taptic

Matthew Inman wrote a post over at The Oatmeal today about his experience with the Apple Watch. Other than the part in which he’s actually a runner, his experience with the Apple Watch is pretty much the same as mine:

  • It will not replace your iPhone;
  • Battery life is a non-issue;
  • It gets me off my ass,
  • And rewards me for really basic shit;
  • And this is the future.

I’ve resisted doing an Apple Watch review to this point because a) there are a million Apple Watch reviews already and b) with a device of this type, I want to use it for a while before I share my thoughts with the masses.(1) But yeah, I pretty much agree with Mr. Inman.

Except on one point: The taptic engine. Inman writes,

taptic engine

I agree that it could be the death of the ringtone – and oh boy do I hope that’s true – but I wouldn’t call what the Apple Watch does “vibrating.” There are lots of thing out there that vibrate: phones, sports bands, smartwatches, speakers, The Flash…you get the idea.(2)

The Apple Watch is not one of them.

I’ve said since at least high school that rather than buying an alarm clock I would rather pay someone to gently tap my arm and intone just above a whisper, “Hey. Hey…it’s time. Time to wake up. C’mon Bo. There’s coffee out there.” People often joked that having that would cost a lot more than an alarm clock. Turns out that’s true; it cost me around $400.

That’s what the taptic engine does. Imagine the nicest little old lady in the world. She’s stooped and adorable and makes sure you always get a hot meal when you stop by and never busts your balls about how little you stop by. She’s someone of whom Mother Teresa would marvel, “What a gentle soul.”

That’s the taptic engine.

After years of garish ringtones, from that Nokia tone so annoying it became a friggin’ plot point in Love Actually to those über-grating Drooooooooooid tones to your Rihanna songs and, yes, even lightsabers, we finally have a notifier that’s more Buddha than Westboro Baptist Church. More gin-and-tonic than Jägermeister. More Iron & Wine than Aerosmith. More Jarvis than Hulk.

Or perhaps the best way to make my point is this: Apple Watch has absolutely zero functionality for measuring your sleep. This may soon change, now that Apple will allow third-party apps to access the Watch’s processors and sensors. But for the past month since I’ve had my Watch,(3) I’ve worn it while sleeping solely because the taptic alarm is the alarm I’ve been waiting for all my life. I wear it when I sleep because I want it to wake me up.

“Hey. Hey…it’s time. Time to wake up. C’mon Bo. There’s coffee out there.”

It’s not something that vibrates. It’s the most pleasant, most subtle attention-getter out there.


  1. “The masses” here being the three or four people who read this blog.
  2. Keeping it clean here, obviously.
  3. Yes, it feels horribly pretentious and insidiously fan-boyish to capitalize “watch” like that. But…somehow the device commands it. I have no excuse.
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Limitless

Apple CEO and seemingly the nicest guy in the universe, Tim Cook, did an interview over at Fast Company. There are the usual nuggets: Apple Watch, Apple v. Microsoft, cracks in the Apple armor. But it was a bit in the second paragraph that lit my brain up today. He talks about how Steve Jobs never accepted the “limited life” that most people seem to live, thinking that they can’t influence or change things much. Cook said that Jobs

got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world.

If you can embrace that the things that you can do are limitless…That clause can be taken two ways:

  1. That there is no limit to the number or amount of things that you can do;
  2. That there is no limit to each of the things that you do.

Even more importantly, Cook states that clause as though it’s a fact rather than a supposition. The only conditional aspect of that statement is if you embrace.

Think about three things that you do. Things that you make. Anything at all that isn’t on the level of binge-watching or hanging out on Tumblr. Say maybe you knit or maybe you speak three languages or maybe you cook really well. Now, accept that those three things are limitless. Not that they can be but that they are.

What sized ding might you put in the universe? How might you change it?

ResearchKit

There were a lot of things to get excited about during Apple’s Keynote ’15 this past Monday. Apple Watch.(1) The new Apple store in China. The gorgeous new MacBook. But the one thing I really got fired up about more than anything else was ResearchKit.

ResearchKitReseachKit is a software framework that Apple developed that can turn every iPhone into a device for collecting medical data. At the Keynote, Apple showed off five apps created together with some impressive partners: The Ichan School at Mount Sinai, Oxford, Stanford, UCLA…the list goes on. The apps so far are targeted at research in the fields of asthma, Parkinson’s, great cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Each of the apps can help in the diagnosis of particular health problems and assist in gathering data for researchers. It’s a little bit like how Batman turned every device in the city into a spy-phone in his obsession to find the Joker. But, you know, for a less questionable cause.

