WILL BE IN THE 50S THIS EVENING AROUND TAHOE. AND THERE’S A FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT THROUGH THIS EVENING BECAUSE THESE THUNDERSTORMS WILL CONTAIN HEAVY RAIN. AND WHEN THAT HAPPENS, THE WATER DOESN’T HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF PLACES TO GO BECAUSE THE SOILS ARE SATURATED. THOSE RUNOFF FROM THESE STORMS COULD GO INTO THOSE CREEKS AND RIVERS THAT ARE ALREADY VERY FILLED WITH THOSE SNOWMELT. AND THESE STORMS ARE GOING TO BE SLOW MOVING, WHICH IS WHY THEY HAVE THE CAPABILITY OF PRODUCING THAT HEAVY RAIN. STILL HAVE THAT REALLY GOOD ONSHORE BREEZE. AND FAIRFIELD, 24 MILES AN HOUR, OCCASIONAL GUSTS HIGHER THAN THAT. THAT’S GOING TO KEEP TEMPERATURES COOLER THAN AVERAGE. WE’LL STILL ENJOY MOSTLY SUNNY SKIES TODAY IN THE VALLEY, UPPER 70S TO NEAR 80 COULD EVEN SEE AN ISOLATED STORM TRYING TO WANDER ITS WAY DOWN THE WEST SLOPE IN THE FOOTHILLS. DON’T THINK IT’LL MAKE IT TO THE HIGHWAY 49 CORRIDOR, BUT YOU’LL SEE SOME CLOUDS IN THE FOOTHILLS LATER TODAY AN
Northern California forecast: Active Tuesday afternoon ahead for Sierra thunderstorms
Updated: 12:04 PM PDT May 30, 2023
An area of low pressure nearby will help thunderstorms develop Tuesday afternoon in the Sierra.These thunderstorms may move slowly, allowing for heavy rain to fall in some areas and bring the potential for flash flooding.”Flash flood watch is in effect through this evening because these thunderstorms will contain heavy rain, and when that happens, the water doesn’t have a whole lot of places to go because the soils are saturated,” said meteorologist Eileen Javora. Most of the activity will be above 5,000 feet in elevation, but some of the storms may drift westward down the west slope of the Sierra — so there is a slight chance some of the Foothills will hear rumbles of thunder or see a bit of rain.”Don’t think it’ll make it to the Highway 49 corridor, but you’ll see clouds in the Foothills later today,” Javora said.The Valley, meanwhile, will have mostly sunny skies with high temperatures in the upper 70s to near 80 degrees.Download our app for the latestHere is where you can download our app for the latest weather alerts.Track interactive, Doppler radar(App users, click here to see our interactive radar.)Real-time traffic map(App users, click here to see our real-time traffic map.)Follow our KCRA weather team on social mediaChief meteorologist Mark Finan on Facebook and TwitterMeteorologist Tamara Berg on Facebook and TwitterMeteorologist Eileen Javora on FacebookMeteorologist Dirk Verdoorn on FacebookMeteorologist/climate reporter Heather Waldman on Facebook and TwitterWatch our forecasts on TV or onlineHere’s where to find our latest video forecast. You can also watch a livestream of our latest newscast here. The banner on our website turns red when we’re live.We’re also streaming on the Very Local app for Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV.
An area of low pressure nearby will help thunderstorms develop Tuesday afternoon in the Sierra.
These thunderstorms may move slowly, allowing for heavy rain to fall in some areas and bring the potential for flash flooding.
“Flash flood watch is in effect through this evening because these thunderstorms will contain heavy rain, and when that happens, the water doesn’t have a whole lot of places to go because the soils are saturated,” said meteorologist Eileen Javora.
Most of the activity will be above 5,000 feet in elevation, but some of the storms may drift westward down the west slope of the Sierra — so there is a slight chance some of the Foothills will hear rumbles of thunder or see a bit of rain.
“Don’t think it’ll make it to the Highway 49 corridor, but you’ll see clouds in the Foothills later today,” Javora said.
The Valley, meanwhile, will have mostly sunny skies with high temperatures in the upper 70s to near 80 degrees.
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It’s now two years since Facebook changed its name to Meta, ushering in a brief but blazing enthusiasm over “the Metaverse”, a concept from science fiction that suddenly seemed to be the next inevitable leap in technology. For most people in tech, however, the term has since lost its luster, seemingly supplanted by any product with “artificial intelligence” attached to its description.
But the true story of the Metaverse’s rise and fall in public awareness is much more complicated and interesting than simply being the short life cycle of a buzzword — it also reflects a collective failure of both imagination and understanding.
