What is Happening

There is Something Very Wrong

I haven't written in awhile (by the site's count, I last published something six months ago, when I vomited out a few paragraphs about Facebook Paper. Simpler times.) The mere thought of sitting down in front of a blank screen and haplessly pounding out a couple hackneyed musings cripples me. Free writing does nothing. Trying to use a journal to harness the random firing of brain synapses and molding them into coherent thoughts? Exhausting. To-do lists? No. The amount of turmoil my mind subjects me to is remarkable—a vicious, insatiable abyss sucking all of the words out of me. They pool together in an unrecognizable amalgam of half-digested sludge that consists solely of anxious worry, self-doubt, and the dozens of ideas and dreams I've dared to have. It's honestly a little surprising that I've managed to put up with it for this long.

Every day, I wake up. Every day, I fake as much as I can to make it through. By the time I get home, there's no energy left to devote to this stupid little website. Any sort of analysis—or god forbid: defense—of Apple, or sarcastic take on tech, or random link to something I marginally enjoy feels like a complete waste. When it takes every last ounce of willpower not to break down crying most days, a lot of what used to bring you any semblance of joy suddenly begins to feel more distressing than anything.

So I try to lose myself in a video game, a movie, a TV show. I lose myself in my wife's arms. Anything that takes me away from the reality that I am just... not. Happy. Anymore. I'm not happy and I don't know why, and I've been living with this reality far longer than I thought. There are times where I stare at myself in the mirror, only to find that the person on the other side is completely alien to me. In those moments, I don't feel connected to myself. I don't know who I am, what I want, or how to feel normal. This isn't normal. This isn't normal.

This. Isn't. Normal.

If all of this feels like painfully overblown, relentlessly hyperbolic, LiveJournal levels of attention-seeking bullshit whining, you're not alone. No one thinks that more than I do. I want nothing else than to feel like a functioning adult, completely rid of existential dread (which, I'm sure many will confirm that that's a pipe dream in and of itself). When I try to approach what I'm going through with logic and reason, none of it feels remotely sane. None of it makes sense. But the insidious thing about anxiety and depression is that they don't give a fuck what makes sense. They don't care if it's dramatic or cliché. You're a slave to the whims of an invisible beast that's sunk its talons into your psyche, manipulating each and every feeling with wanton disregard for your sanity. All you have is an unsettling loop of emptiness and despair. One begets the other. You worry that things are never going to get better, so you feel like things aren't getting better, which makes you worry. The brief moments of clarity, the sudden sense that you can beat the overwhelming sadness through the sheer strength of your logical mind, are quickly blotted out. You might build some momentum. You think you can beat it. Today is a good day. Today you start to drag yourself out of the hole you've been digging. But when you start to pull yourself out, you inevitably slip and fall back down.

All it takes is a single Tweet, maybe a news story about the impending doom of civilization as we know it. Or you just remember a brief interaction with a coworker that suddenly causes you to wonder if maybe you said the wrong thing. Maybe they hate you now. What could you have done differently? God fucking dammit, if only I wasn't such an idiot. The anxiety loop takes hold. You can't concentrate. A white noise machine turned on just loud enough in your head to be constantly distracting. It doesn't go away. And you worry about the noise. Why can't I shake this? Why am I thinking about this so much? Is this what life is now? When you can't calm your mind for a second, everything feels pointless. Why even try? That worry feeds itself. A tiny spark of doubt ignites a vulnerability you maybe didn't know was there, and you can't necessarily pinpoint the source of the flame, but you're inevitably immolated within the bonfire of anxiety. After you've burned long enough, you smolder. It doesn't leave you. Even when your mind quiets down, worry doesn't completely let go.

Then there are the moments of ambivalence. Like, maybe I'm being silly and everything I just wrote in the preceding paragraphs is just drivel wrought of a selfish desire for attention. How long have I been lying to myself that I'm depressed? You can't be depressed, not with everything life has given you. How fucking dare you try and make things about you when there's so much injustice in the world? Your plight is trivial. Grow up.

I want to. I do. I wish it was as easy as giving myself a stern talking to. I wish it was as easy as reading about the circumstances of others and gaining sufficient perspective to drive these feelings away. I wish it was as easy as attending therapy for six months, only to have your therapist move out of state, leaving you to be strong on your own. You can do this. Those sessions went well. You've got this. What do you have to be so sad about, huh? You'll be okay from this point on. You have everything you need to conquer this.

But you don't. No matter how much you lie to yourself. No matter how many times you tell everyone, "I'm fine," when they ask you what's wrong.

