You think holiday air travel sucks? Try flying while disabled. On American Airlines. / Boing Boing

You think holiday air travel sucks? Try flying while disabled. On American Airlines.

Having to rely on other people all the time is one of the most difficult parts of life in a wheelchair. Those of us who use wheelchairs and other mobility assistance devices don’t need more difficulty in our lives. But that’s what we get when we try to exercise our basic right to move around the country.

(Via BoingBoing.)

Accessibility — on airlines, on streets, in buildings, and in software and devices — isn’t a convenience issue. It’s a human rights issue. Basic things are supposed to be available to everybody. Whole communities can be denied access to those things because of some bigot who refuses to serve “Those Kind of people” based on God knows what. A person who has a mobility impairment can also be denied access because the ramps at their nearest public transportation station were vandalized a few months ago at a certain station and were never repaired.

The end-result is the same.

There’s some optimism in Sawyer Rosenstein’s story; he’s had similar problems with JetBlue and United, and reports that both airlines took his complaints seriously and addressed the underlying problems.

Why New York City Subway Stations Are Missing Countdown Clocks – CityLab

Why New York City Subway Stations Are Missing Countdown Clocks:

‘One of the things that was most frustrating when doing this work,’ Barone says to me, referring to preparing the report, ‘was the murkiness. And the lack of uniformity in how each of these systems is being done.’

‘It seems to me that there are concurrent projects going on that—’ He trails off, thinking for a minute. ‘It’s like, you’re building ISIM to find out where the trains are located—but CBTC does that. You’re spending money to get your interlockings to be centrally automated, yet CBTC can do that too… ATS initially came out before they really thought about moving to CBTC, and therefore the first ATS is not even compatible with it. It can’t plug in. There’s a whole plan now to do a new version of it…’

He seemed weary. I certainly was. I told him I honestly just wanted to know why the F train didn’t have clocks. I never expected it would be so complicated.

(Via The Atlantic’s CityLab.)

Detail-filled story about the problems in upgrading the New York subway system for trackside countdown clocks. It’s easy to scoff and think “Government is inefficient” (and, well, sure, it is) but harder to dig down and acknowledge that there are people working very, very hard to break through technical and logistical obstacles.

The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith: Steve Jobs Q&A

The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith: Steve Jobs Q&A

Via The Q&A Podcast.

I listened to Jeff Goldsmith’s onstage interview with Aaron Sorkin, which he conducted after a screening of “Steve Jobs.”

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I sure intend to. Any movie written by Sorkin is worth my attention, and the fact that it was also directed by Danny Boyle makes it a can’t-miss-it for me. If the first movie I watch from a director includes a beautiful underwater scene shot inside The Worst Toilet In Scotland, then that director has won him or herself a lifelong fan.

Jeff’s interview affirms something I suspected: a move made by these two people can’t possibly be careless work. After listening to this hourlong interview, you may or may not think this movie was a good idea. But it’s hard to not come away thinking that its makers went into it with the highest aspirations and an intention to do their very best work.

With biopics, I often get the impression that the filmmakers had an idea for a fictional story that they’d wanted to tell for years, and wound up casting a familiar, real-life figure as the lead character in that movie. This was the case with “Wired,” a 1989 movie based on a biography of John Belushi that was produced under similar circumstances to “Steve Jobs.” It was the life of a famous, recently-deceased person, based on a biography that many people had found fault with.

Even the 2013 Steve Jobs movie that starred Ashton Kutcher made that same mistake. I saw that one on its opening weekend.

(Forgive me. I had no choice. I knew I’d be talking about it on a podcast the following week.)

That flick told the life story of Steve Jobs, the fictional character of folklore. He was born in a log cabin that he built with his own two hands. He was so disengaged during the filming of “The Godfather” that Francis Ford Coppola had to feed him each of his lines through a radio earpiece; he pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD; and died a hero of workingmen everywhere when he managed to drive more steel with his powerful arms and mighty hammer than a newfangled steampowered contraption could in the same span of hours.

Throughout the production of “Steve Jobs,” Sorkin has been upfront about producing a fact-based portrait that uses obvious storytelling conceits. For instance, yes, the first public demo of the original Mac ran into a snag when Steve insisted that the computer speak, and the team couldn’t get the code to fit inside 128K of system memory. In reality, though, the crisis had been solved long before the launch event.

