Second impressions

I wiped the iPhone X this afternoon to be repurposed as a tackling dummy for iOS 14 when the time comes. This post comes to you from the iPhone 9, which has worked a treat for a week now. Having TouchID back in a time of masked excursions is as handy as I wished during the fires in 2018. Battery life has gotten me through the day every day without recharging, even when I forgot to put it into low power mode, including at least half an hour of podcast over speakers and a couple hours of music over Bluetooth daily.

So now the question is: what happens when I don’t have steady WiFi all day? What happens when I have to rely on AT&T for hours at a time? I guess the next trick will be to disable the wireless and see how I get on. Got to do something to pass the days without expanding Day Drink Fridays any further into the week. No matter how tempting the prospect. (Going the ten miles or so to the pub for a jug of coffee porter feels like a task on par with Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland riding out to find wheat during the Long Winter.)

I did put a $10 tempered glass screen protector on one side and a more expensive ultra-thin case on the other. Don’t want to scar the thing up the first week like the iPhone 4.

First impressions

I kind of understand the appeal of streaming now. Within an hour of opening the box, everything was downloaded on the iPhone SE (2020), hereafter referred to as the iPhone 9 for clarity. I still had to configure 2FA at work and install my personal VPN (shout out to Duo Mobile, whose restore feature for personal 2FA worked PERFECTLY on the first try) but most everything was just a question of logging on…except for my photos, music and podcasts. We might be here all night.

Just as I suspected, the hand feel is slightly smaller and more comfortable. And I suspect the old gestures and TouchID response will be quick and easy to go back to (I have never had the haptic TouchID button though. That will take some getting used to). If you just do the iCloud restore like a civilian and don’t try to get cute, it’s a piece of cake.

Now we see it I go grabbing for the other phones, or if this really is Goldilocks.


I got the iPhone X in November 2017. Before that, my main phone was the original iPhone SE. All my phones between 2012 and 2017 had a screen size between 4 and 4.7 inches, and I was content with the screen size of the 5 and SE over the iPhone 6. But there was a wild card – I already had the iPad mini from December 2013, and that was the big screen for four years.  5.8″ on the X and 8″ on the iPad…that’s roughly the same delta as 3.5″ on the original iPhone through the 4S in summer 2012 and 5.8″ on the X. The iPhone X essentially became the One Device for most of the time since I’ve had it, except when traveling abroad. Not that a big phone with a big battery wouldn’t be a great One True Travel Device, but if it’s locked to AT&T and too big to use one-handed, it’s not going to be great for those times when you’re trying to safely frame a shot of a glacier while hanging off the boat railing. And while the iPhone 6 with the battery case on it wasn’t the best thing in Japan, an unlocked phone with an eSIM and a similar battery case might just be. 

The trick is, I spent 2018-19 dithering between a 4” and a 5.8” screen. So maybe 4.7” splits the difference in a way that hasn’t been on the cards previously. I know I thought it was just fine on the Moto X in a way that it wasn’t on the iPhone 6, mostly revolving around an OLED display and the Kindle app. But the Kindle Paperwhite has long since displaced everything else for reading books anyway. And we’ll see if a smaller phone leads me back toward using that aging iPad at all, or if that’s just a Friv-O-List item that I keep lying to myself and think I’ll learn Swift on. 

A 4.7” phone might be enough. A 5.4” phone the same size is probably better…if it exists, if it ships, and if it works. I’d just as soon let somebody else go first, more than ever – now that the iPhone 12 is off to the end of the year, I’d really rather wait until fall 2021 to roll the dice if it comes to that. I think an A13 phone with AirPods Pro and the newest Apple Watch will do for everything – because I really want Siri and Shortcuts to be more and let me do more without pulling the phone out. And really, the Apple Watch 6 is the big goal now. Heart rate and sleep and blood oxygen levels, and notifications of all kinds and spontaneous Mac unlocking, and hopefully fast enough with a fast enough device behind it to make up for the shortcomings of Series 0 back in the day. After five years, maybe the Apple Watch has evolved to be good enough for my purposes. Certainly hope so, anyway. 

Well, first impressions coming tomorrow night, probably. Possibly. Who knows.


A couple of months ago, the week before my birthday, I was writing down a list of things that had made me upset that day, trying to parse out why I was in such a mood. In between the work bullshit and the regular horror show that is American political life in the 21st century, I wrote “knowing the new phone isn’t going to help”. So at least I’m realistic about this.

