A Meditation on the Release of Washington Post Reporter Jason Rezaian After Over 500 Days of Captivity in Iranian Jails

Remember: Jason Rezaian was not trapped in a coal mine, not rescued from a disaster. He was captured, held, and most likely tortured by the government of a nuclear power. These people are still there, and this will happen again: in fact, it's still happening.

Let this be the bones of our joy, the inner structure of our gratitude.

The New AppleTV: I'm Not Mad, I'm Disappointed

The Good Parts

Setup is easier than anything else in the market, because the Bluetooth pairing with the iPhone is so future-stuff. I set it up before the Remote app was updated to work with it, though, so typing in all those passwords and codes was a pain.

The thing is pretty fast. Things jump around and zip from screen to screen pretty rapidly. Lag is noticeable and unforgivable in the context of what is the New Normal for this device, and honestly devices in this market as a whole.

The Bluetooth remote is faster and better than an IR remote. I don't have to point the thing at the TV like a monkey.

Scrubbing on this thing is hooooooooooboy it's beautiful. It's the most pleasant and happy I am when I'm using the device.

The app model as a whole is better than the channel model provided by the old device. The older devices channel model made you manually hide every channel you knew for a fact you were never going to watch, which was a cumbersome process at best. It also left too much control of the interface up to arbitrary channel additions, meaning you could be looking for something you want to watch and have to re-find it because some new channel pushed it to a new row. Now, you only have the stuff you want, and new stuff goes to the bottom. Sweet.

Siri is great, and when I remember to use her and she works (more on that later) it's really a better way to use a TV. Scrolling and swiping from screen to screen from row to row, typing letters, all that sucks. I don't really have to do that anymore, and that's better.

I've never had to charge the remote. I do, when I think to do it, but I've never been like oh shit, the battery's gonna run out, I'd better charge it. That's a pretty good indicator of how long it lasts.

I guess it's nice to turn the TV on with the same remote? My audio goes straight to a soundbar with independent controls, so I don't get to use that part, but the powering on part is nice.

Sometimes when I use this thing I contemplate my own death

The downside to the app model is that every app gets to define its own user interface. It can abandon convention and become completely inscrutable, and it's really really important to have a scrutable TV interface, I'm discovering. It also doesn't help that Apple's "guidance" for UX design leaves me asking some very serious questions.

Let's start with the remote.

The Remote

The old Apple remote was about as small and simple as a remote can get. It had about the same number of controls as an NES controller: up, down, left, right, select, menu, and play/pause. You didn't really need a label for most of them, and because of the layout, you knew which side was up and which end was the right end to point at the TV. Granted, it was small, so you drop the thing and it finds really impressively small crevices to get stuck in, but when you were using it, you didn't really think about it, because you were able to operate it while looking at the screen. You know, because it's a remote for a screen that's six to ten feet away from you when you're using it.

I think that if you had a real Design Think-y meeting about how to fuck up that remote, you could end up with something a lot like the remote they shipped with the new Apple TV.

A good remote is:

  1. Ergonomic. It feels good in the hand.
  2. Tactile. It should tell you how it works by touch, so you can use the remote without looking at it while you watch your game or housewives or whatever.
  3. Simple. No one wants to spend time futzing with their remote. It's supposed to do what it's supposed to do and then go away.

Is it ergonomic? No. It feels like a bar of soap, except it's too narrow to hold comfortably so my fingers prefer to be off of it rather than on it. It's too skinny and too narrow. I don't like holding it.

Is it tactile? No. It's got six buttons, positioned in a 2x3 directly in the center of the remote. One of the buttons (the Siri button) has a slight divot in it, and the volume up and down buttons are connected, but that doesn't really help unless you've got the arrangement memorized. If you pick up the remote in the dark, it's really a crapshoot if you're holding it the right way. It doesn't even light up or glow in the dark. That would fix everything. No, instead, it leaves which direction is up to the fates. And which direction is up is important, because one side does nothing and the other side could fuck your shit up good.

The danger zone is the touch button surface thing, that covers the top front quarter of the device. You touch it, and it brings up the on screen controls. Your finger moves across that surface, even for a second, and whatever you're watching stops, scrubbing in one direction or another. The responsiveness is almost instantaneous: there is no affordance for accidental touches whatsoever.

If you were holding it, that would be one thing. But when the remote falls down, and you pick it up, and it fucks up your movie, you want to never use it again. And it falls down a lot. And it gets stuck in crevices a lot. Have fun playing Operation with your couch.

If that wasn't enough, there's another thing about this touch urbane that bugs me. Apple has made touch surfaces out of glass since they started making touch surfaces. A bit of glass inside a matte casing means you can touch it. iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, the whole lot work this way. So, when the glass surface on this guy does nothing, and the matte surface does a whole bunch of stuff, you throw all the intuitive gesture stuff out the window. Matte surfaces don't drag well: they're matte.

Is it simple? I'd say it's about as complicated as a six button and touch surface remote could be. It doesn't adopt any conventions from iOS, and establishes new symbology that isn't really clear. If you go from the old AppleTV to the new one, you have to relearn how to use the remote, which can be really frustrating if you developed some speed with the older one, aside from the frustration everyone gets when they're forced to relearn some shit they already knew.

I can't overstate this: I should not care this much about a remote. It should just fade into the background, like any good UX, and just make way for the content I care about. Instead, I jumped for joy when the Remote app was updated to support it, and use that most of the time now.

tvOS UX and Design

I did not think I would miss the old design, but I do.

The high order bit for TV interface design has to be what I'm calling for the purposes of this review "Cognition". Cognition is measured in milliseconds, and is the amount of time it takes to figure out your current place in the UX. What's the currently selected option' where are the the places you can go, what is the direction things scroll if they scroll, etc: these are all things someone operating a remote control for that interface needs to know, and needs to know fast.

The old design kept elements at a fixed size and used highlighting to show the currently selected element. Additional elements were in a vertically scrolling list view, so you could go up or down, and left to right as elements were arranged in a grid, but no elements were off screen to the let or right except for in the Hero units at the very top, which were distinguished as primary highlighted placement. It was similar to all the store interfaces on all the other products. Lists were always vertically scrolling, so you could see more options and kept a sense of place in the list as you scrolled down. At the top was a key to where you were and where you just came from.

