My view on the Apple jackectomy

(Originally posted as a social post on 10Centuries)

Removing the headphone jack is the right thing to do for a certain subset of people. That subset happens to make one hell of an overlapping Venn diagram with the most loyal and biggest-spending Apple customers. If you're big into tech, and have lots of disposable income, and always buy whatever comes out, chances are you're already happily using Bluetooth headsets and CarPlay, and removing the jack isn't a problem for you. And that's fine.

Removing the headphone jack is also the wrong thing to do for another subset of people. These folks have older cars without Bluetooth, or have spouses/kids/etc. who use Android phones, or do a lot of charging while using headphones, or have budgetary concerns. I happen to fit into this group.

Belkin has already announced an adapter that will allow you to both charge and listen on your shiny new iPhone, but that's both 1) one more goddamn expense and 2) something to lose. Just like the AirPods. But people who don't rely on using it will see it as just fine.

At the end of the day, Apple's gonna do what Apple's gonna do, and they won't go back, and their customers will adapt. But there is a point at which I have to ask myself whether I'm going to continue to be an Apple customer, and that question is not one that I'm prepared to answer just yet. I still have a year to go before I have to.

The problem with store payment apps

When I was a young man, back before the dawn of time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and Americans weren't afraid of Muslims, I had a wallet full of gasoline credit cards. Union 76, Shell, Texaco, Exxon, Chevron, Mobil…all in the name of being able to buy gas at whatever gas station happened to be convenient.

Then the oil companies got with the program and joined the 20th century, and started to accept Visa, Mastercard, and others. Now I've replaced the stack of proprietary credit cards in my wallet with a single card that I can use anywhere. It's better.

Unfortunately, as we enter the era of contactless payments and smartphone apps, not everyone wants to accept Apple Pay or Android Pay/Google Wallet. So now, when I want to buy aspirin at CVS (or shirts at Walmart), I have to download and install their proprietary app and register my credit card, or else pull out my physical wallet and pay cash (or use a plastic card).

That's not particularly difficult, but it does negate the biggest advantage of using Apple Pay or the equivalent: security.

You see, it's not just a convenience thing. When you pay with Apple Pay (or equivalent), the merchant never sees your actual card number. Apple generates a special number that only works with your phone. Anyone who was a victim of the Target hack will appreciate the importance of this.

Meanwhile, if you're using the CVS app or the Walmart Pay app, you don't have that advantage. The merchant gets your actual card number and keeps it on file. If they're hacked, you're screwed.

So no, Walmart and CVS, I won't be using your special proprietary payment apps. Maybe they make it easier for you to track purchases, or maybe you've negotiated a special lower per-transaction fee with the banks. I could certainly understand how it might work to your advantage. But neither of those is a compelling reason for me to downgrade my own security.

And one last thing to keep in mind: The consumer still has choices. You both have competitors who will accept Apple Pay, and they'll be the ones getting my business.

And if/when you reconsider your policy, so will I.

It's dead, Jim

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An update

I'll keep this brief. After logging into this blog for the first time in a long time, I realized I posted a bunch of stuff relating to Orthodox Christianity in times past.

Therefore, it's only fair to let you know that I no longer identify as an Orthodox Christian. I'll leave the old stuff up for historical reasons (well, most of it, anyway), but it doesn't reflect my current thinking. The journey continues…

Pocket, you're doing it wrong

Update: Since I originally posted this, Pocket has responded and pushed out a fix for this issue.

I have a friend who is an American Islamic scholar. He's very well-educated, and has impeccable credentials when it comes to the study of Islamic law, including study with the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, which resulted in his being licensed to issue Islamic legal opinions, known as fatwas. Technically, he's entitled to be called "Sheikh" due to his accomplishments. He lives in Abu Dhabi, and does a lot of work translating Islamic legal texts into English. He also maintains a blog.Today, I saw in my newsreader that he had a new post. Clicking through, I decided to save it to Pocket for later. These are the tags that Pocket suggested:

Pocket image

There is absolutely nothing in Musa's post that could remotely be associated with terrorism, except for the fact it deals with the serious study of Islamic law, which SHOULD NOT BE AUTOMATICALLY ASSOCIATED WITH TERRORISM any more than a discussion of Roman Catholic canon law should be associated with IRA terrorism. It's stupid, and it's offensive, and it needs to stop.

