It’s not just Americans that like American craft beer. The world has caught on, according to a recent PRI news item by Jason Margolis, and they want our tasty beer.
However, the growth of sales has been slowing because shipping beers across an ocean is complicated. As quoted in the Margolis’s story, Casey Kjolhede from New Belgium Brewery says:
The biggest challenge is quality. Our beer tastes best—all beer tastes best—fresh. So you’ve already got time against you going across the ocean.
The whole story is worth a listen, or you can read the transcript if you prefer silence. It’s also worth noting that “craft beer” refers to the “second wave” craft brews, those made by long-established breweries that have not yet been acquired by a global conglomerate. Those beers, I presume, are already available, as they were at this bar where Londoners watched the returns from the 2016 Brexit vote.
In the top left of Andrew Testa’s photograph for the New York Times, you’ll see a menu of American beers, most of which are of the “craft” variety that you might find at American airports: whatever “Kentucky Bourbon Barrel” beer is, Flying Dog, Goose Island, Rogue, and Blue Moon. I’m not sure what to think of Pabst being in this group. I guess it was “craft” when it earned its Blue Ribbons in 1882 and in 1916.
My takeaway from this story is a version of something I’ve said before on this site: enjoy this golden age of craft beer before it ends.
I’ll also add that you should definitely try beers from your local craft brewery rather than chasing down some exotic beer from a faraway, trendy brewery.
Sure, that beer that you’ve been “ISO” might be a better brew, but if it’s been traveling some distance for a significant amount of time, it might not taste like what the brewer intended.
That happened when a group of Australians drank a Brooklyn beer that was brewed in Australia, not one shipped across the North American continent and the Pacific Ocean. Eric Ottaway with Brooklyn responded to the Aussies’ criticisms, by informing them that “now it tastes like it actually should as opposed to beer that’s been sitting on the water for six weeks.”
As I get older, I forget about some of the things I’ve done that not many others have. Case in point: I took two pornographic film classes as part of the my film studies curriculum.
The first was as an undergraduate at UCSB that was taught by Constance Penley, who Rolling Stone called a notorious professor in 1998. By the time I took the class, it had been taught several times and was not the hot-topic around campus as much as it was when it was first offered. Nonetheless, Penley ran the class as an historical survey of pornographic film, no different than any other professor would teach a survey of animation, documentary, or French cinema.
The second class was as graduate student at NYU, although our instructors were a bit sly about the subject matter of the class. They called it Explicitly Independent, insisting that we were studying experimental, independent film that pushed the boundaries of representing sexuality. This class was not meant as a broad survey of explicit film, as my undergraduate class was, but instead was meant to address a number of topics that our instructors were studying.
Both classes made clear a couple of facts about pornographic film:
it has been around a long time: about as long as motion pictures themselves have been around.
more people consume pornography than you think: it’s pretty much close to 100% of film viewers.
a stylistic history of pornography tracks closely to the stylistic history of cinema at large: the golden age of pornographic film is in the 1970s, which is the same decade as the golden age of New Hollywood.
Light Industry is presenting nine short films on Tuesday, February 20, beginning at 7:30 PM: a program they call The Smoker: A Brief History of the Stag Film. The term “smoker” refers to the smoke-filled rooms where men—and only men—would watch sex on film as part of some weird homosocial ritual to prove that each guy wasn’t “a homo.” If you ever wondered what your grandfather did with his buddies at an Elks Lodge meeting on a Saturday night, it was probably watching these films.
As someone who watched a lot of these kinds of films with an audience that isn’t there for sexual gratification, I will tell you will initially feel a bit awkward when you recognize the situation of watching porn while sitting next to strangers.
Light Industry seems to recognize this. They will screen the films silent in the spirit of historically accuracy. It was common for men to hoot-and-holler while these films played, and indeed, Light Industry’s website notes “in the spirit of smokers past, we encourage attendees to provide their own soundtracks.”
I would go a step further and encourage you to provide your own beverage, too. But, remember that this is the twenty-first century: there no smoking during these smokers.
