Apple Watch – an April Fools’ joke?

I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing when Apple announced their Apple Watch. Sending someone your heartbeat? Trying to scribble a doodle on a 1.5″ screen, rather than dictating a quick message with Siri? Who does that!?

As I do every year, I watched the Apply keynote speech to see what new tech was coming out soon. It’s a ritual that gets more attention on alternating years when I know that I’ll be buying the new iPhone, no matter what it is.

The iPhone 6 was a nice upgrade, but I agree that the days of enormous leaps in new features and huge improvements are probably waning, and I have been less and less captured by the hype that surrounds these events, which has been refreshing. I’m not much of a capitalist, but I have long been a fan of the iPhone, because it helps me out in so many aspects of my daily, and business, life, so that I’m seeing it as more of a tool than a toy is very welcome to me.

When Tim Cook breezed through the iPhone announcement, it was becoming apparent that he was making room for the rumoured “iWatch” announcement, and sure enough, he devoted the second half of his keynote to just that.

As his presentation went on, I was getting less and less impressed, and more and more angry by how they were trying to hype up ridiculous features. Continue reading “Apple Watch – an April Fools’ joke?”

The occasional massacre is okay with us

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better write-up of how America feels about gun control, deciding that the occasional school shooting or neighbourhood shooting spree is a necessary evil to protect the “rights” of ordinary Americans.

Look, we’ve collectively decided, as a country, that the occasional massacre is okay with us. It’s the price we’re willing to pay for our precious Second Amendment freedoms. We’re content to forfeit the lives of a few dozen schoolkids a year as long as we get to keep our guns. The people have spoken, in a cheering civics-class example of democracy in action.

Tim Kreider just wrote a piece for The Week (There is no catastrophe so ghastly that America will reform its gun laws) which caused my insides to sing with acknowledgement and agreement.

America is far too divided (and hyperpolitical) to ever change their gun laws, as the massacre at Sandy Hook so clearly demonstrated. As his byline puts it:

We as a nation don’t care about any number of murdered children, no matter how many, or how young. We want our guns.

Continue reading “The occasional massacre is okay with us”

The death of “news”

I’m so saddened and sick of the state of American media. The networks are partially to blame, but equally, their viewers are the ones lapping it up without question, so it’s time to take a step back and review what you’re actually watching day in and day out.

Some time last year, the building where I work was kind enough to install ceiling-hung LCD TVs in the lobby next to the elevators, so that while you were waiting for the elevator, you could catch up on 20 seconds of news.

I don’t have a TV, nor do I follow American media. Most days, I take a look at BBC News (the most impartial and far-reaching news organisation I know of) to get a feel for what’s going on in the world, and back home. As such, I am not really exposed to the American media except when I happen to be in an airport, or doctor’s office where they are showing CNN or Fox News.

These new TVs in my building have exposed me on a daily basis to what most Americans wake up to and form their views from on the world at large.

Which is quite scary.

I am, without exaggerating, saddened by the state of American media. This morning’s discussion tipped me over the edge: the figureheads of news and information were analysing how Justin Bieber was being mean to his lawyers, and whether he was on a prescription for Xanax.

Who gives a flying fuck?

I mean seriously, America. These are your national news networks discussing a spoiled, Canadian, hyped-up brat, when there are far more important things going on in the world, like planes mysteriously disappearing in mid-air, and humanitarian and political crises in numerous places, such as Ukraine, Syria and Venezuela to name but a few. Do you not ever turn on the TV and think “Seriously, what is this, why am I watching it and why do I give a crap?”?

Stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Wake up and smell the coffee. Be your own person, form your own views, and stop caring about meaningless drivel that the media are feeding you.

What I miss the most about the UK

Marti said a word recently which really resonated with me. I realised that, excluding friends and family, it was probably the thing I missed the most about the UK. That word was objectivity.

As a teenager and as a young adult, when meeting with my friends at the pub, or at a friend’s house, we would often discuss certain subjects: sometimes trivial and sometimes weighty. We would pass around points of view and see the merits of differing stances. It made for intelligent and enjoyable conversation.

Since moving to the US, it’s the one thing I dearly miss. Americans are very opinionated (in case you didn’t already know) and they’re not afraid to voice their opinion, so when a point of discussion arises in conversation, every participant considers it their goal to convert you to their way of thinking, no matter the cost.

