Categories
Politics

Katie Hill as Victim

The recent news about McDonald’s’ CEO pretty well gives the lie to the “if she were a man” defense of Katie Hill.

Categories
Technology

AirPods Pro

After seeing early rumors, I was skeptical of the AirPods Pro. I have always had discomfort problems with silicone tips. The vacuum seal they create and the pressure on my ear canals causes my ears to hurt after as little as 15 minutes. What’s more, I’m on the skinny end of the bell curve when it comes to fit for the non-Pro AirPods. Not only do they not cause any discomfort, they never fall out.

That being said, the early reviews on the AirPods Pro have given me reason to think that they may avoid the problems that have kept me away from similar offerings in the past.

Check out MKBHD’s impressions video for more.

Categories
Technology

Screen Time Study from Oxford

As a follow up to my recent post about technology and screen time, here’s a new study from Oxford that suggests that the affects of screen time are more nuanced than previously thought:

The possible influence of digital screen engagement is likely smaller and more nuanced than we might expect.
[…]
Two recent studies, one focused on British adolescents and another with young American children, indicate that the relations between digital screen engagement and psychosocial outcomes are nonlinear. The idea that parabolic function links digital engagement to mental well-being, dubbed the “Goldilocks hypothesis,” has received some empirical support. Briefly, moderate levels of digital screen time (1−2 hours a day) may be associated with slightly higher levels of key outcomes compared to engagement at either lower or higher levels. Although this hypothesis makes intuitive sense, as many apps and digital technologies are useful for informing and connecting young people, results have not uniformly supported it. Where research has identified parabolic trends, the average correlates of positive or negative digital engagement found in this previous research are very small, accounting for less than 1% of variability in child outcomes.
In other words, although many of these relations are statistically significant, more than 99% of variability in psychosocial outcomes is unrelated to digital engagement. This pattern of results highlights a disconnect between the statistically significant relations identified in the literature and relations that could be understood as relevant to caregivers, policymakers, or health professionals. This gap undermines effective evidence-based mental health policymaking for children in the digital age.

Here’s the full study.

Categories
Technology

Your Phone is Cancer

Obviously your phone is not cancer. But It’s kind of starting to seem that way based on how people talk about the alleged affects of “screen time” and other buzzwordy pseudo afflictions. Whether it’s shortening attention spans, killing democracy, or literal devil horns, smart phones—and tech more generally—seem to be taking a lot of blame these days (the fact that AARP is the group pushing the “shortening attention spans” narrative is almost too good to be true). The level of concern, though, seems to be getting overwrought to me.

Obviously we should be concerned about the ways new technologies affect us but the current level of concern in some corners is bordering on conspiratorial. For example, I have heard a lot of people talking recently about how tech companies are “using psychology” to “make people addicted” to their products. Does anyone really believe that auto-play video or endlessly scrolling timelines are what make people read Twitter? If so, why don’t more people read the dictionary?

No amount of psychological trickery can make people do things they don’t want to do. If there is a problem here it’s on the demand side, not the supply side.

There have always been those who think new technologies are the end of the world (sometimes literally). When books were becoming common, many people were concerned that it would lessen people’s memory. Maybe they did, but would you trade libraries for a longer memory? I’m not convinced that trade would be worth it.

Revolutionary new technologies in communication have often been attended by social upheaval. The printing press enabled the mass production of the tracts that split the Catholic Church (which was far more disruptive than this week’s Twitter controversy). But who today would wish that Big Print™ had been broken up in 1516?

As with everything else, there are trade-offs with technology. Would you trade access to virtually all of the world’s knowledge or the ability to connect with friends and family half a world away for marginally better social skills or a slightly longer attention span? I wouldn’t.

And really, if so many people were as cripplingly addicted to their phones as the popular narrative would have you believe, don’t you think you would know more of them? We’ve all heard this story: “I was in a restaurant the other day and all these families were just looking down at their phones…” Why is it that the stories are always about other tables and not our own?