On that basis, I’m okay with the liberties Sorkin and Boyle took. But I do understand the concern. How many people, because of the movie “Amadeus,” think that Antonio Salieri was a mediocre composer and killed Mozart? Or that John Dickinson was indifferent to the cause of American independence, because of “1776”? Or that Gus Grissom panicked and blew the hatch of his Mercury spacecraft prematurely after splashdown, causing Liberty Bell 7 to be lost to the sea and almost getting himself killed, because of what they saw in “The Right Stuff”?

We tend to believe what we see, and a screenwriter imposes a streamlined, easy-to-grasp clarity upon a narrative that reality doesn’t. (“Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.”) This must be an unpleasant experience for Jobs’ friends and family. They knew the man for all of his depth, without having to streamline anything or condense several people into a single composite character. What chance is there that Laurene Powell Jobs is going to recognize anything in the man that Michael Fassbender is portraying? How rough must it be to wonder and worry about what sort of conclusions about Steve that audiences will be taking away with them?

I know something of this. “Life Itself” was a documentary, not a biopic. It was based on Roger Ebert’s own memoir. It was made by Steve James, Roger’s personal choice of director, who also made “Hoop Dreams,” one of his favorite documentaries. The guiding hands of Roger and his wife Chaz were directly involved in the production, every step of the way.

And it’s a terrific documentary that I hope you’ll all see. I knew Roger for more than half my life, and that’s the only reason why the doc felt strange to me. It was accurate and affectionate. It even used some of the photos I took when we were out together. But of course, two hours of interviews and found footage can’t possibly convey the man I got to know and love through a quarter-century of experiences and conversations.

So I certainly respect any negative comments that Steve’s actual friends and family might be making about Sorkin’s movie. I hope to see the movie myself. But I’m not as excited to see it as I am about a bunch of the heavy dramas that the studios are releasing here in Awards Season. Or the “Peanuts” movie. I’ll get to it eventually.

I do hope that the people who knew Steve well will find the time to sit down and write or record their memories of him. Even if they only leave their testimonies to a university library, even if they demand that these stories remain sealed until after their own deaths. Because without a wealth of first-person narratives, future historians — and future filmmakers — will have to connect the dots on their own.

‘Soda Politics’ and ‘Saving Gotham’ – The New York Times

‘Soda Politics’ and ‘Saving Gotham‘:

“Research has linked unbalanced soda consumption to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, dental disease, bone disease, depression, gout, asthma, cancer and premature death. These links, as Nestle clearly points out, are more correlative than causative. But all those correlations add up. To Big Soda’s ‘just one won’t hurt’ head fake, Nestle counters with a frightening totality of evidence. A study she cites estimates that sugar-sweetened beverages are responsible for 184,000 obesity-related deaths per year.”

(Via NYT.)

This review got me to buy the book, because the writer praised the thing for putting science and fact above activism. It already seems obvious that drinking lots of sweetened sodas is Medically-Contraindicated regardless of your personal or family health industry; I’ve been more curious to find out if the beverage industries have operated in as shady a fashion as the tobacco industry did.

I made “no sweetened soda inside the house” a Mission Rule way back in my late Twenties, when I realized that it probably wasn’t in my longterm best interests to reach for a Coke Classic every time I took a break from writing. Lately, I’ve been transitioning to flavored seltzers, though diet sodas are still a staple grocery item.

I wish one of these books would analyze the arguments against artificially-sweetened drinks. I’ve read articles that “sound good” but most of them appear to have the same factual credibility as someone saying “Even in its purest laboratory form, every molecule of water consists of almost seventy percent hydrogen. Hydrogen is a primary component in rocket fuel and is also used in the industrial production of petroleum products. It’s also highly corrosive to metals.”

As-is, the only really strong argument I’ve read against diet sodas came from Alton Brown:

That is, drinking Diet Dr. Pepper isn’t dangerous in and of itself, but it programs your brain to want other things that taste sweet. It’s an interesting suggestion.

My DVR is full and I don’t care

My DVR has been about 96% full all summer. I recorded the last two weeks of Letterman shows, and the first week of Colberts (plus the Tim Cook interview), and set them to never auto-delete. Verizon, bless its heart, sends me an email with my monthly statement that says “We know you’re suffering and we wanted to reach out our helping hand, in the form of a DVR upgrade.”

