The Paywalled Garden: iOS is Adware

Steve Streza:

Over the years, Apple has built up a portfolio of services and add-ons that you pay for. Starting with AppleCare extended warranties and iCloud data subscriptions, they expanded to Apple Music a few years ago, only to dramatically ramp up their offerings last year with TV+, News+, Arcade, and Card. Their services business, taken as a whole, is quickly becoming massive; Apple reported $12.7 billion in Q1 2020 alone, nearly a sixth of its already gigantic quarterly revenue.

All that money comes from the wallets of 480 million subscribers, and their goal is to grow that number to 600 million this year. But to do that, Apple has resorted to insidious tactics to get those people: ads. Lots and lots of ads, on devices that you pay for. iOS 13 has an abundance of ads from Apple marketing Apple services, from the moment you set it up and all throughout the experience. These ads cannot be hidden through the iOS content blocker extension system. Some can be dismissed or hidden, but most cannot, and are purposefully designed into core apps like Music and the App Store. There’s a term to describe software that has lots of unremovable ads: adware, which what iOS has sadly become.

It isn’t surprising to me that Apple would agressively advertise these services, but seeing so many ads trying to upsell you things when you’ve already given them $700, $1000, or more for what’s supposed to be a premium phone feels so wrong. Especially the ad for their own branded credit card.

It’s getting bad.

Book review: She Said

★★★★★

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey is a behind-the-scenes look at their reporting of Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long sexual assaults of women and pay-offs.

Like many people, I was aware of the story and some of the actresses involved, but unlike the stories about Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh also chronicled here, didn’t know many of the details and found this to be a thoroughly engaging read. Getting the women’s stories, corroborating evidence such as the non-disclosure settlements, and getting the women to come forward with their names publicly all seems incredibly challenging and not something many journalists would handle as successfully or with as much care as Kantor and Twohey.

Book review: Little Fires Everywhere

★★★★☆

Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere is a novel about the interactions between people of different classes and the similar issues they face in a midwestern American town that touts its progressiveness. Some of the plot twists can be quite easily seen coming, but it’s still a compelling story filled with interesting characters and backstories.

One thing I found noteworthy was that for the first half or so of the novel, I had assumed that Mia and Pearl Warren were Asian due to Mia working in a Chinese restaurant and taking jobs that white women stereotypically don’t do like housekeeping, having a friend who is Chinese, and the book being written by an Asian author, but later when we meet Mia’s parents, it seems like they’re white, just not the typical middle-class family like the Richardsons. In Hulu’s forthcoming television adaptation of the book, the characters are made black, so it’ll be interesting to see if they handle race dynamics as well as the book handles class dynamics.

Book review: The Mastermind by Evan Ratliff

★★★★☆

Evan Ratliff’s The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. is the true story of Paul Le Roux’s criminal empire. Not content with the hundreds of millions of dollars he was making selling prescription drugs online illegally in the United States, he expanded into more and more dangerous and risky ventures, from importing and selling meth from North Korea, weapons from Iran, smuggling drugs, gold, and money through ships, and having anyone who got in his way killed. It’s a riveting story that ends with the US Drug Enforcement Agency arresting him and turning him into an informant to go after the lower-level employees who once did Le Roux’s bidding. As of the book’s publication last year, and as of today, Le Roux has yet to be sentenced for his crimes but is unlikely to receive much more than the current seven years or so he’s already served in custody. He’ll probably go right back to committing crimes as soon as he’s freed.

The Iowa Caucuses Were Supposed to Be Important

Olivia Nuzzi, New York:

The Iowa caucus was supposed to be important. First in the nation, they love to remind us — the first place votes are cast; the contest that might predict the president. But tonight that’s all over, or so it seems right now. If you haven’t heard: We don’t yet know the results of the caucuses, due to some kind of fuckup involving a new app the Iowa Democratic Party decided to use, perhaps, or due to some other human error. Nothing is clear. Earlier, when the delay in reporting was becoming apparent and the first murmurs about What Went Wrong were trickling out, the Iowa Democratic Party held a call with representatives from each campaign to discuss the attempts at what it called “quality control.” It ended with the party hanging up on everyone. Later in the evening, the party held a call with reporters that lasted for less than two minutes. It hung up on the reporters too. “They’re hanging up on everyone,” someone here remarked.

Over their cocktails, people are remarking on how they may never return to this state, how this might be their last experience getting into their rental cars and careening over the ice on I-80 past the jackknifed semi-trucks and sedans overturned on the snowy median. They might never again drive over dirt roads through cornfields to see the candidates address union halls and Fourth of July parades and the State Fair, where they see the Butter Cow and eat corn dogs and pork chops on a stick.

Hopefully, the Iowa Democratic Party’s incompetence is the death knell for the state’s undeserved and outsized influence on national politics and the end of caucuses in general.

Book review: Stephen King's The Shining

★★★★☆

The Shining is a novel I’ve read a number of times over the years and I mostly re-read it now so I can read the sequel, Doctor Sleep, soon. Yes, I know that sequel came out in 2013 and it’s now 2020, but there are a lot of books to get through in this world.

It’s a tense horror novel, but not especially scary. Jack Torrance’s descent into madness is gradually and the backstory makes it easier to be empathetic to him compared to Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in the film adaptation. The hotel is clearly the monster in this story and has so much detailed life compare to most haunted houses in other novels.

