolies to not only compete on price, but improve their own local offerings.

The Ohio proposal also bans municipalities from offering broadband service outside of established municipal boundaries, and prohibits community broadband networks in the state from using local tax dollars or federal subsidies and grants to fund network build outs.

Ohio’s restrictions were implemented without any public notice or input. One local Cleveland outlet noted that the effort is so unpopular, Ohio Republicans sponsoring the amendment are refusing to even officially acknowledge their support.

Twenty-five Republican State Senators voted in favor of the Senate budget bill as it currently exists, while eight Democrats voted against it. The Ohio State Senate and House now have until June 30 to reconcile bill differences and eliminate or approve the amendment’s restrictive language.

“We were somewhat surprised by this effort to kill community networks because it is so late in the session,” Christopher Mitchell, a community broadband expert at the Institute For Local Self Reliance told Motherboard. “However, it is clear that whoever inserted the language—we assume at the behest of the cable monopoly Charter Spectrum—understood how unpopular it would be and wanted to avoid any public hearings or opportunities for Ohio businesses and residents to speak out in favor of local Internet choice.”

More than 750 U.S. towns and cities have built some type of community broadband network. Such home-grown options are usually a direct response to a lack of competition among entrenched broadband providers, which in countless US markets results in high prices, spotty coverage, slow speed, and historically terrible customer service.

Yet instead of competing with these local networks through price cuts or upgrades, telecom giants have lobbied for state laws designed to eliminate them. Seventeen states currently have laws restricting or banning community broadband, most of them ghost written by incumbent ISP lawyers, then shoveled through state legislatures with the help of organizations like ALEC.

With pandemic lockdowns highlighting the essential nature of broadband, the trend appeared to have been reversing itself. Washington and Arkansas eliminated their restrictions this year.

The restrictions are so unpopular among consumers, large ISPs often try to sneak them through state legislatures covertly, like in 2016 when AT&T attempted to bury community broadband restrictions in an unrelated Missouri traffic ordinance.

Telecom giants also utilize an army of consultants, think tanks, and outside policy groups to portray community broadband as an inevitable disaster and waste of taxpayer resources, while downplaying the billions in state and federal taxpayer dollars funneled annually toward the nation’s biggest ISPs for fiber networks that routinely fail to fully materialize.

Big telecom also enjoys framing community broadband as a partisan issue to sow public dissent and stall reform. But Mitchell’s group notes that most community-owned broadband networks are built in Conservative cities, often with bipartisan voter support. Few voters think a giant ISP like Comcast should be covertly dictating what a town or city does with its own resources.

More than 1 million Ohio residents currently lack access to broadband. Only 47 percent of Ohio residents have access to broadband for less than $60 per month. 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly, and millions more are stuck under a duopoly usually consisting of a cable giant—usually Comcast or Charter—and a local telco offering sluggish DSL.

Ohio’s restrictions would not only prohibit the construction of new municipal broadband networks, they would prevent the state’s 30 existing community broadband networks from expanding. That includes FairlawnGig, which provides Ohio locals with broadband tiers starting at 300 Mbps for $55 a month, a dramatically cheaper option than most national ISPs.

“We’re asking our residents, and residents across the State to get in touch with their State Senators and House Representatives to tell them to strip out the language banning municipal broadband service as well as directing Federal Rescue Act funding to broadband initiatives,” the ISP said.

Ohio Republicans Are Trying To Kill Community Broadband syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

Florida Energy Company Proposes Raising Bills by 20% to Pay for ‘Sustainability’

The largest utility in Florida is aiming to raise consumer bills by 20 percent over the next four years, an increase that housing and environmental justice advocates believe unjustly intensifies economic and climate burdens for vulnerable communities in the Sunshine State.

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) is holding public hearings on a rate hike proposal brought forth by Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest investor-owned utility that supplies power to 5.6 million Floridians. The proposal, filed in March, sets forth a plan to bring in an additional $6.5 billion over the next four years.

FPL’s official line is that these changes are necessary to build out renewable infrastructure and make the Florida energy grid more reliable.

But environmental groups are dubious. Organizations like Catalyst Miami, 350 South Florida and the Miami Climate Alliance are urging residents to attend any of the eight PSC hearings between June 21 and July 2 to voice opposition to the rate hikes. On Thursday, the groups set up outside an FPL office in Coral Gables to protest the bill increases, which they say would hit Florida’s low-income and environmental justice communities at a particularly difficult time as the state’s tourism-based economies recover from the hit of COVID-19.