The forgotten novel
Ironically, many tech reporters discounted or even ignored the profound influence of Snow Crash on actual working technologists. The founders of Roblox and Epic (creator of Fortnite) among many other developers were directly inspired by the novel. Despite that, Neal Stephenson’s classic cyberpunk tale has often been depicted as if it were an obscure dystopian tome which merely coined the term. As opposed to what it actually did: describe the concept with a biblical specificity that thousands of developers have referenced in their virtual world projects — many of which have already become extremely popular.
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You can see this lack of clarity in many of the mass tech headlines attempting to describe the Metaverse in the wake of Facebook’s name change:
In a widely shared “obituary” to the Metaverse, Business Insider’s Ed Zitron even compounded the confusion still further by inexplicably misattributing the concept to TRON, the original Disney movie from the 80s.
Had the media referenced Snow Crash far more accurately when the buzz began, they’d come away with a much better understanding of why so many technologists are excited by the Metaverse concept — and realize its early incarnation is already gaining strong user traction.
Because in the book, the Metaverse is a vast, immersive virtual world that’s simultaneously accessible by millions of people through highly customizable avatars and powerful experience creation tools that are integrated with the offline world through its virtual economy and external technology. In other words, it’s more or less like Roblox and Fortnite — platforms with many tens of millions of active users.
But then again, the tech media can’t be fully blamed for following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead.
Rather than create a vision for its Metaverse iterating on already successful platforms — Roblox’s 2020 IPO filing even describes itself as the metaverse — Meta’s executive leadership cobbled together a mishmash of disparate products. Most of which, such as remotely working in VR headsets, remain far from proven. According to an internal Blind survey, a majority of Zuckerberg’s own employees say he has not adequately explained what he means by the Metaverse even to them.
Grievous of all, Zuckerberg and his CTO Andrew Bosworth promoted a conception of the Metaverse in which the Quest headset was central. To do so, they had to overlook compelling evidence — raised by senior Microsoft researcher danah boyd at the time of the company acquiring Oculus in 2014 — that females have a high propensity to get nauseous using VR.
Contacted in late 2022 while writing Making a Metaverse That Matters, danah told me no one at Oculus or Meta followed up with her about the research questions she raised. Over the years, I have asked several senior Meta staffers (past and present) about this and have yet to receive an adequate reply. Unsurprisingly, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset has an estimated install base of only about 20 million units, significantly smaller than the customer count of leading video game consoles. A product that tends to make half the population puke is not exactly destined for the mass market — let alone a reliable base for building the Metaverse.
Ironically, Neal Stephenson himself has frequently insisted that virtual reality is absolutely not a prerequisite for the Metaverse, since flat screens display immersive virtual worlds just fine. But here again, the tech media instead ratified Meta’s flawed VR-centric vision by constantly illustrating articles about the Metaverse with photos of people happily donning headsets to access it — inadvertently setting up a straw man destined to soon go ablaze.
Duct-taped to yet another buzzword
Further sealing the Metaverse hype wave’s fate, it crested around the same time that Web3 and crypto were still enjoying their own euphoria period. This inevitably spawned the “cryptoverse” with platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. When the crypto crash came, it was easy to assume the Metaverse was also part of that fall.
But the cryptoverse platforms failed in the same way that other crypto schemes have gone awry: By offering a virtual world as a speculative opportunity, it primarily attracted crypto speculators, not virtual world enthusiasts. By October of 2022, Decentraland was only tracking 7,000 daily active users, game industry analyst Lars Doucet informed me.
“Everybody who is still playing is basically just playing poker,” as Lars put it. “This seems to be a kind of recurring trend in dead-end crypto projects. Kind of an eerie rhyme with left-behind American cities where drugs come in and anyone who is left is strung out at a slot machine parlor or liquor store.”
All this occurred as the rise of generative AI birthed another, shinier buzzword — one that people not well-versed in immersive virtual worlds could better understand.
But as “the Metaverse” receded as a hype totem, a hilarious thing happened: Actual metaverse platforms continued growing. Roblox now counts over 300 million monthly active users, making its population nearly the size of the entire United States; Fortnite had its best usage day in 6 years. Meta continues plodding along but seems to finally be learning from its mistakes — for instance, launching a mobile version of its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.
At some point, everyone in tech who co-signed the “death” of the Metaverse may notice this sustained growth. By then however, the term may no longer require much usage, just as the term “information superhighway” fell away as broadband Internet went mainstream.
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Once praised as the defining feature of the internet, the ability to connect with physically distant people is something that governments have recently been seemingly intent on restricting. Authorities have been increasingly pulling the plug, putting over 4 billion people in the shadows in the first half of 2023 alone.
