Looking for a thoughtful hostess gift you can make quick and easy before headed out to holiday parties? Check out my list of DIY hostess gift ideas!
If there’s one thing I know about the holidays, it’s that this is the busiest time of year for entertaining! There are parties galore this time of year, so I partnered with Martha Stewart Crafts® to create 3 hostess gift ideas that are easy to make and awesome to receive.
If you don’t have time to make a full blown gift from scratch, which few people do this time of year, you can embellish a store-bought (or handmade) item and still have that special DIY touch. No need to reinvent the wheel. These DIY hostess gift ideas teeter the line between full blown handmade gifts and store-bought goodies. You in?
DIY Hostess Gift Ideas
I’m sharing three hostess gift ideas today, but there are soooo many more you can try! AND lots of options for pairing each DIY gift too. Here are some ideas…
Make a stenciled greeting card with a box of homemade cookies (or super pretty meringues) for the hostess with a sweet tooth. Try a stenciled cafe apron paired with a book – like Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection, that features over 100 cookie recipes! I used one of my mustard color DIY half aprons for this one.
Or what about reusable wax fabric wraps for food leftovers, stenciled with a cute pattern? A set of stenciled napkins or tea towels that match your hostess’ style or what about a wine tote (complete with a bottle of wine). So many possibilities.
All of the DIY hostess gifts I made today are created the same way, with the same stenciling technique. So, I’m just going to share steps for one of the three projects. But keep in mind, they’re all made the same way. You can stencil any of the hostess gift ideas this way, not just napkins.
In addition to the winter greens napkins set, I also made a whole bunch of greeting cards (with lots of different designs), and a cute stenciled village cafe apron. Here’s how to personalize your hostess gifts for the holidays…
Back when I was making Halloween home decor, I experimented with Martha Stewart silkscreen stencils and they worked great. So this time around, I used a combo of the silkscreen stencils and the adhesive stencils I’ve been using all year.
I’ll be sharing the instructions for the silkscreen stencil today, but the adhesive stencil process is exactly the same. The only difference is the silkscreen material is more flexible (kind of like fabric).
Instructions for Personalizing Hostess Gifts
The great thing about using stencils and silkscreens is anyone can use them – any skill level! They’re great for the occasional crafter or the experienced DIYer who just wants to save themselves some time.
Step 1: To get started, wash and dry your napkins (or anything that you’re using that is fabric – like an apron, clothing, tea towel, etc. This will ensure that any treatment or coating that sits on the surface of fabric has been removed. And then iron, if necessary.
Step 2: Next, remove the adhesive backing from the silkscreen. And if you’re using a silkscreen like mine, that has multiple designs and you only want to use one, then silkscreen design that you are using can be cut away from the others if desired.
Step 3: Attach the silkscreen to the napkin and push the silkscreen down all the way around with your hands. This will ensure it is adhered to the surface before painting.
Then, dip a Martha Stewart dauber into the paint and dab off excess paint onto your paint palette before pouncing a thin layer of paint over the the silkscreen. One coat of paint is all you’ll need.
Step 5: Now, while the paint is still wet, carefully peel the silkscreen off the fabric surface of the napkin to reveal the finished design.
Step 6: To create a napkin pattern like mine, repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 in different spots on the napkin until it is completely filled.
Additional Painting Techniques to Try with Stencils
After you get the hang of using these Martha Stewart stencils and paints, you might want to take your projects up a notch with a multi-color design.
I had so much fun with a two-toned, ombre technique (which you can see in some of the evergreen greeting cards). To get an ombre two-toned look, I used Seaweed and Gold.
I applied my silkscreen to the surface of the card, making sure it was pressed down firmly, and then used the dauber and Seaweed color paint to start covering over the stencil. After adding a small section, I switched to the Gold paint and then mixed / overlapped the two colors together while using the dauber. Once completed, I removed the stencil to reveal the ombre effect.
You can also opt for multiple colors (that aren’t ombre-d together), by being very selective with the way you use your dauber. Only apply paint to the stencil windows where you want that color to go. And then move onto the next color when the first is done. Repeat until the entire stencil is covered.
Cleaning Your Silkscreen or Adhesive Stencil
When you’ve finished your hostess gifts, clean the silkscreen or adhesive stencil off with soap and water, while the paint is still wet, and let it dry before re-attaching the silkscreen to it’s backing again for storing.
You can find Martha Stewart products exclusively at Michaels.
See a hostess gift idea that you might try? Which one is your favorite?
I have partnered with the Martha Stewart team and Plaid Crafts for this post.All expressed opinions and experiences are my own.
Qualcomm’s annual Hawaiian press event to announce its products for the coming year is happening. It‘s there in part because Qualcomm needs something equally convenient for Asian and American attendees and also because the company probably is still smarting from the reaction to its absolutely bonkers attempt to make CES its big annual keynote in 2013 (if you don’t know what I am referring to, you absolutely should click).
As I briefly mentioned yesterday, the main thing that strikes me this year is how much more real it seems. Qualcomm is like Intel in one regard: it is several steps removed from being able to directly deliver consumer products, so it has to resort to big promises it can’t actually directly make happen.
Which means that next year we should have broader releases of phones that support 5G, plus networks that actually provide it. 5G is happening, but despite years of buildup and hype I still couldn’t tell you what it’s actually going to mean to the average consumer. And I still believe anybody who says they can tell you is likely trying to sell you something. It’s 5G, they’re trying to sell you 5G.
Beyond working with Qualcomm’s new 5G modem, the 865 is important for purely Android-focused technical reasons. (There is a long digression about how Intel was pushed out of the 5G modem business and had to sell to Apple that goes here, but that’s a rant for another time.) Chaim Gartenberg laid out some of the key details:
As expected, there’s a new ISP (image signal processor), the Spectra 480. Qualcomm’s big spec here is that the Spectra 480 supports “2 gigapixels per second” speeds, which it says enables a host of new photography features. Phones with a Snapdragon 865 will be able to shoot 200-megapixel photos, capture 8K video, and shoot 960 fps slow-motion video at 720p resolution. Additionally, the new processor will support video capture with Dolby Vision HDR, a first for mobile devices. Of course, all that requires phone manufacturers to actually meet Qualcomm with the camera hardware to shoot those kinds of pictures and videos, but the Snapdragon 865 at least lays the groundwork by supporting these features right out of the box.
So that’s the chip for every flagship Android phone, one I’m sure will be pretty good and I’m double sure will pale in comparison to the capabilities of whatever A-series processor Apple puts out for its iOS devices next year. So it has always been and so it will continue be.
I know this is naive, but here I go anyway: I hope 2020 is the year when people stop assuming the fastest processor with the most features is the best one. There are different chips for different situations. We don’t argue over screen sizes, pixel density, or megapixels anymore. We understand that the bigger number doesn’t directly translate to the better experience.
In theory, anyway. In practice, some of these midrange processors end up being real dogs. I’m optimistic this one won’t be, but we’ll obviously have to wait to see.
Maybe the upcoming Motorola Razr will help turn us away from the overemphasis on phone processor speeds. It’s a high-end device, no doubt, but it has a mid-range chip inside it. The Razr has a clear and well-justified reason for using a slower chip: thinness and battery life. If the actual experience of the phone is good, I don’t think that chip will be a knock against it. We shouldn’t expect the Razr to outperform a 6-inch-plus Android slabphone, just like you wouldn’t expect an ultralight laptop to outperform a gaming laptop.
Trading raw horsepower almost nobody uses for battery life is a deal I think a lot of people will be willing to make.
In fact, it’s possible that the Snapdragon 765 will enable better 5G experiences than phones with the 865. That’s because, unlike the Snapdragon 865, the 765 has a less powerful X52 modem. It’s capable of lower speeds (maxing out at 3.7 Gbps, instead of the 7 Gbps the X55 is theoretically capable of). But it has a big advantage: that 5G modem is integrated directly in the 765 chipset, meaning it should offer improved power efficiency (and, therefore, battery life) than the X55, which is its own separate chip.
We’ve been through this cycle of trying to minimize the focus on processor cycles (sorry) before. There’s even a catchphrase for it: the megahertz myth. That PC-centric context doesn’t strictly apply to phones, but the general idea is the same.
Qualcomm and carriers and phone makers are going to be excited to push 5G harder than ever in the next year because they will actually have real 5G things to sell you. Bully for them. For you, though, the thing to be excited about is that more affordable phones are going to be better than they’ve ever been.
My personal preference is an option to buy the top-spec device without a spinning disc drive, but I get the strategy here and would probably do the same thing if I were in Microsoft’s place. I fully recognize that this is contradictory to everything I just said about phone specs. I am large, I contain multitudes.
Here’s a prediction, though: a lot of people are going to do what I am going to do — remember how badly they were burned by buying the Xbox One on launch day. It was so big and dopey and VCR-like, but ultimately what killed it is the lack of games. I am not suggesting any of those things will be remotely true of the upcoming Xboxes. I actually think Microsoft learned those lessons and will do whatever it can to not repeat those mistakes.
But that memory is going to make a lot of people take a wait-and-see approach to the next generation of Xboxes, possibly to Sony’s benefit. If there are any stops left sitting around Xbox headquarters, Microsoft needs to pull them out for this launch. It needs to do more than craft a redemption/comeback story, it needs to make a huge splash that overwhelms entirely justified qualms.