It was a bit heavy handed, but it wasn't like it was in Corinthian leather or anything. It was set in Black, so turning on the thing didn't light up the room. Text was white, so you could read it against black from far away. Highlight were in blue. When an image was highlighted, it was bordered in blue. It was really, really easy to see where you were at.

The new interface tries to jazz things up a bit by adding a third dimension, and shows your current selection by bringing it forward, in effect growing it about 10%. This is way too subtle, and it means you can't tell what's selected until you start moving around. Interface elements also switched orientation from vertical to horizontal scrolling, meaning you can only see three or four options before you start moving through a list and losing your first two. That means lots and lots of swiping and swiping... on a matte surface. This is not fun.

To top it off, there's a buffer, where an element shifts and spins before your selection moves to the next element. Does it look cool? Yes. Does it make it functionally more difficult to use? Yep.

Keep in mind, this is just for Apple's stuff. This is in the iTunes TV Shows app. Getting from season to season is a pain in the ass, jumping to a new show takes work, etc. not only are these the system apps that get shipped with the device, but it's also how Apple teaches developers how to design for the platform. And the interpretation by the developers in the field has been predictably chaotic.

Third Party Apps

Shipping a platform instead of a API based channel means tvOS gives up control over the way UI elements look and feel. Third party apps are free to adopt conventional UX, or not. If they improve upon the system designs, it's good. If it does its own weird thing...

My most used apps on the old and new Apple TV have been Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go. For a while, they were the only apps I had on there, and I was cool with it. All three have different UI/UX.

Netflix is the best, simply because it ships their standard UX that they've shipped on all their other products, bringing it in line with their brand. Categories scroll horizontally, switching categories moves vertically. Episodes are listed in a vertical list. It all makes sense, and works pretty well. I kind of like it better in some ways, as it lets each screen take some of the character of the show I'm watching.

Hulu is a mishmash of vertical and horizontal scrolling, with windows of different sizes, and more often than not the hero images are broken or misrendering. The fact that this is not the worst offender of the three has less to do with its own flaws and more to do with...

HBO. I devour their shows and movies. I think their back catalog is unstoppable, filled with some of the best TV ever made. I routinely dive in when I'm looking for something to watch. It pains me to say this, but the HBO interface provided here is a god damn mess.

Highlighting is indicated by a subtle white line, either to the left, or underneath, or around, or wherever depending on which menu you're in. You're supposed to navigate through multiple levels of options on the same window, moving from category to season to episode, and since you don't know or aren't clear where you are if you've just finished an episode (because continuous viewing isn't a feature in this version, you end up back at the menu when an episode is finished) moving the remote at all can send you really far away from where you're at depending on which level the app has placed your cursor. Oh, you're at s3e5 and you wanted to go to s3e6? Too bad, you're now in s6. Oh, you want to go back? S3e1. Walk there.

Want the special features? Have fun guessing that gesture. Seriously, using this app is a nightmare.

Now, Apple also ships an alternative to all of this scrolling and scrolling and guessing, in the Siri function. Say a series and a season and an episode, and boom, you're there! That is, if you've implemented universal links properly, and the direction sent to your app goes through. Sometimes, with Netflix, it does. iTunes, of course my has a 100% success rate. HBO just sends you to the Show's main page and let's you figure it out from there.

As a whole, the AppleTV feels like something designed by someone without consideration for real life use. Its affordance site for the aesthetic detract from the usability of the product. It boggles my mind that this was shipped by Apple.


Overall, it's a mixed bag. It's a pretty design, the hardware is fast, video streaming and processing is almost instantaneous, scrubbing through video when you actually want to is great. The app model itself is absolutely the way it should be done, and as the SDK improves and more tools and capabilities are at developers' disposal, the experience will get better and the variety of content will improve (I'm not saying the content or variety of content is lackluster at all, far from it: merely that as companies join the platform more diverse content and content types get added).

But the details, the little things that make using Apple devices so great, the tiny affordances they agonize over to provide an experience that's not just to be looked at but to be used, tools for a new millennium, are absent on this device. Using it feels like work at best and dangerous at most.

If you're in the market for a device like this, I'd buy the older AppleTV before this one. I'd wait a year or so for a new version of the OS, and for Apple to get their TV ducks in a row, before recommending this as a must buy.

The Title

I want to say the title is too strong, because it doesn't really give away how many positive things I think about this device, or let on to how optimistic I am about it as a platform. But, it's not: when I look at this device, I see everything it could have been, all the hopes I had for it, and come away with a palpable sense of let-down. It's a great first step down a great path, just a few steps behind where I expect them to be at this point.

The Reckoning is Coming, or "You arrogant ass, you've killed us!!"

The coming reckoning for publishers is not “because of Apple”. It’s because of the choices the publishers themselves made, years ago, to allow themselves to become dependent on user-hostile ad networks that slow down the web, waste precious device battery life, and invade our privacy. Apple has simply enabled us, the users who are fed up with this crap, to do something about it. If aggressive content blocking were enabled out of the box, by default, I could see saying the result is “because of Apple”. But it’s not. What’s about to happen is thus because of us, the users.

I'll go a step further.

The reckoning is not because the publishers chose to ally themselves with user-hostile ad networks. The reckoning is coming because before they did that, they devalued their and all their competitors' content by refusing to consider a paid model for their work on the internet.

Publishers are morose when discussing how "it would be great if people paid for content on the web, but that's not the world we live in." They forget that it was they themselves who decided that what they published was all of a sudden not worth any money from any user as soon as they opened it in a web browser.

Once they establish that their work should be free to consume on the internet, the decsion to ally themselves with the only group that thinks their content has monetary value is a no-brainer. After that decision has been made, the idea that they then wouldn't conform to the needs of their true customer is baffling.


The watch comes in an oblong cardboard box that surprised me, as after all I'd been hearing about Apple's efforts to reduce shipping costs by cutting down on container size, I definitely didn't expect to see a device so small come in a package that large. The device itself was in an inner box, which held the actual packaging of the watch and the charger/extra band. All in all, it was a far cry from the iPod touch, or even the iPhone, which comes in a box almost exactly as big as it would need to be to contain it and it's accessories and no bigger.

The cable is the longest cable I've ever seen Apple ship with a device. Even the MacBook cable isn't as long, and it comes in two pieces. What?


