iPhone 6s

I’ve had the iPhone 6s now for about 24 hours. It replaces an iPhone 6 which replaced an iPhone 5S which replaced an iPhone 5 which…well, you get the idea. I’ve had every iPhone going back to the first one. Here are some random observations after my first day with it.

  • To my hand, it’s noticeably thicker and heavier than the 6. Not by much. Only .02 mm thicker, according to Apple, and just 14 grams heftier, but I could tell when trying to. My cases all seem to fit, however.
  • The damned thing is fast. The “s” is thought to stand for “speed” and it’s noticeably quicker in things like app switching, web page loading, and camera functions.
  • The TouchID is now essentially instantaneous in unlocking the phone. So quick, it’s nearly impossible to read the notifications on the screen before it brings up the home screen.
  • The home button is a little clicker than the 6’s. Crisper and sharper.
  • The Taptic Engine creates a much more authoritative vibration than whatever made the 6 vibrate. Like the difference between a ’78 Cylon and a ’04 Cylon. 
  • 3D Touch is pretty nifty, though I admit I’m still training myself to use it. There aren’t a lot of apps that support it yet, but I’m sure there’ll be more soon. Next time I’m using my iPad I’ll probably press down on the screen expecting something to happen in the same way I used to wait for my iPad Air to unlock just by leaving my finger on the home button. 
  • It may be my imagination or that the new phone has arrived during a slightly less greasy moment of my life, but it seems like the 6s screen doesn’t get as smudged as much the 6 screen did. 
  • I can see the difference the 12 megapixel camera makes. I’ve only taken a couple of shots but the detail seems sharper. Still a hell of a great camera.

Needless to say, my ninth iPhone is the best I’ve ever had. Should a normal person upgrade from the 6? I dunno. 3D Touch is cool and the camera is better, but not having 3D Touch means not missing it and the 6’s camera is already pretty damned good. Most of the speed increases are incrementally small and the kind of thing you soon adjust to either way. If you’re using any other iPhone, upgrading to the 6s is a no-brainer.

Cont blocked

iOS 9 introduced the option of blocking web ads and tracking scripts in Safari and a lot of the internet lost its shit. Moral introspection ensued as blocking plug-ins shot to the top of the App Store charts.

I work in digital marketing so I do get that Apple’s move here threatens to severely knock my universe out of balance, but I also acknowledge that the world of online advertising has become actively hostile to those for whom the ads are intended. Bloated pages suck down mobile user’s metered bandwidth and waste their time loading, not to mention the “ads” that automatically redirect site visitors to app stores or other destinations and those that block page content or so crowd it out that it’s hard to find, let alone read. Publishers have allowed advertisers to absolutely ruin the web experience in too many cases in exchange for the few shekels they get in return. The question isn’t why has Apple allowed this to happen, the question is what took so long?

Apple, of course, makes next to nothing from advertising (iAds aside which are of negligible import to anyone). Their business model is based on hardware revenue and those sales are founded on exceptional consumer experience and today’s online advertising model does nothing but erode that. It’s in Apple’s interest to allow its consumers this kind of control. Simple as that.

Of course, publishers need money to publish. The rush towards ad blocking doesn’t spell the end to an ad-based model, it spells the end of the crazy bullshit model that’s evolved organically and unchecked. We as consumers either have to pay sites to read them or we have to let them show us ads (or maybe a little of both). Expecting the web to be delivered free of any charge is totally unrealistic and ultimately unethical. 

The top-selling iOS blocker, Crystal, is now allowing what they call “acceptable ads” from marketers who pay for the privilege safe passage through their filter. They’re teaming with Eyeo, the company behind the browser plug-in AdBlock Plus, and using their database of more than 700 advertisers who meet Eyeo’s criteria. I put it on my phone the day iOS 9 dropped and my recollection is it was free at that time, but it’s currently 99¢. So Crystal is trying to profit from both ends of the pipeline while Eyeo only does so from the advertisers. Since Crystal didn’t say anything about this possibility when it launched, a lot of people are pissed. 

In theory, I think this is the right path for those of us who know that there must be some exchange of value in order to maintain a thriving content model on the web. If the ad industry won’t or can’t abide by acceptable, self-imposed guidelines, then I suppose it’s not unexpected that others like Eyeo would do it for them and that consumers would pick which model they like best. As I said, I don’t think this spells the end of the “free web.” I think it spells the end of the version we have now. Or, at least, the beginning of the end. It’ll be rough sailing for some smaller sites and I expect a lot of them will fade away. But the status quo is not acceptable (and it’s only getting worse). 