To be clear, I am not Pollyannaish about technology. I believe there are things about new technologies that we should be concerned by. For example, I think the way in which many tech companies are in the business of selling ads against our personal data without compensation raises some very serious property rights issues. But I think we go too far in treating technology–whether smart phones or social media–as though they are broadly responsible for whatever ill society has been diagnosed with this week.

Ultimately, I just think we should be a little more circumspect about the malicious role technology plays in the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Categories
Technology

Unreleased iPhone 4s Commercial Feat. John Krasinski

This might be one of my favorite Apple commercials. It’s a shame they never ran with it.

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Categories
Technology

We Recreated Every Apple Wallpaper

Categories
Media Miscellaneous Technology

Best of 2018

It’s that time of year. The time when everybody makes a whole big thing out of one number changing on the calendar. By my count, the number 8 has been replaced by the number 9 thirty-six times this year. But we’re all supposed to act like the thirty-seventh time is some big deal. Once you’ve seen the new millennium, its hard to get excited about 2019. 

Nevertheless, I am given to understand that year-end-best-of posts are like catnip to you people so I would be falling down on my job as a Semi-Professional Blogger™if didn’t crank one out for the driveling masses. Here goes…

*note: I will not be limiting myself to things released in 2018. For me, it is enough if I have consumed the thing in 2018.

Books

This year, I set a goal to read 26 books. Then I hit that goal. So I increased it to 35. Then I hit it again. After repeating the aforementioned cycle a few more times, I landed at my current goal of 52 books (see all the books I have read this year). Here are some of the highlights: 

Movies

There have been a lot more disappointments in the film industry than hits this year, at least for me. A Star is Born was 2/3 of a good movie. Avengers: Infinity War was solid, but not exceptional. Black Panther was great, but everyone already knows that. So here are the best movies I saw this year that didn’t get enough buzz:

TV Shows

Something, something Golden-Age-of-TelevisonÂŽ:

Apps

There are a lot of apps out there. It’s kind of a big deal. I regularly make app recommendations to people, here are some of my favorite apps I started using in the last year: 

Stuff

This is America, dammit. And in America we love stuff. New stuff, old stuff, shiny stuff… you get the idea. These are some of my favorite things I bought this year:

There you have it. Go buy some stuff. It will make you happy for at least a few minutes.

Categories
Technology

On Podcasts – Part 1: History

If you know me very well, you know that I am a devotee of the podcasting medium. This isn’t surprising considering I grew up on talk radio. And yet, most people would consider maintaining 67 podcast subscriptions a warning sign of clinical insanity. In all, I probably listen to 30+ hours of podcasts per week.

As a result of my obsession interest, I am often asked what podcasts I listen to and what I recommend. So I decided to put together a list that I can share. Each podcast is listed with a short description and a few of my favorite episodes. At first, I was going to list all of my podcasts but that was taking an eternity. So I am going to break it down by genre starting with history.

History

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

Hands down my favorite history podcast! With episode run times that regularly exceed 3 hours, its closer to series of audiobooks than a podcast.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Addendum

Addendum is based on the premise of Hardcore History but focuses on shorter, one off topics.

Tides of History

Tides is a narrative history podcast that focuses on the broad trends in world history that formed the modern world.

Our Fake History

Our Fake History tries to disentangle fact from fiction in some of the most mythologized events in history.

American History Tellers

Similar to Tides of History (they’re published by the same Podcast Network, American History Tellers is a narrative history of America.

Presidential

Presidential is a series on the Presidents of the United States. Although the show is now complete, I am working through the archive.

Internet History Podcast

It’s hard to decide whether to categorize this show as history or technology. But I decided on history. This interview show features creators, developers, and other players from the early days of the internet.

Categories
Whiskey

A Grand Experiment

This evening, I embark on a grand adventure. A journey to rival that of Odysseus himself. An epoch with the potential to define a generation. Legends of this sojourn will echo through the ages. Tales will grace the lips of a thousand troubadours in an endless soliloquy.