The video ends, and Tim Cook is about to get on stage and tell us about the Apple Watch, and I couldn't be more unenthusiastic. I had expected something different, to be honest. I half expected to not even see a screen on the thing - just a notification extension with a biometric ability that cost $99 bucks and would mark every iPhone owner on a single glance, unlocking your device and serving as your password for everything. Shit, I thought it was a good idea, at least.

"Welp, they actually made a watch."

My colleagues looked at me. "You mean, you didn't see this coming?"

"Yeah, but I hoped... whatever." They shrugged. Oh well.

Powering on the device is, well, I don't know how to do it besides plugging it in, so I plugged it in (which translates to plugging the power cable into the wall and sitting the watch on the charger pad, which fits into place with a satisfying click that I'm sure engineers agonized over for days, arriving upon a sound both playful and secure, in true Apple form). On it goes, and after a minute of staring at the old style 3D Apple logo from the pre-iOS 7 world ("...huh?"), I'm staring at the screen, telling me it's time to find an iPhone to get the show started.

"Are you going to get one?" I'm asked at least ten times that day. "Eh," I reply. "Maybe."

To tell you the truth, I'm not excited. I've tried to wear a watch twice: my Dad bought me a Skagen for a steal one time and I wore it until the screen cracked way too easily, getting used to its absence so that by the time it came back from repair I'd moved on. Pretty thing, though, but it would get sweaty on my wrist and it would ding into stuff. A girlfriend bought me one a few years later, Burberry, and I wore it until I forgot to put it on one morning and the habit was broken. I was not optimistic a watch would ever work its way into a daily habit, an Apple Watch notwithstanding.

The pairing process takes all of two seconds and is as simple as lining up my watch with a watch sized roundrect outline on the screen through the camera, much like you'd use the camera to deposit a check or enter a card into Apple Pay. Easy, hassle free, and it went by as if it was the most natural and effortless engagement.

It looked nice, anyway. Thick, though. I'll wait and see one in person before I make the call to buy one or not. I'm definitely not preordering one, though. I don't have $400 bucks to throw around on a maybe. Between the handful I'd get to play with at the office and the eventual trip to the Apple store to put it on for myself, I'll have enough to convince me one way or another.

We'd get to develop something for it, though. My colleague, Emily, a product manager, immediately went into the office of Mobile Products to figure out what we'd do for it. I went upstairs, back to my office in Ads, and got back to reporting the news. A watch, yes. Starts at $349. Who knows how much for the Gold one. Yeah, it's gold. Yeah, it runs apps. No, I'm not getting one yet.

Watch OS 1.0.1 had come out by the time it arrived, so updating it was the first thing I really did with the device. I think I put it on for a second before I realized that it had to be off and charging in order for the update to work, but that was it. After that it was a strange twenty minutes of watching a circle on the watch slowly fill in and a status bar on the phone start and finish and start and finish... For all the polish on the entrance, the update process was remarkably haphazard. Weirded out.

Apple buys a campaign on the homepage. Then they buy a week. It's a watch promotion. Weird - they never have to advertise new products like that, especially when they don't even have a sale price yet. Wonder what that's about.

I hit “load all available apps.” My mistake - I get a warning that "There's not enough room on your Watch for this app" followed by six more. I instantly undo and can already eliminate ten or twelve apps I don't want anywhere near my wrist. Fandango, FlightTrack, Deliveries, Instagram. Nope city.

I load Dark Sky on there, hoping for a weather app replacement, as well as Uber, Yelp, Automatic, Overcast, HipChat, and a few others. This is almost all blind: I read Marco's post about Overcast and I assumed that Uber would let you get a car with your watch, but other than that I had no clue what to expect.

I pick up the Burberry watch, black on black leather, that my ex had gotten me. The band had long gashes in it from when our dog, now her dog, had gotten to it on the nightstand and enjoyed the rich Corinthian leather in the way a dog knows best. It still fastened, so I figure I'll put it on and see if I could actually pull off wearing a watch. It's an experiment: a test balloon. I'm preparing myself for the inevitable.

Hell, I might even replace the band. Sixty bucks. I'll do that eventually.

A few weeks later, the watch slows down, indicating a soon-to-be dead battery. I wind it a few times, realizing the futility. Where do you even get a battery for this stuff? Amazon? God, I don't have to go to a Burberry store, do I? On the shelf it goes. I'll get a battery at some point.

I don't.

I would not use the word "thick" to describe the Watch itself. I know they'll eventually get thinner, but it's almost exactly like when I first held the iPhone 3G. "Yeah, this feels nice."

The band is way more comfortable than I assumed it would be. I ordered what my office refers to as the "nerd watch" (space grey, Sport, black band) and while I assumed the rubber - sorry, Jony: flouroelastomer - band would get sweaty and feel cheap, it actually does neither, fitting securely and feeling more leathery than plasticky. The whole device is so light and the buckle is so smooth on the entry point that I barely give a thought to it when I'm not being tapped.

The term "digital crown" seems gimmicky. Oh, and the term 'force touch'? Nothing has ever so directly stated the lack of women working on a product than the name "Force Touch". Real molesty vibe, there, Phil.

Oh, the tap.

First, the was the ringtone. It was a signal that took some getting used to, but there would be a sound in your pocket (or, in my mothers case, her purse) that was identifiable to you, alerting you to someone's demand for your time and attention, and you didn't even think of refusing because what are you some kind of asshole or something? So you pick it up. It was the start of the personal notification, arguably the evolution of the human idea of a name.

Next, the silent notification, or the vibration, served a similar purpose in areas where noise was unacceptable, which made the pocket a sacred, hollowed ground for your pager or phone.

The transition from audio feedback to tactile feedback is an important one, but I think when the device moved itself one layer closer, directly in contact with the skin, the mode evolved further into what Apple is calling the Taptic Engine. I'm just calling it the most pleasant, unobtrusive but completely recognizable offer for attention ever devised by man. I'd rather be tapped by my watch than have my own name spoken aloud. It alerts me without being demanding or assuming, I don't feel bad about ignoring it but I never miss it, and it never insists: it politely requests.

The innovation they've done with the engine on the MacBook trackpad is great. I assume that same type of super tactile feedback will appear in iOS devices. All those applications fall short of the simple act of tap-to-notify, and you won't know how truly remarkable it is until you feel it.

