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AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT review roundup: the new desktop GPU to beat under $300

At CES 2020, AMD announced its new Radeon RX 5600 XT, a midrange $279 graphics card utilizing the company’s Navi architecture that sits between the cheaper RX 5500 series and the more powerful RX 5700 series. AMD is positioning the 5600 XT as “the ultimate graphics card for 1080p gaming,” and reviews out today seem to indicate that AMD might have made a card that’s exactly that.

Anandtech found that the RX 5600 XT lives up to AMD’s “ultimate” claim, averaging more than 60 fps in all but one game it tested — that game being Metro Exodus. At 1080p with all of the settings cranked to their highest (with the Nvidia’s HairWorks graphical setting turned off), it managed 58 frames per second, a respectable count that’s a handful of frames ahead of the slightly more expensive Nvidia RTX 2060. The publication said that the card is “fast enough to deliver a no-compromises experience even with the craziest settings.” It also said that the 5600 XT “clobbers” Nvidia’s GTX 1660 Ti, a popular and similarly priced card that also targets gamers who want great 1080p graphics.

Other reviewers saw great performance as well. Tom’s Hardware found that the card “easily” eclipsed 60 fps at 1080p (with maximum settings activated) on most of the titles that it tested, which includes heavy hitters like The Division 2 and Gears of War 5. Compared to the RTX 2060, the 5600 XT maintained a higher, steadier frame rate across the board. PC Gamer found 1080p to be an “easy hurdle” for the card and said it achieved average frame rates of around 137 fps across 12 games.

The closest competitor to the 5600 XT is probably the aforementioned Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti, which came out last year and also costs $279, and reviewers generally found that the RX 5600 XT performed better than the GTX 1660 Ti. But perhaps in response to AMD’s new card, Nvidia dropped the price on its entry-level ray-tracing graphics card, the RTX 2060 Founders Edition, to $299. So there’s now a bit more competition at that sub-$300 price point, though models at this price point currently appear to be sold out. Directly comparing the two cards together, Tom’s Hardware found that the 5600 XT “wins more than it loses” against the RTX 2060, though only Nvidia’s option can handle ray tracing.

Engadget called the 5600 XT “the most powerful 1080p gaming option on the market under $300,” though, and other reviews are backing that up. If you’re looking for a midrange card that will let you play games at 1080p and high frame rates, the 5600 XT seems like it could be a good choice.

If you’re looking to get your hands on one of these cards, PC Gamer has found several configurations of AMD’s new graphics card that are available right now, starting at $279.99.

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Technology

Starbucks sets new sustainability goals for the decade

Starbucks announced today that it’s going to slash the greenhouse gases it emits and waste it sends to landfills in half over the next decade. It’s also committing to conserving or replenishing 50 percent of all the water it draws for its operations and coffee production by 2030.

The company also unveiled longer-term strategies to get greener, like switching to reusable packaging and putting more plant-based products on its menu. But it hasn’t yet set a deadline on those initiatives, and there are few details on how the company is going to meet its targets. By its 50th anniversary next year, it plans to unveil more specifics on its environmental goals.

Starbucks has a murky record on achieving its sustainability goals. It met its 2015 deadline to purchase enough renewable energy to power all its company-operated locations in the US and Canada. But in 2008, it also set out to serve 25 percent of its drinks in reusable containers by 2015. A few years after it set that self-imposed deadline, Starbucks dropped that goal to 5 percent. By 2018, it served just 1.3 percent of its drinks in personal reusable cups, despite a decade-long effort to get its customers to switch. If this history is any indication, meeting some of their new goals is going to be a challenge, especially when it comes to reusable packaging or containers.

“Like most things that are worthwhile, this will not be easy,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter announcing the company’s new environmental pledges. He added that success would require “transformational change” and for its customers to play a role.

In the future, customers across the more than 70 countries with Starbucks locations might find that they’ll need to pay for a single-use cup, according to Conrad MacKerron, vice president of the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow. (As You Sow jointly issued a shareholder proposal at a Starbucks meeting in 2019 pushing for the company to reuse and recycle its packaging.) Starbucks tested this strategy in the UK in 2018, and found that charging a 5-pence disposable cup fee — along with a 25-pence reusable cup incentive — pushed the rate of hot drinks served in reusable cups up from 2.2 percent to 5.8 percent. Over the next year, Starbucks says it will conduct research into how to get more customers using reusable cups.

Starbucks has a long way to go to shrink its environmental footprint. The company’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions are roughly equivalent to the pollution from almost 14 coal-fired power plants — nearly on par with other giant corporations like Microsoft. Its annual waste adds up to more than two times the weight of the Empire State Building, and the water it uses could fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

There is some hope that this round of commitments from Starbucks will be different from previous attempts. “There’s a lot of pressure this time that wasn’t there in 2008 in terms of where their packaging is ending up,” MacKerron says. Over the past decade, mounting plastic pollution has led to a push to get rid of single-use plastics like straws. By the end of this year, Starbucks is supposed to hit another benchmark by phasing out plastic straws globally.

To do that, Starbucks is rolling out sippy cup-style lids. It’s going to take more innovation if the company wants to eventually ditch single-use cups, too. MacKerron speculates that there could be a program in the future that allows customers to put down a deposit to “borrow” a thermos if Starbucks one day decides to no longer offer single-use containers. But he applauds the company for testing out new ways of doing business at the risk of losing customers who want the convenience of disposable containers. “There are a lot of positive signs that they are taking this very seriously, willing to put themselves out there for a little more scrutiny,” MacKerron tells The Verge.

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Technology

Dolittle will delight small children and drive adults mad

Sometimes you just want more for someone, even if they are rich, famous, and probably doing fine. Today, that person is Robert Downey Jr., star of Dolittle, in which he plays an eccentric doctor who can talk to garish, computer-generated animals. Dolittle is Downey’s first big feature film after retiring from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, yet he exhibits none of the trademark charisma audiences might hope for after ten years of Tony Stark (and a few years as a pretty fun Sherlock Holmes).

