I recently had the revelation that I had been buying the same razor blades for nearly two decades. I never really thought anything of it. They sent me the handle and a cartridge for free in the mail, and I just kept buying refills. For 20 years. Mach 3 Turbo. At some point I started getting them by the case from the likes of Costco, at great expense, but I never really spent time thinking about it. Before that, I used cheap disposables.
Then, a few years ago, Dollar Shave Club started to become a thing, but I still didn't think much about it. Then Harry's started being a sponsor on This Week in Tech, and on one of my long Tampa round-trips listening to it, I wondered why I haven't ever changed my shaving routine. Two things came to mind: That I definitely don't change the razors often enough, resulting in facial carnage, and was the Mach 3 Turbo any good in the first place?
So what the hell, I decided to try Harry's, and I promised myself to figure out how many shaves I could get before my face got irritated. The first thing I noticed was that it was a much, much closer shave. Then I noticed how much less my skin ended up itchy or red. I'm kid of pissed that I've been doing it wrong for literally half of my life.
The verdict is that I can get about three or four shaves, plus one "manscaping" session, out of each blade. I only shave every other day. That's more or less one cartridge per week, and at a little under two bucks, I don't know why I didn't start doing it sooner.
After three years with my Lumia 920, I've been pretty stubborn about replacing my phone. As I've said a hundred times before, my phone use may be somewhat atypical, in that I use it mostly for photos, checking email, and posting complaints to social media. A 3-year-old phone can do that pretty well (though the 920 is and was pretty solid for photos). When Microsoft announced the 950 was finally being released, I finally saw my upgrade path.
Now I'm not sure.
I bought Google's Nexus 5X, which is actually an LG phone, mostly because I wanted something I could experiment with in terms of app development. I haven't played much with Android in two years, but what really bothered me about it was the OS fragmentation caused by the carriers and manufacturers, and their inability to update the OS quickly (this was especially true in the last year as several vulnerabilities came to light). Google's phones don't have that issue, because they're the "pure" version of the OS, and they control it, it's first to get updates. The phones sell unlocked and work on most any carrier, so no contracts or lock-in, just put your SIM card in and go. At $429 up front (for the 32 gig version... the 16 is $379 but that's too small), that's fantastic hardware $120 less than an iPhone that has half the storage. You don't get the shiny aluminum, but the 5X is a really solid feeling, thin phone. I got the white one, and I love the feel of it.
Android is still a little clunky in places (the home screen/launcher needs a lot of work), but in terms of the ability to jump around between things and be efficient, it's as good as iOS and Windows, and maybe slightly better even. The new version seems to be pretty solid about not letting things get too nuts in the background, and it has excellent instrumentation to show what's using energy. I loaded a bunch of crap on there and nothing was zapping the battery.
Hardware is nice too. Not only is it a very solid phone, but the camera seems pretty good so far, and I'm shocked at how much putting the fingerprint reader on the back makes sense. The screen resolution is stupid high, and I wonder if the manufacturers aren't engaging in overkill at this point that just contributes to energy consumption for all those pixels. USB-C is long overdue, and that you can throw 3 amps at it to charge in a hour is fantastic. Unfortunately, new chargers need to put out that energy, because "old" USB does not. Also disappointed it doesn't do inductive charging.
I'm rethinking about whether or not I'll even bother with the Lumia 950 at this point. I never really thought about it, but with the expectations around my typical use cases, this phone really does what I need. And now that I have apps like Chargepoint and My Disney Experience (and I got Chase back, which was dropped for Windows), I'm not sure if I want to go back to not having those.
It's true. After three years with my trusty Nokia Lumia 920, a Windows Phone, I've ordered a Nexus 5x. With Android account for over 80% of worldwide sales, and 50-something% of users in the wild using it, I feel like I need to get a better look at it. The curiosity is partly professional (as in I want to make something with the Xamarin subscription I was comped), and partly just the desire to experiment a bit.
I'm not abandoning Windows, exactly... I fully intend to buy a Lumia 950 next month. The app gap doesn't bother me because I'm not a big app guy beyond weather and Facebook. And I love me some live tiles. Plus the camera on the 950 will presumably be excellent. I imagine I'll switch off now and then. We'll see.