Longtime readers of this site know that I am almost universally appreciative of everything that Apple does. But over the last few years, there was one thing about Apple that has bugged me: their taste in music—and now TV shows—is pretty lame. I think this casts a shadow over their otherwise nifty products, which reflect a refined sense of taste in their hardware and software design that is unmatched. And now that they’re getting involved in TV and movie production, I worry about what they’ll produce.
iTunes Podcast Directory
Back in the summer of 2005, Apple first entered the podcasting game by integrating it into iTunes. Up until that point, listening to podcasts was an exclusive domain for nerds. It required third-party software: I used iPodder. It required some understanding of RSS and how it worked, and it required expertise in knowing where to find podcasts in the first place. I vaguely remember listening to a subscribing to a few podcasts back then. Some related to “budget rock” music, some to news and politics, and a bunch other nerdy fare. Suffice to say, these reflected my own personal tastes.
Apple's Podcast Directory, July 2005
Apple sought to introduce podcasts to the masses when it integrated podcasts into iTunes 4.9, making it easier to add podcasts to your IPod. They also added Podcasts Directory to the iTunes Store, a feature that remains to this day. However, I disliked the store because it highlighted the podcasts of the big media companies, especially Disney, a media conglomerate that Apple has had a close relationship by virtue of Steve Jobs and Pixar. I wrote as much on the old, Moveable Type version of this site:
But what is most significantly different from all the various podcasting directories and the new iTunes is that its podcast directory spotlights the podcasts from large content producers. When you first open the directory, you’ll note the presence of the big media companies. When I opened the directory this afternoon, I got a podcast for ABC News and one for ESPN. Clearly, there’s an arrangement with Disney. But the other partnerships seem a bit more tailored for the iPod crowd’s tastes, according to Madison Avenue. There’s NPR affiliates (KCRW, WGBH), CBC, and Bravo’s Queer Eye. If you dig a little deeper, you can find a large number of independent podcasts, but it’s like finding that rare imported beer at your supermarket. You’re going to have to dig past all the Bud, Miller, and Coors to find it.
The popularity and variety of podcasts has exploded since 2005, although its rise has been uneven. While there have been podcasting stars, such as Adam Carolla and Serial and now Bill Simmons and The Daily, podcasting remains a relatively open platform with an wide variety of choices for every possible taste. Podcasting in 2018 is not wholly determined by the Podcast Directory of 2005.
Keep Music Personal
Another example of my distaste for Apple’s taste is the live musical performances integrated into many keynotes.1 I relish each and every keynote address and product launch Apple does. These are not just well-produced media events; they’re often studies in great theater. But I cringed, for example, when John Mayer came on at the end of the iPhone’s introduction at the 2007 Macworld Expo.
John Mayer playing at the Macworld 2007 keynote where the iPhone was announced / Photo by Derrick Story
It’s understandable if no one remembers Mayer playing this keynote. After all, he followed the introduction of what would become the most influential computing device in a generation, and no one can really tell you what else Apple also announced that day. I don’t have anything against John Mayer. I hear he’s a fine musician, and I feel bad that he had to follow the iPhone in the same way I feel bad that the Rolling Stones followed James Brown in The T.A.M.I. Show. But having these performances felt like Apple was trying to shove some middle-of-the-road rock music into our iPods and, later, our iPhones. Apple has continued this tradition with having Coldplay’s Chris Martin perform in 2010 and Sia take the stage in 2016. Neither is music that I would ever listen to on my own. And when these performances start, I always stop watching the keynote.
The public seemed most upset about Apple’s middle-of-the-road tastes in 2014 when they “bought” U2’s new album, Songs of Experience, and added it to everyone’s iTunes account. Undoubtedly there must have been some U2 fans who appreciated getting this album on their iPhones, but I think Apple overestimated the breadth of U2’s appeal. A lot of people were angry about this unwanted gift. Even if U2 was the most popular living rock band in the world, which they arguably were, I understand the backlash because, for years, Apple has marketed their devices as personal and adding U2 to everyone’s device seemed invasive.
