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    From the insane to the mundane

    Mon, Sep 28, 2020

    So I’m not even going to mention that thing by name, because we’re all pretty sick of it. Yes, that thing is still going on and I’m still working from home. Now that the kids are back at school, life is a lot quieter and more introspective. Definitely feels like autumn. It’s good. Life is good and I’m grateful.

    Look, I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a huge mental health crisis going on right now. A rise in things like domestic violence and substance abuse is alarming and disheartening. But for introverts, the prolonged abstention from social events can be rejuvenating. Perhaps these times will kickstart a wave of innovation from all the cloistered deep thinkers in the world.

    One personal change I’m not so sure about: at some point this year, I switched from being a diehard tea drinker to a coffee drinker. It just kind of happened without me even noticing. But the coffee is so good. And I don’t think I could handle the caffeine downgrade to tea right now.

    Normally we’d be talking about the new iPhones at the end of September. But, unsurprisingly, they’ve been delayed by a month or so this year. That doesn’t mean there’s no new tech to talk about - far from it. From the insane to the mundane, this month had it all.

    The “insane” category is almost too easy - if you hate living in the future, then you’re really going to hate Ring’s new sentinel drone. I still can’t stop laughing at the promo video where a bungling burglar who breaks into a home is chased off by the drone that comes to investigate. The dude looks like he’s auditioning for a bad Home Alone reboot.

    Ring’s security drone hasn’t been released yet, so my many questions about this thing won’t be answered for a while yet. Autonomous security drones are so ubiquitous in science fiction, I hadn’t even fully realized we don’t have them IRL yet. And now they’re coming, so maybe the idea isn’t so insane after all. Let’s be honest - it won’t be long before somebody slaps a taser on this puppy.

    If you want my opinion, I think that security guards should start working on their résumés.

    In the year 2000

    Wed, Aug 26, 2020

    Well, I’ve been in isolation and working at home for six months now, and it isn’t feeling like a temporary thing anymore. Also, a second wave of covid is starting to build - just in case, you know, anybody thought it was over.

    When I first started working from home, I missed my dual screens, my co-workers, and the free coffee. Now I’m like “you can’t chain me to the office, man”.

    I’ve also started dreaming more about travelling - probably because, let’s be honest, people always want what they can’t have. Sure, the “dreaming” is more like clicking through YouTube videos on top ten terrifying swimming pools and twelve hidden secrets in Central Park, but please don’t judge.

    From Krasnoyarsk, Siberia to Fukuoka,Japan - I’ve become easily fascinated by the mesmerizing drone footage that can make anywhere but here look amazing.

    International travel is a great way to destroy your routine, reboot your expectations, and sway your perspectives. Our lives become smaller when concerns become hyperlocal.

    I have, for example, been disturbingly obsessed with random small things like how all apples just taste bad right now. Where’s ‘dem sweet apples? Before now, I’ve never even thought about there being a bad apple season. Is Fall a better time for apples?

    So, this last month - in lieu of actual travel - I’ve time travelled back to the year 2000. Twenty years ago, I backpacked alone through Zimbabwe for a couple of weeks. It was a trip I’ll never forget. But what’s even better is that I took two rolls of film (kids, I’d love to explain all about analog life before digital photography, but I don’t have the patience) and a dog-eared journal with me.

    To bring this content into the digital fold, I painstakingly transcribed the journal entries and scanned the pictures. These transcribed entries have now become the oldest entries in this blog.

    Socially-distant surfing

    Thu, Jul 30, 2020

    Okay, week 21 of working from home (WFH) and trying to stay clear of hugs, high fives, sneezing non-mask wearers and large groups. As I write this, COVID-19 cases in BC have started climbing again - not unexpected after easing off on restrictions.

    I’ve been keeping busy with work - doing a lot more Microsoft Teams meetings and creating fillable PDFs for an influx of paperless admin procedures. The projects and deadlines are not slowing down, but a general slowdown in the economy is something everyone has to grapple with.

    Fortunately, I finally figured out how to use my mid-2010 iMac as an external monitor for my Windows work laptop. I was really missing the two external monitors I had in the office. But all it took was a $25 Thunderbolt 3 to Mini DisplayPort cable to get a glorious 27 inches of extra screen real estate.

    But damn, does my iMac run hot through. The thermals in this thing are ridiculous - the feeble airflow coming out of the 3-mm vent at the top does nothing to stop it from becoming a space heater. Putting a fan on it helps a bit, especially in the summer heat.

    Not that we’ve been getting much summer heat. We’ve only just started hitting the 25-degree mark - in late July. That’s the latest start to summer in the last 40 years. Lots of lingering dreary rain has also prompted the depressing Jun-uary joke to morph into the even-more depressing Jul-uary joke. This has been an anomaly year in more ways than one.