Please welcome Nicole Wetsman to The Verge with a warm hello on Twitter. Her first story for us is a good one:
Bias identification tools can help to make algorithms and artificial intelligence tools more accurate, but they don’t necessarily tackle the root causes of bias, which are larger systemic issues and inequities. An open-source tool might look for problems with an algorithm, but it would not be able to identify issues with the way it was constructed
Liz Lopatto’s first missive from the Elon Musk trial came in just after I put yesterday’s newsletter to bed. As I read it, my face was stuck in a permanent state of disbelieving-guy-dot-gif. It helped immensely that Liz’s writing here is so good.
If you don’t subscribe to our other daily newsletter, The Interface with Casey Newton, you missed out on this hilariously accurate extended metaphor. Casey also pointed out something I should have:
One popular theory was that they are fleeing — something. Some speculated that they are fleeing a board investigation into Google’s troubling history of inappropriate relationships between Google’s mostly male C-suite and their subordinates. (If you don’t know the name Amanda Rosenberg, you should.)
You want to read this story by Colin Lecher. It’s about e-waste but it’s also a caper using GPS trackers to uncover corruption amongst friends and the trial that resulted. Great video from Verge Science, too:
“It was very disappointing,” he tells me. Total Reclaim wasn’t just an example of a company seemingly doing everything right. It was run by friends. “Probably one of the most troubling things I’ve experienced in this business of being an advocate was getting a real ally,” he says, “and to find out that you were betrayed.”
On Wednesday, reports on social media appeared of Kashmiri WhatsApp users leaving group chats in droves. This was a surprise to friends and relatives outside the region given that India has shut down Kashmir’s internet for over four months as part of a dispute over the area’s autonomy.
Some thought the activity might be sign of a further crackdown, but, as first reported by BuzzFeed News, the accounts are being automatically removed in line with Facebook’s inactivity policy. If users don’t log into their account for 120 days (four months), they’re deactivated, meaning individuals will have to sign up to the service again.
“To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity,” a spokesperson for Facebook told BuzzFeed News. “When that happens, those accounts automatically exit their WhatsApp groups. People will need to be re-added to groups upon regaining access to the Internet and joining WhatsApp again.”
4 months of inactivity, WhatsApp accounts from Kashmir are getting deleted. Weird to see individuals you haven’t spoken for all these months ‘leave’ WA groups whereas in reality an important part of their digital imprint – images, videos, texts & memories attached – vanishing.
WhatsApp is very important for communication in India. It’s the largest market for the Facebook-owned messaging app, with some 340 million users spread across the subcontinent (compared to 68 million users in the US, the app’s third biggest market).
According to estimates from The Times of India, around one percent of India’s smartphone users live in Kashmir, meaning millions are likely affected by the deactivation policy.
On Twitter, friends and family reported the dismay they felt at seeing accounts removed from group chats previously used to share updates and news. “I know they would not have been able to see my messages anyway, but this is heartbreakingly symbolic,” said one user. Another, a Kashmiri student living in northern India, told BuzzFeed News: “When I first saw what was happening, I thought it was the government of India that was doing this.”
Some users affected by the deactivation may permanently lose their account data (including chat logs and shared images and video) if they haven’t backed up this information through the app. WhatsApp notes in its support documents that once accounts are deactivated, users have 30 days to access them before they are “completely deleted.”
We’ve reached out to Facebook to confirm that this policy will still affect those unable to log into their accounts in Kashmir due to the internet shutdown.
But it’s the seventh most popular video — Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson trying Kylie Jenner’s makeup line and dunking on it — that sums up this year best. Popular YouTubers filming a makeup tutorial and using it to stir up drama seemed to define a big part of conversation on YouTube in 2019.
Beauty in particular has been a rapidly growing segment on YouTube. In 2016, there were 55 billion beauty-related views, according to Statista. By 2017, that number grew to 88 billion. Last year, it hit 169 billion. Beauty is one of the fastest growing sections on YouTube, and the drama that unfolds between its most influential creators helps keep both makeup aficionados and those interested in general YouTube culture watching.
Drama that happened off of YouTube between creators hanging out was brought onto YouTube via their videos. The beauty community started feeling like a reality show, with every viewer having their favorite character. Once Dawson got involved, and spent time with Star and Charles, the beauty world erupted into more than just a section of YouTube: it was primetime TV for 15-year-olds everywhere. The trending section reflects that shift. Beauty gurus and friend drama isn’t just something that a few people care about, it’s global entertainment that everyone pays attention to.
People, including my editors, keep asking me who “won the day.” I have been thinking about other things, like whether the marble behind the Honorable Stephen Wilson is an actual slab, or just a veneer over particle board, and whether I will get kicked out of the courtroom if I go check it out before court is in session.
But mostly, I have been thinking about insults. The main point of contention has been whether “pedo guy” qualifies as an insult or a statement of fact. As Ken White, the lawyer and pundit, points out, insults — like hyperbole, shit-talking, and “other expressions not reasonably taken literally as assertions of fact” — are not defamation, which is why John Oliver can perform the song at the end of this Last Week Tonight segment with confidence. In White’s view, Elon Musk has a defensible case, though this is not the same thing as a winning case.
Insults are the kind of thing one might want to call a linguist to discuss, you know, as an expert witness. The core of the case — to me, at least — seems to rest there. For instance, say someone calls me an asshole. This is both an opinion and insulting; possibly it is also true. In any event, it’s not defamation.
“Pedo guy” is way less clear-cut as an insult than “asshole.” The relevant parts of Musk’s testimony today largely centered on his view that it was an insult. Unfortunately, I also heard a great deal of testimony that doesn’t seem remotely relevant to this question, from Musk and others.
By the end of the day, though, the plaintiff Vernon Unsworth gave compelling testimony about how Musk’s words had affected him. Unsworth indicated he’d taken Musk’s words as an accusation, not an insult, and felt “dirtied” by them.
“Rude and contemptuous”
Alex Spiro, Musk’s counsel, had more nervous energy than yesterday — he was practically vibrating. He began by asking Musk how he became involved in the Thailand cave rescue in the first place. Several emails were introduced into evidence, including with Rick Stanton, the head of the rescue operations, showing that Musk’s help was indeed welcomed. There was a great deal of detail I did not care about regarding the specs on the minisub. We were shown a video of the minisub in a pool. We were then treated to a series of Musk’s tweets where he said nice things about rescuers and noted that his team hasn’t done anything directly useful to the effort. Musk said that after he left for his Shanghai meeting, 20 to 25 engineers stayed behind.
Eventually, Musk testified that he was upset because Unsworth denigrated the efforts of Musk’s team of engineers and because Unsworth falsely said Musk was thrown out of the cave; he also did not appreciate the “rude and contemptuous” tone of the interview. (Musk is something of an expert in rude and contemptuous: there was that time on a quarterly conference call with analysts, Musk cut someone off with, “Next. Boring bonehead questions are not cool.”)
The tweets at the center of the defamation case were “obviously a very off-the-cuff response,” Musk testified. He also said the tweets were deleted “within hours of publishing,” partly as a result of media attention and because “a lot of people said you probably shouldn’t write that.” Musk also said that he did not know when he tweeted that Unsworth was central to the rescue. “I thought he was some random ex-pat guy.” Musk also said, accurately, that lots of people are mean to him online and he is frequently criticized.
We are then shown the tweets in question again. Musk explains that “obv” means “obviously,” that “no problemo” is “a phrase Bart Simpson uses — the Simpsons used to be cool,” and “really did ask for it” refers to what Musk views as an “unprovoked attack on my team and me, with a bunch of false statements.”
As for Musk’s follow-up statements: “Bet you a signed dollar,” Musk explained, is a low-stakes wager meaning “it’s not impossible.” He then said: “It’s possible that if someone goes to Colorado a lot, they’re going for weed.” Musk paused. “Not if they’re coming from California though.”
Musk’s Twitter usage was particularly high-volume last year. Musk sent an estimated 100 to 200 tweets per month, he testified. He also said that he views it as a mitigating factor that he didn’t name Unsworth in the tweets. According to Musk, the first time anyone asked him if “pedo guy” meant “pedophile” was at the deposition. This seems unlikely; at least one journalist surely asked Musk about this.
Spiro got out a large calendar for demonstrative purposes. “The jury is familiar, hopefully, with the month of July,” Spiro said. Spiro then began asking Musk questions about the private investigator he retained to look into Unsworth — an investigator who turned out to be a con man. Musk said that before he sent the “strange that he hasn’t sued me” tweet, the con man P.I. had passed false information to an employee (Jared Birchall, who we hear from later) who told Musk about it.
The email to Ryan Mac at Buzzfeed was brought up again; he must be getting sick of it. We are treated to a discussion of what “off the record” means — according to Musk, that means not for publication. (I see several journalists make faces; most of us understand “off the record” as a mutual agreement. A source cannot demand it unilaterally, which is ultimately why Mac published his story.) A second email is pulled up with “on background” at the top. Musk explains that he believes “on background” means the information can be used, but not attributed to him. (In my experience, every source has a different notion about what “on background” means, and this has to be negotiated every time, which is a goddamn nightmare.)