“We’re so reliant on tourism, and a lot of low-income communities are in that tourism market,” said MacKenzie Marcelin, climate justice organizer with Florida Rising, a racial justice-oriented political organization opposing the rate hike. “I spoke to community members last year who said, ‘My bills, I don’t have money to pay for it, because I’m still unemployed.’”

In a rate case petition to the FPSC, FPL urged that even after proposed bill spikes, Floridians’ monthly bills would remain among the lowest in the country. But organizers are calling this into question. 2019 data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows FPL raked in the largest recorded residential revenue of any utility in the nation, at $6.6-billion.

“FPL touts that they have some of the lowest rates in the country, which actually isn’t true,” says Zelalem Adefris, vice president of policy and advocacy at Catalyst Miami.

The utility’s rate proposal would increase its annual base revenue by $1.1 billion in 2022 and $607 million in 2023. It also proposed hikes that total $140 million in 2024 and $140 million in 2025 to fund solar energy projects and fulfill its “30-by-30” goal of installing 30 million solar panels in Florida by 2030.

But organizers like Adefris believe promises that rate hikes will be used to develop renewable infrastructure are shallow. Building out power lines and natural gas energy centers are also core tenets of the proposal, which critics say move Florida away from transitioning its grid to renewables.

“We're known as one of the ground zeroes for the climate crisis,” Adefris says. “This large monopoly utility isn’t moving fast enough toward renewable energy.”

Indeed, EIA data shows that natural gas was responsible for 74 percent of Florida’s electricity production in 2019, while renewables made up 1.6 percent. Between 2014 and 2019, the utility spent $31 million on lobbying, some of which went toward campaigning against solar power, the New York Times reported in 2019.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a non-profit thinktank, ranked FPL the second worst in efficiency out of 52 American utilities in 2020, and critics have little faith that rate hikes will do much to improve this.

In Florida’s low-income communities, bill spikes can lead consumers to make tough choices about how they spend their money. Marcelin says he’s spent time with Floridians who ration energy or forgo paying their energy bills to afford medication, a decision that comes with health detriments of its own. In warm, humid climates, forgoing air conditioning can lead to the growth of indoor molds that cause respiratory damage, for example.

“This disproportionate burden on the poor is a huge concern for us,” Adefris says.

Florida Energy Company Proposes Raising Bills by 20% to Pay for ‘Sustainability’ syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/

My Life as a Meme: ‘I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This’ Revisited

In November 2007, an entirely contextless video of me being punched in the face went viral. You might have seen it. It still does the rounds every couple of months, often when something notably bad happens that warrants a response of disbelief. In these strange times, it’s managed to remain endlessly prescient.

For the uninitiated, the video in question is an 11-second clip in which, aged 16, I appear wearing a dressing gown cord around my head, a chain necklace, some children’s sunglasses and a black T-shirt. I sit down and address the camera, ostensibly about to tell the viewer what I was thinking. I am immediately interrupted by my friend Tim, who appears stage left and lamps me. Rather than react in pain or anger, I err more towards disappointment and dismay, bewildered that something like this could happen. “Ah fuck. I can’t believe you’ve done this,” I said. End scene.

It’s been nearly 14 years since I uploaded the original video and to this day it still prompts questions. Who was the guy who got punched? Why did he get punched? Who punched him? What was he thinking? Why did he react that way? Why did he leave YouTube?

In recent years I’ve come to appreciate and even enjoy its bizarre status as an enduring piece of internet history, but my relationship with the clip in the decade that followed its inexorable rise hasn’t always been easy. To understand why, it’s useful to remember that the internet in 2007 was, for better or worse, a very different place.

Having spent the best part of my school years filming stupid skits with mates instead of studying, there was something semi-appealing about the prospect of being able to put videos online to share with friends. It began in mid-2003, when myself and a group of friends would have been in our early teens. Inspired by the likes of Jackass and Bam Margera’s CKY movies, our impressionable young selves set about ignoring all relevant safety warnings, hurling ourselves out of trees, riding scooters into curbs, and racing tyres down hills on skateboards.