Pocket, you are doing it so, so wrong.

Using Slack as an information center: Mailclark

I've been using Slack as a personal information hub, and if you haven't tried this, you're missing out. I plan to share some tips based on things I'm doing, and today's topic is email.

If you're on a paid plan, Slack has some limited email integration built in, but if you really want to supercharge your personal Slack's email capability (or you're on the free tier), you need Mailclark.

Mailclark is an integration that allows you to both receive and send email directly from your Slack team, and it gives you a separate email address for each channel. For example, mail for your #general channel would go to [email protected]. You determine which channels have Mailclark built in by inviting user @mailclark to each channel.

You can use this in some interesting ways. Create a bookmarks channel, and email the URL to [email protected]. Have your travel itineraries sent to [email protected]. Save recipes to [email protected].

Use Gmail or another service that allows plus addressing? Change your login email for Amazon to [email protected], and set up a filter that directs all mail sent to that address to [email protected] and auto-archives the original. That way, you have the original safely tucked away, and you get a notification in Slack when your order ships or is delivered—and it keeps your email inbox uncluttered.

Another neat use is with Nixle, which is the service many U.S. public safety agencies use to disseminate information. Sign up with a channel-specific Mailclark address, and get alerts sent to your Slack:

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So there you have it. Mailclark and Slack. Try it and let me know what you think!

My election valediction

I've been pretty outspoken this election season. Apart from having always been interested in politics, I've felt a special need to be involved this year because of how it's developed. As someone trained in history, I've been seeing historical parallels that couldn't be ignored.

In a little more than ten weeks, it will be Election Day in the United States, and when day breaks on November 9, the most unusual election season in American history will finally be over.

I'm declaring it over now.

Unless you've been living in a cave in the remotest jungles of Borneo and attempting to avoid all contact with the outside world, you know who the candidates are. You know what they stand for. You know who their followers are (and, as the saying goes, by their friends ye shall know them).

Nothing I can say or do is going to change anyone's mind at this point, and I'm frankly tired of trying. And if you haven't made up your mind by now, I don't know what else I can say.

If you honestly believe there's some kind of equivalency between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, you haven't been paying attention. Trump has condoned violence by his supporters, regularly suggests violating the Constitution, and blatantly panders to white supremacists. The GOP convention had all of this on display, and more. Someone on Reddit, of all places, compiled a list of things said by Trump, and it's chilling. You can find it here.

Meanwhile, people are opposed to Hillary because she made some speeches to Goldman Sachs, supported the war in Iraq, and is tight with the Establishment.

Sorry, but if Hillary Clinton is the lesser of two evils, it's like comparing dandruff to terminal syphilis. I'll take the dandruff.

If Hillary doesn't meet your progressive purity test, too bad. Look at the GOP and see how well their conservative litmus tests have worked out for them.

And, despite all your Stein fantasies and Johnson daydreams, the next President will either be Trump or Clinton. Pick one. There is no way, mathematically or electorally, that the Greens or Libertarians will elect a President, except in the sense of helping one of the two major candidates as spoilers. In an ordinary election, between Clinton and a non-insane Republican (e.g., Dole in '96), I'd say fine, vote for the third party. But this is not that kind of election.

If Trump wins, do not count on the Constitution to save you. Strongmen are not noted for their respect for constitutional niceties, whether you're talking about Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, Idi Amin, Hafez Assad, or Robert Mugabe. By 1938, there probably weren't many people in Germany glad that they voted for Ernst Thälmann or Ludwig Kaas in 1932 because Otto Wels of the Social Democrats just didn't meet their litmus tests. Votes matter.

And no, I'm not saying Trump is Hitler. Trump is Trump, and Trump is a fascist by any reasonable definition of the word. He ignores facts, lies continuously, condones violence, blames all our problems on minorities like Mexicans and Muslims, calls for the jailing of his political opponents, and says only he can rescue this country from its dire situation.

