The Black Watch

Traditionally this is banged out on the device itself, but that just isn’t possible, because this time the device in question is in fact an Apple Watch Sport, 42mm, black on black. While the Pebble was fine for notifications, there were plenty of things it couldn’t do – Siri searches, reply to notifications, the expandability of things like Apple Pay or having two-factor authentication on the arm – and it had an annoying tendency to lose the connection to the iPhone at random. 

But the deciding factor for me was the health tracking. Because the cholesterol is bad again, and the heart rate is up, and I need to be pushed to get in some kind of condition. And all the Pebble can do for me is track steps – which the phone was already doing. Having regular heart rate being monitored from the arm will at least help me figure out whether I have an elevated pulse problem, and being constantly prompted to stand and move about will get me to do that much, at a minimum.

So far, the calendar is less workable than I’d like; seeing events in the next month doesn’t seem to work. While notifications all seem to come in, I don’t always notice them. There’s a bit of a lag using apps on the phone, though this is apparently changing in watchOS 2. Having things like the temperature, the next event and the health meter on the same watch face as time, day and date is helpful.  And I’m still working out Transit and Citymapper to see which, if not both, can be of use in transit planning ahead of iOS 9 updating.

So that’s it. I ate the paste. I couldn’t wear a FitBit and a Pebble on the same arm, but circumstances collaborate to make this practical, somehow. We’ll see what it amounts to in days to come.

The bill is due

People in the modern era don’t get how things didn’t used to be this conservative.  It occurred to me that in temperament, in judicious approach and in general policy, Barack Obama is not materially different to what we would have gotten from a Colin Powell presidency in 1996. After all, the Affordable Care Act – that bastion of socialist hellscape nightmare dystopia – is pretty much the Republican alternative to Hillarycare from 1994.

People forget how much the Democrats moved right. They went nuts chasing the white working class vote. They basically gave up on gun control, they sold out on “welfare reform” and Bill Clinton’s need to respond vocally to a throwaway line by one of Public Enemy’s backup rappers turned into one of those inane Washington proverbs – the “Sister Souljah moment” became the necessary gesture for Democrats to prove that The Blacks (or whatever other traditionally Democratic-leaning group) didn’t have them by the nuts.  Strange, how we never expect Republicans to do the same for the NRA or the holy rollers.

I say all that to say this: in 1963,  Martin Luther King Jr. accused America of writing the Negro a check which has been returned, stamped “Insufficient Funds.” Almost fifty years later, we elected a President of color, and the old Confederacy and its amen corner on Fox News and throughout the right-wing media machine lost their goddamn minds. Suddenly, any attempt to restrict weapons that didn’t need a trailer hitch was a sign of incipient fascism, and any attempt to do right in the law by someone darker than a manilla folder was a sign of playing the race card and imminent race war, and instead of fighting back, we just let them keep stacking the stupid higher. 

Now, in a story that sounds like it should have come out of Selma in the 60s, a black woman gets puled over in Texas, arrested under dubious circumstances, detained for three days, dies in custody, and the circumstances and evidence are immediately obscured by a county authority that closes ranks. This doesn’t pass the smell test for anyone who grew up in the South. The FBI should be on Waller County like flies on shit right now, and I don’t know why they aren’t. At a time when rednecks are out there marching in defense of the damned Confederate battle flag – arguing for history and heritage that consists mostly of lynchings, pellegra and illiteracy – the federal government should be going the full Mississippi Burning on these Texas necks.

The South lost the Civil War.  The South lost the battle against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The South lost the Presidential elections of 2008 and 2012.  So why the hell do I feel like I’m not on the winning side? It’s almost like a Bush Curse: victory goes to the side with fewer votes. But that’s not the point.  This is: every time we have the Confederate enemy on the ropes, we let them up. We let them up in Reconstruction, and got generations of Jim Crow for it.  We let them up after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and got decades of right-leaning hegemony and the reconsolidation of a Solid South in GOP-Confederate hands. And now, every time there’s a shooting, we wave our hands in the air and say there’s nothing we can do, because we wouldn’t dare give offense to the people who want to need the guns.  One attempted shoe-bombing and we’re still putting our boots on the conveyer belt a decade later. One mass shooting a week and we’re doing nothing at all.

