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.


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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We Recreated Every Apple Wallpaper


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.


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: 


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:


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: 


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.


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.


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 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.


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.



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.


International Whiskey Day 🥃

The first whiskey I ever ordered was a Jim Beam at an open bar at Hooters (never do this, for many reasons). I asked the bartender to add a dash of water because I read somewhere that it opens up the flavors of a whiskey (which is true). The result was an abomination. She returned with a 12 Oz. beer glass with, I assume, 2 Oz. of Beam and 10 Oz. of water. Needless to say, 10 Oz. of water doesn’t open up sh*t in 2 Oz. of Jim Beam. Which is why you should never, ever ask a Hooters bartender to add water to your whiskey.

Following this horrendous misadventure, I followed the traditional (at least, I call it traditional) path of the whiskey novice: drowned in Coke  → cocktails (Manhattans and Old Fashioneds) → on the rocks → neat (the way God intended it). I also followed a fairly standard progression of whiskeys: Jim Beam → Jim Beam Black → High West Double Rye → Henry McKenna 10 → Monkey Shoulder → Laphroaig 10.

With the help of two homeless-looking guys and a lot of well-spent time, I know enough about whiskey to look like an ass-hole in any bar. When I get interested in something, I dive in head first. Whiskey has been no exception. From the fermentation, distillation, and aging process to the government regulations that impede distribution, I am fascinated by whiskey. For example, did you know that, in Single Malt whiskey, “Single” refers to the number of distilleries while “Malt” refers to the grain (100% barley)? Or, did you know that many states’ primary, if not exclusive, retailer of spirits is the state government in the form of ABC stores?

A lot of people don’t like the taste of whiskey. I can understand why. Few people would find the idea of drinking something that had been sitting in a barrel for 4 or 6 or 12 years anything but a deeply undesirable proposition. Fewer still when informed that this concoction is basically poison. But even if you don’t like the taste of whiskey, there are still plenty of reasons to love it. In fact, even if I didn’t care for the taste of whiskey I like to think that I would still find it fascinating.

Whiskey is a treasure trove of interest. If you love science, whiskey is a result of complex chemical reactions discovered (mostly by accident) over centuries. If you love history (like me), the history of whiskey is one of the richest niches in history I have yet found. If you work in government (also like me), the history of government policy aimed at whiskey production, sale, and consumption is filled with fascinating twists and turns. In short, I am convinced that no matter your interests, whiskey has something to offer.

Afterall, as Mark Twain reflected, “too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”


Ducking Autocorrect ​🤬

Few elements of iOS are more often lampooned than autocorrect. Criticisms which are broadly justified. After all, how often does someone use the word “ducking” as an adjective? I can’t count the number of times that I have inadvertently typed “New York” because I hit ‘n’ instead of ‘m’ when I was writing the word “my.” Yet, autocorrect is one of the most powerful, and overlooked, features in iOS. Not only does it correct typos, it can be programmed to turn any shortcut into a phrase. This may not seem terribly useful at first blush, but let me explain how you can leverage this tool to save you time and keystrokes.

You may not be aware of it, but you can actually create a dictionary of text expansion shortcuts in the settings on your iPhone. Go to Settings>General>Keyboard>Text Replacement. To create a new shortcut, just click the + icon in the top right corner. It will then allow you to enter a phrase and a shortcut. The shortcut is what you will type and the phrase is what it will be corrected too. For example, by default, “omw” corrects to “On My Way!”

Now, you might be getting an idea of how this could be useful. You can correct “ty” to “thank you,” “ilu” to “I love you,” or “thx” to “thanks.” But that’s just the beginning! With just a little creativity, you can turn those simple time-saving shortcuts into uber-powerful, workflow altering tools! I use four types of shortcuts on my iPhone: text expansion, Unicode, emoji shortcuts, and a fourth type of shortcut that is harder to describe.

Text Expansion

As a text expansion tool, the build in functionality is fairly limited. You cannot include line breaks or any kind of text formatting or HTML in expanded phrases–features available in TextExpander and similar application. Yet, it can be extremely useful in spite of these limitations. In fact, this is the most practical and time-saving uses for the text replacement feature. For example, “eml” is replaced with my personal email address and “weml” is replaced with my work email. “phn” is replaced with my phone number. Here are some other shortcuts that I use and have found useful:

  • “addr” → home address
  • “cfa” → “Chick-Fil-A”
  • “lrm” → a paragraph of Lorem Ipsum
  • “xmas” → “Christmas”
  • “pa” → “Patriot Academy”


Unicode symbols are basically more simplistic emoji. They are font characters such as stars, arrows, greek letters, and other symbols. I find these shortcuts especially helpful when I am taking notes on my phone. Especially my right arrow shortcut. It expands “-)” to →. I use lots of arrows when I am taking notes as a shorthand for ‘leads to’ or ‘results in.’ Another that I often use is “apl” to the Unicode Apple logo (). Here are some other useful Unicode shortcuts I use:

  • “tm” → ™
  • “str” → ★
  • “L>” → ↳
  • “pisig” → ΠΣΑ
  • “cmd” → ⌘

There is a great app for accessing and using Unicode characters on iOs called Simbol. You can use this to browse and find some characters that may be useful to you.