Like a good fairy tale, the movie delivers Doctor Dolittle’s backstory via storybook illustrations: how John Dolittle and his wife devoted their lives to helping animals, could speak their languages, and how her death during a voyage at sea caused him to retreat from the world, becoming a hermit in his manor / nature preserve. He’s forced to abandon his agoraphobic lifestyle when two children intrude to tell him the Queen of England is sick, and if she dies, the successor to the throne has plans to take Dolittle’s estate from both him and the animals he safeguards.

It’s perfectly inoffensive stuff, until Robert Downey Jr. opens his mouth and starts speaking with a bizarre Welsh accent, one that you’ll refuse to accept for about a third of the movie and yet somehow he just keeps doing it. It’s a performance that’s a bummer in more ways than one. Downey Jr. has excellent manic energy that makes him well-suited to playing weirdos and misanthropes, and plenty of folks are probably hoping to see him loosen up a little post-Marvel. Unfortunately, that’s very hard to do when you barely share the screen with another human being.

This is where it helps to remember that Dolittle is a very expensive, high-profile kids’ movie, and that these days it’s quite rare to get such an expensive failure in this realm. The movie is mostly a vehicle for talking animals, and like any movie with talking animals, the menagerie talks too much. Some of this is mitigated by the fact that their voices are recognizable — Kumail Nanjiani voices a stubborn ostrich, Jason Mantzoukas plays a very annoying dragonfly — but the movie is also aggressively unfunny. The biggest laughs come from surprise at completely bizarre swings: a barely euphemistic dick joke; goofs about divorce and abortion (the ostrich’s dad says he “should’ve been an omelet”); and a bizarre dragon colonic, where Dolittle reaches into the giant lizard’s (obscured) rectum to pull out bagpipes and a set of armor.

The best stuff is from human actors who briefly appear in somewhat villainous roles. Antonio Banderas plays the king of a foreign land with a bone to pick with Dolittle, and Michael Sheen is the doctor’s longtime rival. Both actors are no strangers to being the best part of whatever they’re in, and they continue the streak here.

Unfortunately, this movie was a disaster before the cameras even started rolling. It was initially written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, a filmmaker mostly known for serious adult dramas like Syriana. Dolittle — then called The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, much like the classic novel it’s based on — was retooled by two different filmmakers with more family-friendly bona fides, a process that works for some big-budget films, but absolutely did not help this one. It’s a mess.

Dolittle is repeating history. The original 1967 Doctor Dolittle was a legendary flop that was also a notoriously troubled production, a bizarre role for its star Rex Harrison to choose and a questionable choice for all involved parties. Dolittle is much the same, a big disaster on a scale that’s rarely seen — although this time it’s not because movies are rarely this expensive. It’s because they’re often too expensive to really be a complete failure. These days, money doesn’t buy quality, but it often does buy competence. Just not all of the time.

I do not regret my time spent with Dolittle. No one, as my editor reminded me, made me see it. This was entirely my decision. I do, however, feel preemptive regret on behalf of others, namely the parents who will be made to see Dolittle for what’s likely to be a total of 87 times come December. The movie is dreck made just acceptable enough for children with still-developing frontal lobes, one that would bore most adults to tears if it didn’t stop to do things like give a dragon a colonic. I will think a lot about the Monday night I spent watching it for another two weeks, and then I will likely forget it ever happened.

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Homebodies Unite: Cool Decor Essentials for Winter and How To Style Them

When winter is keeping you indoors, but you still want cute stuff. 

It was so incredibly cold this weekend that I could barely be convinced to go outside at all, minus one very chilly park trip with a toddler who desperately needed to get out of the house.

If you need me, I’ll be bundled up indoors for the foreseeable future…or at least until it gets warm again. Which means, I may need a handful of winter essentials to get me through.

So, I’ve rounded up the coolest (haha) winter decor essentials I could find and am sharing them all today. Along with tips for what to look for and how to style them in your home. SO much good stuff crammed into this winter essentials post.

The Ultimate Guide to Winter Essentials

These aren’t exactly the winter essentials you’re going to find in a first aid kit. More like the winter decor essentials that will get you through the cold months in style.

It’s my faves list of cozy blankets and pillows, cute coffee mugs, great smelling candles, and pretty decor books to cuddle up with. All in the name of staying indoors this winter. Homebodies unit!

Winter Essentials #1: A cozy blanket

A cozy winter blanket is kind of a must for all this chilly weather. Especially a CUTE cozy blanket that can be used anywhere in the house. Am I the only one that carries my blankets from room to room?

If you’re into a little bit of a project, try this DIY blanket idea that you can whip up in an afternoon. Or if you’d rather buy something, check out the list of my faves below. Numbers 3 and 4 are at the very top of my winter wish list right now.

How to style a cozy blanket in any room

In the living room, when a cozy blanket isn’t wrapped around your shoulders, toss it over the back of your sofa for a casual and easy styled look. Blankets can also live in a woven basket, or rolled up neatly and tucked away in a built in book shelf.

In a bedroom, blankets live nicely on the end of the bed for a layered look. This also comes in handy in the winter months when you need to layer up on blankets in the middle of the night.

If you have too many blankets you know what to do with, use them as stuffing! A great way to store soft textiles is to fold them up and store them inside a pouf (like a leather moroccan pouf or a square kilim pouf). It’s super functional and easily adds some cozy to your space.

What to look for when searching for a cozy blanket

A blanket has to be soft to the touch. Like so soft you want to rub your face on it. Stay away from anything too scratchy or rough regardless of how cute it is. It’ll probably look good thrown over your sofa, but it won’t be so great when you’re cold and looking for something soft to snuggle up to.

Another thing to look for is the right colored blanket. Look for something neutral or with a color that you use throughout your house. That way, you can use it in any space. Ivory and white tones are always a good call when it comes to winter weather blankets.

8 Cozy Winter Blankets for Winter

1. Textured Kadin Throw Blanket from Anthropologie ($88)

Can you imagine being wrapped up in this bundle of soft wool? I don’t think I’d ever let it leave my shoulders. This blanket is super neutral, can be used anywhere in the house, and will always be in style. A classic and cozy purchase.

2. Alpaca Basketweave Throw from Jenni Kayne ($295)

Alpaca and wool make for the best winter blanket combination. This blanket comes in a few different colors too (all neutrals) that will compliment any space. Hard to go wrong with something from Jenni Kayne.

