Switching apps from Drafts to Edit

I have had a mixed relationship with Drafts ever since its initial release. I did fall for its simpler side, yet I struggled to find a lasting personal use case for its more advanced features.

I could never fully commit to Drafts as a hub for everything on my iPhone and I never really bought into its way of iOS automation. Instead, I find myself defaulting to the apps that Drafts aims to obviate: I do my note taking in the Notes app, task management in Things, writing in iA Writer, calendaring with the iOS calendar, messaging in messaging apps and email in Mail.

I enjoy well-designed apps. Why would I replace them with the hackiness of X-callback-URLs?

The recently released Drafts 5 didn’t lure me back in.

However, the one thing I found dearly missing without Drafts is the simplicity of a blank screen and a blinking cursor. It’s the equivalent of an omnipresent scrap of paper and a pen that’s ready when you need to jot anything down.1

I find myself in situations like these all the time:

  • I want to write down a rough first draft of a message which is still formulating in some windings of my brain and is therefore “too risky” to compose in a messaging app where there is even the slightest chance of a premature press of the send button.

  • I have a sudden thought which might evolve into a task or something bigger down the line but the thought still needs some “intellectual brewing time” until I know what to do with it.

  • I need to give written expression to some confused synaptic activity in my brain in order to get it straightened out.

  • I need to use a snippet of text now or shortly thereafter but I don’t need to store it.

  • I need a visually clean interface to just write something without distraction.

I may have found a solution to these and other situations with a new app called Edit by K.Q. Dreger. I preordered it a short while ago and it recently became available for download. Meanwhile, it has found its spot in my iPhone’s dock.

Edit is a super fast blank sheet of “paper” with a cursor. It has no storage other than the sheet itself. There is a button for a dark mode, a copy-all button, a word/character counter and a button to invoke the share sheet. That’s it.

I enjoy the writing in Edit, even though I find the characters just a tiny bit too large.2 Sharing through the share sheet comes much more natural to me than it does through Drafts’s actions.

While Drafts design struggles with the overhead of its complexity, Edits blends in with simplicity and I tend to prefer simpler solutions.

  1. A real notebook and a real pen may sound like a solution here but paper tends to get messy with me too quickly. 

  2. They irritatingly seem to be bigger than the characters on the iOS keyboard or aren’t they? 

One of my favorite features in macOS Mojave is the tracking prevention in Safari from like and share buttons. I would love to see these ugly and nefarious things go. The web would be much better for it.

Michael Pollan on DMT

Sam Harris had Michael Pollan on his podcast to talk about psychedelic drugs and their implications for consciousness and medical treatments. The part that stuck out to me the most, however, was about Pollan’s own “menu” which starts at about 1:02:50 into the podcast.

Among the drugs Pollan purposefully experimented with was 5-MeO-DMT (5-​methoxy-​N,N-​dimethyltryptamine), the experiences of which he describes as follows:

You take one puff of this […] and before you exhale, you have been shot into outer space. […] Not only is your sense of self obliterated, but also the sense of time is obliterated and the sense of space is obliterated. […]

It was truly terrifying. It was this Category 5 mental storm in my head, but it wasn’t in my head because there was no barrier between what was going on in my brain and the entire universe. […]

It was very hard to describe. […]

I wanna give you two metaphors: […] One was being in the midst of a thermonuclear blast […] like (in) one of those houses that they would erect on Bikini Atoll before they blew them up in the early nuclear tests. The other was to go back to before the Big Bang. You remember what that was like? Well, no, actually we don’t, but we know there was no matter, there was no time. […] It was a little like that.

Fortunately, Pollan’s trip from 5-MeO-DMT lasted only shortly. He says he wouldn’t do it again but that he learned something from the experience:

I had the most profound feeling of gratitude I have ever had. […] I was feeling gratitude for the very fact of the existence of anything, that there was something rather than nothing and that suddenly became so important and worth being thankful for.

If you want to be remembered what a thermonuclear blast looks like, check out this theatrical footage from Castle Bravo, the biggest hydrogen bomb test in US history.

5-MeO-DMT is “harvested” from the skin secretions of the Sonoran desert toad (Bufo alvarius). From a 1994 paper on the toad and its venom:

The authors demonstrate that the venom of B. alvarius, although known to be toxic when consumed orally, may be safely smoked and is powerfully psychoactive by that route of administration.

Two questions:

  1. Who came up with the idea of smoking the venom of a desert toad?

  2. Weighing the pros and cons of a “profound feeling of gratitude” versus a mixture of a nuclear sunset at Castle Bravo beach and the moment before the Big Bang - who would go for the 5-MeO-DMT trip?