It’s really sad because I look back fondly on times that I was able to intellectually discuss a perplexing problem or topic with my peers and consider varied viewpoints: now I’m left being barked at by brainwashed stalwarts, insistent on recruiting me to their way of thinking, which is of course, the correct way.

Americans would benefit greatly from:

  • Acknowledging that they don’t know everything.
  • Realising that considering other perspectives gives you a more rounded view of the situation.
  • Acknowledging that considering the opinions of others doesn’t make you weak: it makes you stronger for being willing to listen to other viewpoints and ponder how they might fit into your belief system (and not the belief system that you think you should have).

Living in a post-NSA-revelations world

I’m not a criminal, but I am concerned about how the NSA has betrayed our trust and systematically collects data to build profiles on us, so I took action to protect myself and my family a little better.

The ongoing revelations of the NSA’s secret program of spying activities has been a mainstay of the news this year, since Edward Snowden’s first revelation about PRISM back in May. Since then, he has been labeled a traitor by the USA and forced to hole up in Russia to avoid extradition. Personally, I think his revelations were in the best interest of Americans and the people around the world.

Ever since the PATRIOT Act was hurriedly signed into law on the heels of emotionally-charged politicians and citizens, I’ve been mildly concerned about how much freedom the US had given its government to monitor the activity of their citizens, in the name of fighting “terror”.

Now, understand that in 2001, I was still in the UK (I didn’t move to the States until 2006), a country with perhaps one of the largest networks of CCTV, which the US seem so against. I was never too concerned about the manner in which your movements could be recalled if the need arose, because it was generally only used to help solve crimes, and they only recalled the data they needed to solve an isolated incident. Continue reading “Living in a post-NSA-revelations world”

Debt ceiling, government shutdown, blah blah blah

All of this bickering going on in the United States government is such a circus, and quite frankly, an embarrassment for the country.

I can’t think of another developed country where the government has had to consider a shutdown, let alone go through with one.

America is far too hyperpolitical: 95%+ of the population are at the far ends of a very long political spectrum. Being radical in any arena is not going to suit the needs of the populace and will only serve to alienate you.

It’s easy to say that things need to change, but the issues aren’t just at the top: it’s the entire American population sitting at the extremes of the political compass. Knowing that it’s a cultural and social issue as well as a political issue doesn’t leave much hope that things will change any time soon.

Thoughts on 21st century education

Education in the West is becoming more and more focused on maths, science and testing, from a younger age, and it’s killing the creativity of our kids and their ability to learn for themselves and find what makes them tick.

This past week, I was in discussion with a few people on Twitter about the state of modern education, principally in the United States, but in the Western world in general.

I was sent a couple of articles to read. The first was about the enormous amount of homework that children do. This one is particularly true of children in the United States. And then someone sent me a follow-up article, about how children are starved of play time these days.

The first article infuriated me. Cultural exports have long suggested that American children are overworked, even compared to little old me, from America’s special relationship, the UK, but the article confirmed it for me: American kids are being forced into several hours of homework every night, even in some cases for kindergarten! Continue reading “Thoughts on 21st century education”

Stop making breastfeeding weird

Even before I left the UK, people were starting to get a bit weird about breastfeeding in public, but it was still fairly commonplace.

After moving to the States, I’ve realised that it’s an action which is much more taboo on this side of the pond, which infuriates me to no end.

Marti showed me a blog post about it recently that sums up exactly how I feel about it, so I encourage you to read it and actively support breastfeeding mothers and stand against bigots who see naturally nourishing your child as some sort of shameful act.

Read the blog post

Stats can be so misleading

As a new parent, I’ve found myself reading a lot about child-rearing and the like and one thing has become very apparent that is really starting to annoy me.

People parade statistics around far too much and hold them in too high esteem. Some examples of stats I’ve read recently include:

Breast-fed babies are 24% more likely to be upward mobile.

Breastfed babies are 41% more likely to go to college.

This sort of statistics drives me nuts, because it is so often misrepresentative of what’s going on.

People scanning those stats may quickly come to the conclusion that breastfeeding your baby will result in your child having higher upward mobility and being more likely to go to college. Continue reading “Stats can be so misleading”