3. Water Lilies Wool Blanket from Fine Little Day ($132)

I absolutely love this lily print from Fine Little Day. It makes for the perfect ode to the upcoming spring weather, while staying warm in the colder months. The print is so playful too, this could make a super cute throw for over a baby crib or in a child’s room.

4. Toluca Throw from Lula and Georgia ($149)

So this is a more light weight blanket and would probably be best at the foot of a bed in the winter months to achieve a cool layered look.

Make your bed with a big comforter, a folded quilt at the foot of the bed, and toss this blanket over that for some added texture and color. Complimentary throw pillows will finish the look off, transforming your bed into a layered winter weather escape.

5. Abstract Throw from Minna ($350)

I love how playful this throw is but it’s still really neutral. Plus, this blanket looks soft as heck and is definitely one I’d be toting around the house from room to room.

6. Woven Bella Throw Blanket from Anthropologie ($78)

A pop of color! Winter can be so neutral and plain, that it would be nice to throw in some splash of gold with this blanket. It looks really warm and cozy too, and has a great price.

7. Kaya Boho Throw Blanket from Urban Outfitters ($69)

This blanket is super minimal and neutral making it a great option for any space. It also has a ton of texture and would bring a lot of winter feels to a space.

8. Alpaca Featherweight Throw from Jenni Kayne ($250)

While this blanket is on the lighter side, it will definitely keep you warm. Its made from alpaca (which means super soft and super warm) and had 2 sides (one white, one grey) so you get 2 blankets for the price of one!

Winter Essentials #2: The perfect mug

There’s nothing like your favorite mug. You know the one that has never seen the back of the cabinet because you’re always using it. Or maybe it never even makes it into the cabinet because you’re always snagging it out of the dishwasher. Guilty!

Hot chocolate recipes to sip on

Before we get to the mug stuff, I thought I’d include some hot chocolate recipes. Because I don’t know if there is anything better than hot chocolate on a cold day. Except maybe, spiked hot chocolate?! Here are my favorite go to hot chocolate recipes:

1. Matcha Hot Chocolate – Matcha fans, raise your hands! This unconventional hot chocolate recipe is so tasty. And it’s perfect for an end-of-season St Patrick’s Day drink (since it’s green and all).

2. Red Wine Hot ChocolatePictured above. This red wine hot chocolate is exactly what you need to cure a post-holiday hangover… that, or some french fries. But this option is far more festive.

3. White Hot Chocolate with Chai – This hot chocolate recipe will get (pretty much) anyone out of bed in the morning… white chai hot chocolate!

4. Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate – Turn your salty mood sweet with a salted caramel hot chocolate recipe! This post also includes a DELICIOUS salted caramel marshmallow recipe to top things off nicely. Yum!

What to look for when searching for the perfect mug

In a world of endless mug possibilities, it may seem hard to find the perfect one. There’s a lot that goes into the perfect mug…

Firstly, it has to be pretty. I love ceramic mugs because they have a very natural look to them. Especially when some of the raw clay is showing.

Secondly, it has to be functional. I love a big handle to be able to slip my hand in and tote my mug around the house. It also has to be the right size – big enough for a good portion of coffee but not TOO big that it goes cold too fast.

Lastly, it has to fit in with my other ceramics. Color wise, look wise, all of it. I have a lot of organic looking dinnerware so finding the right mug isn’t that tough, but the colors have to feel good together. Especially if you have open shelving and all your ceramics live together on a shelf.

8 Cool Mugs for Winter

1. 11 oz Mug in Natural from Need Supply Co. ($24) – I love the organic feel of this mug. And the handle shape is really unique and cool.

2. Easy to Breathe Moon Mug from Garmentory ($56) – This mug is so beautiful. I love the exposed unfinished moon shapes in this mug (if you know me, you know I kind of have a thing with the moon). And each mug is hand made and unique which makes it extra special.

3. Hea Ceramics Lady Mug from West Elm ($52) – These handmade mugs are so pretty and I love the figures painted on each one. The pop of that indigo blue is really nice too. Definitely morning coffee worthy.

4. The Mug from East Fork ($36) – Funny story… I actually bought this mug for a family Secret Santa exchange, and wound up keeping it for myself. I just loved it that much, and have a feeling you all might too. It comes in a lot of fun colors which might make it harder or easier to pick one, I don’t know. My best suggestion? Get them all 😉

5. Easy to Breathe Arch Mug from Garementory ($60) – The arch shape of this mug’s handle is so cool. And this one is another that is unique and hand glazed so every piece is different. So cool.

6. Modern Espresso Cup from Etsy ($15) – So this isn’t technically a mug, but is a cup for a new hot beverage. Any espresso fanatics out there? These porcelain cups are made to order and come in a ton of different colors.

7. Enamel Mug from Need Supply Co. ($15) – This is the perfect mug for those of you that like a good camping trip. Me? Not so much, but I’d gladly use this to sip on some tea from the comfort of my own living room 🙂

8. Two-Tone Stoneware Mug from Zara Home ($13) – I love how this mug has a mudcloth vibe to it. The line pattern is really minimal and pretty, and I love how the stoneware is so organic looking.

Winter Essentials #3: Soft pillows

Time to change out the throw pillows for some that are a little more winter weather friendly. There’s nothing like snuggling up on the sofa to take a nap and resting your head on a super soft pillow. Like this super cozy faux fur DIY pillow project (pictured above).

How to style soft pillows in any room

In your living room, try switching out your regular sofa throw pillows to some textured and chunky winter-weather pillows. This immediately makes your space feel a bit more cozy. And it makes for the perfect winter nap.

In the bedroom, go for a more layered look with a few different textures in a winter color pallet. Winter is all about piling up on the layers, so don’t be afraid to go big.

If you have a settee or a built in bench at a breakfast table, try adding a few soft pillows in the mix to maximize the coziness this winter.

What to look for when searching for soft pillows

When looking for soft pillows, the one thing to look for is texture. There are lots of different types of winter weather pillows to choose from:

First, you’ve got your faux fur pillows. These pillows are oh SO soft and bring a lot of earthy tones to your space. They’re perfect to cuddle up to on the sofa or in bed.

