iPhone X.

I’m still making discoveries about my new iPhone X. I’m thoroughly enjoying my new phone, especially the form factor and the way it fits in my hand. Prior to this phone I was using an iPhone 6s Plus: I loved the real estate but the form factor was too large. I feel like I can text with one hand.

I’ll probably write a proper review once I feel I’ve figured out all the nuances but here’s a couple of quick hits:

  • The OLED display is absolutely amazing
  • The cameras are outstanding. I took a couple of night photos from our balcony here in Chicago this evening and the clarity is amazing.
  • The camera also took great photos during my flight yesterday. I wish I had taken the same shots with my iPhone 6s Plus, but it’s already been wiped out and is on it’s way for refurbishment. Comparing other flight photos taken last winter with my 6s+ I can see a nice difference in photo quality.
  • The new gestures, due to the lack of a home button, became natural to me within an hour. The only thing I miss about the lack of a home button is knowing which was is up when I pick up the phone in the dark
  • Battery life has been amazing
  • The transfer of my data went about 90% well. There are a few apps that didn’t transfer settings over, but I think that falls on the apps developer.

For the past 48 hours I have been very pleased with this phone. Nothing has made me say “why?” and I’ve had no sense of frustration at all.

The iPhone X is definitely an evolution of the smartphone. I don’t care if the features are available from other manufacturers or on other operating system. It works well for me and I’m quite pleased.

Jeep.

I was making a right on red turn on the way to the airport this morning. The intersection was adjacent to an expressway ramp, so I pulled out slightly to see around the guiderail and stopped to make sure traffic was clear.

That’s when I felt a big “bam” and my Jeep was rammed from the rear by a white mini-van.

I pulled to the side of the road, saw that the corner of the Jeep was messed up and walked to the van. The first question out of my mouth was, “is everyone OK?”

Everyone was OK.

We exchanged contact and insurance information. The man driving the van apologized. I found the license plate that had been ripped off the rear quarter panel and wedged it between the high-mount brake light and the spare tire. I took pictures of everything and actually shook hands with the driver that hit my beloved Jeep.

I then continued my journey to the airport, took a few minutes to calm down, contacted Earl (who handled the stuff with the insurance company) and had a great flight today.

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PosiTweet.

So Earl bought me a new iPhone X this evening. While we have been discussing the purchase for the past several days, I say that he bought me the phone because he gave the OK to spend our money to purchase this new piece of technology. I must give a special shout out to a close Apple employee who shares his “Family and Friends” discount.

As I was setting up my new iPhone X, I wondered if I wanted to just restore my phone from a backup of my old iPhone 6s Plus or if I wanted to go ahead and install everything from scratch. The pivot in this decision was Twitter. If you follow my Twitter feed (see sidebar), you’ll notice that I have been fairly critical of the platform and in particular, the CEO and decision makers at the social media company. The fact that Twitter allows Donald Trump, and others in position of power, tweet in an unbridled fashion, sharing videos of pro-Nazi activity, making threats of nuclear war against another country, etc., bothers me. I can understand if Twitter allowed this sort of activity from Trump if he was using the *official* POTUS account on Twitter, but he’s not, he’s tweeting from his personal account and other users would not be allowed to be so aggressive on Twitter. Users have been blocked or bounced for much less. The disparity in treatment is what bothers me.

Earl and I were talking about this; we don’t agree on the subject and in the long run it’s fine that we don’t agree. He’s the sensible one of the family, and I think he’s the brighter bulb in our chandelier, so I always listen to what he says. I might rant and rave about a topic; he’ll just counterpoint and say, “why are you yelling.” It’s what’s kept up together for over 21 years.

As we talked over dinner, I told Earl that I was frustrated by Twitter and he said he thought I could do better at sharing positive things through the platform. Bust through the negativity with a positive attitude. The light always beats the dark.

We were reminded of a wedding we attended a couple of years ago. We were the older folks in the room and seated with a bunch of people younger than us. We had a wonderful time as the mood was festive that night. Every time something witty or remarkable happened, a young woman with crazy hair seated across from us, Lee, would shriek “I have to tweet this!” and then her fingers would dance across her smartphone and it’d all become part of the public record. While it may be ridiculous that every moment, anecdote, belch, etc. was being shared on Twitter, the theme of the moment was that Lee was having fun, wanted to share that fun with the world, and more importantly, was laughing and having a good time as she tweeted.

