If you ever feel like your Mac laptop is about to take off because its fan is blowing so loudly, (a common and popular meme on TikTok) then these are the best-working-from-home lockdown tools for you.
Turbo Boost Switcher – this utility allows you to turn off “Turbo Boost”, which is a function of Intel-based Macs. Turbo Boost lets your laptop “boost” the processor’s speed temporarily, which usually leads to a similar boost in the speed of your computer’s fans. Doing this will slow down your computer, but if you’re not doing anything too intensive then it shouldn’t matter.
Macs Fan Control – does what it says on the tin. The free version allows you to change the automatic fan settings to something that might better suit you and your workload. You can even set them to full blast if you want to keep your laptop cooler than it might normally be.
Buy a new M1 Mac – the MacBook Air model doesn’t even have a fan, so there’s no risk of any noise whatsoever.
One of the fun paradoxes of early internet culture was the concept of the “Googlewhack“: a google search query that returns only a single result. Until today, Bernard Bergemar, the largest owner and biggest beneficiary of MindGeek, the company which owns the world’s most trafficked adult website, would almost qualify.
An astonishing investigation by Financial Times reporter Patricia Nilsson reveals that MindGeek’s ultimate owner is someone who barely exists on the internet. At the time of writing, he only exists in two court filings from the early 2010s, and in the Financial Times article published today.
Meditation, mindfulness and the marketing industry which has driven their recent trendiness are hopefully about to get the backlash they deserve. My New Scientist colleague Clare Wilson reports on the first systematic review of the evidence about the practice, which finds that for a minority of people meditation and mindfulness can worsen depression and anxiety, or even provoke panic attacks, psychosis and thoughts of suicide.
The study does not deny that many people do benefit from these practices, some of whom are probably reading this, but it does allow a bit of space for more forceful criticism of the mostly invented world of “wellness”, and the marketing of mindfulness and meditation as the solution to all your problems. And the marketing messages are where the issues lie. If you want to overpay for an an app with prepackaged MP3s of celebrities whispering, that’s up to you. But don’t pretend it will reduce your stress, make your life better or solve any of your problems.
A few years ago I embarked on a body transformation, a rite of passage for most people who have worked at a men’s magazine. One of the things my fitness instructor recommended was trying mindfulness app Calm, which I found was close to a Black Mirror experience, a bit like voluntarily locking yourself in a room with a Tim Ferris wannabe in control of a surround sound PA system telling you to breathe in mysterious patterns, knowing that their net worth has probably increased by a London house-deposit sized proportion by the end of your 30 minute session. But maybe that’s just me.
Using Calm immediately increased my anxiety and I immediately stopped using it, which is fine because no-one is forcing me to use it, but it’s still very hard to escape the app and the pervasive marketing message of wellness. American Express even thought it wise to grant card members a premium subscription for a year, perhaps the best example of corporate wellness box ticking I’ve seen during this crazy year.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the most famous recent examples of meditation in popular culture is in the final episode of Mad Men, where the sum result of Don Draper’s meditation retreat is an idea for a new Coca Cola advertisement.
Although I do get some satisfaction imagining aspiring Silicon Valley entrepreneurs using their Calm sessions to try and channel their mind into discovering new organisational efficiencies (think: Amelie counting orgasms in Paris, but maler, pastier and with KPIs instead of cumming), they and we deserve better diagnoses and treatment for our modern day ails and ennui. And we certainly need to detach mental health from work efficiencies, and put it lower down the priority list for solving people’s problems.
One of the most disturbing elements of Clare’s newsletter about her story is that schools and the NHS are now recommending mindfulness, in some cases to schoolchildren with the intention of boosting their resilience against bullying. Should the NHS and schools really be recommending meditation if in some cases it is making people feel worse?
My form of meditation is practicing my trombone, looking up if I hear a distinctive aeroplane’s engine (and then looking it up on Flightradar24) and writing lightly researched polemics on my blog about how much the meditation industry annoys me. I couldn’t do any of this if I didn’t have a comfortable home, a good job and a healthy “fuck off fund.” Those are prerequisites for good mental health, and anything that doesn’t consider that first and foremost is arguably damaging.
