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Libations With Linda, Episode 2: Rachel – Gay Marriage In The Church

The podcast has made it to episode number two!

In this episode I speak with Rachel about same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church where she can speak from personal experience. Along the way we enjoy some Stash Chai Spice Black Tea.

On a technical note, while the audio quality is a bit better in this episode the need for better lighting is obvious. Apologies for the quite noticeable video noise. Hopefully some better lighting can be obtained before the next episode.

Here are the links mentioned in the episode:

IOS 10 iBooks Woes

There is a lot to like abou the iOS 10 update. The new maps layout is better and one can finally set the routing to avoid tolls. But, I opened the book I was reading in iBooks on my iPad and instead of the normal two-column layout in landscape orientation I get one giant column.

I don’t recall there being a setting for this but I go looking for one to no avail. The iOS 10 iBooks app seems to have taken a giant step backwards. Reading a single column in landscape mode is, well, awful and an iPad pro is too large for me to comfortably read in portrait orientation.

Fortunately, I won’t buy books with DRM that locks me in to a single provider so I was able to move my ePub over to MapleRead which is a decent ebook reader. It has a lot of great features that iBooks lacks though it sometimes gets the formatting not quite right. But, in this case it continued to properly do two-column layout in iOS 10 so the problem is an iBooks-specific bug (don’t even try to tell me there is a good reason for it).

So, if like me, you are having issues with iBooks and you have the option to use any non-DRM ebook reader then check out MapleRead. I have the SE edition since I keep my books in Calibre and MapleRead can talk to Calibre directly.

Libations With Linda, Episode 1: Mike – Coming Out

This is the first episode of a podcast I’m putting together. This is somewhat experimental. How often it happens or even if it continues to happen will depend largely on feedback and whether I can find guests on a regular basis.

The idea for the show is to sit down with someone to enjoy a beverage and discuss the topic of the day along with the beverage.

Future episodes will hopefully cover a wide variety of topics so if you have an idea for a topic or want to sit down with me to enjoy a beverage then let me know!

In this first episode I sat down with my nephew Michael and we discussed his coming out. Our libation was Premium White Peony from Teavivre.  This was a great white tea that we both enjoyed. It’s one of the better white teas I’ve had in my limited sampling of white tea so far.

Here are links to the sites mentioned in the podcast:

Apologies for the video noise and background hum. This was a first effort and I need to work a bit on the videography end of things still.

HB1414 – Marshall’s Anti-Gay Attacks Continue

Delegate Bob Marshall, the notoriously anti-gay legislator from Manassas has apparently recovered from his apoplectic fit he threw when the court struck down his beloved anti-marriage equality amendment. For the 2015 session he has introduced HB1414. This little piece of work seeks to exempt state employees or officials from having to help gay citizens.

Here’s the text:

Provides that a person shall not be required to perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action or refrain from performing, assisting, consenting to, or participating in any action as a condition of obtaining or renewing a government-issued license, registration, or certificate where such condition would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior.

He has the gall to call it a “conscience clause”. The irony is that the judge who struck down his anti-marriage amendment cited an animus on the part of the state to its LGBT citizens. I guess animus never goes out of fashion.

Even if there were a legitimate religious reason for having such a law (and the legitimacy of any such reason is up for healthy debate), freedom of religion is only one of the freedoms that we enjoy in America. It is just one among many and must be balanced against the other freedoms we enjoy.

However, even bothering to have that debate gives Marshall more legitimacy than he deserves. This bill is state-sponsored discrimination, pure and simple. To call it anything else is to miss that Marshall is using religion to attack a group of people simply because he doesn’t like them. It is more than past time for Virginia to be done with this nonsense.

I urge everyone in Virginia to write to your state delegates and senators to urge them to vote against this bill.

Fitbit: No Healthkit = No Sale

I’ve been a big fan of fitbit. I had a One and later upgraded to the Force. I’ve put up with fairly lame software and fairly fragile hardware because I got something out of it. However, fitbit’s recent decision to not implement health kit for iOS will end up costing them future sales. Mine to name just one.

Fitbit’s decision was posted here. Elsewhere they basically said they didn’t want to implement something that was only of value to iOS users. I get that companies have limited resources and need to prioritize their efforts, but in this case turning away from iOS users is probably a mistake. I chose to remain with iOS, in part, because of new features like health kit and home kit that will integrate across products. Fitbit’s decision to remain a private information silo is shortsighted and limits their product’s usefulness to me. Enough so that when it is time for me to upgrade, fitbit won’t be on the radar.

Of course, there are other factors. My first fitbit force wouldn’t sync. The replacement worked properly until this week when it decided not to sync. The strap likes to pop open on its own with only the slightest brush against something.

We’ve directly bought five fitbits over the years for ourselves and as gifts and probably been responsible for several other sales.  The newly announced Surge looks interesting but if it doesn’t fully support  the environment I use then I don’t see the point.

Rant: Stop Preventing iPad Zoom

This has gone from an occasional nuisance to an epidemic. Too many websites are deciding they know best and preventing the user from zooming in. While there may be legitimate reasons for some web applications to do this, none of the sites I’ve experienced this on actually are in that category.