At the age of 14 or so, I had envisaged cutting the footage into a chaotic feature-length video of “stunts.” I’d probably have soundtracked it with music from the Tony Hawk games, alongside countless other homemade skate videos people made circa 2003 that probably featured a mix of Ace of Spades or Guerilla Radio. I still have a box full of VHS-C tapes kicking around somewhere, which can only be viewed on one of those absolutely insane VHS adapters. Having not watched any of it in well over a decade, I can safely say that the content contained within those tapes is unequivocally shit.

All of a sudden you're everywhere and it's out of your control. You either try to fight it and get destroyed, or embrace it and try to cash in.

Looking back, the whole endeavour was entirely aimless, but aside from coming away with mild head injuries from time to time it was an innocuous way to spend my childhood. At the very least it also means I have a bizarre, tangible record of my youth that I’ll be able to laugh at one day when I’m old and wizened.

By summer 2004, we had started filming on Mini-DV, which opened up a whole new world of editing possibilities. Plugging a video camera into a computer and capturing footage directly to editing software is pretty much a given for today’s generation of content creators, but back in the early 2000s, this was revolutionary.

We’d eventually gravitate away from ‘stunts’ towards more structured skits and sketches. Nothing was ever scripted per se, but we’d usually start out with a rough idea of something and see how it played out.

There was an ambitiously misguided 'silent horror' short, soundtracked by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, in which someone chopped off ‘my cock’ (a banana) with a garden shear. We considered this to be the absolute pinnacle of comedy.

There was an ill-advised 'Ballers' skit in which we ventured out in sports gear to make a mock training video taking the piss out of a guy at school who fancied himself as a bit of a gangster; this painfully middle-class white kid who listened to rap metal and liked basketball. He obviously never saw it and there's no question that we looked like idiots filming it at the local park. It’s probably quite offensive in hindsight.

IMG-20190920-WA0007.jpg

The author at the Bristol Climate Change Protests in September 2019. Image: Shanya Buultjens

There was a James Bond 'spoof' that involved misquoting portions of dialogue from that scene in GoldenEye where Q gives Bond an exploding pen. It was funny to about three people. One of them was my mum.

One time a mate of mine fell out of a tree when he tried to swing from a branch. He landed on his back and ended up coughing up blood. He didn’t go to the hospital even though he probably should have. He’s now a doctor and a father.

Mercifully, none of this stuff ever made it online, but I did sell a couple of DVDs to people at school who rightly/probably/hopefully never watched them. In an ideal world, I'd own the only copies. I'm also fully aware that writing about this now only makes it more likely that one of the four people that still have a copy will dig theirs out. Please do not do that.

In 2005 and 2006, YouTube was very much in its infancy. This was the time when clips were limited to about 100mb and you could only upload about 30 seconds worth of footage at a time, which basically made it perfect for bursts of frenetic, inane content. As the platform grew, it became a dumping ground for skits and footage that we’d accumulated over the preceding years. Much of it went completely unnoticed until late 2007, at which point things started to get a bit weird.

The truth is that, nearly a decade and a half later, I’m still processing it.

The clip that people have come to know started out as an aimless skit filmed in Summer 2006. We hadn’t planned anything, least of all me being punched. In the footage building up to the event, I pushed Tim off the chair, he fell and hit his head on a filing cabinet off-camera. Rather than react to Tim, I sat down and proceeded to ad lib something that I’d venture to guess would have been considerably less funny than the act of violence that followed. Unprompted, Tim upsided me and I reacted with an inexplicable, completely incredulous response, which has followed me online ever since.

The footage sat on a tape until July 2007 when I decided to upload a brief segment under an ambiguous title. Fast forward to November and the video had somehow blown up, had its comments section relentlessly spammed, been ripped countless times and had offensive Wiki pages written about it. I also received a few direct messages which could at best have been described as ‘worrying’ and at worst ‘threatening,’ which was nice.

To this day, I’m none the wiser as to how it blew up in the way it did. I originally uploaded the video under the title ‘ ___________’ but the video somehow found its way onto 4chan where it spread like wildfire. The earliest mirrored link I could find was from January 2008, by which time it had been re-uploaded by multiple accounts, the most prominent of which had already clocked up almost double the number of views compared to my original upload.