“If I write something on Twitter, it will get reported”
L. Lin Wood, Unsworth’s attorney, was up next for the re-cross; thankfully, he had dropped the bumbling manner from yesterday. Wood said Unsworth doesn’t have a Twitter account, and wondered how Unsworth was supposed to know Musk had apologized. “Most things I say on Twitter get press,” Musk said. “If I write something on Twitter, it will get reported.” Musk adds that it seemed appropriate to him that the apology was on the same medium as the insult.
Wood then pulled up just an absolute fuckload of Musk’s tweets, and asked Musk if they belong to him. “I don’t remember every tweet,” Musk said. This did not seem to be the point, as procedurally Wood was trying to get the tweets entered into evidence. Many of them are about the minisub — which is referred to variously as a minisub, a pod, or a tube, but which I will continue calling a minisub for consistency’s sake. Musk said he was soliciting feedback from the public. “I tweet a lot, in general,” Musk said, accurately.
It looked to me like Wood was trying to suggest the volume of minisub tweets smacked of a PR stunt, particularly after Musk testified that he knows his tweets will be reported on. Musk insisted he was soliciting feedback. “There are some pretty smart people out there,” Musk said. Tesla vehicle design, in particular, is something he cites as having incorporated a lot of Twitter feedback.
Wood switched tacks to language. He and Musk discussed pedophilia, which may refer to thought (a sexual attraction to children) or action (statutory rape). Musk said that if an adult were to marry a 12-year-old, that is probably pedophilia. “Pedo guy,” however, is more flippant, Musk said. “Mother-effer doesn’t literally mean incest,” Musk said, because he apparently did not want to say “fuck” in court.
As this discussion of the meaning of “pedo,” “pedo guy,” and “pedophile” was happening, Unsworth began to look progressively more unhappy. He puffed out his cheeks. His mouth worked. I couldn’t see Unsworth yesterday — he was obscured by a poster board — but today I didn’t see him look at Musk once. Unsworth appeared to be upset by the discussion, but his back was to the jury.
“All the press I read, including the British press, viewed this as an insult,” Musk testified. He also said he remembered the coverage as being negative about him. Wood began asking about specific countries’ press, which is how I discovered Musk doesn’t read news from Scandinavia, the Netherlands, or Belgium. Judge Wilson interjected to ask what languages Musk does know, since the judge thought that might be faster. Musk said he spoke a little Spanish, French, and German. Judge Wilson tells Wood that he will allow inquiries about news from South America, the Carribean, and German-speaking Switzerland.
The jurors are then sent away for recess while the lawyers argue about whether a Google alert can be introduced to the court. Whatever Wood wanted to introduce has a headline from Vox — a media outlet that unfortunately Judge Wilson is not familiar with, and which he spells aloud — that uses “pedophile.” Ultimately the exhibit was excluded from the proceedings.
When everyone returned from their brief break, Wood asked Musk if anyone at Tesla had pointed out that his tweet had tanked the stock. Musk said that he got concerned notes from shareholders, but since Tesla is publicly traded, anyone can see its price at any time. Wood asked Musk to give a current estimate of Musk’s net worth. Musk hedged: he has stock and debt against that stock; the stock value fluctuates. Wood asked for a range. Musk said he didn’t know. Wood then reads from Musk’s deposition, where the estimate is about $20 billion. Musk said that with SpaceX and Tesla stock combined, yes, that sounds right. There is no mention of how much debt Musk has outstanding against the stock.
Musk was then dismissed. As he exited the courtroom, he turned back to the jury, waved, and then left.
He’s a Brick… house
The next witness was Jared Birchall, also known as James Brickhouse. Birchall, in contrast to every other witness today, did not wear a jacket; instead he was wearing a white shirt with blue checks. Birchall said he was 17 or 18 years into a career in finance and was hired by Musk to run Musk’s family office.
Wood asked Birchall a series of questions that established, mainly, that Musk is Birchall’s boss. It didn’t sound like Musk micromanages Birchall, however. Wood displayed a non-disclosure agreement that Birchall entered into with James Howard, a con man who purported to be a private investigator. Howard had attempted to contact Musk, saying that he had dirt on Unsworth.
It emerged that Birchall had dealt with Howard largely under a pseudonym, James Brickhouse. I was somewhat disappointed that Birchall didn’t think up something more fun, like Pierce Inverarity. Birchall said he came up with the name himself and that Musk hadn’t known about it. He’d used the Brickhouse pseudonym before, to book travel and buy domain names.
Birchall couldn’t sign the NDA under the pseudonym, though, as that would render the contract unenforceable, so he swapped out his email display name to “Jared Birchall for James Brickhouse.” Every other communication, however, took place under the pseudonym, except one, when Birchall accidentally sent an email under his own name.
According to Birchall, Howard had cited Paul Allen and George Soros as previous employers. Birchall did not, however, try to contact anyone to determine if this was true. So here’s a valuable hiring lesson for everyone: call the references.
Wood displayed another email from Birchall to Howard. “We would like you to immediately move forward with ‘leaking’ this information to the UK press,” the email reads. Bullet points follow, containing false information about Unsworth that I am not especially interested in repeating. Birchall said the email was meant to “encourage investigative journalism.” In the email, Birchall pointed to a line where he wrote “share the facts,” and said he understood the bullet points to be facts and he wanted to make sure the press was given correct information.
Then it was time for lunch.
When we returned, Michael Lifrak, another of Musk’s lawyers, began asking Birchall questions. Birchall was aware of Musk’s Unsworth tweets but said he did not discuss them with Musk. Lifrak asks if Musk would harm Unsworth in any way. “He would never do that,” Birchall said.
When Birchall received the referral for Howard, the con man PI, Musk had clearly expressed that he expected litigation. Lifrak displayed a Birchall email to Howard: “We believe there are planned attacks in the media and/or a lawsuit that are imminent. With that said, we aren’t looking to frame anyone.” Lifrak asked if anything was published with the false information Howard supplied. Birchall said no.
We then move back to the Brickhouse pseudonym, which I find easier to remember than Birchall’s actual name. Birchall said that working with a public figure means trying to maintain that person’s privacy and described that as the core of what he does.
At this point an email is displayed wherein “James Brickhouse” is trying to buy the domain name justballs.com. If you are frightened to click the URL, please know I have done that for you and its contents are (1) “This page is under construction — coming soon!” and (2) related searches, virtually all of which have to do with baseball. There was no testimony about why Birchall would be buying justballs.com on Musk’s behalf or what Musk was planning to do with it.
The reason Birchall used his pseudonym in this transaction, he explained, was because if people knew Musk were involved, they’d likely raise the price. In any event, Birchall did not succeed in purchasing justballs.com.
Birchall then said that when he relayed Howard’s information from Musk, “as human nature would have it, the most alarming things were what I had shared.” Referring to Musk’s email to Buzzfeed, Birchall said the language was harsher than he would have used but the content was what he understood Howard’s investigation to have unearthed. At the time, Birchall did not know Musk had emailed Buzzfeed. I imagine he rather quickly found out. Lifrak rested.
“Leaking to press is a PR stunt, isn’t it?” Wood asked on recross. Birchall repeated that he wanted to encourage investigative journalism. Musk had gotten a significant amount of negative publicity from the “pedo guy” tweet. Leaking, then, would be a way to “balance” the coverage. Wood said that meant Howard’s hiring wasn’t a litigation defense strategy; it was a PR strategy.
This led to a grouchy exchange about what phrases Birchall used with Musk when he gave Musk the phony information, leading to a series of sustained objections to Wood. Wood appeared to be growing frustrated.
A great deal of irritating cross-talk
The next witness, Rick Stanton, was the one who bewildered me the most today. He was the leader of the cave divers who rescued the Thai soccer team and their coach, and he sat very upright in the witness stand, like a clean-shaven Jason Statham. Stanton, a retired firefighter, has been involved in rescues around the world and has done cave diving for most of his adult life, he said.
Unsworth cracked a smile when Stanton referred to “spelunking, as you say.” Apparently this is more commonly called “caving” in the UK. Stanton testified that Unsworth got him involved in the rescue, and that within 6 hours of Unsworth passing Stanton’s name to the authorities, Stanton was on a plane to Thailand.
Matt Wood, son of L. Lin Wood, conducted the direct examination, and to minimize confusion, I will be calling him by his first name and will continue referring to his father by their (shared) last name. Anyway, Matt began asking questions about the rescue and conditions in the cave. Judge Wilson broke in: “Clearly the witness did something heroic, but that’s not what this case is about.” The judge instructed Matt to get back to what’s more relevant.
Stanton obviously thinks highly of Unsworth; his testimony about Unsworth was glowing. During the two weeks Stanton was in Thailand, he was in “constant contact” with Unsworth, he testified. Stanton confirmed he was also in contact with Musk, and that he had instructed Musk on the minisub. At the time Musk and Stanton corresponded, the method the divers used to rescue the soccer team was a totally untested technique, Stanton said. Musk was a possible plan B.
Matt began asking Stanton questions about the minisub. Spiro, Musk’s counsel, objected. Judge Wilson sustained the objection; the question of whether the minisub worked was not relevant to the defamation claim, the judge ruled.
