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The notch, price, the storage; I’ll wait

I split my time between a Pixel and an iPhone so I can keep tabs on both the Android and iOS ecosystems. My current iPhone is the 7 Plus, and I’ve been upgrading every 2 years to keep current. But I think this time I’m going to wait at least another year before upgrading.
Part of my decision is due to the notch. I hate notches on phones with a fiery passion. They’re ugly as hell, and they represent a triumph of marketing over design. You couldn’t actually make the display really go edge-to-edge, but you wanted to say you could, so you decided to stick an unsightly blob at the edge of the display and claim victory. I’ve been deeply disappointed that most of the Android ecosystem followed suit, and I’m really glad that Samsung has (so far) resisted.
Part of my decision is also due to the price. I paid $950 after tax for my 128GB 7 Plus 2 years ago, but now to get an XS with at least as much storage I’d be looking at roughly $1250 after tax. Technological advancements are wonderful, but $300 represents quite the price hike.
And there’s the storage tiers. Apple is implicitly admitting that 64GB at the entry level is insufficient, since the next storage tier is 256GB. For my use, 64GB isn’t quite enough, but 256GB is way more than I need. If the entry model were 128GB I’d only be looking at a roughly $100 increase and I’d be a bit more tempted. But 64GB? No thanks.
Lastly, my 7 Plus still works great, and the XS (seriously Apple, you wanted to one-up Microsoft’s WinCE name by going with Excess?) doesn’t offer anything that’s enough of a step function differentiator (for me) that I really feel the need to upgrade.
So I’ll wait, and hope that technological improvements are sufficient for Apple to do away with the notch next year.

Apple’s photo books

We’ve used Apple’s photo printing service to create books for our vacations for years; they’ve been a way to both preserve our memories in a more concrete form (digital photos have a lot of advantages, but they’re not really great for pulling out and reminiscing over) and share photos with my parents. So I was sad to hear that Apple is doing away with its own service and instead supporting extensions for 3rd parties. Yes, in theory this approach will open up more choices for creating books. But Apple was a known quantity (with known quality); I didn’t have to worry about how the photo books will turn out.

Since the end date is the end of this month I created one last book for our July Alaska trip. I might use the photos from our Kings Canyon trip to test out an alternative; sadly it’s unlikely the available alternatives will offer free trials…

Kings Canyon National Park

For Labor Day weekend we visited Kings Canyon National Park, staying at the Cedar Grove Lodge. For Columbus Day weekend last year we visited Sequoia National Park, and during that trip we visited the Grant Grove near the entrance to the park. But we wanted to see more of Kings Canyon, so we arranged a follow on trip this year. And although the John Muir Lodge in Grant Grove Village is supposed to be nice, we opted to stay in the Cedar Grove Lodge in Cedar Grove Village. The latter is roughly 46 miles from the former, so you get a lot deeper into the wilderness. It was definitely a good choice; staying in Cedar Grove you’re actually in the Canyon, and there are a number of great hiking trails you can just walk to from the Village.

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On our first day we hiked from the Roaring River Falls along the River Trail to Zumwalt Meadow, where we walked the loop around the meadow and then headed back to the falls. We did the hike in the evening, and the setting sun made the lighting on the surrounding mountains particularly dramatic.

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On the second day we hike up the canyon wall on the Hotel Creek Trail to the Cedar Grove Overlook, where we got a great view into the canyon. There were surprisingly few people on the trail, despite the number of people in the park. We had the Overlook to ourselves for lunch, and in total we passed maybe 16 other people on the trail. It was a particularly toasty hike; the high hit around 86, and there wasn’t a lot of shade on the hike. We were glad we got an early start for it, hitting the trail around 9:30.

Now that we’ve visited both Sequoia and Kings Canyon, I’m not sure which I like more. They’re actually very different parks: Sequoia is all about the giant Sequoia groves (obviously) and hiking in the woods, while Kings Canyon is drier and is more about hiking through the canyon and through chaparral. I’ll confess that I prefer Yosemite over both, but each of the two has their own charms that makes them both worth visiting.