We’ve let the Confederacy go for too long.  We’ve let them ride along, sponging off the prospertity of the rest of the country.  We’ve bit our tongue as the racism persists, we’ve looked the other way as the Rebel flag flies in Michigan and California, we’ve apologized for suggesting that their ammosexual perversions and Talibaptist intolerance were somehow incompatible with American values, we’ve relented every time they felt oppressed by a waiting period or a rainbow flag.  Stop it.  We are talking about people who won’t be happy until we turn the clock back a hundred years on American values and culture, and that’s not going to happen.  If these people are going to insist they’re being oppressed no matter what, then let’s fucking well oppress them. And let’s stand up for the people whose lives have been ignored and devalued and disregarded for so long because we didn’t have the balls to do what needed to be done.

Yet more tech

This is more philosophical than practical, but here goes anyway. I’ve been fiddling around with both phones lately. I took them both to Santa Cruz over the weekend, where the Moto X on T-Mob was far better at getting signal than the iPhone on AT&T. Then I took the iPhone alone to San Francisco, without even bringing headphones. I bled it down to 13% before getting home, but the picture-taking was far superior. (No surprises there.)

It’s funny that at some level, my brain is still thinking “I need just one device” when from 2007 to 2012, that’s exactly what I had, barring the occasional loan of an original iPad. Granted, it was kind of a PITA during the iPhone 3G era, but battery issues notwithstanding, I never felt the need for more than the iPhone 4 could offer me.  The one caveat is that reading Kindle content is much easier on a bigger display, but the 4.7” screen of the Moto X or iPhone seems to be a lot better than the 3.5” window the iPhone sported those five years.  Plus having the AMOLED screen on the X and using white text on a black background instinctively sounds like a battery fix.

I’m still thinking in terms of what happens if I take control of my own phone again rather than being provided one by work. The question I have at this point is how long I could get by on a Moto X before breaking down.  The Pebble works a lot better with the X, no question, and I could either go with the T-Mobile option for $30 a month or go with Cricket for $45 (T-Mob only offers 100 minutes, while Cricket caps data at 8 Mbps, but both offer 5 GB data and unlimited messaging.) In the back of my mind, the prospect of being able to hit up work for reimbursement and only pay $5 a month out of pocket might be worth the feeling of taking my phone back for myself. Which seems foolish on the face of it, but I don’t know what to tell you.  These things aren’t rational.

And to make matters worse, the Apple Watch is starting to look attractive for the first time. I’m increasingly fed up with the Pebble – on iOS, it has a tendency to lose the Bluetooth connection randomly, and the sleep monitoring functionality is erratic.  Meanwhile, the Apple Watch would add in the ability to reply to texts, to do voice-based messaging and search, provide much more granular control over the music (the Pebble gives you nothing you don’t get from the headphone controls; I want to switch playlists) and the ability to acknowledge and dismiss two-factor authentication notifications at work.  A little monitoring with an app shows that there are about 30 times a day where I pull the phone out of my pocket and use it for a minute or less; those are all incidents that could be as easily sorted off the watch once version 2 arrives.  Of course, this all assumes I commit to the Apple ecosystem for good…something about the watch seems like an extra level of commitment to the iPhone that I don’t really feel at the moment.

And then there’s the iPad…I have a sneaking suspicion that our inevitable future is the 6-inch phablet. When even Apple can’t produce a mainline phone with a display smaller than 4.7 inches, and when nobody but Apple can produce a viable tablet while instead throwing their resources into ever-larger phone screens, it looks like the inevitable future pocket computer terminal is something along the lines of the Nexus 6, one device to rule them all and you just have to carry a purse anyway.  Which is basically the use case for the smartwatch: critical stuff on the arm so you don’t have to pull out your Samesung [sic] Leviathan every time you get a text.  And it may sound risible that we’ve reached the point of needing a remote control for your phone, but let’s be honest: it stopped being a phone in anything but name about the time the iPhone 4 dropped.

So there’s that.  And yet, the whole idea of the ubiquity of the phone is definitely a 21st-century thing. As has been said elsewhere, half of Seinfeld episodes break down in a world with pervasive cellphones, so some sort of switch flipped around 1999.  Not very long after the switch flipped on pervasive internet access, which in my mind is still right around 1995-96.  There’s a nodal point there when the very nature of mass communication changes, and there’s something to think about there…but not today.