Even though I have strong feelings on the Trayvon Martin case, I’ve refrained from posting anything here on the subject. Not because I feel the readers won’t appreciate it (or disagree for that matter), but it’s not the typical subject matter usually seen here. But there’s some excellent writing on the subject, and subsequent fallout, and I figured I’d share a few good links and some of my thoughts.
My friend, Jamelle Bouie has a handful of cogent pieces he’s written this week. From his article Trayvon Martin, Blackness, and America’s Fear of Crime on The American Prospect:
“But what’s the big deal?”, you might ask. “Why can’t we use ‘black-on-black crime’ as a shorthand for these particular problems?” The answer isn’t difficult. Violent crime in hyper-segregated neighborhoods doesn’t happen because the residents are black. Their race isn’t incidental—the whole reason these neighborhoods exist is racial policymaking by white lawmakers—but there is nothing about blackness that makes violence more likely. Focusing on the “black” part of the equation takes this violence out of the realm of policy, and into the world of cultural ills.
And from his piece Why “Black-on-Black Crime” is a Dangerous Idea:
The only thing we accomplish by focusing on “black-on-black crime” as an independent phenomena—distinct from “white-on-white crime”—is justify universal suspicion of black men, and young black men, in particular. This is a problem. It’s absolutely true that “NYPD stats show that 96 percent of all shooting victims are black or Hispanic, and 97 percent of all shooters were black or Hispanic,” but it’s also true that the number of black and Latino offenders is a small fraction of all blacks and Latinos. But stop and frisk turns all blacks and all Latinos into potential offenders—it erases individual consideration and imposes collective suspicion.
Jamelle’s piece on The Daily Beast is also definitely worth a read.
The article that stuck with me most was Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s personal take on the matter published in New York Magazine. I connected with it deeply as I’ve experienced much of what he describes. Here’s an excerpt:
One night, I get in the elevator, and just as the door closes this beautiful woman gets on. Because of a pain in the arse card device you have to use to get to your floor, it just makes it an easier protocol for whoever is pressing floors to take everyone’s request, like when you are at the window of a drive-thru. So I press my floor number, and I ask her, “What floor, ma’am?” (Yes, I say “ma’am,” because … sigh, anyway.) She says nothing, stands in the corner. Mind you, I just discovered the Candy Crush app, so if anything, I’m the rude one because I’m more obsessed with winning this particular level than anything else. In my head I’m thinking, There’s no way I can be a threat to a woman this fine if I’m buried deep in this game — so surely she feels safe.
The humor comes in that I thought she was on my floor because she never acknowledged my floor request. (She was also bangin’, so inside I was like, “Dayuuuuuuuuuuum, she lives on my floor? bow chicka wowow!” Instantly I was on some “What dessert am I welcome-committee-ing her with?”) Anywho, the door opens, and I waited to let her off first because I am a gentleman. (Old me would’ve rushed first, thus not putting me in the position to have to follow her, God forbid if she, too, makes a left and it seems like I’m following her.) So door opens and I flirt, “Ladies first.” She says, “This is not my floor.” Then I assume she is missing her building card, so I pulled my card out to try to press her floor yet again. She says, “That’s okay.”
Then it hit me: “Oh God, she purposely held that information back.” The door closed. It was a “pie in the face” moment.
Regardless of what you feel about the case, there are a few reasons Martin’s story resonated with me so strongly. For one, I have a 14 year old son. A son that regularly walks on our suburban back roads to get to the convenience store. I don’t need to tell you how that’s deeply relevant. Another is because of the articles mentioned above. This case has reawakened the keen sense of who I am, and how some of the world — including some folks in my own neighborhood — view me and my family (I’ve mentioned on Twitter that I am literally the only African American adult in my development). It also hit me how sad this whole ordeal is. A young man lost his life with no one held responsible, and court case aside, there were a lot of systemic factors that went into making that happen. For what it’s worth, I think the jury came to the only logical conclusion. The problem lies in what makes that logical conclusion possible.
I’ve had some conversations lately around how people deal with using the “Camera Upload” feature in Dropbox, mostly around what the best way is to sort through this mountain of photos. I don’t have a super-sophisticated setup, but using Hazel is a great way to manage them with ease. If you’re not using Hazel, I don’t know what to tell you. We probably shouldn’t even be friends.
The easiest way I’ve found to do this takes a tad bit of manual setup in Dropbox. In my Camera Uploads folder I created folders named
Videos. This will make it easier to parse those out from my actual images I care about. Then I made some simple Hazel rules to take the auto-uploaded photos and sort them out. Here’s the first:
This first rule takes all of the images and renames them based on the date created, then files them away in folders that Hazel will create and name based on the date added. Pretty simple. It’s not perfect since sometimes I’ll have to sift through folders to find what I’m looking for, but it’s far better than having a huge photo dump.