The March event ends. $349 for the Watch Sport, $549 for the Watch, $10K for the Watch Edition. Cheaper than I thought, but still. I'm honestly more excited about the new MacBook, even though I'm not in the market. It represents an expansion, or even an abandonment, of the iconic four pane matrix of Apple lore - consumer and professional, portable and desktop. Now, there's a third column: enterprise. The consumer portable is the Macbook, the enterprise portable is the Air, the professional portable is the Macbook Pro Retina. Apple has grown up. Good for them.

That watch, though. Am I missing something? What's the "reason for being"? I remember Steve getting up there and taking ten minutes to explain why the iPhone needed to exist and what it would do. I remember him laying out exactly where the iPad fit in the scheme of things before even showing it to us. Now, it's just "Hey, look, we made a watch." Who wanted to make this thing, anyway? Why? What problem does it solve? And why should anyone buy it?

Tap tap. Time to stand up.

I don't get the "Stand up" nudge very often, because I have a standing desk and I usually walk around a lot, pace back and forth, and swing around a bat. But when I do, it comes at exactly the same time as the three other watch wearers around me, usually at 10 ’til. Maybe it’s because we’re in the same meeting. Maybe it’s all synced up. Who knows - I do it, and I don't even make a joke about it, or complain, or moan about how my watch tells me to stand up and I stood up like some sheep. I just kind of do it, because it seems like a good idea.

"Oh, yeah, right. I should stand up."

Preorders start, and it's in the Apple Store. All the models are there. That black on black steel one looks cool. Kind of Darth Vader-y. No way i'm spending $1100 on it, though. No fucking way.

I favorite it, along with the black on black sport. Just in case.

I never use the digital crown.

I move the watch into my cart. Then I close the app. Not yet. I'll put the thing on and decide.

Most third party apps on this thing suck.

I mean that very specifically. Go to the home screen (which is really more of the app screen, because Home really is the watch face), tap on any app, and prepare to have a weird experience. First, you’ll wait for the watch to load the app, and then you’ll wait for the app to load its content, which can be a total of ten seconds. Then, you're presented with a UI designed by someone who’s never actually held the device, with functionality you would much rather use your phone to do, so you do, and shortly thereafter delete the app off your watch.

The apps that I have left are Uber, Dark Sky, Overcast, and Fantastical. Fantastical is an exception to the rule in that it’s a marked improvement over the system calendar app on the watch, so I have both the app and the glance installed. Same is true for Dark Sky, whose glance I use instead of the Weather app. You can’t delete system apps (god damn Stocks, you taunt me again!) but you can remove their Glances and use another one instead, which in practice feels like removing them, or even setting a new default.

I tried to call a car with Uber one time and it said my payment system was invalid, so I used the phone and haven’t tried again since.

I schedule a Try-on appointment at the Apple store. It seems like the lamest thing i've ever done, cementing my place in the Apple fanboy cult. I'm making an appointment to try on a watch I can't buy yet. I don't even wear a watch. What the fuck happened to me?

I put the thing on. The first one I try is the link bracelet, to see if it's Darth Vader for me. My arm hair gets caught in it instantly. Fuck that shit. The sport band feels fine: really, really light, almost unnoticeable. It's a demo unit, so you can't do anything with it, which leads me to the displays around the store with functional units attached to an iPad with tours loaded on it. It's Foreign Device Syndrome - iOS devices are strange, somewhat useless items until they've got _your_ stuff on it, so picking up a device thats not yours is kind of pointless and feels weird, like everything thats going on is none of your business.

Seems fast, though.

Battery life is a non issue. With no exceptions, I’ve been able to make it through a full day with more than 20% of battery left. I wouldn't want to wear it when i slept, because the tap will wake me up, so charging it at night is no big deal.

Battery life on my iPhone, however, is fucking crazy town banana pants good. I don't get home with less than 60% anymore, and thats after ten or so hours of use. The amount of power Bluetooth LE (they meant it when they said low energy) uses to connect to the watch is apparently negligible compared to the amount of energy it costs to wake up and put the thing back to sleep every time you pull out the thing to read a notification. That’s secret feature #1: your iPhone now has plenty of energy to do whatever you want. It’s now a two day device, in my experience.

It goes back in my cart again, this time a steel Watch with a modern buckle. That one felt good, at least, and the mechanism was cool. $750, though. That's a lot.


I'm home, and it's late. I get in my apartment, and look down at the watch. I'm using the modular face, which I have showing my activity circles on the bottom left. My standing circle is complete, and I've walked enough to finish the "Activity" circle, but I'm 50 calories away from completing the last one, which would give me three full circles, a feat I had yet to complete. I pace around the apartment for a bit, wave my hands around hoping to trick it. No dice.

I leave the apartment and walk around the block. I round a corder and get a tap: "Nice work!". I'm pleased with myself.

Instantly, I'm laughing. I didn't have my watch on when I did my morning exercise routine (push ups, squats and leg lifts, none of which would trigger the Watch's activity measurements), so I knew that I'd crossed the Activity threshold way earlier. Plus, I just walked around the block to make my Watch happy.

At the same time as I feel kind of silly, it's also not a big deal. Im actually kind of happy i did it. Apple got everyone sucked into screens big and small, most of the time spent with those devices while we sit on our ever fatter asses. If it felt an obligation to get their customers up and moving around (you know, like humans), I'm for it.

"Come on," my coworker Jason said, toying with his Watch. "You know you're going to get one. I need someone to send touches to! It'll be so cool!"

"If I do get one," I say, "I promise the first thing I'll do is send you a drawing of a dick."

He laughs, but we both acknowledge what's going to happen with the little touch drawing thing. It's going to be cool, then we'll annoy the shit out of everyone, then no one will use it. It's Yo for dick drawings.

I say I might end up getting it, but not immediately. He thinks I'm lying to myself. Maybe I am. I can't tell.

When I said “no exceptions“ to all-day battery life, there’s really just one.

Two nights ago, I was at a late night barbecue in Alexandria that went until about one-thirty in the morning. I looked down at the thing and it was approaching ten percent, and out of curiosity and a desire to not completely drain the thing, I turned on “Power Reserve” mode. This basically means that if you tap the digital crown, the time will display in green, and thats it. I’d appreciate it if it still did the “Activate on Wrist Raise“, but for a device that you might need in order to tell time… ah, who am I kidding, you’ve already got your phone with you, who cares, I’m never going to use that feature again.

