April 5, 2019
I often feel curmudgeonly since removing myself from much of social media. I made a conscious and conscientious decision to do so for my own sanity and I did so with little fanfare; after all, it should affect only a very small portion of the world if I am not actively liking and retweeting poorly designed typeface-focused platitudes. This is the third draft of this sentiment. The first had no bite, the second was all bite (in all honesty, it was a rant), but those were for me; this one is for you.
I’m a musical person; I grew up in a musical home, in a musical church. It makes sense that I think of making music as a therapeutic endeavor. As I help people with their problems—technological, psychological, religious, or otherwise—I am struck by the fact that I rely on making music more and more for focus, a way to center myself.
Recently, a friend asked me what I do to keep my faith. I gave him a number of ideas: community, time, prayer, removing clutter to make way for more important things, reading things that actively challenge my notions, social and economic justice work. But in the end, I realized the thing that always kept me connected to my faith was my music, music I created.
I saw DeRay McKesson speak at a conference a few weeks back; it was like a dream come true for me. I now have a signed copy of his book and a picture with him, but that doesn’t make me a part of his choir. In his talk, he spoke about the choir as an analog for grassroots organizing. In his book, he proposes that the idea of allyship is being over-utilized and in reality means aligned but still distant; he provides a substitution for that word that resonates with me: accomplice.
Being an accomplice—active participation in a team, a community, a choir even—means putting ourselves in contact with other humans and working together; this is really what makes music a good faith builder. For me, being a part of the choir means that you are forced to rely on others, means that you learn to add your own voice to the larger whole. Such socialistic means embolden my faith because I believe my faith has socialistic ends.
How do you reach other people? How do you reach yourself? Perhaps the latter is largely the question that people aren’t asking or don’t want to ask because the answer is difficult. And the curmudgeonly feeling I mentioned above, I’m starting to realize that’s a side effect of forming a different set of priorities from my peers.
I realized for the first time I was living based on my own standards and not someone else’s. I don’t need to share platitudes on social media or put a sign on my front lawn to have values and live by them. Those don’t really help anyway; what helps is becoming an accomplice to change, it’s sharing the trenches on an issue that may benefit someone else more than yourself, it’s putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and visiting the neighbor in need (and then not telling a soul about it). Because who cares if you get a thousand likes or retweets if you actually make a difference.
Not all music is faith-based nor is all music good for the soul. I do believe that certain types of music, certain musical endeavors and instruments, show the power that God has given humans, intellectually, socially, and otherwise. No matter what music is around you, however, your music should help you connect with others and therein connect with God. Join a choir; learn an instrument; build relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability; and put yourself out there to help and to be helped.
March 9, 2019
Total: 137 items
March 8, 2019
For more than 10 years, Kimball Avenue Church in Chicago (my home church) has committed to a collective fast for justice. Historically, I have joined in on their fasting, but as those years have passed, their fasting has become necessarily hyper local, battling for the needs of their neighbors in close proximity to the church itself. Some recent battles fought include funding for a local mental health facility, fighting homelessness and hunger, and working with local church leaders to form a more cohesive message and path for social justice-minded churches. The church posted the following information recently about the 2019 Lenten Fast:
This year, our Lenten emphasis will include not only a fast, but a feast. We’re fasting from ‘Individualism,’ and the pre-occupation with ‘me and mine’ without regard for others. And we’re feasting for ‘Communalism’, recognizing our need for one another and the importance of taking care of each other. We especially recognize God’s command to take special care of those who are most vulnerable and at risk for abuse.
Coincidentally, I had a similar idea for my Lenten Fast, which is what I wanted to discuss in this post.
Isaiah 58 discusses true and false fasting, making the delineation between fasting that is too internally-focused and that which has lasting affect, not just for yourself but for those around you: your neighbor, your community, your world. When giving this idea some deeper thought, I realized that my current endeavor to remove distraction and become more minimalistic has a rooted desire in both serving my community with my excess and ensuring that I take stock of those things with which I surround myself.
In taking stock, however, I realized that I have not been taking the next step, which is to be happy with what I have and spread that happiness around. Instead of constantly looking for the next thing that could make my life more simplified, I need to stop consuming and focus on those things that I have that remain and share them. As such, during this Lent, I am going to take the following steps:
For some background, number one is specific and actionable. I have been obsessed with the process of decluttering for some time now. However, the only person I can control is myself, so I need to finish my work decluttering my own stuff and call it a day. The stuff my wife and kids bring to the table cannot be something I focus on because then I am not focusing on them (see number four).
Number two is specific as well; food and toilet paper are necessities that all of us have to deal with, but recently, I have felt very consumeristic. I have not only been seeking out things that can help me simplify my belonging, but things that though I may not need them, I want an upgrade. That ends for the duration of Lent; I need to recenter and refocus on what is important and be happy with what I have right now.
Needs come up all the time outside of the necessity spectrum; number three calls out that inevitability. In these situations, I will take the time to do my research, make a decision, and then pause. I will give myself 24 hours before I move forward on anything. If I still think of it as a need 24 hours later, I will make the purchase.
Number four seems self-explanatory, but I thought I would call it out. Each of us is dealing with the inundation of technology and the 24/7 work cycle in our own way. I am going to take this time to be more intentional about my time when I share a room with my family but am not interacting with them, no matter the reason.
Number five deserves explanation. Part of intentionality with my time is also about making sure that I am not always on, always active, always producing or consuming. I want to be bored; I want to be mindful. I chose the word, “bored”, for a reason, but the point could easily be made that it means I want to spend time with myself, enriching myself through introspection and stillness. If you prefer a more religious verbiage, this time will be spent in prayer.
The above steps come with a hope for outward change and expression to come inline with true fasting. My decluttering has come with plethora of valuable donation of goods to local charities and non-profits. My abstinence from consumerism will make me happier with what I have. Intentionality around consumerism keeps me in check and allows my money to go to more important things in the moment. My family is a part of my community and they deserve as much of me as they want (as my best self). And mindfulness, stillness has been shown to make for healthier, more calm people; I want to be healthier (and more calm), so that I may help others be so.
March 5, 2019
If the process keeps you from your goal… I am always overthinking the process.
March 5, 2019
March 5, 2019
Sometimes, you have to read something outside of your domain.