Next up, you’ve got woven wool pillows. Woven pillows come in a wide variety, but for winter you should focus on looking for chunky knit pillows. Talk about texture! They come in a lot of different colors to fit into any space.

Velvet is another amazing option for a cold weather pillow update. It comes in a ton of different colors and can work anywhere in your house. Try and look for a plush velvet to get the most texture out of your pillows.

8 Soft Throw Pillows for Winter

1. Dalia Faux Fur Pillow from Anthropologie ($78) – A fun spin on the typical fur pillow. I’m all about this unconventional leopard print.

2. Monte Pom Pom Cushion from Pampa ($135) – I’ve seen this pillow everywhere and I’m still pretty obsessed with it (peek at it in the first photo on my post about the interior arch trend).

3. Antigua Shag Pillow from Need Supply Co. ($180) – A shag pillow is perfect for winter. Why? Because it’s so cozy to snuggle up to. And it adds a ton of texture to a space.

4. Alina Kuddfordral Pillow from Fine Little Day ($58) – This is such a fun print for a pillow. While the texture and pattern  don’t scream winter, the colors are neutral and soft making it the perfect addition to your winter refresh.

5. Arches Pillow from Lula and Georgia ($128) – Another pillow that I’m obsessed with. I think you can tell that I’m still really into the arch trend, and seeing it pop up on home goods makes me so happy.

Plus, the texture of this pillow is great for the cold winter nights. So soft and cuddly!

6. Stella Round Velvet Throw Pillow from Urban Outfitters ($39) – Like I said before, velvet is an awesome textile for winter weather pillows. It can easily be paired with lighter textiles and can float around to any space in your house.

I love the round shape of this pillow too. It makes it really modern but the fabric is so classic!

7. Lola Shag Throw Pillow from Urban Outfitters ($69) – Another shag pillow (that can be paired with the first if needed). I love the muted tones of this pillow. Perfect winter whites with a pop of pretty pink!

8. Moroccan Flatweave Lumbar Pillow from Lula and Georgia ($88) – Sot his pillow, to me, is a classic. Another winter white that can be used any time of the year. But I think the chunky weave makes it perfect for your sofa or bed.

Winter Essentials #4: A good smelling (good looking) candle

I’m one of those people that love a good candle in an even better container. It’s like a multi-functional piece of art that can really go anywhere – a coffee table, a nightstand, the dining room table, or even in the bathroom. Whether you make your own candles or buy ’em and reuse the containers after.

What to look for when searching for candles

The wax of a candle really matters. Why? Because different waxes put different things into the air. Paraffin wax is the most popular wax used in candles, but can cause a lot of indoor air pollution. To keep your home pollutant free, look for soy or beeswax based candles.

Another thing to look for is how a candle is scented. A lot of candles have synthetic fragrances which aren’t that great for you. Look for candles scented with all-natural essential oils.

Purely decorative and scentless candle options

So maybe you’re not into smelly candles. I get it! Not all candle scents are for everyone. But there are still ways you can achieve the coziness that a candle brings to a space.

Tapered candles and candle holders, when lit, can add a lot of warmth to a space. But unless you want wax drippings all over the place, make sure to buy dripless candles like these from Urban Outfitters.

Another scentless option is a tea light. They can be put into any type of votive making it a versatile way to bring warmth into a space. The downside is that they burn quickly and will have to be replaced often. But if you’re okay with a quick burn, then tea lights are the way to go!

8 Winter Weather Candles for Winter

1. P.F. Candle Co. Sunset Candle from Urban Outfitters ($25) – Bring all the feeling of Cali in the 70s to your space with these cute sunset candles. I love the color combos of each of these! Also, these candles are made from soy wax which is much better for the air in your space.

2. Patchouli Candle from H&M ($6) – Patchouli is a really refreshing smell and this sweet little candle is nice and minimal making it the perfect accessory in your winterized space.

3. Pomelo Massage Candle from Need Supply Co. ($68) – So not only does this candle give off the sweet smells of Burgemont and Currant, it’s also made with CBD giving off all sorts of aromatherapeutic goodness with every burn.

4. P.F. Candle Co Terra Candle from Anthropologie ($30) – This candle is made with plant-derived fragrance oils AND the container can be emptied and used as a terracotta planter. What a great way to welcome the spring season!

5. Castillo Soy Candle from Need Supply Co. ($38) – This candle has an earthy smell to it with notes of cypress, salt, and smoke and the amber glass can be reused after burning through the candle.

6. Coconut Wax Candle from Need Supply Co. ($26) – The perfect accessory to your coffee table. This small and simple candle comes in a ton of different scents so you can easy find a smell that suites your fancy.

7. Small Totem Candle from Zara Home ($10) – If you’re not into the smells of a scented candle, this is a good option. I love the shape and color of this candle.

8. Bamboo Candle from H&M ($18) – If you’re not buying this for the scent, buy it for the container. I love the dappled look of this container and think it would make a really cool planter or even a little toothbrush holder in the bathroom.

Winter Essentials #5: A good book

When I say a good book, I don’t mean a non-fiction thriller. I’m talking about all the pretty books that you can snuggle up on the couch and flip through on a cold night (with your perfect mug in hand). Not only are they fun to look through, but they add a little visual interest on your coffee table and are a fun way to bring in some color in a typically colorless season.

How to style a books in any space

Books aren’t just for book shelves. They are extremely versatile when it comes to decor. You can really use them anywhere to add a little visual interest in any space.

Take small stacks of coffee table books and use them for height on flat surfaces. The obvious place for these stacks is the coffee table, but you can also use them on a dining table, a credenza, a bar cart, or really any flat surface you need a little extra color and height on.

Use a book as art. If you have photo ledges and really love the cover of one of your books, give it some face time! This is what we do in Hayes’s room with all of his books, and I really love how cheery and playful it makes his room look.

