Priscilla J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law, wrote an article in The North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology explaining the legal problems with government location tracking. Andrea Peterson linked to it on The Washington Post’s new technology policy blog The Switch and noted this important part of the academic work:
To illustrate the holes in the mosaic, we will start with a timeless scenario more inclined to capture the fancy of the younger generation than our dated references to Orwell and a date long past. (After all, many current law students were not even born in 1984.)
Imagine that Chancellor Palpatine—the Star Wars character and virtuous Senator from Naboo who is really the evil Darth Sidious in disguise—sets out to discredit the Jedi and their puny Senate supporters so that he can monopolize power. He orders a tracking device that relays information back to giant computers that produce reports about the Jedi’s locations to be placed on all their space ships. He discovers Anakin’s relationship with Senator Amidala, that Obi Wan buys and sells bulk cartons of “death sticks” despite being a spokesperson against them, and that Senator Amidala (despite her relationship with Anakin) also frequents a lesbian bar called Sisters with some friends from her planet Naboo.
He also finds out that Mace Windu and Yoda take out their spaceships and speed through Coruscant’s back alleys for fun. He uses this information to undermine his targets and turn them against each other. All the characters resist his blackmail, except for one: Anakin.1
Reading this I only wished that Smith had discovered what Palpatine uncovered in order to blackmail Jar-Jar Binks. So I did a little investigating and learned that when Jar-Jar found out about the program, he exclaimed “Ah! How wude!” and commented that “Dis is nutsen. Oh, gooberfish!”. In a press release the Chancellor said that if you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t fear his spying eye. Jar-Jar responded “But… but… But mesa doen nutten!” adding, “Disse sn berry, berry bad. Oh! Icky icky goo!”2
In the original article there is a footnote here to a Wookieepedia article. I wonder if this is the first time a law review has cited Wookieepedia: The Star Wars Wiki. ↩
Ed Yong wrote one of the most interesting articles I have read in a long time. It’s about ants who are attacking our chocolate supply. But it’s also about the under-appreciated global problem of plant diseases, the burdens globalization is placing on ecosystems around the world, the state of scientific research in fields that don’t make headlines, and issues related to global food production and third world development. Ants might be small but they can make quite a large impact.
Also two of the fungal diseases Yong discusses are called “witches’ broom and frosty pod rot” which are terrifyingly awesome names for plant diseases.
Highlight inadequacies and failings, but do so with open eyes to the broader landscape. In a world of curated followings and news resources, it’s far too easy to fall into the genuine belief that even our most extreme opinions are justified. And that’s truly dangerous.
Adhering to arbitrary allegiances and marrying oneself to analysts when it’s most convenient makes for a reductive and negative view of the marketplace. The notion that Apple builds the very best products and operating systems simply does not have to preclude the concept that its competitors are doing good and impressive things too. Conversely, the notion that Apple’s got a stranglehold on its supply chain and has a locked down operating system does not preclude an amazing all-round experience.
The Internet is a vast chasm of disproportionately aggressive opinion, but our community—one we tout as a bastion of intelligence and thoughtfulness—does not have to exist in such a manner. We’re better than that and we’re irrefutably capable of far more.
Change the word “Apple” with “Democrats”, “Google” with “Republicans”, and “Internet” with “Washington D.C.” and Matt is painting a picture of the state of partisanship in this county. It is depressing that the comparison can be made.
A few months ago I set a goal that within the next year I wanted to appear on a podcast I listen to. This was a concrete goal that I could use to measure the success of my blog without resorting to page views as the end-all be-all metric of short-term success. For me, this would be proof that voices I respect have at least a shred of respect for me. Proof that I am part of the conversation, instead of just a member of the audience.
If you follow me on Twitter you know that I am a big fan of The Menu Bar. The Menu Bar is a different kind of tech podcast. It’s topical and current, but isn’t focused on mentioning every thing that happened each week. It’s funny and one of my favorite listens each week.
Over the course of the last few months since episode one of The Menu Bar I have become friendly with Zac and Andrew on Twitter. So when they asked the Bar’s patrons to help them try a crazy experiment—a live call-in show—I was excited about the possibility of participating and humbled that they would let me on their show.