Anti-ball-crushing pants

I recently bought a pair of Lululemon’s ABC pants1 (in which “ABC” stands for “anti-ball-crushing” which is definitely true). They are the most comfortable pants I ever owned which is why I bought another pair and a pair of ABC shorts, as well.

They are not cheap but with two pairs you might just not need any other pants for almost any regular occasion. With their kind of stretchiness, I suppose they should fit almost anybody reasonably well if not perfectly. As I mentioned “stretchiness”, with these you sure as hell won’t look like a tourist wearing a pair of trekking pants. They hit a nice middle ground in between casualness and office attire.

Almost everything about the ABC pants on the internet is positive. I like this athlete-focused review by Coach Everett.

Highly recommended.

  1. I bought the Commission model which is a slimmer variant of the regular ABC with more of a taper towards the ankle. 

My American friends: who’s quitting Instapaper this week?

Goat Yoga: A palatable end to this week's news

That weird coin produced by the White House for the now-canceled Korean summit? The read-later-service Instapaper, too bound up in shady data practices as to timely comply with the new GDPR rules, shutting down its service in Europe? Wyoming’s maddening decision to open hunting season for Grizzly bears?

After a barrage of garbage news hit my inbox this Friday, I thought the weekend might start on a bad note. Fortunately, I found my comfort in this headline:

Tassi the Goat Gives Birth to Goat Twins During Goat Yoga

If you have been living under a rock, goat yoga is a thing:

It’s hard to be sad and depressed when there’s baby goats jumping on you.

Maybe it’s time I signed up for a class.

Chris Masterjohn on Robb Wolf's podcast

Chris Masterjohn was interviewed by Robb Wolf on The Paleo Solution Podcast, recently.

I am a fan of Chris’s work, especially his in-depth dives into micronutrients and nutritional status.1 However, I am less of a fan of his Vaynerchukian approach to media. He now has several audio and video formats and pushes himself as a brand (or “a platform”) which feels awkward and artificial. It reminds me of the untrustworthy SEO rush of “online entrepreneurs” from a couple of years ago which is still popular among otherwise respectable nutrition and fitness bloggers. I increasingly tend to stay away from that.

IMO, more writing, less vlogging, Chris.

  1. His “cheat sheet” on nutrition has over seventy pages. 

Bracing for another wave of Tesla criticism

There is no shortage of criticism of Tesla Motors coming from traditional car makers. The commentary usually goes something like this: The company isn’t viable, it’s cars are of questionable quality and not as green as you may think and you should place your trust elsewhere.

One can somewhat understand the grudge traditional car makers hold against Tesla, as they have been stirred up by Tesla’s popularity and pushed into altering their business models, including billion-dollar investments in the development of electric vehicles - a risky bet and something they probably wouldn’t have done on their own merits.1

I expect the recent discussion about Tesla’s Model 3 to go down a similar route: The company isn’t able to sell the Model 3 at the catchy entry-level price of 35,000k. Those who preordered a Model 3 under that premise will have to wait significantly longer while those that will afford an upgrade (which can amount to more than 85,000k) will be served first.

While traditional carmakers struggle with overcapacity - basically, producing cars in excess - Tesla struggles to live up to demand. The actual fulfillments of Tesla are minuscule when compared to the turnovers of traditional car makers but, apparently, the bulk of the demand goes toward Tesla’s higher-end cars.

Tesla is without doubt under immense market pressures but customer demand for higher priced options - especially if these options significantly bump up the margins - sounds like a good problem to have. It reminds me of the situation of the iPhone where the iPhone X is the most sought-after iPhone of all.

  1. I doubt German car makers would have given electric cars reasonable thought if it weren’t for a) Tesla and b) China’s push towards electric mobility. They would have been happy selling dirty Diesels and Ottos for a long time. 

The pains of canceling an Adobe subscription

Patrick La Roque, whose photography I adore, has canceled his Adobe subscription. Not without hassle, though. His post on the cancellation process including a chat with “customer support” shows how the company is wired.

I remember I had to pay an extra fee when I wanted to cancel my subscription early a while ago. Also, their software, especially their Adobe CC menu bar application, ran like malware on my Mac. Intrusively and sluggishly.

Adobe is one of those companies that have a backseat in the current discussion about privacy and bad app behavior but they should deserve no less scrutiny than the big fish like Facebook and Google.