Spiro rose to conduct his cross-examination. He asked how many people were involved in the exploration and rescue; Stanton responded that six to eight people laid the guide line under water in the caves. Stanton again credited Unsworth with giving the team advice and creating a map. There was then a tedious discussion about maps I am going to elide because I don’t see what it has to do with defamation.
Then, Spiro asked if there was a rule against speaking to the press. No, Stanton said. “A rule is enforceable.” There were guidelines against speaking to the media. Unsworth didn’t ask if he could speak to the media, but it also wasn’t Stanton’s decision. Stanton became aware “after the event” that Unsworth had spoken to CNN.
Spiro hauled out his giant calendar again, and began asking Stanton questions about a conspiracy theory that the divers had purposely not rescued the boys. This got Stanton’s hackles up. Spiro attempted to clarify that he personally didn’t believe it was true. There was then a great deal of irritating cross talk between Spiro, Judge Wilson and Wood; I was unable to write quickly enough to keep up with it. Several jurors glanced longingly at the clock.
Spiro displayed a WhatsApp chat between Stanton and Unsworth dated August 6th, 2018. Unsworth asked Stanton if Stanton had saved his emails with Elon Musk. Stanton said yes. Unsworth asked Stanton to find them and forward them. Stanton testified that he gave Unsworth the emails without knowing why Unsworth wanted them. There were no further questions for Stanton and we all took a break.
I kept wondering why Stanton was there — to establish what we all knew already, that Unsworth was a hero? To establish the minisub wouldn’t work? I couldn’t see the relevance of either of those things to the defamation claim. His testimony about the emails wasn’t necessary — as Unsworth, who took the stand next — would also speak to them.
“I still feel dirtied”
When we came back, Vernon Unsworth took the stand, wearing a blue suit with a pale pink shirt and more saturated pink tie; like Stanton, his hair was cropped close. Stanton had stayed for Unsworth’s testimony and was seated in front of me.
Unsworth said he had been a financial consultant since 1987 and splits time between London and Thailand, about three months in each place. He had first visited Thailand in 2011, with his companion, and first explored the cave system in 2012. Unsworth estimated he’d spent hundreds of hours on solo trips through the cave.
Unsworth said that he’d actually planned to enter the cave the same day the soccer team did, but realized he needed to renew his visa. He first became aware of the missing children and their coach when his companion awoke to an awful lot of missed calls, including from her father. Unsworth was asked to help locate the people because he knew the cave system so well. When he arrived at the cave, he discovered water in a crucial section. He tried to stop the water getting in, using sandbags and digging equipment, but couldn’t do it — and had become concerned that more water would cut off him and the other rescuers.
At this point, Taylor Wilson, the lawyer who was conducting Unsworth’s examination, was scolded by Judge Wilson about his questioning style. Unsworth was providing narration, Judge Wilson said. Wilson-plaintiff’s-lawyer was encouraged by Judge Wilson — presumably no relation — to ask questions differently.
Then we came to the CNN interview. Unsworth explained that based on the video he’d seen of Musk’s minisub, he determined it was unworkable. As for his untrue statement that Musk had been asked to leave, Unsworth was essentially repeating gossip. “It’s what I heard generally around the cave rescue area on the day of the 10th,” he said. There’d been an order that the only people to go into the cave on the rescue days were the rescuers.
Unsworth testified that he doesn’t use Twitter, which makes him wiser than me. His companion showed him Musk’s tweets — he doesn’t recall when, or in what medium, specifically. His lawyer Wilson asked him what he took the tweets to mean. “I took it to mean I was being branded a pedophile,” Unsworth said. “It’s disgusting.”
Wilson, the lawyer, asked about the emotional impact. There was a long pause. Unsworth was visibly upset. “Feels very raw. Feel humiliated, ashamed, dirtied.” Unsworth’s voice broke. “I was given a life sentence without parole. At times I feel very vulnerable. It hurts to talk about it.” Unsworth said he felt very isolated and had tried to deal with the shame he felt on his own.
“I was obviously aware of the media coverage,” Unsworth said. He wasn’t sure how many times it was repeated. The media coverage was “very hurtful. I find it disgusting. I find it hard to read the words, never mind talk about it.” Unsworth said he’d lost self-confidence, though he had good and bad days. Wilson, the lawyer, asked if Unsworth still felt humiliated, and Unsworth said yes. “I still feel dirtied.”
The jury appeared rapt.
Unsworth has received awards for his participation in the rescue, but they haven’t changed his feelings about Musk. Unsworth said he nearly didn’t attend the ceremony to be accepted as a Member of the Order of the British Empire; he went only for his mother, niece, and companion. When he looked at the press coverage, though, he saw a comment about the “pedo guy” tweet, which sank his spirits. Wilson asked him how he felt about the MBE. “I enjoyed it as much as I could,” he said.
Since his role in the rescue, Unsworth has been a consultant for three books and two documentaries, both for National Geographic. He has made about $3,000 for his work. He’s also given pro bono presentations in Thailand about the experience.
Bill Pryce, one of Musk’s lawyers who had the general air of a middle school principal, rose for the cross. He displayed the WhatsApp chat between Unsworth and Stanton, noting that the date was August 8, the same date that L. Lin Wood had sent Musk a letter explaining he was preparing a civil complaint. Unsworth said the date was a coincidence; he just wanted to inform himself about the correspondence.
Pryce then pulled up text messages Unsworth had sent to a friend. Unsworth had, in the texts, described the Navy Seals as having “given up” as of July 5, before the rescue took place. Unsworth explained he didn’t mean that literally. Pryce pounced, and began asking Unsworth about other colloquialisms Unsworth had used, such as “lost the plot” and “tetchy.” I was not super clear on the point here.
The emails between Stanton and Musk that Stanton had forwarded to Unsworth were then forwarded to Unsworth’s lawyers. Pryce displayed another email of Unsworth’s, in which details Stanton sent to Unsworth about the cave system were forwarded by Unsworth to Jonathan Head of the BBC. “For your eyes only and not to be reported on!!!” Unsworth wrote in the email. “Hopefully you will understand why Elon Musk’s submarine would not have worked.” Another text from Unsworth was displayed, where he’d sent a request for the measurements of the minisub.
The cross was difficult to watch. It seemed clear Pryce was trying to establish that Unsworth was pursuing his argument with Musk; part of the defense’s argument between men strategy. But given how Unsworth behaved when Musk was testifying — while he was facing away from the jury, who couldn’t see him and thus won’t consider his expressions — I am convinced that Unsworth does feel humiliated, dirtied, and ashamed.
What remains in question is whether “pedo guy” should be counted as an insult or a statement of fact. Though Musk gave testimony that he felt it was an insult, Unsworth gave testimony he felt it was an accusation. I don’t know who the jury will find more believable.
One thing, however, seems true, though it is not testimony and I don’t know if the jury will consider it: this entire process has been more grueling for Unsworth than Musk. Unsworth has been in the court for the entire trial, listening to testimony he clearly finds hard to bear; Musk showed up for his testimony and vanished.
No two tech executives are quite as enigmatic and private as Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The two men, who started Google more than 20 years ago while computer science graduate students at Stanford University, have hardly been seen or heard from in the last half-decade or so, since restructuring the company to create Google parent Alphabet and leaving Sundar Pichai in charge of a newly streamlined Google.
Yet on Tuesday afternoon, Page and Brin dropped a bombshell announcement: they’re relinquishing control of Alphabet to current Google CEO Sundar Pichai as well, and effectively stepping away from management for good. The news, while it sounded like a big development, felt inevitable. Page and Brin haven’t been deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the company for some time it seems, and the announcement was making it official. It’s the Sundar Pichai show now, from top to bottom. (Page and Brin will retain their controlling shares and seats on the board, and both plan to keep in regular communication with Pichai.)
It’s a fitting end for two of the most mysterious tech leaders of a generation, who are both exiting their company as it hovers near $1 trillion in market cap. But it’s also a troubling time for Google. The search giant has faced increasing scrutiny from employees, media organizations, activists, regulators, and lawmakers since Page and Brin first stepped back in the summer of 2015. And many of those controversies are problems of Page and Brin’s creation, either because the duo didn’t foresee the ways in which Google could do harm or because they explicitly steered the company in a direction that flouted standard corporate ethics.
In that context, it’s important to look back at the big moments in both men’s careers and how the actions they took have had an outsized impact not just on the tech industry, but on the internet and society itself. What Page and Brin have built will likely last for decades to come, and knowing how Google got to where it is today will be an important piece in the puzzle of figuring out where it goes in the future.
AUGUST 1996: Larry Page and Sergey Brin meet at Stanford University, develop PageRank, and launch Google
Page and Brin met at Stanford University in 1995, as both were in the school’s computer science graduate program. The origin of Google is a story about the origin of an idea, and that idea was Page’s vision that a World Wide Web search engine could rank links based on how often they were being linked by other pages. With Brin’s help, the idea turned into PageRank, the foundational algorithm of Google Search. The search product went live on Stanford’s network in 1996.