A not insignificant shelter in the storm of consumer’s ad-blocking fury on iOS is the niggling detail that content blockers only work in Safari. They don’t apply to web views within apps. That means if you click a link in Facebook or any other app that opens that URL without switching over to Safari (using something called WebKit, the default behavior of most apps on iOS), then the content blocker isn’t engaged. In keeping an eye on my own behavior, I see that the vast majority of my web visits happen outside Safari. Probably north of 80%. Until such time that Apple extends ad blocking functionality to these WebKit sessions, the real impact won’t be felt. But if/when that does happen, shit’s gonna get real.

The immutable nature of liberty

Following the trends of recent years regarding the definition of “religious liberty,” the New York Times reports:

Within hours of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, an array of conservatives including the governors of Texas and Louisiana and religious groups called for stronger legal protections for those who want to avoid any involvement in same-sex marriage, like catering a gay wedding or providing school housing to gay couples, based on religious beliefs.

They demanded establishing clear religious exemptions from discrimination laws, tax penalties or other government regulations for individuals, businesses and religious-affiliated institutions wishing to avoid endorsing such marriages.

And as if on cue, this is already happening in places like Texas:

The state’s Attorney General is inviting, really encouraging, public officials to defy last week’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage for same sex couples across the United States. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is telling country clerks they may refuse to issue marriage licenses if they believe same sex marriages violate their religious beliefs.

I think the state needs a pretty good reason to make someone do something they either don’t agree with or simply don’t want to do. I’m inclined to let those with strong feelings about same-sex marriage live as they like, even if I completely disagree with them. The problem is, we continue to talk about LGBT people as though they’re doing something some of us don’t agree with as opposed to being a certain way. 

Federal anti-discrimination law covers five attributes: race, skin color, gender, ethnic origin, and physical disability. Note that none of these are things over which an individual has choice. One cannot choose to be younger or white or able to walk when physically unable to do so. In the same way, those who are emotionally satisfied in relationships with others of the same gender have not made a choice to be that way. At no point has any 8-year-old made the decision to be gay or bisexual. It just happens. Justice Kennedy called it an “immutable nature” in his majority opinion and, indeed, it is just that. 

If it’s wrong to discriminate against people due to things they have no control over, then it’s wrong to discriminate against those who need to be in same-sex marriages. If one’s religion teaches that these people are somehow evil or going against the wishes of a supreme being and less deserving of basic dignities, then we need to have the courage to stand up and say their religion (or, more likely, their interpretation of it) is wrong. As such, absolutely no exceptions should be allowed for those who choose to discriminate against those who only want to live the life they were born to live.

The First Amendment protects people of faith from being required to do anything that violates that faith in the act of practicing their faith. That means Hasidic rabbis are not required to marry those who aren’t Jewish and Catholic priests can require those seeking marriage in that church to follow the tenets of Catholicism. But being a county clerk isn’t the same thing at all. Providing a government service guaranteed by law is not “being a Christian.” The government, as the 14th Amendment assures, is required to apply its laws equally. No person acting as an agent of the government has the right to apply any factors to their work other than the civil law. Their religion-driven discomfort is not as important as another’s right to be married.

The issue is a little squishier when it comes to businesses. My company has chosen not to serve gambling or tobacco clients, but that’s different than saying a baker cannot serve a same-sex couple because of her reading of the Bible. The tobacco company has made a choice to sell the products they do but the same-sex couple is only living as they are wired to. They’re following the only path to happiness they have. Discriminating against them is exactly the same as discriminating against a couple because they’re from Pakistan. Again, one’s right to conduct business does not trump another’s liberty to simply be as they are and pursue their own flavor of happiness.

We need to call this “religious liberty” stuff exactly what it is: Bigotry. LGBT people need to be protected under the law from all forms of discrimination. Since Congress is defectively constipated, it’s doubtful we’ll see any action there. Perhaps these calls for “religious liberty” will lead to a Supreme Court ruling that once again works to make our union a little more perfect. The shield of “religious liberty” needs to be broken.

Calling an asshat an asshat

My buddy Ben Carson is back.