Hopefully this study will be the beginning of the end of the marketing trend which suggest that closing your eyes and breathing a little deeper can have impact whatsoever on systemic problems. Even though we now have the evidence that meditation can make your mental situation worse, I can’t imagine that ever making its way into Calm’s marketing rules.
Two sprays of Byredo cedar scent which takes me on a dreamy night out with my fiancee, even though I’ve only been to a bar once in five months. With each push of the metal cap I imagine a 20p piece jangling into a piggy bank, the price of each expensive squirt.
The smell of suncream applied in the morning, even when it’s cloudy outside. It never fails in fooling my brain that I’m at the beach. My only worry is that I might overpower the sun and sand association and permanently replace it with a memory of my bathroom, circa 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Updating my savings spreadsheet. Opening all the tabs and totting up the changes in the stock market or the miserly interest is a very soothing ritual for me. Some nights I go to sleep thinking of my financial cushion. If you’re looking for mental peace, you don’t need meditation: you need a “fuck off” fund.
Doing the meter reading. You mean I have to go outside to do a task? Shall I get dressed up?
Rearranging my book shelves and rotating the books on my bedside table is so important. Want to escape the dishes? Better pick up some Cixin Liu and visit outer space. Frustrated with pandemic politics? Pick up Dark Money and get angry. I’ve been reading at a rate of knots ince I started putting the books that actually interest me within my eye line. Next up, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which is soon to graduate from propping up the fan to my reading list.
As a fair skinned man, tanning is not top of the list of my abilities. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to develop a healthy cyclist’s tan with a very noticeable threshold on my legs from pasty to almost healthy looking. Maintaining it with regular rides is what counts for fun in 2020.
Apparently the key to keeping house plants alive is spending your entire life at home. All they need is water, sunlight and the occasional chat.
*actually utterly unglamorous, but you wouldn’t have clicked that.
Gordon Gecko. The Wolf of Wall Street. Christian Bale’s portrayal of Michael Burry in the Big Short. These characters embody the public idea of ruthless finance types who will use every trick in the book – including cheating pensioners out of their money – to make their own millions.
To that roster of characters I’d like to add me, Conrad Quilty-Harper, blogger, digital editor and the proud owner of £636.36 worth of stocks, commodities and bonds. I’m not going to make millions with my tiny pot of money, but to own those shares at least I didn’t have to move to Wall Street, don a double-breasted suit or set up an ISDA Master Agreement*: I simply downloaded an app on my phone.
This is a review of Freetrade.io, a new app, based in London, which allows its users to access a selection of shares available to buy in the UK and abroad. With a few touches and a thumb press, you can buy and sell shares, and have a very good reason to reinstall the iOS Stocks app.
Of course it’s always been relatively easy to buy shares if you really wanted to. MoneySavingExpert has a brilliant list of some affordable options. The difference with Freetrade is that, as the name suggests, it’s free to trade.
When the app launched, free trades used to be limited to 4PM every day, and you had to pay £1 per trade if you want to do it “instantly.” They’ve since made instant trading free. That compares remarkably favourably with existing competitors like AJ Bell (from £1.50 a trade), Interactive Investor (£7.99), X-O (£5.95) and Hargreaves Lansdown (£5.95, but you have to make more than 20 trades in one month). Some of these more established companies have reduced their prices since Freetrade launched, but that also might be to do with commission-free trading options from Revolut and eToro, and low fee options trading apps like BUX and Degiro.
What none of those more expensive or complicated options offer is a process as seamless as Freetrade. If you have online banking already, to gain access it’s only slightly more complicated than signing up for Netflix. Put in your details, your National Insurance number, transfer some money to a bank account, and within a few days you’re able to buy shares.
I’ll use this animated gif to show you how many touches it takes to sell my £13 worth of Vodafone shares.
The app still isn’t perfect, nearly two years since its launch. It does a lot of those annoying fintech things like not put an axis on its charts (WHY?!) and uses language that developers think are cute but actually make you question whether you should give them your money at all (e.g. BT’s listing in the app is described as “slow internet”). On the other hand, when I encountered a bug they fixed it within a day and sent me a chat message within the app.
I signed up to Freetrade simply to play around with the app, but as the app has developed and the company continues to add new shares (the roadmap is quite comprehensive) it has started to replace my other investment platforms. I’ve even invested in the app itself via one of its Crowdcube funding rounds.