December 29, 2018
I said to my wife recently, “I’m glad you appreciate my outer inner monologue.” Which was to say, I talk a lot. I think through things, especially the existential things out loud. It’s blogging with a single-person audience. My wife provides a listening ear when I need it most, when the ideas are too big to internalize.
Minimalism is one of those things; it requires airtime, especially since it also requires her to be in agreement. I don’t talk through these things to persuade her of anything, but I also talk through things with the hope that, in the end, it comes to a point. And makes said point well enough that perhaps my wife-shaped sounding board becomes an advocate.
Honestly, though, this monologuing is something I do quite often as a part of my own introspection. (Thank God my wife knew what she was getting into when she married me; these are the types of things that can drive the wrong partner crazy.) And perhaps the amount of time I spend in introspection is unique since I would consider myself an extrovert. Or perhaps the things I am introspective about are the more rare.
But in any case, the idea is about communication. Questions should be asked and communicating those outcomes is important, even if an idea is not fully formed, perhaps especially so. We need to surround ourselves with people who are willing to hear us out even when a rumination starts or ends in a completely ridiculous place. Those that listen, those that share the burden, lighten the load.
I recently have been trying to be better about this in the written form, posting even when the words aren’t nearly as eloquently engineered as they could be. Even if the point is just to get something fresh out there. Or to share the question, the idea, the burden.
December 19, 2018
Yesterday, I realized I needed to simplify my workflows. I have to believe that the need is a commonality amongst technologists. Let me set the stage with a look into an iMessage conversation.
This set of messages was followed by my colleague sending me a message that simply read, “Hold on. I have to go read your novel.” But this is my thinking out loud face. 😝
The key is that last line: if I used email like a normal person… Replace email in that line with many other possibilities and you have a clue into the common plight of tech journalists who try to replace their laptops with an iPad for a week in name of reviewing the device. Honestly, though, this has everything to do with the complexity of computer workflows the technology world over, instead of some oversight on Apple’s part. (Perhaps it’s a little of both.)
In the case of email, the normal person uses one app to deal with email; the normal person doesn’t really care about the naming conventions of their email Archive; the normal person doesn’t care how many messages are sitting in their email Archive; (maybe the normal person doesn’t even use the Archive); and the normal person would never think of moving messages between email services or applications.
Me, on the other hand: I have emails dating back to my college years; I have emails from multiple email accounts consolidated to one, using a combination of folders and labels to differentiate; I have app preferences based on email platform, OS platform, and screen size; and those apps don’t always match up or sync using the same technology.
Email, like RSS or Calendaring, is a bit of a different situation than some others. You literally can’t have multiple Facebook clients or Twitter clients with feature parity. The point of email technology is its openness and ability to connect to so many different applications with so many different things built in or on top. In other words, the complexity may be a thing that has been weeded with time on other services or service types.
But email is a microcosm of so many other parts of a technologists daily work. IOS is a great platform, my platform of choice even; I work predominantly on an iPhone and an iPad. And as more and more capabilities come to these devices, the list of reasons some people stay on other platforms will dwindle. However, there are histories that come with cruft; there are workflows that need reimagining or from-scratch innovation.
Younger generations who start with fresh slates will find it hard to believe the technologists-of-today dealt with the complexities of older platforms for the sake of window positioning or pixel-level mouse-pointer accuracy.
December 18, 2018
I don’t often discuss my religious life on this site, but as I start discussing minimalism and my personal reasons for pursuing that lifestyle, my faith is bound to come up. I feel this is especially true given the fact that much of religion preaches the redistribution of wealth (in its many forms) whether or not that same religion actually practices it. In any case, I went to church last weekend and the sermon (the Catholic Church calls them “homilies”) was about just that: giving to those that need (preferably through a Catholic charity).
The homily went there because the Gospel reading thematically drove the point. From Luke 3:11: “[John the Baptist] answered them, ‘He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.’” The reading and the homily got me thinking about the Gospel expectation of minimalism. The idea is everywhere in the Bible. (For Gospel passages, I will stick to Luke and I will not repeat the passage above.)
I believe that the Bible and my faith dictate my minimalistic tendencies. Over time, separating the ideals of my faith from my approaches to the world around me gets harder, especially as some approaches are co-opted by hipster movements (Minimalism) or bastardized by consumeristic sentiments (Christmas).
Back to the point, the homily went about as far as I expect a homily will generally go, which is to say not far enough. The actual content of the homily aside, the point was that people should prepare the way of the Lord (as we approach the birth of Jesus) by following John the Baptist’s suggestion in Luke: if you have excess, give it to those that have need of it. The idea is an important one as evinced by the above biblical texts, but where the homily didn’t go far enough in my opinion is in the glossing over of the timeline in which we find ourselves: teeming in the excesses of the Christmas season itself.
People don’t want to be challenged to actually give away their things, especially not just after they have likely purchased more things. Instead, we often opt for the satisfaction that the idea was even spoken aloud. Or said differently, we don’t need to change anything about ourselves because being challenged is enough. I think most people leave the religion they grow up in because of that lack of follow through, the lack of action associated with the challenges they hear; or perhaps because the challenge itself is too challenging.
December 17, 2018
In one of my recent posts on minimalism in my digital life, I mentioned that such a path is a personal choice. While seemingly self-explanatory at the time, I realize that there are whole books about decluttering the stuff that children inevitably bring with them. As such, I wanted to expound on areas in which I feel I have little power to change anything at the moment.
My house has a unique layout. The reason I start here is the idea that the ability to live minimally is often tied to layout and design, whether intentionally or not. If I have five pieces of furniture in a room not meant for them, it doesn’t matter that the number of pieces is small, the room will not work toward one of the major goals of minimalism: less stress. In my home, I have an almost prescient open floor plan, since the house was built in the late-1940s.
The main floor includes an L-shaped living room and accommodates traditional living and dining spaces, if you want to lay it out in that way. My wife and I have always been reorganizers, so we tend to rearrange spaces often in the attempt to find the best layout possible. We have no traditional dining space on our main floor because we don’t need it often and we enjoy the flexibility that comes with moveable and ostensibly multipurpose furniture. In other words, our dining table is just a table and can act as a desk, a game space, etc. Our couch location accommodates a seating area, but also allows for the cook (read: me) to be around conversation in the living space. This is just a microcosm of the other spaces and the larger house, so I won’t be going room by room, though people naturally treat different rooms in different ways.