Emoji 🤯

Unlike Unicode, I don’t need t explain Emoji to anyone. They are practically a language unto themselves at this point (They even have their own dictionary). But given the fact that there are now hundreds of canonized emoji, scrolling through the iPhone’s emoji picker can be a flustering task when you are hunting for an oft-used character. Apple tried to remedy this with the recently used section but it can be hit or miss. One very useful trick is to convert old-fashioned emoticons into emoji. For example “:)” corrects to 🙂 or “XD” corrects to 😂. Here are some other useful examples to get you started:

  • “(:” → 🙃
  • “B)” → 😎
  • “>:(” → 😡
  • “:O” → 😱
  • “<3” → ❤
  • “</3” → 💔

Another useful way to use text replacement with emoji is to use shortcuts to input symbols. I use this on my calendar. I like to use emoji in calendar events to make the name shorter. For example “Coffee with Savannah” is ” ☕ Savannah.” Another useful set of shortcuts are the check mark and the X. I use these in emails to communicate when a task has been completed. I put my shortcuts in brackets but a quicker way would be to prefix them with an ‘x.’ I.e. “[pn]” becomes “xpn.” Here are some of the shortcuts I use:

  • “[x]” → ✔
  • “[n]” → ❌
  • “[i]” → ❗
  • “[ii]” → ‼
  • “[am]” → 🇺🇸
  • “[pn]” → 📞
  • “[mt]” → 👥


Sometimes you use a word a lot that isn’t actually a word or a word that should be capitalized but isn’t by default, you can create a shortcut to fix that. For example, I work at the Mercatus Center. Mercatus is latin and, therefore, not recognized as a word by my English keyboard. By default, iOS corrects “mercatus” to “Markets.” This can be fixed by creating a shortcut where the phrase is “mercatus” and the shortcut is “mercatus.” Additionally, the “mercatus” should be capitalized. This can be accomplished by capitalizing the phrase portion of the shortcut. Thus, a word that was previously incorrectly autocorrected, is now corrected and capitalized. Here are a few examples of how I use this strategy:

  • “aggie” → Aggie
  • “aldi” → Aldi
  • “ar15” → AR-15
  • “cpac” → CPAC
  • “montview” → Montview
  • “qi” → Qi

Another use of this strategy is to outsmart autocorrect if you regularly mistype a particular word. For example, I often hit the “n” key instead of the “m” key when I am typing the word “my.” For some reason, autocorrect does not identify this as my intent and, instead, capitalized “NY” assuming that I was referring to New York. But I circumvented this by creating a text replacement shortcut where the phrase is “my” and the shortcut is “ny.” Here are some other uses for this strategy that I employ:

  • “haga” → haha
  • “heyb” → hey
  • “lil” → lol (I rarely talk about rappers, so this doesn’t create an issue for me…)
  • “northb” → north

This last use for text replacement is unique to each person. Very few of my shortcuts will probably be useful to you. But if you think through words that you often mistype or that get wrongfully corrected, you should be able to identify a few ways to leverage this tool.

I would love to hear from you about clever little hacks that you are using with text replacement! If you have any that you have been using or if this post inspired you to think some up, tweet at me! (@KyleGriesinger)


On Armistice Day (Veterans’ Day)

On the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, the howling carnage of the Great War came to a long-awaited — and desperately prayed for — end. It had been the grisliest and most gut-wrenching war in human history. Flesh had given way to steel and gas and shell on the ever-fluctuating — yet never moving — battlefields of Verdun and Flanders and the Somme. The ‘war to end all wars,’ to ‘secure a lasting peace’ and a ‘new world order,’ had petered out with little lasting change achieved and having laid the groundwork for the next global conflict which would lay waste to Europe and claim the lives of millions of brave men and women.

That is the backdrop and forgotten history of Veterans’ Day. It was begun as a way to honor those who served and died in the Great War. Traditionally, the Armistice has been celebrated by wearing a poppy on one’s lapel. It was celebrated by virtually all of the Entente powers (England, France, the United States, and Australia among others). In the United States, it was renamed Veterans’ Day and exists to commemorate all veterans, living and dead.

15-year-old me with my Grandfather. Rocking the jorts (it was a different time…)

Which brings me to my point. Happy Veterans’ Day. My grandfather, Gerald “Sarge” Griesinger, served in the Korean War. He operated a listening post on an island in the South Pacific. He rarely talked about his time in the service. Actually, I don’t think we ever discussed it. Yet, I have always been inspired by his service and I am incredibly proud of him to this day. He passed away several years ago, now. I wish that I had gotten the chance to know him better. But the two things I know beyond any doubt are that he loved his family and that he loved his country (and that he had strong opinions about how yard work ought to be done, but that’s unrelated).

In any event, be sure to thank the Veterans in your life and those you pass on the street. They have sacrificed so much for us. They deserve our undying gratitude. As Kipling put it:

“There is but one task for all;
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?”