One final thing: Freetrade made me realise how poor most of the news and information is there about the stock market for retail investors. You can use the iOS Stocks app, for instance, but that often has no recent news about relevant companies. A better source is the FT’s Markets section, but again their coverage isn’t universal. Surely there’s an opportunity there…
More information about Freetrade and investing apps in the UK
Freetrade is a stock and shares investment smartphone app which allows you to trade for free. The company is still an early stage start-up, and has raised money several times using crowdfunding platform CrowdCube. More than 200,000 people have accounts with Freetrade, and it’s been operating for nearly two years.
How can I trade for free?
It’s possible to trade “for free” using Freetrade, a mobile app which lets you invest in a limited selection of stocks, shares and exchange traded funds (ETFs).
If Succession‘s writers made a documentary, The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty is what you’d get. It covers the rise of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the brief years in the wilderness after the phone hacking scandal, and his comeback after Donald Trump’s election and Brexit. It shows how much of Rupert Murdoch’s life was guided by his father Keith Murdoch, and how his childrens’ fates are dictated by his. There are so many direct parallels in the business and Logan Roy’s: after Murdoch’s fall on his yacht during negotiations with Disney, the company claimed he was merely “working from home”; there’s the new wife who drives a wedge between the father and his children; and, there’s his dismissive and opportunistic attitude to politics, prime ministers and presidents. It’s full of imagery that appears in Murdoch Dynasty, too, including Super 8 footage of Rupert and his children in the pool in the 1980s, black Mercedes in the Scottish countryside and helicopter pads in lower Manhattan. As for the real life succession, the three part series ends with a drone shot of Lachlan Murdoch’s palace in Beverly Hills. But that’s not the end of the story.
Succession’s creator Jesse Armstrong worked with Veep’s Armando Iannucci on Peep Show, The Thick of It and the first season of Veep, a cynical and knowing workplace comedy about the barely functioning and mostly irrelevant office of the vice president and the awful but loveable people who wield its power.
The Loudest Voice is emphatically not a comedy. Russell Crowe plays the monstrous Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News and executive producer of Donald Trump’s political career, tracking his and his network’s steady rise to the top of cable news in the US. The slow burning style of this seven part series (with the exception of the dramatic second episode) makes it incredibly satisfying to see him being brought down by the brave and wily Gretchen Carlson, played by Naomi Watts. There are many crossovers with Succession including several scenes shot in the same locations, and not least the epilogue dedicated to his successor Bill Shine. Where is he now? Working for Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, of course.
A real life Wolf of Wall Street story which won’t end until its fugitive protagonist fixer Jho Low is brought to justice, this documentary shows how dogged journalism and brave activists exposed corruption at the heart of the Malaysian government, and how Western finance and Hollywood bent over backwards to get its cut of the dirty money. The most compelling moments include the Blackberry messages as Jho Low procured an “18 carrot [sic] pink heart diamond” for the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, and the intrepid Alex Ritman of Hollywood Reporter confronting Robert De Niro about his son’s Raphael’s role in selling $55 million worth of real estate for Jho Low.
This investigative documentary offers shocking new details about the alleged close relationship between convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and the Queen’s favourite son Prince Andrew. Epstein’s connections to powerful figures from the worlds of science, technology and politics are troubling but not unsurprising: a ticket to the world of unimaginable luxury, wealth and privilege is available to anyone who can pay the price. No legal checks, due diligence or even common sense appear to be required to get an entry to this club of billionaires, media moguls and tech innovators. If you’re careful, you can also see the Queen’s press team reacting to this documentary by placing soft touch stories about the Queen’s cameo at the Olympics and seeding doubts about the veracity of the photograph of Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts Giuffre and the snap of him with Jeffrey Epstein in New York in December 2010 (which originally featured in the now defunct News of the World).
Worth it just to relive the moment Tom met Cousin Greg.
More Succession alternatives
The Insider– Michael Mann’s gripping drama about Big Tobacco and the investigative journalist who gets a whistleblower to speak out, which pivots midway into a gritty and tense depiction of corporate pressure in American television news. Watch The Insider now on YouTube
It’s 5AM on Valentine’s Day, and you’ve got a problem. Your partner is soundly asleep, oblivious to the fact that you have yet to write a message in the Valentine’s Day card that they are very shortly to receive.