    Good that we got the weather talk out of the way, cause we have lots to talk about, right? Er, no, not quite. There is nothing to talk about (hence the work and weather talk). I had some ideas for blog posts (such as: tech we were promised, but never got), but my heart just isn’t in it - maybe another time.

    I’ve been playing a lot of games and watching a lot of Netflix though - let’s talk about that this month! And I bought a new pair of budget headphones, so I’ll throw in my thoughts on those too.

    Ah, the joys of a personal blog - full of whimsy and vinegar. Dead and unread but still a delight - what a paradox.

    All about June

    Thu, Jun 25, 2020

    It’s now week 16 of whatever this is - not exactly self-isolation, but still working from home, despite getting a haircut and going to the dentist. Which is probably the most I’ll be going out this Summer.

    One of the highlights in June is WWDC, which for the first time ever, was an online-only event this year. I really liked the format - the production values were slick and the editing in post really helped the pace. A free, online event is the great equalizer - instead of playing to a privileged audience of VIPs and lottery-ticket winners at the Steve Jobs theatre, this WWDC truly was for everyone.

    Laughably out-of-touch announcements like the $1000 monitor stand from last year’s WWDC were absent this time around. In contrast we got a more approachable and down-to-earth presentation.

    In the traditional preview of upcoming software, there were some cool surprises, despite a few scattered leaks. In some ways, WWDC is more fun than the September hardware event. The absence of a supply chain makes it a lot harder to leak software than hardware.

    Apple’s engineers are on top of their game with outstanding optical recognition making Apple Pencil useful across the platform. Handwritten text that can be copied, moved, searched, converted, and used in any text field is a smart upgrade to an old-school input method.

    I was also impressed by “spatial audio” where the Airpods Pro get full surround sound purely through a software algorithm that tracks the exact position of your head and your device. And automatic audio switching between devices fixes a huge problem that plagues all Bluetooth headphones.

    These are the sorts of clever hardware-software integrations that only Apple can pull off. The biggest announcement in this vein was the switch from Intel to ARM processors in future Macs. I’m definitely curious to see how the complete end-to-end control that juiced the iPhone will measure up when applied to Macs.

    I’m not so sure about that macOS 11 UI redesign though - apparently neumorphism is a thing in design circles now? Those new icons look pretty bad - I’m not ready to let go of the clean look of flat icon design just yet.

    But the iPhone is still Apple’s breadwinner and the changes coming in iOS 14 are most interesting…even though we’ve seen them all before.

    The never-ending 80s

    Sat, May 23, 2020

    Self-isolation week 11.

    We are entering “Phase 2” - a gradual reopening of services and return to societal norms. It will, however, take a long time for everything to return to the way it was. After so many weeks, we are now habituated to physical distancing and it will be hard to just stop.

    This is the new reality: Zoom is now worth more than the world’s seven biggest airlines - combined. If you were reading this six months ago, you’d ask what the heck Zoom is.

    All too often, it feels like we’ve travelled down the wrong timeline - as if we weren’t supposed to wonder into this mildly dystopian future. I’ll admit that this perspective has been tainted by the book I’m currently reading - Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch.

    The time-travel concept in this novel is brilliant: the past cannot be altered, and the present (called “terra firma” ) is the only true reality. You can travel into the future, but will be flung randomly into an infinite number of possible future timelines.

    So, you can’t return to the present and win the lottery - the numbers will be different in every IFT (inadmissible future trajectory). “Inadmissible” because you can’t arrest somebody Minority-Report style for a crime they haven’t committed yet. Anyway, definitely read the book if you love the time-travel genre as much as I do - it’s great.

    For me, this feeling of dissonance with the current reality has kindled a nostalgia for the past. I don’t want to live in the past - I would miss things like document auto-save and a little thing called “the internet”. But I understand why people often say that the past seems like a simpler time…

    Let’s be honest, any time before COVID-19 seems like “a simpler time”. Having said that, there is one particular decade that everybody has a thing for. And a nostalgia trip to this decade is just the distraction we all need in these troubled times.

    Pandemic survival edition

    Thu, Apr 30, 2020

    I’ve been in self-isolation for seven weeks now.

    I’ve been keeping busy - working from home, trying to keep up the children’s education, doing repairs in my attic, putting in new drywall, and wondering if I’ll know it when I go insane, or if it’ll just happen so gradually that I won’t even notice.

    There is, however, an end in sight. After months of hunkering down, the people of planet Earth are slowly beating the virus - and paying the cost. Yet, although a lot of money, jobs, businesses, and relationships have been lost - lives have been saved. And that’s always a good thing.

    In the meantime, wild animals are roaming empty city streets, air pollution has been reduced to record lows, and oil is worth less than zero. This accidental experiment in lowering carbon emissions has given us incontrovertible proof that humans are killing our planet. It has also shown us that the financial system really is rigged toward padding the pockets of the one percent. If oil is worth less than nothing, shouldn’t gas stations be paying us to fill our tanks?