Nothing about the iPhone SE 2020 is materially *worse* than the iPhone 8 it replaces, and in a lot of ways, nothing is materially worse than the iPhone X it’s going to replace for me. Smaller battery? Sure, but also a more modern and efficient processor. Smaller display? Sure, but also a wash – the bigger AMOLED display is a greater drain whenever it’s lit up. No TrueDepth sensors for Animoji and FaceID? OK, but also, there’s TouchID – which actually works with a mask on, which matters a lot in California these days. Only one camera? Sure, but the computational power behind it more than makes up for a second telephoto lens.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to: it’s smaller and it’s mine. When I bought the Moto X, it felt a little too big. Then I got the iPhone 6 and the Moto went from being a little big to a little smaller. Similarly, the SE 2020 is going to be a little smaller than the iPhone X, and as soon as I’ve migrated everything, the iPhone X is getting wiped and going in a drawer for safekeeping until time to give it back. I also need to find a good home for the original SE, depending – if iOS 14 doesn’t support its chipset (increasingly likely given that the newest iPod touch and cheap iPad have an A10) then it’ll be time to put it out to pasture and finally, truly, have just one phone.

And it’ll be my phone. Even if it has work apps and a work SIM in it, it has become deeply personally important to me to have a phone that belongs to me as my one device again. I really don’t know how or when I’ll be able to find another job, but I want this one to be as un-present in my life as I can make it. The money’s better, but in all other respects I’m right back where I was – or worse – five years ago. And when you don’t know what the future holds, better to lock in now on a device with the current processor and a solid update future, but has the cheap AppleCare, the cheap battery replacement, the cheap screen replacement, et cetera.

It’s 2020 in America. Optimism is a luxury.

this is now an iPhone SE (2020) blog until further notice

The iPhone 8 would be the low-end (previously free-with-contract) iPhone this fall after the next round of revisions. A notional iPhone 11/11Max/11 Whatever line at the top, then the XS/Max/R, then the 8/Plus. By that logic, you’re more likely to see an iPhone SE2 with the body of the iPhone 8 – or maybe even the 7, to save space and cost on the wireless charging and two layers of Gorilla Glass. If the 3D Touch is also going away, as has been rumored, an SE2 based on the iPhone 7 would have the room freed up by no headphone jack, no 3D Touch and no wireless charging to fit the A13 (or A12) and close to a 2000 mAH battery to run it all. Existing parts, cost savings, possibly use the body of the 7. Where it gets interesting is this: the A12 phones (XR/XS/Max) all have Face ID. The A11 phones are either/or. In theory, you could have an A13 phone with TouchID. You might get the XR camera, with its single lens and processor-assisted photography (the apparent trend) but it stands to reason you probably can’t expect to get FaceID or Animoji. Might still get the 7MP front camera though.

Basically you’re looking at the prospect of something like an iPhone 7, upgraded to the iPhone 11 processor and iPhone XR camera, probably for around $500 or so. The obvious comparative target is the Google Pixel 3A, which takes most of the guts of the Pixel 3 and stuffs them in a polycarbonate body without waterproofing or wireless charging, and makes up for a slower processor with a full-power camera, and goes for $400. The iPhone 7 currently goes for $450 at 32 GB, and the iPhone XR (the current entry-level device) will set you back $750 for a 64 GB model. By contrast, when it was the top of the line, the iPhone 6s at full price cost $650 at retail for a 16 GB model, and the SE started at $399 six months later for the same 16 GB capacity. If $450 is the current “cheapest iPhone,” it stands to reason that is a viable price point around which to build some new replacement-class entry level device, and a notional iPhone SE2 would be around $450-500.

Which then leads to the inevitable question: would that be enough?


May 31, 2019


Nailed it. I had an alarm set for 4:48 AM last Friday morning and the configuration favorited in the Apple Store phone app to increase the odds of getting it, and I did. Good thing too. My delivery date is April 24. Five hours later, the delivery date was in the second week of May. $450 plus tax tag and title for a 128 GB phone (while that option still exists; the current 64 or 256 GB in the mainline iPhones skips my sweet spot) that has the current A13 processor which might be faster than some of my desktop and laptop computers? It’s a no-brainer, really. What will be interesting now is whether that iPhone 12, so-called, with the 5.4” display is actually a thing AND tempting enough to make it worth giving up TouchID and laying down $800 less whatever I can get for the SE (2020) and SE (2016) in recycling credit.

I’m not sure it will. I’d just as soon wait for the iPhone 12S.


It’s finally real, and it is more or less as expected. iPhone 8 body, A13 chipset. The back camera seems to be from the iPhone XR, which means substantial improvements but no Night Mode, and surprisingly it does feature a dual-with-eSIM capability which would be a lot more enticing if it felt like I was ever going to go abroad again at this rate. $449 for a 128 GB model, order Friday and available next Friday (presumably for home delivery or curbside at Best Buy only).

So there’s a couple of question marks here.