I learned that podcasting is hard. After trying it for about fifteen minutes I have so much more respect for people who do it week in and week out. The technical challenges of broadcasting a show live pale in comparison to the challenge of talking to two people over Skype when you know other people are going to hear your voice.
Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to get more practice.
This is part two of a two part series about the Content Management Systems (CMS) I have experimented with during the first year of this blog’s existence. Part one deals with my short stint with WordPress and my longer, more complicated relationship with Squarespace. Part two covers my eventual discovery of Statamic, which I am currently using and loving.
I bought my first license of Statamic, a flat-file content management system with the flexibility and power of a dynamic one, on January 7th, 2013. It looked promising as an alternative to Squarespace and was cheap enough to warrant buying a copy to play around with.
Unfortunately, I never got around to it. Statamic sat forgotten in my downloads folder, zipped and unused.
Somehow I had managed to get in on the ground floor but never made it to the elevator.
When I finally got around to digging into Statamic I couldn’t believe that I had been sitting on such a great system for over three months and didn’t know it.
The best thing about Statamic is the level of support the developers provide. It’s something to be envied.
I have tweeted the developers personally with questions and they respond promptly and helpfully. When I was writing an add-on1 and ran into a roadblock, one of the developers checked the GitHub repository and submitted a pull-request with the fix.
And the Statamic developers are not resting in their quest for better and better support. This is what they wrote after the most recent major releasing version of the platform:
We’ll be the first to admit that we’re not satisfied with our support. We’re playing too much catch up and aren’t as proactive as we would like. This is partially due to biting off more than we could chew with v1.5, partially due to juggling consulting/client work on the side to ensure the bills are paid, partially due to always moving quickly with new Statamic features, and partially due to everyone’s incredible reception of the product itself urging us to try new things.
One nice benefit of Statamic being a flat-file system is it’s super easy to zip-up your entire website and share a Dropbox link with the developers of Statamic for them to take a look at. Earlier this week when I was having a problem with a new site I’m working on, Fred LeBlanc jumped into the Campfire chatroom and spent about thirty minutes helping me troubleshoot, going so far as to explain the inner-workings of the CMS so that we could work through the problem.
Another aspect of Statamic’s fantastic support is its thorough and readable documentation.
The couple of times I played around with WordPress I always felt lost. WordPress’ documentation does not feel like it was written for humans and I was constantly afraid that one keystroke could break everything.
Statamic’s documentation is not only comprehensive (unlike Squarespace) but readable with plenty of code samples for common tasks. The developers even delayed releasing the latest major version of Statamic until the documentation was updated to go along with it. That’s commitment.
Statamic has a small but growing community2. There are already a small number of add-ons for Statamic and I expect that number to go up in the near future. With Version 1.5 Statamic received a (well-documented) API with loads of functionality that I’m looking forward to experimenting with. Additionally the long promised Trading Post will hopefully be unveiled soon and will be a place for developers to share (and sell) add-ons and themes.
I’ve written over 500 words about Statamic and I haven’t even gotten to the product itself, which is also great. It might not be as feature rich as a system like Squarespace but it’s getting there slowly thanks to the efforts of a fantastic team and a fantastic community which is beginning to write add-ons to supplement Statamic’s features.
Without listing all of its features, here are a couple which drew me to Statamic:
Markdown Support—This was a must for me. There are a couple WordPress plugins that add Markdown support but at the end of the day all of my posts are stored in some SQL database in a format that is much less readable. Statamic has native support for Markdown in addition to support for some features from MultiMarkdown3 including footnotes4 and images (which Squarespace does not support). There is something gratifying about your entire blog’s archive existing as a bunch of .txt or .md files in a single, easily accessible folder.
Static File System—I have never learned how to manage a SQL database and didn’t want to have to learn for the purposes of this blog. Statamic’s flat file system means that I can use FTP to upload any post or image easily without any hassle. I don’t have to log in to WordPress or Squarespace’s admin system; it’s easy, and, it bears repeating: there is something gratifying about your entire blog’s archive existing as a bunch of .txt or .md files in a single, easily accessible folder.
Theming and Templating System—If you know HTML and CSS you know Statamic. It’s template engine is fantastic and really easy to use. I had already designed a theme using Squarespace’s developer program and it was really easy getting it set up in Statamic.