The Nexus 5x got my attention because it's priced really well for an unlocked phone, it has a pretty good camera (not something 90% of the Android field is known for), and most importantly, it's the latest Android version straight from Google, free of crapware from carriers and manufacturers. It will always be first to be updated.
It should be an interesting experiment. The reviews have mostly been favorable.
I suspect one of the reasons I'm so dissatisfied with politics these days is because I think both sides are completely full of crap. On one hand, you've got the Republicans who think you can balance the budget or reduce debt by reducing the taxes of the people who can afford it the most. On the other hand, you've got the Democrats who insist that everyone is against you in a loaded system where you are the victim and they can save you. (Disclaimer: The system does suck to an extent, but the victimhood pisses me off.)
I got to thinking about this in one of the many discussions we've had on CoasterBuzz about wages of theme park employees and the rising prices of tickets. I often wonder if my position, which doesn't fit conveniently into either of the traditional camps, is out of touch because I do OK in my profession. I wasn't born this way, and I have worked my ass off to get to where I am, so I know what it means to not make a lot of money. After ditching radio, my first "real" job paid about $27k. Stephanie worked retail in grad school, so we were not bankrolling big money, but we made it work. And yes, we even traveled around to visit theme parks. I'm not sure I'm out of touch when I remember so vividly where I came from.
Going back to that theme park vacation context, I think everyone gets to make choices. Culturally, we seem to have settled on the idea that it's OK to use credit excessively, buy more house and car than we can afford (largely to exhibit some bullshit status), and not have any long-term financial strategy. I lived by credit abuse when I was younger, so I'm guilty of at least one of those. But even on my crappy little local government salary, I still prioritized so I could visit those theme parks. It meant eating out less, driving inexpensive and practical cars, and living in a relatively modest apartment. Those were our choices. As time went on, I made more choices to pursue a more lucrative career. It didn't always make me happy, but I still made deliberate choices.
I am sensitive to the socioeconomic factors that keep people down. It's never as simple as, "You can make it happen just because." For example, it's pretty strange to me that people can write off a group of folks living in poverty who deal with racial discrimination and substandard education as just being "bad people." Hope doesn't exactly flow freely for people born into a situation where they can't see a positive outcome. What I am insensitive to is the people who do not have extraneous circumstances feeling that they're victims of something. I don't know what causes that beyond an expectation that you are owed something for nothing.
It sounds a little preachy, I know, and probably like I'm boasting to an extent. That is not at all my intent. I try to be very humble about where I came from and try to be kind to people who are struggling. At the end of the day though, we have to make choices. We all need help now and then, but bettering our situation begins with self-awareness.
The funny thing about money is that I like having it, I don't mind earning it, I try to give it freely where I think it will make a difference, but the whole "root of all evil" thing has some truth to it. The people who have it can exert influence to keep more of it. The people who don't have it react, sometimes violently, in ways that further split a cultural divide. I don't have a better idea... it's just an observation.
Diana spotted a hilarious list of memes around being an "autism parent." It may sound almost mean, but sometimes all you can really do is laugh about this stuff. What choice do you have?
I've said it before, but we're lucky that Simon isn't much worse off. His intelligence seems extraordinary, as we see him understanding mechanical things and reading at least a year beyond his age. And yet, he struggles with so many things that you would think were obvious, like buttoning his pants.
The jokes above kind of give me comfort, because it's good to feel like you aren't alone in what you experience. Because I have to clench my teeth whenever someone suggests "he seems normal." People never see when you have to battle over eating a french fry that has a slightly browned end, or getting his pants turned outside-in. When we struggle to engage in imaginative play over simply lining things up.
I love that little boy, but some days, I just wish it could be a little easier to get through the basics.
Wow, time flies when work is keeping you extra busy. I haven't done a lot of work on POP Forums in a few months. Fortunately, there's something new to talk about.
As ASP.NET 5 is now in its final beta (8!) before the first RC, I figured now would be a good time to be a bit more serious about understanding it. As excited as I am about it, it's starting to feel clear to me that it's not something that you're going to be that anxious to port existing apps to. It's very different, and it breaks a lot of things. Naturally, my first attempt at understanding it is to port the forum app, because nothing says real life like, uh, a real app. Doing greenfield work is going to go a lot more smoothly, that's for sure.