The next rule takes any videos and basically does the same thing I have set for photos.
And finally, a way to sort those screenshots that seem to pile up.
I also use a rule to trash the screenshots that are more than a month old so they don’t pile up in Dropbox, taking up that precious space.
That’s it in a nutshell. Like I said, I’ve been having some great discussion around this issue lately and figured I’d share how I deal with it. This workflow is only scratching the surface of what Hazel can do. If you have a cool — or better — way, don’t hesitate to give me a shout.
Instacast for iOS has been my favorite podcatcher since its initial release a couple years ago, and today Instacast for Mac has hit the public beta stage. I’ve been testing the Alpha version over the last month, and I’ve used it every day since. While it wouldn’t be fair to “review” the app —being a beta and all— I wanted to cover the basics.
I have zero complaints about the interface. The Vemedio team once again worked with Marcelo Marfil to create a wonderful UI that is easy to understand, and looks beautiful. The interface has many of the same components as the iOS counterparts, but restructured nicely for the Mac. You have two main views; Subscriptions and Lists. Like on iOS, Subscriptions show your full list, while Lists are the equivalent of Playlists on the iPhone and iPad —showing your default and custom lists.
The artwork is nice and crisp, show notes are intact, and refreshing your feeds is relatively fast. Another nice touch if you don’t want the full app window in your way, is an optional iTunes-esque mini player. This has been welcome for me since I’m on a MacBook Air with limited screen space.
There is a robust preference pane with everything you would expect. Granular settings for sharing, storage, playback and sync are all available for you to tweak. In my experience everything works as it should. Except one crucial thing…
Trying to keep in mind that this is beta software, I’ll talk a bit about sync without hammering it too badly. I can’t say it doesn’t work, because it does. But it’s certainly not where it needs to be. Martin and his team have made huge strides since the first implementation of sync in an early alpha, but it’s not super reliable at this point. The Mac version doesn’t seem to pull down played/unplayed episodes very well. It also seems to botch play position at times. That said, I will say that these glitches haven’t mucked up the settings or play positions on my iPhone. Not once. I’m not sure if that’s some magic on Vemedio’s part, but it’s a good thing. Since I primarily use my iPhone, it’s nice to not have those settings screwed with. There have been a few times that sync has worked flawlessly on both ends, but not consistently. Again, be warned that this is beta software and you should not take that lightly.
Overall, Instacast for Mac —even in beta— is pretty spectacular. It’s clearly the best podcatcher for Mac even in this extremely early stage. I highly recommend trying it out, especially since you can use it by itself if you don’t use or don’t want to use its siblings on iOS. You can download the app here.
Fire up your App Store updates tab and grab the latest and greatest version of Drafts from Greg Pierce, at Agile Tortoise. Released today, version 3.0 is packed full of new goodies including the ability to backup your action setup. The full list of new features is far too long to mention in one post –unless you’re Italian–, but I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about what the most useful parts of the new version are for me personally.
The killer new stuff in 3.0 is all about organizing your drafts and actions. In previous iterations of the app, you had a main list of drafts, and while that was searchable –and still is– it could get tedious once your list got to be relatively long. The same can be said for your action list. The more you added, the longer scrolling your list became. This is all fixed up in 3.0, and quite cleverly.
You now have panes that you can assign actions to. Not only does this cut down on long lists, but is also handy for sorting your actions in a way that makes sense for you.
For example, I’m using three of the 4 available panes. The first is for my most used actions –consisting mostly of custom URL schemes. The second is all social sharing actions (email, twitter, ADN, iMessage), and the third is built-in actions for sending text to other apps installed on my iPhone. This new setup allows for even faster speed in sending your drafts where they need to go.
Similar to the panes for actions, there are also new ones for your drafts. There are three available; Inbox, Archive, and Pinned.
For me, the Inbox is treated as somewhat of a triage section. In other words, an area that holds all the drafts that I’m going to send somewhere else.
The Archive is exactly what it sounds like. I’ve been keeping generic notes in there that I want to be able to access later. Something that is rarely talked about is how good Drafts is as a general note-taking app. I use it constantly throughout the day to jot down quick thoughts in meetings or while sitting at my desk. These notes don’t need to be sent to another app. They live in Drafts. The archive fits this need perfectly.
The third pane is for notes that you want to pin. Basically I use this as an area to keep a small subsection of my notes that may pertain to active projects before they head to the archive.
Another nice touch in 3.0 is when you swipe on a drafts, you’re presented with 2 additional options along with the delete button. Say you’re in your Inbox, you will now see a button to archive or pin that note. This is great for quickly rearranging your notes.