What to look for when searching for books

I know it may be bad to say it, but I usually judge a book by it’s cover. Especially when it comes to children’s books. Mostly because the books in Hayes’s room act as art so I always tend to lean towards beautiful illustrations. (I actually wrote a whole post about some of my favorite children’s books that Hayes has and you can read it here)

It’s not just the cover that makes or breaks a book though. The content has to be interesting or equally beautiful. Most of the books I have around the house have to do with interiors (check out some of them here), but we also have a lot of art and photography books that I often flip through for inspiration. A good book is one you’ll want to read or look at over and over again.

8 Good Books to Read Through the Winter

1. Simple Matters: A Scandinavian’s Approach to Work, Home, and Style by Jenny Mustard ($21)

Not only is this book filled with beautiful photography, it’s a good read that you’ll want to cozy up by a fire with a cup of tea and flip through all winter long.

2. Down to Earth: Laid Back Interiors for Modern Living by Lauren Liess ($27)

This book is a little more rustic feeling than what I typically lean towards in my own interior styling, but it’s all still beautiful and inspiring. Lots of earthy spaces with a ton of neutral tones and organic textiles. I’m into it.

3. Abode: Thoughtful Living with Less by Serena Mitnik-Miller ($21)

I have a thing for Cali interiors. Especially minimal and monochromatic ones. This book is super inspiring with a ton of photos and ideas for renovation, simplifying, and intentional design.

4. Hygge & West Home: Design for a Cozy Life by Christina Coop and Aimee Lagos ($17) 

This book is amazing for those looking for better ways to decorate their homes. It speaks to a lot of different decorating elements and how to incorporate them in your space. Plus, the photography is stunning and there is a ton of inspiration in these pages.

5. Monochrome Home: Elegant Interiors in Black and White by Hilary Robertson ($19) – Black and white will always be classic, and this book proves it. It’s full of amazing interior photographs that inspire a cleaner color pallet in design and lots of beautiful modern spaces.

6. Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to Embrace the Imperfect and Entertain with Thoughtfulness and Ease by Julie Pointer Adams ($18)

This book is full of beautiful photography (like all the other books on this list) and has a ton of great ideas and recipes for entertaining in an intentional and thoughtful way.

7. The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Morning by Nathan Williams ($25)

This book is all about slowing down. And I think that’s what winter is about too. The photography in this book is stunning and each home featured in this book is truly inspiring. This is one of my go-to books on rainy days.

8. This is Home: The Art of Simple Living by Natalie Walton ($28)

The imagery in this book is beautiful and the pages are full of amazing design ideas from super moody rooms to bright and airy spaces. A lot of amazing minimal spaces!

So there it is. I don’t think I could make it through the rest of the winter season without these essentials. What are your winter essentials? Am I missing out on a cold weather home accessory I need to have this season? Let me know!

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Technology

AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su talks new Ryzen 4000 chips and out-performing Intel

We’re still rolling out our Vergecast interviews from CES 2020 this month, and this week we have a chat with AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su.

Dr. Su led AMD’s press conference live at CES in Las Vegas to reveal the company’s new Ryzen 4000 series of processors based on the company’s 7nm Zen 2 architecture. She later sat down with Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel to talk further and answer some listener questions.

Nilay and Dr. Su talk about the performance of the new chips, the competition with Intel for consumer laptops, and if AMD is going to take on the high-end market dominated by Nvidia’s GPUs.

Below is a lightly edited excerpt of the conversation.

Nilay Patel: So let’s talk about 7nm for a minute. You’re saying it’s the first 7nm x86 part. There has obviously been a lot of moving in the industry toward 7nm. Does it just get you more performance in a smaller form factor? Does it get you more performance per watt? How are you thinking about that process shift?

Dr. Lisa Su: Yeah, the idea with technology is you have to make a set of choices three to five years in advance, and it is what design choices you make and what manufacturing choices you make. And 7nm is just the best manufacturing technology that’s available in the industry today.

So what that helps you with is you get to put a lot more transistors in a smaller space, and that helps you with power efficiency, that helps you with just overall raw performance that you can put in a given silicon area. And what that translates into for the user is just more bang for your buck. So if you’re going to buy a $1,000 laptop, you want it to have the most computing horsepower you can have, and 7nm gives you more.

So that process shift is something your competitor Intel has not been able to do for some time. They run, obviously, an integrated company where they do their own fabrication. AMD is now a fabless company. Are you thinking of that as a core strategic advantage for AMD, that you’re farming out manufacturing elsewhere? Or are you working with the fabs closely to get to 7nm in that way?

Well for us, it’s really about knowing what we’re really, really good at. And our core competency is in design and designing great products, whether you’re talking about PC products or gaming products or server products. We partner on the manufacturing. We actually think that’s an advantage because if you think about it, when you use sort of a leading-edge foundry, they’re actually working for the industry.

And so things like ramping yields and getting to the best cost points and really figuring out the kinks in a technology, we actually get to do it as an industry. And so we have… we’re early in 7nm. We’ve had a lot of products. I mentioned yesterday in our press conference that we have about 20 products both in production and development, which is a lot for a given technology node, but it’s going really well, and so we’re pleased with it.

So onstage yesterday, you referred to the performance jump of the 4000 series as “disruptive performance,” which is a great phrase that I like. It implies that I will suddenly use Excel faster. Everything’s going to change when I look at Google Docs. But the graph you showed is a pretty huge jump inside the envelopes of these chips. I think you quoted 59 percent in GPU performance, 59 percent improvement. It’s faster than Ice Lake, up to 15 percent faster in some of the measures that you are quoting. How’s the battery life when you’re looking at performance jump this way?

The battery life will be very, very good. The battery life will be very good. And you know what? Our goal is to make sure that you see it and as the systems come out over the next number of weeks, you’ll see some of those systems and measure the battery life for yourself. In our tests, the system’s very good, and we call it all-day battery life. All-day battery life meaning we’ve seen cases up to 18 hours. Now, obviously, you have to see it in your applications, but we feel very good about the battery life.

So you announced the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7, which we got to see. There’s over a hundred laptops coming out with these processors this year. How is that conversation going in sort of the consumer laptop space?