The thing is that I haven’t really noticed a problem. Just a few years ago, zero free space would have required immediate attention (like that spot on the housing of my toaster oven that gets a little meltier every time I use it; thanks for reminding me, I’ll put that on the list as well). Having to do without it has illustrated that I don’t really need it any more.

The difference at this point in 2015 is that the final few holdout shows that I watch have become available on-demand…and I can watch everything on the screen of my choice. I’m watching last night’s “Project Runway” (the kid’s edition) (look, any version of PR hosted by Tim Gunn is worth watching) (seriously) on the good TV in the living room, via the Lifetime app. PBS has upgraded its streaming app. I still watch “Antiques Roadshow” on Monday nights because that’s my habit, but I’m not even aware when anything else airs. “South Park,” “The Simpsons,” and “Bob’s Burgers” have been on Hulu forever.

CBS (“Late Show,” “Big Bang Theory,” “The Amazing Race,” “Mom”) was the only real problem. Full episodes were available if you visited from a browser, which wasn’t great for casual sofa viewing. Then CBS All Access appeared. Should I spend six bucks a month for it? Maybe, given that it’ll serve about thirty hours of monthly programming that I look forward to every week. Even if I cheapskate out on that, the CBS channel on Roku offers those shows for free…and without commercials, even.

It’s a little miraculous. I spent a week in LA recently. Ten years ago, I would have spent my last night at home playing a six-dimensional game of “Sophie’s Choice,” deciding which shows I’d forego recording to ensure that there’d be space for others. Then I set up a Slingbox, and could watch this stuff from my hotel room.

This year, though, the thought of missing out on TV didn’t even enter my mind. I was looking forward to the final episode of the terrific “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” on PBS, set to air on the Monday night of my trip. Yup, I watched it via streaming on Tuesday. And if I’d missed it, PBS would have been happy to spool it for me after I got home.

So what keeps me subscribing to cable? Nostalgia?

I used to say “Well, ‘Turner Classic Movies’.” But I can get that from a subscription.

Even my desire for cable programming is hanging by a thread. If I went cold turkey — no TCM, no Lifetime, no Food Network — I’d miss seeing some of my favorite shows, for sure, but the original programming on Netflix et al is outstanding. To say nothing of how much I look forward to new YouTube videos posted by Tested or Ben Heck

Sometimes, when we decide to make even a minor lifestyle adjustment, we try to engineer a “nothing but upside” solution. That can prevent us from considering options that are overall positive, but require a cut or two. I changed my cable lineup a few years ago and was miffed when I discovered that the new, less-expensive package did not include BBC America, despite what the customer service rep assured me. But by the time I got around to getting it straightened out, I’d gotten over not seeing Graham Norton or Top Gear.

(I like “Doctor Who.” I’ve only been an intermittent viewer, though. I generally just buy the Christmas episodes.)

I think I’ll be keeping my basic subscription, if only to retain access to streaming apps (which require verification of a cable package). But I’m going to take a good look at my cable package again. And, as profoundly weird as this might seem…I might return all of my cable boxes.


We are commanded to accept refugees.

That’s the entire argument. When people are fleeing a war zone, and escaping from a force that quite simply wishes to eradicate them as if scrubbing out a stain, it doesn’t even matter that the situation is so dire that these people must be referred to as “…surviving members of a family.”

The scale of the crisis is immaterial. People are fleeing the homeland that their families have known for several generations, carrying only what they were able to gather up in the two minutes they had before they fled. We are commanded to accept them. The order comes from the highest possible authority: our humanity.

The US has often refused safe haven to entire populations escaping — let’s be clear and efficient here — “near-certain death.” Have historians ever examined those decisions decades later, with the benefit of perspective and data that were unavailable to people at the time, and declared “Yup. That was totally the right call”?

I bet the answer’s “No.”

This is easy and obvious. I’m certain that you agree with me.

And if you encounter someone who thinks otherwise…help them out. Ask them if they’re religious. If they are, tell them to open up the drawer in the nightstand next to their bed and take out whatever leatherbound book they find in there. They should keep flipping through it until they find the page where it says “You are commanded to help innocent people who are fleeing near-certain death. Not despite the fact that they’re strangers to you, and there’s no benefit to doing so, and doing so might be very hard. You must do it because of those things.”