    Anyway, not to get all preachy, but there is a lot we can learn from this.

    Speaking of learning, how in the seven hells of Hades are parents supposed to oversee their kids’ education and work from home at the same time? Especially when there is only one of you because the other parent has to go into work? This diabolical conundrum is the situation I’m in. The teachers are doing their best, but parents worldwide are losing their minds.

    Let’s be honest, with all the layoffs and pay cuts going around, you’d be a fool not to give 100 percent to your work right now. And I’ve been working my ass off. Which means my “lesson plan” mostly involves handing over an iPad to each kid and threatening no ice cream for dessert a little too often.

    For those who are following a similar hands-off philosophy, I’ll be giving you a list of resources (at the end of this post) you can 100 percent do on an iPad. There are plenty of well-meaning people out there who are suggesting vague activities such as “make a book together”, which is lovely if you’re an actual stay-at-home parent, but useless for the working-at-home stiffs.

    March (viral) madness

    Fri, Mar 27, 2020

    In January, I said that 2020 was “going to be one heck of a year”, but…


    Needless to say, the struggle to contain the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has put a strain on all areas of life. As I write this, Canada is in the thick of it - with playgrounds, schools, restaurants, unessential services, conferences, and even international borders closed.

    This is the worst public health crisis I’ve personally ever seen.

    Any gathering of more than 50 people is prohibited. We are all working from home (I’ve been out of the office for two solid weeks now) and there is no more toilet paper. We have not, however, been issued a shelter-in-place order (as in California) that prohibits people from going outside.

    In Vancouver, there are plenty of people enjoying the spring sunshine on the beach - and they’re not staying six feet apart. I’m sure our Provincial Health Officer has cocked her eyebrow at these non-social-distancing hedonists and has her finger on the stay-at-home trigger.

    The resulting economic slowdown from all this, while arguably not as serious as the death toll, has nonetheless triggered a terrible domino effect of temporary layoffs, a ravaged stock market, and personal hardship.

    This is not the 2020 we were hoping for.

    I am, however, encouraged by the proactive measures we’re taking as a society to curb this deadly flu. Let’s not forget that the first appearance of the H1N1 strain in 1918 killed up to fifty million people. We’re doing a good thing here. The “curve” has already “flattened” in Asia, so I’m optimistic that the societal shutdown over here will be brief, but memorable.

    What I got wrong

    Sat, Feb 22, 2020

    Last month I took stock at the start of a new decade and had some fun thinking about both the previous and the next ten years in tech. Because it was so much fun, I’d like to continue on from last month’s theme and go a bit deeper on the tech retrospective.

    I looked back on some old blog posts from the last decade where I made some sort of prediction to see if I got anything right. I mostly didn’t. Being a soothsayer is, quite frankly, really hard.

    So, instead, here are some predictions I got wrong.

    Welcome, humans, to 2020

    Thu, Jan 23, 2020

    The fun part of starting a new decade is looking back at how much has changed since 2010 and also imagining what life will be like a decade from now in 2030. Covering it all would take several pages, so I’ll just focus on one or two things.

    But firstly, in the spirit of “living in the now” (party on Wayne and Garth), I’d like to express my deep appreciation of living in the year 2020.

    We are living in the future - and the future is now. These are remarkable times on cultural, political, and technological fronts - and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else (chronologically speaking). So here’s to 2020 - it’s going to be one heck of a year.

    Ten years ago, I was newly married, childless, and just starting out in my Technical Writing career. Now I’m a grizzled father with grey in my beard and metaphorically-calloused hands that rest confidently on the helm of my writing career. I’m not quite a seasoned Information Developer, but I’m getting there.

    In 2010, was only three years old and was still the top hit when you googled “wordbit”. Now you’d be lucky to find my site on page two of the search results. A two-bit Android app for learning languages has usurped my brand, but there’s not much I can do about it. My site, however, is still the top hit on DuckDuckGo - so thanks for that you wonderfully obscure privacy-focused search engine that everyone should use but nobody does.

    2019 brought us more ways to flex

    Tue, Dec 24, 2019

    It’s already time for a year-end wrap up. Not that I’ve ever done a year-end wrap up. But I intend to remedy this oversight; it’s clichéd, easy, and fun - so why the hell not?

    There are plenty of important, serious topics that dominated the conversation in 2019. But I’m not going to talk about any of them.

    Instead, I’m going to talk about foldable phones, fake airpods, and cybertrucks - three uniquely 2019 ways for the important man to cultivate an air of swaggering braggadocio. Ladies and gentleman, this is how you flex in 2019.

    And then I’ll wrap up by discussing the best game, book, and movie I played, read, and watched this year. To be clear, my faves may not have hit the shelves in 2019, but they’re new for me - and these top picks get my thumbs up for a high enjoyment factor at any time.

    Sound good? Let’s get started.