So I turn this mode on (which is basically shutting the watch off, for all intents and purposes), and I go back to my night. Then my phone buzzes in my pocket.

“…ugh, shit.“

I pull the phone out. It’s an email from the Gap. “Whatever.” I swipe to delete it.

The first watches arrive. My boss and my coworker get theirs. Ooh. Aah. They seem half enamored, half irritated. I make another try-on appointment. Put on the watch, take it off. "Thanks. I think I'm set."

Then I realized what had happened. I realized I’d probably wear a watch like this for the rest of my life.

I remembered the way I felt about the iPhone when I first got it. I was excited, to be sure, but there was a fear that it was just a novelty or a fad, that I wouldn’t use most if any of the apps, that i’d eventually go for something simpler with better battery life, and that I’d feel hosed for spending that much money on a marketing gimmick. I used it for a week or so, and I liked it.

Then I needed directions somewhere, and I looked it up in Maps. Boom - turn by turn directions, in a manner of seconds, from where I was at that moment. That was the moment I knew I’d be using smartphones for the rest of my life, and that I no longer had to convince my friends and family to get one because they eventually would. It just became a fact of life that this thing, this magical and revolutionary device, was going to take over the world.

I loathed having to pull my phone out of my pocket. What a waste of time - constantly fishing the thing out, checking a single and easily missable alert type for something that could either be banal or of the utmost importance. Checking an alert and being notified about the things going on in my life is not less of a hassle, it’s no hassle. It’s completely natural, almost effortless. Apps aside, for notifications, it’s perfectly executed, the screen turning on whenever I want to look at it (it’s so accurate it’s almost magic) and allowing me to quickly dismiss, delete, or take action. It’s not an extension of my phone: it’s an extension of my brain.

Who’s left who’s skeptical about the computer? What about those smartphone holdouts? How about the automobile skeptics, or the flight pessimists? No, they’re dead or slowly dying out, either by literally dying, fading into obscurity, or succumbing to the eventual evolution, falling under the weight of progress and slowly but surely letting this technology do what it’s always done: change our lives for the better.

I’m not going to waste my time convincing people to get the watch. I’m not going to explain to people how it’s going to make the small moments we’ve become habituated to easier and more fluid, curbing those impetuous interruptions and bringing us back to face-to-face contact with each other, to the universal fellowship of conversation. I know that for everyone, it’s a lost cause. We’re at the precipice of a new world, and it’s only a matter of time.

It's midnight. I just got paid. I'm staring at the 38mm black on black Sport, $349, the already christened "Nerd Watch", named after the developers who ordered it almost exclusively.

"It's Apple", I think. It's new, we make apps for it, and it could end up being something. It's sort of my job, right? Besides, am I going to let people tell me if its good or not, or am I going to see for myself? Besides, if I don't like it, I'll return it. No harm, no foul.


Both Sides

I'm making a lot of effort to withhold my disagreement with people nowadays. I have lots of opinions, and the hard part is not recognizing them, it's appreciating and understanding that whatever opinion I have on a subject is one of many possible opinions, that any decision comes packaged with hundreds of potential directions. It's the nature of things, and who am I to challenge it by insisting on mine being correct without the benefit of hindsight?

However, what I must constantly watch out for in myself and, as long as they ask, for others, is consistency. You can have an opinion all you want, but the constant disagreement with myself is a general indication that I'm too easily swayed, that I agree to things without really considering what they mean. In product design, when I'm considering individual features, they seem like individual decisions, but as they come together, their inconsistencies begin to shine out as the symptoms of a thoroughly unconsidered product. I guess I just don't want to end up like that.

More guesses: I'm thinking about this because of Baltimore, and in some ways because of Ferguson, again. I'm looking at the slow drip of depressive drivel down my Facebook feed, alternating currents of disdain at the violence and screams of agony from the hurt, the disregarded, the damned.

You can believe it's morally wrong to riot. That's fine: I disagree with you, but it's an opinion and you're allowed to it. You're also allowed to believe that our country made specific allowances for its citizens to possess firearms, in the specific instance that they could rebel violently against the government when it slips into tyranny and injustice. That's okay, too.

I just don't know if you can believe both of those things at the same time.

P.S.: The protesters in Baltimore? Want to see what happens if even one of them draws a licensed, registered firearm?

My Only Note from the Apple Watch Event

Here are some things I know about Apple:

Apple now designs and builds their hardware and software together.

That's the most obvious consequence of 2012's reorganization of Apple's executive team. Jony Ive and Craig Federighi work in tandem designing software and hardware for all of Apple's products together. The org chart says so, Cook says so, and they say so themselves.

Apple will design for the newest device they have, even if that device has not been released yet.

The chevron next to the "slide to unlock" text on iOS 7 drew some criticism for being both a bit too heavy handed and being confusing, considering that the Control Center invocation symbol was an arrow directly beneath it, pointing up.

This was semi-corrected by turning the arrow into a line, which then turned into a chevron when pulled on, but the slide to unlock chevron looks the same. 

This was semi-corrected by turning the arrow into a line, which then turned into a chevron when pulled on, but the slide to unlock chevron looks the same. 

What we didn't know at the time was that the next device to come out of Apple was the iPhone 5S, with Touch ID providing a way of unlocking the phone that didnt involve swiping at all. In fact, the "slide to unlock" language didn't even display until 5 seconds after the screen turns on.

I believe, and others said as much after the release of the phone, that iOS 7 was designed with the iPhone 5S in mind, being the best hardware available, and that they didn't factor in the strange symbology until complaints in the beta chain started to heat up. Even then, the solution they provided was half hearted, as they really intended to solve the problem with new hardware.

So, if something is confusing in a new release in one half of their output, we might expect a solution to come in the second half when it arrives.

Apple cares about backups.

The original Macbook Air introduction in 2008 included a long section where Steve Jobs justified a laptop without an optical drive. In it, he described all the reasons people used optical drives, and how Apple had provided solutions for each leading up to the device's announcement. Playing movies, installing software, making backups, and burning CDs, and for each of them they presented a solution that didn't involve a CD drive.

The solutions to music and movies is easy to remember even now: buy them from Apple, and put them on an iPod. The first was probably said knowing that ripping movies was already so common at that point that that was how most people would be watching movies in any case, but Apple was still in tight negotiations with production studios, and coming out and advocating for theft was probably not the best move.

