Believe me when I tell you that I’ve received my fair share of spam text messages. I’ve been congratulated for winning competitions I never signed up for, informed that I must act quickly because a loved one has recently been taken to prison, and courted by mysterious “women” asking me if I have interest in having a “wild night that I’ll never forget.” That last one gets me every time because I paid attention in kindergarten, I remember “stranger danger,” and I’ve seen the movie where an unsuspecting person is asked to meet someone in a park. I believe I’m good, kind stranger, but thank you.
On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at approximately 2:20 EST, I received a text message from a number not in my phone, only this time, I was elated. My iPhone informed that the message was from “Maybe: Donald Trump,” so naturally, my curiosity was peaked. President Trump had sent me a personal text message on the same day that FEMA’s Wireless Emergency Alert system was sending out a mass text message to all American cell phone users.
President Trump’s message was kind, inquisitive, and thoughtful.
“Daniel, it’s Donald. This is a text message from me. Believe me, when I send a text message, it’s the greatest text message in the world. No one sends better text messages than me.”
I was flustered, stomach full of butterflies, and although caught off guard, I felt like the world seemed to melt away. It was just me and Donald, everything else was meaningless. I had to respond.
“Hello, Mr. President. This..this is so unexpected..” I was blushing as I continued to type. “I never thought I’d hear from you, and yet, here we are.” My heart was racing faster than I thought possible.
President Trump was typing, I saw the ellipsis on his side of the text box. “…” The suspense was haunting, and yet, I waited with nervous excitement.
“…” “Listen, my text messages are the most advanced in the world. Not even China sends text messages like me.”
My heart rate was off the charts, more in time with a Neil Pert drum solo than a normal human heartbeat. I took a break from texting to check the news. I knew that prior to receiving this text, President Trump announced that he planned to conduct the first nationwide test of the government’s Presidential Alert system. The purpose of the system, which has come in many iterations over the years such as radio broadcasts to leaflets dropped from aircraft, is to alert as many US citizens as possible of a national emergency. Be it a natural disaster or news that foreign enemies have reached American soil, the Presidential Alert System will be our saving grace.
While I was corresponding with the President, enamored with his prose, feeling as if I were in a dream I’d hope to never wake from, millions of Americans received this text message.
Though the message was intended to be sent to every cell phone in the US, people on all major carriers, with phones of all types, reported that they failed to receive the alert. FEMA says on its website, “WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) capabilities were available beginning in April 2012, but many mobile devices, especially older ones, are not WEA-capable.” Now, assuming older phones imply “flip,” “rotary,” or the classic “banana,” most people did receive this message, but why the sudden test?
Occasionally, I’ll receive weather warning text alerts or amber alerts, both of which I take very seriously, but never emergency text messages. As to why this test alert was sent out, David Simpson, former chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau had this to say:
“A very important reason to test, and why we initiated it to test locally, state-level, and then ultimately testing at the presidential level, is to discover the actual results versus what should happen theoretically.”
I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to respond to the President.
“Mr. President, I..I don’t know what to say. I feel as if I’ve known you my whole life and yet, we’ve never had the chance to meet face to face. Forgive me if this is too forward but…would you like to grab a beer sometime?”
The ellipses popped up, then disappeared. They came back…and disappeared yet again. President Trump didn’t know how to respond. We had ‘read receipts’ turned on for this conversation, and he read my previous text at 2:20 pm EST. It was 2:38 pm EST.
The ellipses returned and then, a message.
“Presidential Alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.
Just like that, it had happened. The President of the United States of America had ghosted me, leaving me with nothing but unanswered questions and the thought of what could have been.
President Trump Vs. The Democrats
While I consider myself to be a learned individual, there are several things that still leave me puzzled, no matter how hard I try to strengthen my understanding. It makes no coherent sense to me why someone would pour the milk into the bowl before adding cereal, this is absurd. In the popular Earth, Wind, and Fire song, “September,” the lyric is “Badiya, say that you remember.” I attended a lecture given by the lyricist responsible for this song and “badiya” was justified by saying it sounds catchy. Leading scientists have proven that we burn off more calories in the process of eating celery than we actually absorb from the vegetable’s nutrients, yet we still eat it anyway. All above concepts remain a mystery to me, but the be-all, end-all puzzler in my mind is President Donald Trump’s devout obsession with building an elephantine wall along the US-Mexico border.
Trump has fought tooth and nail since his inauguration to allocate government funds to construct his wall. It’s almost as if sixty years ago, when Trump was twelve years old, he sat at the bedside of his dying great-grandfather who said, “Donny…(cough, cough) Promise me you’ll do one thing in your life.” Trump, in tears, responded, “Yes, grandpa, whatever you want!” Great-grandpa Trump continued, “Promise me you’ll build a wall between here and Mexico. A wall so high that everyone in heaven will sigh in annoyance at its grandeur…Promise me…Promise…(he falls asleep one last time). There can be no other explanation for President Trump’s adamance in wanting this wall built.