I initially feared that Apple Music would turn out to be a disaster because they focused so heavily on the Beats Music aspect of it. I watched the June 2015 WWDC keynote with great interest, and the Apple Music introduction was by far the least impressive of all their announcements that day. Not only that, the Beats Radio stations and programs reminded me a lot of what we saw featured in the iTunes Podcasts Directory: a bunch of middle-of-the-road offerings that betrayed why I liked podcasts and streaming music versus terrestrial and satellite radio, and why I liked buying CDs online instead of the limited selection at the local music store.
If you watch the video of the Apple Music introduction, there’s something off-putting about watching Eddy Cue make playlists. His personal, eclectic taste isn’t mine. Did you just tell me to listen to Loren Kramar? Kramer, by the way, hasn’t released anything since the 2015 single that Cue demos.
There’s no way for me to prove this, but I think that Apple Music is succeeding despite Beats Radio not because of it. Apple Music is doing well because it lets users stream music in much the same way Spotify does, although I suspect Spotify’s recommendation algorithm is better than Apple Music because Apple kinda sucks at AI.
All Apple Music had to do to succeed was flawlessly allow subscribers to find and play whatever music they want, reflecting each user’s personal taste, not the middle-of-the-road taste that Apple seems to espouse.
Of course, nobody except Fuller really knows the exact “creative differences” that led him to leave the series, and Snell and Hurley indicate as much. But their reasonable speculative explanation shows that Apple has established a specific taste for content, and it’s not necessarily as groundbreaking as they might think it is.
There’s also the comedic bits at the beginning of recent keynotes. While I normally like James Corden, I’d much rather listen to Craig Federighi tell some dad jokes about macOS than watch Carpool Karaoke with Tim Cook and Pharrell. ↩
Venerable repertory film theater Film Forum has been operating in New York since 1970. That’s no small feat when you consider the various challenges such an institution faces, including new technologies—from VHS to streaming—that compete for cinephiles’ attention and the commercial real estate market in New York, where the life of a business is largely determined by the length of its lease. As an example of the latter, two movie theaters closed last month in Manhattan because the landlords did not renew their leases: the Landmark Sunshine will be demolished and converted to office space, and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas will undergo some kind of structural renovation to the building—and may again house a movie theater.
Film Forum’s Director of Publicity, Adam Walker, gave a presentation in Utah at Art House Convergence, a gathering of film distributors and exhibitors, about the history of Film Forum. Film Forum posted the presentation on their website The presentation describes several milestones: the various moves that Film Forum undertook that culminated in their current home on West Houston Street, their expansion from one screen to two screen and ultimately to three screens, and the addition of personnel that has shaped their history. The presentation also explains why you often have to sit behind a column when watching a movie there and the origins of their distinct printed calendars.
If you prefer experiencing the presentation in a slideshow format, you can also see it as a slideshow on Indiewire’s website.
Spoiler alert: There was one happy note at the end of the presentation that I am happy to relay. Film Forum recently extended their lease to 2035. This means they’ll likely be around for another generation. And because of this newfound security, they have begun renovating their current space and plan to open a fourth screen.
I’m about two weeks late in posting about Rob Bliss’s attempt to raise awareness about net neutrality. Bliss rode his bike and set up traffic cones to throttle automobile traffic outside the offices of the Federal Communications Commission. Like the Burger King commercial I posted about last month, the metaphor of the bicyclist causing artificial congestion isn’t the best way to explain what is wrong, even if it makes motorists angry because they can’t go as fast as they want without first paying a toll or running-down the pesky cyclist.
Allow me to offer a better metaphor of what driving would be like without a “net neutrality” for roadways. Say, for example, that Ford built all the roads in your town. Ford allows all Ford cars and trucks to drive on these roads as often as they want at no cost. However, if you own a Toyota and want to drive to the grocery store, either Toyota the automaker or Toyota drivers will have to pay a toll of some type. Perhaps, Ford has a deal with Honda, allowing Honda drivers to also use the Ford roads for no cost. But it comes with certain restrictions: anyone driving an Accord can only drive with two passengers and no cargo. Otherwise, those drivers will have to pay an additional toll or subscribe to an expensive unlimited driving and carriage plan. And what about Tesla? Would those cars ever get to even use these roads? Probably not. So everyone in your town will basically own only a Ford because it’s cheaper and simpler to just do that. And because there’s no competition for Fords in your town, everyone will have same set of crappy Ford cars and trucks, and Ford will have no incentive to ever make anything other than those same crappy cars and trucks.
