Don’t Force-Close Your Apps

Over at The Verge Ashley Carman asks, Should you force close your apps?

No. No. No.

It drives me crazy when I see people do what Carman describes (and I see a lot of people do it):

I force close my apps all the time. I double click the home button on my iPhone 6S and close out of every app I’ve used, even in the past 20 minutes. It’s a terrible habit, but it makes me feel good.

I wrote about this over 4 years ago and what I wrote remains true: swiping up to kill background apps kills your battery life because it forces iOS to relaunch apps, versus merely ‘waking them up’ from their suspended background state.

What I discovered on my new iPhone X running iOS 11.2 is that Apple has made it a bit harder to close apps.

Now when you bring up the app switcher swiping up on an app card simply brings you back to your Home screen. In order to close apps, you have to bring up the app switcher and then long-press on any app card. This causes red close icons to appear in the corners of all the app cards. Now you can swipe up on app cards to close them.

But you don’t need to, so leave them the fuck alone.

“reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled”

Back in September The Atlantic published a fascinating long-form article that I just got around to reading.

It’s titled, ‘How America Lost Its Mind‘, and it was adapted by a book written by Kurt Anderson:

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

Then comes the Internet:

And there was also the internet, which eventually would have mooted the Fairness Doctrine anyhow. In 1994, the first modern spam message was sent, visible to everyone on Usenet: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon. Over the next year or two, the masses learned of the World Wide Web. The tinder had been gathered and stacked since the ’60s, and now the match was lit and thrown. After the ’60s and ’70s happened as they happened, the internet may have broken America’s dynamic balance between rational thinking and magical thinking for good.

And then we get to Trump:

Donald Trump is a grifter driven by resentment of the establishment. He doesn’t like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth. He sees conspiracies everywhere. He exploited the myths of white racial victimhood. His case of what I call Kids R Us syndrome—spoiled, impulsive, moody, a 71-year-old brat—is acute.

Who knew we’d have to be so vigilant in our fight for truth and facts in 2017.

Pretending to play a UFC fight.

This genius streamed a pay-per-view UFC match by pretending to play it:

A streamer broadcast a live pay-per-view UFC match on multiple platforms, including Twitch, by pretending it was a video game he was playing, as spotted by EuroGamer. AJ Lester streamed the UFC 218 match between Max Holloway and Jose Aldo in its entirety over the weekend. Lester appeared in the corner of the stream, wearing a pair of headphones and holding a controller while watching intensely and reacting to the punches as if he was in control of the action.

A tweet showing Lester’s antics went viral, with over 63,000 retweets and 140,000 likes at the time of publication. Another clip shows him reacting wildly yelling “oooooooooooooooh!!!” and “damnnnnnn!” in response to the match. It’s his dedication to the charade that makes him a true internet hero.

Never count out a geek.

Of course this will likely be the first and last time someone is able to get away with this.

I was at a rowdy, Irish tavern in San Francisco for to watch UFC 218 — a proper venue to watch fights — but I give Lester props for being resourceful.

A Good-Character Test

New Zealand Examines Matt Lauer’s Ranch Purchase After His Firing:

The ripples from the firing of Matt Lauer as the co-host of the “Today” morning news show have hit the world of New Zealand property, where officials are already scrutinizing the role of foreign buyers in an increasingly expensive market.

A New Zealand government agency said on Thursday that it was in discussions with Mr. Lauer’s representative over his purchase of a 16,000-acre farm there. Foreigners must pass a good-character test to be allowed to buy New Zealand land, and while Mr. Lauer’s purchase was approved earlier this year, the country’s Overseas Investment Office is revisiting his case in light of his firing.

I wish our presidential candidates had to pass ‘good-character’ tests.

William Gibson

Abraham Riesman interviewed William Gibson for Vulture and they talked about dystopias:

How do you account for the recent surge in popular fiction about the collapse of civilization into dystopia or Armageddon?

This could be a case of consumers of a particular kind of pop culture trying to tell us something, alas. Seriously, what I find far more ominous is how seldom, today, we see the phrase “the 22nd century.” Almost never. Compare this with the frequency with which the 21st century was evoked in popular culture during, say, the 1920s.