One, what does it offer me that my work-provided phone does not? Well, it’s a more powerful processor and a smaller body, and a slightly more capable main camera. No night mode hurts, though. But it is a hair smaller, and given that the X and the heirs of its body have always been a hair too big to be a hair too big, it’s a consideration. So is 1:1 compatibility with all the other things in the house, up to and including all accessories for my wife’s iPhone 8. Chargers, cases, everything. It also means TouchID, which isn’t inconsiderable in a world where you never take your mask off outside the house any more. It’s easier to hold, it’s more pocketable, it’s probably going to be just about right. 

Two, am I going to want the notional iPhone 12? Well, first of all, jet back to my caveats about the first gen of a Jony Ive design and whether they’re still going to privilege thin over battery. Secondly, the Great Mentioner seems to think that the iPhone 12 lineup will be four phones: an iPhone 12 Pro in 6.7 and 6.1 inch sizes, and an iPhone 12 (not pro) in 6.1 and 5.4 inch sizes. All of a sudden, the iPhone 12 might not be as much of a hop up as we thought, might not have three lenses or a Time of Flight sensor or all the fancy AR stuff. And if it doesn’t…how great is the value proposition over the iPhone SE 2020? Will a smaller AMOLED screen draw less enough power to make up for a presumably smaller battery? Will I still be as fixated on AMOLED as I was in 2013, now that the power savings are not what we were promised?

And the kicker in all of this is: I’m at home. I spend more time on the laptop at home than I have in years now. The phone is mostly for looking at Instagram and playing back podcasts. The only reason the personally-owned iPhone SE wasn’t enough is because it’s mostly slow, and the body of the 8 isn’t that much smaller than the X I’ve been carrying for two and a half years now. Still, it would be nice, especially at this particular moment in history, to have an iPhone that’s current-capable and belongs to me. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the events of the last year have left me less than sanguine about the stability of my employment, and if the bastards come for me again, it would be nice to be able to pluck out the SIM, flick it at them, switch to eSIM and walk away with my own phone in hand. 

There’s a certain bird-in-hand quality to it. A smaller iPhone 12, so-called, would still probably run somewhere around $700 for the 128 GB model, if any (which would get it back in the range where iPhones used to be priced before the X came to stand in for “that’s how many hundreds you’ll have to lay out for this phone”). But lately, your choices are 64 or 256, and if that continues, you’re probably looking at $800 for the 256 GB model. And at that point, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth $350 for night mode, a slightly larger display, more storage you don’t need and an extra year of updates. And the answer is…maybe? With the caveat that you’re going to be taking the first ride on a completely new design, which has been…problematic  in the past? The iPhone 3G felt like a step back, the iPhone 4 had the famous antenna issues (even if they were never as bad as intimated), the iPhone 5 famously went to shit on Verizon as soon as the OS was updated and never recovered…

Do I *need* it? Probably not. Do I want it? I kinda do, yeah. Will I feel like I have a little more agency in a world where agency is tough to come by these days? Probably.

I guess we’re doing this.

set em up joe

Fine. He’s not the candidate I wanted. He’s definitely not the candidate that the Russian bots wanted, and thank goodness for that. He’s not the candidate a lot of people wanted. But he is the candidate a lot more people wanted – primary votes don’t lie, and things wrapped up dangerously quickly in a way that almost recalls how the media elected John McCain to be the Republican in 2008, and so here we are.

Yes, he has flaws. He has a forty year track record. He’s been on the wrong side of things in the past, and has got right on them now. It’s one thing to ding someone for something they thought as a younger person, but another to ding them for things they have disavowed, grown on, come around on. He’s four years too late, to be honest, although no one could begrudge him sitting out 2016 after his loss; the man has borne more personal tragedy than anyone should be asked to carry through a forty year political career. And under no circumstances should the media be allowed to get away with pressing him on things they let slide with the orange shitbag.

And this is the time to remember what I said all those years ago: politics is the art of the possible. If you want dreams, you should have majored in theater. There is no finish line – you come back to the coalface every day, and you have to dig out the future with your fingernails every day. You argue and fight to get your half a loaf, and maybe sometimes it’s not as big a half as you wanted, but you’re going to have to come back tomorrow and fight for a bigger half the day after, and after, and ever after. That’s how politics works – or was supposed to, anyway, and it’s the nature of the system. The opposite of politics is not kumbaya and come-let-us-reason-together, the opposite of politics is Syria

People piss and moan about having to choose the lesser of two evils – well, that’s the world we live in. It is corrupt and fallible and evil, and you know why you choose the lesser of two evils? Because it’s fucking LESS. That’s how this works.  You will not win the brave new “socialist” millennium? Well guess what, you’ll probably get some action on health care, some action on shifting the tax burden back toward those who fleeced the country for twenty years, some action on checking the unbridled power of Big Tech, and guess what? You definitely won’t have the kakistocracy of grifters and nut jobs and criminals led by a Fox News golem that we’ve had these last three-plus years, the ones that led us to a stagnant economy and a rampaging plague and the scorn of the world and the shame of our allies. If you genuinely believe that there is no difference between Biden and Tr*mp, that there will be no difference between a Biden Presidency and what we have now – then kill yourself. You’re too stupid to live and you’re definitely too stupid to vote.