I should note that Ford has actually been making better cars and trucks than it did over the last half-century, but that’s partly because they don’t enjoy the kind of dominance they once had and because they responded to competition from Asian and European automakers.
As is becoming clear, raising awareness of net neutrality is not as crucial as it was just a few years ago. It’s clearly a hot political topic. What we need to do is to act: to do whatever it takes—through legislation or litigation—to ensure the Internet remains an open platform for communication. The Internet belongs to no one, but in the United States, the final mile belongs to one of a few corporations, usually your cable provider or an incumbent telephone company. We must insure that the infrastructure owners do not get to regulate or dictate what content can be carried over that final mile. Otherwise, we’ll all be driving metaphorical Ford Pintos on the Internet.
What follows is a silly attempt to explain what constitutes a comparative essay or what my K-12 teachers used to call a “compare-and-contrast” essay. I assign a fair number of these in my classes, and I wanted to have an example to show students what such an essay might look like.
In colloquial English, it is common to liken comparing two different objects to comparing apples and oranges. This a curious expression because the two share three common characteristics. First, apples and oranges are not only food, both are tree fruits. Second, along with the banana, they are among the most common fruits consumed in the United States. You can almost certainly find them packed in a lot of schoolchildren’s lunch boxes, if contemporary parents still pack a lunch for their children. Third, the two fruits are about the same size, which might be why they are so commonly eaten: on school lunch trays, in the brown-paper bags of blue-collar tradesman, and on the desk of a white-collar worker.
In this essay, I will compare apples to oranges to determine what specific differences exist between apples and oranges. I will use five criteria to evaluate their differences: their color, their shape, the edibility of their skins, their taste, and the different climates in which they are mass produced and harvested.
First, the color of each fruit is significantly different. An orange bears the name of its color: orange. After evaluating many different oranges in a variety of locations, oranges appear to come in just one color. In fact, the richness or the paleness of that orange is often a visual signifier for its freshness, its juiciness, and its sweetness—qualities that are reasonably subjective and relative to the eater’s taste.
Apples, on the other hand, can come in at least two colors: red and green. Within each color, there are some variations, indicating the different varietals of apples that are available at most grocery stores and at farmers markets in regions, such as New York, where apples grow aplenty. However, despite all these varieties, there are no apples that appear orange, and no orange appears in red or green colors. The skin color alone is a determining signifier of whether an apple is an apple and whether an orange is an orange.
Second, the shape of the fruits are also different despite being reductively described as round. First, oranges are almost perfect spheres. They are commonly packaged and displayed at stores in a fashion where orange fits in the crevice between the other oranges, as illustrated below. This allows one to evaluate the orange by a glance.
This is usually only possible with perfectly round objects, such as tennis balls.
Apples, on the other hand, do not have this exact same shape. While they are mostly round, their differing shape makes it difficult to evaluate in this fashion. You can see the bottom, the stem, or the body of the fruit, but picking one requires picking it up to evaluate the color, firmness, and whether it has suffered bruising.
Edibility of the Skin
Third, the skins of each fruit are also different. The apple skin is very commonly eaten, except perhaps by some picky schoolchildren who had a parent peel their apples before packing them in a lunch box. According to a study by Kelly Wolfe and Rui Hai Liu, a food scientist at Cornell University, an apple skin contains a lot of important nutrients that provide multiple health benefits, which one does not get from eating a peeled apple.1
An orange peel however is largely inedible. It is tough in texture and bitter in flavor. Not only that, the only sources that seem to recommend eating orange peels are a few online quack doctors with questionable credentials and motives. For example, Dr. Mercola advocates eating orange peels because, he says, the peels “may prevent histamine release,” “cleanse your lungs,” and “improve oral health.” However, let’s not forget that he has drawn a lot of controversy for advocating medical practices that fly in the face of conventionally acceptable practices and may harm public health, such as criticizing vaccines.