Yeah, it’s one of those things. We’ve been on a journey with the Ryzen brand and the Ryzen products in PCs. If you look in the desktop, for example, we introduced the first-generation Ryzen, people were happy. Second-generation Ryzen, they felt even been better about the product. With the third generation of Ryzen and mobile, we’ve just gotten tremendous traction in the desktop space, and we’re looking at something similar in the mobile space. Which is, our current, our second generation of Ryzen mobile is a very, very good product and we’ve sold quite a bit of them. We’ve gained nice share throughout the last, actually, throughout the last seven or eight quarters.

Third-generation Ryzen mobile is a step function. I mean, it’s just a lot, lot better. And so we’re very excited to see what 2020 brings. It also means that our partnerships with the OEMs have gotten deeper, and so they’re designing more for our product. And you saw that in some of the unique design that Asus has done around our Ryzen 4000 series. You mentioned Lenovo, Dell has a nice design. There are many designs that will come out over the next couple of months. So we’re very excited about it. And I think the partnerships with our OEMs are the best they’ve ever been.



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Sonos and Tile execs warn Congress that Amazon, Google, and Apple are killing competition

Big Tech government hearings often devolve into predictable shouting matches, rambling tech support pleas, or a made-up internet legal doctrine. But last week, a congressional antitrust committee called in executives from Sonos, Tile, Basecamp, and PopSockets for a simple, well-defined purpose: to explain how big platform monopolies are hurting the rest of the tech ecosystem.

The “Competitors in the Digital Economy” hearing showcased testimony from Sonos CEO Patrick Spence, PopSockets founder and CEO David Barnett, Basecamp co-founder and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson, and Tile vice president and general counsel Kirsten Daru. They explained known public disputes — but in a way that emphasized, under oath, the practical cost of dealing with huge and powerful platforms. And the hearing, because it was held away from Washington at the University of Colorado Law School, was much more focused and direct than you’d expect.

Sonos recently filed a patent lawsuit against Google, for instance, alleging that the company copied its smart speaker design while undercutting it on price, betting that the cost of a lawsuit would be less than the profits of dominating the market — a practice Spence called “efficient infringement.” Sonos has fought smaller patent infringement cases before, Spence said, but noted that the problem was Google’s size and its interest in owning every market that might touch its central ad business, even if that means temporarily selling products at a loss. “Ultimately the future of competition in the United States depends on this,” said Tile’s Daru.

Basecamp, for its part, started protesting Google’s advertising practices last year. The company realized that competitors were advertising against its search results — which meant that when somebody searched for “Basecamp” on Google, they saw several sponsored listings for other companies first. It eventually took out an ad reading “Basecamp.com: We don’t want to run this ad,” calling Google’s system a “shakedown” for businesses.

“They’ve replaced the search engine with an ad engine instead,” Hansson said during the hearing. “The organic search term does not matter anymore. The only thing that matters is buying the advertising.” And since Google effectively controls the search market, it’s hard to opt out of this system. “We could lose our listing in DuckDuckGo and we wouldn’t even tell,” he said. “We lose Google and we lose our business.”

The same goes for Facebook, he noted. If a startup is uneasy about participating in targeted advertising, for example, they’ll be ignoring a huge market that their competitors will be tapping into.

Barnett complained that Amazon’s relationship with PopSockets amounted to “bullying with a smile.” He alleged that Amazon dragged its feet on addressing a flood of counterfeited products, unilaterally lowered prices on PopSockets products and demanded the company pay back the loss, and then threatened to send products back as “excess inventory” at cost to PopSockets if it didn’t comply. Older brick-and-mortar retailers are known for hardball tactics, too, but Barnett’s testimony put Amazon’s scale in stark terms: its sales from Walmart, he explained, are 1/38th the size of its Amazon orders.

And Daru, finally, offered a concrete example of how Apple can use its tightly controlled ecosystem to undercut competitors. The iPhone maker is rumored to be launching a competitor to Tile’s Bluetooth tracking tags, and according to Daru, Apple began using its permissions and security options to make Tile less usable — burying Tile support in the settings menu and suggesting that users turn it off in iOS 13. Tile is also prohibited from using the new UWB radios in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, she said.

“Apple is acting as a gatekeeper to applications and technologies in a way that favors its own interests,” said Daru. “You might be the best soccer team, but you’re playing against a team that owns the stadium, the ball, and the league, and can change the rules when it wants.”

Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike leaned into the framing of small businesses fighting powerful bullies. There were a few groan-worthy moments, like Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) seeming oddly awestruck by the concept of Bluetooth tracking tags. But the representatives mostly stepped back and nudged witnesses toward explaining issues like targeted advertising and personal data collection. Daru, for instance, concisely described the nuanced problem of Apple “using privacy as a shield” with iOS settings that both protect users and give Apple outsized power.

And there was little of the sniping and conspiracy-mongering that abounds during Facebook and Google hearings — in part because the complaints were so specific and the harm was so clear. “We do not expect you will suffer retaliation for coming forward, but if you do, it will be of great interest to the committee,” said committee chairman Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) as the hearing concluded.

Hansson called for Facebook to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram during the hearing, and Sonos has obviously sued Google for patent infringement. But mostly, the event was light on specific policy demands, even though several members of the committee asked for them. Instead, its participants laid the groundwork for future work — which the committee seemed open to continuing. “At some point, all companies will be competing against Big Tech, simply because Big Tech is bent on expanding until it does absolutely everything,” Hansson said. “Help us, Congress. You’re our only hope.”

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Buy two Blu-ray movies or video games, get one free from Amazon

This story is part of a group of stories called


Good Deals

Only the best deals on Verge-approved gadgets get the Good Deals stamp of approval, so if you’re looking for a deal on your next gadget or gift from major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and more, this is the place to be.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

You can save a good amount of cash on Blu-ray movies and video games on Amazon right now. In addition to discounts, it’s offering a “buy two, get one free” promotion, and the selection is great. If you can’t make up your mind about whether you want three movies or three games, you can mix and match them. You’ll get the most affordable one for free at checkout.

A few notable highlights from the Blu-ray movies participating in this deal (via Slickdeals) include new releases like The Farewell, Joker, Us, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Ad Astra, It Chapter Two, and Gemini Man. Check out the larger collection of eligible movies and TV shows here, and you can sort by category if the link doesn’t do it for you automatically.