1996: Brin’s resume contains hidden “objective” detailing his future lifestyle
Brin’s 1996 resume remains accessible on as part of Stanford’s online archives, and you can still go read it right now. Among the projects he was working on at the time, prior to forming Google, include a movie rating platform and a code conversion tool for turning academic papers into HTML files.
But if you inspected the source code on the webpage, you’d find Brin’s hidden “objective” laid out bare: “A large office, good pay, and very little work. Frequent expense-account trips to exotic lands would be a plus.” Lucky for Brin, he would very much get to enjoy that lifestyle in his later years at Google after he moved on from being co-president with Page to heading up the company’s experimental divisions.
1998: Page and Brin rail against ad-supported search engines in Stanford paper
Although Google is now one of the most powerful forces in online advertising on the planet, Page and Brin weren’t too keen on turning their prototype search engine into an ad-selling machine, at first. In a Stanford paper titled, “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” the duo laid out the case for a search engine that would not be biased toward entities that paid top dollar for higher placement:
In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want. This of course erodes the advertising supported business model of the existing search engines. However, there will always be money from advertisers who want a customer to switch products, or have something that is genuinely new. But we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.
1999: Page and Brin try to sell Google for $1 million, then $750,000
While Page and Brin had officially incorporated Google, and smartly changed its name from Backrub, in 1998, the two men shortly after thought they might sell the company, apparently not quite aware of the potential of the product.
In fact, Page and Brin tried to sell Google for $1 million to internet portal company Excite in 1999, as recalled by Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla. The prominent venture capitalist was able to negotiate Page and Brin down to as low as $750,000, but Excite CEO George Bell still wouldn’t take the deal. Google is now worth nearly $913 billion.
2000: Google adopts “Don’t be evil” slogan as its primary corporate value
Accounts on the genesis “don’t be evil” differ. Gmail inventor Paul Buchheit wrote in his personal blog back in 2007 that he coined the phrase during a meeting on corporate values, as a way to “jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent.”
But early engineer and future Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was once quoted as saying early engineer Amit Patel wrote it on a whiteboard in 1999. Buchheit also corroborates a portion of that account, saying after the corporate values meeting, in which he says both he and Patel lobbied for “don’t be evil,” that Patel went around the company scribbling the phrase on whiteboards to help spread it around the company.
Either way, Page and Brin agreed to make the slogan an official corporate value some time around the year 2000, convinced by Buchheit and Patel that the motto helped enshrine the company’s engineering-first approach and would stave off money-hungry tactics from the increasing number of business and sales employees Google was hiring to help sell more ads. The phrase would later become an official company motto when it was included and explained on the company’s prospectus, as part of its S-1 filing to go public. “We will live up to our “don’t be evil” principle by keeping user trust and not accepting payment for search results,” Page would write in the S-1.
August 2001: Page gives up CEO role to Eric Schmidt
After officially incorporating and launching Google to the public in 1998, Page and Brin were overseeing one of the fastest-growing companies in corporate history. For the graduate school dropouts, it was a bit much. Especially after Page’s high-profile attempt earlier that year to fire all of Google’s project managers, a move the company eventually reversed in an embarrassing public refutation of his leadership.
Eventually, Page and Brin, at the behest of investors, brought on Novell CEO Eric Schmidt to provide, as Brin famously painted it in a 2001 television interview, “parental supervision.” For Google stakeholders and the company’s more experienced executive leadership, it was a way to sideline the stubborn but socially awkward Page from doing too much damage to the company while it was still growing exponentially.
Ultimately, however, Page’s ability to let others step in and take the reins, a learning he would draw throughout his career, was a recognition that power and forward-facing leadership don’t always go hand in hand, and that he and Brin could both be effective at the company and retain their influence without overseeing every aspect of the business. Although at the time, Page was notoriously unhappy about having to relinquish control to non-engineers.
2002: Yahoo wants to buy Google for $3 billion, but Page and Brin don’t bite
If you someone from the year 2019 traveled back in time and told you about the eventual fate of Yahoo, it would have been hard to believe. In 2002, Yahoo was an internet giant of unprecedented size, and it wanted in on Google’s fast-growing search business. So much so that Yahoo was willing to pay up to $3 billion for it, a then-unconscionable amount of money for a startup with what Yahoo CEO Terry Semel considered lackluster revenue.
Props to Yahoo for seeing the value in Google — Yahoo leadership was right after all, about Google becoming a big thing — but Page and Brin weren’t in the mood to sell. Just three years after they were willing to take $750,000 for Google, it had grown into an entity they felt was worth more than 4,000 times that price.
Flash forward a decade and a half or so and Yahoo has been sold off to Verizon and folded into Oath, a media conglomerate ultimately rebranded as Verizon Media. Rumor has it people still use its email service.
August 2004: Google goes public at a valuation of $27 billion; Page and Brin create super-voting Class B shares
Just a few years after hiring Schmidt, Google was on a fast-moving rocket to the upper echelon of not just the tech industry, but the broader American business landscape. It filed for an initial public offering, which took place in August of 2004 and raised $1.7 billion, giving Google a valuation of $27 billion.
One particularly notable aspect of Google’s IPO was Page and Brin’s decision to create a so-called super-voting Class B stock that only they, Schmidt, and a handful of other executives were granted. That Class B stock came with 10 times the voting power of a Class A share, meaning Page and Brin would hoard just over 50 percent of it as a way to maintain control of the company in perpetuity, and that remains the case even today following their official departure.
At the time, Page described the move, which would later be copied by a number of high-profile Silicon Valley companies including Facebook, as a way to “maximize value in the long term.” That was a goal the co-founders believed shareholder concerns, which focus on near-term profit, might jeopardize. “We are creating a corporate structure that is designed for stability over long time horizons. By investing in Google, you are placing an unusual long term bet on the team, especially Sergey and me, and on our innovative approach,” Page wrote.
August 2005: Page buys Android for $50 million, without telling Schmidt
One of Page’s most prescient business calculations was the rise of mobile computing, and he moved quick to snap up a small startup by the name of Android in the summer of 2005 to the tune of $50 million. He did so without telling Schmidt, who was then still CEO, because Page believed so strongly that Android co-founder Andy Rubin could help the company make inroads in the mobile software market.
Of course, Android would go on to become the most popular mobile OS in the world. The project underwent a last-minute course correction after Rubin watched Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveil the iPhone in 2007, famously viewing the presentation on a laptop while riding a cab in Las Vegas. But with the 2008 announcement of the T-Mobile G1 / HTC Dream, the first Android phone was out in the wild and would form the foundation for the world’s first open source mobile operating system.
October 2006: Susan Wojcicki convinces Page and Brin to approve YouTube acquisition
Wojcicki, who oversaw Google’s own fledging video platform, quickly and early on identified YouTube as the clear winner in what would become a contested online video race. So she moved fast to buy it while Google still had an upper hand at the negotiation table. “I saw an opportunity to combine the two services,” Wojcicki recalled in venture capitalist John Doerr’s book Measure What Matters. ”I worked up some spreadsheets to justify the $1.65 billion purchase price… and convinced Larry and Sergey.” Sounds like listening to Wojcicki was a smart decision, discounting of course the never-ending YouTube controversies of late.
September 2008: Google launches Chrome browser, thanks to Sundar Pichai
After Page and Brin hired a number of developers from Mozilla Firefox, and at the suggestion of superstar product manager Sundar Pichai, Google embarked on its quest to build a better web browser. This was despite then-CEO Schmidt’s insistence that Google stay out of what he later categorized as the “bruising browser wars.” The eventual product was Chrome. The browser’s eventual domination of the market is one of Pichai’s most stunning business successes, and it helped push the product chief toward the CEO role years later.
At the time, however, Schmidt had to be convinced it was worth the time and effort, and it was Page’s job to do so. “It was so good that it essentially forced me to change my mind,” Schmidt said at a press conference in 2009 of the original Chrome demo, developed by the former Mozilla engineers. Page responded during that interview that he thinks they “just wore [him] down.”
January 2011: Page takes over as CEO again and Schmidt shifts to executive chairman
After 10 years at the helm, Schmidt ended his tenure at Google with the cheeky tweet, “Day-to-day adult supervision is no longer needed.” In what was then the biggest executive shakeup in Google’s history, Page took the reins back as CEO and Schmidt took on an advisory gig as executive chairman of the board.
All three men retained their super-voting class stock that gave them complete control of the company’s direction, but the move signaled a big shift for Google. “One of the primary goals I have is to get Google to be a big company that has the nimbleness and soul and passion and speed of a start-up,” Page told The New York Times of the shift.
It was the beginning of a new era for the company as Page and Brin would employ their newfound control of the company to launch its Google X skunkworks, and delve further into experimental hardware and long-term projects far outside the bounds of its core product offerings.
June 2012: Brin shows off Google Glass prototype with live skydiving demo
Brin, who at this point held the official title of “Co-Founder” and who was responsible mostly for exploring new products, will forever be remembered for being the person to debut Google Glass, the first mass-produced face computer. Developed as one of the first products out of Google X (now simply just X), the internal skunkworks lab known as “the moonshot factory,” Google Glass was an early attempt at a heads-up display that would go on to fail rather publicly over privacy concerns, design criticism, and an overall messy and chaotic launch.