The solution to backups? Apple not only created a one click software solution to backups with Time Machine, they made a hardware device to pair it with (Time Capsule) that offered no-frills wireless backup. I remember that introduction, too: it got stage time at that same event.

When each minute of a keynote presentation is scripted down to the minute, you can know for sure that anything Apple spends time on during one is important to Apple.

So, this new Macbook. I saw many parallels between this introduction and the introduction to the 2008 Air, but none moreso than what we use ports for nowadays. And, in similar fashion, Phil Schiller went through the reasons we use USB, and how we don't need them anymore thanks to innovations from Apple.

"When you want to watch content on your TV, you do it with AirPlay. When you want to share files, you do it with AirDrop. When you want to get on a cellular network, from your Macbook you can initiate a hotspot, on your iPhone.

And then he says somethng about Beats headphones for when you want to listen to music. Thing is, the Mac has a headphone port. It's one of two ports on the damn thing, and he's talking like it doesnt exist and wireless headphones are the way they think this works.

Except I don't think they thought that at all. I think they used what they thought was a gaping hole in their presentation to throw in some Beats promos and get a laugh, instead of put in what they really wanted to put in, whch was a cloud-based backup solution for Macs that Apple is going to introduce with the next version of OS X this summer.

Why else would they go without mentioning backups? It's the main reason I plug my Macbook Pro in to anything. Do they expect peoplenot to use backups? I don't think so: I think a universe where people don't back up their Macs is a scary one for Apple, considering the mayhem that occurs at Apple Stores when Geniuses have to deliver the bad news to anyone whose phone is nuked and didnt have iCloud backup turned on.

I think we'll see something like iCloud storage leveraging automatic, cloud backups for every Mac running OS X 10.11 launching this year, announced this summer at WWDC. If they didn't, it's an incredible oversight that's going to mean pain down the line for all the people who use this machine, as well as the Apple Store employees that service them.

A Comprehensive Guide to Traveling and Commuting in Washington, DC

  1. Avoid the Red Line at All Costs.
  2. Unless you're in some sort of Brewster's Millions competition to spend money rapidly and with no return, avoid using taxis. Uber is 25% cheaper and reliable in the district, and if they long haul you (take a longer route than necessary to jack up the fare) you can leave a review and Uber will refund you. If you don't have Uber, get it. If you don't have Uber because you don't have a smartphone, get a smartphone.

All legitimate travel complaints can be answered or avoided by points 1 or 2.


Traffic is not a problem. Traffic is a consequence, in this case the consequence of living near other people.

I was just in West Windsor, NJ for the holidays. They had no traffic. Do you know where West Windsor is? Did you have to Google it? That's probably why.


Random outages and road closures are also a consequence of living around people. Things that get used a lot break in more places more often. Things that get used a lot that break need to be repaired, inconveniencing the people who use it a lot, but obviously not as much as it would inconvenience them to not have the thing in the first place.

But New York! It's a Grid!

New York is not a grid. Manhattan island is a grid, and an imperfect one at that. Brooklyn is not a grid. Queens is not a grid.

I was driving through Astoria last week and passed 23rd Place, 23rd St, 23rd Terrace and 23rd Avenue. All in succession. As if that made sense. The 22's (because you might as well lump them together if you're going to snake through them over and over again)? Different order.

Downtown DC has letters, numbers, and arteries. The arteries are all named after states. Letters cross numbers, and count up from the Capitol building, which is the big white building impossible to miss from a bunch of places. They wrote a law saying that nothing can legally be taller than it in the District. You've seen it on TV and on T shirts.

After the letters run out, streets go back to being named after people and places. They also run alphabetically.

Need help? Use your internet powered magic device.


School started at 7:55 am, hearkening back to the days when productivity and livelihood were tied to sunlight. I'm 9 years old: I'd be up an hour earlier, because at 6:55 my father would finish the part of his routine he completed in the bedroom, and would saunter past my door on his way downstairs.

I'd stagger downward, shovel some form of cereal in my face while I watched my father say goodbye to my mother in the same way, every day, with a kiss on the cheek while she’d finish cleaning over the sink. When he'd leave, I'd turn off the TV.

As much as my family had tried to instill in me a love of sports, until that time it never had become something I took ownership of, something I chose for myself. It was like a religion, but only in the way that participation was more for keeping up appearances than any sincere devotion.

The religion of the family was baseball, and the denomination was New York: Yankees and Mets. They had, after a period of glory preceding my birth, suffered a decade of shame and defeat, and during the winter before 1996 my family had begun the seasonal mix of excitement and dread that preceded every April. I noticed the shift in tone more than I understood its genesis, so I didn't really connect with it.

Until I started listening to what was on the TV, the annoyance that I silenced upon my fathers departure, the second sister I could silence at will, establishing a more reasonable distribution of attention. The program was SportsCenter, and the voice Stuart Scott.

I though Stuart Scott was funny as hell. I would watch, transfixed, and laugh belly laughs at subjects I knew nothing about. I'd recite lines and quotes at school, noting who saw them familiar: it was a genuine surprise that others watched him too, because I was so caught off guard by how much I enjoyed listening to Stuart and his fellow commentators joke around with each other that I couldn't believe no one had told me about this yet.

For me, I didn't watch SportsCenter for the content, I watched it for the voice, and Stuart Scott was that voice. He made me interested in topics I couldn't have cared less about because I knew he cared about them. I trusted him, a guy on TV, nothing more than a voice and a face.

People mourn Stuart Scott because, as was my case, their trust was not misplaced.

I could finally be conversant in the family drama, and 1996 was perfect timing. ESPN was the narrator for the victory of the year, and the happiness that flowed through our home began in their spring. It was a glorious summer with an October to remember forever, and for the first time I felt truly connected to my family, a real part of the team.

It was later that I understood how deep the current went. How my middle name comes from Keith Hernandez, first baseman for the world champion 1986 New York Mets, in a time when that statement was a laughable proposition at best. How my mother and father’s love was a fire kindled at ballparks and around televisions and radios, when there were games and then there was The Game. The retirement plans of traveling to all baseball parks in a summer. Subtract nine months from July, and the puzzle pieces start to fit into place.

Eventually, teenage years turned into periods of rebellion, and the relationship we’d began had soured. Fights and tears became more and more common, and by college had disintegrated into a barely conversational exchange of shame, regret and currency. I was angry at them, never able to articulate why outside of barely formed resentments.