For the rest of us – it’s over. It’s a binary decision. Stop the bleeding or die. Biden, or concede that the last four years have been acceptable and that worse is fine. Biden, or start begging for an Irish passport. Biden, or a long night with no dawn. Unless you think everything since November 9, 2016 has been just fine and dandy and wouldn’t change a thing, there’s only one legitimate thing to do this November.

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr, age 77, of Scranton, PA, Delaware ’65, Syracuse Law ’68 – you have less than seven months to save the world. Make it count.

month 2

Today was supposed to be the end of the shelter in place order. Instead, it’s going to be the first week of May sometime. Because it’s working – the curve is bending, lives are being saved, and California has enough medical resources to spare some for New York and elsewhere. While the rest of the country is fixated on dueling press conferences between Andrew Cuomo and the orange dingleberry in the White House, Gavin Newsom has quickly and decisively saved the Golden State from a far greater nightmare. 

Because…I’ve kind of adapted to the new normal. Thanks to Zoom, I’ve seen distant friends in other time zones more than I likely would have in years. I never make it out of bed before 7:45 AM and I’m never late to work. I can do 100% of everything I would be doing otherwise. I don’t have to leave the house (because I mostly can’t leave the house) but I’ve been fortunate enough to take advantage of curbside pickup of pizza, of beer, of a full Irish breakfast. We’ve knocked out chores that’ve needed doing, the podcasts and DVR are mostly caught up, and I even cooked us an anniversary dinner of scrambled eggs and oatmeal all by myself (okay, someone else insisted on wilting spinach into the eggs and slicing up a kiwi to go with it). 

The irony is…I’m having the time of my life. Kinda. For what I want out of life at age 48, I’ve got it – the wider world largely shut out, the timeframe and horizon changed. I’m not worrying about the election anymore – that’s far too far out, and with the primaries settled, I don’t really feel like I need to care about the news at this point. Everyone is mostly healthy, locked down in relative safety, we don’t have to worry about having anyone in a nursing home or hospital at this point. Our travel is all on hold, but the stressful bits of it aren’t happening either, and we’re able to video-chat with the people we would have missed out on seeing. There’s no sports – but Vanderbilt’s still the defending national champion of baseball, and I can tailgate with Vandy fans without the hassle and inconvenience of travel or chancing a loss. Even the weather has conspired to feel like we moved to the coast – gray, overcast, actual rain to fall asleep to some nights. 

Which begs the question…how am I going to go back? Back to schlepping it into the office when I plainly don’t need to sit at a desk on-site to be ignored by our management and left out of the planning? Back to having to actually book flights and deal with people in other states I don’t want to visit? Back to trying to find real-world social outlets instead of astral projection via Zoom that lets me drink in Nashville or Virginia as easily as in the living room? What happens when the world isn’t wiling to constrain itself to something I can live with any longer?

I’ll worry about that in May. For now, I’m just trying to be present in a world that I can live with, despite everything.

best case scenarios

* the volume of unnecessary death in the elderly cohort breaks the back of old people’s unblinking support for the Tr*mp administration in general and the broader conservative project in particular, at least enough to give Democrats control of the government for the near future.

* the plethora of health-related issues opens the public’s eyes to the fact that no matter how you feel about “socialism” (which in this country basically means “nonwhite people get the same things old white people get”), tying health care to your job is insane and asinine, and we move closer to a broad-based solution, starting with a robust public option that automatically enrolls anyone who is between jobs. If nothing else, we need to make it possible to quit your job without worrying that you might die as a result.

* the conundrum of “either you have to rebate tuition for these online classes, or else if they’re just as good, you have to stop making people go live in Shallow Alto or Cambridge or Pittsburgh or New Haven or wherever” forces a serious rethink of higher education and why you have to accept a hundred thousand dollar bill in order to have the golden ticket for a job, any job, that doesn’t have your name on your shirt.

* the realization that those jobs with the name on the shirt are literally what keeps us alive results in an according increase in compensation and public regard for the kind of hourly labor incorrectly tarred as “unskilled” which preserves our economy and makes it function

* the realization that we got just as much work done at home over Zoom and Slack forces a re-evaluation of whether it’s really necessary to drag people to a giant open-plan kindergarten five days a week, especially when you have to pay Bay Area rents on that human warehouse or drive an hour-plus to get to it, and opens the possibility that maybe just maybe you COULD live in Pacifica or Pescadero and still do your Valley job without a hitch

* people finally realize that actual experts are more to be trusted and relied on than shitbag reality TV assholes