Anyway, as far as apps go, that all sounds rather mundane, right? Why would I download the Parkinson’s app unless I have Parkinson’s? I mean, if you’re not a researcher, who cares?

I am not a researcher. But what I am is a care-taker for someone with cystic fibrosis. Let me tell you why ResearchKit matters to me.

IMG_1827My wife was born in 1982.(2) Cystic fibrosis research at that time was barely beyond its infancy, so much so that her parents had to visit several doctors to get her diagnosed. CF wasn’t understood but, worse, wasn’t accepted as a valid diagnosis amongst many in the medical community. But the few people who accepted it and the even fewer people who researched it worked together so that, a few years after she was diagnosed, there were treatments available. CF affects the digestive system and the respiratory system. As a child, her problems were mostly digestive. In time, there were medications. When she began having respiratory problems, there were medications and treatments for that, too.

None of those medications and treatments would have existed if not for medical research. In fact, a fairly solid case can be made that had she been born just one year earlier, she wouldn’t have lived. Many of the people she knew from her extended hospital stays – most of them older than her – passed away before they were twenty-years-old. Some of the seminal CF research, the research that lead to medications and treatments, were published in the early 1980s, even those the disease was recognized in the late 1950s.

The genetic marker for CF(3) was found in 1988, after which the world’s understanding of CF’s pathophysiology allowed for the development of medications to address the symptoms.(4) But it also laid the groundwork for the discovery of over one thousand mutations. This wide variance of mutations has yet to be cataloged w/r/t the varying symptoms and pathologies simply because of the number of mutationsthe number of people, and the comparatively small resources of the medical community.

Enter ResearchKit.

Almost anyone with CF can tell you which mutation they have. Almost anyone with CF can tell you which symptoms they deal with most often. But, so far, only ResearchKit has the power to grab such a large sample of people and data and put it at the hands of capable researchers.

And let me tell you, that will save lives.

Furthermore, ResearchKit can gather the same types of data from people who don’t have CF, or, as I mentioned above, Parkinson’s. Why does this matter? Well, if you think back to sixth-grade science class, you might remember that with every experiment you need a control group. With ResearchKit, anyone with an iPhone can be in the control group. Do I have a vested interest in helping Parkinson’s research? No. Will I be in a control group to help with Parkinson’s research, especially since doing so requires almost no effort? Absolutely.

Because for every CF caregiver like me, there’s a Parkinson’s caregiver out there. Our experiences will be different in kind, but similar in effort. I am just as on-board with helping the caregivers as I am with the patients.

Oh, and you know how I said “anyone with an iPhone” back there? That’s not true. Apple made ResearchKit an open source software,(5) so anyone on any platform can get in on it and help out. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

But don’t take it just from me. Here’s a bit from MacRumors that you can read, but I’m going to excerpt the coolest part. After waking up Tuesday to discover 10,000 people because using the MyHeart Counts app, Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health, said:

“To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country. That’s the power of the phone.”

And the power of ResearchKit, I might add. Yeah, maybe it’s not a flashy, super-thin notebook or a $10,000 watch,(6) but it’s the most exciting thing Apple announce on Monday. And I dare say it’ll put the greatest dent in the universe.


  1. Which I’m excited about because I’m an Apple Fanboy, but confused about how I feel in general. That’ll merit a whole ‘nother blog post when I have more time.
  2. And let’s hope she forgives me for telling you all her age.
  3. It’s a genetic disease, caused by a mutated gene (delta-F 508). The gene produces a faulty protein which doesn’t fold properly and therefore cannot escape the endoplasmic reticulum. Tragically, this is a protein that helps cells transfer water and chlorine, and the subsequent build-up results in extra-think mucus in endocrine glands. Over time, the mucus will build up and, in the case of the lungs, cause unrecoverable blockages that lead to lung-function decline and, eventually, shutdown.
  4. But, tragically, not the cause.
  5. Seriously, has Apple ever made anything open source?
  6. Ugh. Just…ugh.

sunday adverbs, vol. 19

Brought to you by the Coalition of Latter-Day Adverbs.

Impressively

By my count, I had somewhere in the neighborhood of eight mixed drinks last night, mostly white Russians. Nevertheless, I managed to write a post, albeit a drunken one. So huzzah for hanging on to a goal even under the duress of several white Russians.

Even More Impressively

I awoke this morning no hangover, no headache, no dry-mouth, and not even feeling drained. In fact, I felt better this morning than I have on any morning in probably a month or so.

