Un-bullshitting.

Over the past 10 months, I have carefully examined the role of technology and social media in my life. On the balance, I have determined that most social media—Facebook, blogging, commenting on news stories, Snapchat and legions of others—is way too much work and actually denigrates an overall quality of life. I took a long hiatus from writing this blog, because doing so makes me feel vulnerable to crazy and pathetic people that “live” through their existence on the internet, rather than actually existing in “real” life. 

One of many changes.

About a year ago, my father gave me a stack of coupons for Harbor Freight. I had never heard of the store, but apparently, their schtick is giving away merchandise. Each week, the store publishes about a dozen coupons that entice potential customers to come in to the store and grab freebies. Curiously, I took the bait. Standing in a line of about 20 customers, all with the same free merchandise in hand (a multimeter, a small Philips screwdriver set, a package of 2mil drop cloths and a package of zip ties), bored out of my mind, I began to study the fellow standing in line in front of me. He had on a hat from a local school that had his first name embroidered across the side of it.

√ First name 

√ University student or grad, and university name

√ Approximate hight and weight 

He waited patiently, free products in hand, and wallet in the other. His wallet was open, so I could see both his license and Visa debit card.

√ Last name

√ Middle name

√ Home address

√ Bank (and if he had a Visa debit, that meant that his account is likely a checking account at that bank.)

√ Visa card number

√ License Number (and NYS License restriction B, which means that he is a contact lens wearer, because he wasn’t wearing glasses at the time.)

√ Date of Birth

He approached the counter, and the kindly older cashier (who was clearly having some difficulty with the archaic computer) asked him to type his phone number into the keypad on the credit card terminal.

√ Phone Number

That didn’t work, so the cashier asked him his e-mail address.

√ e-mail address

After the cashier entered all of his merchandise, the fellow removed the Visa debit card from his wallet, and swiped it. He chose to pay as debit (as opposed to credit) and I watched him put in his PIN number. I also noticed the work ID card that was in his wallet underneath his Visa debit card.

√ Workplace

√ Occupation

√ PIN for his debit card, and likely the same number used for withdrawing cash at the ATM.

That’s a huge amount of information to garner by a casual observation over the course of about 7 minutes. I didn’t look him up online, but a cursory search online will reveal more information like the names of family members, partners, ex-partners, and neighbors, and their ages. Facebook usernames (which are plainly evident in the web address for each and every Facebook profile), and scads of other data are available through a quick Google search (a company that also captures information about what I’m searching for, how frequently, and draws conclusions about me based on my activity… I’ve switched to Duck Duck Go who pledges not to track you). It’s a scary proposition to know that that information is not only bought and sold by companies like Facebook and other “data aggregators” to compile a comprehensive profile of our consumer behaviors, our propensity to make charitable donations, and our personal habits. I’ve said many times on this blog that we are not the users of social media, we are the commodity product that is used by giant corporations to make more and more money at the expense of our privacy. These same corporations have eviscerated our economy, our communities, and are changing the social fabric of our country and the world. Yes, social media provides a means to stay connected, and that’s a great thing… but at what cost? What good is staying connected if the means of doing so makes us lazy, disassociated consumers of the lives of our family and friends rather than active participants in the vivid tapestry of life that surrounds us. Our reliance on social media is translating into a twisted trope: helicopter parenting our own social lives, insulating ourselves from dissent, debate, and dimension, padding ourselves with simplicity, similarity, and safety. Meanwhile, we’re being stalked and used by corporations collecting data about us as they use our behaviors to manipulate us, destroy the commercial fabric of our cities and towns, and fleece us into believing our lives are “easier” as a result.

After some significant reflection, none of this is something that I want to contribute to.

Life is difficult, disorderly, messy, and complex. Simplicity, convenience, and leisure come at a cost. It’s time for me to stop blindly participating, and start actively engaging.

So, moving forward, you’ll notice a few changes to this blog:

Facebook has been iced. No more commenting through Facebook, no more publishing posts to Facebook. If you’re too lazy to check this blog from time to time, then you probably don’t deserve to read what I write.

Amazon links are no more. As Amazon continues to rot our consumer economy from the inside out, I have taken a 6-month hiatus from Amazon, and I’ve never been happier (look for a separate post about this soon.) 

Privacy is key. Feel free to comment. Remember that what you post in comments is available to the world… all the people that like you, and all the people that you don’t. Moving forward, commenting on this blog requires you to sign up for a WordPress account. I find WordPress and Automattic to be a reasonably responsible company. 

So, if you’re in, you’re in, welcome back. Bookmark this site and check back periodically. You can also subscribe by adding your e-mail address to the little “subscribe” box on the left. We won’t use your e-mail (or even look at it) for anything except to send you a copy of the newest post to this blog. You’ll find some thought-provoking writing, and less bullshit, and if that’s too much work, then it’s been nice having you as a reader.

How I Learned to Cut Dovetails By Hand  – Core77

When I was in 6th grade, I took a summer activity workshop that focused on a different skill each day. One of the days was focused on wood shop and I made a simple toolbox that my mom still uses. I enjoyed it. I never tried woodworking in any significant way until I was in architecture school, twenty years later.

During the first week of classes, the shopmaster (who was a very kind and pleasant person) gave us a comprehensive “safety training” which consisted of three days of completely freaking me out about using any  tool… ever. The three day “training” culminated in being forced to use a table saw during which the entire session focused on “kickback.” (Kickback, in case you don’t know is when the grain of the wood gets angry at the teeth of the saw and essentially uses the blade as the force to project the wood with insane force away from the blade.) The most freaky thing about the whole experience was the 2×4 sticking out of the wall behind the table saw as a warning to “pay attention” while you were using the saw.

What I learned from the training was that anytime I needed to use any tool beyond a pen or a T-square, that I should wear a black suit and look confused, and that someone would do the work for me. So, while my colleagues were learning to cut dovetail joints and cast molten metal, I struggled to put together a simple wooden box, paranoid that I’d cut a finger off, or crack my skull open with a flying 2×4.

 

I’ve wanted to be able to hand-cut dovetails for years, and I’m proud to say I now can! I recently took “Hand Tools Skills – Mastering Dovetailing,” a four-session class at Tools for Working Wood in Brooklyn. This is a review of that class.

Source: How I Learned to Cut Dovetails By Hand  – Core77

Fixing a broken iPhone screen.

This past week, my Dad accidentally dropped my Mom’s iPhone on the ground and smashed the screen. My Mom always has a case on her iPhone, so we were all really surprised that the screen was not only shattered, but also had big white lines running from top to bottom.

I hopped over to the Apple Store and picked up a new phone for my Mom, but I wondered… could I repair this one? I searched around the Apple website and found a quote for $129 to repair the screen. After typing in all my information, the “estimated cost” was $399, not $129. Why that was the case, I’m not really sure, because Apple didn’t ask any other information about the phone except for the serial number and my address. After shelling out $800 for a new phone, I decided that another $400 wasn’t worth it.

As an experiment, I stumbled across this tutorial at iFixit. The process looked straightforward if not annoying and tedious, but I decided to order the screen and tools for $54.95 from iFixit.

The broken iPhone was a Space Grey color, but iFixit was out of the black bezeled screen, so I bought a white one instead. The box arrived today, and I was curious to see the tools. I opened the package, and thought… I’m going to try to do this.

And so, I did.

It’s amazing to see inside the iPhone that you carry around each day. So many tiny little components. It’s truly a feat of amazing engineering.

 

Another shot of the inside of the iPhone with iFixit tools at the side.

The process required a pair of magnifying glasses (+1.00) for me, and a bright light (thank you, left overs from architecture school), but within about an hour, I had disassembled the iPhone, and after taking a look around to satisfy my curiosity, re-assembled the phone. It wasn’t tedious, it wasn’t difficult, and shockingly, the phone works… really well. And, best of all, it’s a one-of-a-kind phone. Space grey back and white front with a black Touch ID! Not many of those floating around!

It works!
Like really works!
A custom space grey iPhone SE with a white bezel and black Touch ID! Works as good as the day it was born!

So, thanks to Sam Lionheart and the iFixit team for their great product, great service, and easy to understand tutorials and step-by-step guide. I didn’t ever feel lost or confused. If you’re handy and in need of an iPhone repair, give them a try!

And if anyone needs a custom iPhone SE, let me know! It’s for sale.