To make matters worse, these sites tend to use a small font. While this might make the whole page look nice and balanced it also makes it a major squint zone for those of us with less than perfect vision.

While there are some things the user can do to mitigate the problem, they are workarounds that are quite awkward. Here are the two options I’m aware of:

You can enable zooming in the accessibility section of the Settings app. This lets you zoom into any app with a three finger double tap and zoom out the same way. The problem is that navigation is now awkward and the whole experience isn’t as clean as the normal double tap or unpinch to zoom.

The other option is to get a browser that allows you to specify the user agent. Then your iPad can pretend not to be an iPad and websites won’t prevent your zooming. The problem here is that any app that uses the default browser internally won’t get the benefit.

Ultimately, this is a decision by some designer thinking he knows best and foisting the choice on all of us. I, for one, am tired of the eyestrain headaches this is causing.

Just stop! Apple developed an elegant zooming system and unless you have a very good reason to prevent zooming then leave it alone!

Hypocrisy: Virginia

Recent events in the effort to eliminate Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban have done nothing but reinforce the findings of the judge in the Oklahoma case who found that same-sex marriage bans serve no purpose other than demeaning a class of society.

The roar started when the newly elected Attorney General, Mark Herring, announced that Virginia would switch sides in the case from being a defendant to arguing with the plaintiffs. The usual suspects immediately began criticizing Herring, some going so far as to begin an impeachment attempt.

Their “reason” is that the Attorney General does not get to pick and choose which parts of Virginia’s constitution to defend but must defend them all. On the surface this actually sounds reasonable. But, it’s only part of the story. In addition to defending the Virginia constitution the AG must also defend the US constitution. In this case Herring has decided that Virginia’s constitution is in conflict with the US constitution.

There’s plenty of precedent for this. Most recently, then AG Ken Cuccinelli refused to defend a Virginia law in 2013 saying that he believed it was unconstitutional. Yet there was no outcry. No call for him to be removed from office.

What’s different in this case?

The Gays.

This outcry over Herring’s action and the soon to be wasted time and money by the General Assembly in a unwarranted and unwinnable effort to oust him just go to prove that the judge in the Oklahoma case was correct. The lawmakers like Bob Marshall only care about preventing gay Virginians from having any rights under the law and will go to any lengths to attempt to preserve that status quo.

The arguments hold no more water than they every have but it is certainly a sign of their desperation that the volume has increased to such a level.

A Few Days With Fitbit

Lauri and I picked up a couple of Fitbit One’s to help with our fitness efforts. For those that don’t know, the Fitbit One is a small pedometer that you wear on your body and it tracks all your steps. It also tracks the number of floors climbed. It gives you an estimate of calorie burn throughout the day based on your activity. Combined with food tracking it can help you manage your food consumption relative to your exercise a bit more easily. It can also give you a sense of how active you are and how much you move around. You can also wear it while you sleep to get an estimate of when you are asleep vs. awake.

Over the last few days I’ve worn it continually during the day. It’s so unobtrusive I forget I have it on. It silently monitors my steps though it will show them to me on demand. When I come in range of my computer or run the iOS app it sends over the current information to my fitbit.com account.

It’s been fascinating seeing when I move around. As a programmer I lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle so I’m trying to make sure I get enough exercise. Fitbit “rewards” me with virtual badges for achieving activity levels throughout the day. That’s cute and might help some people but I’m motivated by data. Seeing how much I’ve moved and how many calories I’ve burned really helps motivate me to keep moving.

It seems fairly accurate. The floor counting sometimes misses and sometimes give me credit I don’t deserve but it seems to average out. The number of floors may not match the physical number of flights of stairs climbed since Fitbit defines a “floor” as a 10 foot elevation change. This means that I got credit for 11 “floors” during a walk that had enough small ups and downs to account for 110 feet of elevation gain over the course of the walk. This seemed high to me but matched what an iOS walk tracking app said within a few feet. If it is wrong it at least matched the result from a totally different method so they are consistent.

I’ve used it to track sleep a couple of times. The velcro wrist band you sleep the Fitbit into seemed like it would annoy me but I was totally unaware of it after a few minutes. It’s idea of when I was awake pretty much tracked what I remember though there was one definite false negative where it said I was asleep but I know I was awake. I haven’t fiddled with the sensitivity setting for sleep yet but that might rectify that. According to Fitbit I’m sleeping with 95-100% efficiency, falling asleep within 10 minutes and sleeping throughout the night with only a few points where I wake up.

The website is fairly basic but you can integrate with other services like Withings, Lose It! and MyFitnessPal and others. People doing food tracking may find MyFitnessPal a better choice to log food since they are reputed to have a better database than Fitibit. With connected devices like Fitbit and Withings you can remove the need to log weight or most exercise leaving only food to be accounted for. This minimizes the amount of data entry needed so should help minimize the drudgery.

In five days I’ve taken 32,000 steps and climbed 74 “floors” for a total of 14.1 miles. That puts me in the middle of the pack of my four Fitbit friends. Have to see if I can move up to second place!

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