However, our living spaces also includes kid stuff. There is the obvious: books, toys, games, puzzles, craft supplies, storage for all of the above. And the not so obvious: art work, work space, and more storage for the first list. Take into account then the desire to decorate for every holiday and the storage needs for that stuff and we are living in a minimalists nightmare. And it all spreads. No matter how good your minimalist storage system is, the kid stuff will spread unless you want to make clean up a full time job.
I think the ideal for me is that I treat each space uniquely but with a shared vision. Fewer things, more flexibility, less unnecessary fluff. Desires, needs, and hobbies will each come and go. The key is not holding on to things that no longer serve their purpose. Of course, storage will always be necessary, but ideally storage spaces are used as temporary for the items that serve their purpose as often as they can.
Some of these ideals might simply have to wait until I no longer have children under six years old.
December 16, 2018
Sometimes our relationships with our things don’t always make sense. We like some things because even if they require more care and attention than they ever return, you once received that important text message on your wrist at a moment when you really couldn’t look at your phone. We like them because sometime companies over-engineer a feature on a product, and you at least respect the effort. We like them because they’re attached to us, and as a result, we become attached to them.
And sometimes our relationships with our things can be unhealthy.
December 14, 2018
Engineered Eloquence was born out of the link list boom. I had a Tumblr space back then and Tumblr’s main purpose was sharing other, more important people’s content. Daring Fireball was the gold standard of link lists and every tech person who enjoyed writing wanted to be like John Gruber (to some extent). Tumblr became a stepping stone that provided me a way to use my tech knowledge and launch multiple incarnations of this site over time, including a move to Github Pages (where I learned some Ruby coding and the Jekyll blogging engine) and finally Blot (where I met Nash). Time and time again, I have focused more on the outlet itself than the content, even though the original reason I got into blogging was sharing interesting things and writing down my thoughts.
The problem as I see it now, however, is that in order to share interesting things, you must seek out interesting things. I am reading all the time, but not always on the internet and not normally the easily-distilled. Right now, I am in the midst of four books, none of which I can take snippets from to blockquote. In addition, as I work to whittle down my technology use in my personal life, I have struggled with the balance between sharing and internalizing. And finally, in my desire to become more focused and minimalistic, I have started to see more of the tech blogging echo chamber as trivial. This last point is important because I would historically consider myself a tech blogger.
I shared recently some numbers from my Instapaper queue. I have been reading and archiving with abandon to get those numbers down to manageable levels. Eventually, I hope to have zero articles saved in read-later services and focus on only those articles I intend to read. However, that points to the larger point of sharing these ideas out in the open: once my read-later queue is gone, I will move on to the next area that needs decluttering, and then the next area.
All along the way, I will be sharing numbers where appropriate or anecdotes about the experience. My link-list-turned-blog doesn’t have to be about sharing other people’s work when I have my own to share. I have an adage I use in a lot of situations that goes something like this: “I go to conferences, but they are only worth it if I am actively participating.” Put another way, I am beginning to be more particular about how I spend my time and energy because doing something for the sake of doing it becomes a lot less interesting when you could be… (insert thing that actually brings you joy here).
The key to this whole discussion though is the understanding that I am doing something diametrically opposed to what I am expected to do as a technologist. I am expected to be interested in the new products announced by that major corporation; I am expected to have my finger on the pulse of every startup company in existence; I am expected to spend my nights binge-watching every episode of that streaming TV show. I am expected to always have a screen within arms reach if not already in my hand. If the best camera is the one you have with you, my wife’s best camera is often, “can I have your phone for a minute?”
On the contrary, I am actively attempting to remove the technological clutter from my life. And to bring this back around to the start: if I am attempting to declutter my own interaction with technology, why would I force more of the same shared information into other’s feeds? They have Daring Fireball for that.
As a final note, in going through my Instapaper queue as I mentioned above, I have stumbled on some gems; this one is from Shawn Blanc that fits with the theme:
Reduce the amount of “novel stimuli” that you let in to your day-to-day life. When you have a strong baseline level of noise in all the little moments of your life, it makes it more difficult to focus on the task at hand when you’re doing deep work. Because you’re training your brain that boredom is bad.
Also, check out Cal Newport’s post on digital minimalism from two years ago, almost to the day. And finally, as a counterpoint to some forms of the minimalist movement, July 2016’s New York Times article, “The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’”, which is just fantastic.
December 7, 2018
A few weeks ago, I started talking about my effort to take my minimalistic tendencies and apply them to my digital life. Though I have little more to share on the subject, one bit of metric I thought would be of interest is my read later queue count.
First, a list of things the reader should be aware of:
On to the data…
Below is a list of the “metrics” that I think are most interesting.
November 15, 2018
I can’t pinpoint the exact time that I realized minimalism was the way I wanted to live my life, but I have written about it in the past and consider myself a burgeoning minimalist. (In this case, burgeoning means I have kids and minimalism is a personal choice that cannot be force on others.) The keys for me are the ideas of intentionality, simplicity, and mind share; the less I think about things, the more I can focus on the important stuff, be it family, hobbies, or otherwise. By extension, I believe that every decision is indicative of someone’s priorities and minimalism allows for a smaller list of priorities to juggle. Ergo, this mindset seems to come with the potential to reduce stress and produce a higher respect for the items one chooses to prioritize. However, I recently realized that while I had produced results in changing my physical world to match these values, I had little regard to the digital assets in my life.
First, some philosophical discussion. I venture to guess that my minimalism hinges on a slightly different ideal than other people’s, so I thought I would share my approach. Though this philosophy doesn’t directly translate to the digital minimalism that is the focus of this post, I think it important to cover the “why” of my minimalistic tendencies.
I believe that things are made to be shared. I share my words as readily as I would share my things with other people if they need them. My ideal for minimalism is that everything in my life has active use and purpose; if a thing does not have an active place in my life, I would like it to have an active place in someone else’s if possible, instead of going to a landfill. For instance, I love to cook, but I am not going to keep tools in my kitchen that see no use when other people can and want to use them.
As likely every human does, I also tend to dislike things that add resistance to a process. This manifests itself in my minimalism in that regardless of the value of the thing I am purging, I am prone to donate versus sell. Hence my use of the word, “share”, when starting this discussion.