Great Control Panel—For those times when I don’t want to FTP into my site, Statamic’s control panel is really nice. It’s responsive and easy to use on my iPhone even though its not a native app (which is a lot more than I can say about Squarespace’s horrific attempts at an iOS client). The system lets you control which bells and whistles appear in the control panel when composing a new post. An entire redesign is in the works which will hopefully take it to a whole new level; it’s scheduled to be released later this week.
There are tons more features—mapping, translation/localization, multiple users—which I have yet to experiment with and take advantage of. Just like WordPress, you can mold Statamic into whatever you need it to be. Just look at the gallery of Statamic sites to get a sense of what’s possible.
Another benefit of switching to Statamic is the cost. A single personal license for Statamic costs $29 and hosting on WebFaction costs $9.50 a month which adds up to $149 in the first year and $120 every year afterwards5. Squarespace’s developer plan, on the other hand costs $240 a year ($20 per month)6.
Squarespace gave me control over the look and feel of my website but it didn’t give me control over my content.
Statamic is perfect for my needs and resolved a lot of the complaints I outlined about Squarespace in part one of this series. It’s simple, relatively easy to start using, and the customer support is fantastic. If you are in the market for a CMS that puts you in control of your data look no further than Statamic.
It was my first time writing anything in PHP and also the first time I ever released any code anywhere. The help was very much needed. ↩
It is strange that the community has made its home on Google Plus but the more I use it the more I realize that Plus works surprisingly well as a forum. I’ve gotten over my initial disgust at having to actually use Google Plus. ↩
Having to self host your website is one of the complexities of using Statamic and is one of the main reasons I’d suggest using Squarespace to non-technical people. But if you are serious about wanting control of your data, it’s not that difficult to self-host. ↩
Squarespace is only $192 ($16 per month) if you pay annually ↩
The New York Times ran a story today about a new study out of Harvard which analyzed income mobility in the United States.
The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.
I was fortunate enough to get to have dinner with Raj Chetty, one of the report’s authors, when I was at a debate tournament in Boston where he gave me and my debate partner (who is also Chetty’s nephew) a sneak peak at his research.
It’s really amazing what economists can do with the wealth of data that exists today. I remember Mr. Chetty explaining that they can analyze the microeconomic affect of one person moving from one zip code to another zip code and aggregate millions of these stories to create a broader tale of income mobility in the United States. That story is not the story we are all used to hearing; while income mobility in the South dismal, many other parts of the country are comparable to some of the Scandinavian countries. It’s just the average that is so problematic.
There is a really cool interactive that I could have spent hours playing with where you can see what income mobility is like in your city. It is worth noting that Atlanta, my hometown, ranks very poorly:
The comparison of metropolitan areas allows researchers to consider local factors that previous mobility studies could not — including a region’s geography. And in Atlanta, the most common lament seems to be precisely that concentrated poverty, extensive traffic and a weak public-transit system make it difficult to get to the job opportunities.
Even more interesting, in my opinion, are the topics represented in the headlines themselves.
Here are some headlines from the last week:
Photos of bloodied Boston bombing suspect published in response to ‘Rolling Stone’ cover (July 18, 2013)
Detroit becomes America’s largest city ever to file for bankruptcy (July 18, 2013
Simpsons to appear in crossover ‘Family Guy’ episode in fall 2014 (July 18, 2013)
‘Ender’s Game’ star Harrison Ford responds to Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay views: ‘humanity has won’ (July 18, 2013)
Giant brain sculpture taps into the mind to glow and erupt in flames (July 18, 2013)
Cuba’s shipment of 50-year-old weapons to North Korea likely paid for in sugar (July 18, 2013)
Massive ‘living’ sculptures turn one garden into freaky alternate universe (July 17, 2013)
North Korean missile material seized passing through Panama Canal, president tweets proof (July 16, 2013)
Back for another bite: ‘Sharknado’ encore airing July 18th amid sequel talks (July 12, 2013)
The topics represented on that list include economics, foreign policy, entertainment, and publishing.
I don’t read The Verge to find out that Detroit is going bankrupt; instead I go to a site like The Wonkblog where I know I’ll get in depth and well researched coverage of the issue. And if The Verge really wants to start covering economic stories, why haven’t I seen any posts about Obamacare being implemented or about The Federal Reserve?