But when Brin debuted the device onstage at Google I/O in 2012, it seemed like the future had come falling out of the sky — literally. Google had hired a team of skydivers to jump out of an airplane above San Francisco while live streaming the jump from a Glass prototype. It was far and away the most impressive tech demo since the unveiling of the iPhone, and it was very much Page and Brin telling the world that Google was about much more than boring web products. They were signaling to everyone in attendance and watching online that Google would deliver the future faster than any of its competitors.
2012: Page suffers from vocal chord paralysis
Page was largely silent for most of 2012, a product of vocal chord paralysis that the newly re-minted CEO revealed the following year in a Google+ post. The condition has affected Page at various points in his life, but it hit him particularly hard the year after he took the reins back at Google. It caused him to miss the company’s 2012 I/O conference as a result.
Although Page would go on to give a speech at the 2013 I/O conference just a few days after disclosing his condition, this admission would mark the moment Page began drastically cutting down on his speaking engagements. In subsequent years, Page began skipping earnings calls and would rarely speak to the press, as his voice became increasingly quiet and hoarse due to the condition’s impact on his breathing.
May 2013: Page discusses his vision for Google Island
One of Page’s most high-profile talks and one of his last public speaking engagements took place in May of 2013 at the company’s I/O conference, one year after Brin used the same stage to announce Google Glass. There, wearing a bright red shirt under a jet black jacket, Page detailed his vision for a so-called Google Island, where technological progress could march on unabated by silly concerns like regulatory requirements and ethics.
It was mostly just Page riffing on his desire for a different kind of tech industry that didn’t have to be so beholden to corporate interests, shareholders, and advertising. He wanted a slice of the world that could just develop new tech for the sake of it and to better humanity.
But it was a weird speech, and it definitely felt like the beginning, or at leas the first public sign, of Page’s evolution into the ultra-rich, detached founder who just can’t be bothered with the day-to-day struggles of normal human beings. (As my colleague Casey Newton just wrote, Page began taking on a kind of Doctor Manhattan status over the years, and this certainly felt like a turning point in that shift.) Of course, you can’t recall this moment without mentioning tech journalist Mat Honan’s iconic and imaginative speculation about life on Google Island he wrote for Wired, now an infamous piece of tech industry fan fiction.
September 2013: Google creates Calico to focus on life extension
Following the launch of Google X, the debut of Google Glass, and the unveiling of the company’s self-driving car project, the search giant turned its sights on the sciences. In particular, Page was interested in life extension. So the company, through its Google Ventures investment arm, created Calico, a company effectively aimed at curing death. It’s headed up by Bill Maris, the founding partner of Google Ventures, who recruited former Genentech CEO Art Levinson to be its chief executive.
It was yet another signal that Page’s Google was willing to put down huge sums of money toward problems far outside the realm of online search and mobile operating systems. Calico, however, has so far seemingly failed to yield any meaningful advancements in the life sciences, medicine, or biotechnology industries. It is unclear what, if anything, the company is focused on right now.
2014: Brin has extramarital affair with employee Amanda Rosenberg
You can trace the end of Brin’s time as the exuberant, Tony Stark-like futurist face of Google to a disastrous series of headlines in early 2014 detailing his extramarital affair with an employee on the Google Glass team. The most prominent of the stories was a Vanity Fair article detailing the intricacies of the affair from start to finish as it played out the previous summer.
Amanda Rosenberg, who became a marketing manager for the device as it was moving from the experimental Google X lab to a full-fledged product, began a relationship with Brin while Brin was married to fellow Google employee Susan Wojcicki’s sister Anne Wojcicki, who was the founder and CEO of genomics company 23andMe. Rosenberg herself was publicly dating Android vice president Hugo Barra, who later moved to China to take a job with Xiaomi.
In an oral history of Google’s early days, Brin was playfully accused of being “the Google playboy” due to getting sexually involved with employees, and early HR manager Heather Cairns called him “a sexual harassment claim waiting to happen.”
October 2014: Andy Rubin leaves Google, but Page chooses not to disclose sexual misconduct claim
Amid Brin’s relationship with Rosenberg, Google was also dealing with another instance of sexual misconduct, although this one much more serious. In late 2013, Android co-founder Andy Rubin, who at that point in the company’s history was overseeing Google’s ominous-sounding Replicant robotics division, left the company. As reported to the press, it was on good terms. “I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” Page said in a statement at the time. “With Android he created something truly remarkable — with a billion-plus happy users.”
But behind the scenes, Rubin was pushed out after an employee accused of him of coercing her into performing oral sex in a hotel room. Google investigated the claim, deemed it credible, and decided Rubin had to go, but Page, Brin, and other members of the executive team allegedly decided not to reveal that information to the press.
Rubin was sent on his way with a $90 million exit package an addition $150 million stock grant. None of this would be made public until The New York Times published a story in October of 2018 detailing the allegations against Rubin and how it was handled at upper levels of Google leadership. Rubin went on to found smartphone company Essential, while Google decided to disband its robotics division and sell off its most valuable asset, robot maker Boston Dynamics, to SoftBank.
By the summer of 2015, Google was a remarkably different company than when Page had reassumed his CEO role four years prior. The company was involved in self-driving cars, wearable technology, the Nexus smartphone line, and numerous other product and experimental research efforts spanning artificial intelligence, cloud and quantum computing, and even fiber internet.
Given that complexity, it was time, in Page and Brin’s eyes, to shake things up. “Our company is operating well today, but we think we can make it cleaner and more accountable. So we are creating a new company,” Page wrote in a blog post.
The new company would be called Alphabet, and it would remove Page and Brin from any day-to-day operations at Google proper and elevate them to CEO and president, respectively, of what is effectively a holding company. The process made Google’s financials a bit easier to parse as the various experimental divisions got broken out from Google proper. More importantly it raised Sundar Pichai to the position of Google CEO.
In the broader scope of Page and Brin’s careers, this is the moment both men decided to let go of the steering wheel and the beginning of their more serious retreat from the public eye. Of course, both still retained their super-voting class shares, and Pichai reported directly to Page. In the process of the restructuring, Google ditched “Don’t be evil” as an official motto, replaced as “do the right thing” in the Alphabet code of conduct. (Page and Brin retained the phrase in the separate Google code of conduct.)
2016: Page begins investing in “flying cars”
Page more or less disappeared off the face of the Earth after relinquishing control of Google proper to Pichai and taking on his new role as Alphabet CEO. He still made regular appearances at the company’s all-hands meetings and could be found wandering various parts of the Googleplex campus alongside Brin. But he never again would speak on an investor call, to the press, or at a product event.
What he did end up getting involved in was flying cars. More accurately, they’re eVTOLs, short for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles. Page now has his hands in numerous startups, as an investor and advisor, dedicated to bringing aerial electric vehicles to market. It’s not quite clear why he’s so interested in this technology or why he has spent his years post-Alphabet restructuring putting his money toward this particular market — he has not given an interview about his interest. But it does have the air of an older, rich celebrity developing a fondness for luxury cars, with an appropriate tech twist.
January 2017: Brin makes rare public appearance to protest Trump’s immigration order
He did, however, show up in a personal capacity to a protest of President Donald Trump’s immigration-related executive order at San Francisco International Airport in January 2017; Brin is a Russian immigrant. That naturally made headlines, as did speeches Brin and Pichai gave to employees shortly after on the company’s commitment to supporting immigrants and opposing Trump’s executive order. Brin has not made any public appearances in support of political causes since.
September 2018: Breitbart leaks video of Page and Brin all-hands meeting after Trump’s election
While Page and Brin receded from public view starting around 2015, they were reportedly quite active in Google’s famous weekly TGIY all-hands sessions, in which executives would answer questions from employees and address big-picture topics at the company and in the news. One such session, occurring just after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, was two years later leaked to conservative news outlet Breitbart.
“Most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad,” Brin is seen saying as the meeting kicks off. “I find this election deeply offensive, and I know many of you do too. It’s a stressful time, and it conflicts with many of our values. I think it’s a good time to reflect on that. … So many people apparently don’t share the values that we have.”
This is perhaps the last time the public will ever see Google’s co-founders speaking in front of a crowd, and that feels more certain to be the case after Tuesday’s announcement. Earlier this month, Pichai announced to employees that Google will be scaling back its weekly all-hands meetings due to leaks, as pressure mounts internally and externally on Google leadership and how it has been handling the tumultuous few years since the Alphabet restructuring. But Page and Brin, although they are no longer involved in the company’s operations, do remain in control of the company given their super-voting class shares.
Rian Johnson’s new film Knives Out is a devoted love letter to the whodunit genre — from its Poirot-esque detective Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig with an over-the-top Southern drawl, to its apparent murder victim Harlan Thrombey, an aging mystery author who “practically lives in a Clueboard.” But it’s also a sharply contemporary project, not an Agatha Christie period piece. Even as Knives Out creates a familiar cozy atmosphere, it draws on present-day archetypes and culture-war conflicts, sketching a modern American family whose motives for murder are instantly recognizable.
For Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed Knives Out after working on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, breaking the whodunit’s comforting and familiar elements out of their “hermetically sealed jewel box” was key to the project. Around the film’s release last week, I spoke with Johnson about reworking old tropes in new ways, dealing with toxic fandom, and Chris Evans’ sweater.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
You’ve talked about howKnives Out is an homage to the whodunit genre that also blends in some elements of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Were there any parts of the genre that you’d wanted to leave behind?