With that brief philosophical overview in mind, I would consider the expansion of minimalism from the physical to the digital to be common, but I assume it is unsurprisingly controversial. Consider these items:
After working over the past month, I can answer almost all of these questions in the way that points to minimalism. As with the physical world, if something does not bring joy or satisfaction, why is it still taking up space or mindshare? I tried to break these items up into categories, but technically, they are all of a similar vein; they are all just bits and bytes. But just like houses, if you buy more space, you will inevitably fill it without regard for your actual needs.
There is a physical extension to these digital items as well that needs mentioning: devices. The more devices you have, the more storage you need to back them up; the more cables you need to charge them; the more apps you need to download; and the more workflows/processes you need to keep in mind to stay on top of the constant barrage of activities or notifications.
As with any discussion of minimalism, it has to be said that not everyone thinks about things or approaches in the same way. Some people don’t care how many notifications come in, some people don’t care if their photos library is massive, some people don’t care if they fill their house, proverbial or not, with stuff. That’s OK, to each their own, but I offer the above comments as a means to call attention to the lack of discussion on the subject of digital minimalism (or, more rightly stated, digital hoarding), especially as more and more discussion of physical minimalism is entertained. People may not see the effects visibly, but as we create more data the world over, the need to pare down the data we keep will become all the more necessary.
As part of the accountability that goes along with this type of post, I created a list of items I focused on culling in recent months. There are ways to pull some of this information dynamically to be even more transparent, but the amount of work it would take seemed unnecessary for the amount of my readership.
The following list is a work in progress. Some of these numbers change every day, some will never be lower than they are right now. It is the reality of living in a digital world. Where I can make changes, I am actively doing so. Over the last month, I have reduced the number of bookmarks, emails, email newsletters, online accounts, files, storage locations, RSS feeds, photos, and unread articles. In addition, I have reduced the number of personal devices. The other thing to keep in mind in a conversation of this nature is the fact that these are my items and do not include items created by my family.
November 12, 2018
I have been radio silent this week, but I have read a lot. A few of the highlights include the lifting of the embargo on Apple’s new tech updates (MacBook Air and Mac Mini), commentary on the “Pro” in iPad Pro, choosing a markdown editor in a crowded field of awesome options, and thought pieces on minimalism, voting, and the use of humans over machines in the news industry. In the interest of your time, I have only included pull quotes where necessary, otherwise the links are a simply bulleted list with context. The articles are listed by topic in no particular order.
Craig Mod has one of the most well thought out commentaries I have seen recently about the state of professional workflows on the iPad. I both enjoyed the read and continued my own processing of my workflows from Mac to iPad.
You can argue that camera makers should have more seamless updates — maybe through connecting the camera to a network, checksuming the files, digitally signing, securely downloading and installing the firmware themselves. But you can also very reasonably argue that the United States should be using metric measurements. It doesn’t mean it will happen.
The main reason why I am linking to a Laptop Magazine review of the iPad Pro is because of the production quality of the video review.
Shocker, Ben doesn’t like some things about the new Smart Keyboard Folio. But seriously, he makes some really good points, especially when discussing the price.
I am linking to Marco Arment’s video review of the new iPad Pro because his video reviews of late are beginning to be watchable. The most unique this about this review is Marco’s ability to compare the two sizes of iPad Pro side-by-side since he was given a review unit (12.9“) and purchased the 11” model.
MacStories breaks down the pros and cons of two fantastic Markdown Editors, both of which I use. If you are in the market for a Notes replacement or new text editor of any kind on iOS, read this rundown.
Steven Sinofsky (a former President at Microsoft’s Windows Division) runs down the history of naysayers when new technologies take over old workflows. Fun thread.
I have had this article in my thread for awhile; it makes me want to use Apple News even more.
In a quiet corner of the third floor, Apple is building a newsroom of sorts. About a dozen former journalists have filled a few nondescript offices to do what many other tech companies have for years left to software: selecting the news that tens of millions of people will read.
I think a lot about minimalism, but I had a recent conversation that made be realize I am a minimalist for a different reason that I will have to expound upon later: If I am not actively using something, I want someone else to have the opportunity. Though my approach to minimalism may be more about sharing wealth, this article has some good thoughts on why minimalism is becoming more popular.
At its core, minimalism is living with intentionality; it is simplifying life down to the bare essentials, instead focusing on nonmaterial aspects such as health, happiness and relationships. In minimalism, less truly is more.
I wasn’t even alive when Roger Angell first voted, but his commentary is important about the civic duty that all citizens share; we should all take pride in our ability to change the face of our country with our vote. Unfortunately, we break records when we get 50% of people to show up.
I don’t really care about Apple’s finances, but there are always interesting gems in these types of break downs. Best bit below.
This stinks as an observer of the company, but I don’t find it at all surprising. None of Apple’s competitors release unit sale numbers for phones, tablets, or PCs. I think it’s more surprising that it took Apple so long to make this change. Secretive company decides to be more secretive — news at 11.
I toyed with not linking out to review posts at all. They are say about the same thing and generally speaking they are positive reviews all around.
As with the Mac Mini, I thought about not linking to these at all, but they are informative and shed some light on Apple’s moves in their laptop line, especially as Intel drops the ball on being competitive with Apple’s own A-Series chip options. Daring Fireball’s review goes into detail about benchmarks between this MacBook Air and the recently reviewed iPad Pro; the numbers do not shine well on Intel.
November 5, 2018
This weekend I found time to read quite a few items. Below are the highlights of that reading, including the most recent interview with Jony Ive; some thoughts from my father from his new blog space, “Tongue on Fire”; an exploration on the extinction of the Middle Child; and an article about Apple’s approach to social networking as a study in in-person engagement at Apple Stores.
To start off my weekend, I read the oft-shared interview with Jony Ive about the iPad Pro. In this situation, I was looking for something unique and I found it in the below quotes: magic. The idea that Apple produces things that just work or are considered magical is something well-documented over time. From the perspective of a designer however, everything in a device should be planned and calculated for; this is why this discussion from the designer himself is so important. What follows is likely is a part of each design decision made at Apple. From Jony Ive Interview: Apple Design Guru On How He Created the New iPad — And The Philosophy Behind It:
Ive pauses to consider what makes something appear magical. “I think what puts a product in the place where it’s described as magical is often about those attributes which are less easy to describe. You can’t quite put your finger on what it is.” … “I think the way [the Apple Pencil] just snaps onto the side, well, that’s a nice example of a sort of that magical feeling. It’s unexpected, we don’t quite understand how it’s working and even more incomprehensible is the fact that it’s also charging. You can see how that’s aligned with this idea that you can just pick the product up and use it without thought.”