The Case Against Stretching

Alex Hutchinson, Outside:

To be honest, writing another “stretching is useless” article feels a little bit like spiking the football. A decade ago, whenever I wrote about evidence suggesting that traditional static stretching doesn’t have any obvious benefits and might even impair performance, I’d get a stream of angry messages upbraiding me for my ignorance. These days, the battle is over. No one is obsessed with touching their toes anymore.

Or so I thought. But when I saw a new opinion piece in Sports Medicine titled “The Case for Retiring Flexibility as a Major Component of Physical Fitness,” I couldn’t resist giving it a look. And one of the stats in the article caught my eye. According to a 2016 study of 605 personal trainers in the U.S.—virtually all of whom had certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association—80 percent of them still prescribed traditional static stretching to their clients. The battle’s not over after all.

I’ve also known for years that static stretching does nothing to improve my performance, yet I still do it for a minute or so before many of my runs. It’s weird how some things stay so ingrained with people.

Running Log for January

Miles ran this month: 194.4

Miles ran year to date: 194.4

Mileage goal for the year: 2500.0

I had hoped to run at least two hundred miles this month and was on pace to do so, but it rained for the entirety of the thirty-first day of this month and so I decided to take another rest day instead. I did just read a book about the importance of recovery, after all.

I’m trying to make total mileage less important to me than it’s been in past years and instead focus more on getting faster, but I know running more miles slower does help with that, so I’m still going to try to run a little bit more than the 2222.5 miles I ran in 2019 or the 2436.8 miles in 2018. This is a smaller jump than the ones I made between the years 2015 and 2017 when I first started running.

Of the twenty four times I ran this month, I’d classify two of them as speed workouts, five as fast/tempo runs, and the rest as easy runs. One of those east runs was over sixteen miles.

I Am 35 and Running Faster Than I Ever Thought Possible

Lindsay Crouse, writing in the New York Times:

In early December, I ran a marathon faster than I had ever dreamed. I had never thought an athletic breakthrough like that would be possible, especially not in my 30s.

Until I looked around. Something extraordinary is unfolding for American female distance runners, and it’s making all of us better. Well into our 30s and 40s, we are performing at explosively high levels, levels that used to be unimaginable. The fastest among us have shattered barriers: In 2017, Shalane Flanagan, at 36, became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in four decades. The following year, Des Linden, at 34, won the Boston Marathon, the first American woman to do so since 1985.

That success had a quiet and powerful ripple effect, from Olympians and professional runners down to hundreds of amateurs like me.

The most dramatic example is the United States Olympic marathon team trials, which will begin on Feb. 29 in Atlanta. The trials, where the fastest Americans race for the opportunity to be part of the Olympic team, are open to anyone, but to qualify, women have to run a marathon in under 2 hours and 45 minutes. It’s outrageously hard. Only 198 qualified in 2016. This year, the number of women qualifying skyrocketed to 511. The number of men has increased only slightly, from 211 to 260.

The great thing about long-distance running compared to other sports is that you can keep improving your performance for many more years.

Books I read in January

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow ★★★☆☆

I read most of this biography in November and December, but didn’t finish it until January 1st. It’s a big book at over 800 pages, excluding footnotes. There’s plenty of interesting facts and stories about George Washington that make this book worth reading, but Chernow tends to fixate on a few things in his biographies and it can get repetitive and dry at times. In this case, there’s a lot about his dental problems, possible affairs with married women, and supposed moral beliefs against slavery that ring hollow (In Grant, which I read last year, Chernow similarly goes on and on about whether or not Grant had a drinking problem).

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★☆

I quite enjoy reading oral histories of real bands and music scenes, like Meet Me in the Bathroom and Please Kill Me. Daisy Jones & The Six is an oral history of a fictional band and is equally enjoyable and enjoable as those books.

Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber ★★★★★

A great examination of why so many jobs are seemingly meaningless and of no benefit to anyone, even in the private sector where capitalism would presumably discourage such jobs.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell ★★☆☆☆

I first read this book last summer and didn’t find it to be very worthwhile. I wanted to give it another chance and re-read it after seeing it on a few “best of 2019” lists, but my opinion remains the same. People spend too much time on social media platforms, myself included, and we should spend less, but this is >200 pages of scattered-shot thoughts with little coherency and doesn’t suggest much useful except to spend more time outdoors without your phone.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood ★★★★☆

I’ve read and loved many of Atwood’s novels, but somehow have only just read this one until now. Based on real events, the novel concerns a servant woman convicted of killing her employer and his mistress in 1840s Canada. While her male conspirator is executed for his role in the murders, Grace Marks claims to have no memory of the event and is sentenced to life imprisonment. It’s an interesting look at mental health, the reliability of witness testimony, and the treatment of women, as Atwood does better than anyone else.

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie Aschwanden ★★★★★

Recovery has become a major industry and Aschwanden looks into the science of whether or not ice baths, nutritional supplements, gadgets and other things marketed to athletes actually do anything to help them recover quicker and improve their performance. Turns out, most of these products don’t help and you should focus on getting adequate sleep, eat enough food, and take the occasional rest day.