Fourth, the taste of these two fruits are considerably different. While taste is largely subjective, an apple is noticeably sweeter than an orange. An apple has a prominent sweet taste with a sour aftertaste. An orange, on the other hand, has a mostly sour taste although one certainly savor its sweetness along with that bitterness.
One way to evaluate each fruits sweetness-versus-bitterness is to examine their use in pie recipes. I compared two pie recipes at the Taste of Home website, and you can see how apples largely provide their own sweetness in this apple pie recipe:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 to 7 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
1 tablespoon butter
1 large egg white
The sweetness of the pie comes from the added sugar, but mostly from the natural sweetness of the apples.
However, the orange pie recipe in this popular website recommends making a frosted orange pie with not only more added sugar but also adding frosting to offset the bitterness that inhere in most oranges.
Finally, the climate where each fruit is grown can vary significantly. In the United States, apples are mostly grown and exported from two states: New York and Washington, two states with relatively cool climates. Apples also peak in the autumn and are usually harvested in the months between August and November.
Oranges, on the other hand, are grown in warmer climates, and the two US states best known for growing and exporting apples are California and Florida. The harvest period is also a bit later than it is for apples. Oranges are harvested in the winter months after the apple harvest has concluded.
In conclusion, apples and oranges, among the most commonly eaten fruits in the United States, share many similarities but as I’ve compared above, they also bear many specific differences that make them assuredly different. It’s no wonder, then, that we have that aphorism about apples and oranges. In recent months, the cable news network CNN has run a series of ads as part of its “This is an apple” campaign. The ad takes aim at President Trump’s attempts to discredit the press as “FAKE NEWS” when it criticizes him and his policies:
This is an apple. Some people might try and tell you that it’s a banana the ad. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.
The ad plays on the common sensibility of most (but sadly, not all) that there’s a difference between an apple and a banana, much like we now assuredly know there are at least five differences between an apple and an orange.
Kelly L. Wolfe and and Rui Hai Liu, “Apple Peels as a Value-Added Food Ingredient,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2003 51 (6), 1676-1683. ↩
Burger King produced an online video advertisement using the delivery of their signature Whopper sandwich to explain how an Internet service provider can discriminate against a non-preferred website or Internet service. You can watch the nearly three-minute video on YouTube.
In this ad, a Burger King location implements a tiered delivery system. One can buy a “premium” Whopper that comes with a higher Mbps, which of course for broadband means “megabits per second” but at this Burger King location means “making burgers per second.” When an irate customer questions the delay, a Burger King counter employee explains that Burger King prefers to sell chicken sandwiches and Chicken Fries (which are way less gross than I expected, by the way) so it offers those at a standard rate. However, if you want a Whopper, as many customers in this video want, you will either have to wait for it to come through the slow pipeline or have to pay an additional fee to have it prioritized.
The sandwich offerings at Burger King offer a clear, yet imperfect metaphor for the websites and Internet services that can be blocked or throttled by an Internet service provider. The chicken sandwich and Chicken Fries presumably represent the video content and websites owned by the ISPs or their parent companies. I previously explained that this is why AT&T is looking to acquire Time Warner’s vast media holdings and why Verizon and Comcast have already acquired content companies—Oath and NBC-Universal, respectively—over the last decade.
The metaphor falls apart somewhat because Burger King “owns” the Whopper as well as Chicken Fries, and, of course, they block access to other options. It’s not like you can walk into a Burger King and order a Diet Coke or a Big Mac. However, it’s not like there are places in the world where you’re stuck only ever going to Burger King or McDonald’s but never the other. You have a choice in fast food establishments (and other ways to procure calories), but you almost certainly don’t have a choice in your Internet service provider.
After a while, the customers in the video understandably get impatient, angry, and frustrated.
And some even get physical. A couple of customers grab and tug at the bag from the counter employee. As per Burger King policy, he is waiting until the arbitrarily imposed latency period on the Whopper has elapsed.