Just this morning, he said he hoped that the Russians had Clinton's emails. When pressed on that, he told reporter Katy Tur to "be quiet." (Original link dead; alternate link here: https://youtu.be/A4tXVLFep3M

Can you imagine the kind of Supreme Court justices Trump would nominate? And how easily they'd slide through nomination with a Republican Congress?

So don't talk to me about overcoming fear. There are damn good reasons to fear a Trump presidency.

No, Hillary isn't my dream candidate, but she's qualified and experienced. Same goes for Tim Kaine. Each one is a better choice than their Republican counterparts.

And with that final word, I'm ending my political posts and tweets for this election season. I won't be engaging further on the subject for the sake of my own mental health. You have the information you need; I can do no more. The people will make up their minds, and the people will speak.

Meanwhile, I'll be preparing for the worst-case scenario, because sometimes that's what life gives you. But one last time, I beg of you:

Please, don't let it come to that.

Of Brexit and the fate of the kingdom

I've been thinking about the situation in the United Kingdom. Specifically, I've been thinking about the Brexit vote, the new government, and what it all means.I saw a tweet today from an Englishman I follow in which he lamented that if things keep going the way they have been, nobody will take Britain seriously anymore. I can understand his frustration, but when I look at the last 70 years or so, this looks an awful lot like a continuation of an ongoing process.

The British Empire died in 1947 with Indian independence, followed by a long string of colonies allowed to go their own way. This was inevitable and good, as self-determination is the desire of all peoples, and all empires must eventually fall. Despite this, Britain continued to punch above its weight for half a century, playing off its relationship with the Commonwealth and the strength of its military, including its nuclear arsenal—and its membership in a larger European community. Those days are ending.

What we've seen in the last few weeks is the most remarkable act of national seppuku I can remember. The only historical parallel that I can think of is the voluntary dissolution of the Empire, but the difference is that this time, it didn't need to happen. Britain has voluntarily voted to break away from the European Union, and from the outside it looks a lot like a turning inward. Desperate to stay in the EU, Scotland is likely to hold another independence referendum, which this time will likely pass, and that will put paid to the Act of Union.

A shrunken Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (assuming that Ulster doesn't decide some kind of federation with Eire is preferable in order to keep EU citizenship) isn't going to pack the same punch that the UK did, and Englishmen shouldn't assume that it will. The rest of the world will look to the EU, and specifically Germany, its economic powerhouse—and if that isn't the nightmare of the average Leave voter, it should be.

Meanwhile, the main players in the Leave campaign have buggered off, leaving a new government to sort the mess out. Given all of the foregoing, the naming of the Clown Prince of the Tories as foreign secretary by the new PM isn't likely to have that much impact on foreign opinion of England, the fact that he's gone well out of his way to offend numerous foreign leaders, including the U.S. President, aside. There will be a Brexit minister and a foreign trade minister to handle the heavy lifting, and Boris will be free to go to diplomatic functions and dinners and, as someone said, hand out the Ferrero Rocher.

So, if you're thinking that the rest of the world won't take Britain seriously because of the new government, I've got some very bad news for you. That ship has largely sailed, and the people of Britain are the ones who untied the moorings. There will always be an England, and probably a royal family, and tourists from Iowa will still come to see the soldiers in red jackets and tall furry hats guarding the Queen.

But if you're a Briton who wants the rest of the world to look to London for leadership in times of crisis, you'll have to earn that anew. Because as of today, you've squandered your inheritance, and what you have to show for it isn't worth a farthing.

My thoughts, in their entirety, on the Dallas Police using a robot with a bomb to take out a suspect who killed five people

Don't care.

Something that's been driving me nuts

I keep seeing people say that Hitler was elected. He was not. He lost the German presidential election to Paul von Hindenburg in 1932, and in 1933 was asked to form a government (i.e., become Chancellor) by President von Hindenburg. At the time, the National Socialists were the largest party in the Reichstag, but did not command a majority of seats. Hitler's first cabinet had a majority of non-Nazi members. Former Chancellor Franz von Papen famously said that they had "hired" Hitler, in the belief he could be controlled.

Learn your damn history, people.