Rekindling a relationship is a strange experience. There's the same timidity of starting something new, but with none of the excitement of discovering new things about a person. It's like examining a crime scene, tiptoeing around bullet casings and broken glass. The past isn't even cold yet, but love makes you stare at it like a corpse. It's the most painful period of transition I've ever been through.

Slowly, though, the temperature rose. Winter turned slowly into spring, with conversations becoming lighter and easier to find. They weren't strangers anymore, but there's still a chasm between friendship and family.

Then April arrived. They'd talk baseball, and I did what I knew I could do: I listened. I listened to them talk excitedly about what was coming, about what they'd seen, about what they were excited about. It provided a perfect opportunity for me to practice patience, but more importantly it showed me how valuable it could be to be a good listener, to ask follow up questions, to truly make a person feel like what they said was important to you. It wasn't the only thing that brought us to the conversational table, but it was there.

My room wasn't on the way downstairs, when I was growing up, when I thought the world revolved around me and that I deserved everything i'd been given. He gave that to me. He made the trip for me, to see me, and the least I could do was make the trip myself now, to walk to my seat at the table and sit down, bringing whatever I had, but coming even when I was empty handed.

Things have improved in the 7 or so years since then. Last fall, my father and uncle and I had lunch with friends around a table in DC. We then caught the last Nationals game of the season, with Zimmermann throwing the first no-hitter in team history. We had seats in the nosebleeds, and we were ecstatic - together. I remember having my hand around my dad and uncle's shoulders, jumping and high-fiving, and knowing that we were all at the same place at the same time, seeing the same thing, feeling the same thing. Another example of a chasm erased through time and perseverance, celebrated over sport.

Yeah, he was funny, and caring, and kind. His wit was infectious and delivery impeccable. That's not why I celebrate him, and mourn his early death. That's not what I think about when I read the memorials in his honor. What I think of is what he introduced me to, what he cared enough and was passionate about enough to show me. For me, that was my family. For me, it was my personal history.

Thanks for that, Stuart. That was really nice of you.

Our Galaxy, Here and Now

Okay, so here we are again.

Someone wrote a thing about something (which is almost inconsequential now, considering how far the topic in question is from its premise), and somebody posted a comment on that thing (comment #177, and believe me, the unsung heroes in this are comments 178 and onward, because they take the topic into a much more productive direction than the rest of the thing in some cases), and that got shuffled around the internet for a bit and landed here in a response piece called "On Nerd Entitlement", although you might know it by the moniker I initially knew it under when I saw it on Facebook, "Male Nerds Think They're Victims Because They Have No Clue What Female Nerds Go Through", and now it's everywhere and we're here now.

Again. After Gamergate, after FeministHackerBarbie, after all this, we're at the same place. I still see the marks on the table where our drinks were. There's still sweat and blood on the table. The remains of our food is cold, but edible.

This is a problem. We get here, and we make a dramatic show of the feminist books we read and how much our thought life has progressed since the last time we were confronted with the monster under the bed, but somewhere along the line we make a left turn, and another left, and another left, and, hey, look, that looks like my jacket.

This started as a comment, moved its way into a TextMate file, and now this. This was not a good day to have not much going on in the office.

Words, As Bricks, to Build Shelter

Three terms were highlighted, and they couldn't come with more baggage between them. These works discuss Privilege, Struggle, and Oppression.

Basically, I think a fourth word needs do be included in order for any of these words to mean anything.

In the same way you can be a Consumer, a Customer, or a Business, but deal in Currency (which really codifies the relationships), You can be in a position of Privilege, endure a Struggle, and engage in or encounter Oppression, but the main currency is Discomfort.

It's a simple word. It might sound belittling, almost with an implication that anyone who claims it is a bit high on their horse, but I mean it for what it claims to mean. Lack of comfort. Stress. Inability to relax, to be one's self, to self-actualize.

Commenter #177 is responding to the allegation that, as a white male "nerd", he enjoys a position of Privilege, and thus undergoes no Discomfort. He refutes this by telling stories about his life that prove otherwise (as much as anecdotal evidence proves anything, but for the moment we'll grant his point as presented). My issue is not with the refutation, but the premise of the allegation.

To enjoy a position of Privilege is not to say one undergoes no Discomfort. To insinuate that, to say that as soon as one undergoes Discomfort, they remove themselves from the ranks of the Privileged and join the herd, is actually very counterproductive. It places the Privileged on a higher and higher pedestal, to the point where we can no longer really make out what it really looks like. Is it being white? Or white and male? Or white and male and tall? An athlete? A lawyer? Ivy League school? Hats? Leather shoes? Who even knows anymore - we tell stories of our own discomfort so much that as soon as we see it as a ticket out, the room empties and we all pat each other on the back and say "now, didn't we all learn something about each other?"

Everyone's uncomfortable sometimes, in varying degrees, and everyone's own discomfort is supposed to be taken very seriously. Ideally, positions of individual discomfort serve to build Empathy for the discomfort of others and sensitivity to their needs and desires, to their own need for self actualization. Instead, we use it as an excuse to avoid taking action on our part. Commenter #177 was not telling his story out of solidarity, but rebellion:

"...the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault. I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year."

He thinks he understands, and he truly might, but regardless of all the Feminist literature he has read he still feels this;

"Now, the whole time I was struggling with this, I was also fighting a second battle: to maintain the liberal, enlightened, feminist ideals that I had held since childhood, against a powerful current pulling me away from them."

A current, pulling him away. That's not identification. That's not empathy. Whatever this is, it's fighting against empathy.

If we're going to talk about these things, and we absolutely have to or we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes and condemn another generation of women, we're going to have to know what we're talking about and look at how we talk about it.

I submit that Discomfort is the trade. People in a Struggle are in a position of some kind of Discomfort - to avoid that kind of discomfort is Privilege. Not all Discomfort, but a specific kind. Imagine a series of buckets pouring water into each other, cascading down a wall. To see only one discomfort is to be deliberately closed minded to the pain of others.

Oppression is when Struggle is endured at the hand of others, both Consciously and Subconsciously. It's a whole degree above Struggle, or the combination of tens or hundreds of individual Struggles at the hands of a Privileged group who knowingly and unknowingly perpetuates it. The key here is the lack of knowledge and understanding the Privileged class has about their own part in the Oppression.