My father is a pastor and has chosen a great time to start putting his thoughts to paper as the midterm elections and political climate come to a head. His first few posts are dynamite, in the sense that they throw a proverbial lit fuse at the currently publicized far-right, Evangelical narrative. First up (of two from my weekend reading) is about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (I literally shuddered as I wrote that last sentence.) From What Brett Kavanaugh Reveals About Us - Tongue on Fire:
The fact that the men—separated by 25+ years—survived their confirmation process in spite of allegations of non-consensual sexual advances reveals that not much has changed despite the #metoo movement. The testimony of men when denying allegations of sexual assault, harassment or abuse of power is still more believable than the testimony of the women who come forward with the allegations. People—both men and women—will still default to protecting the reputations of men while dragging women through the dirt, questioning their motives and morals—especially when political power is at stake.
My mother sent this article to me awhile back and as I have the difficult conversation (in this day and age) of whether or not to be a father for a third time, it seemed fitting to get this one read. From The Extinction of the Middle Child - The Cut:
While dramatic, this shift won’t be surprising if you haunt the playgrounds of New York. As a fairly recent new parent (of one, so far), I know that, observationally speaking, two kids has become the default norm. The common argument for two kids is a reasonable one: You have an oldest, a youngest, and a sibling for both. Three kids — which a generation ago was considered a slightly smaller brood than ideal — now seems aspirational, even decadent. “A certain set of married, affluent New Yorkers are going for the third child,” the New York Times reported in 2014, and went on to quote a father of three: “At some level, the third child is a proxy for having enough wealth to have a very comfortable life.” For most everyone else, two seems like plenty. Millennials are waiting longer to get married and women are waiting longer to have children. Housing and college are more expensive than ever, and the future of the planet itself is increasingly in question. Personally, I know lots and lots of couples in New York who have children; I know precisely one family with a middle child. That couple has three kids — the Brooklyn equivalent of Cheaper by the Dozen or Jon & Kate Plus 8.
On to my father’s second posting on his blog, regarding the Lottery. I have never been interested in playing the lottery nor gambling in general, I suppose, but that may be part of the point. From Why Lottery Tickets Are the Devil - Tongue on Fire:
The desire to win more money than you’d ever know how to spend afflicts the people who can least afford it — low-income households of color. In 2017, Americans spent almost $73 billion (BILLION) playing the numbers. That is $223.04 per man, woman and child in the U.S. Put that into perspective: We spend more playing the Lottery than we do on movie tickets, video games, books, NFL and Baseball tickets combined! And according to studies, the poorest third of households buy half of all lottery tickets sold. Those who can least afford tickets often spend the most–both in real dollars and as a percentage of their income. West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in America (17.7%), yet West Virginians spend a whopping $598.47 per person on lottery tickets. In both Connecticut and Illinois, the poorest zip codes in the state (also home to people of color) account for the most lottery ticket sales.
As usual, Ben Thompson has a detailed rundown of what makes Apple financial result phone calls interesting. He then is able to take that historical knowledge and add a perspective that others may not think about. In this case, he describes Apple’s inability to point at unit sales and soon average sale price as units to growth. Instead, Apple’s “Social Network”, in the form of their “Today at Apple” program, is going to be able to show physical engagement numbers as a growth vector (and likely a continued reputation/popularity metric). From Apple’s Social Network - Stratechery:
What is striking about Today at Apple is the scale of its ambition combined with its price: free. Of course that is not true in practice, because one needs an Apple device to realistically participate (and an Apple ID to even sign up), but that raises the question as to what Apple customers are paying for when they buy an Apple product? Apple’s point in highlighting Today at Apple is that customer’s are not simply buying an iPhone or an iPad or a Mac, but rather buying into an ongoing relationship with Apple.
October 31, 2018
For an Apple Event that was rather lackluster for me, I have been reading a lot on the subject.
The first two sources are from Jason Snell over at Six Colors, who seems very excited about the current state of things. Just look at his use of exclamation points! As always, I prefer to share “gems” instead of main points.
This is the iPhone X factor, applied to the iPad. The home button is gone, replaced with a TrueDepth camera system that allows Face ID to work from any orientation. It’s surprising and impressive when you see the iPad unlock using Face ID when you’re holding the iPad upside-down. The camera can still see your face from down there? Apparently so.
FaceID on the iPad can be used in any orientation. Many might not know that FaceID (on the original iPhone X at the very least) was only available when the phone was in the right orientation.
So the real question is, why did people keep buying the MacBook Air all this time? Was it that $999 price? Was it the design? The size? The fact that it was the last Apple laptop without the new butterfly keyboard design?
Anyway, that butterfly keyboard. I don’t hate it but I certainly don’t love it. My daughter uses her MacBook all the time and doesn’t complain, so apparently it doesn’t bother her? And Apple probably has a bunch of user research that shows that most people don’t care. But if you hate that keyboard—and it seems to be a more polarizing design than the last one—it means you have no good options on the Mac right now.
Then there are the ports! Apple’s go-to move is simplification—fewer ports, fewer buttons, the works. On the new Mac mini, it’s gone the other way, giving all us nerds exactly what we were clamoring for. Hello, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, plus two USB-A ports, plus HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet (upgradeable to 10GB Ethernet!) and a headphone jack. What is this, 2015?
I, like Snell, was hoping that the Mac lineup would get an overhaul in the sense that Apple would simplify the offerings. Instead, they made it more messy and gave us the above thought experiment. In any case, it appears the MacBook Air is the best Mac portable from a portability perspective. On the keyboard, I think this is a generational thing. The new keyboards have their problems, but they are fine, especially if you have never (or rarely) known anything different.
On the Mac Mini, the announcement was a solid upgrade, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. The Mac Mini has become a server admins best friend, but its original intention (aside from luring the switchers of old) was to be a complete computer in a small package; BYO… everything. I was hoping Apple would release something similar in size to the AppleTV with a full computer inside. Alas, they went the very un-Apple direction that Snell points out in terms of the available I/O.