Or I am going to put some liquid in a receptacle and wait a long damn time.

Either way, it’s gonna be f**king awesome… fine, it will be at least marginally interesting. The point is, I’m excited and I will be documenting the process on this here blog.

It is now that I realize I have neglected to share even the most basic details of this tantalizing enterprise. As you may know, I recently returned from a trip to 10 day trip to Israel. I returned with two significant additions to my worldly possessions: a tattoo and a bottle of Israeli New Make Single Malt. New Make, in case you’re not familiar, is un-aged whiskey.

When I arrived home and set about to sampling the whiskey, I was less than impressed. It was, in a word, regrettable. So, what is a man to do when his whiskey is less than he had hoped? Age it, obviously.

FOR SCIENCE!

Categories
Technology

Delete Facebook

Facebook is a horrifying den of trolling, hyperbole, and toxicity. Ben Kenobi would likely call it a hive of scum and villainy. In short, Facebook is the worst. The list of reasons to detest Facebook are legion and well-trodden. Yet, recently there is a new outrage du jour.

Cambridge Analytica has reportedly collected data on as many as 87 million Facebook users which it used to target ads for various political candidates including Donald Trump in the 2016 election. According to most people in the media, they cracked the code on mind control and were able to make people vote for the Donald.

How did they do this? Whenever you use Facebook to login to an app or service (like those personality quizzes), that app gets access to some of your data. How much access is determined by what permissions the app requests. Some apps don’t request any of your personal information, some apps get access to everything you put on Facebook (including the things you have set to only be seen by you).

Cambridge Analytica took advantage of this system. They partnered with the developer of a personality quiz and scraped all of the data that quiz takers gave to the maker of the quiz. What kind of information did they get? Theoretically, they got your name, date of birth, work history, education history, favorite TV shows, favorite books, favorite movies, family members, friends, political views, photos, likes, comments, everything you have ever posted, and much more.

However, it’s wrong to think that they got all this information by ‘stealing’ it. Facebook users voluntarily gave all of this information to them. Nothing Cambridge Analytica did violates Facebook’s terms of service. In fact, nothing they did was even unprecedented. The Obama campaign used the same data mining tactics in 2008 and 2012.

With all of that said, Facebook is still the worst. There are dozens of reasons you shouldn’t use Facebook. But I understand that just deleting your Facebook account isn’t terribly practical. So I wanted to highlight some things you can do to reduce your exposer to the blight.

Turn Off Facebook’s App Platform

Facebook’s app platform is the biggest privacy hole that you probably didn’t know existed. When you log into an app or service, they get access to a massive amount of your data. Disabling the entire platform is the best way to plug that hole.

You can do this by opening Facebook (on a desktop) clicking on the ▼ icon in the top right corner > settings > apps > “apps, websites and games” > edit > turn off.

Review the apps connected to your account

If you aren’t willing to completely disable the app platform, then you should review all of the apps that are connected to your Facebook account and delete any that you don’t use.

To see all the apps connected to your account, open Facebook (on a desktop) and click on the ▼ icon in the top right corner > settings > apps.

Delete the Facebook App

I can’t even begin to explain how horrifying the Facebook mobile app is. Don’t believe me? Open your battery settings and I will wager that Facebook is one of the heaviest consumers of your battery life even if you don’t use it much. Not only does the app eat your battery, it gives Facebook hooks into your data at a very deep level. Through the app, Facebook is able to access your location, contacts, installed apps, microphone, camera, and schedule (and that’s just what they admit to accessing).

If you delete the app but still want to use Facebook, you have options. You can add the Facebook mobile website to your home screen by going to Facebook and clicking share > add to home screen > add.

You should always be wary of free services. A good rule of thumb is that if you aren’t paying for a service, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. Odds are, if you can’t identify a business model, the model is to sell your data to advertisers.