Do you mean it’s ominous because people are so pessimistic that they can’t even imagine a future?

Well, that’s the question — why don’t we? I don’t know.

Gibson, along with Michael St. John Smith, released a new graphic novel on November 1st called Archangel. It’s illustrated by Butch Guice,‎ Alejandro Barrionuevo,‎ and Wagner Reis.

UPDATE: The reviews on Goodreads seem polarized between people who really liked the book and people who hated it.

Bruce Davidson

One of my favorite albums from my youth is Ill Communication by the Beastie Boys.

This is the cover:

The photograph was shot by Bruce Davidson. I didn’t know about him until now, but after some quick Google Image searches, I’ve discovered he’s an amazing photographer (he’s still alive at 84):

Podfasters

Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds:

Rachel Kenny started listening to podcasts in 2015 — and quickly fell behind. “As I started subscribing to more and more podcasts, they started stacking up, and I couldn’t keep up at normal speed,” the 26-year-old data scientist in Indianapolis told BuzzFeed News. “I also had to listen to the backlist of all the podcasts when I subscribed to them.” So Kenny began listening faster: first at 2x, then she worked her way up to 3x. She stopped only because “that’s just as fast as the Downcast app allows.” She estimates that she listens to five to seven hours of podcasts a day (which equals 15 to 21 hours at normal speed), “so maybe 20 to 40 episodes a day or 100 to 250 a week,” she said. She tracks her listening habits on a spreadsheet.

Ok, that’s a shitload of podcasts.

The article says a lot of these speed listeners are “completetists” who have to listen to the entire backlog of podcast once they’re committed. It strikes me as a form of obsessive-compulsive disease.

I’m definitely not a completetist. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m forty and with each passing year I grow more aware of my mortality. I don’t want to waste my remaining time listening to shitty podcast episodes just so I can mark them as “completed” in my head.

I’m a regular listener to The Joe Rogan Experience, but I find episodes all the time I have no interest in finishing and I when I make this realization, I delete that epsiode immediately.

With regard to speed, I do listen to podcasts from 1X to 1.5X, depending the the general cadence of the show. For audiobooks, I’ve gone up to 2X if it’s a slow narrator.

Automobile News From Around the Web

Below are some automobile-related links I’ve accumulated over the last few months.

Where Self-Driving Cars Go to Learn:

Arizona has since built upon the governor’s action to become a favored partner for the tech industry, turning itself into a live laboratory for self-driving vehicles. Over the past two years, Arizona deliberately cultivated a rules-free environment for driverless cars, unlike dozens of other states that have enacted autonomous vehicle regulations over safety, taxes and insurance.

Too much regulation leads to stifled innovation, but too little regulation can lead to more dangerous roads for us humans. It sounds like Arizona is closer to the latter scenario.

Cadillac’s hands-free feature fixes the worst parts about driving:

Because you can leave your hands by your sides, the system uses an infrared camera mounted on the steering column to make sure you’re still ready to take over if things go south. It tracks your eyes, nose, mouth and ears and figures out where you’re looking. If you’re looking forward out the windshield or checking your mirrors, you’re fine. But let’s say you start staring out the side window or worse, at your phone, the car prompts you to start paying attention by flashing the green steering wheel light. If you ignore that, the flashing light on the wheel and accompanying audible warning for too long, the car will slow down, stop, turn on the flashers and call the authorities via OnStar.

We’re still in the awkward phase of autonomous vehicles. Roberto Baldwin notes in the link above that even though you still have to actively pay attention, being completely hands-free did drop his stress levels and fatigue. So while it’s not full autonomy, it’s progress.

Tesla Unlocked Florida Drivers’ Batteries Before Irma:

Since last spring, Tesla vehicles purchased with a 60kWh battery option have actually come with a 75kWh battery. The company’s software electronically limited the range to 60kWh, though it gave drivers the option to upgrade to full capacity at any time—for several thousand dollars.

On Saturday, the blog Electrek reported that some drivers of 60kWh Teslas in Florida suddenly found their cars showing 75kWh of range, even though they hadn’t paid any more money. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed to Electrek’s Fred Lambert that the company had unlocked the batteries’ remaining capacity remotely, via software update. That would give them about 30 miles of additional driving on a single charge. The move reportedly came in response to a request from at least one Florida driver who needed the extra range to get out of danger.