In any case, after spending a few evenings with it here and there, here are some of my initial impressions:
There's a lot to learn, but I'm pretty enthusiastic about where we're headed. I've got a ton of refactoring in front of me for the forum app, but I suspect the new frameworks will help me a great deal in making the app easier to deploy and integrate.
One of the really crazy things about the Tesla Model S is that it's always improving. The company pushes software updates to the cars on a fairly regular basis. This week, they're pushing out the v7 software, which adds the "autopilot" features if you paid for those and have the hardware (it started shipping with cars late last year). I didn't spend the extra $2,500, and don't intend to do the $3,000 to buy it after the fact, but it includes auto steering, adaptive cruise control and parallel parking. Still, it has quite a few changes that do apply, and they're free. The biggest change is arguably the configuration of the dash, but I'll get to that. Here's what I'm into:
Keep in mind that while I didn't pay for autopilot, the hardware does a bunch of other stuff, too. The front radar will hit the brakes before you can to reduce the impact of a frontal collision. The proximity sensors around the car measure the distance to stuff, which is particularly useful when parking, and it shows the distance on the dash. A camera behind the windshield finds the lines on the roads, which is used in the lane departure warnings (and for autopilot). It also reads the speed limit signs and reminds you when you're speeding.
There is some amount of "controversy" among owners about the dash changes. Some people would have liked to have opted out of the changes. I admit, it's a pretty weird thing that they can just change the way it looks. I think it's more functional, but it's not as pretty. I liked the gradients. Still, what the new interface provides is a better way to see the blind spot warnings, as they used to just draw a quarter circle around the speed gauge that you couldn't see with your peripheral vision. Here are the before and after shots, including the parked and driving screens...
I'd like to think that I'm a fairly open-minded guy when it comes to sexuality. I honestly don't care what people are into or who they are. I've never took issue with homosexuality. If people choose polygamy, or engage in polyamory, I'm OK with that too. As a coach, boyfriend, husband, etc., I've always been very "girl power." I don't think that feminism necessarily means being devoid of sexuality or that there isn't any power in it when viewed in the context of being a cultural minority. The existence of porn doesn't bother me either.
What is it then about "breastaurants" that bothers me? You know what I mean... places you go to eat where the servers are all women, generally above average attractive or otherwise lacking coverage of their attractive parts. It's not a sense of discomfort, more of a feeling like we as human beings are beyond this. The feeling seems to conflict with my above statements about how I'm generally OK with all of the above.
Mind you, there are different levels to this. You have Hooters, which has shitty food and servers in tight tops and little shorts. This week I was introduced to Wing House, which apparently is a franchised thing, and that involves tank tops and butts hanging out of even smaller shorts, with some kind of hosiery presumably because, well, they do serve food. More mediocre food, though not outright shitty like Hooters. Then you have something a little more classy like Brick House, which has really good food, and more covered but strikingly attractive women who were not hired strictly for their ability to carry food.
Maybe it's the damage of my youth, where I didn't think attractive girls would talk to me (largely because, as I eventually figured out, I didn't talk to them). Perhaps it's me who finds it insulting that the secret to solid tips and acceptable service is flirting with me. It doesn't even seem like blatant objectification to me, it just feels... silly. Perhaps it just isn't my thing, as I'm more interested in dramatic hair color, unique but cute clothes and some degree of tattoos and piercings. Throwbacks to 70's Playboy models, not so much.
I don't know how I'm going to earn my dirty old man card with this view.
It's been a pretty big year for EV's in the press. They're getting a lot of attention, in part because of the headlines that Tesla grabs regularly, and partly because the Germans continue to take it seriously, and GM is in the game in a big way too. What I see along with all of that press, in the comments online, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to own an EV.
"Is the charging infrastructure good enough?"
Yes... it is. Why? Because everyone who has a garage already has the most important charging station. You start every day with a "full tank," without fail. For us, that means the Model S can go 200+ miles, and the Leaf can do close to 100. In fact, not having to ever go to a gas station is one of the best things about having an EV.
The point is this: The public charging infrastructure is (almost) irrelevant. You almost never need to use it.
Of course, the standard response to this is the anecdotes and edge cases that people have. It's not that they aren't legitimate, it's that they aren't average. The feds (USDOT) say that 92% of Americans drive less than 35 miles each way to work. 73% are under 20 miles. Both of our cars have most of Americans covered for work driving.