I don’t read The Verge to hear about North Korean missiles; instead I want to read Foreign Policy for both news and opinion.
I also don’t think any publication should be reporting on the Simpsons doing a crossover episode with Family Guy.
We have never thought of ourselves as a “tech” site (and certainly not a “blog”). We think of ourselves as a news site which covers the culture of now (for lack of a better term), the world at this moment, as it is — what matters to people who live and work in 2013. The site isn’t about stuff, it’s about people, it’s about ideas.
Okay, so you’re a tech blog that doesn’t want to be considered a tech blog (or even a blog at all). So where’s the coverage of the situation in Syria? Cyprus? Pakistan? The Iranian earthquake? Surely there are tech angles for each of those things too.
Oh wait, not a tech blog. Forgot.
At some point, you’d hope that bloggers, as human beings, would be shocked and appalled enough by what’s unfolding before their eyes that they would lay down their keyboards and stop playing the pageview game, if only for a few hours. Instead, I’m afraid the opposite instincts kicked in.
I didn’t think it was possible but Edward Mendelson made every possible “Apple is a Religion” metaphor and then some in a ridiculous article for The New York Review of Books titled Faith and Works at Apple:
As everyone knows, the world-religion of the educated and prosperous in the twenty-first century is Apple, with its Vatican in Cupertino and its cathedrals in the light-filled Apple Stores that draw pilgrims gripping iPhones and iPads like rosaries. Apple’s flock is secured against heresy by censors who rule the online App Store; only applications with Apple’s imprimatur are allowed on an iPhone. Programmers risk excommunication—with all their works condemned to being listed in an Index of Prohibited Software—if they violate canon law by bypassing Apple’s banking system or ignoring its infallible doctrine. Rebellious heretics can “jailbreak” an iPhone and induce it to accept software anathematized by Apple, but a heretic’s phone is refused communion when presented for repair at the Apple Store.
At least it’s not “Apple is Dooooooomed!”
What’s strange about Mendelson’s article is that it’s (mostly) positive about Apple; his thesis is that AppleScript gives users freedoms in OS X that aren’t available to users in iOS. But it’s almost like while he was writing an article about AppleScript he realized that he was missing the one thing that every article about Apple needs in order to get lots of pageviews be persuasive: an over-used and laughable metaphor.
The closed world of the iPhone and iPad is, however, only one branch of Apple’s empire, the branch that values centralized doctrine, visible works, and universal rituals.
Mendelson (unfortunately) continues:
But OS X also contains a little-known region of individual freedom and personal vision named AppleScript…AppleScript gives any individual worshipper much of the autonomy and freedom in using a computer that is otherwise possible only for the priesthood of programmers—and in iOS is limited even for programmers, in part through the design of iOS itself, in part because of Apple’s watchful, restrictive eye.
AppleScript is protestant with a lower-case “p,” as iOS and much of OS X is catholic with a lower-case “c.”
I dislike the ways in which iOS demands conformity and obedience, while offering an illusory freedom to choose among a million apps that do only what Apple lets them do…AppleScript, in contrast, encourages freedom and rewards initiative.
If after reading through the MacStories archives and you don’t think that Federico Vitcci exhibits creativity and ingenuity with URL schemes on iOS, then you are out of your mind.
Also, iOS doesn’t demand conformity; everyone can change their wallpapers!
I want to take a brief pause from Mendelson’s article to ask the question: Could this point have been made in a non-melodramatic way? I have these hazy memories of reading an article John Gruber wrote in Macworld about AppleScript a couple months ago in which he clearly and eloquently made the same point:
AppleScript has survived and remained relevant during a turbulent decade-long transition, despite its unbeloved language syntax and technical hurdles, for the simple reason that it solves real-world problems in a way that no other OS X technology does. In theory, AppleScript could be much better; in practice, though, it’s the best thing we have that works. It exemplifies the Mac’s advantages over iOS for tinkerers and advanced users.
Maybe it’s just that Gruber’s piece, clocking in at 977 words, didn’t need to do anything special to keep it’s readers around whereas Mendelson’s piece, a true model of longform journalism at 1419 words, just needed some extra pizzazz, like this, to keep people interested:
Like the Protestants of the Reformation who translated the Bible into the vernacular, AppleScript put the means of salvation into the hands of the laity. Unlike vernacular Bibles, some of whose translators were burned at the stake, AppleScript arrived without bloodshed: Apple nailed its Ninety-Five Theses to its own door.