Telsa is walking a fine line here. What are their guidelines on what are acceptable situations for unlocking additional range on their vehicles? This feels a little too much like a puppet master pulling strings.

It’s All Made Up

Mashable Sold at Fire-Sale Price of $50 Million to Ziff Davis:

Digital-media firm Mashable has clinched a sale for the company — and it’s not for a price that founder Pete Cashmore or investors including Turner were looking for.

Ziff Davis, a tech, gaming and healthcare publisher, is buying the New York-based company for about $50 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources. That’s 20% of Mashable’s valuation of $250 million following a $15 million round of funding last year led by Time Warner’s Turner.

People need to remember “valuation” is a euphemism for “made up number”. Companies, like money, have no inherent value. They only have value because we all agree they have value.

Unlike dollars and cents though, company valuations are way easier change.

Then there’s the endowment effect hypothesis that states we ascribe more value to the things we own than the things other people own. Mashable’s investors thought it was worth $250 million last year. Ziff Davis didn’t agree.

Artemis

The Verge interviewed Andy Weir, author of The Martian, about his new book, Artemis:

I started by developing the city itself. I really wanted to write a story that takes place on humanity’s first off-world home, the beginnings of humanity’s colonization of the Solar System, that kind of thing. I wanted to define the city on the Moon. First thing, I had to ask myself why there’s a city on the Moon. Why would anybody go live there? What’s the point? There’s a lot of fiction out there about this, and there are a lot of unsatisfying answers: “We’re there to mine it!” So send robots. “Earth is overpopulated!” Well, colonize the Sahara or the ocean floor. Literally every location on Earth is easier to colonize than anywhere on the Moon.

So I asked: what about tourism? Tourism is by definition people being somewhere. Okay, so that will only happen when the price to low Earth orbit is low enough that little people can afford to go. That’s kind of the conceit of Artemis, where the commercial space industry has driven that price down far enough that it’s affordable. It’s not not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination, but doable. So I designed the city with that in mind. I built it from the ground up, figuring that they’d need to be efficient, they wouldn’t want to waste a huge amount of money or resources. Once I was done with that, I had a setting, then set about working on story ideas. The contents of the book are actually the third story revision. I came up with two completely unrelated stories with different characters before this version.

I read The Martian a few years ago. It’s very suspenseful but it’s also deeply flawed. The narration/internal dialog of the main character is extremely annoying and corny.

But hey, who the fuck am I? The Martian hit #1 on The New York Times Best Seller List and was turned into a movie with Matt Damon.

Maaatt Daaaamon.

Chiara Obscura

California Today: An Analog View of California:

John Chiara does his photography from scratch.

Even as taking pictures has gotten simpler, Mr. Chiara, 46, constructs his own box cameras — known as camera obscuras — that draw in light through a small hole onto photographic paper.

His biggest camera is the size of a small elephant, which he hauls on a trailer and positions in front of his subjects.

To take a photograph, he squeezes his body inside the camera and pulls a trap door behind him. He positions a sheet of photographic paper as large as four feet by six feet and then manipulates the light and length of exposure.

A single picture takes about half a day.

Chiara’s photos have an amazing, imperfect, analog feel to them.

They’re not even square. I love it.

Making Friends Over 30

Over at The New York Times Alex Williams explores why it’s so hard to make friends over 30:

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.

I’m keenly aware of this problem as a 40-year-old dude.

My wife is initially surprised how dismissive I am of the boyfriends and husbands of her friends and co-workers. Then I explain to her that if the guy in question is cool, I’ll make a few concerted efforts at reaching out to them (grab a drink, hit a concert, meet my other friends) but I’m usually met either with radio silence or reasons they can’t hang out. At this point I write them off.

If I run into them again I’ll usually replace my previously genuine conversating with vapid smalltalk. If they’re not making an effort, why should I?

America’s Retail Apocalypse

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning:

The reason isn’t as simple as Amazon.com Inc. taking market share or twenty-somethings spending more on experiences than things. The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt—often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder—even for healthy chains.

The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary.

Not every mall can get an Apple Store to lift sales by 10 percent.