All of this sounds complex, but that’s due to my inelegant description of the update. When you try it, it will all make sense.
Since its release, Drafts for iPad sported an extra row of keys for quickly adding Markdown to notes. In version 3.0, the iPhone gets some love in this area. The catch here is since you already have some options (link-mode, drafts, search, etc) in the area that would usually be assigned to extra keys, Greg had to find an elegant solution, and he did. Swipe the bar above the keyboard up to 3 times, and you’ll get the extra keys. This has made getting text into the app even faster than it was in version 2.x –and it was already very speedy.
All-in-all, Drafts 3.0 is another excellent update to what was already a phenomenal app. Greg deserves a ton of credit for continually adding new features that not only greatly enhance the app, but never detract from it’s greatest strength; speed. Drafts is, and has been, one of my most used apps, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Update: The following isn’t actually Apple’s fault at all. It’s ComiXology’s
I want to take a minute and thank
Apple ComiXology for making a bad decision. They —to the dismay of comic fans everywhere— banned the new issue of the fantastic Saga series from all comic readers on the App Store. If you’re wondering what the hubbub is about, Robert Agcaoili had a good account of this yesterday. While I clearly think Apple’s choice is bad —although not at all surprising— something good came out of it for me.
I haven’t been to Beachhead Comics since I was 15. It’s always been sitting just a block from my office, but it never crossed my mind to stop in and visit. Until today.
AppleComiXology giving Saga #12 the boot (from their own iOS app) has sent me down memory lane. I spent my whole lunch hour browsing, much to the curmudgeon-owner’s dismay. But that’s what is so endearing about [insert your local independent comic shop here]. These places are usually —or at least in my experience— dark, shady shops with owners who, while cranky as can be, give you the feeling that they totally appreciate your patronage. Sure, I could have just bought the issue from ComiXology directly, but where’s the fun in that?
I’m happily giving a few bucks to a place I haven’t been in years, and that’s thanks to
Apple ComiXology. I’ll definitely be back more often —buying my first physical comic in 17 years felt good. I picked up Walking Dead #109 while I was at it.
It’s no secret that I absolutely love Drafts from developer Greg Pierce. Some friends have asked what kind of rules I use in conjunction with the also sweet Launch Center Pro. I figured I’d take a few minutes to write something up, so here goes…
One of the things I do is keep a general scratchpad in Dropbox. All sorts of notes go in this file, but it’s generally things I don’t want to forget. Here’s the multi-part process of setting this up.
First, set up the scratchpad file in Dropbox. It can be wherever you want, and named whatever you want, just make sure you remember so that you can point Drafts in the right direction. Then you’ll want to start building the rule in Drafts. This isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Create a new Dropbox action in Drafts –mine is named
Add to Scratchpad. Then choose the path in Dropbox, and tap
Predefined in the
File section. For the
Write section, pick
Append. Then we get to the template. You can get creative here. Here’s my template:
[[date|%Y-%m-%d %I:% %p]]:[[draft]]
This setup allows me to have output like this:
2013-03-08 7:03 AM:
Living room window
Sweet right? Okay, so now we have the Drafts rule all set up. So now to Launch Center Pro —which is easy. Simply create a new action —I called mine “Scratchpad”— and choose the “Custom URL” option. Then you’ll want to add an x-callback-URL similar to this —depending on how you named your files:
That’s it. The action will prompt you for text, send it to Drafts.
You’ll also need to create another Drafts rule that runs the append rule and sends you back to LCP. In URL Actions in Drafts, name a new action
LCP and add this as the URL:
This will trigger Drafts to run your Scratchpad rule, and finally, kick you back to Launch Center Pro where you started.
Hope that helped you understand how this works. It sounds complicated, but if I can do it, you can too. If you visit this link, it should import my Drafts rule. Then you just need to make sure you have the correctly named files in Dropbox, and create your LCP action. That’s it! I’m pretty sure that my set of rules could be accomplished much more easily, but this setup works. If you have any problems, or questions let me know.
Note: This whole post was written in Textastic on my iPhone. Forgive me if there are clumsy errors.
I’m not a web developer. That was reinforced this past week as I attempted to move this site to a static platform. It wasn’t easy, but having friends that are always willing to come to your rescue helps. A lot.
The move to a static blog was tough, but I learned a ton. And in the end, it was fun, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without some serious help. This post isn’t meant to give you a blow-by-blow accounting of switching, but instead to thanks some folks that are… well… awesome. If you want to know why I left Squarespace, Harry Marks’ piece nails it.