Smoking kills, even after the cigarettes are long gone

It’s called thirdhand smoking and it comes from the residue that smoke leaves behind on clothes, walls, floors, even the hair and skin of first- and secondhand smokers. The chemicals in these residues (about 250) potentially still maintain their harmfulness for a long time, up to decades, and we might be exposed to them a lot more than we think.

Not shaking hands with you, smoker.

(Use the Japanese bow ojigi - お辞儀 - instead.)1

  1. Do not perform a saikeirei - 最敬礼 - which is a kneeling bow with the forehead touching the floor. That’s where the chemicals reside, remember? 

New swipe actions in Android P: Instead of a home button, there is a small indicator at the bottom of screen from where to swipe up to get to your app overview.

Hm, where have I seen this before?

True facts about carnivorous plants

A new hilarious True Facts video is up and it’s about flesh (and other stuff) eating plants.

„Bob? Bob? Seriously?“

I love that Ze Frank is back at it again after a - what? - four year hiatus? After his last video about the frogfish, I had to binge-watch all the old videos again.

Incredible elite dog athletes

Recently, I have realized again how we all live in our own media consumption bubbles when I stumbled upon a few YouTube channels about elite-level dog competitions. How could I not have known about this earlier? Anyway, I immediately plunged myself into this unknown-to-me YouTube bubble and watched many hours of unbelievable canine athleticism. If you’ve got some spare time this weekend, check out the videos below.

My favorites from this year’s Cruft are the Fly Ball Finals and the Agility Finals.

Also pretty incredible are Torch, an elite-level frisbee dog and these two runners at an American 30 Weave Up & Back competition.

Apparently, the food at NATO is really bad

A headlining report from Politico:

For years, the military alliance has been powered by salads, starters, main plates and desserts whose only common feature often seems to be the color beige. […]

The salad bar featured beige couscous salad; beige pasta salad; beige potato salad; beige coleslaw and beige bean salad. […]

Asked about the pizza, an Italian official took a step back in horror. “No, no, no,” she said. “This is not edible.” […]

“The quality of meat in the goulash is very, very poor!” read one entry with “poor” underlined three times. In parentheses, the critic added, “For human consumption, anyway.” […]

“I am fully aware that the salad bar is just a name for yesterday’s or the day before yesterday’s leftovers. It’s a violation of the chemical weapons ban […] and also human rights.”

New Boosted Boards

The company behind the orange-wheeled OG electric skateboard has announced some new additions to their line-up, including a more or less penny-board-sized version.

I love my second generation Boosted Dual+. It’s hardly a toy for me. I use it as a ‘serious’ everyday commuter. Although my commute isn’t the longest and I don’t use the board on wet roads, I have logged more than 500 miles on it since I got it last summer.

I haven’t regretted a single penny I spent on the board. If you can use the board for your commute and are in need of some more convincing, I’d say go for it. You will be happy with it.

If you can afford it, go for the new Stealth. After only a few days in I have switched to the fastest riding mode on my Dual+ and haven’t switched back ever since. The full range of velocity plus the extended range battery make a big difference.

A green-haired turtle that can breath through its genitals

The Mary River Turtle is an ancient Australian species dating back more than 40 million years ago that has quite a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s one of the fastest swimmers reaching top speeds of almost 46 mph (75 km/h) and apparently likes green toupees:

It has special organs in its cloaca that allow it to draw oxygen from the water. It can stay underwater for up to three days.

Unfortunately, this awesome turtle is an endangered species alongside many more, fancy reptiles on a list published by the EDGE of Existence programme.

I instantly fell in love with a lot of other reptiles on the EDGE list like the Pig-nosed Turtle, the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle, and the Madagascar Blind Snake.

Sadly, the conservation attention to many of these animals is carelessly low.

★ No Brita-filtered water for my coffee, please.

I’ve become a coffee snob.

Even though I can’t handle the caffeine all too well (I am a slow metabolizer and it tends to mess with my sleep architecture), I have fallen for the whole ritual of hand-grinding, scale-measuring, target-heating, aero-pressing and so on.

It does matter, folks.

I’m also a water snob. Water is the only thing I drink (besides the circa two cups of coffee a day and maybe a cup of tea about twice a week). I stay off all drinks that contain calories, flavors, sugars, and alcohol. On average, I drink about five times as much water as I drink coffee per day.

Coffee is mostly water. 99% to be precise.

So, being a snob in both the water and the coffee domain, which water to use for a good brew?

Last year, I took a home brewing course at Seniman Coffee in Ubud, Bali. That place is fantastic and so was the course. If you travel to Bali and care about your coffee, Seniman Coffee Studio is a must-visit.

