Choosing Comparison Quenches Creativity

Sound advice.


I’m incredibly excited to announce the release of split, the collaborative double EP with myself and mandala eyes.  This record has been two years in the making, with draft recordings performed before Clara was born, re-records performed in the basement under a single light bulb, and acoustic drums added by my dear friend Bill Brown across the Atlanta Chicago wormhole. 

Please share with friends, have a listen, and enjoy!

Wearables (one last time)

I’m trying to think of something more to add to this conversation. In previous posts, my premise seems to be the thing that we want isn’t producable yet. That “thing” being a wearable computing device that doesn’t look stupid on your face. That’s the marketable product, that’s the thing we suppose will be produced by Apple in this coming year. It is extremely unlikely that Apple is going to be predictable in this product category. On a previous week’s The Talk Show, Craig Hockenberry spoke about Apple’s secrecy and how a product release would go, based on past releases: we’re not going to hear or see anything before the announcement, once the new product is annouced we will think, “I didn’t realize they were that close to achiving that kind of technology,” and finally we think, “Of course, in retrospect it seems so obvious.”

Since listening to The Talk Show that week, I have been trying to think of the technology that would actually make that a reality. If it is a watch, if it is not a watch, what would be too far fetched, what is far fetched enough, etc. I keep thinking of Tim Cook’s current wearable, the Fuelband by Nike and I wonder what he in going to want to produce - what does Tim want Apple to make? I think about a PAN beginning on my person and what would make the most sense as the beginning piece of the puzzle. In a far flung future, I can envision a central processor that handles the heavy lifting, a set of data glasses, a throat mic and in-ear speakers, and bracelet/anklets for the limbs all working in tandem to record, inform, monitor, and collate data for our digestion. The “phone” in this future PAN of devices would most likely be a slab of computational material hidden somewhere on my person and never seen by anyone but myself.

Our present PAN consists of two, maybe three devices: the phone or CPU, the headset for voice and audio, and the wearable fitness tracker. Each satellite device communicates with the phone as spokes connect to the hub of a wheel in that they don’t talk to each other in any real sense. Perhaps Apple’s first foray into wearable technology is not going to be something that we have never seen before, nor a smartwatch to compete with fashion, nor a non-obvious technological innovation that we didn’t think was possible. Perhaps they will do what they have always done very well: take current technologies and drive it to extraordinaty feats with ingeneous software. What if your fitness tracker was Siri accessible and you could ask it what your step count was for the day? What if you could tell that tracker that you were about to go jogging and that fired off a GPS mapping application, a heart rate monitor that announced rates in your headset, or any other number of predetermined steps?

At any rate, we have a big year ahead of us. If nothing else, all of this grand speculation by the press and cats like me will drive other companies to innovate in this space or at least throw their hat into the ring. Google Wear is intriguing, it’s true, and if they can get that circular watch design to work with any amount of battery life above one day it will not only sell by the millions it will sell by the millions as a rev 1 product.

I would enjoy being able to more easily access or view my phone’s notifications, sure. But there is something nagging me about this watch idea. A watch large enough to contain a battery large enough to power it would be, well, large. I wore an iPod Nano on my wrist after funding the Lunatik watchband on Kickstarter, and as enthusiastic as I was about this cool gadget conveniently placed on my wrist, it began to wear on me. I would forget it places, leave it by the sink when washing my hands. It would pull on the hairs on my wrist. The charge would last six or seven days, but I would leave it on the charger in the morning. I loved that watch, but I didn’t love wearing it.

I would love the following:

  • Light and thin
  • Day long battery so I get into a charging routine, something realistic
  • Show notifications and Siri activation
  • Stylish and attractive

These criteria are not going to be solved with the technologies we know of today. I mean, I guess, right? Apple might have battery technology that can indeed keep the thickness and weight low, possibly by utilizing the strap as a flexible battery pack. There might be software that will drop our jaws when we see it. I don’t know, none of us do. That is the allure of Apple’s secrecy, we have simply no way of knowing.

Why what’s this?

Fugazi's sound and fury, now on demand

Yeah, that sounds about right.  Hopefully it was the “Yikes!” series, that would be as poetic as can be.

“I lost my memory, but I have ink, so…”

—   Mitch Hedberg

Microsoft Launches Office for iPad — Pixel Envy

Consider, too, that this is the first public presentation as CEO for Satya Nadella, and it’s about iPad support. Big news.

Interesting note to make, isn’t it?

Watch this space « John Moltz's Very Nice Web Site

This, indeed.

Apple After Jobs: Pretty Much the Same as Ever -

And you can bet your iPhone that he would not have adopted some of the advice that Ms. Kane suggests Mr. Cook should now adopt to boost Apple’s fortunes — for instance, that Apple “open up its operating system and license the technology.”

If Kane wrote that quoted sentence, she has no idea how Apple works or why it is the way it is.  All credibility lost in one sentence.

Not Remembering Ourselves

I’ve had a reminder in the for a few months now, it simply says, “Text Brooke.”  When I created it, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t go through my day without reaching out to my wife at least once, and after a few weeks of it, Brooke confessed that she looked forward to my texts each day.  It was our secret joke exchange, our catch-up session, and our venue for planning the evening meal.

When I saw Romantimatic, I thought that it was a cute idea: add a random element to the equation so it looks spontaneous.  It made me wonder how many husbands, boyfriends, wives and girlfriends kept the application a secret.  With my daily reminder, it was out in the open from the start (it even appears on the iMac at home, I’ve been admonished for being late more than once).  Had it been a secret, I wonder if I would have felt any guilt for hiring my phone to remind me to think about my wife.