With the Democratic Party set to take back the house following the convening of the 116th Congress on January 3, President Trump publicly expressed his concerns about the fate of his wall with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday. According to sources present at the meeting, Trump spoke, on end, about the importance of securing funding for border wall construction, going so far as to threaten to shut down the government if his demands aren’t met.
“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security. I will take the mantle, I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you [Democratcs] for it.”
–President Donald Trump
In terms of taking the temperature of the room during the altercation, Mr. Schumer told the press that President Trump had thrown a “temper tantrum” over the wall, continuing to say “the president made it clear that he wants a shutdown.” From the most bipartisan perspective one can possibly muster, there is no way to see Trump’s behavior during the meeting with the two Democratic members of Congress as anything less than incredibly disrespectful. The president shared his opinions for several minutes, then he paused, turned to Ms. Pelosi and said, with an incredibly pedantic tone, “Nancy, would you to share a few words?” Pelosi took an audible deep breath, and spoke:
“I think the American people recognize that we must keep the government. That a shutdown is not worth anything, and we shouldn’t have a Trump shut down.”
–House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Pelosi’s attempt at a viral soundbite with “Trump Shut Down” aside, her words ring true for both sides of the aisle. Despite opposing perspectives on allocating funding for border security measures, no one wants to shut down the government. Nevertheless, the president persisted onward with his wall-based tirade. Trump tweeted more of his sentiments following the conversation with Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi, threatening that “if the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall.”
Now, I am not fully aware of every single power at the disposal of an American president, but I’m pretty sure the president cannot command the US military to stop whatever it’s doing to work on a project not approved by the other two branches of government.
It’s clear that President Trump is getting nervous about making good on his promise to build a wall before the Democrats take back the House in several weeks.
Is Snapchat Dying?
For a very long time, I was convinced that I understood the inner machinations of social media. I truly believed that given how colorful my iPhone’s home screen was due to the cornucopia of collective apps placed strategically in folders based on what purpose the app served in my life.
Currently seated in my “social stuff” folder are apps like Facebook (FB) and Instagram (FB), staples in a content creator’s arsenal, along with YouTube (GOOG) and Skype (MSFT), for work purposes, of course. I waited to mention that I also use Snapchat (SNAP), the media sharing app created by parent company Snap Inc. (SNAP), because, to be completely honest, my use of the app makes me feel dated. I would wager several CVS coupons and a buffalo nickel that I belong to a dying breed of Snapchat (SNAP) users, a group of vagrants who no longer have even a single finger on the pulse of what’s trending and #relevant.
Many moons ago, Evan Spiegel Snap’s CEO (SNAP) decided that the Snapchat app, albeit an immense success at the time, was due for a facelift. He insisted that the company redesign the user interface of the app by creating a new “Discover” section for creators to share ideas, videos, and other interesting content. Suffice to say Snapchat’s (SNAP) redesign was taken very poorly. In August, the company announced its second-quarter daily average users had dropped 2% to 188 million. It probably didn’t help that Kylie Jenner, a celebrity famous for something I’ve lost track of, tweeted asking “does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me…ugh, this is so sad.” Ms. Jenner’s candor aside, the tweet knocked off more than $1 billion of Snap Inc’s market value at the time.
“We’re watching a company explode into bits. This is the kiss of death to a brand like Snapchat with their base that has stuck with them.”
–Eric Schiffer, Chief Executive Officer, Patriarch Organization
According to Bloomberg, four of the last six quarters since Snap’s initial public offering in March 2017 have fallen short in terms of projected revenue for the company, and everyone seems to be waving their fingers and unimpressive bank statements at Evan Spiegel. The question is really whether Spiegel has any sense of where Snap Inc (SNAP) is going, and if so, what in the name of H.G. Wells is he thinking?
In late 2016, Snap Inc. (SNAP) decided it was a camera company and developed “Spectacles,” a pair of sunglasses with a camera embedded in the lens for the purpose of snapping pictures and video. Sounds like a cool product, right? Well, it would’ve been if not for the fact that the glasses could only be used on the Snapchat app. Last year, the company ate $40 million in unsold inventory after the company ordered roughly 800,000 units from China.
To put it very simply, I fear for the life of Snap Inc. (SNAP) and so do investors. Shareholders that were once proud to own stock in Snap (SNAP) are now fleeing in droves, largely in part to the fact that Snap’s shares are trading roughly 60% below its March 2017 IPO price, currently at $6.51 per share, according to recent reports. Spiegel doesn’t seem to know when to quit, as a recent report from Cheddar indicates that Snap Inc. plans on releasing yet another version of its Spectacles glasses, this time with two cameras and a higher price point of $350 per pair.
