Category Archives: Annoyances

The Lesser Evil of Selfie Sticks

I’ve known about portrait distance for a while, and often thought that was a downside of using fixed-lens phone cameras for portraits. To frame someone’s face in a phone you have to either zoom (losing detail) or hold it close enough that the viewing angles distort the face. I prefer using my phone for long shots and using a camera with an optical zoom for portraits.

Unexpected consequence: Selfies are now a major source of young people’s self-image…which is distorted, leading them to feel worse about themselves and even seek out plastic surgery.

The researchers looked specifically at selfies taken from 12 inches away — a common distance for someone snapping a selfie without the assistance of a selfie stick. In a selfie taken from that distance, men’s noses appear 30 percent wider and women’s noses appear 29 percent wider than they actually are.

I think we can all agree that selfie sticks are a lesser evil than unnecessary cosmetic surgery!

Update: From the Facebook comments, here’s a link to a series of portraits taken at distances ranging from 2 meters down to 20 cm, demonstrating how different your face looks at each distance.

Searching Your Twitter History: Case of the Missing Context

One of the problems with Twitter’s search capability is that the results are isolated.

I’ve said before that one of the keys to making a social account feel like I own it is that I can find things in it if I want to go back later. You can search your old Twitter posts by adding your username to the query in the regular search form, but it only shows you the matching results, not other posts that might be connected.

If you click on it you can get an actual conversation thread…but only those tweets that are connected as replies, so if you didn’t thread a tweetstorm properly, or if you had a big sprawling conversation with lots of different people, sometimes replying and sometimes posting something new…you can’t see the rest of it.

Worse, if you go back far enough, Twitter doesn’t even have threading. You might see “@friend Inconceivable!” but have no idea what they were saying that you replied to. (And that doesn’t even get into old shortlink and image providers that have shut down, removing content from your post as well.)

I have similar issues with Instagram, which basically has no real search, only hashtag-based timelines to go along with the account-based timelines. In both cases, when you get to a specific post, it’s a dead end. You can’t see anything around it without going back to the author’s profile, even if that author is you. Though depending on how you clicked on the Instagram link, you might get back/forward links.

(This is true for Mastodon as well, but to be fair, Mastodon is still building its search capabilities.)

WordPress, on the other hand, not only usually has next/previous links on each post, but you can view archives by category, tag, month and (for some permalink structures) day. When you find a post, you can see what’s around it. You can get more in the admin interface, but even as a visitor, you can still get the context.

Ordering Photo Prints: Not Quite Interoperable

On the plus side: I was able to order photo prints while hundreds of miles from home on a business trip, and my wife was able to pick them up from the store the next day, which is pretty cool.

On the minus side: It was a heck of a lot harder than it should be by now.

  1. I went through Google Photos on my tablet and selected a bunch of photos by adding them to an album.
  2. I tried to upload them to the CVS photo website, but Chrome can’t upload photos from a Google Photos Album. This is on Google.
  3. I tried to install the CVS app, but it wasn’t compatible with my tablet. Not sure who to blame for this one.
  4. I installed the CVS app on my phone and tried to upload the photos from there, only to find that it had fewer options for uploading than the website.
  5. I got onto a laptop, downloaded a ZIP of the entire album, and uploaded it to the CVS website…only to discover during checkout that CVS is no longer offering same-day pickup at any locations near home — even though they’re plugging it all over the website and through the photo ordering process. So basically they’re lying about it. (Or maybe all the photo printers in a 10-mile radius broke down simultaneously. I mean, it could happen.)
  6. I finally set up an account with Walgreen’s, noticed their website clearly uses the same software as CVS’s, but tried anyway. I uploaded the photos, placed the order, selected a local store, and even put in my wife’s name as an authorized person who wasn’t me to come pick them up. Available the next morning. Done. Took maybe 5 minutes.

But it was a freaking pain to get to that point.

The National Jamboree is NOT Your Personal Political Rally

I’m an Eagle Scout, and I find myself once again infuriated with the Boy Scouts of America.

There is a long history of Presidents speaking at the National Jamboree, going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. They came to inspire leaders of the future. They didn’t come to self-promote, or take cheap shots at political rivals, or encourage the Scouts to boo a former President and First Lady. And they certainly didn’t brag about how they were going to take away many of those kids’ access to healthcare. (Better brush up on that First Aid merit badge!)

Trustworthy? Loyal? Helpful? Friendly? Courteous? Kind? Obedient? Cheerful? Thrifty? Brave? Clean? Reverent? (Well, 1 out of 12…)

If you’re going to speak at an organization that’s supposedly about building character, you ought to show some.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Trump made it all about himself and treated it like a campaign rally. That’s what he does. I’m angry, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m disappointed by the BSA, and I’m especially disappointed by those scouts in the audience who jeered and cheered along with the partisan BS. They should be better than this. The whole point of the organization, in theory, is to be better than this.

But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the BSA, either. While it depends on the individual troop, at the county and national levels the organization has been fighting for the “right” to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation for years. They finally realized maybe it wasn’t a good idea to kick out gay scouts, but they’re still digging in their heels on religion.

So much for helping other people at all times.

I miss my Galaxy S4

I recently dug out my old Samsung Galaxy S4 for some Android testing. I replaced it with a Nexus 5x last fall, and for the most part I love the newer phone, but there are a few things that I really miss about the S4.

  • The size is perfect. It’s literally as big as it can get and still be comfortable to use one-handed and fit in my pants pocket. The Nexus 5X is barely 1/8″ wider and 3/8″ taller, but it’s just enough that I can’t quite reach the whole screen with my thumb. I have to loosen my grip until it feels like I’m going to drop it, which means I’m extra motivated to keep it in the case, which makes it even bigger…
  • The Galaxy S4 display is polarized diagonally, so I can use it in landscape mode while wearing sunglasses. This is helpful for things like daytime GPS navigation. The Nexus 5X is not.
  • The volume buttons are positioned out of the way of the middle, making it easy to clip on a dashboard mount.

Those are three things that the Galaxy S4 does better (for me, anyway) than the Nexus 5X. They’re all form factor. Of course since giant smartphones are all the rage these days, good luck finding another one that’s just the right size for my hand.

Otherwise, I love the Nexus 5X’s display, the up-to-date Android OS without Samsung’s modifications (and knowing I’ll actually get security updates), the camera, the convenience of the fingerprint sensor, the speed, and just about everything else about it.

I wouldn’t go back. I considered setting up the S4 as a dedicated GPS until I realized that it wouldn’t be able to get traffic data without a SIM card. (Maps can store the actual maps offline now, and GPS works independently of cell service.)

But if Google releases their next Nexus device in a form factor just 3/8″ shorter, I’ll be tempted to upgrade early.