"You look tired."

Eh. Didn't sleep well last night. I'm fine.

"You look upset. Everything okay?"

That's just my face. I'm fine.

"Babe," your wife says. "What's going on?" She knows you better than anyone. She sees through the veil you pull up over your face. She's not fooled by your your attempts to obfuscate the pain within. It's the subtleties that belie. She latches onto those little moments when your concentration breaks and you forget to keep your brave face.

Really. I'm fine. Nothing is wrong.

How many times have you lied to her like this? You fucking coward.

Your stubbornness threatens your work, your friendships, your marriage. You hold so much in to spare others your misery, you suffocate yourself in the process.

But you wouldn't want to inconvenience anyone or make them worry, now would you?

So you create more pain for yourself, but because you're strong, you can handle it. Never mind the irritability. Never mind the sudden outbursts of anger. Never mind the obsessing over others in an effort to not have to pay attention to yourself for a second. You're just being a good friend. Some things are more important than you.

You keep telling yourself that.

Maybe when you've cried for the third time writing this draft you'll finally admit that there's something very wrong here.

Something is very wrong.


No Octothorpe

I've always best expressed myself in writing. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeves (except for when I don't; see above), but when I truly want to convey the complexity of my own thoughts, I have to break them down in text. Otherwise, I ramble, or I'm afraid that I don't explain myself clearly.

Looking back over this post thus far, I can't help but feel I've never been further from reaching the clarity I seek in my writing. While I'm inclined to trash this entire draft (like the other half dozen that came before it), I'm afraid that if I do, it'll never get written. And I'm tired of writing this in my head over and over and over only to never have the words come out. I'm tired of living with them. They haunt me. I need some sort of reprieve.

I am no stranger to depression. It's something that I struggled with through high school. As an adult, it occasionally rears its head. Sometimes it's worse than others. But it ebbs and it flows, and for the better part of the last sixteen years, I always end up fooling myself into thinking that I've somehow overpowered it when it subsides. I always think I won't have to struggle anymore. At a certain point, you'd think I'd fucking learn.

Because I express myself through my writing, depression tends to strike there first. It plants a little seed of self-doubt in my head that grows into a sapling that saps me of my motivation. Its sustenance is my failure. It's won when I start to question every post I've written, the validity of my perspective, the quality and the value of my voice. Each time I decide not to write anything, it wins. The more it wins, the less I want to write. As it grows, it branches out. I start to question everything else. My dreams. My work. My relationships. It drags me down until all I want to do is burn it all to the ground, because I deserve none of it. It drives me to destroy everything, to punish myself.

I initially started No Octothorpe to channel my passion for a few topics into one place. I wanted to have a site that was an extension of myself. At a certain point, that got away from me. My first mistake was that I became trapped in this idea that I had to have a link blog, as though I was only as good as the things I found interesting. Some sudden notoriety, however fleeting, drove me to shape the site in that image. I became transfixed on this idea of following in the footsteps of people I admired, and that I wanted to be a source of information or commentary for a large audience like they were. Somehow, I linked the idea of success to that thought. I had a niche I could wedge myself into. I focused on Apple and the surrounding industry. It worked for a little while, and the feedback (when I got any) was largely positive.

It wasn't long before that bored me. It wasn't long before the idea of trolling the web for interesting posts became a chore. I didn't feel like I was adding value or being true to who I am.

This, of course, is not to disparage the idea of link blogs, or the people who write them. I love link blogs and I still follow a bunch of them. It's more that I was at my happiest when I allowed myself to explore creativity on my own terms, or when I felt like my sentimentality wasn't forced. I was at my unhappiest when I felt like I had to hit a post quota to bump traffic (dopamine is fucking weird). I liked exploring ideas when I was inspired, and when I could do so at length. But that kind of inspiration is hard to predict. So in the face of unpredictability, I decided that I just wasn't good enough to write. Each day I didn't post anything was more evidence that I didn't deserve to do it in the first place. I slowed and I slowed and I slowed, until I stopped writing altogether.

Yet, I couldn't stop thinking about writing. In the midst of all of this shit that has embroiled my brain for over a year now, I couldn't shake that what I had in this site was something I did truly want to continue to pursue. I'd peck away at a draft, only to delete it. I'd make small design tweaks to see if that'd help reignite my interest. I'd tweet, hoping there would be some encouragement out there from people who wanted to hear from me. When the encouragement came, I'd tell them that I was working on it. I was trying to figure stuff out. But each time someone reached out with words of encouragement, I felt more guilt than anything, because I didn't know if I was actually capable of following through.