There were things I knew I loved about the genre that I wanted to definitely have in the movie — like the sequence where everybody is questioned, and you get to investigate the past through all these different perspectives, and then the big denouement with the detective at the end, where he ties together the whole case. That’s one of my favorite types of scenes in all of fiction and I knew I wanted to do a barn-burner one of those.
I guess if there was anything I wanted to not so much leave behind, but avoid, it was what Hitchcock was referring to with his distaste for them — that it’s a big buildup to one big surprise at the end. It’s clue-gathering, clue-gathering, and then “Can you guess it? Yes or no?” And maybe you can, maybe you can’t, who really cares? That’s why I kind of got in there with the monkey wrench and saw if I could put another engine in the car, to belabor the analogy.
One other motivating factor isn’t really leaving behind something from the genre, but something from recent examples of the genre that I wanted to get away from: they’re all period pieces. I feel like we’ve come to think of the genre as this cloistered little hermetically sealed jewel box, and these stories end up always being either period pieces or “timeless” — if they talk about class, it’s in the context of way back when in Britain. And knowing that Agatha Christie was writing to contemporary British society when she was writing them, the notion of taking this genre and plugging it into contemporary American society seemed like it could maybe yield some fresh things.
When you’re creating these characters, how do you work with an eye toward the fact that there’s an audience that’s very immersed in present-day culture and will instantly understand the references, and an audience that might be watching it years from now, the way we read Agatha Christie novels?
I purposely ignored the second thing that you said, and that was a very scary thing to do. But I very much committed to saying, you know, I’m going to make a movie that’s made to be seen right now. And I don’t know how it’ll age — maybe it will age like an egg on concrete and it’ll be rotten in a few years. But I’m going to make something that is very much right now in this moment, because that’s the one thing that I feel like we never see whodunits do anymore, and it seemed like the most interesting thing to me to try.
You’ve mentioned the whodunit genre’s overall moral clarity, where there’s a killer who’s caught at the end, and in some ways it’s the opposite of a film noir. It seems like there’s a moral clarity inside the plot of Knives Out as well — the characters we initially think are good stay good, and the characters who initially seem bad are actually bad. Was that always part of the film, or did it develop as you were writing?
It wasn’t something I was super conscious of, but maybe it was just me leaning into that element of the genre. I think a lot of people describe the genre as comfort food, and I think that goes beyond just being familiar with it. I think there is something essentially comforting about it. I’m sure that extends to exactly what you’re talking about — sort of the moral clarity of solving the crime and also the notion that we can somehow make sense in a moral way of people’s motivations and that they’ll be consistent. If it’s a fairy tale, it’s a pleasant one.
It’s a little like the romance genre, which is one of the few genres with rules about a thing that has to happen at the end.
Right, very rigid, which fascinates me. I’m very drawn to genres that have hard rules to them, and the whodunit genre definitely is one of them. This is something where you can tell with Knives Out I’m attempting to hit the nail on the head with the hammer at the end. I love this genre, and as many curveballs as I threw during the course of the movie, I wanted to give a payoff at the end that was essentially satisfying for somebody who loves the genre.
It felt like a bit of a contrast with The Last Jedi, which played with expectations in a way that sometimes seemed deliberately unsatisfying.
My intent in constructing The Last Jedi was to bring it around to a point of satisfaction at the end, although in some ways because it was the second film in a trilogy — if you think about The Empire Strikes Back, that’s unsatisfying specifically at the end as well. That’s kind of the job of an act two, to be unsatisfying to some extent.
I do really love engaging with genre, and whenever I do it, I’m not thinking in terms of what needs to be turned on its head or subverted or undercut — I’m thinking exactly the opposite. I’m thinking, “what is the thing that I essentially love about this, and what is the thing that means the most to me about it, and how can I most purely express that on the screen?” Now, to me, expressing that on the screen does not mean photocopying the thing I watched when I was young. It means finding a way to give the audience, in as fresh and electric a way as possible, the actual experience that I am referring to, what I experienced with this stuff as a kid or how this stuff makes me feel.
And sometimes to do that, you have to either veer off the path or kind of clap your hands to wake the audience up out of the daze of familiarity of some of these tropes. But it’s all hopefully for me — at least the goal is — it’s all toward the ends of bringing it all back to what the thing is all about.
Were there modern technological developments that made your job as a whodunit writer harder or easier?
Not really. That was weird! I mean, talking to my friends who make horror movies, cellphones are the bane of their existence. In thrillers, you always have to be up on a hill where you don’t get reception. And I was kind of bracing myself for that, but — and I haven’t really analyzed what it is about the whodunit — that never really reared its ugly head. There was never a point where I was even tempted to say “and they don’t get cell reception here, so that’ll fix something.” For whatever reason, it wasn’t a big issue.
There’s an extent to which the house itself is frozen in time — you’ve got security tapes on old VHS systems and so forth.
It’s the house of an old man, so we do get to step back a bit. But everybody still has a cellphone and people have smartwatches — that’s mostly to communicate the anachronism of Harlan’s place in the world. It’s not to get myself out of any plot jams.
What’s the purpose of Daniel Craig’s character hitting the piano keys during the interview scenes?
It’s just a weird goofy thing. I had written in the script that originally Blanc was going to tap the back of Detective Elliot’s chair with his foot every time he wants him to ask a specific question. And when I worked out the geography of it, I saw that Daniel was going to be too far away for his foot to reach, but there was going to be a piano back there. And so just on the day I said, “This is kind of weird, maybe plink the piano.” And Daniel kind of blinked at me and said, “Well, okay.”
It’s also very intentionally odd, it’s meant to have you say, as Don Johnson says, “who the fuck is this guy?” And because it is a long scene, it’s a scene where you could easily get in a lull of question, question, question. So just to throw a couple of drum hits in there that are offbeat, I think there was a benefit to it there.
One of my friends referred to Knives Out as having a “strong sweater game.” How did that come together?
Well, we were in New England in the fall, and knitwear just kind of lent itself to the vibe. Our costume designer Jenny Eagan, I think she did a fantastic job. She had to make each one of these characters as distinct as the characters on the cards in the game of Clue, but we didn’t want them to feel costume-y — we wanted them to feel modern and to feel grounded, you know? We didn’t want it to feel ultra-stylized, with the exception of Great Nana, I guess. So there’s lots of tweeds and knitwear and it just felt right with the ambience. And then we put that sweater on Chris and were like… yeah. This is going to work.
Yes! I retweeted it, I thought it was amazing. That made me happy.
It’s been interesting watching not just the meta level of Chris Evans playing against type, but then people who are fans of Chris Evans responding to that and bringing their fandom to it.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? And it’s something where in the casting process, it’s tempting to try and do the math of how people are going to see him in this movie and if that’s going to affect how they respond to the character through the course of the film. It’s tricky, though, because you can never quite predict how that’s going to play into how people watch the movie. At the end of the day, I think you can get yourself in trouble if you try and calculate too much, “Oh, I’m going to cast this person because the audience will think this about them, and this and that.” But yeah, I agree, it’s fascinating. It’s similar to the movie I made a few movies ago, Looper, with Bruce Willis in the main part, where we have Bruce Willis in this role that tips over into a very non-Bruce-Willis-y place.
Toxic fandom has come up a lot since the backlash to The Last Jedi, and you’ve had some thought about how it’s overblown in press coverage — but also obviously complicated, because people are covering a real phenomenon, and it can make people’s lives really miserable when it happens. It’s a conundrum that I can feel really stuck with, as a writer. What do you think a healthy discussion about toxic fandom would look like?
I honestly don’t know. I don’t want to downplay the horribleness of when somebody is targeted with this kind of trolling — it’s serious, really vile stuff, and even the worst of what I got was nowhere at the scale of what women and people of color are getting every single day. I think there’s just a perception that those abusers are a bigger part of the fan base than they are. But the truth is I also… look, I get it, it’s like, it is the story. There’s no real story in talking about the pleasant, respectful conversations people are having about Star Wars, and I genuinely understand that.
I do feel like there are many pieces that specifically point out that this is a small but vocal part of the fan base, and it goes a long way in pieces just whenever it’s mentioned — that this is not a massive raging section of it. But the truth is I don’t know, you’re right, I feel in the same pickle that you do. It’s not like I have a solution for how to talk about it, because it is something worth talking about. But if you talk about it, you’re amplifying it.
Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 865 might be the big news out of the company’s annual Snapdragon Tech Summit, but the company also announced details about its other new chip, the midrange Snapdragon 765. The 765 might actually be the more interesting of the two, thanks to its integrated 5G modem and its likely future of powering cheaper, midrange devices.
Right now, there’s not a lot of 5G devices out there, and the ones that are around tend to be very expensive. The upcoming 865 might help with that. By default, it’ll only work with the X55 5G modem, meaning every Android flagship with a Snapdragon 865 (i.e., nearly all of them) will, in theory, be a 5G phone next year. But even cheaper Android phones with Qualcomm’s top processor tend to cost upwards of $750. 700-series chips, on the other hand, are found in far cheaper phones, like HMD’s Nokia phones, which hit much lower prices.
