whitehouse.gov

As with all new incoming administrations, The White House website has been updated.  Lots of little details stand out, like accessibility enhancements around text size, dark mode and viewport accomidations.

Also, since it affects us all, I recommend you check out the covid-19 plan page. Lots of great detail in here around how the administration plans to tackle the pandemic. Specifically, the parts around overall guidance and treating lockdowns like a “dial”, spelling out the rollout plan so folks know when/where they can get vaccinated

None of this is novel at all. It’s all pretty common sense stuff but I’m hopeful to see clear, consistent communication from our state and national leaders.

Dawn

Holy hell, we actually made it!

After 4 years, the Trump presidency ended in a way that was fairly predictable, even if we didn’t know the specifics of how it’d go down. It’s really heartbreaking to think about what we got ourselves into, but this is what happens when you elect an incompetent conman with a lack of understanding of basic facts. On top of that, he’s proven to be a pathological liar who contributed massively to the political division in this country & helped nuke trust in key institutions. While the vast majority of Americans saw through his act and voted him out, it’s really sad to see how he’s dragged some of my family and friends deeper into the far-right cesspool.

Worst of all, we just crossed 400k deaths from COVID-19 and we all witnessed Trump’s lack of interest in doing the hard work of leading us during this awful period.

But hey, at least we got our tax cuts (that are going to start expiring this year), a partially completed “wall” that Mexico definitely is going to pay for any minute now, and a few far-right Supreme Court picks.

I’m not sure of what exactly can be done in this political climate, but I am hopeful that Biden is the right person to take the temperature down a bit and work on getting the country back on track. Some of his early cabinet picks aren’t as left as I’d personally like but I’m okay with centrist appointees who can find common ground with Congress and get to work. The Senate in particular has been on ice for years, passing nearly no new legislation to help make our lives better. There’s so much that we all can agree on, we just need someone to work to bring us together instead of sow division for political gain.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about having competent leadership again.

The Sedition Caucus

The New York Times has compiled a list of the Senators and Representatives who objected to certifying the results of the election.

We should not forget these cowards who insist on objecting to this election. None of them explicit asked for what happened, but they are complicit in the events at the Capitol because they’re consistently misleading their base with lies & conspiracy theories because they think it’s politically advantageous to keep that group riled up. Senator Romney said it well yesterday – true leadership is telling hard truths.

Barry Loudermilk, my representative, is on the Sedition Caucus list and I look forward to working tirelessly to run him out of office.

Instapaper Season

With the next 2 weeks off of work, it’s one of my favorite times of the year – the season where I clean out hundreds of unread items in my Instapaper queue.

I’ve been using Instapaper since it launched over a decade ago, and it’s been one of my most used apps since. Over the course of the year I tend to collect hundreds of articles to read, and only some of those get read close to when I save them.

So, during the holidays I tend to resolve to plow through the queue in the mornings with my coffee, deleting the ones that are no longer relevant or interesting and reading all of the stuff I’ve been saving over the past 23 months.

What this means for you, dear reader, is that my Links page will get a ton of updates over the next few weeks as I star the most interesting reads. I hope you’ll follow along and hopefully find something interesting as well.

Unfriending Facebook

So, I finally deleted my Facebook account. This was something I’ve been batting around for what seems like years, but after about 6 months of having my account deactivated, I pressed the button earlier today and it felt good. So, why did I pull the plug?

In my opinion, Facebook is bad for our society and I didn’t feel comfortable remaining on the site any longer. My departure probably won’t keep Mr. Zuckerberg awake at night but getting out of that ecosystem makes me feel better, and it’s far more productive than scrolling through misinformation, arguments and conspiracy theories every day. Groups of Americans have always disagreed and argued about politics but typically you’d find ways to discuss issues or focus on things that you mutually wanted to discuss. Now people shout their craziest beliefs into the void with no regard for what it might cause or who might read it, all the while demonizing people who don’t agree with them. Fun fact: folks agree on far more than we think we do, but our time on social media pushes us further into camps while demonizing those who are different than we are on the edges.