DC fast charging is becoming more and more available for cars that can use it, but Tesla has the specific advantage of its Supercharger network. These are located typically around 150 miles or less from one to another, and you can put on 150 miles of range in about 20 minutes (for "free," which is to say that it's subsidized by the price of the car). So to that end, we can drive the Model S pretty much up and down the east coast, or even to California, without issue. Heck, we can drive it to Key West. I routinely do round trips from Orlando to Tampa on one charge (but there's a convenient supercharger near I-4 and I-75, if I needed it).
Yes, there are minor or infrequent limitations to driving an EV, but for most people it's not an issue, most of the time. If it is, you can always rent a car to cover your fringe case. Otherwise, the technology is evolving faster and faster, and your day will come. I commuted with the Leaf for a full year, without issue, 25 miles each way, at a cost of 3 cents per mile. Even at $2/gallon, your 35 mpg car is going to cost almost twice as much at 5.7 cents per mile. At $3/gallon, 8.5 cents. And if you drive something that gets 20 mpg, even at $2, you're still paying a dime per mile.
All of the reasons you can't drive electric are tired. That, and I can promise you electric is more fun.
I'm not gonna lie. I've been enduring a lot of stress the last few weeks. It has been a mix of work, Simon (his after-school behavior has been challenging) and some short-term health issues with Diana. Any of these individually I could probably roll with, but aggregated they have aggravated me.
I haven't felt this way in probably a few years. Even the process of moving the last time did not particularly stress me out. If there's a silver lining, it's that I don't usually get emotionally involved in things I don't care about, so to get that connected with work, wife and child, is an indication that I'm in the right spot. It's true that if you don't feel, life is not nearly as rich.
I was chatting the other day with a friend about therapy, and it occurs to me that I haven't seen a therapist in almost a decade. And mind you, that's probably good, because it means I've been effectively managing stress. For as much as I loathe engaging in physical health issues when they arise, mental health is something I'm not shy about addressing. I wonder if I need to revisit that or if the stress is just something that will diminish soon.
Regardless, take care of your heart and your mind, folks. It's important.
I'll never forget the time that Steve Jobs announced the original iPhone. Eight years later, it's crazy to think about how that product transformed the world. The announcement also set a blueprint for how you launch a technology product, and it's one that Apple has used ever since. A few years ago, Microsoft started using that blueprint as well, but it always felt cheap, insincere, and a caricature of what Apple did. Heck, Apple's own announcements these days feel like a cheap caricature of what Apple did.
Yesterday, Microsoft squeezed a bunch of stuff into a 2-hour presentation, and while the impact of the products is something of a question mark, they definitely hit a stride with the presentation, for the first time ever. They had the right people on stage, and I was excited for them. Perhaps that's the nostalgia for me having worked there, but I want them to succeed.
As for the products, they did another HoloLens demo, and this one was pretty staggering, because they started wrapping augmented reality around the player, with a glove and a shield during a game demo, then had robots busting through walls that it calculated the placement for in real time. It was pretty cool. I look forward to seeing what people do with that product.
I was mostly looking forward to the announcement of the phones, the Lumia 950 and 950XL, which offered no surprises since most of the information had been previously leaked. The phones themselves are wholly unremarkable in appearance, but I'm not even sure what you're supposed to do differently these days. The specs were solid, and they continue to emphasize great cameras (that's what I care most about). The only real surprise is how seamless their experience is when you plug them into a little box with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. While I don't entirely understand the use case, it's very impressive. I look forward to having one of those phones (gotta see how big they are in real life) to replace my 3-year-old Lumia 920.
Next up was the replacement for the Surface Pro 3, the Surface Pro 4. It's mostly just a faster version of the same thing, only with a bigger screen (or smaller bezel). The real iterative improvements are on the new keyboard cover's bigger track pads, better key spacing and a fingerprint reader. Those new keyboards are compatible with the 3, so I'll definitely look at one.
The quasi-surprise, though it has been rumored for years, was the introduction of the Surface Book, which is a high end laptop. This is where they also got showy, because after selling how great it was, they popped the screen off to show it's actually a tablet, with a discreet GPU living in the keyboard portion of the unit. It's definitely impressive, but also crazy expensive.