Harry Marks and Erik Hess never told me to shut up when they endured my whining for help. They were both kind enough to share key components of their code so I could learn how Statamic’s structure worked. This was absolutely invaluable. Erik even kindly helped me with some CSS that had me baffled, and in the end helped me get exactly where I wanted to go. These guys are tops. I refer to them as my Statamic-spirit-guides.
Max Jacobson wrote an awesome script that converted Squarespace’s poor export to one that wasn’t only compatible with Statamic, but reformatted a messy XML file to individual Markdown posts. This was probably the most instrumental part of the process.
Douwe Maan helped me get off the ground with some code. I had been struggling for a few hours on the navigation portions of the site, and he fixed it in minutes. He too, is an ace.
Zackary Corbett always amazes me. I’m pretty sure he’s younger than my oldest son, but is always able to help me out with things that fly over my head. He gave me a hand with some server issues on my new host, A Small Orange. While he wasn’t able to get it going, I still appreciate his attempt. It was far more than I could do on my own. In the end, it was a problem on ASO’s end, and I switched hosts. Once I finally got the site up and running, Zack was super helpful squashing bugs before it even propagated for me.
The moral of the story is, when you need help, ask for it. There are always tons of people willing to help out when you need it. This week was a shining example of that for me.
All in all, I’m happy with the rewrite of the site. I still plan to tinker, but it has pretty much everything it did before. You’ll notice sponsorships are gone. This is intentional. While every sponsor I had here was great, I didn’t feel like it was paying off for them or the site. I have some new ideas for running sponsorships here, and I’ll have those details soon. I think it will be better for everyone involved.
As for the RSS feed, you may need to resubscribe. With some help from Maxime Valette of uri.lv, I think I’ve migrated it, but if it’s not working for you, you can find a link in the site’s navigation. If you’re searching for something, there’s a DuckDuckGo search box in the footer. Have at it. Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with me and enabling me to rebuild the site. It’s worth it because of you guys.
I’ve been using ReadKit since its launch, and it’s no secret that I really like it. It’s basically an app made to consolidate your Instapaper, Pocket and Readability accounts – or any combination – into one app. The reading experience is wonderful, and I particularly like the theme options and the ability to use your own fonts.
With ReadKit 1.1, the developers have really stepped up their game. They’ve integrated Pinboard and Delicious, and also added tag management for all the available services. One absolutely killer feature is the ability to drag-and-drop articles. Say for instance, you want to move an article from your Pocket archive over to Pinboard. Just drag-and-drop it. That’s it. Brilliant. I’ve become an avid Pinboard user in the last few months, and I really like how it’s implemented here. When a saved bookmark is selected, you get sent to the page in Safari, but if you click the small cloud icon next to the article title in the list, the app will download the article and display it in the theme you have set.
Along with all the new features in 1.1, the stuff that was there from the start deserves some attention as well. The distraction-free view is great because it allows you to totally focus on reading – much like Pocket and Instapaper’s iOS apps.
ReadKit is $1.99 on the Mac App Store, and if you use any of these included services, you should buy it. The app sports all the features you would expect from a premiere read-later client, and the developers seem to be invested for the long haul.
Note: While I have been beta testing ReadKit, I bought 1.0 previous to that testing, and loved it then too.
Never forget what’s important, and don’t sweat the small stuff. I know, I know. You’ve heard this before.
During this past weekend, I listened to my buddy Gabe’s podcast, Generational – something I usually do, but this one was a gem. Gabe was chatting with Merlin Mann about parenting – something that I’m of course interested in.
I listened to the first half while I prepped for Bryce’s 10th birthday party. Trope time: You always hear parents say “time flies”, but it’s true. The big takeaway is that you can’t let the time pass you without stopping to take notice. Keep memories fresh. You can easily lose them. In listening to Gabe and Merlin chat about the fantastic journey of parenting, I reminisced about my own travels through life with kids – more specifically how great a mom my wife is, and how I always strive to be a better dad, especially when it’s hard. I know that this is a weird non-linear post, but I want to stress how important each minute with the people you care about is.
One morning earlier this week, I did the usual browsing of my Twitter timeline to find this. Federico has a clear PET scan. That made my morning. A close Internet friend is healthy, and in getting there “kicked cancer’s ass”. Later that same day, I got news that one of my wife and I’s oldest “IRL” friends, who is also battling cancer, is losing the fight. Quickly. She has a daughter 6 months younger than Bryce. She’s been a friend since we were 15. She was in our wedding. The list goes on. Let’s revisit another annoying trope: Life is short.
Make sure the ones you care about never question your caring. Make sure your friends have an outlet. Make sure you’re doing the right thing by others. As I watch my two boys grow into men, I hope I’m doing just that. You can’t get time back, so make it count. This week was a true demonstration in how wonderful, joyous, and horribly unfair life is sometimes. Don’t waste it.