My lack of understanding of Evan Spiegel seemingly has no end. If you release a product that consumers demonstrate little to no interest in, why would you spend more money on building out the capabilities of the product? It’s not that people don’t think Spectacles aren’t cool, in fact, they’re really sick. The issue is paying nearly $400 for cheap sunglasses that record 20 seconds of video only to be shared on a social platform that no one uses anymore.
During a meeting with Snapchat employees back in July, someone asked what was meant by Snap’s mission statement, “to contribute to human progress by allowing people to express themselves.” Spiegel responded calmly and said that he believes that “one of the things that have been really helpful in maybe the past six months or so is that the contrast is starting to become more clear between our company and the other companies in technology.”
Yes, Mr. Spiegel, I fear this is true and, if you don’t make some favorable changes, this may not bode well for your company.
The Boring Company Is Anything But
Let’s talk about hyperloops. They represent a very real future for the transportation of humans and goods, and yet, I’d wager a large sum of money that few of us understand what a Hyperloop actually is/does. Hyperloop is a new form of ground transport that uses a network of subterranean tunnels inside of which large pods carrying passengers and cargo travel to their goal destinations. Hyperloop’s key difference between traditional ground transport is the pods hover in a vacuum-sealed tube utilizing a frictionless system similar to how an air hockey table functions. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla (TSLA), SpaceX, and for the purpose of today’s content, The Boring Company, first presented plans for a hyperloop back in 2013 with the goal of creating a form of travel faster than any plane, train, or automobile.
In Musk’s original proposal, his hyperloop design depicted the pods with small hets of air on the bottom of each vessel, but according to Vox, most engineers now believe the use of magnets to generate pod levitation is the most effective form of propulsion for the hyperloop. Naturally, Musk, a man considered to be “arguably the most successful and important entrepreneur in the world” by the New York Times, decided it was only prudent to create an offshoot entity from his rocket-building SpaceX to develop hyperloop solutions exactly to his liking, and thus, the Boring Company came to life.
Elon Musk founded The Boring Company in 2016 because of his strong belief that, after decades of 2D transportation using traditional roads, highways, and sidewalks, humanity deserved better. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, he explained that an unfortunate fact of human nature is that when people make up their mind about something, whether this something is how they feel about a particular food or form of transportation, they tend not to change — “even when confronted with facts to the contrary.” It is the opinion of this online journalist that Elon Musk created the Boring Company to spite those who remain unchanged despite the presence of clear facts that would otherwise change their minds.
The core mission behind the founding of the Boring Company was to create a mass network of tunnels with electric transit systems meant to alleviate the stresses caused by gridlock traffic. It wasn’t surprising that Musk announced that Los Angeles, California would be the first American city to reap the benefits of improved transportation. Several weeks ago, Musk tweeted a video of “the Boring Machine,” a play-on-words name for the tunneling device used to “bore” a hole for the hyperloop, breaking through to the first station in a planned network of tunnels under the city of Los Angeles.
It seems as if Elon Musk could work on literally any project from his imagination and make it a complete success. Imagine if he decided, after building rockets, electric-fueled vehicles, and futuristic subterranean transports systems, to sell bricks, wouldn’t that be the most painfully ironic business venture one could think of? Well, knowing seemingly no bounds, Elon Musk gave the Boring Company its first subsidiary back in July, a new company called The Brick Store LLC, purposed with producing and selling bricks. According to documents discovered by TechCrunch, Steve Davis, a former SpaceX engineer, filed the paperwork necessary to establish The Brick Store on Aug 29, 2018, basing the company in Burlingame, California. Interestingly enough, The Brick Store’s first physical location will be in an old kitchen cabinet shop in Hawthorne, California, several miles from Tesla (TSLA) HQ. The new location sits above an exit tunnel being dug by The Boring Company to extract the boring machine from its first test tunnel, according to TechCrunch.
As far as the inventory for Musk’s new brick stores, he plans on using bricks already produced from The Boring Company’s test tunnel’s churned-up dirt.
“The Boring Company is building a watchtower in LA out of dirt bricks & we need a knight to yell insults at people in a French accent.”
–Elon Musk on Twitter
Musk’s innovative use of tunnel refuse for brick production is not a new concept. Bricks made from plain-old soil are called compressed earth blocks (CEB), and this technology dates back thousands of years to the first standing structures built by native civilizations.
If you tell Elon Musk that he cannot do something, or present him with a task that was previously considered to be unsolvable, he will undoubtedly prove you wrong. Tesla (TSLA), SpaceX, The Boring Company, and The Brick Store are just testaments to the fact that this man will innovate even if society refuses to change their opinion despite being confronted with facts to the contrary.
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