Obviously

The solution to feeling better in the morning is more white Russians.

Annoyingly (part 1)

Ashley and I went to see a movie today, Beautiful Creatures. We don’t go to the movies often(1) but every time we do I remember why. The endless commercials we’re forced to watch before the movie begins are so tedious. And they’re preceded by commercials! “Next on Closer Look, we’ll look at a new, riveting medical-drama on TNT.” And then they show the commercial!!! And then after you’ve watched 15 minutes of commercials, they remind us of which commercials  we just watched!!!! Are Americans this stupid?!?!?

And then after the commercials you sit through a good 20 minutes of previews, each for a movie shittier than the last. Warm Bodies? World War Z? Ugh. At least the theater wasn’t crowded.

Sparsely

In fact, we were two of maybe twenty people at a Sunday-afternoon showing. So I don’t think the Beautiful Creatures franchise will be replacing the Twilight franchise in the way I’ve heard people talk.

Unsurprisingly

Which is probably because it’s actually good. I haven’t read the book – hadn’t heard of it until Ashley talked about – but the movie was pretty decent.(2) I’m still hoping there will be more movies, and not just because Emmy Rossum was majorly hot in it.

Emmy-Rossum-in-Beautiful-Creatures-2

Powerlessly

The MagSafe adaptor for my MacBook Pro is no longer working. I’ve had my computer about a year and a half. Upon searching the Apple website, I found the listing for it at the Apple Store…where it has a shocking 1.5-out-of-5 star-rating. Apparently, getting 1.5 years out of it makes me lucky. I’m really surprised that Apple doesn’t do something about this. But they won’t do anything for me…I have to buy a new one. Jerks.


  1. The last one was that piece of shit The Dark Knight Rises.
  2. Ashley reports that the movie wasn’t very faithful to the novel, but that it was good as its own entity.

volume

Thanks, Apple, for including this little message. I like that I got to feel like a genius – for having figured that out on my own – and an idiot – for you thinking I might not be able to – at exactly the same moment.

writer’s block

We recently purchased five iPads for use in the library, which I’m quite proud of because I don’t honestly think it would have happened without my pushing for it and figuring out how we can circulate them to patrons. Probably because of this, it’s fallen to me to set these iPads up, train our staff on them, and prepare them for circulation.(1)

For a while I’ve been convinced that part of the reason for the wild popularity of Apple’s devices is because they’re so pretty, and it was easy, in the midst of all the soft angles and curves and lovely screens, to believe that I’m right on that one. Of course, I knew I was going to have to mar these Zen surfaces with barcodes. I was caught between wanting someone else to do it so I wouldn’t have to be the one to incur the Wrath of Jobs and wanting not to leave it up to philistines.

But when my boss asked me to write the name of our library on the backs of the iPads with indelible ink…I thought about just quitting right there. I tried to reason with her, that it wasn’t precisely necessary especially since we have Find my iPad activated on each of them. But it was a losing battle, and I knew it.

She also wanted to write on the front of the iPad, in one of the corners, on the glass but off the screen. I felt the big one coming on. I really did. People everywhere go on about the iPhone’s retina display, but personally I find the iPad’s screen much nicer to look at. So sullying that surface was so unimaginable to me that I deployed a strategy of bamboozlement. I tossed out the assertion that it wouldn’t work – the even indelible ink wouldn’t stay – and used worlds like oleophobic coating and ionic bonds and cations and electron exchange to support my claim. Which of course I have no idea if it was true or not. I finished up with that most flagrant – yet effective – of logical conclusion: “This isn’t regular glass. This is Gorilla Glass.

Lame as that was, it worked. Whew.

But it still meant I had to write on the back of the iPad. I practiced on scrap paper with the verve of  a jr. high girl with a wicked crush. I tried every variation I could imagine, letter-spacing, font-size, arrangement, until I settled upon what I thought would look best. I reminded myself of my tendency to over-embellish(2) and cautioned myself against it. Then I took a deep breath…

And put pen to iPad.

Or, really, more like right above iPad.

And I sat there like that so long I had to take a picture of how ridiculous I was being about this.

I just couldn’t do it. There has been less hesitation with really poor, life-affecting decisions than the arrest I was experiencing here. One time a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to try a rope to his back bumper and ski behind him as he drove down the icy streets in the (obviously) small town in which I grew up. That happened  – including locating and tying the rope – in less time than this was taking.

