Shelling out for a fitness tracker in January seems like a cliché. Yet, here I am - shelling out for a fitness tracker. I don’t have a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, and I’m not planning on buying one of those ill-fated gym memberships that everybody regrets signing up for after one too many holiday pig-outs.
It is true though that I haven’t gone running for a while. I entirely blame the anomalous snowy weather we’ve been having on the West Coast for that. I also know that a fitness tracker won’t work miracles in getting my butt off the couch - only good old-fashioned discipline can do that.
I guess buying my first fitness tracker just kind of happened.
About that MacBook Pro I had my eye on. I couldn’t wait. As much as I appreciate all my iMac has done for me, I just couldn’t listen to the endless spinning and chirping of that dreadful hard drive for another year without going insane.
I’ll admit, I was hoodwinked at first by the narrative spun by a few entitled tech journalists. It had been two years since the MacBook Pro was last updated in early 2015. People were hungry for a new mac. That is why the general disappointment was all the more compounded when the new MacBook Pros were released recently.
Professionals bemoaned the lack of bleeding edge CPUs and a limit of 16GB of RAM, because they all of course need at least 32GB (dude, please). And recreational users (like me) winced hard at the sky-high price increase. An increase, no doubt, resulting from the addition of a questionable touch bar added to replace the function keys.
But I came to another realization. A realization that perhaps did not enter the minds of most tech pundits who begrudge the steep price for being an early adopter, but then pay it anyway.
Well, well, well. A lot has happened since I last posted here. In short, the world has become a darker place.
The gentle rustle of leaves swaying in the summer breeze has been replaced with the dry death rattle of winter winds. Leonard Cohen released his final magnificent album and then breathed his last breath. America had a trainwreck of an election.
And I haven’t even got to Apple’s disappointing MacBook Pros yet.
That was a bad joke by the way. Or maybe it wasn’t.
On a personal note, I failed to post anything in September or October - thus betraying the promise (well, more of a mild-mannered suggestion really) to you of at least a monthly post. In my defense, I’ve been stressed out with moving. And with the kids starting new school and daycare schedules. Also, I turned 40 and became an old crotchety man overnight. The motivation to write is pretty low right now.
Just getting this far feels like jerking one clunky wooden leg in front of the other and breathing hard. Hard.
All you savvy investors out there must know by now that you can make ridiculous amounts of money in Vancouver real estate. Those who bought a few years ago are doing VERY well for themselves. We thought this wild ride couldn’t last, but prices keep going up and up and up, with no end to the gravy train in sight.
Well, that’s not really true - there have been rumblings in the media about bubbles popping, or some such nonsense, but let me assure you: there is still money to be made. Even for all you foreign investors saddled with that 15 percent tax… My advice is - ignore the tax, my friends. 15 percent is nothing, NOTHING, compared to the gains you will make in the next decade.
Let me tell you why.
It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the middle of July - a pleasant breeze blows and it isn’t sweltering like it was last summer. I’m leaning up against a log on the south side of Queen’s Park and writing this post on my iPad. The Patullo Bridge is closed this weekend for seismic upgrades, so this area of the park is unusually serene - the drone of traffic crossing the bridge into Surrey is delightfully absent.
The groundskeepers tend to ignore this part of the park because it is seldom frequented. It has a slightly unkempt, natural look - unlike the manicured gardens to the North where happy young couples take wedding pictures in the rose garden. I like it.
There’s nothing like sitting quietly in nature. I feel rejuvenated and at peace. Green spaces quench the thirsty soul and wash away the thick stench of the city. I couldn’t imagine how unhappy I’d feel if I lived in the middle of an urban wasteland. A concrete prison with an apartment window looking at a brick wall and a cubicle at work with no windows at all. I guess a lot of people live that way, which explains a lot about all the aggression and stress in this world.
Unlike Google and the other guys, there was no talk of AI or bots at Apple’s software showcase this year. Instead, Apple was true to form, highlighting aspects like “differential privacy” and “continuity” - features that keep you locked into their ecosystem.
Overall, the event was fairly low key with Apple focused on improving and polishing rather than innovating (I think it was the announcement of universal cut and paste that got the biggest round of applause).
Still, I always enjoy sitting down to watch the two-hour infomercial that is the keynote - if only to see what free stuff I’m going to get. Remember when Apple actually charged for software upgrades? It’s way more fun to watch these things after you’ve sold your kidney for Apple hardware. There is no angst at WWDC - only benefits for those who have already paid the Apple tax.
Since the keynote was divided into four software platforms, I’ll do the same and comment on each one individually.
When I sat down to watch this year’s I/O keynote, I couldn’t help but recall last year’s incredible gift to the Google faithful - Google Photos. Free unlimited uploads in their full resolution for pictures under 16MP. It was, and still is, an amazing service. It even uploads Live Photos on my iPhone 6S - something that even iCloud’s photostream doesn’t do.
Perhaps a few years from now, Google will hold our bloated photo libraries hostage in exchange for our souls, but so far this hasn’t happened. And maybe when it does happen, we’ll willingly pay the price. It’s so easy to become addicted to the machine learning that organizes our pictures and creates photo albums for us; machine learning that can identify the content of every photo. How could you not love searching for “hugs” to view all those pictures of your loved ones engaged in a warm embrace?
This year there were no surprise gifts, but Google continued to show off its burgeoning AI prowess. A new messaging app was shown with eerie “smart replies” that allows the AI to answer in your stead.
We’ve never met, but I write to you every day. Writing to you is my job, but still, I do care.
It starts with the small things. Knowing the frustration of ambiguity, I try to choose the perfect words for you. I painstakingly pore over both our company’s Language Guide, as well as the latest Simplified Technical English specification to ensure I am not using any forbidden words. I also try to use terminology consistently, so that I don’t give the same part two different names.
I also never use the word “utilize”. Although, to my abject horror, one instance did slip through when I copied some text from the Sales and Marketing department.
I then craft the perfect sentences - not too long, not too complex, but with delightful variations in syntactic structure so that you don’t get bored. I polish these sentences so that they are as smooth and round as a river stone, and can therefore be reused in multiple contexts.
Tesla’s Model 3 is not only a jaw-droppingly stylish car, it is also a compelling window into a future world where the electric car is king.
It certainly has anyone who is interested in technology and design drooling. Tesla’s electric cars come across as gadgets, complete with over-the-air software upgrades - not boring utilitarian vehicles.
Indeed, the Model 3 truly is a product of the tech industry. It’s also an eccentric genius billionaire’s baby. Which makes Tesla a truly unique company, and the Model 3 an astoundingly fresh entrant in a stale car industry. An industry, by the way, that last saw true innovation over a hundred years ago with the debut of Henry Ford’s Model T.
But is the Model 3 really a vision of the future, or merely a mirage?
There’s a poignant moment in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when the Holy Grail crosses the Great Seal and triggers the collapse of the Temple of the Sun. The earth is torn asunder, and Elsa, a Nazi agent and Austrian archaeologist, loses her life. After Indiana Jones fails to save her, he ends up hanging precariously in the crevice himself.
Indiana’s father catches his hand and tries to pull him to safety. But, with his other hand, Indiana tries to reach the Holy Grail, which rests tantalizingly on a narrow ledge nearby. He can almost reach it; his fingertips brush it. But his father cannot hold on as oily sweat causes their hands to slip.
Indiana’s father (so aptly played by Sean Connery), says, in a soft, gentle voice: “Indiana… Indiana… let it go”.
And he does. As Indiana rides into the sunset and John William’s theme song swells over the closing credits, we knew it really was his last crusade.
But we were wrong.