It’s a much lower barrier to entry for 5G than anything currently available, and it could be a big part of making the next-generation network accessible to more customers, not just those who are willing to shell out for the top phones.
In fact, it’s possible that the Snapdragon 765 will enable better 5G experiences than phones with the 865. That’s because, unlike the Snapdragon 865, the 765 has a less powerful X52 modem. It’s capable of lower speeds (maxing out at 3.7 Gbps, instead of the 7 Gbps the X55 is theoretically capable of). But it has a big advantage: that 5G modem is integrated directly in the 765 chipset, meaning it should offer improved power efficiency (and, therefore, battery life) than the X55, which is its own separate chip. It’ll also support a wider range of 5G standards than the current X50 modem, with Qualcomm promising support for mmWave and sub-6GHz, standalone and non-standalone 5G, and TDD and FDD with Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) network types.
As for the Snapdragon 765’s performance, Qualcomm is promising improvements in AI processing and better support for multiple camera systems. There’s also a Snapdragon 765G variant that features a new Qualcomm Adreno 620 GPU, which the company says offers up to 20 percent improved performance over the standard Snapdragon 765. (It’s a similar idea to the Snapdragon 855 Plus.)
Qualcomm says to expect to see phones with both the Snapdragon 765 and 765G in the first quarter of 2020.
Qualcomm officially announced its latest flagship processor, the Snapdragon 865, yesterday at its Snapdragon Tech Summit. But at the day two keynote, the company dove deep into all the details about the new chip and what it’ll offer for the next wave of top tier Android devices next year.
Qualcomm says that the new Snapdragon 865 will offer a wide variety of improvements over its existing chips, specifically when it comes to performance, AI processing, photography, and gaming.
Connectivity and performance
Clearly, 5G is a huge focus area for Qualcomm here. There’s not a lot of news here, given that Qualcomm detailed the X55 modem that will be paired with the Snapdragon 865 months ago. (The first phones with an X55, the T-Mobile and AT&T variants of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, are just being released this month, albeit paired with the current-gen Snapdragon 855.)
Still, it’s a big jump forward compared to last year’s X50 modem, with a maximum download speed of 7 gigabits per second (compared to 5 Gbps on the X50.) More importantly, the X55 supports a wider range of 5G frequencies, particularly in the sub-6GHz range — which is particularly important for things like T-Mobile’s just-launched 600MHz nationwide 5G network, or Sprint’s 2.5GHz 5G plans. As Qualcomm puts it, the X55 is its first modem that “supports all key regions and bands including mmWave and sub-6 in both TDD and FDD frequencies.”
That’s all very important for the Snapdragon 865, since the 865 itself doesn’t actually offer an onboard modem at all — it’ll have to be paired with the X55 modem for cellular connectivity. That’s a big difference from last year’s 855, which had an integrated LTE-only X24 modem that device manufacturers could use if they didn’t want to offer 5G. But with the 865, 5G support is effectively required now. Additionally, like the Snapdragon 855, the 865 will feature support for the Wi-Fi 6 standard.
There are improvements on the performance side, too: the company says that its new Kryo 585 CPU is 25 percent faster than last year’s Snapdragon 855, while the new Adreno 650 GPU offers 25 percent better performance. It’s not quite as big of a leap as last year (the Snapdragon 855’s CPU was the first chip from Qualcomm to use a 7nm processor and was up to 40 percent faster than the 845), but it should mean that Snapdragon 865 phones will be able to more than handle whatever you throw at them.
Camera and photography improvements
Another big area that Qualcomm is highlighting with the Snapdragon 865 is improvements to the camera. As expected, there’s a new ISP (image signal processor), the Spectra 480. Qualcomm’s big spec here is that the Spectra 480 supports “2 gigapixels per second” speeds, which it says enables a host of new photography features.
Phones with a Snapdragon 865 will be able to shoot 200-megapixel photos, capture 8K video, and shoot 960 fps slow-motion video at 720p resolution. Additionally, the new processor will support video capture with Dolby Vision HDR, a first for mobile devices.
Of course, all that requires phone manufacturers to actually meet Qualcomm with the camera hardware to shoot those kinds of pictures and videos, but the Snapdragon 865 at least lays the groundwork by supporting these features right out of the box.
There are also a few new gaming-focused features with the Snapdragon 865. The new chip will support phones with a 144Hz refresh rate for the first time, the same as many high-end gaming monitors. Qualcomm will also allow OEMs to update the Adreno GPU for the first time through app stores, allowing players to update firmware over time, similar to PC GPUs.
The Snapdragon 865 also promises better AI performance than the 855. Qualcomm says that the fifth-generation Qualcomm AI Engine on the 865 is twice as powerful as the fourth-gen engine on last year’s chipset, while offering 35 percent better power efficiency.
There’s also a new Qualcomm Sensing Hub, which is designed to allow for things like wake-word monitoring for AI assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant at extremely low power levels (less than 1 mW), with support for multiple simultaneous smart assistants.
Like with many of the improvements here, it’ll rely on device manufacturers and software developers building hardware and apps that can take advantage of the AI-powered potential of the 865.
The first phones powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 are expected to release in 2020.
In August of last year, NASA sent a spacecraft hurtling toward the inner Solar System, with the aim of getting some answers about the mysterious star at the center of our cosmic neighborhood. Now more than a year later, that tiny robot has started to decode some of the mysteries surrounding our Sun’s behavior, after venturing closer to our parent star than any human-made object has before.
That spacecraft is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a car-sized vehicle designed to withstand temperatures of more then 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Its various instruments are protected by an extra hardy heat shield, designed to keep the spacecraft relatively cool as it gets near our balmy host star. Already, the Parker Solar Probe has gotten up close and personal with the Sun, coming within 15 million miles of the star — closer than Mercury and any other spacecraft sent to the Sun before. “We got into the record books already,” Adam Szabo, the mission scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for Parker Solar Probe, tells The Verge.
Before the spacecraft’s launch, researchers were particularly interested in learning more about what’s coming out of the Sun. Energetic particles and plasma are continuously streaming from the Sun at all times — a phenomena that’s been dubbed solar wind. This highly energized material makes its way to Earth, causing the dazzling display of the aurora borealis. If we get too much of this stuff, it can sometimes muck up our spacecraft in orbit and even mess with our electric grid. There’s still a lot we don’t know about solar wind, such as what is accelerating this material so much that it can break free from the Sun. Learning the origins of the wind could help us better predict how it will impact us here on Earth.
Thanks to the Parker Solar Probe’s first close pass to the Sun, researchers are learning some surprising things about how the star behaves closer to its surface. The first batch of results and theories are detailedtodayin four paperspublished in the journal Nature.
Perhaps the biggest find from the probe so far is that the Sun’s magnetic field is much more volatile closer to its surface, switching its direction back and forth. “What we didn’t expect is for the magnetic field to become really really choppy,” says Szabo. The Sun’s magnetic field is filled with magnetic forces that move in various directions. And up close to the Sun, the direction of the star’s magnetic field would completely turn around a full 180 degrees in little moments known as “switchbacks.” “This is completely unexpected,” says Szabo. “These are significant orientation changes that we did not expect. And so we have been scratching our heads saying, ‘Okay, what can cause this?’”
Szabo says their best guess is that weird magnetic switches are caused by jets of solar wind bursting out of the Sun. Rather than flow out from the Sun in one continuous stream, some of the solar wind comes out in spikes or bursts, traveling faster than the surrounding medium. These “jet-lets,” as Szabo calls them, will stretch out the magnetic field, causing the magnetic forces to turn around completely. It’s possible that these weird magnetic switchbacks may be the reason the solar wind is able to get so fast and break free of the Sun. When the switchbacks occur, the magnetic field may reconnect with itself, causing massive explosions that shoot out high-speed particles from the Sun.
The researchers think that eventually these jets of solar wind run into the solar wind that has already made its way out into deep space, evening out and creating the relatively steady stream of particles that we see from Earth. While it makes sense based on what the Parker Solar Probe saw, the research is still in its early stages. “Now, we are still a bit too far out to sort of declare that this is the final answer to this question,” says Szabo. “Going four times closer to the Sun should really have the answer to this question.”
Researchers discovered lots of other intriguing details from the Parker Solar Probe data, such as how the Sun’s atmosphere rotates closer to the surface, and how dust particles propagate around the Sun — and there’s even more to look forward to. The Parker Solar Probe’s path around the Sun is an ever decreasing spiral, one that will take the vehicle even closer to the center of the Solar System in the years ahead. The spacecraft swings by Venus every so often, using the planet’s gravity to nudge the vehicle closer to the star. At its closest point, the Parker Solar Probe should come within 4 million miles of the Sun.
Right now, the spacecraft is starting its fourth close orbit around the Sun, and today’s results are just from the vehicle’s first orbit. That means there’s still plenty to learn in the months and years ahead as the Parker Solar Probe edges closer to its scorching target. The closer it gets, the more details scientists will unravel — but it’s possible we may never fully understand why our Sun is the way it is. “I’m absolutely confident that we will make significant improvements in our understanding,” says Szabo. “But to declare that there will be nothing left unanswered, I would hesitate to do so.”