Day: March 30, 2019

San Diego Padres stay classy with ‘Anchorman’ race

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The Milwaukee Brewers race sausages (tasty!). The Washington Nationals race presidents (America!). But the latest entry into the MLB comically sized mascots running for the laughs of drunk baseball fans might be the classiest.

The San Diego Padres debuted the Anchorman runners on Friday, and in the words of Ron Burgundy, “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”

Burgundy ran away with the win, handily beating Champ Kind, Brian Fantana, and noted lamp fan, Brick Tamland.  Read more…

More about Baseball, Anchorman, Culture, and Sports

A look at new power banks from OmniCharge and Fuse Chicken

When you’ve been doing this job long enough, you start to develop strange interests (though some might compellingly argue that strange interests are a prerequisite). Lately for me it’s been power banks. Quite possibly the least sexy product in all of consumer electronics outside of the ever-ubiquitous dongle.

I don’t know what to tell you. Blame the fact that I’m traveling every other week for this job. There are also all of the liveblogs from years’ past that got cut off in the last few minutes as my poor ancient MacBook put itself to sleep during those last precious battery percentages. Low batteries give me anxiety. I’m the guy who’s the first to notice when your phone’s screenshot is below 10 percent.

So the power bank has become constant accessory in my life, both home and on the road. Until last year, I used to carry a massive one that was just north of 20,000mAh. The peace of mind to back pain ration seemed sensible enough, but I learned the hard way that, not only do Chinese airports have a limit on battery size, they chuck yours in the trash without a second thought if you go over. It’s a quick way to lose $150.

The good news, however, is that between USB-C, wireless charging and the magic of crowdfunding, it seems we might be living through the golden age of the power bank. I know, right? What a time to be alive.

Point is, there are a lot of choices out there. Anker and Amazon’s house brand RAVPower both offer some good options on a budget. There’s also mainstay Mophie for those who don’t mind paying a bit of a premium for design.

Fuse Chicken was actually a brand that was new to me when they hit me up to try out their latest product. It’s a name I definitely would have remembered — because, honestly, it’s pretty terrible. Memorable, but terrible. Maybe that’s why the company went with such a mundane name for what’s a really interesting charger.

My dad ones told me that he gave my sister and I boring first names because we had such an unusual surname. I have no idea if this is true, but it’s an interesting story and could well apply here.

The Universal is a good example of making the most of out a form factor. It manages to jam a lot of features in without creating a Frankenstein’s Monster worthy of the name Fuse Chicken. On its face, the product looks like a black and white version of Amazon’s default power bricks. It serves that purpose, of course, coupled with a trio of swappable international wall adapters (bonus points for travelers).

But the brick also sports a 6,700mAh battery inside, so you can continue charging gadgets while unplugged. That’s ideal for a phone — you can keep a laptop alive for a bit as well, but you’re going to burn through that pretty quickly. There’s also a wireless charging pad up top, so you can power up another phone or, say, a new set of AirPods at the same time. The side of the device features a small display showing off how much juice is left.

It’s great having a bank that’s also a plug, though like Apple’s brick, it’s much too massive to plug into many vertical outlets. I learned this lesson the hard way on a recent coast to coast flight. Thankfully, though, it’s compatible with Apple’s extension cable.

OmniCharge, meanwhile, is a company I’ve been following since their earliest Kickstarter days. Matter of fact, the aforementioned power bank that’s currently sitting in a Chinese garbage dump is one of their products. R.I.P. noble battery pack.

The Omni Mobile 12,800 mAh is a much more basic product that the company’s earliest offerings. There’s no display for power information here — instead you have to rely on four lights to let you know how much juice is left.

As with most of the company’s products, I do quite like the design language. It’s subtle and unobtrusive and fits nicely inside a backpack. It’s definitely too big for carrying around in a pocket, however. Thanks the wonders of USB it will charge a laptop, as well, though once again, you’re going to run through that 12,800 mAh pretty quickly, if you do.