He’s absolutely right, the mini is perfect in all of those instances. I said a while ago that the Mac mini is one of those products that Apple could update or not update and it wouldn’t matter that much. I still believe that, but I’m happy that users of these machines finally get their update.
The MacBook Air was never designed to be a workhouse computer that’s going to get your high-end graphics work done, it is intended to be the go-to computer for everyone on-the-go. It does that very well.
I think the iPad Pro is getting to the point where more mainstream people would feel comfortable replacing their notebook with an iPad. That was always the thought Apple had, but the technology is catching up to the dream.
Jim Dalrymple has a history of great takeaways. He is a happy iPad user, so the mini was not the highlight for him, but what he says above is true: if the Mac Mini is for all the pro-level use cases Apple offered on stage, the Mac Mini could have been left to languish and it still would have made Apple money. Good for Apple that they updated it, but don’t expect another update for a long while.
His MacBook Air takeaway is correct, but it is part and parcel to the problems inherent in the announcements. The MacBook Air and MacBook are competing for this on-the-go space now. For the iPad, I’m cautiously hopeful.
I tried Apple’s new Smart Keyboard Folio for both iPad Pros, and I’m not sure what to think of it yet. On one hand, I’m disappointed that Apple didn’t ship a fully redesigned Smart Keyboard with backlit keys and new built-in media keys (such as the ones the Brydge keyboard currently offers). I also had the impression that getting the iPad in and out of the folio case was a more involved process than the old Smart Keyboard, though that might just be the result of it being a new accessory that I’m not familiar with yet. Time will tell.
I am frankly not sure how I feel about the new iPads themselves and I will reserve judgement until I am able to play with them in person. No authors I have read thus far have discussed this, but the magnetic connector for the Pencil is on the top and can be used while connected to the smart keyboard. Is there a second smart connector that is used to communicate with the keyboard? In any case, the new version of the Pencil puts my first generation version to shame.
UPDATE: Rene Ritchie discussed the new changes to the smart connectors. The Smart Keyboard Folio (Ugh!) connects to a smart connector on the back of the iPad, which is why I haven’t seen it. (No one shows you the back of the iPad.)
I said I wanted a faster iPad Pro, same 12.9” screen size, with a smaller overall footprint. Face ID, sure, USB-C, whatever. We got all that, and honestly I am not sure I see a reason to buy these. Which seems absurd given that just a couple days ago I was writing how I was noticing my iPad Pro (12.9” which is version 1, not the 10.5”) was feeling a touch slow in areas.
As usual, I completely agree with Mr. Brooks. In particular, the change from Lightning to USB-C seems downright odd to me and I cannot say I am particularly happy about it even if it seems like the right move from a technology and future-proofing perspective.
The base machine, and the most expensive, which clocks in at $4,200 comes with integrated graphics, in the form of the Intel UHD Graphics 630 chipset. For a computer that Apple says can be used by pros, this blows my mind. Yes, macOS Mojave and Thunderbolt 3 make living with an eGPU relatively easy, but having a discrete graphics option, at least in the high-end models would make me feel a lot better about the Mac mini being useful to a wider range of customers.
If you are going to read anything about a Mac Mini, read Stephen Hackett. This is actually the reasoning for my commentary on the Mac Mini above. If you are going to stick to an integrated graphic card, build a new chassis that makes us all stand in awe of the external design and better understand such a tradeoff.
The new internals are betrayed on the outside by a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports,meaning the MacBook Air has the same IO as that weird Touch Bar-less 13-inch MacBook Pro. Unlike that machine, the new Air does have a Touch ID sensor, the first time we have seen it divorced from the Touch Bar. I like it.
Based on the commentaries of others, I think I would like the Touch Bar, but having an option that comes with TouchID alone is a net win. The existence of TouchID without the Touch Bar also helps to explain the limits of what can be done with Apple’s A-series Mac-based subsystems.
October 30, 2018
I’ve said before that I am more of a ring than a watch person. Still, I have a new Apple Watch on my wrist and I’m relegating the gorgeous looking Oura ring to my reading and research category.
Over the past few years, the smart ring market has experienced many false starts, whether that’s been due to hardware hold-ups, legal issues or just the fact they’ve proven to be notoriously difficult to get right for mainstream consumers.
But after the rise and fall of hyped brands, like Smarty Ring, Fin and Nod, a number of companies have stuck around that promise smart rings with true staying power. That means highly accurate data tracking, valuable insights and, most importantly, a design you’ll actually want to wear.
One smart ring that ticks all of those boxes is Oura.
October 29, 2018
Recently, Marco Arment posted about the inconsistencies/oddities of Apple Watch watchfaces. For those that didn’t read that commentary, the crux of his position was that the Apple Watch all but ignores long-held horological standards that make reading the time on an analog watchface more simple. Marco’s asssessment was one that I would have not been able to put into words but admittedly agreed with wholeheartedly. Shortly before that post, I puchased an Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+ to replace my aging Series 0 Stainless Steel. The reason I am providing so much additional information about all this is the differences I noted between a “standard” Apple Watch and the Nike+ models. In particular, the additional watchfaces that come with the Nike+ model watches.
As I started to do more research on this topic, I noted just how little has been written about Apple Watch watchfaces in general, aside from the annual diatribes from Apple Watch developers about the desire to create third-party watchfaces. In fact, in order to see a full list of watchface options, I had to visit the Apple Watch User Guide given the fact that there is very little information even within Apple’s main support pages. Note also that the Apple Watch User Guide does not include any information about Nike+ nor Hermès series watchfaces.
Based on the information in the Apple Watch User Guide, there are twenty-six different watchfaces available to an Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) with one of those disallowed on non-cellular models (Explorer) and two additional ones not available on Series 3 and earlier (Infograph and Infograph Digital). All of the watchfaces have various “Customizable features” and “Available complications” listed in full in the guide. The above screenshots are the standards for promotional materials that are available on all Apple Watches and the below screenshot are the three that are exclusive based on hardware.