Historical accuracy aside 2, I’m pretty sure that’s a bit of an overstatement. I can imagine some Apple fanboy blogger like me comparing Steve Jobs to Martin Luther for introducing world changing products like the iPhone and the iPad. But it takes a really special individual to compare the introduction of AppleScript to the event that began the Protestant Reformation.
Who needs logic and reason when you can get sentences like this published in the New York Review of Books? 3
When Jobs reclaimed infallible authority in Cupertino, he killed off most of the projects begun in his absence, but he had the good sense to preserve and encourage AppleScript, perhaps because it recalled his own countercultural beginnings.
Steve Jobs’ countercultural beginnings can clearly explain every one of his business decisions. What other explanation could there be for why Apple issued plastic bumpers for the iPhone 4 after Antennagate? I sure can’t think of anything besides LSD.
The Macintosh OS was nine years old when AppleScript divided it against itself and—I like to think—helped to assure the later triumphs of OS X. iOS is now six years old, and has so far resisted any such division, and its position of world-domination may suggest that it doesn’t need it, that it can repel barbarian invasion and prosper forever without internal reformation. History says otherwise. The ways in which iOS evolves in the next few years may place the fate of empires—today’s empires are corporate, not ecclesiastical or national, neither holy nor Roman—in the balance.
I agree that the way iOS evolves is one of the most important things that will determine Apple’s success in the current phase of computing. But just because Apple is one of the few companies that has a very strong philosophy does not mean that it is a theology.
Also, I think it’s a bit racist to call Koreans “barbarians”; Samsung might be a conniving patent-infringing company, but calling them barbarians seems like a low blow.
Maybe he is out of touch because he follows his “own lower-case-“p” variety” of Protestantism. Maybe if he got on board with the capital-“P” version he would at least be in-touch with 800 million other people. ↩
Gruber explains that, in reality, “AppleScript’s English-like syntax often made (and to this day continues to make) things more difficult and confusing for scripters, not less”. So it’s more like translating the Bible into Klingon than German or English. ↩
The New York Review of Books claims that it is “the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language.” If this is the premier magazine, I don’t even want to know what mediocre looks like. ↩
This is part one of a two part series about the Content Management Systems (CMS) I have experimented with during the first year of this blog’s existence. Part one deals with my short stint with WordPress and my longer, more complicated relationship with Squarespace. Part two, which will be posted later this week, covers my eventual discovery of Statamic, which I am currently using and loving.
When I first started writing here at alexduner.com I did what any aspiring blogger does and set up a WordPress install with a basic theme. I took advantage of the theme’s couple settings and changed some colors, installed a few plugins, and started writing. Shortly thereafter, the writing stopped.
There were two main problems I had with WordPress.
First, there was just too much friction between writing a post in Byword and publishing it. Second, I was not at all satisfied with the look and feel of my website. I wanted every aspect of my blog to be my own creation.
However, when I set about writing a WordPress theme from scratch, I was overwhelmed. There were so many resources that I didn’t know where to start. Whenever I tried to do something custom, it felt like any keystroke could break everything. I was lost in a jungle of code without a map or a compass and I had very little sense of what was going on.
A few months after initially getting started, I began thinking about moving to another CMS. I had been hearing about Squaresapce for a while on literally every podcast that I listened to 1 but it suffered from one of the same flaws as WordPress: I couldn’t own every pixel of my site.
That changed when Squarespace introduced it’s developer platform. The developer platform, which costs $20 a month, gives you the flexibility to control all of the CSS/HTML of your website.
After about a month of fiddling to get everything the way I wanted it to look, I took the site live and began posting a lot more frequently.
Squarespace has a (well deserved) reputation for providing great customer service. You don’t lug barrels of fuel up seventeen flights of stairs in the middle of a hurricane to keep your customers’ websites running if you don’t care about your users. That being said, at times I found the support system to be a bit of a black hole and some of my tickets and questions were never answered.