If they get frustrated after the first few minutes and begin to protest, calm them down and encourage them to keep right on looking because it’s definitely in there somewhere.

Dear Adobe, Your iPad Apps are a Mess. — Medium

Dear Adobe, Your iPad Apps are a Mess. — Medium:

It’s now 2015. It’s time to take iOS seriously as a pro tool and do what you do best. Don’t give us 30 apps that each do one thing. Give us one app that does 30 things. We don’t need you to be Instagram. We need you to be Adobe.

(Via Medium.)

Brad Colbow addresses something that’s been bothering me, as well: why does Adobe have a jillion different iPad and iPhone apps, and almost none of them is a clear analogue to one of their desktop apps?

Microsoft’s been supporting iPads like gangbusters. Microsoft Word isn’t a feature-for-feature port of Word for Windows or Mac, but it’s definitely Word in both function and spirit. And! When a Microsoft Office user searches the app store for “Microsoft Word,” by golly, they find a Microsoft Word.

(Plus, their Office apps have been enthusiastically upgraded for iOS 9 and the iPad Pro. Writing in Word is a real joy. If I’d been on the fence about my Office365 sub, I’m not any more.)

Adobe Lightroom is the only Creative Cloud app that works that way. The iPad version is great. It’s almost fun to go through the hundreds of photos I took at a comic-con and pick out the dozens that are worthy of editing and posting later on. It’s kind of like Tinder, for photos.

It’s harder to figure out the answer to “I want an app so I can do what I do with Photoshop, on my iPad.” So far, the answer seems to be “Get Procreate, and use its .PSD import/export feature.”

Maybe Photoshop is an unsolvable problem. I use Photoshop as a high-level photo editor. What about people who use it as a painting tool? Or a text compositing app? Photoshop is such a powerful desktop app that each user can define what it does on his or her own terms. On that basis, it might make more sense for Adobe to have a constellation of focused apps instead of putting the Photoshop label on something that can’t deliver on expectations.

Still, I’d love to have some clarity about Adobe’s constellation of iOS apps.

(Update: Adobe responds.)

My white neighbor thought I was breaking into my own apartment. Nineteen cops showed up. – The Washington Post

My white neighbor thought I was breaking into my own apartment. Nineteen cops showed up. – The Washington Post:

A few hours and a visit from a locksmith later, I was inside my apartment and slipping off my shoes when I heard a man’s voice and what sounded like a small dog whimpering outside, near my front window. I imagined a loiterer and opened the door to move him along. I was surprised to see a large dog halfway up the staircase to my door. I stepped back inside, closed the door and locked it.

The author (a black woman) locked herself out of her house. So she went to a soccer game as planned, and then called a locksmith to get her inside when she returned. However, a neighbor who’d never met her phoned the police about a possible break-in, and a huge armed response resulted.

What would I have done, it I had been that neighbor? Assuming, of course, that she’d forced her way in instead of getting a locksmith. I don’t know what the hell her neighbor was thinking.

Reading this article made me realize how wrong my own natural instincts would have been. My “lifetime white guy” reaction (influenced by my eagerness to avoid awkward social situations with people I’ve never met) would have been to call the police. Not to report a burglary-in-progress, but to simply report that I’d seen a woman force the lock on the front door of a house and enter.

“Well, I’ve walked around my own house when I’ve locked myself out, looking for open doors and windows,” I would have thought. “But better to be safe than sorry. They’ll send a police car, an officer will walk up to the door, she’ll show some ID, they’ll have a good laugh over it.” Years ago, I had a similar run-in with the police, when I pulled over at night to take some photos of a gorgeous 150-year-old municipal water building I’d spotted. It was a friendly encounter, no guns, and it ended with smiles and waves.

Her ethnicity wouldn’t be a factor in my reaction, as the neighbor. But I now appreciate that it should be. One must remember that your own life experiences don’t define a universal experience. Our personal life experiences can trip us up when we try to process what others experience.