For Nike+ models, there are two additional options (Nike+ Analog and Nike+ Digital, pictured below) that provide a standard (read: unchangeable) swoosh icon/complication for quick access to the Nike+ Run Club app. I have used both of these faces now and really like both even though I am not an avid runner. The analog version in particular changes the commentary from Marco (“If you want analog time with numerals, Utility is the only good option.”) to include this secondary option. Aside from the fact that you cannot show the date within the dial, the Nike+ Analog watchface is worth a look if you have access. I should also mention at this point that the Nike+ version has access to non-standard color options, including Nike’s Volt green, as does the Hermès version have access to Hermès orange.
For Hermès models, there is one additional option named simply Hermès. However, the “one additional option” comment belies the sheer amount of customization that can be done to the Hermès watchface. Amongst the available “customizable features” to use Apple’s parlance, the Hermès watchface has the ability to change the color/style, typeface (which includes three options plus a roman numeral option), and dial layout (which simply means all numbers, four numbers, or only the 12 index). In addition, this watchface has room for a single complication inside the dial that is limited to Date, Stopwatch, or World Clock. To be frank, though out of my price range, the Hermès Apple Watch seems worth it to someone who cares about numerical indices as much as Marco does, plus this/these watchface(s) is/are gorgeous.
The craziest thing about the Hermès watchfaces are just how little documentation there is about them at all. I had difficulty finding any screenshots of the watchfaces, let alone ones like those documented above for the standard styles. The screenshots you see below are stitched together from Apple’s own Hermès page and does not show all options available. The only reason I know what options are available is because of a jailbreak option that is well-documented for “unlocking” these extra watchfaces on standard models and an unboxing video I found that actually did a good job enumerating the options.
This post is really only an attempt to get something on the web that people can look at to gain a better understanding of the options on the Apple Watch. I was not and am not making any assessments on the value of the above-listed options nor the expectation that this is by any means a complete walkthrough. I also have only had a few days at this point with anything other than a Series 0 Stainless Steel watch, so this was/is not meant to be a review of the new features or even the watchfaces I see in my new Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+.
All that being said, I still agree with Marco’s assessment about the current state of Apple Watch watchfaces; I personally have a carefully curated group of analog and digital watchfaces that I use on a daily basis, but I am not wholly satisfied with them. As I get used to the power and speed of a modern Apple Watch, I will likely write more about watchfaces and my preferred usage scenarios. Thanks for reading.
October 24, 2018
I normally automate some of my reading commentaries, which generally means that these posts only point to one article. In this instance, I had two articles that played off each other so perfectly, I was unable to separate my thoughts about them into two posts.
I read all of Ben Brooks items that are open to the public and have often toyed with the idea of becoming a member because he and I see eye-to-eye on a lot. I feel him on this one.
And this was never more evident than my recent internal debates about whether or not I should get an Apple Watch series 4 to try out — and no I won’t be getting one. Because the more you think about the Apple Watch, the more you realize that it exacerbates the problem — you have to choose: do you want to relax, or do you want to be more connected? If you want to relax, or have any hope in doing so, you need to get rid of your phone and Apple Watch as best as you can.
However, it was right around the time I read this that two things happened almost simultaneously: I started helping Nash with his Apple Watch post and I ordered an Apple Watch Series 3 (currently in the mail). From Nash:
It’s becoming increasingly popular to have a little screen on your wrist, but as I ask around — those who own the Apple Watch and those who don’t — there’s a misconception of what its ultimate purpose is. If it was just an extension to your phone, there wouldn’t be much of a point to owning one.
You should go read both of these posts because they each are great. I am acutely aware of the dichotomy they respresent. Ben makes a good point about the two-faced nature of current technology discussions, wherein human beings both complain about the overabundance of information and the lack of fact-checking while staying as connected and reliant on that same information as ever. On the other side of the discussion is Nash, who has put forethought and effort into simplifying his daily life through technology. He discusses legitimate use cases for his Apple Watch and, in the most powerful portion of his post, addresses the very misconception that I believe leads people to use the Apple Watch in the way that Ben detests.
In a conversation with Nash recently, I suggested the following: “Every decision is about priorities.” I believe that whole heartedly. Since I don’t prioritize having the newest or shiniest thing, I don’t usually buy brand new technology for my personal use. Since I prioritize minimalism and ecology, I buy things of quality that are meant to last. In this instance, I can agree with both of these posts because my priorities align with both.
I see the Apple Watch as a tool; one that must be wrangled, but inevitably leads to a more efficient use of my time and energy. Therefore, I agree with Nash’s assertion that there is utility (and sustained growing utility in the tool). I have taken many of the seemingly clichéd steps to calm my phone and watch habits, such as turning off many of my notifications and leaving whole social networks behind because of their noise. I have even stopped the Health features from notifying me for this reason. I use my Watch for the things that I prioritize, not what the Watch prioritizes for me. Therefore, I agree with Ben that there is a problem with tech addiction and the Apple Watch can be an extension of that problem.
October 23, 2018
I said recently that I was not in the market for the new iPhone models. After reading Gruber’s review, I started to think that maybe I should be. However, there are two gems that I thought I would draw attention to in this excellent review:
I don’t think the absence of 3D Touch is a dealbreaker for anyone, but it’s just weird that the iPhone XR is the first new iPhone since 3D Touch was introduced not to have it.
I am one of the few where this is a dealbreaker. I love the potential of 3D Touch and I use it wherever I can. I actually spend my time testing any new app icon on my home screen for extra functionality. I simply don’t think I could go back to an iPhone that lacked it.
The most visually striking difference, of course, is that the XR is available in a variety of cheerful colors. The black XR (which admittedly isn’t cheerful) looks a lot like the black XS and XS Max — it’s hard to tell them apart at a glance. The white XR (which is the color I’ve been using for the past week) is a much brighter white than the XS. The aluminum XR can’t compete with the premium look of the XS’s polished steel frame, but I think the white glass back of the XR looks better than that of the white XS models. It’s really nice — and a bit Stormtrooper-y. The coral, yellow, blue, and Product Red models all look great. I got another look at all of them last week when I picked up my review unit in New York, and to me, the Product Red phone in particular is striking.
The colors are what intrigued me most about these models the day they were announced. I want a colorful iPhone. the Product Red iPhones 7 and 8, though different face colors were lust-worthy for me. My wife has a Product Red iPhone 7 and it is tragically encased. I can’t say that color alone puts me in the market for these phones, but I can say it tempts me more than it should.