I would think: ok…go! And nothing would happen. It was the inverse of so many cinematic comedic moments: rather than my hand doing things I don’t want it to do, it wasn’t doing something I was telling it to do.

And here I am again, honestly five minutes later…

I tried reminding myself that it’s just a device that it’s not alive that an object simply can’t possess beauty on this level. Because this was the same hesitation I experienced literally every time ever I’ve wanted to ask a girl out. I reminded myself that this is not the face that launched a thousand ships.

It wasn’t working.

So eventually I just closed my eyes and made a small dot on the back. The surface already marred by my hand, my only choice was to make the graffiti look as nice as possible. And I did. Slowly. And I thought, if nothing else, it’s at least a reminder that I did this: that I brought iPads to my people. Maybe it’s not quite on par with rescuing Jews from Egyptian slavery, but getting a state-funded university to pony up cash for this type of unnecessary purchase is at least as difficult as parting the Red Sea. And, unlike Moses, I didn’t have God on my side. Though maybe Jobs was.

  1.  The iPads, not the staff.
  2. Yes, I even over-embellish when it comes to penmanship. It’s a way of life, yo.

my new fifty-two, week one

Over the past week, I’ve spent a fair amount of my time making a little movie. No, I haven’t been cast in a Kevin Smith bio-pic. I made a little one-minute video for an entry into a wedding contest. Here’s hoping we win, but honestly even if we don’t I’m totally okay. I really enjoyed the process of making it, and I feel an amazing sense of satisfaction that I made something last week. Because life feels better when I make stuff.

I also realized that I have all the tools I need to be able to create the kinds of things I’ve always wanted to create. With my MacBook I can create songs and videos. I can work on writing wherever I am, thanks to iCloud and Pages.

And Scrivener, an amazing writing program, makes working on long pieces easier by giving me one place to keep all the little character- and setting-sketches, all the notes and errata, all the summaries and to-do’s. This has always been my biggest stumbling-block(1) when I work on a novel, losing track of these details. I’m looking forward to reassigning that memory space to something else. Like grocery lists and wedding-planning.

On the iPad I can create 3D models and electronic beats. I can Moog my heart out. I can layer loops like a dubstep master.(2) And the iPhone is capable of amazing photography and video.

And so since I have all these tools, and obviously since all these tools weren’t cheap, I have a new challenge for myself: to create something new every week this year.

Last week’s creation was the video, which due to the contest rules I can’t share with you at this point, but here’s a frame just for fun. This week…I don’t know. I’m working on a novel chapter, but since work will be crazy this week I don’t know how much I’ll get done. So it might just be a terrible line-drawing on the iPad or my first foray into the realm of vector graphics. But that counts.

A character in one of Tom Robbins’s novels says that the point of art is simply to create something that didn’t exist before.(3) That’s what I intend to do, at least once per week, and to think of it in those terms lest I set the bar too high for myself. The point is to create, not create perfection.

If you want to join me, let me know. I’d be happy to link to your creations, if you want to share them. I’ll update you on mine as each week passes. This should be fun!


  1. Well, second-biggest. The first is actually sitting down to write.
  2. Not really clear what dubstep is, which is probably obvious from that statement.
  3. This character’s particular artistic endeavor was to turn an old Airstream RV into a giant, metal turkey on wheels.

my transition is now complete…

No, not to the Dark Side…though that would be fun.

You’ve met Cooper:

You’ve met Amie:

Now meet Dave:

I have wanted a Mac for so long that this really is something of a momentous occasion. The recent Samsung ad pokes fun at creative people being somewhat snooty about needing Apple devices,(1) but here’s what I know: if you go to almost any store or website and enquire about recording music on a computer, almost everyone will tell you that you need to start by purchasing a Mac. I know this from personal experience.

And it’s not just a software thing. Everyone I know who’s tried to use a Windows machine to record – no matter which software they’ve used – has either devised wildly complex workarounds for basic audio-interface problems(2) or has simply given up.

I can’t speak for all creative people, but personally I haven’t wanted a Mac because I’m creative; I’ve wanted a Mac because they actually work, which frees my time to focus on creating.

I am no longer a PC. I am part of a happy Mac family.

Now I’m going to go make stuff. Or apply at a Starbucks.


  1. Let me just jump in here and say that Ashley and I both have owned a couple of different Samsung smartphones and they are turds. Big honking turds. This ad, in my opinion, is an acquiescence to Apple. Samsung is effectively admitting that they cannot produce a better phone and because of that have decided that their best angle is to attack Apple’s fans.
  2. Read: lag.