I can never stop admiring and honoring the work and the contributions that the police make every single day. Police, firefighters, teachers, social workers, and those who minister to people’s spiritual needs (both religious and otherwise) are part of the glue of society. Their contributions to our community, and the burdens that their profession demands that they undertake, far outweigh the material benefits that that Society gives them in return.

At the same time, I’d like to think that all of the work of activists, particularly in the past few years and in response to sobering tragedies, has made me less ignorant about the realities of the world that others walk in.

So I now know how I’d react if I saw a lone person I didn’t recognize forcing their way into a house in my neighborhood. The correct answer would be for me to comb my hair, change out of the 2002 tee shirt I’d slept in, put on my shoes, deal with my damned reluctance about awkward social experiences, and knock on her door myself. 

And then, she and I would have had that Good Laugh Over It.

I would also have met my new neighbor. It seems like that’s the right response no matter what the stranger’s ethnicity is.

How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name

How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name:

“Good design should be attractive, pleasurable, and wonderful to use. But the wonderfulness of use requires that the device be understandable and forgiving. It must follow the basic psychological principles that give rise to a feeling of understanding, of control, of pleasure. These include discoverability, feedback, proper mapping, appropriate use of constraints, and, of course, the power to undo one’s operations. These are all principles we teach elementary students of interaction design. If Apple were taking the class, it would fail.”

(Via FastCoDesign.)

I just got around to reading last week’s editorial on Apple design, written by two legends of UI theory. Both have written classic books on user-oriented design: Don Norman wrote “The Design of Everyday Things” and practically every early Mac geek owns a copy of Bruce Tognazzini’s “Tog On Design.”

When they say that Apple’s lost the thread on effective, functional design, everyone ought to listen.

I’ve had plenty of reasons to ask myself some of the same questions…particularly in the past month. I reviewed Apple’s Magic Keyboard, and couldn’t hide my disappointment and confusion; it’s a desktop keyboard that looks great as a static object, but why on earth did they make so many tradeoffs?

Then Apple released Apple TV. The new touch-based remote has plenty of nice features. And, it’s impossible to sense if you’re holding it the right way without looking at it. And because the touchpad runs from edge-to-edge, it’s almost impossible to pick it up without unintentionally fast-forwarding through a video.

Apple TV is actually a perfect example of the sort of stuff Don and Tog point out in the article. I was seriously annoyed by the remote on the first day. Then, I discovered and read Apple’s User Guide. Now I know that if I accidentally fast-forward, I can cancel it by tapping the Menu button.

I love Apple Pencil. It works great. Even there, though, Apple’s focus on design commanded them to design a stylus that doesn’t have a clip or anything else that makes it easy to carry, no cap to protect the tip, and its glossy body is slippery enough that I dropped it when trying to get it out of the box.

(It’s also round. But it’s weighted so that it won’t roll off the table. Neat.)

I’ve always thought that good software design requires ideas that make the software easy to use during the first week, and other ideas that make it easy to use three months later. First impressions are important for a beginning user. Still, at some point this person gets experienced. That’s when he or she wants power features that allow them to get more done with fewer clicks, even if they need to go into Settings or (God forbid) actually learn something.

Few things disappoint me so much as an app that’s easy to outgrow…especially when the only reason for those limitations is “we wanted it to be clean and pretty, and [missing feature] is something that only 10% of our users would actually be interested in.” 

Don and Tog talk about how Apple has walked away from its earlier commitment to functional design. They would know (Tog, Apple Employee #66, literally wrote the book on Apple user interface design). I have to wonder if part of Apple’s problem is that they no longer have the luxury of being a niche maker.

In the Eighties and Nineties, the company made hardware and software for fans of Apple. That’s not to say that Macs weren’t objectively great computers; Apple was making stuff for their own audience. Now that they’re unquestionably a juggernaut, they’re making phones and computers for everybody. Apple’s clean design aesthetic is of limited or no value to them; therefore, they’re more keenly aware of limitations that Apple Design sometimes imposes. Like me and the Magic Keyboard, they see no aesthetic upsides. They just wish there were a visible “Back” or “Menu” button.

These things matter. I chose to spend the summer with my SIM card in an iPhone 6 Plus, so I could thoroughly test Apple Watch and also find out if I needed to widen my perspective, after two years with an Android phone as a daily driver.

iOS 9 has addressed so many of of the iPhone’s limitations over the past couple of years that I was considering switching back permanently. I still haven’t decided yet, but it seems unlikely now. Google’s new Nexus phones are outstanding.