There’s little we can do to change folks minds on social platforms that feed people more and more polarized and inflammatory content, but by leaving we might be able to further marginalize Facebook as a place people want to spend their time. It’s important to think about what you put in and what you get out of a site like Facebook or Twitter and what it’s doing to our society and relationships. We’ll all land at different conclusions there and that’s fine, but hopefully you’re using it because it makes you happy and is the best way to connect with friends. But honestly, I doubt that’s happening.

About 6 months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account. I wanted to take stock of what things I’d be missing before dramatically pressing the delete button, so I did a quick audit of what I’d be missing out on:

  • Facebook Messenger. I scanned the conversations I’d had on the messenger app in the past 6 months and I had everyone’s phone number with the exception of one. I messaged that person and let them know I’d be leaving and exchanged numbers. Easy.
  • My neighborhood Facebook group. While 99% of it is folks complaining or arguing, there are some occasional announcements or useful tidbits that emerge from the neighborhood group. That said, I was spending less than a few minutes a week looking at those posts and usually had a lesser opinion of my neighbors than I did going in. I’ll take the risk here. Plus, I can always ask my wife to post on there if need be!
  • Staying connected with friends and seeing their posts. I wasn’t really looking at those anyway, so things won’t be any different than they were before. I’ll just try harder to reach out to folks via other methods like text, FaceTime etc.
  • The traffic Facebook sends to my site via the (now closed) Facebook page for this site. Since shutting that page down, I’ve seen about a 15% drop in traffic. I’ll live without it.

The one thing I didn’t mention above was Instagram. I still maintain an account there for now and the reason is that I view Instagram as a generally positive place that doesn’t have many of the same echo chamber & argumentative problems that Facebook has. That said, they have the same leadership and it’s entirely possible I’ll have to revisit that decision if (when?) they make changes that turn that place into a cesspool of humanity as well.

I’m hopeful that over time we can continue to move to smaller-scale sharing of content with family and friends. Things like iCloud photo sharing, text message groups and Slack groups bring me much more happiness than social media ever has. Even if you do stay on Facebook, I’d encourage you to unfollow brands™, political news sites, meme accounts and the like. You’ll be a lot happier if you do.

The M1 Macs

From Daring Fireball:

What you need to understand is that the best aspects of these Macs aren’t benchmarkable. It’s about how nice they are. The cooling system never making any noise doesn’t show up in a benchmark. I suppose you could assign it a decibel value in an anechoic chamber, but silent operation, and a palm rest that remains cool to the touch even under heavy load, aren’t quantities. They’re qualities. They’re just nice.

So far it appears that the new M1 Macs are a performance, efficiency and UX win. They’re an improvement in nearly every way, yet within the same enclosure as before.

The webcams still stink, however.

Overall, this is a great review of the entire experience of using  these new Macs and it has me very excited to upgrade whenever I end up buying a new machine.

Turning the Page

The past week has felt like a year, but we’re finally at a point where we can start talking about the future. Trump has been voted out of office, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be leading the charge.

Biden’s speech last night was workmanlike. He hit all of the right notes about being a president for all Americans, fighting Covid head on so we can get back to normal life, and turning the page on the division of the past 4 years.

I’m hopeful, but I also realize we have a ton of work to do in keeping our elected officials accountable to work together on things most Americans want – action on climate change, investment in infrastructure, common-sense reforms to healthcare access, and finding ways to create and keep great middle-class jobs amongst other things. One person isn’t going to solve every issue the country faces, especially when both parties have different priorities. However, it’s in Biden’s DNA to try to broker deals and help make the Senate work together. While the runoff in January here in Georgia for 2 open Senate seats is extremely important, it’s just as key to push our representatives across the country to do their job and govern. Find things to work on together and make our lives better.

