R.I.P. Zoot 💻💔 (3/2013-12/2016)

In early 2013 I was enjoying my first extended stint as a self-employed web contractor. I was working long hours, making good money, and my gadgets were a tax deductible business expense. I remember walking into an Apple Store and asking for the highest-spec MacBook Pro available off the shelf. It’s a monster, and my plan was to recover the high up-front cost by getting as much life as possible out of it.

It looks like I got just shy of 4 years out of it.

I’ve been able to boot Zoot twice in the last 3 weeks. I knew the machine was due for a new battery, which I’d been excited to do – I thought it would buy me another 18-24 months of useful life. When I took it to the Apple Store, their tests eliminated the battery from the list of possible problems and quoted me a flat $575 fee ($475 parts + $100 labor) to repair whatever was broken, which is either the logic board itself, or one of the major components permanently soldered to it. And that wouldn’t even include the battery replacement it needs.

If this had happened 5 or 10 years ago, that money would be better spent on a new machine, and I’d call that reasonable after 4 years of heavy, geeky service. But traditional x86-based PCs aren’t getting faster any more. If Moore’s Law were still in effect, 4 years would mean I could buy a new Mac with 64GB of RAM to replace my old one’s 16GB. But laptop memory is still DDR3 and still tops out at 16GB. Why would I sink further thousands into old tech?

Instead, I’ve ordered a new battery for my 6-year-old “turbo Honda” Mac and put it back into service. It only has 8GB of RAM, but web browsers have drastically improved their memory usage in recent years, and I’ve managed to scale back my browser tab addiction a little. It’s working very well for now, and if new computers aren’t getting any faster, at least I’m still happy using the six year old ones.

I have been hearing a lot of buzz about Macs not being good enough for pros any more, in addition to the perennial death proclamations for post-Steve Jobs Apple. I’m currently in denial about these theories, but can’t deny the claims have some merit. I’m giving it a year before I hit the panic button myself. As a web pro, it’s important that I be relevant to all platforms that web applications run on, but recently I’ve been unhappy with anything but a Mac as my daily driver. But I’m starting to look at the options on the horizon, and preparing myself for the possibility that my next PC might be a Surface. Or maybe the “truck” PCs will move to ARM, where the innovation is red hot.

Joe Biden: Role Model

As a man who rejects many of my culture’s toxic ideas about masculinity, it’s sometimes difficult to find positive examples of men worth emulating. Growing up and seeing many examples of the damage men have done in patriarchal society makes it feel like a growing list of things not to be and do.

Joe Biden is a rare, glowing exception. He is an example of how principled, strong, loving men can be a force to improve the lives of their family members and work colleagues, as well as fight for people who don’t yet have the same opportunities to succeed that are afforded to men of privilege.

The world needs more men like Joe Biden. I always am more successful when I can strive for positive, proactive improvement. So I’m thankful for Vice President Biden’s living example.

My highlight from President Obama’s farewell address

So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.

None of this is easy. For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.

(Full text of the speech)

Since the election, I’ve been thinking about algorithmic feeds again. This isn’t a new issue: it’s the filter bubble dilemma all over again, just after a disturbing wake-up call involving propaganda, disinformation, and hate groups that are more empowered than ever before. Proprietary networks are always going to reward people for posting media directly, rather than linking from a competitor or, god forbid, a self-published site.

I write on my main blog for my own enjoyment. I don’t care if that stuff doesn’t get seen. I’m on social networks for the connections to people close and far. I don’t want to lose that by self-publishing. But now that algorithmic content feeds have proven to have a devastating effect on the mass consciousness, I’m no longer comfortable committing anything of consequence to places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m going back to microblogging – I’ll post stuff I want to share about here, and will link to it on the proprietary networks. Yes, algorithms will give it a lower priority. I’d rather have that happen throw more fuel into an immoral machine.

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