As I munched on my bacon wrapped shrimp tonight during this reminiscing, I was reminded about how much I missed laughing and having a good time as I tweeted.

I’ve wretched about this sort of thing a lot since the 2016 Elections. I miss feeling a positive vibe in the world. If Twitter is starting to suck in my eyes, it’s not the time to run away, it’s time to make it suck less.

As I looked around the restaurant, I made the observation that the mood around us was cheerier than what we would encounter in restaurants where we used to live in Central New York. Having moved from a decidedly red part of the country (some described it as a ‘snowy Alabama’) to a very blue city in the Midwest, I’ve noticed that not only are the people more diverse in nature, they seem to be happier. There’s less scowling and more smiling. Now, I’m not saying that everyone is tip-toeing through the tulips in the Windy City and that everything is champagne and caviar, but there is a more positive disposition here and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to move.

I should bring more of that positive disposition to Twitter.

I still strongly feel that Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and crew at Twitter are more concerned about building engagement numbers and ad revenue than they are about free speech and giving everyone ‘their say’ via Twitter. I still think that Twitter is nothing like it was intended to be when it was introduced to the world over a decade ago, but I don’t think it’s a hopeless case yet. I’ve met some groovy people on Twitter, folks that I genuinely like and look forward to meeting up with in 2018. We can still make great connections via social media. They key to success in this endeavor is being positive about it.

Sometimes you have to jump over the ditch to get to the green grass on the other side.

Tiviachick.

One of my friends from my radio days, Laurie Jean, is on a quest to play laser tag in all 50 states. She goes by the name Tiviachick.

I’ve always admired Laurie’s zest for life and her lack of inhibition. One week, when I was the Director of Operations and she was a sales and promotion person, she came in everyday dressed in a different wild outfit. She did this for one week, never gave an explanation as to why and she didn’t do it again during my tenure with the company. It was odd but it was awesome.

I’m happy to see that she still lives the dream.

Here’s the link to her blog: Tiviachick Loves Lasertag

Queer.

It was autumn of 1986 and I was a freshman in college. When my parents dropped me off at school for that first semester I promised myself that I would be true to who I was and not deny to anyone that asked that I was a gay man. It was fairly easy to exercise the gaydar, I went to school for Music Education. There were a good number of “us” at that school.

We were sitting around the student union, a bunch of us aspiring musicians, talking about life in some sort of collegy way when a friend of mine, Tracy from Long Island, asked how I referred to myself as a gay man. Did I prefer to be called “gay” or “homosexual”?

Now, I’ve known I was “different” since second grade. I was OK with the word gay, but I never really liked it, probably because of the stereotypes we’d see in the 1970s and mid 1980s: men running around screaming, doing hair, painting nails, that sort of thing. While my pilot light probably burned higher than it should have at that point of my life, in my head I had negative connotations to the word “gay”. I’d been called worse, much worse, in my high school years. So when Tracy asked how I thought of myself, I replied honestly: “I’m homosexual”.

“That sounds so scientific”, she replied.

“Well, it is scientific. I’m attracted to the same sex so that makes me homosexual.”

“Do you go to gay bars?”, she asked.

“I never have. And no, I’ve never been with anyone.”

I was such a partier in college.

Naturally I’ve used the term ‘gay’ to label myself lots of times in my life, and I really don’t know why I responded with “homosexual” back in the autumn of 1986, other than an internal fear of the word ‘gay’. The AIDS epidemic was really ramped up at the time and being gay made me uncomfortable, I guess.

The younger generation, and many of my own generation, have embraced the word ‘queer’. As a kid I heard that word a lot, almost always directed at me. I could never understand why a couple of other classmates, who pinged my budding radar at the time (and confirmed at a later age) didn’t garner the attention of being called queer as they walked through the halls of the Junior-Senior High School, but as I said before, my pilot light was bright. Later in life I couldn’t embrace the word ‘queer’. I struggled with that; too many bad memories about the use of the word.

Tonight, as Earl and I waited for the train to take us a couple stops up so we could find a restaurant for dinner, I said to him, “You know, I’m queer.”

Earl looked at me in surprise.

“I’ve always been queer. I am a queer man.”

In the back of my head, a memory of my girlfriend from high school playing “Johnny Are You Queer?” by Josie Cotton on the record player echoed in my head.

“I’m different. I have my own thing going on. Most of it is because I’m a gay, but even in the gay community I’m rather queer.