Basing a fast-food ad on a wonky communications policy, albeit one with significant real world consequences, seems counterintuitive and even unbelievable. Would anyone understand this? Would anyone get the jokes? Yes, of course. Burger King wouldn’t have bothered making this video if a lot of people wouldn’t understand it and wouldn’t get the jokes. Free Press’s Craig Aaron notes that the ad demonstrates just popular and widely know net neutrality is among young people. He writes, “right now Net Neutrality ranks high on the list of concerns of millennial voters — right up there with marijuana legalization. If nothing else, BK knows its target demo.”
A few months ago, I wrote about how Coca-Cola introduced OK Soda to expands it reach to customers who were presumably too jaded to drink Coke. In that post, I referenced a video and describes it as “postmodern.” While I preferred the term “self-referential” to “postmodern,” this ad uses the same technique. At the end of the video, there’s a self-referrential wink-and-a-nod to those in-the-know with when the King appears in the store’s parking lot and takes a drink from an oversized Reese’s coffee mug.
That’s a reference to Chairman Pai’s stupid oversized Reese’s coffee mug, which was featured in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last year. Most people likely know about the mug as do about the impact of Title I versus Title II classification: that is to say, a lot of people know.
He often appears with this mug as a bit of “dad humor,” making himself seem jovial and self-deprecating, much like he did when he danced with a “wannabe Pizzagater” in a video published on a right-wing, junk news website. It is also an attempt to distract from his corporate friendly policies that threaten the public interest.
However, as I’ve regularly warned on this site, Chairman Pai’s regulatory actions, such as repealing net neutrality, eliminating broadcast ownership caps, and allowing right-wing ideologues to reach virtually every American household, are no laughing matter.
Apple Watch had a festive animation for the new year.
Happy new year, everyone!
I spent the last week of 2017 and the first couple of weeks of 2018 in Southern California, extending going “home for the holidays” into a twenty-six day vacation. There’s a lot of reasons why I stayed out there as long as I did, but most of them are related to weather and my schedule.
First, New York can be a pretty sad place in January. It’s cold, and there aren’t a lot of social activities happening during this time of year. Consequently, people are pretty anti-social this time of year. People stay at home to cook at home, doing a dry-January thing, or are just bundling up at home because, like I said, it gets really cold this time of year. I’m not missing much being away from New York this time of year.
Second, the extended holiday vacation allows me to visit new places throughout the ever-changing Southland. Like most other places, Los Angeles shuts down during the holidays. I would often fly back to New York in early January and miss out on a lot activities in Los Angeles because a lot of interesting things happen again in mid-January. Staying out there later allows me to do these things in a strange land. And, of course, it’s noticeably warmer in Southern California than it is “back east.”
Third, I don’t plan a summer getaway like most everyone. As popular as it is to complain about the heat and humidity of New York summers, I actually really like New York during the summertime. Regular readers know that a lot of my favorite activities —specifically cycling and softball—happen during the summer, and the fair-weather New Yorkers depart for the shore until Labor Day weekend. That makes the city a kind of playground for those of us who remain, and when the douche-set returns in September, I don’t mind getting away then. As a friend once quipped, “September is the new August.”
Lastly, my schedule this time of year gives me some degree of freedom. I taught an online winter class at Queens College this semester, which I was able to run from my parents’ home and a couple of area coffee shops. I did have to come back for my first in-person class at Pratt, which started on Wednesday, January 17. Consequently, I didn’t fly back until the day before, on Tuesday.
I had reserved four tickets to the Broad Museum, but only my mom could make it so we gave these two Dutch tourists our spare tickets. They looked hot and tired, and I wanted to assure the Dutch that Americans are nice, despite our president.
There were many highlights on this trip. I did a lot of cycling, and I drank some beers, both of which I will cover in a separate post. I saw some family members. I visited the new Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles, whose location across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art, strikes me as a middle-finger from Broad to the museum he cofounded in the 1980s. I shopped a fountain pen store in Monrovia, California, run by a gentle yet passionate expert in pens and inks. I visited the Wende Museum of Cold War objets in Culver City. I dragged my mom and dad out to the same movie theater, where a generation ago, I would have been embarrassed at being spotted with either my mom or dad. As I’ve said before, young people are stupid. My dad and I teamed up to take and print my own passport photos; it’s harder than you think.