More than that, though, I still haven’t warmed to Apple’s 2013 overhaul of the iOS interface. Even after two years with it I experience many of the problems that Don and Tog talk about in their article. The UI is so subtle and stripped down that I often find myself hunting around the screen to figure out what I need to tap to make something happen. I just like Android 6 better.

The whole article is definitely worth a read. Whether you agree with their conclusions or not, it’s a terrific primer on design theory. And I hope it spawns some serious conversations. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect users to learn new skills over time before they can get the most out of an app or piece of hardware. It’s just that, Jeez…five years ago I couldn’t have imagined myself deciding that an Android phone has a prettier, easier-to-use interface than an iPhone.

Let it begin with me.

There’s a line of morality that’s hardwired into us, as a feature of millions of years of evolution; we’re born with a fundamental opposition to killing other people. I believe that. Some people overcome it, either through drugs, or an obliterating flash of anger, or a deeply delusional (and fragile) rationalization.

Maybe this belief is my own fragile rationalization. I don’t know. Like our faith in God, whether the thing we believe is true or not…it’s comforting. Thus, valuable.

Once again, a group of people have committed an act of violence that shows a total disregard for life. The attacks in Paris (as the Boston Marathon bombing, as the Charleston church shooting, as 9/11…) have an extra layer of disbelief thrown over them. How long can someone hold the thought “I’m going to kill people indiscriminately” in their head? What kind of energy is required to maintain such an intent, for the length of time required to plan something as intricate as 9/11 or the Paris shootings? Is it even possible for that level of energy and determination sustain itself without help from an outside force?

Those who commit these crimes are guilty, regardless of influences. But isn’t it much, much worse to compel someone to mass-murder? If there is indeed a hardwired line of morality, there are those who manage to cross it and then there are those who succeed in erasing it in others.

All of the above are simply the things that people in front of keyboards write as they try to make sense of something that’s senseless. It’s a self-soothing behavior. There’s chaos in our world, and that’s terrifying; we try to convince ourselves that there’s some sort of order behind such a crime because if there’s a logic to follow, then there’s a solution to be found. But of course, none of it matters to the 127 people killed on Friday, and their families.

At times like these, I think of my Mom’s favorite church song.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Long before she was diagnosed with cancer, she told me she wanted it played at her funeral service. I wrote that down on a paper dinner napkin, to underscore that I had taken her seriously.

The song dates back only as far as “Rock Around The Clock” but it’s a strong, timeless sentiment. The first two lines (and their connection to Mom) have always held a lot of power. My own interpretation of them reminds me of the level of personal commitment and sacrifice required of me if I sincerely want a better world.

It’s not enough to simply wish for peace. The wish floats away and vanishes. We’re required to want that so badly that we’re willing to work to create peace inside our own hearts.

If we truly want peace, we can’t indulge in the selfish luxury of hate. Regardless of the provocation. Hate is another one of those self-soothing actions.

We can (and of course, must) seek justice, but we have to eradicate the thirst for vengeance. We must make the world safer, but in doing so, we can’t make ourselves angrier, or minimize our awareness of the humanity of all people everywhere, even the humanity of those who commit horrific, inhumane acts.

Those words come easily to me this weekend, because I thought about this so much during the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I wasn’t filled with rage. Still, as I waited for my NYC friends (none of whom lived or worked near WTC) to check in, I “amused” myself by imagining the proper punishments for the killers’ co-conspirators.

The most baroque one involved an over-the-top super-glitzy 1970s-style Las Vegas game show in which the killers were more or less used as props. Their closest family members (who had no involvement in the attacks) competed in games in which they got to choose between winning fabulous prizes for themselves — up to and including citizenship in the free and safe country of their choice, and education for all of their children — or preventing the killer from being executed on live TV in front of them, through horrific, inefficient, mechanized mutilation.

See, the idea there was for the killers to spend their final living moments in an arena completely devoid of respect and dignity, and to be totally aware that they aren’t heroes, they aren’t martyrs, and that even those whose love and respect they value the most think they’re less than trash.