First, the good news: you physically have a card in your possession, thanks in part to the train station M&S and a last minute reminder from Lynn at the office (what a lifesaver!). You’ve also managed to wake up early and get to another room without alerting your significant other, like some kind of romantic ninja who hates to plan ahead.
But what now? What do you actually *write* in your Valentine’s Day card? That question has brought you here, to a blog post written by a journalist who noticed that lots of people search “What to write in Valentine’s Day card” at 5AM on Valentine’s day. Writing a letter to your lover, your partner or your significant other is simple with this helpful guide…
Step one: Don’t panic
Just imagine how the people who forgot to buy a card are feeling.
Step two: What to write in Valentine’s Day card
First off, this kind of grammar really won’t fly. If you’re going to write anything this morning, you have to write. in. complete. sentences. And definitely don’t start with a joke about how the first thing you did this morning was Google, “What to write in Valentine’s Day card.” This isn’t a best man’s speech.
Step three: Think
I know this is difficult without coffee – and you have a seriously pressing deadline – but thinking is key to writing a successful Valentine’s day card.
Close your eyes and think about your partner. What do you like about them? How do they make you feel on a good day? Make a list of these fond feelings on your phone or on the back of an envelope (you do have a pen, right?).
(Note: If at this stage nothing comes to mind, maybe writing a card isn’t the most pressing problem in your relationship.)
Step four: Do your research
Look around you. Are there any pictures of the two of you together? Do you remember anything about that moment, or from that day in the sun? Read some of your early Whatsapp messages from your honeymoon phase. Think about what things you have coming up together that you might be looking forward to. Anything specific is good.
Step five: Write a draft and read it back
Since it’s very early and you’re probably tired, writing a draft is key. You’ve only got one chance.
For the beginning and end of the card, you can borrow some simple and well established formats. Start your letter with “Dear [Insert partner’s name or nickname here],”. End your letter by saying you love them. Leave them kisses if you like.
That leaves the middle bit, where you should form a few sentences that combine some of those positive thoughts and feelings with a reminder of a past moment where you felt in love, and maybe a mention of an upcoming engagement where you will be together. A helpful technique in all form of writing is to say what you want to write in your head, and then write that down. If you love them, say how much you love them.
Then: write that all of that into a draft. Read the draft to yourself. Change anything that doesn’t sound like something you might say.
Key thing to get right: the spelling of your partner’s name.
Step six: Write on your card
This bit’s easy. Take a pen (ideally black, definitely not a biro, and no, a pencil is not acceptable) into your hand and carefully write your final draft in your best handwriting. A smudge or a small correction is fine.
You’ve got this.
Step seven: Make your partner a cup of tea, bring them the card and while looking them in the eye say the words “Happy Valentine’s day”
TikTok isn’t just lip dubs, pranks and pouting teenagers. It can also be clever interpretations of Latin songs, political and historical messages about inequality, racism and Communism, and chemical formulas for exothermic reactions.
The government’s pensions auto enrolment fund has been wildly successful. Today, 87 per cent of people have a UK pension scheme, up from 55 per cent in 2012 when the rules changed to mean that you had to opt-out of saving (rather than opt-in). The numbers are even more impressive for young people: 84 per cent of people aged 22-29 now have a workplace pension, up from 24 per cent in 2012.
A huge number of these new savers are investing their money in a NEST pension, one of the government’s main pension scheme options which now has more than six million members.
99 per cent of these six million savers are invested in NEST’s “default funds.” In other words, of the millions of new automatic savers, only 1 per cent have made a manual decision about where their money goes.
I’m one of those 1 per cent.
The default fund option in NEST is not right for me, and I think many other savers who, like me, have many decades until retirement, should consider moving their money too.
What was the NEST default fund wrong for me?
The objectives of the default fund are threefold: maximising the total size of the retirement pots; ensuring that cohorts who contribute similar amounts have similar outcomes; and, to “dampen volatility” while people are saving.
Even worse, in the first five years of investing, only 35 per cent of your default fund money is in the stock market, and up to 30 per cent of your money could be invested in cash (in other words, inflating away!).