But now, I’m back in New York. Aside from jumping back into work, I finally got around to doing that MoviePass thing and started going to more movies. That’s been great because, as I said earlier, everyone is anti-social, and something I can do on my own.
I have few friends and family members that marvel at how I always seem to have the newest iPhone. That’s not actually true. I only get a new phone, usually on launch day, every two years, and I certainly didn’t get an iPhone X this year. I suspect that they think I’m always going to get a new phone because some of those friends keep their trusty iPhones around for a while. Case in point: I have a friend with an iPhone 5s, a phone released in 2013. Four years is a couple of epochs in the history of smartphones.
That same friend who carries a four-year old iPhone is constantly searching for a free power outlet to charge her phone or using a portable battery pack to keep it going throughout the day. She reports that the battery level will quickly go from 50% to 40% to 20% to dead in a short amount of time. She insists that she will buy a new phone soon so she can stop worrying about this. However, I insist that if she’s never replaced the battery inside her phone, her phone powers off because the battery is four years old and can’t hold a charge like it did when a year ago, much less like it did when it was new.
The lithium-ion batteries in our devices offer the best mass-produced, battery technology around, but it is often the first thing to fail on our devices. A lithium-ion battery will last between 500-1000 charge cycles. If you run down your battery every day and charge it at night, that is one charge cycle. Many of us do this multiple times per day. That means that we’re likely running our phone batteries through 500 charge cycles in a single year. Replacing a battery—something that costs between $40 and $80 and takes about an hour of time—will give the device a whole new life.
Earlier this month, Apple publicly admitted that it slows down the processor in older phones with aging batteries to prevent the sudden shutdowns that my friend—and many others—experience every day, especially in cold weather. The processor slow down, I suspect, is like what happens when a user turns on Power Save mode. Operations on the phone get slower but not so much so that the phone becomes unusable. In fact, I’ve seen many users keep their phones on Power Save mode almost all of the time, ostensibly to run their phones longer without needing to charge it throughout the day.
Conspiracy theorists believe that Apple slows down older iPhones to get people to buy a new iPhone. There are many reasons why this is not a credible theory, including:
it’s unlikely that Apple software engineers are adding code to slow down iPhones when they reach a certain age because it seems antithetical to what Apple as a company does.
a lot of these older phones are still for sale as new phones, including the 2015 iPhone 6s and presumably will still support for another two years.
if people feel their iPhones get prematurely slow, why would they buy another iPhone instead of ditching Apple altogether?
The irony of this conspiracy theory is that Apple slowing down the phones was an attempt to get people to use their phones longer, not to buy new ones. The slowdown was designed to stop this very process:
Aging iPhone either suddenly shuts down or runs down in battery level, e.g., from 20% to dead, in a short amount of time.
User gets frustrated and begins to consider buying a new phone.
User buys a new phone.
Yes, this solves the battery problem, but if your got a flat tire on a bike or a dead car battery, you wouldn’t buy a new bike or a new car, would you?
Instead, if a user updated her iPhone 5s to 10.2.1 or iPhone 7 to 11.2, her phone with a depleted battery would slow down to maintain a charge longer and prevent those sudden shutdowns or rundowns. And given how most smartphone users under-utilize their phones, it’s likely this decrease in performance would go unnoticed. The benchmarking scores, which show a 50% decrease in performance, push the iPhones much harder than ordinary users do.
Anecdotally, I ran my iPhone battery down to 20% yesterday in less than six hours, which is likely the topic for another post. But during its last twenty percent charge, while in Power Save mode, the phone lasted for another three hours. I was still able to use the phone without it performing significantly slower.
It wouldn’t surprise me that people were using a perceived slowdown as a reason to buy a new phone, not because it actually was any slower but because they simply want a new phone. Or, they wanted to buy a new phone because, like a sell-by date on a packaged food item, they felt it had gone bad, even if it still passed the smell test and was still safe to eat.