At the time, going viral wasn't really comparable to any other experience and it certainly wasn't something I could discuss in solidarity with my friends. All of a sudden you're everywhere and it's out of your control. You either try to fight it and get destroyed, or embrace it and try to cash in. After yanking down several other videos on my YouTube channel, I opted for the latter.

When the video blew up, I got a call from a friend who informed me that the video had made the front page of Break.com. I peripherally knew what that meant: they offered a buyout scheme for videos that made the front page, which meant that I could make some money from it.

As it transpired, this wasn’t such a great idea. After signing a release form with some pretty appalling terms, over the following months I had several unnerving interactions with researchers for various TV shows looking to license the clip. Each offered far more favourable terms than those of Break. One of them harassed a bunch of my mates on Facebook. I think he even offered to pay one of them for my contact details.

By that point, it was all too apparent that I had completely fucked it. Break had the rights and I couldn't do anything with it even if I wanted to. At just 18 years old, I had sold out. In the short term, I used the money to buy a TV, which was great, but I soon started to get the creeping feeling that this was a decision that would come to haunt me. At that point, it was easier to disassociate myself from the clip, abandon YouTube, and move on with my life.

And yet, for the best part of 14 years the questions have kept coming: no, it wasn’t staged or scripted, it wasn’t a set-up, I didn’t know it was coming and, yes, it hurt. It was also very funny, which is presumably why I felt the need to upload it in isolation in the first place. Incidentally, Tim and I are still friends and contrary to some of the absolutely insane comments people leave on YouTube I can confirm that neither of us are in prison, the punch wasn’t a reaction to some sort of disagreement and he’s a lovely bloke.

To be clear, the lack of context wasn’t a deliberate choice to add intrigue either. I’d never even considered the possibility that anyone outside my circle of friends would see it. To me it was just another daft clip that a few mates would find funny.

Around the time I’d started to make peace with the issues around ownership, in 2018 it came to my attention that Break had shut down and its owner Defy Media had gone bust. The site was subsequently purchased by Yeah1 Network, but to this day I have no clarity whatsoever on my legal rights to the video. Any attempts to receive guidance have either turned up dead ends, or led to suggestions that I speak to IP lawyers, whom I have neither the means nor the time to deal with. Incidentally, if anyone has any insights in that area, I’d love to hear them.

Having said this, there’s something quite empowering in taking something embarrassing and admitting to it before someone else can point it out to you—a bit like taking ownership of an amusing surname. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what gags can be made from the name ‘Weedon,’ but I learned quite early on that if you make the jokes yourself and beat others to it, no one can fucking touch you. It’s much easier nowadays to hold my hands up and admit that I shouldn’t have sold the rights, make a joke of it and move on. At the very least, it makes for a good anecdote at parties.

As I suspect is probably the case for old content creators, if you can even call us that, the real story about I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This isn’t in how it’s aged and endured, or even how it’s impacted my life. For me, it’s tied up in issues of rights, ownership, and monetisation. As mercenary as it might be, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t regret missing out on a slice of the pie when it came to YouTubers being able to monetise their content sooner. On the one hand, that's probably a very cynical view for something that was created by a bunch of teenagers who were fooling around making videos for fun in the noughties, but on the other, that's just the world we live in now.

Perhaps the strangest thing about my experience with it nowadays is the way people engage with it on a day-to-day basis. The comments vary from young people discovering its origins for the first time, surprised to discover that it is in fact a 14 year old video and not a recent creation filmed for Vine or TikTok. At the other end of the spectrum are those who are incredulous that someone with a video that has 9.2 million views and an account that’s amassed over 15,000 followers without really trying would step away from the platform and not want to make content.

The truth is that, nearly a decade and a half later, I’m still processing it. I love seeing how it’s been re-interpreted in modern mediums and that positive association has made it easier to accept. Charles Cornell turned it into a sad song. It got sampled in a KIll The Noise track. I had a nice interaction with The Sidemen about it. Will Smith even featured it in an insane Instagram post during the pandemic. I DM’d him to say thanks and he obviously didn’t reply.

To that end, a small group of us have recently started work on a film project exploring the nature of the meme, how it grew, its impact on my life and my relationship with the internet at large. In doing so, the hope is that, while answering some of the burning questions that other people still seem to have, I’ll ultimately be able to make peace with the whole thing.

@Twotafkap

My Life as a Meme: ‘I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This’ Revisited syndicated from https://triviaqaweb.wordpress.com/feed/