One snippet of information that I took home from the course was that you shouldn’t use filtered water for your brew.

Meanwhile, tabletop water filters are a big thing in Europe and the US and there may be benefits of using filtered tap water for the bulk of your daily consumption. I have a filter, too, and I have moved to drinking mostly filtered and unfiltered tap water these days to save on my use of plastic bottles.

Leaving issues like microplastics in water aside, under the presumption that your tap water generally is of high quality - as is mine here in Germany - there is a strong culinary argument to be made to brew your coffee with water straight from the tap.

Brita filters and the like use a combination filtration with activated carbon and ion exchangers which extract mostly calcium and magnesium from the tap water (in exchange for sodium ions). They “soften” your water. A certain amount of hardness, however, is required for your water to extract coffee flavors and achieve a good brew.

Calcium and magnesium cations significantly determine the yield of flavor extraction your brewing water will achieve.

There is real science behind the question.

The paper states:

We […] emphasize the surprising result that Na+ binds weakly to most neutral compounds in coffee beans, suggesting that sodium rich water is of no benefit to the consumer, besides removing the source of scale build up. Thus, if the motivation is to extract the most coffee constituents […], then Mg2+-rich water is most suitable. If the motivation is to achieve the best balance of flavors for a given lighter roast coffee, then both Ca2+ and Mg2+ do a comparable job, with Mg2+ having the added feature of preventing scale formation.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America provides standards on the optimal water composition for great coffee.

According to the SCAA, you should aim for a calcium hardness of 17-85 mg/l and a pH between 6.5-7.5 while sodium should be at or near 10 mg/l.

My own tap water comes at a calcium concentration of 78 mg/l, a pH of 7,5 and a sodium concentration of 22 mg/dl. (You can get an overview of the composition of your tap water from your local provider or your city council.)

So, while I’m good for calcium and pH, I’m already off for sodium by a two-fold. My water filter would probably further increase the sodium concentration while lowering calcium and magnesium by who knows how much, basically rendering the water poorly suited for extracting flavors from coffee.

Mineral waters on average contain significantly higher cation concentrations than tap water. I prefer the French Contrex mineral water whose source has one of the highest calcium (468 mg/l) and magnesium (74,5 mg/l) concentrations in Europe. With one liter of Contrex, you can get about half of your daily calcium. Who needs dairy, anyway?

That said, mineral water far exceeds the SCAA standards and is too hard for coffee.

Here are the scientists Hendon et al. again:

It should be noted that there is not one particular composition of water that produces consistently flavorsome extractions from all roasted coffee. Rather, there is water that has the most extracting ability (i.e., cation-rich), and the resultant flavor depends on the balance between both the cations in solution and the quantity of bicarbonate present (acting as a buffer). Furthermore, each bean is roasted to taste optimal when brewed with the water it was roasted to.

So, if your tap water is good, just use that for your coffee, don’t use filtered or bottled water and tweak the quality of your brew with the myriad of other variables involved in making a great cup like origin, roast and grind.

One more time, a finger bone rewrites human history

A recent paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution pinpoints Homo sapiens to Arabia by 85,000 years ago. The scientists describe an intermediate phalanx that suggests early humans left Africa about 25,000 years earlier than we thought.

Axios reports:

The finding […] supports the view that rather than migrating out of Africa 60,000 years ago in a single large migration, small groups of early humans may have left the continent earlier and in more complicated patterns than previously thought.

I find it fascinating how a fragment of a finger bone can tell a story like this.

It was also a finger bone fragment that uncovered the hitherto unknown hominid species of the Denisovans in 2010.

Being more like a bathing macaque

These monkeys simply are the best. The hot baths gets their levels of stress hormones down.

Maybe we should all take more hot baths.

No longer in the business of war and the like

From a letter of Google employees to the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai:

We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.

We are heading towards an AI-based future at breakneck speed and our discussion of the moral and societal implications has hardly even started.

Yet, some people are busy working on the James Cameron version of this future.

I can’t help but feel that the decisions on our future and AI don’t belong in the hands of the most “entrepreneurial” types of people.

Walking out from a business that doesn’t conform with moral standards might just be the one way employees of all types can make a difference. The prospect of skilled workers looking for some other thing that’s good and inspiring carries a lot of weight in it.

It’s not cool working for a company that fosters the development of war robots or whose business is built upon bargaining your data off to bad people. It’s on everyone of us to make a decision.

Why would anyone work for a Tobacco company?

If you have all the choice, why not work someplace else?