Some others that might catch your eye include Studio Ghibli classics like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. This is great timing for those in the US who recently felt the sting when Netflix announced it would bring these films to its service, albeit outside of the US.

As far as video games go, some new releases can be found in Amazon’s promo. Here are a few options: Death Stranding, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PS4, Xbox One), Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PS4), and Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Master Edition (PS4, Xbox One).

To say that Amazon has some good deals happening today is putting it lightly. In addition to the promotion above, you can get the MSI GV63 15.6-inch gaming laptop for $1,175 (usually $1,799). This is a fantastic deal for a few reasons: it has a 120Hz refresh rate display, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of fast NVMe SSD storage, and Nvidia’s RTX 2060 graphics chip.

As far as what’s not so great about this machine, it seems like the 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor might be the spec to age the fastest. Also, the design might not speak to you. But those things aside, a midrange gaming laptop like this one usually costs hundreds of dollars more, so consider MSI’s deal if you’re in the market for an upgrade or your first machine.

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Tutorials

How To Kickstart Your Decluttering Today!

Decluttering is not just a case of physically getting rid of stuff, but more a way of transforming our physical and mental space. It provides us with what most of us really want – beauty, peace, order, balanced life and fulfilling relationships.

Clutter is scary, unhealthy and may seem overpowering. It can be a source of pain and shame. Often clutter is difficult to fight against; we feel controlled by our possessions and doomed to be forever disorganised.

 

Open shelving in kitchen

Have you ever wondered how clutter impacts your health?

Studies have shown that the more clutter we have, the more stress we are. Research indicates that women especially have an increased level of the stress hormone cortisol when living in a cluttered home because they associate clutter with the mess. This leads to tiredness and frustration, therefore having a negative impact on vital decision-making skills.

Clutter also promotes over-eating. It is easier to eat ‘comfort’ food than think healthily when we are overwhelmed by our living environment. Chocolate rather than a piece of fruit may be more appealing to our taste senses but think of the inches that the chocolate will eventually pile on!

 

Do yourself a favour!

You do not need to live in a home full of crap. Possessing items does not always lead to a harmonious living space. If you’ve been struggling with the idea of decluttering your home, you need to get yourself a copy of this guide. I’d ask you to trust me, but I’d rather you found out for yourself. The easy, actionable steps in this guide have been so helpful for me, and the best part was that I’ve been able to rinse and repeat to keep it all at a manageable state!

 

Clutter quote

Clutter can also be expensive:

You missed a payment because an unopened bill became hidden under a pile of papers. How much was the late-payment fee, and how easily could it have been avoided?

 

Clean kitchen surfaces and shelves

Clutter breeds dirt:

Germs and insects adore a cluttered environment! If you can’t see a surface, how can you keep it clean?

 

Related: 21 Mind Blowing Kitchen Decluttering Hacks To Finish Chores In Half The Time

 

Clean white kitchen ideas

Clutter makes you always the late one:

You can’t find the car keys. The children can’t find their reading bag. Stress levels are rising, and those few extra minutes that you spend having to search will invariably make you late … again.

 

Clutter can be physically dangerous:

You bang your knee; trip and fall; twist your back while manoeuvring around your clutter. Trust me, I am constantly walking into the dishwasher because somebody continues to leave it open in a galley kitchen. It not only looks untidy and dirty, but it’s dangerous.

 

how to arrange plates and crockery

How to kick-start decluttering

Feeling Overwhelmed and wondering how to declutter?

Consider the following tips:

  • Think first about what you want your space to look like. Focus on a goal before you start and return to that image during your decluttering process.
  • Make a list of what you want to achieve.
  • Don’t buy new until you have removed the old and unwanted. You have enough to do before adding more!
  • Realise that de-cluttering will take time. Set yourself a space on the calendar, but don’t block out days.
  • Set a specific amount of time whether it is fifteen minutes or three hours.
  • Remember that there are other things in life such as friends, relaxing and doing what you enjoy.

  

Clean kitchen shelves - clutter free

Some Questions To Consider Before You Start Decluttering

  • What are you going to do with the clutter you are removing? Is it going to the rubbish tip, be recycled or taken to the charity shop? Co-ordinate the piles according to where your clutter will go.
  • Get everything you need before you start – bin bags, boxes – this will help you become more organised and more motivated to carry out the task.
  • Which space bothers you the most? Tackling the biggest problem first will spur you on to continue.
  • Start with what you can see before tackling the hidden clutter.
  • Remember to notice big things such as furniture as well as the knick-knacks.

 

Ask yourself:

  • Is this useful and do I use it?
  • Does this enhance my life in some way?

If the answer is ‘no’ then say goodbye!

Try not to be too sentimental during your decluttering process. Live for the future, not in the past.

 

Don’t Know Where To Start?

A recent study by shows what is most likely to clutter up British homes the most! It could give you a few ideas on what to tackle first. 

  

Remember your goal and stick to it.

If you struggle with decluttering, don’t worry. It can be easy for items to build up around your home. We spoke to Juliet Landau-Pope, decluttering expert, professional organiser and Director of JLP Coach, to find out the best way to start your decluttering journey.

  

She told us

“Kickstart your decluttering by focusing on an area in your home that will make a difference but not challenge you too much. Clearing clutter from the hallway, for example, can lift your mood when you arrive home. Creating space and order in your bedroom can improve your quality of sleep. The key thing is to start with small steps, set micro-goals and celebrate progress rather than perfection.”

 

Are You A Procrastinator?

If you’re procrastinating, let’s review the assumptions that you’re making. Do you really lack time, or are you simply giving priority to other tasks? Do you need to hold onto certain items ‘just in case’ or do you have a specific purpose in mind? Once you delve deeper into stories that you’re telling yourself (and possibly others) you’ll find it easier to shift habits as well as surplus stuff.

Happy de-cluttering!

 

Stunning white clean kitchen with built in coffee maker

 



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Technology

Fortnite is holding a TikTok dance contest to find the next great emote

Epic is asking TikTok users to create Fortnite’s next emote. Over the weekend, Epic kicked off a weeklong contest that will award in-game prizes to someone who posts an original dance move to TikTok along with the hashtag “#EmoteRoyaleContest.” The winning dance will be brought into the game as a new emote, one of the many elaborate moves Fortnite characters can burst into in celebration.