While the Surface business is in fact profitable for them now (finally), the going sentiment among the pundits is that this hardware is mostly to show how great the Windows platform can be. There may be some truth to that. Google doesn't make phones to change the world, they do it to show how good Android can be (when carriers and manufacturers aren't junking it up). Still, that Apple suddenly wants to explore the hybrid market with pens and such, something Jobs stubbornly wrote off as silly, is serious validation for Microsoft, that there is in fact a market for it. Their initial execution was a train wreck for sure, but three years later, they're getting it right.
I won't be selling my MacBook Pro and Surface Pro 3 any time soon, but it's still great to see Microsoft iterating so quickly. What a big change from even five years ago.
We were in Windermere today on an ice cream run, at the fantastic Allen's Creamery. For the uninitiated, Windermere is one of the most exclusive areas of Orange County. The houses are expensive and on lakes, sitting by the road is like watching an exotic car show, and famous people live there. (My friend/neighbor/coworker actually spotted Shaq running there, and stopped him for a selfie.)
While waiting for Simon to finish up his ice cream, two late high school-age girls came in. You could tell everything about them was expensive, from their clothes and purses to hair and makeup. This stood in stark contrast to the girls working in the store, who were working their asses off to serve the steady stream of people coming in. I'm not sure why, but I got super judgmental. I immediately assumed that these girls never had to work for anything, that they were used to getting everything that they wanted, and they were the kind of people I loathed.
I don't know why I immediately go there, except that strictly working from appearances, they were the kind of people I loathed in high school when I moved into the suburbs, and that feeling was reinforced ten times over in college. In reality, the exchange they had with the girls working there was beyond nice and polite, and I couldn't possibly know anything about their upbringing, work ethic or how grounded they were. That's shitty, and I don't like myself for being like that.
There is in the general sense a wedge being driven between the classes in this country, fed mostly by our incessant cultural need to hate someone. It's like the American way, and in my relatively short life the focus has shifted around from African-Americans to homosexuals to Latinos to any immigrant back to African-Americans to Muslims, and a continuous range among them all. The energy spent on the hating is staggering. The silly "occupy" movement was frankly just as ridiculous, because it fostered the idea that anyone doing really well, "the 1%," got there by evil means and was out to oppress everyone else. And of course there were people who fit that description, but lumping them in with honest, hard working people was stupid.
There are selfish, asshole-ish people at all income levels. Most people that I've known who are truly in the 1% are good people who work hard, engage in philanthropy, and generally lift others up. It's unfair to assume the worst, especially of their kids.
I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook last night when I saw a post from Shirley Manson that really stuck with me. Mind you, I guess I've been slightly obsessed with her and Garbage for 20 years, but it's funny how the things she has ranted about over that time have closely mirrored my own rants. That makes sense, as she's about three years older than me, so we've grown up in a similar time period. But she got to be a Terminator on TV, so she wins.
In any case, she remarks about how happy she is in her life, that it's exactly what she wants it to be. I can completely relate, but for me, it's certainly not something I've been able to say most of my life. As she reminds us, life has its ups and downs and can change for the worse at any time. She starts to get into the why of it all, how "life changes or devolves." It's with that in mind that I start to wonder if the quality of your life is largely measured by your perspective.
I think about how I described success or an ideal life when I was 21, and it was kind of stupid, or naive, at least. I've noticed younger friends make similar assessments at that age. At the time you think that anything else is just compromise, as if you're not allowed to evolve your perspective. As time passes, and you experience life, ideal changes.
For example, there's a dude that I went to school with who always posts pictures of himself with famous people, and he's always gotten off being around those folks (I believe there was some inherited privilege there, as he was that way in school as well). I started to experience a little of that working in radio at that time too, but it didn't take me long to see how shallow it was, and unfortunately how disappointing famous people were. (If I ever meet Shirley Manson, I hope she's not like that.) So while the dude from school is still posting those photos, I'm posting silly selfies with my kid and my wife, and I feel like that's objectively better. 20-year-old me could never have envisioned this life, but it's awesome. The other dude, well, seems sad and lonely, but maybe he doesn't think he is.
I think Shirley Manson and I are happy because our lives are exactly what we want them to be, whether we ever knew it was what we wanted or not. Life isn't an act of settling or compromise, it's an act of discovery. I didn't know that making software for a living, in Florida, with a little boy and a second wife, were going to be life as I want it. I do know that I choose every day to be happy with this arrangement, because that's my perspective.