Ben Carson says he would rather talk about discrimination against Christians than discrimination against gays. … “Christians face a lot of discrimination,” he added. “I wish we could talk more about that.”

Being discriminated against is not the same as being judged and held accountable for bigoted asshattery, Ben. 

Seriously, I’m so damned tired of hearing “Christians” (and I’m putting that in quotes because, even though I’m not one, I do understand those getting the most media attention do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of all) whine over their butthurt for being called judgemental hateful assholes when they are, in fact, being judgemental hateful assholes. Bigots who selectively pick and choose convenient “deeply held religious beliefs” to shield their bigotry while ignoring other teachings of their faith that cover things like “live and let live” are still bigots and deserve the ire and derision of a modern and tolerant society. They should be shamed and called-out and they will either learn to shut up and keep their horrible thoughts to themselves (as we are taught when we’re little kids — if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all) or they’ll be shunned and marginalized and pushed out of polite conversations. 

Of course, the real issue with Carson’s whiny pity party is that Christians are not being discriminated against. Not in the United States because, you know, it’s illegal and all. But it’s perfectly legal now in North Carolina for Christians to discriminate against literally anyone else. Even Christians working for the state conducting the people’s business and performing services to which all citizens are entitled can refuse to perform them if they have “sincerely held religious objections.” Hey Ben, that’s discrimination. When you walk into a state office and are told NO, you can’t do a perfectly legal thing the people behind you in line can do because the person on the other side of the counter thinks their sky friend doesn’t like you and your homosexuality or biracialness or Muslimness or whatever, we call that discrimination. It’s the literal definition

The thing is, Ben, being an intolerant bigot of such a magnitude that you’d deny people access to public services because of who they are is, in fact, a choice. The kind of choice people in same-sex marriages don’t have in deciding who they need to be with to be happy, complete people. If someone — anyone, Christian or atheist or Republican or Green Party member — decides to be an asshat, it is the duty of others to call them that.

Ben, if you really believe, as you say, that the Constitution protects everyone’s equal rights and against discrimination, you should be first in line decrying the codification of religious intolerance in North Carolina. But you aren’t. You’re too busy pretending everyone hates you because you’re Christian. You’re too busy pretending to be a victim so you can stop talking about those who really are. That, my friend, makes you an asshat. 

All spoilers must die

Two ideas. 

The first is easy. Why is it not a thing on Facebook (or Twitter, I guess) to tell the site not to show you content about a TV show or movie if you haven’t already seen it? I watch Game of Thrones (though sometimes I think of it as more an abusive relationship than anything else). Last night, HBO aired the typically epic penultimate episode of the season. I did not watch it because reasons. That’s OK, though, because HBO Go. I’ll get to it tonight (probably). So why, when I land on Facebook this morning and am confronted by the first of about 63,000 GoT recaps and hot takes couldn’t I have flagged it as spoilery and ask Facebook to hide all similar content for 24 hours? Next morning, Facebook could ask me if I’d like to see GoT content again and I could either say no, still haven’t seen it, or sure. In which case, Facebook could offer me the top three posts on the subject. This seems ridiculously easy. It would make my Facebooking experience so much better. 

Take this one step further. The new Captain America movie is in production and there have been a similar 63,000 blog posts about leaked production shots, etc., that all give away some elements of the story that people like me would like to avoid. So why can’t I tell Facebook to hide Cap spoilers? They know which stories I’m talking about. For starters, any one that has the word “SPOILER” in the headline. Or other keywords like “rumored” or “spotted” or “don’t read this if you don’t want to know.” Sure, I tend not to read these things, but I also don’t want to have to see them cluttering up the joint. Plus, some sites are really bad at shielding spoilers and I end up seeing them through no fault of my own (WARNING: SPOILER). 

Take this two or three steps further, and what I’m talking about is intelligent muting. For instance, I don’t want to see any crazy-ass right-wing conspiracy stories about Obama some of my less politically enlightened friends might have liked or commented on but I am OK seeing stories about those stories from other sites making fun of them. Or maybe I’m over any further mention of Caitlyn Jenner’s intro on Vanity Fair. A simple “I’ve seen enough stories about this” item is what I’m talking about. More than the option of not seeing any more items from a specific site. What I want is not to see similar items from that site and others like it. Seems like Facebook could absolutely pull this off.