One of the biggest problems with Squarespace is its iOS apps. There is no nice way to put this: they are unusable. David Charier wrote about this problem in September of 2012:
The iOS apps have floated in various states of broken limbo since I started using the platform, but for a while I gave them a pass because I hopped onto testing the iOS 6 betas pretty quickly. Then more and more users started telling me they’ve been like that for three years. For example: if you create a new post from the iPhone app, it assigns a randomized slug like /AUYQKEKyIUIqYUU, and there’s no way to edit that from the app. The iPad app still isn’t retina, and while I’ll grant iOS 6 has only been public for a couple weeks, none of its buttons are wired up to actually do anything; it is literally broken.
It still hasn’t been fixed. If you edit a post, Squarespace changes its timestamp; fixing a typo on a day old blog post carried the risk of messing up the entire order of my posts. That’s unacceptable.
There were a other minor things missing from Squarespace too, like an API and MultiMarkdown support, which were not deal breakers by themselves, but when combined, add up to a lot of frustration.
In the last two days alone I have seen threepeoplecomplaining about the Markdown block because the cursor sometimes gets three or four characters behind where you are typing, which makes it impossible to copy, paste, or generally edit anything.
Squarespace’s feature set is truly amazing. If you want to build a store, Squarespace lets you do that. If you want a nice commenting system, Squarespace lets you do that. If you want to host a podcast, Squarespace lets you do that too.
But what I wanted to do was write and I don’t care how nice all of your other features are if the cursor doesn’t work.
The final straw for me was the lock-in that I felt using Squarespace. Just like with WordPress my data was all stored in some database somewhere and unlike WordPress even if I learned SQL, I still had no way to access it. The export feature that Squarespace has only works with WordPress and gives you this really ugly XML file that is unusable with almost any other CMS without heavy modification. I wanted out sooner rather than later so that any conversion would be as easy as possible. Squarespace gave me control over the look and feel of my website but it didn’t give me control over my content.
Squarespace is a fantastic company that creates a fantastic product which I’d recommend to anyone with little to no technical expertise looking to create a well designed website. It’s a great CMS, just not for writing. It wasn’t the right solution for me.
I’m pretty sure that Squarespace singlehandedly keeps the tech-podcast industry afloat. I shudder to think about what would happen to my favorite shows if Squarespace stopped sponsoring them. ↩
At its core, it’s a Markdown editor for iPad, but you can also think of it as a Pythonista spinoff, or a workflow automation tool, not unlike Automator.
This sounds (and, from the screenshots, looks) like the greatest iOS text editor ever. Federico Viticci, who is beta testing Editorial, has apparently been using it as his only text editor for the last few months. Maybe this will be the one that stops my endless switching between Byword, Writing Kit, Drafts, and Textastic.
The U.S. military has erected a 64,000-square-foot headquarters building on the dusty moonscape of southwestern Afghanistan that comes with all the tools to wage a modern war. A vast operations center with tiered seating. A briefing theater. Spacious offices. Fancy chairs. Powerful air conditioning.
Everything, that is, except troops.
The windowless, two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, was completed this year at a cost of $34 million. But the military has no plans to ever use it.
Within traditional Judaism, there is little interest in what one believes compared to what one does. Fixed prayers are standardized and required for the entire Jewish community, regardless of God belief. Saying these community prayers is not assumed to be an individual declaration of faith. There are 613 Torah commandments, and Orthodox Jews try to follow as many as possible. Some, like performing a ritual animal sacrifice at a temple in Jerusalem that no longer exists, are impossible. A commandment to believe in God is also impossible because people can’t will themselves to believe something they have solid reasons for not believing.
Even though I am finding it harder to believe in an all powerful God, there are so many aspects of Jewish culture and tradition that I find meaningful. I don’t think that Silverman’s answer is enough for me, but it’s an interesting take to say the least.
I figured I should explain the relative lack of activity here the last couple weeks.
This summer has been extremely busy. I spent twelve days in Spain with my mom in May; it was an awesome graduation present. We were both able to speak Spanish competently with the native population and we saw lots of really cool things.
I am just finishing up a family road trip through the American southwest. We saw the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce (shown above), and Arches. I never knew that rocks could be so interesting and cool.
I’ll have a Flickr album up soonish; we took alot of pictures so it’s going to take a while to sort through them all.