Social media platforms are often the first means of communication to be restricted. Surfshark, one of the most popular VPN services, counted at least 50 countries guilty of having curbed these websites and apps during periods of political turmoil such as protests, elections, or military activity.
The company has recently released some new statistics on the matter, so I spoke with one of the researchers to understand more about this worrying trend and what’s at stake.
As mentioned, 50 nations have reportedly pulled the plug on popular social media services like Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok in the past eight years. However, there are some governments that went the extra mile in repressing their citizens’ digital life.
“Five countries have experienced the longest restrictions (lasting more than five years). Although that may not sound like many countries, it translates to 1.55 billion people,” Lina Survila, Surfshark spokeswoman, told me while commenting on the findings.
People living in China, Iran, and Turkmenistan have not been able to access Facebook, YouTube, or X for 14 years now. In Eritrea, YouTube went dark 13 years ago and never recovered. North Korean nationals could never access Western social media platforms, and Instagram went dark for visitors as well eight years ago, followed by all other major platforms at a later date.
“The fact that so many people have been deprived of social media access by their governments for such a long period is what shocked me the most,” Survila told me.
Elsewhere, around 2.3 billion people have experienced restricted access to social media for an average of 4126 hours (about half a year). In Russia, for example, people have been facing restrictions on Facebook, Instagram, and X since the invasion of Ukraine began, while other countries enforced short-term information blackouts during times of political turmoil.
In 2023, Turkey blocked Twitter for just two days, but it was when people needed it the most: in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that killed over 15,000 people in both Turkey and Syria.
Ethiopia has not had access to popular social media sites since February 2023 amid protests over the split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, while people in Senegal turned to secure VPN services in June to cut through the thick blanket of censorship.
In Western countries, social media platforms are often seen in a negative light. These platforms are thought to distort users’ views on important political topics, endanger children in different ways, and promote a rather superficial lifestyle.
The truth is that these platforms are far more powerful when used in the right way. They enable people to access news in real-time, exchange opinions, and keep the information flow going. All this is especially crucial during times of crisis. Authorities know this very well, and that’s precisely why they might decide to block their access, curbing citizens’ freedom of speech in the process.
Survila told me: “Restricting these platforms isn’t simply a limitation on social connections—it’s a suppression of an essential avenue for transparency, potentially allowing government propaganda to dominate without opposition.”
Asked how the trend has developed over the years, she said to have not noticed any clear increase in the number of restrictions imposed. At the same time, there was not a decrease either. According to Survila, this means that social media blackouts still remain a common tool among autocratic leaders to silence the public and hinder the spread of information.
She said: “It’s unlikely that the countries imposing decade-long restrictions will retract them anytime soon. It also doesn’t look like the number and frequency of new restrictions will slow down in the near future.”
Even worse, perhaps, this worrying censorship wave might not even remain an exclusive prerogative of certain despotic governments for long. Also some so-called Western democracies have been showing a will to gain greater control of how people communicate online.
The US took a strong stance against TikTok at the start of the year, which led to the state of Montana to issue an outright TikTok ban for all citizens. This was supposed to be enforced starting from January 1, 2024, but it was blocked by the federal district court on November 30.
On this point, Survila said: “Harmful and abusive content should undeniably be eliminated from online platforms, and it’s important that social media companies and governments implement strong measures to identify and remove such material. But it’s also crucial that we preserve individuals’ access to social media. Banning entire platforms is certainly not the right solution.”
How a VPN can help
Short for virtual private network, a VPN is security software that both encrypts internet connections and spoofs your real IP address location. The latter ability is exactly what you need to bypass social media restrictions. It tricks your ISP to think you’re browsing from a completely different country entirely, granting you access to Facebook, Instagram, or any other platforms despite this being blocked.
While citizens living under such a digital suppression learned how to navigate restrictions, also governments are getting savvy enough to prevent them from evading these blocks. VPN censorship is on the rise as well, in fact, with China and Iran gaining the crown as the biggest offenders worldwide in 2023.
That’s why I suggest downloading several apps to hop from one to another in case these get blocked. I recommend checking TechRadar’s best free VPNs page to choose the safer freebies on the market. Additional tools like the Tor browser can also help here, as well as less-known software like Snowstorm and Lantern.
On its side, Surfshark developers have equipped the software with some censorship-resistant features like its Camouflage mode to escape VPN blocks and No Borders which automatically connect you to the servers performing the best under network restrictions. At the same time, its researchers are committed to keep shed light on this dangerous practices to put some pressure on countries’ leaders.
Survila said: “By releasing our studies and raising awareness of social media restrictions, we hope to encourage people to talk about them. In this way, we hope to gradually build public pressure against the authoritarian regimes responsible for imposing these restrictions, leading them to reconsider and potentially cease such actions.”