I imagined a scene in which one of the killers (strapped to a gaudy, glittery rotating wheel with high-spinning foot-long auger bits mounted behind it) pleads with his mother in disbelief.

“But what do you even need a pair of jetskis for? The closest lake is hundreds of miles away!!!

“Well, dear, they do come with a trailer…” Then she pulls a big red lever with twinkling lights inside the handle as the host laughs and urges the audience to raise up their plastic sheets.

I was writing sketch comedy in my head, not letting my emotions spiral away from me. Giving myself the freedom to design an intentionally-ridiculous set of punishments helped me to appreciate how easily this kind of situation can get out of hand, and how selfish (and self-harming) a thirst for vengeance can be.

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

In the end, I realized that my real fantasy punishment was for Bin Laden to be arrested, tried, and convicted. And then to live a long, long life in an orange jumpsuit with a number stenciled over the pocket. I couldn’t imagine a more humiliating end.

Then, as now, I knew that circumstances would almost certainly make a capture and conviction impossible. Bin Laden made his choice. I wouldn’t have wanted the men who stormed his compound to attempt to preserve his life at the cost of their own.

My own choice was to foreswear vengeance and anger, and work to create a space of peace in the only place over which I have total control: my own head and heart.

It’s hard. Especially when you’re not thinking about a mass-murderer operating thousands of miles away, but someone you know who’s hurt you personally. You have a choice. Six months after the fact, will you still think about him or her with anger? Or will you reject that emotional impulse? Can you let that experience change how you deal with that specific individual or that situation without letting the experience change who you are, or the values you hold dear?

That’s another thing that I struggle with from time to time. It’s so very, very hard.

But if I want peace in my lifetime, it has to begin with me.

When tragedies like the Paris shootings take place, my compassion and love and concern for the victims is a much more powerful and effective force than my feelings about the killers. I must try to nurture and express those positive reactions. They should be so great that there’s no room in my heart for anything else.

Fight and hope for justice. But let peace begin with me.

Mom’s been gone for a long time now. But she still offers me love and comfort during difficult times.

Why I wanted nothing to do with the 32 gig iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is only available in two storage capacities: 128 gigs and 32. I have to imagine that the lesser is there for enterprise (ie, “bulk”) purchasers because even after 48 hours with this thing, it’s clear that the $150 it costs to max it out is the cheapest $150 I’ve ever spent.

Here’s what I have on it:

  • 5 feature films, in 1080 HD;
  • 6 hours of TV, also in 1080 HD;
  • 4 episodes of TV in SD;
  • A 2’40” feature movie, in SD;
  • 65 comic books, in CBZ/CBR format;
  • 35 Comixology HD comics (some graphic novel-length);
  • 2 Kindle books;
  • About 1000 photos;
  • 2874 tracks of music;

…And I still have about 19 gigbytes free, for future apps and documents.

I don’t need all of this stuff. I could get by with 32 gigs of storage if I carefully picked and chose what content I loaded up, after thoughtful consideration of how I’d be using this device over the coming few days, and then, once or twice a week, adding or removing content as needed.

But what fun is is that? For $150, I can just put everything on it, and always have something right at hand.

First Flight with Apple Pencil

Doodle One

My box of Apple review hardware arrived today. I’m probably the only one who left an iPad Pro sealed in its shipping carton and leaped upon the Pencil as if it were the fingerbone of the Apostle Paul.

I took it for a quick spin. Visually, the results…um…well, they aren’t ”keynote-worthy.” But man, did I have fun with this thing and the Procreate app. I enjoy doodling but I don’t enjoy the muck and fuss of maintaining (and learning how to use) traditional drawing tools.

And, as you can guess by this image, I’m the sort of artist whose confidence is desperately bolstered by a pencil with an “Undo” feature. I’ve had those all my life, but this is the first one that doesn’t reduce a sheet of bristol plate into something as thin as toilet paper from the 99 cent store.

Howzit Ferbloggin

Yesterday I took the iPad Pro out on its first Away Mission. It was typical of how I use my iPads: I had dinner plans in the city, and decided to head in several hours early and do some work inside the Boston Public Library before relocating to a Panera a couple of blocks from the restaurant. It’s enough hours that I’d like to get some work done, but not a “real” work session that compels me to haul around my MacBook.