Hopefully I’ll be able to resume a normal schedule of posting.
It was just 365 days ago that the justices handed down their unexpected, Solomonically baby-splitting ruling on the major health overhaul passed by Democrats and favored by President Obama. It had something for everyone – the Affordable Care Act is constitutional! Its mandatory Medicaid expansion isn’t! – and something to confuse everyone, especially CNN and Fox News.
I was fortunate enough to be at the court building that morning to see the fanfare surrounding the decision on Obamacare. It was really interesting to be there with the belly dancers, protesters, and throngs of media.
There was so much media that reporters were looking for any story possible, no matter how minute or irrelevant. Like me.
I’m still a bit bitter that they described me as “spindly”1.
There’s one thing that practicing photography does to you that is immensely valuable and often overlooked. It forces you to see the world around you in a completely different way. It teaches you to find beauty and impact and symbolism in places that most people wouldn’t grace with a second look. Photography teaches you to pay attention and to appreciate. It’s about seeing much more than it is about capturing what you see.
I have recently started to get into photography and can relate perfectly to the above passage. My mom and I were recently in Spain and over the course of the 12 or so days we were traveling we took over 1200 pictures (the best of which can be found on Flickr1).
Looking at the world through the eyes of a photographer forces you to look for aesthetically interesting snapshots in what otherwise might be a boring world. You discover that even everyday objects and day-to-day life are full of beauty. It’s even more fun when you are shooting at five hundred year old mosques or at the Grand Canyon, where I am lucky enough to be right now.
If you’re into taking pictures that are pretty, it makes the world around you prettier. This doesn’t have to be all about beauty, however. It’s about intensity. Practicing photography in a mindful way makes the world around you more visually stimulating and your experiences richer. You may never produce the next Moon over Hernandez, your work may not grace the walls of major museums (though it may - you never know) but you will, if you do this right, get more out of life. Picking up the camera was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Yes, it took me years and years of kittens and sunsets, but, in the end, it transformed me in a very profound way. It really did make me better at living.
One thing I still need to get better at is culling the pictures I decide to share with the world. ↩
In my opinion this has been, from the return of Steve Jobs at least, the singular goal of Apple. Not to make all the moneys, not to dominate markets, not to impress bloggers but simply to make products that enhance our lives.
Every additional time I watch the commercial, it is even more impactful. There is something about the music that sets it apart from the rest of the loud and noisy ads on television. It forces you to slow down as you watch it and engage in the same type of thoughtful analysis that goes into each Apple product.
Apple spent nine months in complete silence — from the release of the iPad Mini through last week. The only thing they announced in that interim was the ouster of Scott Forstall and corresponding reshuffling of executive responsibility. No new products, no new designs. And the business and tech media lost their shit over this, declaring an end to Apple’s ability to innovate. Apple’s “This Is Our Signature” mantra is in defiance of this superficial demand for an endless stream of new new new. Apple is saying they’re above the churn of the news cycle, and if you don’t understand that yet, they don’t care. You’ll either get it through your head eventually, or you will never understand Apple.
Shawn Blanc has some excellent thoughts on iOS 7 and the implications that Apple’s new design language will have on the design of apps:
What makes an app great is the little things — the small details that take something normal and turn it into something extraordinary. I see iOS 7 as a blank canvas — an “un-design” if you will. The goal of a 3rd-party isn’t to copy the stock apps pixel for pixel (that wasn’t the goal for iOS 1-6, and it’s not the goal now). Rather this is Apple saying it’s time to re-imagine what mobile software should look and act like. Five-hundred million people are using iOS devices, and it’s time for the training wheels to come off.
The idea does sound crazy, even for Google—so much so that the company has dubbed it Project Loon. But if all works according to the company’s grand vision, hundreds, even thousands, of high-pressure balloons circling the earth could provide Internet to a significant chunk of the world’s 5 billion unconnected souls, enriching their lives with vital news, precious educational materials, lifesaving health information, and images of grumpy cats.
Loon is an instance where the common good aligns with Google’s business interests. Internet access for all is a truly laudable goal that has the potential to make people’s lives better. More people on the internet will also inevitably lead to more people using Google products and more people who can be shown targeted ads, which means more money for Google.
Google also put together a really nice website describing the project including this awesome video: