Big Bro’s Apps

Every time I update my iPhone, weird new apps appear.  I have no idea what they are.

garageband_ios_iconThere’s one app with a guitar on it called “GarageBand.”  There’s another with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star on it called “iMovie.”  There’s also “iTunes U,” with a mortarboard cap, and “Keynote,” with a podium, and “Measure,” and “Numbers,” and “Pages,” all with their own different square icons.  What do they do?  Beats me!  I have no idea what they are or what function they are designed to perform or how they got where they are.  I didn’t consciously put them on my phone — they just appeared there.  Because I have no idea what they do, I haven’t tapped any of these apps.  I’m afraid that if I do, I might be charged for something I don’t want, or have to go through some long process to sign up for something I won’t use.  And, by using them, I probably would be transmitting data to someone somewhere would could sell it to some marketing firm who would use it to target ads to my phone.

The addition of these unknown apps makes me think about the reach of Apple and the power of its updates.  Somewhere, some unknown person is deciding what applications should appear on my phone.  I have no idea what process they use to make that decision or what they are trying to accomplish.  I get why Apple wants me to activate “Apple Wallet” — which I haven’t done, because I think my normal wallet works just fine.  But why would Apple decide that the standard iPhone set-up, which is what I have, should include an app like “GarageBand”?  What kind of design and standardization approach is at work here?

Cellphones are great, and the functionality they provide allows us to stay connected wherever we may go.  But there’s something about them that’s a little Big Brotherish, too — except that Big Bro isn’t the government, it’s some big company that is deciding what should and shouldn’t be on a device that you carry with you everywhere you go.  It gives me pause.

 

 

Advertisements

A Mid-Size In A Monster Truck World

If you’ve been out on the road lately, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a monster truck world out there.  The huge, oversized, tricked up, jacked-up pickups dominate the traffic flow, and the drivers of those colossal contraptions tend to be . . . well, let’s just say they’re a tad aggressive in their approach to merges, lane changes, assured clear distance, and other basics you were taught in your driver’s ed class.

hqdefaultIf you drive a mid-size — once the prevailing vehicle on the American road — you’re out-sized and hopelessly out-numbered out there.  Between the grillework of the enormous jet-black truck that is tailgating you and fully filling up your rear-view mirror, and the looming pick-up in front of you that blocks any view of the road ahead, you wonder if there’s even a place on the road for the basic, unassuming mid-size that just wants to finish its commute without being crushed between two threatening, inescapable forces who don’t seem to care much about what might happen to you as they rat-race and joust and engage in testosterone-laden antics.

The more I read political news these days, and see the anger and the clashes at rallies and the vehement, over-the-top depictions of opposing viewpoints that seem to prevail at every point on the political spectrum, the more I feel like a humble mid-size car in a monster-truck world.

Orange Man

Kish received Orange Man as a gift from her long-time pal the Beagle Lover.  Orange Man is a plump figure about the size of a large Idaho potato made of light, durable, ever-squishable foam.  With his fierce expression, open mouth, orange skin, and shock of carefully coiffed blond hair, Orange Man is a pretty unflattering caricature of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

The Beagle Lover explained that Orange Man is intended to be a kind of stress-relief device.  If you’re upset with the day’s news or an ill-advised tweet, you can squeeze, punch, or hurl Orange Man to work out the anger and frustration without causing any real damage, and Orange Man will always be ready for more.  In that sense, Orange Man is designed to be a kind of “rage room” in miniature.

During my lifetime we’ve had some pretty unpopular Presidents, among certain segments of the population at least, but I don’t remember the creation and sale of mocking Nixon figures or Carter figures that were made to be thrown around.  President Trump has to win the prize for generating the most tangible ways of expressing opposition — from bumper stickers to internet memes to figures like Orange Man.  In fact, I wonder:  how much of the current strength of the economy is attributable to the production of Orange Man and other anti-Trump items?

Rage Rooms

The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Flyers play, has announced a first for major-league American sports arenas.  It has developed a “rage room” where disappointed, angry sports fans can go and vent their frustration at their team’s performance by smashing things up.

rage-roomThe Disassembly Room — the rage room’s official name — allows users to don some protective gear and then smash plates, throw stemware, splinter mirrors into shards, break the opposing team’s logo, and take a sledgehammer to a television set.  Philadelphia fans apparently endorsed the idea of a rage room as allowing them  to have some “harmless fun.”  Although the linked article doesn’t say, presumably the use of the Disassembly Room comes at a cost — and I expect that only one person at a time gets to use it.  When it’s in use, by the way, other guests can watch the rage in progress via closed-circuit TV and get their violent activities fix remotely.

Speaking as a lifelong Cleveland sports fan who has experienced some of the boiling frustration that comes from failed sports teams, I can understand the impetus for a sports “rage room.”  But, seriously, is giving angry sports fans a place to vent really a good idea that is “harmless fun” — or is it encouraging acting out violent tendencies that people should be trying to control instead?  I’m not sure handing a sledgehammer or tire iron to somebody whose team just lost a crucial game really makes a lot of sense.

Maybe a Calming Room, where soothing lights and music are featured and back and neck massages are administered to users, would be a better idea.

Shaving Strokes

Here’s some good health news:  stroke rates among older Americans are falling.  The decline started in the 1980s, has continued since then, and shows no signs of stopping.

The decline was noted in a long-term study of heart health that began in 1987 in which thousands of adults in the U.S. have participated.  Data accumulated during the study showed that the rates of strokes of participants aged 65 and older has dropped by one-third for each decade the study has continued.

5695-doctor_taking_care_of_his_patient-1200x628-facebook

Interestingly, the researchers don’t know exactly why the stroke rates among seniors are falling.  It could be due to reduced smoking rates, better attention to addressing some of the other key risk factors for stroke, which include diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, or advances in medication for those conditions.  And because the decline was detected in a study that was actually focused on heart health, rather than strokes, the decline also might be due to other factors that weren’t measured during the study, such as diet, exercise, or salt intake.

If you’ve ever had a family member felled by a stroke, you know how devastating they can be — and how important it is to be ever watchful for the signs of stroke, such as slurred speech and drooping facial features.  Whatever the cause of the falling stroke rates among older Americans might be, the fact that it is happening an incredibly positive development.  Now, it would be helpful to find out why.

Pumpkinized

We’re now squarely in the midst of the Pumpkin Season. There are pumpkins on doorsteps. Pumpkin lattes at your local coffee house. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins with icing at the bakery, and pumpkin ice cream on the menus at restaurants. And, as of yesterday, even “pumpkin spice” coffee creamer at the fifth-floor coffee station at our firm.

There’s no doubt that the humble pumpkin has made huge inroads into every nook and cranny of our current foodie culture.  But the sad reality is, it’s not really pumpkin that people are craving.  In fact, the fleshy part of the pumpkin — the part that remains after you scrape out the seeds and the yucky, slimy innards — has virtually no taste.  Any good pumpkin pie recipe will have you bake the scraped-out pumpkin, them remove the flesh from the pumpkin skin and puree it, and then add the flavoring that we really associate with a good piece of pumpkin pie.  In effect, the pumpkin just provides the ballast for the pie, whereas the delectable taste comes from the added spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and often allspice.

That’s the true fate of the humble pumpkin.  It’s on every menu, sure, but in reality it’s become a kind of food Trojan Horse that serves as a cover for consumption of yet more sugars and spices.

Of course, that doesn’t make it any less mandatory to have a slice of pumpkin pie come Thanksgiving.

Real Tie-Ups

This week the Transportation Security Administration helpfully reminded travelers that we are a year away from a fundamental change in our by-now familiar airport security requirements.  Beginning on October 1, 2020, if you are going through airport security for your flight, you will need to have a compliant “Real ID” card or a valid passport.

jwhi43emtai6tlpt64hxrqkw5aThe Real ID requirements are intended to put the issuance of ID cards and drivers’ licenses on a consistent national footing and to prevent the use of fraudulent ID cards — which many of the 9/11 terrorists carried.  To get the compliant card, you need to bring much more documentation than used to be required to, say, get a driver’s license in Ohio.  The documentation includes proof of residency (such as utility bills), proof of identity and legal residence in the U.S. (such as a passport), and your Social Security card (or a W-2 listing your Social Security number).  Those of us, like me, who don’t have the foggiest idea where their Social Security card might be will need to figure out how to get a replacement card before we go through the Real ID card process.

I don’t have an objection to imposing stricter identification requirements as part of the security checkpoint process; it seems like a prudent step.  But I am marking my calendar right now to try to avoid any air travel in October 2020, because it is guaranteed to be a frustrating disaster.  How many times have you seen people holding up the TSA process under the current process, because they need to fish through their backpack or their purse for their ID card and boarding pass, as if the request for those documents comes as a surprise?  I can’t imagine the delays, angst, fury, and arguments that will occur next October, when people get to the TSA officer and learn that they don’t have a compliant driver’s license or other compliant documentation and will end up missing their flights.

If you need to travel next October, plan to drive.