The contest seems to be part of a bigger strategy from Epic that’s designed to keep people talking about Fortnite, as its popularity wanes ever so slightly following two truly blockbuster years. Last week, Epic launched an in-game skin based on Ninja and said that more creator tie-ins were coming. It had the effect of getting Ninja and his fans excited about the game, and it gave other creators a reason to keep playing Fortnite in the hope that they might get a tie-in someday, too.

Alongside the dance contest, Fortnite also unveiled two more creator tie-ins: emotes based on Jordan Fisher, an actor and frequent Fortnite e-sports host, and Pokimane, the 10th-most-followed streamer on Twitch. Pokimane said she created the dance herself over a weekend after being approached by Epic. A video of the dance posted to Twitter already has 2.6 million views. “There’s no skin for now,” she said on a stream unveiling the emote. “Maybe some day.” The custom dances have to be purchased in game, and it’s likely that creators are getting some cut of the sales.

Searching for dance moves on TikTok offers another way for Epic to keep conversations around Fortnite going. While the contest is only a week long, it means a week of people mentioning Fortnite alongside new dance moves in the hopes of breaking out, reminding TikTok users of another way they could be spending their time. It also offers Epic a cheap way to get a new dance move. Epic previously held a dance contest in 2018, but it asked for submissions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Fortnite has had a messy history with emotes, having been accused multiple times of stealing dance moves that went viral online. While the lawsuits are stalled right now, Epic has been sued over the floss dance and the Carlton dance, among others. One lawsuit alleged that Epic copied moves from the music video for “Gangnam Style” by cloning Psy’s movements frame by frame.

Searching for new original dances avoids that problem, at least so long as Epic can confirm the community-made moves are original.

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Skip pulls back the curtain on the high costs of electric scooter maintenance

Skip, an electric scooter rental startup that operates in and around Washington, DC, said it would start disclosing details about the maintenance and repair requirements of its fleet of two-wheelers. The company’s aim is to shine a light on the environmental impact of the electric scooter boom and challenge its rivals to build better scooters that last longer than the cheap, Chinese-made models that were deployed in the early days.

Electric scooter companies like to boast about their commitment to the environment, frequently reminding riders that every two-wheeled trip they take can help reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. But a recent study from North Carolina State University found that shared e-scooters are less environmentally friendly than bicycles, walking, and certain modes of public transportation. Riders don’t tend to see all of the emissions that are produced by the manufacturing, transportation, maintenance, and upkeep of dockless scooters.

Skip wants to change that. Starting April 2020, the company says it will begin publishing a quarterly report detailing its consumption of spare parts. In doing so, Skip says it hopes to get other operators talking openly about sustainability, environmental impact, and consumption.

Our industry talks about improving sustainability, but operators are not required to report the environmental impact of all parts consumption, disposal, and recycling,” the company says in a blog post, including links to its rivals’ statements. “It’s easier not to get into the details.”

The original scooters deployed by companies like Skip, Bird, and Lime — mostly sourced from Chinese companies like Xiaomi and Segway-Ninebot — weren’t built for shared use, so they were prone to breakdowns, often within weeks of being rolled out. As they struggle to keep afloat, the startups are scrambling to build a better scooter that can withstand heavy use. Bird and Lime each rolled out new vehicles they claim can last months in the field.

When Skip first launched in late 2018, the company purchased thousands of Ninebot ES4 scooters that were cheap (they retail for under $800) and readily available. But the ES4 was intended for personal ownership, indoor storage, and occasional use, not the rigors and high-maintenance needs of shared outdoor fleets, Skip acknowledges.

The trade-off, of course, was that Skip was now the owner of a fleet of scooters that required a lot of upkeep and repairs to stay in service.

From September through November 2019, we averaged 627 Ninebot ES4s deployed in Washington DC, and each scooter was used 3.13 times for a total average of 1,962 trips a day. To keep these scooters running safely our operations team performed regular quality checks and replaced an average of 51 parts every day.

This is the equivalent of 26,000 parts replaced per 1 [million] trips.

Skip rolled out a more rugged, “purpose-built” scooter — the S3 — in April 2019. Its modular design allows for easy repairs as well as reductions of wasted parts. “We end up throwing away less of the vehicle when something is damaged by wear and tear, or vandalized,” the company’s CEO, Sanjay Dastoor, told The Verge at the time. “So the vehicle can last much longer.”

Now, instead of consuming 26,000 parts per 1 million trips, Skip says it only consumed 4,786 parts per 1 million trips in its first two months of testing, thanks to the S3’s improved build. During those two months, the company says it disposed of or recycled 88 total parts. That translates to a 5X improvement over the Ninebot ES4. Skip says with more modifications and improvements, it anticipates that its fleet of S3 scooters will only require 1,541 parts per 1 million trips.

“It’s still early, and we can’t yet extrapolate the long term impact of 4,786 spare parts per 1M trips. Some parts will require replacement due to wear and tear as the fleet ages,” the company says. “But thus far, all parts failures have been caused by vandalism or as the result of premature material failures.”

It’s been a rough winter for the e-scooter industry, Skip included. Major operators like Lime, Bird, Uber, and Lyft have laid off workers and pulled out of markets as they become laser-focused on making their business profitable. Even the rollout of tougher, longer-lasting scooters hasn’t stopped any of the companies from bringing in less than money than they’re spending.

Cities have also put pressure on the companies through their permitting process. Skip recently found itself left out of San Francisco’s permit program, despite being part of the city’s original pilot. The company wasn’t granted a permit and was forced to cease operations in the highly coveted market. Skip also pulled out of Austin and San Diego and is now focused exclusively on Washington, DC and surrounding towns like Alexandria and Arlington.

Will the scooter companies follow Skip’s lead in being more transparent about the cots of doing business? It’s unclear, but it seems likely that even if they’re unwilling to do so voluntarily, they may end up having to disclose this data at the direction of the cities that hold sway over their permits. If that happens, Skip could end up looking ahead of the pack.

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