The Fuse Chicken and OmniCharge run $85 and $99, respectively. They’ve both served me well as travel companions these last few weeks. Here’s to long flights and avoiding life’s landfill.

Valentine’s Day gifts that your girlfriend will actually want

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Valentine’s Day can be a weird holiday to shop for. Every gift option seems to be themed and covered in hearts. That’s fun for the few days surrounding February 14, but what about the rest of the year? What are you supposed to do with a teddy bear holding a plush heart in July?

Skip the heart-shaped jewelry this year and get your girlfriend something she really wants for Valentine’s Day. Whether she’s a plant mom, into tech, or a beauty guru, we’ve got you covered. And look, we know V-Day is the sex holiday — we got you there, too. Who says Valentine’s Day gifts strictly have to be cheesy and romantic? Not us. Read more…

More about Gift Guide, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Amazon, Shopping Linkshare, and Valentines Day 2019

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In San Francisco, a fight over a homeless shelter shines a harsh light on a conflicted population

As of 2017, there were roughly 7,000 people living without homes in San Francisco, a number that comprises minors — a lot of them. The San Francisco Unified School District estimates that as of 2017, roughly 2,100 of the children in the school system were homeless —  a number that it said looked to be escalating, not shrinking.

While parents may not hesitate to send their offspring to these same schools, some in the city’s northeast corner may be uncomfortable with the idea of homeless adults and families seeking shelter in close proximity. Such appears to be the point of a GoFundMe campaign that was launched late last week called “Safe Embarcadero for All.” Its objective: to raise $100,000 for legal counsel to push against the creation of a shelter along the city’s eastern waterfront region.

The campaign is a reaction to an idea introduced earlier this month by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to turn a parking lot along Embarcadero that’s owned by the Port of San Francisco into a center that would provide health and housing services and round-the-clock stays for up to 200 of the city’s homeless residents.

It isn’t just theoretical. If the Port Commission agrees to the plan, Breed estimated the center could be open by summer. Thus the GoFundMe campaign, which has now raised $71,250 as of this writing from 180 people, some of whom presumably live in the luxury high-rise apartments nearby and others who share the  campaign organizers’ concerns that the shelter could introduce “public safety, drug use, and other problems.”

It’s a frustrating state of affairs, though some are finding inspiration in a new, rival campaign that was created yesterday in support of the center and which is fast gaining financial support. Called a “SAFER Embarcadero for ALL,” it has already raised more than earlier GoFundMe campaign, with more than 1,021 donors  contributing more than $76,000 as of this writing, including Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who has been a frequent and public supporter of Breed and a number of her initiatives.

Lawson appears to have given $20,000; Benioff has given at least $10,000 to the campaign and is using Twitter as a platform to drum up more support.

Join me in supporting @TheCoalitionSF and @fbach4 and @LondonBreed in building a new navigation center in San Francisco on the Embarcadero. Homelessness is our number crisis and it requires all of our attention and resources. https://t.co/hY6KxeT5D9

— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) March 29, 2019

Some are heralding their involvement as proof that tech CEOs do care about San Francisco’s homeless population, which they’re often accused of exacerbating by planting themselves in the city, paying their employees high wages, and driving up the cost of everything from rent to groceries in the process.

Even GoFundMe itself has joined sides, donating $5,000 to the new campaign in support of the homeless center or, more specifically the Coalition on Homelessness, which has been promised the monies.

“I don’t think the tech industry is doing enough about the homeless issue,” GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon told the San Francisco Chronicle this morning. “We wanted to do our small part, even though we’re not located in San Francisco.”

No doubt critics will argue that because GoFundMe is 25 miles south of San Francisco, in Redwood City, the company has less at stake.

Still, proponents of the center will take support wherever they can find it.

As Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, told the Chronicle earlier today, the group is already planning to use the new funds to help with public education, to get input on the center, and to educate residents about what they grossly misunderstand about the city’s homeless population.