The other thing is Twitter specific. I like to watch live TV with Twitter streaming along side. Specifically, baseball but also things like the Oscars or whatever. Sometimes, I’m intentionally delayed because I’m DVRing but usually I’m off by about 5 or 6 seconds because I watch baseball via MLB.tv and it takes a few moments to digitize the video and compress it and send it to satellites in space and then pull it back down FROM SPACE and then stream and uncompress it and all that and then “live” is only kinda live. It’s enough that I sometimes stop looking at Twitter because I don’t want the action I’m looking at to be spoiled.

So how come I can’t DVR Twitter? Tell my client app to offset the tweets by a specified amount of time. Of course, anything I tweet will be going out in real time (asking Twitter to tunnel through spacetime and drop my tweet back when whatever I’m commenting on took place is, I admit, a steep ask), but what I see will be better synced to what’s happening in front of me.

Turns out, I’m not the first guy to think of this:

That’s from more than three years ago. And still nobody’s done this!? How hard can it be?

Anyway, those are my ideas helping us to live in a spoiler-free world. 

Kernsternation

Some things cannot be let go. Once seen, they can never be unseen and they exist in my psyche like a grain of sand in an oyster (but without the pearly end product). 

Case in point. At Wrigley Field, home plate is not lined up with the center of the backstop area.

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I’m sure there’s a reason. A really good reason. There must be, else I’d go insane. I don’t bother to look it up, though, because if I can’t find the reason thinking about it will consume me. I just pretend like there’s a perfectly valid explanation and fixing it is impossible.

Then, last week, my Dodgers went to St. Louis and I was forced to once again confront this.

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THAT I.

The new Busch Stadium opened in 2006. I don’t know if “Stadium” was so screwed up then, but I know it’s been that way since last year’s playoffs. I think it’s been wrong for more than two years. What the hell, can’t anyone in St. Louis SEE that!? Are there no designers there? No typographers? Who also watch baseball? Seriously. 

In this case, I assume some catcher trying to run down a pop foul smashed headlong into the sign and broke it at some point. But why isn’t it fixed yet? Why has no one at the Anheuser-Busch company called to complain about how their presumably tens of millions in naming rights payments are being abused like this. HAVE THEY NO EYES?

Besides the I being screwed up, the kerning in the rest of the word just looks off to me. I get that T, A, and D all being up against one another is a challenge, but really? That’s the best we can do? “Busch” appears perfectly done. “Stadium” is kind of a train wreck, even trying to look past the skewed I.

It’s maddening.

For comparison purposes, the Dodgers found themselves in another stadium carrying a beer name right after their series against the Cardinals. In this case, Coors Field.

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Their sign is split in two places by a damned door but the kerning looks perfect. I mean, it’s a weird really 90’s-looking typeface, but the execution is spot-on. 

Target Field also has its name behind home.

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“Target” is also a tricky word with an A under a T and next to an R and its vertical stem, but choosing to use a looser track on the letters makes it look less awkward. Had they chosen a slightly smaller type size in St. Louis or given the word mark a bit more space, the designer there could have done the same as in Target Field. But no.

And now, we’re all stuck looking at it. 

Tomorrowland

With “The Incredibles,” Brad Bird advocated the notion that when all people are considered special, no one is. When those with certain abilities and gifts are not allowed to use them, everyone suffers. That’s the super-condensed version, of course. “Tomorrowland” has, at its core, the same message. The special ones, if given a chance, can make a great big beautiful tomorrow. Except this time, they need to allow themselves to do so.

When did we stop thinking about tomorrow with optimism and excitement? When did we become obsessed with an inevitable decline and start expending so much energy looking for signs of it everywhere? When did we start to act as though a lesser tomorrow was inevitable? When did we lose our confidence that we can always be better than we have been? And why do we find those who reject those notions of doom to be hopelessly naive? In Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. In the real world, though, it’s so much more complicated. 

If I were to make a stab at it, I’d say Bird wants viewers of his new film to do two things. One, snap out of it. Remember when we saw great things ahead and start moving forward again. Two, just like “The Incredibles,” we need to let our special ones be special. Stop being so cynical and allow those with gifts and abilities do what they do best and build the future. Or, in the case of where we sometimes appear to be heading recently, save it. 

“Tomorrowland” is about optimism. It’s about rejecting fear and the notion of inevitable decline. It’s about embracing the potential of human imagination and running with it. In many ways, it channels Walt Disney himself. It’s not a perfect movie, but I think it is a good movie.