It should get colder now, right?

Growing up in upstate New York, school typically started right after Labor Day. And right around that time was when it started to feel like fall: the weather started to cool, the days started to get noticeably shorter, and the leaves would start changing color. Many years later, I still associate the start of school with cooler weather.

Our daughter started school again this week; schools in the Bay Area typically start up again in mid-August. And despite the fact that I’ve had a decade of experience with her attending school here, I still find myself expecting cooler weather. I should be able to break out the sweaters, right? But no; thanks to a combination of being 2 weeks earlier than my childhood memories and California weather, there are 70s in the forecast for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, the current forecast for my parents (they still live in upstate NY) is 92 tomorrow. Thanks to climate change, associating the start of school with cooler weather may no longer be a thing.

Less Minimalist Running

Back in June I decided to try running without headphones to see how it felt. Overall I like it; I pay more attention to how I’m running and what my body is saying, and I can hear my surroundings (which is nice when I’m on those parts of the Stevens Creek Trail away from traffic). But much of my body is saying seems to be “why not take it a little easier?”; I’ve lost around 15-20 seconds per mile in the last couple of months. So perhaps a little less listening is required.

IOver the next few weeks I’m going to experiment with a mix; a run with headphones, a run without headphones (since I do like it), and I’m also trying out running intervals one day a week (with headphones, because running intervals on a track is, let’s face it, rather boring). I tried out the first interval set today, and it ended up being faster than I expected. We’ll see if it helps recover some of the time I’ve lost over the last couple of months on my regular route.

Android Pie statue unveiling

This week Google unveiled the Android statue for Pie. It was my first statue unveiling as a Googler, so I figured I’d actually catch it in person (in future years I can act blase and cynical, but c’mon: if you’re working on Android you’ve got to catch at least one, right?) It was both fun and a bit underwhelming; there were a fair number of people, so as a result you couldn’t really see that much.
I found the design of the statue interesting, though. One of the things that’s surprised me at Google is how many tourists swing by and take photos with the latest Android statue. Seriously, this is what want to do on your vacation? Take pictures at a company? Granted, there aren’t many tourist attractions in Silicon Valley, but wouldn’t you rather go up to San Francisco?

Anyway, the statues have arguably gotten progessively more amenable to pictures: they’ve gotten smaller, and they increasingly accomodate groups of people. The Pie status is yet another step in that direction: I’ve already seen people sitting on the pie pieces to the left and right of the statue, which balances the height of the statue and the height of the people nicely, when taking photos. And of course the status is positioned so that pictures are likely to catch the Google logo on building 43 behind it. It’ll be interesting to see if and how the trend continues for the statue for Q.

Google Seattle

Last week I headed up to Google’s Seattle (or, more specifically, Fremont) offices for a workshop. I visited Google NYC earlier this week, but this was my first visit to (some of) the Seattle offices. They’ve got a nice location: right across the Fremont bridge on the west side, and some of the buildings are right on the ship canal. In fact, the folks we’re working with have views right out onto the canal, and I’m jealous. My desk has a lovely view of absolutely nothing (although I do appreciate that California’s weather allows me to spend part of each day working outside).

It was the first time I’d had to visit Seattle in awhile (the last time I spent any significant time there was in the early 2000s, when I split my time between Pittsburgh and Seattle when finishing my PhD). South Lake Union has almost completely transformed; on a future visit I’d like to spend more time wandering around that area. And the new(-ish) light rail makes it a lot easier to get to and from the airport. But Lake Union, Fremont, and Wallingford (where I stayed) didn’t feel drastically different. And the dynamic lighting conditions still allow you to appreciate the scenery in different ways throughout the day. I do like the fact that the Bay Area’s consistent weather allows me to bike to work every day for much of the year, but sometimes the relentlessly blue skies and sun do feel a little… oppressive. I know, cry me a river.

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