I’m not interested in dunking on anyone who voted for Trump but I am equal parts disappointed and curious to understand where the middle ground is now. On some level, I can understand someone that wanted to try something new 4 years ago and take a chance on Trump. Hard for me to wrap my head around, but I kinda get it. However, after witnessing the last 4 years and especially the last 9 months, for someone to take stock of all of that and still pull the lever for Trump tells me that this country is more broken than I imagined. It really makes me sad that many people put party affiliation above country and competence.

Trump is directly responsible for so many deaths (as of this writing, we’re above 240k), and a lot of his voters appear to be more concerned with culture war issues rather than things our elected officials should be working on. But you know what? The bottom line is that the country rejected Trump, and made him a one term president. He’s the first one-term president in 28 years. Biden got more votes than any other candidate, ever. However, roughly 70 million people still voted for Trump, despite everything that’s happened in the past 4 years. I think Biden is right to say he wants to be president for all Americans, and to try to find the places we do agree and get to work there. I hope Republicans give him a chance to prove that out.

I really do worry about the division in our country over the past 10-15 years, though. It’s not a left vs right debate, it’s a debate of people who consume various news sources vs those who live in a Fox News / Facebook bubble. Social media and cable news are helping tear us apart. Trump isn’t the cause, but instead a symptom. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see the sources of information a lot of my family and friends consume. I also worry about the cracks in our system that have been laid bare recently. We need to continue to push for democratic reforms that allow states to still have power but don’t ensure minority rule continues.

I feel infinitely better than I did 4 years ago, when Trump was elected and I felt truly scared about the future of so many things that make this nation great. A lot of damage was done, and it’s going to take a lot of work – sustained, consistent involvement – to take us where we want to go. But today, we begin to turn the page on the Trump presidency.

Google discontinues its Google Nest Secure alarm system

From The Verge:

Google isn’t totally out of smart home security, though. It still sells video doorbells, security cameras, smoke alarms, and more.

For now.

Unless you’re using something that is absolutely mission critical to Google, prepare to have the rug pulled out from under you. Good on them for continuing to support the platform for now but you can already see the “sunset” blog post 12 months from now.

The HomePod Video

I’ve owned a lot of smart speakers in the past few years but I think the device I’ve enjoyed the most is the Google Nest Hub (I think that’s what they’re calling it this year). It does a few things really well:

  • Music playback control
  • Smart home controls
  • Can be a video casting target, also can play a few video services natively
  • Passive photo slideshow when not in use
  • Good visual timer countdown
  • Google image search – the kids love this

The major downside is that I’ve mostly moved on from Google smart home stuff with the exception of the Nest hub and one Chromecast for travel.

Apple announced the HomePod Mini yesterday, and it looks pretty compelling for $99 if you’re deep in the Apple ecosystem like I am. However, I already have a Sonos One + HomePod setup at my house so I don’t anticipate buying any of those at this time – but I could see myself adding a few as “cheap” Airplay 2 speakers down the road.

However, one device that wasn’t announced yesterday that I long for would be a “HomePod Video” device.

Features I’d like in a “HomePod Video”

  • A basic Siri interface to control music playback, HomeKit, etc. My only real expectations are to work as good as the HomePod.
  • An always on display that can control HomeKit scenes
  • Airplay 2 target to allow users to play videos in the kitchen or wherever this device lives.
  • A way to show off photos from my iCloud Photo Library, ideally by choosing an album or two to rotate through.
  • A decent speaker – something a step down from the HomePod (I’d assume the same hardware as the HomePod Mini) but still good enough.
  • UI tweaks for things like notifications, timers and communication.
  • Ability to do FaceTime calls.

You can cobble together something like this with an iPad mini, external speakers and a stand of some kind but I’d love to see Apple continue to invest in the home ecosystem like they appear to be with the HomePod Mini. Maybe next year. I think Apple could charge roughly ~$200 for a device like this and it’d really tie the room together.