“One of my New Year’s resolutions is to embrace the word ‘queer’ because it’s the truth. I’m going to be 50 years old this year, why should I care what people think?”

So, there you have it. Johnny is a queer boy after all.

War.

As a teenager of the 1980s I used to have nightmares about nuclear war. There’d be a bright flash, lots of wind and destruction and then we’d melt. Sometimes the nightmare included walking into a bright light holding hands with someone. It wasn’t until I married Earl that someone held my hand in this nightmare. I haven’t had this nightmare in a good many years because I kind of thought the era of a nuclear threat was behind us.

But here we are, with North Korea claiming they can hit the U.S. with a nuclear warhead and Trump pretty much goading them into with a series of “my button is bigger than your button” tweets.

A lot of this fear could be toned down if Twitter would just shut down Trump’s account. Actually, I think it would be best for the world if Twitter shut down entirely and I have occasionally advocated for their demise right on their platform. I sometimes wonder why I stick around on Twitter, after all, it’s not about crowdsourcing information as much as it’s about PR and getting your name, your brand and your ego out there. I can be absurdly snarky on Twitter. It’s not something I’m proud of. It just adds to the noise. I’m trying to calm down about that in 2018. I’ve probably made that statement before in previous years.

The thing is, I don’t have news organizations trumpeting out every idiotic statement I make on Twitter, but Trump’s tweets are out there front and center. His carelessness on the platform can change the National, heck INTERNATIONAL dialog in an instant. I don’t believe the powers that be at Twitter really know the power their platform wields.

I hope they don’t wait for a bright flash and a nuclear winter to convince them that they’re making a terrible mistake by not taking control of their platform. Heck, their CEO sees his duties at Twitter as a part time gig. He doesn’t even take the platform seriously.

Is this the instrument of war and peace we want in our volatile world today?

Crowdsourcing.

Earl and I binged watched the last three episodes of CBS’ “Wisdom of the Crowd” tonight. There are two remaining episodes scheduled for January; the show has been cancelled, mostly because of the alleged sexual misconduct charges against series star Jeremy Piven. It’s a shame this show has been cancelled as it’s taken this long for the show to find its stride. The technology is a bit showy for television but the concept of the show is interesting: a crowdsourcing application is used to solve crimes. The show also tackled some interesting challenges we are seeing in today’s society, including video “stars” being stalked by other users. On the show the video platform is called AllSourcer, but in reality it’s YouTube. Our society is fueled by notoriety and this one episode in particular tackled that head on.

It’s a shame there’s only two episodes of the series left. Like “Century City”, the short lived lawyer show on CBS from 2004 that took place in the year 2030, “Wisdom of the Crowd” is just finding its ground as it meets its early demise.

One of the things I like about “Wisdom of the Crowd” is the use of crowdsourcing. Engaging users into an application platform and urging them to make quality contributions to the information being shared is so compelling. Using the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ to solve problems that plague us today should be where we’re headed with technology today. We have a great number of steps in that direction: Waze, Wikipedia, Yelp, TripAdvisor: all of these platforms rely on quality content from contributors. There has to be a sound, trusted way to curate this incoming data. This is tricky for software engineers, this is tricky for algorithms and this is tricky for human screeners, but the community contributing to the platform bears the ultimate responsibility.

Is our society today ready to handle wide-scale crowdsourcing efforts? I wish this was the case but honestly I’m skeptical, especially with the amount of disinformation that is spread on the social networks. There are many bad actors that use Twitter, Facebook, etc. for building distrust and spreading lies as fact. They’re the new avenues for FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Distrust. At one time I would have considered Twitter a crowdsourced event platform. Earlier in Twitter’s history I used it as a source of late-breaking news. Today I’m skeptical of anything I see on Twitter. The company has failed in securing the authenticity of the information on their network. This is a shame, because Twitter had the potential to be one of the greatest crowdsourced platforms out there. But they went for the numbers and the revenue. Quantity over quality. Ad revenue over accurate information. A wasted opportunity that has moved into the realm of notoriety.

I’m intrigued by the concept of “Sophe”, the crowd-sourced crime solving platform on the show “Wisdom of the Crowd”. I like to think that if users think they are doing good thingin the world through an app, they’ll share their information at face value and hopefully bias is set aside. Is the U.S. ready for a real-world “Sophe”? Only time will tell. I’m sure someone out there is already working on building such a platform. I know I would participate.

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep writing quality reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor and sharing data on Waze. I like being a voice in the crowd to make the world a better place.