Category Archives: tech

No Smartphone for Lent

nophoneEvery year for Lent I try to give something up that I would otherwise find unimaginable or consider myself particularly dependent on. Last year I gave up meat, which isn’t that unusual but you have to remember I’m from Texas. 😉

This year as I surveyed my life there was one thing I kept coming back to as being completely dependent on: my smartphone(s). It’s only been a few years since the iPhone came out, but it’s inconceivable to imagine my life today without my calendar, email, Foursquare, Path, Chrome, Tripit, Simplenote, WordPress, Tweetbot, Sonos, Uber, Spotify and my iTunes library, and most importantly Google Maps. (On my second screen: SmartThings, Nest, Lociktron, Lutron, 1Password, Calm, Authy, NextDraft, Withings, Circa…) These apps and everything they represent weave into every aspect of my life, I’m sure I’m one of those people who looks at their phone at least 150 times a day. My smartphone is my camera, my flashlight, my connection to the world, and my crutch.

A small selection of what a phone replaces, from Reddit.

And now it’s what I’m giving up for Lent in 2014, from March 5th until April 17th. (Yes, that includes SxSW.) For safety and business reasons I’m going to have a makes-phone-calls-only phone, and might hop in a friend’s Uber, but the idea is there will not be a device on me 24/7 that I’m tethered to, constantly looking at, and lost and hopeless without. You obviously can’t turn back the clock on progress, so I don’t expect this to be a permanent thing, but I’m curious what I miss the most, how it affects my ability to focus throughout the day, and how it changes my relationships with other people, especially the lack of messaging.

I am in the market for a cool feature phone though, maybe a small one like Zoolander had or a slidey one like in the Matrix. Any suggestions?

I’ll leave you with the “I forgot my phone” video from last year:

Evolution of San Francisco

There have been three excellent writings on the effects and consequences of the latest boom on the Bay Area, each long but worth reading.

The East Bay Express, with a permalink I’m sure won’t work a decade from now, brings us The Bacon-Wrapped Economy:

The arts economy, already unstable, has been forced to contend with the twin challenges of changing tastes and new funding models. Entire industries that didn’t exist ten years ago are either thriving on venture capital, or thriving on companies that are thriving on it. It is now possible to find a $6 bottle of Miller High Life, a $48 plate of fried chicken, or a $20 BLT in parts of the city that used to be known for their dive bars and taco stands. If, after all, money has always been a means of effecting the world we want to bring about, when a region is flooded with uncommonly rich and uncommonly young people, that world begins to look very different. And we’re all living in it, whether we like it or not.

SFGate has The hypocrisy in Silicon Valley’s big talk on innovation:

“[I]nnovation” is something of a magic word around here, shape-shifting to fit the speaker’s immediate needs. So long as semiconductors and coding are involved, people will staple it to anything from flying cars to the iFart app.

Other times it’s just code for “jobs,” used to justify asking for government favors one day and scolding them for meddling in the free market the next.

“Lower our payroll taxes because … innovation.”
“Drop that antitrust inquiry because … innovation.”

But for all the funding announcements, product launches, media attention and wealth creation, most of Silicon Valley doesn’t concern itself with aiming “almost ridiculously high.” It concerns itself primarily with getting people to click on ads or buy slightly better gadgets than the ones they got last year.

The final comes from Rebecca Solnit, who I’ve quoted before, writes a diary for the London Review of Books.

I weathered the dot-com boom of the late 1990s as an observer, but I sold my apartment to a Google engineer last year and ventured out into both the rental market (for the short term) and home buying market (for the long term) with confidence that my long standing in this city and respectable finances would open a path.