One can be in Discomfort and still be Oppressing others. In fact, it's the way most people make themselves okay with it, or at least avoid examining the ways in which they engage in it. Think of the War on Christmas - the Discomfort of a class in power, allowing them to shove their belief system down the throats of anyone who passes them on the street.

All Struggle is not the same. All Discomfort is not the same. And there's a big system of Oppression here, and we don't want to look at it. It's the way men treat women.


Wait, I thought we were talking about Nerds? Big glasses wearing Geeks, right? D&D? Magic: The Gathering? That shit, right? Those fucking weirdos.

Nope. It's Men vs. Women again, and talking about in a smaller context only decreases the likelihood we get anything done. It's not some men, or some women.

Why can't we talk about it in this context? The galaxy of the Nerds is arguably engaged in a struggle, albeit one it's currently winning. They're maligned, not taken seriously outside their sphere, dismissed. It's worth talking about, as much as any Struggle is in itself valid.

But some perspective is necessary, and the smaller the Galaxy, the smaller the prescription for a solution. If you don't want to engage in a solution presented here, just don't self identify as a Nerd. There. problem solved - you don't have to do anything to improve gamer culture or tech workplace ethics or sexism in game development. You don't have to look at sexism in STEM programs, where the stories of women being discouraged by teachers from pursuing the field (some who are themselves women, perfect examples of institutionalized sexism and sexual ideals) are more common than their converse. You don't have to talk about nerd sex culture and sub/dom fetishism, or the cartoonish nature of the way women are portrayed to the community. You don't even need to think about sexual abuse among women in technical colleges, which is rising, by the way. It's none of your business.

It's the same way we shrug off domestic violence by categorizing wife beaters as hicks or savages or idiots (or to use #177's term, "Neanderthals", although he was using it to talk about how women are into them and he has to stop blaming them. Interesting, right?). If they're dumber than us, or more brutish than us, then we've isolated the issue and can safely cast it aside as "Not My Problem". I would never do that, I hear some men exclaim in proud self-righteousness. I know better. I'm civil. Are we really going to believe that all the men who beat women like disobedient farm animals are brutes that didn't have the advantage of a good education and a healthy diet? Is that the extent we'll go to refuse to look at what has to be a current under all men in order to make any sense at all?

Solutions targeted at all men, every single man, whatever their profession or background, are unable to be ignored. Those are the solutions we need, because the problem these women face is not unique to Nerds, but in some way shape or form is encountered by every woman at least some of the time.

Sexual ideals are forced upon them that are impossible to meet, robbing them of possession of their own sexuality.

The female desire for sexual liberation is condemned alongside the female desire for sexual privacy.

We question the women who are raped, and assume they have a hidden motive, based on a statistically irrelevant fear that women falsely report rape to get back at men. The statistically relevant fact, that men rape women at an alarming rate, does not combat this assumption.

They earn less, for more work, and aren't respected at the jobs they have, almost no matter what the job. When they behave the same as their male counterparts, they are deriled for being demanding and bitchy.

Men talk about them as possessions, when we're not talking about them as potential acquisitions and conquests. Throw a rock hard enough and you'll hit a screenwriter penning a new comedy about how a woman's life falls apart and comes back together right as she meets the man of her dreams. Maybe it's got a male character in it who vies for the acquisition of a woman for the entire duration of the film. Maybe she'll have a one dimensional friend.

On top of all that noise, if we don't like them, we beat and murder them, and devote years of study into why they stay with their abuser, rather than study why they are beaten. Nothing is as unanalyzed, with the exception of maybe pedophilia, as the violent male psyche. We refuse to examine it as an undercurrent, preferring to throw in prison the obviously sick Exceptions to an otherwise perfectly fine Rule. Meanwhile, women learn from a very young age to be afraid and prepared for anything while walking in public. Makes sense, right?

Men do this stuff without knowing it. Without even thinking about it, men make it impossible for women to self actualize (to gain Comfort) by removing so many of the things they demand for themselves (self-determination, a complex personality, varying degrees of sexuality, control over their own self image) from the possession of women, holding onto it instead and doling it out, sometimes through lust wrapped up in love, sometimes through "making sure they earn it", and sometimes just by the way they saw their dad treat their mom and how they earned things should and will always be. I'm not talking about a "them", really. I'm talking about a "We".

That's the Galaxy we're all in. That's the oppression we're talking about here. To isolate it among Nerds removes all the air from the balloon.

The Problem With Anecdotal Evidence

It's only when we loosen up on our personal stories that we can see our place in the larger galaxy. Both primary source documents here are rife with examples of personal conflict and discomfort. I mean not to diminish any of them; in fact, I mean to emphasize them, but in order to do so we need to relax our grip on our own personal stories for a second and take a look at what all this really means.

Our personal stories cloud our judgment as well as color it. We know the entire backstory to very one of our experiences and the genesis of all of our thoughts (at least, to the degree we can remember or want to think about them, which judging by what's on social media, is constantly and without a break for months on end). How can we be expected on our own to see the bigger picture? Look at Serial - see how complex the story becomes, the more we discover and earn about the whole situation. Imagine how much more clouded Koenig is than us - she has reams of stories she hasn't told us because they're inconsequential, but I bet they show up in her head time and time again. Imagine being Adnan. Or Jay.

When both authors of the pieces in question tell their stories, they identify as members of many different groups, and some aspect of their affiliation in these groups put them in Discomfort, in a position of Struggle. Both cases focus on their tormentors as their basis for identification, but lack a sense of self awareness to truly see their true relationship to the Struggle they're in and their position in the larger Oppressive state. #177 is a Nerd, so he's in a struggle just like women, according to him. The respondent claims that Nerd-dom for women is worse for women than men, but that misses the point that it's worse precisely because she's a woman, with nothing to do with her being a Nerd, but how could she know? How could either of them know? They're only themselves.

The way you learn about Oppression is exclusively through empathy. We learned about the Oppression inherent in the Civil Rights movement by watching it on television and being forced to look at the brutality the marchers absorbed. If the Struggle of a Male Nerd doesn't serve to unite them with the cause of eliminating as much Struggle as they can, and get them to look for how they themselves might be perpetuating the very things they endured on a larger scale, than what is it for? What good is it, other than to refuse it all and claim that no, its actually you on the bottom of the barrel.

We can do better than that.