I missed MarsEdit. This morning, I set about looking for good iOS blogging apps. The last time I did so, I didn’t find anything I liked. The WordPress webapp is much more credible on the iPad Pro than it is on even an iPad Air, thanks to the larger screen. I might wind up sticking with that.

Still, fair is fair. I’m giving the official WordPress iOS app another try. It seems okay so far. But historically, the failure points of iOS blogging apps reveal themselves after I tap “Post.” Let’s see if it formats correctly, or somehow corrupts my whole WordPress database, or otherwise causes me to doubt my faith in a kind God and a just universe.

Incidentally, apps that haven’t been updated for the new OS in general and/or the iPad Pro specifically call attention to themselves. This WordPress app merely scales the standard iPad interface way the hell up. It’s what the iPad experience is probably like to a six-year-old kid.

Push the button, Frank…

Building a Homebrew BB-8

James Broton’s YouTube channel is one of the many reasons why I imagine I could get along just fine without cable TV. He’s a robot builder whose chief fascination (among many) is making replicas of movie bots and armor.

One of his current projects is a working BB-8 from the upcoming “Star Wars” movie. He has no idea how the working prop works or how its designers manage to steer a spinning ball while keeping a dome balanced on top of it, so he’s trying a couple of ideas.

His first design was a hollow ball and a robot on top with an Arduino and motorized wheels inside it that both kept itself balanced and drove the ball in any direction. Its movement was too wobbly, so he’s moved on to a much more complicated idea in which the ball itself is driven from the inside by a robot that acts like a hamster in a hamster wheel.

He documents and explains as he goes, designing and 3D-printing damn-near everything from scratch. It’s amazing stuff and inspires me to make things. It’s also just plain entertaining, in the same way that watching Norm Abram build furniture on “The New Yankee Workstop” was entertaining.

(And if you don’t think that watching someone wire up servos or cut dovetails is entertaining…we can still be friends but I’ll praise myself for being so willing to accept your weird alternative lifestyle.)

The Name of the Beast

I’m cautious and patient about the names I give to the computers and storage volumes that are part of my daily workflow. They’re inanimate objects and they don’t come when called. I know it’s silly. Does this level of self-awareness make the process seem somehow less undignified?

And yet…? Our pets don’t care what they’re named, do they? All they care about is that a certain consistent short sequence of sounds is associated with cookies and/or belly scratchies. Naming a new puppy “Begtap” will serve just as well as calling her “Della.” But she somehow seems like a Della, doesn’t she? And once that name pops into your head, it’s hard to think of her as anything but. Names have a certain magic that binds a soul to our reality.

This is why the MacBook I’m using to write this is called “Lilith Eleven.” I didn’t choose to name my first portable Mac (a PowerBook 100, which I could only afford because Apple had sold a truckful of them to Costco at clearance prices). One day it occurred to me that the name of this object was “Lilith.” It was an act of discovery, not creativity. I shrugged, and ever since, the primary machine I write with has always been a portable Mac named “Lilith.” 

It’s not as though picking a name for my iPad Pro was a project or anything. I knew I wanted something that connoted its size without being negative. “Mr. Creosote,” for example, wouldn’t do. 

Movie spaceships? Nothing reminded me of an iPad Pro. I took a quick tour through Wikipedia’s list of minor Hitchhiker’s Guide characters, but nothing leaped out at me and the whole thing seemed forced, anyway.

I was okay with keeping iOS’ default name in place until something good hit me.

Then tonight, I was moving some files (okay, my digital comics) from my iPad Mini to a hard drive so I could move them to the Pro. It was the first time in ages that I had a device docked to iTunes and the name of the Mini in the upper corner caught my eye: “Cyd.” I’d named it after the glorious Cyd Charisse, of course.

I’d chosen that name because it was short — small, like the iPad Mini. Also, Cyd Charisse’s character in “The Band Wagon” is described as having a “gamine” quality. Compared to my previous 9.7” iPads, this one certainly seemed to have “a mischievous charm,” so all in all, I knew I had a winner.

And so, I discovered the name of this iPad Pro. “Charisse.” If “Cyd” is small, “Charisse” is almost three times bigger.

As with any good name, it’s not the logic that sells it. It’s the realization that yes, that’s definitely the name of this thing.