A few moments ago at a Starbucks in Sylmar, California, after grading a set of take-home exams and posting grades to CUNYFirst, I finished another teaching semester at Queens College. I now get about a week off before starting anew with an online, winter session course that I will be conducting from my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house. This shortens my winter break a bit, but the online course allows me to extend my stay here in California until mid-January. New York is always so cold, sad, and boring in early January, and I am not the least bit bereft about missing out on whatever winter dreariness there is back east.
While I should be excited about finishing another semester and again submitting grades on time, allowing me a peaceful Christmas break, that enthusiasm is tempered because just over 20% of students in my Media Criticism course didn’t receive a passing grade. Nine out of forty-five students outright failed, and one student just stopped attending but still submitted a take-home final exam. In all but two cases, the students just stopped attending class.
Sadly, this is a common occurence at Queens College. I was shocked to see that, in the first class I taught there years ago, about a third of the class failed. Up to that point, I had only limited teaching experiences: as a TA at UCSB and NYU, and teaching one introductory film course at Marymount Manhattan College. In those situations, there was always one or two students who didn’t complete the course, usually because of an extraordinary circumstance, but having ten students fail a single course was a terrible surprise. In my second semester at Queens College, I alerted my students to this fact, imploring them to not repeat this same, terrible feat. For whatever reason, in that second semester, the failure rate was much lower, but since then it has crept back up.
I don’t have a single explanation for why so many Queens College students fail these courses compared to similar courses at other colleges. However, a few factors, however, come to mind:
Some students have challenging socioeconomic circumstances.
Some students have demanding family obligations, either raising their own children or tending for other needy relatives.
Some students work full-time and are taking courses in their scant spare time.
Some students’ commutes make it hard to attend class.1
Some students are returning to school after an absence and are having a difficult time readjusting to school and/or learning how to “do” college.
Some students come from NYC or other urban public schools, where they largely excelled because they stayed out of trouble, not necessarily because they were academically proficient.
Some students are stuck in “K-12 mode,” treat the classroom as a battleground between student and teacher, and are consumed by what they “get away with” in class, with assignments, and on exams.
These are some pretty significant obstacles to overcome, and it’s not unreasonable to see how students facing these would have trouble in a college class, especially where I really push the students beyond procedural learning into more conceptual terrain. In other words, my courses are hard because I expect a lot of students, and I haven’t yet come to terms with dumbing down courses for more favorable reviews or a higher passing rate.
For the new year, I am implementing a few new policies at Queens College to help make clear that attending class and participating in the day-to-day assignments, not just the written ones that count towards their final grade, is essential in succeeding in college and beyond.
One step is to implement two new attendance policies:
1. Negative reinforcement: Students may not miss more than four weeks of class for any reason.
2. Positive reinforcement: Students attending more than 12 weeks of class will receive a half-grade bonus to their final grade.
These two seem a lot more consequential than factoring their attendance as a percentage of their final grade.
I’m also instituting a second policy in my Media Criticism course: require students to present on assigned readings. This worked really well in the New Technologies class that I taught years ago but never got to do again. The class relied a lot on readings and developing conceptual frameworks for understanding media. It also spared them from having me lecture, pontificate, and yammer for a three-hour (!) class period.
I hope these policies keep students engaged and invested, not just for my Media Criticism courses, but for all their other courses at the college. We owe it to our students to push them into realizing their greatness, especially in the face of the formidable circumstances many of them face. Allowing them to pass, by doing subpar work or missing many class sessions, is a disservice to what they should expect from us and why they enrolled in the first place.
My eight-mile commute from Brooklyn to Queens College is a lethargic agony. I can bike there in less than an hour, but it’s through some pretty bike-unfriendly terrain. Alternatively, I can take public transportation, which will take about an hour-and-forty minutes to travel those eight miles, via a mix of subway lines and busses. ↩
Home | TripMode | Your mobile data savior.2017/03/01 MacSparky suggested this to help you save data transfer when tethering. Looks reasonable for those of us considering switching to an unlimited plan with tethering.
The Jobs Americans Do - NYTimes.com2017/02/24 An enlightening set of portrayals of nine job Americans do now. An old college chum, Eric Steuer, penned on of the portraits in the series.