Regularly Posting Since 2000
My five favorite Eric Clapton songs:
On this date in 1820, a sperm whale attacked a whaling ship off the coast of South America. The Essex hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts, and was captained by George Pollard Jr. Pollard was only 29, the youngest man to ever command a whaling ship; the Essex, by contrast, was pretty old, and she was also small for a whaleship. She was considered lucky, though, because crews made money on most of her voyages.
This particular voyage, which was to last two and a half years, didn’t start very auspiciously. Soon after leaving port en route to the whaling grounds off the west coast of South America, the ship was hit with a squall, lost her topgallant sail, and nearly sank. It took longer than usual to reach the whaling grounds, and the crew began to get edgy and superstitious. Then, when they finally arrived near the Galapagos Islands, they found the grounds nearly fished out. They struck out for a new whaling ground, but it was thousands of miles off the coast, much farther from land than whalers usually felt comfortable hunting. But the risk appeared to pay off when a pod of sperm whales was sighted on the morning of the 20th. The crew harpooned a couple of the whales, but then found themselves face to face with an enormous whale, which appeared to be acting strangely. The whale rammed the ship repeatedly; first mate Owen Chase later recounted, “I turned around and saw him about one hundred rods (550 yards) directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed (around 24 knots or 44 kph), and it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect. The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship.” After crushing the bow, the whale swam off, never to be seen again.
The crew set off in some of the small whaleboats, but they didn’t have enough food or water. The captain wanted to sail west, to the Marquesas, but Owen and the crew believed the South Pacific was inhabited by cannibals, so they set off east, for South America, and this decision proved disastrous. By the time they arrived at the Pitcairn Islands, some of them had already died of thirst, and the survivors soon depleted the meager fish and bird population of the uninhabited island they landed on. The crew set out again in hope of rescue, but again, food ran out, and they resorted to cannibalism themselves, first eating the crew members who died, and then drawing lots to determine which living member they would sacrifice. By the time they were rescued by another whaling ship, they were completely out of their heads, and were terrified of their rescuers.
Owen Chase, who survived, wrote an account of the event, called The Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex (1821). Twenty years later, Chase’s son William met another seaman, Herman Melville, who had heard about the sinking of the Essex and asked him about it. William Chase gave Melville a copy of his father’s book. Melville read it while at sea, not far from the site of the original shipwreck, and it inspired his Moby-Dick.
from The Writer’s Almanac
My five favorite Kevin Kline movies:
I’ve had my iPhone 6 for just about two months now, so I feel I’m in a good position to detail some of my feelings about it. It’s certainly beautiful and fast, and it takes phenomenal photos. But there are a slew of hardware / design problems with it that honestly make me regret upgrading from the iPhone 5S. I have a long — long — list of bugs I’ve found in iOS 8, but right now I just want to write about the hardware.
So here goes, in no particular order:
Moving the power button to the side was an awful idea. It infuriates me because after two months I am still finding new reasons to disagree with this decision, and I can’t imagine how anyone at Apple approved this change.
The gorgeous curved edges are lovely to see, but make the phone harder to grasp. I routinely used my iPhone 5S (and 5 before that) in commando mode, without a case, and the squared edges provided very well-balanced fulcrum points for manipulating any of the buttons. Because of the increased width and decreased depth of the 6, squeezing the phone with one hand to reach the power button is now impossible to do without a case to provide grip. (It will simply pop out of my hand like a water balloon.) And being forced to add a case obviously nullifies the beauty of the curves.
I’m right-handed (like most people) and the vast, vast majority of the time I use my phone, I’m doing so single-handedly and with my left hand. Unfortunately the increased height of the 6 means I can no longer reach the top right corner of the screen with my left thumb and the increased width means I can no longer reach the right edge of the screen either. The only way to do so is to sort of pop the phone halfway into my palm, but then my fingers are no longer clasping the right edge of the phone and are instead balancing it from behind, which is dangerously precarious.
I know that Apple introduced with iOS 8 the ability to sort of double-tap the home button to bring the items at the top of the screen a bit lower so they can be reached with the left thumb, but (a) that doesn’t solve the issue of hitting the items on the far right of the screen, (b) I never remember that option exists, and (c) this is the sort of half-hearted, last-second kludge of a fix that I expect from really, really bad developers and not from one of the largest, most-profitable corporations in the history of the world which prides itself on spectacular design.
It took me a good week or two to get used to this and I still find myself having to catch it with my right hand or risk it smashing on the ground. (For reference: I never once clumsily dropped any of my previous iPhones in all the years I had them. Not once.)
Apple made a big deal about how the 6 is allegedly designed to improve your ability to take a “selfie”, but in my experience this simply isn’t true. The increased height and width of the device make it infinitely more difficult to maintain a stable grip on it while simultaneously clicking the shutter button (or either of the volume buttons) to snap a photo at arms’ length. And I use the word “infinitely” intentionally, because with all prior versions of the phone taking a selfie required zero — zero — careful consideration of finger placement or grip.
I should note that I don’t have particularly small hands or anything ridiculous like that, and that I’m only writing about the iPhone 6 here. I can’t even imagine how torturous the iPhone 6+ is to use.
I should also note that if the reason for the increased size of the phone was made to provide more space for an incredible battery, I would still have all of these complaints. But I’d at least understand that most people care more about battery life than anything else. But the battery life of my iPhone 6 is considerably worse than that of the iPhone 5S, which regularly lasted 36 hours with normal use. I have yet to get more than about 16 hours of normal use out of my iPhone 6 without needing to recharge it.
This is the first time I’ve been truly disappointed with an Apple product, and that bothers me for a lot of reasons.
In the final analysis, the progress of our civilization will be retarded if any large body of citizens falls behind. Without the help of thousands of others, any one of us would die, naked and starved.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Here are my five favorite Stone Temple Pilots songs:
I tried to come up with five scary movies for this Halloween Friday Five, but I could only think of three films that actually ever scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid. (I’ve never seen any of the Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw, or Friday the 13th movies; mom would never let us watch them!)
If you had to pick just two scary movies, what would you suggest I add to the list?
Obamacare is really, really difficult to understand. So here is a really, really good explanation to help. If you are a person who is alive, you should read it. (And, no, it’s actually not biased! It’s just a straightforward explanation!)
I prefer to run first thing in the morning.* I like being up and at ’em before the rest of the world and I know that if I wait until the end of the day I’ll find some excuse to be lazy instead. Right now I’m living in an area without adequate street lighting, and it’s simply much too dark to hit the road until there’s at least a sliver of sunshine.
In about a week we’ll be done with Daylight Saving Time and it won’t matter, but until then I’ve been relying on the awesome app Rise to let me know when to set my alarm before I go to bed. Not only does it tell you when sunrise is going to be based on where you are, it also tells you when “first light” will be. That’s usually just enough to see the sidewalk, which is all I really need. If you’re a morning runner, I recommend it. And it’s free!
*I can’t have anything in my stomach before I exercise, and pre-breakfast is the only part of the day when that’s really an option.