In Charle’s Stross’ Accelerando, the concept of the “exocortex” is explored even more thoroughly and was in fact the inspiration for my Data Glasses post.  In the first act of Accelerando, our protagonist uses his data glasses as a news source, a notepad, and more importantly, a constant reminder of what he needs to accomplish in the coming minutes.  A constant stream of whispers enter his ears, saying, “Gotta make the deal, meet the Russians, talk to the lobsters, gotta make the deal, meet the Russians…” and so on (I’m paraphrasing from memory, but that’s the gist).  Our protagonist has “outsourced” the task of remembering nearly everything to the bots and scripts in his glasses, so much so that when his glasses are stolen, he cannot remember where he needed to be, who he is talking to, and very nearly who he is.

The anxiety of losing our humanity and memories to a technological replacement is palpable both in Accelerando and in the Foer’s paragraph linked in the story above at Anxious Machine.  If we give up all of our memory’s capability to a machine, where will we be when the batteries run out?

Let me ask this instead - what if your memory what shitty to begin with, and the technologies available to us today are the crutch you (or I, really) need in order to get simple things to stick?  I can literally forget what I need from the drug store as I start the car to go there, forcing me to get back out of the car and wander back inside with a sheepish look, asking, “Um, what did you need again?”  What if that flaw in my brain’s chemistry can be solved by a network of devices on my person that listen for me, store my task list without me asking, and whisper the answers I need in my ear while I am starting the car?  What is the line between “losing humanity” and just plain solving a deficiency?

Socrates famously spoke out against the invention of writing, saying it would, “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.” And now here we are, having to be reminded by our phones to send a sweet message to our sweethearts. Just as Socrates predicted, we’ve lost our humanity!

Had we listened to Socrates then in order to preserve our supposed humanity, would civilization even exist as we know it?  No, I doubt it.  At best we would be a collection of city-states, each with their own history sung in songs the change slightly over the generations, until the truth was lost in the longest game of Telephone ever conceived.

Technology is not our savior, ready to deliver some utopian future, but it does not have to be our enemy. It’s been with us since the beginning, from poetry to reminder apps. Far from making us less human, it can even reawaken us to our humanity in the midst of our mechanized, busy lives. We just have to learn how to use it.

Data Glasses

A man sits at a cafe, sipping a small handled cup. Outside on the patio, he is warmed by the glow of the afternoon sun and as such, his designer glasses have darkened to the color of onyx. He has no newspaper by his side, no phone, and no book. He is simply staring, seemingly, down the avenue towards the throng and din of the crowd. Occasionally he speaks to himself, but low enough that no one can hear. As we move closer, the man takes no notice of us, and as we move still closer, we see something glimmering near the edge of his glasses frames.

As we draw closer still, up to and beyond the personal space bubble defined by the unspoken social contract, we see that the glimmer in his glasses looks more and more like text, flowing quickly from to each side of the frame. Drifting right to the edge of the elegant frames, we swing behind the frame and view the lenses from the point of view of the wearer. As well as viewing the beauty of the bustling city, it seems our cafe goer is reading the news, dictating quick notes, and reading messages from collegues. A closer look at our friend’s ear shows us he is wearing an extremely diminuative earpiece, and listening close we hear soft music, broken occasionally by a small ding, poing, bloop or other notification sound. Sipping the last of his espresso, our suave gentleman stands up, pays his tab, and touches the temple of his frames. “Bonjour, mon ami, que sava?” he speaks softly as he begins to stroll down the avenue.

This is the dream, yes? The promise of a set of glasses that correct your vision, block out the sun, and show you network connected data sets is indeed compelling, but unfortunately we’re not there yet. Wearables is a young industry, and even though it is starting ahead of many major industries (most associatated technologies are available, if not refined) wearables have the disadvantage of being invented by technologists and not fashion icons. Josh Topolosky once said of Google Glass, “As soon as I can get this in a pair of Warby Parker frames I am all over Glass,” and I quite agree. In fact, I imagine this is the feeling most people have for wearable technology - it simply must look good before all else or it simply won’t do.

So where does that leave us? We have a market that won’t mature until there is an rise in adoption, and adoption that won’t occur until the market matures by getting its fashion sense together. There is a definite pride we humans have in our appearance, and no amount of functionality is going to convince a young fashionable mid twenties person to forego that. All of this leads to a product category that is not defined by feature checklists, something that older technology companies seem to rely upon, but simply by the way something looks. The latest Samsung Gear is a smart watch trying to define the category by including as many features as possible, and it looks like a large lumpy rectangle on your wrist. Who, if not the current incumbent technology manufacturers, is poised to succeed in this market?

Apple's Healthbook app gives a glimpse of what an iWatch could possibly do

Let’s not get so sure that a watch is the only way to deliver the kind of information that a health conscious application would interact with.  Not that this would actually be it, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if Apple produced a bluetooth earpiece/headset that could get your heart rate and associated health data?  I like the ring idea, too, that seems to be the most plausible heath hardware that isn’t the often rumored watch.


Mixing an ishcabittle tune for the split we’ve been working on, and I just thought it was nice how we have this melody spiraling off into the distance here.

My man Alex is getting into it deep, y’all.

iOS 7.1 on the iPhone 4: As good as it’s going to get