Birch Bark Issue #70

Hello and welcome to the weekend! It was WWDC week, which means I have been nose-deep in developer sessions, as well as way more time writing, filming, and editing a couple videos about what we saw this week from Apple. I’ve been so focused on that stuff that it’s been nice to have this newsletter as an excuse to read up on some other things going on in the world.



Apple’s Craig Federighi talks to Fast Company:

This last feature [iCloud Private Relay] is Apple’s best privacy innovation in years—and nothing short of game-changing when it comes to shielding our movements around the web. The obvious comparison people will make is that iCloud Private Relay is Apple’s version of a VPN (something I have called for in the past for the company to offer). But from an engineering perspective, Private Relay’s privacy protections make VPNs look weak.

Always good to be reminded that using a VPN does not mean no one can see your web traffic, just that your VPN provider is the only one who can see all of your traffic. Apple’s upcoming solution seems pretty good and also looks like it is being done in a way that even Apple, the “VPN provider” in this case, won’t have full access to what you’re doing either. Very nice.

This whole Fauci email thing is wild. No, not because the emails prove conservatives right who don’t believe masks are useful or that COVID is just the flu with better marketing, but that people (those same conservatives, in this case) can see someone say one thing long ago and before current information was available, that thing is counter to their current position, and see that as proof that they actually believe that old thing all along. Fauci told someone in February that they didn’t need to wear a mask if they weren’t sick themselves and some see this as proof the entire mask-wearing thing is a sham. All the other evidence to the contrary? Irrelevant, this old email proves everything. Like I said, wild.

G. Keenan Schneider is one of my favorite writers, maybe because he is the opposite of me…I write a lot and some things are pretty good, while he write occasionally but always knocks it out of the park. He’s back this time with Hey, so, I Think I Fucking Hate the Internet:

We've created an environment for ourselves where we're bombarded by stimulus, much of it negative, malicious, or otherwise unproductive for the healthy functioning of our brains.

Overstimulation is definitely a thing, and while I know that this comes up every new generation, I do think the internet is a particularly dicy thing in this regard. The literal world is in my pocket, and that’s amazing and we should not go back on that, but I do think we need to figure out how we function in healthier ways. I’m not saying regulation, I’m saying we each need to figure out how we don’t let our feeds make us angry, how we don’t feel compelled to have a strong opinion on everything immediately, and how we disconnect more often.

Tom Hanks writing for The New York Times:

Until recently, the Tulsa Race Massacre was not seen in movies and TV shows. Thanks to several projects currently streaming, like “Watchmen” and “Lovecraft Country,” this is no longer the case.

I don’t remember who said it, but they said something to the effect of, “most people we call history buffs really just know a lot about the battles of World War 2.” I personally didn’t know about the Tulsa Race Massacre until I saw it on Watchmen and that’s kind of insane, and I know I’m far from the only one.

Lots of interesting data in this article about how online shopping and marketing has changed over the past year.

The growth rate of retail online purchases tripled last year, beginning with the start of the pandemic, hovering around 60% from April 2020 onward. As illustrated in this line chart of online retail sales change vs. the previous year, this trend shows no sign of slowing down.


Bo Burnham blew me away with his new special, Inside (on Netflix and music services), and this is just one of the gems from this film. The songs are funny, but the special overall helped me empathize more with people who had more mental challenges getting through the past year than I did personally.

Quinn Nelson (Snazzy Labs) on why a new iMac is replacing his mega-expensive Mac Pro setup. Quinn is one of the few YouTubers who makes 20+ minute videos that I consistently watch all the way through, and this one touches on a topic that has long been close to my heart: you probably don’t need as expensive a computer as you think.

Playtime (IMDB) is a French film from 1967 that I’d never heard of but looks absolutely fascinating.