I want my retirement fund to make me as much money as possible and for me the best way to do that is to put it all in the stock market. Read my Freetrade review for more detailed reasons why.
Since I won’t be able to access my retirement fund for at least 30 years, I’m not worried about monthly or even annual fluctuations. NEST does provide alternative options for those who want to take on more risk, but even its “higher risk” fund targets a portfolio that is 70 per cent equities. The only option that is 100 per cent equities is the Sharia fund, (which also happens to be the fund that’s performed best since inception.)
In summary: the default fund is an incredibly conservative and risk-averse option, and you should consider changing it. Even if you don’t change, you should know where your money is going.
In the late 1700s Oxford had a climate similar to that of present day Edinburgh. Source: The Times
Commercial airline pilots sometimes greet fellow pilots at cruising altitude by flashing their landing lights. Source: FT
Sesame Street has a venture capital firm. Source: The Times
Japanese researchers once invented a wasabi fire alarm which can wake deaf people up in the night. Source: Quartz
Moby is the great-great-great-nephew of Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, hence the nickname. Source: The Times
The first cultivated carrots were purple and yellow, not orange. Source: Pop Sci
Ciabatta bread was invented in 1982 by an Italian jealous of the popularity of the French baguette. Source: The Guardian
The word “blazer” comes from the colour of the red ivy flowers growing on the side of the St John’s College building, Cambridge University, which the rowers of the Lady Margaret Boat Club used as inspiration for their outfits. Source: The Telegraph
In parts of New Orleans the graves are overground concrete tombs because of the city’s water level. Source: Itotd
Until 1987 it was common to operate on newborn babies without anaesthetic. Source: The Times
Reuters News Agency was founded in 1850 with a flock of 45 messenger pigeons which filled a “telegraph gap” between Brussels and Aachen in western Europe. Source: Reuters
Sharks have been around for at least 420 million years and survived four of the “big five” mass extinctions. Source: New Scientist
Ordnance survey, the UK mapping company, was set up because the English were worried about revolutions in Scotland and France and wanted to know where they could easily transport their troops in case of war. Source: Ordnance Survey
Mosquitos may have killed half of the 108 billion people who have ever lived across our 200,000 year existence. Source: New Scientist
Only 20 per cent of Americans can do a single push-up. Source: The Atlantic
Fanta was developed in Nazi Germany in response to an embargo on Coca-Cola. Source: The Local via Frank Swain
Gold smugglers have set up fake gold mines in Uganda which are designed to legitimise gold that’s been smuggled in from Congo. Source: The Economist
Over millions of years of chimp and human evolution there have been, on average, six changes to the roughly three billion letters in our genetic code every year. Source: The Guardian
Spandex, the material used in most leggings, was invented during the Second World War when the military was trying to find a new material for parachutes. Source: The Guardian
Almost all bananas sold today are direct descendants of one plant grown in the early 1800s in the greenhouse of Chatsworth House in the peak district. Source: BBC News
The Nike “Just Do It” slogan was inspired by the last words of a murderer who was about to be executed by firing squad. Source: New Yorker Mar 18 2019
The brain consumes about a fifth of a person’s metabolic energy each day. Cooking was essential for human evolution, because it means we don’t need to spend all day chewing — unlike chimps. Source: 1843 Magazine
Swatch once invented a new unit of time for the internet called the “beat” which split the day into 1000 parts. Source: BBC News
More nuclear bombs have been dropped on or have exploded in or above American soil than on that of any other country in the world. The true scale of US nuclear testing (1,054 tests in total) was unknown publicly until May 1993. Source: Emmet Gowin in The Nevada Test Site
Quorn, the “original” meat replacement product based on starch and protein, took decades to develop and cost £2 billion in today’s money to develop. Source: The Bottom Line
Tom Hanks is related to Abraham Lincoln. “The maiden name of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy, was Hanks, and yes, it’s the same Hanks.” Source: The New York Times
One of the major causes of plane crashes in Israel and Lebanon are bird strikes caused by migrating pelicans and hawks flying to Africa every spring and back again in the autumn. The Israeli Air Force has lost many aircraft to flocks of birds which are too small to be picked up on radar. To prevent this, Israel and Lebanon have an arrangement involving birdwatchers who warns each other’s air traffic control about migrating flocks. Source: TAUVOD