October 22, 2018
I am generally less of a watch person and more of a ring person. Ever since getting my first fitness tracker, I’ve been interested in quantifying those metrics: sleep, calorie and step counts, etc. I write all this to say I think for me, the long term vision for fitness tracking will be a ring, not a watch. The Oura Ring is awesome tech and the company’s articles about sleep and overall health are always worth a read.
Since the advent of electric light, we’ve increasingly ignored and misunderstood sleep: It’s a necessary evil. It’s an inactive state. It’s the human stand-by mode. Why sleep when you could watch just one more episode on Netflix or go to Mars? However, with advances in science and technology, and a budding revolution in attitudes towards sleep, we may be ready to throw these ideas into the dustbin of history and embrace a non-binary view on human existence and see that there is no ON/OFF for us. Rather, there are three stages of being that are inextricably intertwined, each one affecting the others: Awake, Asleep, Dreaming.
These three states of being are found in nearly all mammals and birds: wakefulness, Non-REM sleep and REM sleep. From a physiological viewpoint they are as different from each other as sleeping is from being wide awake. You just don’t notice it — mainly because you’re asleep.
October 22, 2018
I am not in the market for the new iPhones at all, but side commentaries are often the gems of reviews. In the case of Mr. Seigler’s and the original post on The Loop that brought me to his thoughts, the following caught my eye:
Overall, I’m curious to see what people think about the iPhone XR (on pre-sale as of today). Because it really does feel like it might be the right phone for a lot of people. The iPhones XS are great, but not a massive upgrade over the X. And I think the new pricing exacerbates the issue. If you have an iPhone 8, it’s undoubtedly worth an upgrade to the XS, but I’d point you to the smaller one. And I’m just not sure the XR isn’t a better path to go down for many people.
-M.G. Seigler, A Few Thoughts on the iPhone XS Max — 500ish Words
I too am interested in seeing the way the iPhones sell this year. I believe that the masses will flock toward a lower-cost iPhone with similar specs and a dash of whimsy. I know I would! The Loop’s post gave me another thought in the same vein:
I know a host of people who yearn for a new version of the SE form factor. There are people with small hands and/or terrific eyesight and/or small pockets that miss that size. … Same thing with Apple Watch. There are people with smaller wrists for whom even the old 38mm form factor was too large.
-Dave Mark, The Loop
I am one of those people who believe that smaller form factors, even with my larger hands/wrists are more desireable. There was a commentary way back in the days of the iPod that minitarization is both hard and expensive. The smaller the package, the more interested I become because I prefer my tech to be as unobtrusive as possible; this must be a shared line of thinking at a time when the words “phone” and “addiction” are often used in the same sentence.
October 19, 2018
When we think of those guilty of sexual assault and abuse, we tend to be reminded of some of the most vile and morally corrupt figures in our lives and in the…
October 19, 2018
In a conversation I had recently, I made the comment that there are very few high-pressure sales situations anymore. Technology and the market (or consumers themselves) have decided that those situations are terrible and it is better to order things online and use apps to have interactions with vendors and, more generally, other people. But now consumerism is so easy, so without friction, that the pressure has simply moved from the salesperson to the consumer; we pressure ourselves into having everything we want because it is just a tap, click, or fingerprint away. I always make the comment that any decision is about priority, but so too is every constraint about choice. We all can choose to put our information out there, just as we can choose to keep our own privacy. The problem is that most people are choosing the former.
What’s most striking about the telescreen’s ubiquity is how right and how wrong Orwell was about our technological present. Screens are not just a part of life today: they are our lives. We interact digitally so often and in such depth that it’s hard for many of us to imagine (or remember) what life used to be like. And now, all that interaction is recorded. Snowden was not the first to point out how far smartphones and social media are from what Orwell imagined. He couldn’t have known how eager we’d be to shrink down our telescreens and carry them with us everywhere we go, or how readily we’d sign over the data we produce to companies that fuel our need to connect. We are at once surrounded by telescreens and so far past them that Orwell couldn’t have seen our world coming.
Or could he? Orwell gives us a couple of clues about where telescreens came from, clues that point toward a surprising origin for the totalitarian state that Nineteen Eighty-Four describes. Taking them seriously means looking toward the corporate world rather than to our current governments as the likely source of freedom’s demise. If Orwell was right, consumer choice — indeed, the ideology of choice itself — might be how the erosion of choice really starts.
October 19, 2018
It appears that Voyager 2 will be following its sibling through one of the ultimate barriers in spaceflight: the border of interstellar space. NASA is reporting…
October 19, 2018
I really enjoyed this overview of the horological world. There were quite a few pieces of information I was unaware of, especially just how recent most of the history of the watchmaking industry really is.
As fashion and comfort demanded thinner watches, watchmakers all over Europe began to investigate new ways of building slimmer clockworks. The challenges of early watchmaking closely mirror the challenges smartwatch producers face today: how to make technology smaller and more powerful.
October 19, 2018
I usually write my review of the new iPhones about a week after I get one of the new devices, but this time around, I just kept using and trying out the…
October 19, 2018
As a part of my ongoing desire to share what I am reading, I automated posts of this type using Pocket and IFTTT. Below is an excerpt from the article and the URL for you to share in what I am currently reading. Want to discuss? Reach out.
Siri Shortcuts, your Apple Watch, and various sensors and biometrics mean the wearable device will become critical to your identity, at work, at home, and at play. And more, but you get the drift.
October 19, 2018
This is the reason why I continue to go back to Apple with my money and trust. The company chooses to take a holistic view of the experience of ownership.
“If you genuinely have a concern for humanity, you will be preoccupied with trying to understand the implications, the consequences of creating something that hasn’t existed before. I think it’s part of the culture at Apple to believe that there is a responsibility that doesn’t end when you ship a product.” As he speaks, his face rearranges itself into a troubled frown. “It keeps me awake.”
October 19, 2018
This is probably the best Apple Watch review I’ve read thus far; everything I wrote yesterday still stands.
No matter how hard Apple tries to steer clear of being related to timepieces, it’s inevitable. Humans have two wrists and are very unlikely to wear a watch on each, so the conscious decision to wear an Apple Watch or a traditional watch is made each day. The two are intertwined and, therefore, competitors.