To be clear: I was the only person setting up an impossible standard for myself.

This all feels very chicken and egg to me. I questioned myself, which caused the doubt to pile up, which caused me to stop writing altogether. Or: depression started to take hold again and it hit me at a time when I was most vulnerable and things spiraled that way. Maybe it's a mixture of both. In any case, the end result, of course, was me reevaluating what I was doing (for pretty much everything in my life, naturally) and not really making substantial movement in any particular direction. Except down. I dug myself into a hole. And now I'm trying to climb out of this cavern and I see glimpses of light, but I'm wary to praise the sun just yet.


What Is Happening?

To be frank, I have no fucking clue where I'm going. I'm fumbling around in the dark. I'm taking things one day at a time. I can't rely on my brain to treat me well at any particular moment, but today... Today is the day I get this shit out of my head and be honest with myself that there's something I desperately need to overcome before I can ever hope to return to normalcy. I thought I was writing this to try and shed some light on what's been going on with me and this site for the past year or so, but I think I'm writing this now more to hold myself accountable during a period of lucidity. To publish it is to document the struggle. Hopefully I can look back on this somewhere down the line and see it as a turning point, even if I'm more convinced that this is but a brief respite before I reach the nadir.

What I can say is that No Octothorpe is something I still love, even when I don't love creating. I can't shake it. I also know that, as much as I love it, for awhile it wasn't what I intended it to be, nor what I intend on pursuing in the future. If this site is going to be an extension of myself, it's going to follow the same tumultuous path that I take. Writing about Apple and tech and games and whatever else can be nice, but it's mostly not. Truth is, I just don't want to have a link blog. I love to love things, and I have a perfectly good Twitter account where I share a lot of that stuff. If things still require more commentary, I'll consider it. Mostly, I'll be chasing what feels best. I'll write what feels right. I'll write what interests me right now. I'll write what allows me to try and exercise some creativity. I hope that leads me down a better path.

If that at all feels like things are left to uncertainty: no shit. That's the hand I've been dealt. I plan to roll with it. We'll see where things go from here.


If you are depressed and/or living with constant anxiety, I implore you to find help if you haven't already done so. Please don't be like me and think you can overcome this on your own. I know how hard it can be to admit to yourself that things are bad, but it truly is worth it. For your own sake, and for your loved ones, please speak with a professional. You'll feel better about it in the long run. I promise.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, know that there are resources out there and people who want to help. If you're in the U.S., please go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 1-800-273-8255.

If you're outside of the U.S., resources like IASP or Suicide.org can help you find a lifeline in your country.

Hump Day

Yesterday, amidst the flurry of OS releases coming from Apple (including a tvOS 9.1 update that brings iOS Remote app functionality which happens to be on par with the Xbox's Smart Glass app in terms of input responsiveness, holy shit!), media was all aflutter with the unexpected release of a new product from Cupertino. A silicone case with a (don't call it a hump)... Ehm... Significant protuberance, you might say. A bulge which could immediately prequalify its candidacy for quietly attending to a famed Parisian cathedral. If only Victor Hugo were alive today.

Naturally, the new iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case dominated a large portion of the conversation. Inflicting severe ocular trauma upon anyone who dared let their gaze stray over it, Jony Ive's latest monstrosity was unleashed on a populace hungry to immediately shun it based solely on cursory glances alone. Its existence is proof that those in charge at Apple have completely lost their marbles. Steve Jobs would never have allowed this to happen. How do we know this? Why, the collective snark of the Internet of course. Here are a smattering of Reddit comments:

WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON

I AM REALLY NOT SURE BUT LET'S GET REAL MAD ABOUT IT

Apple get your shit together.

Srsly.

This is shit.

Yes, let's get it together.

as much as this is a shit product with a shit design. i hope allot of people buy this to show apple that we want more power! make the phone thicker cause we want that juice!

Oh, hey, turns out Victor Hugo is alive.

If these displays of eloquence don't convince you that Tim Cook and friends have completely shit the bed, then I don't know what will. This "Smart Case" is nothing more than pure Apple hubris. Anyone with half a brain can plainly see that they're just fucking with us now. Apple should have just followed every other battery case manufacturer's lead and created a chunky-and-absurdly-heavy-but-completely-symmetrical tank of a shell that's damn near impossible to open, makes the phone a gigantic pain in the ass to use, and potentially degrades wireless capabilities. That would've made so much more sense.

Our only hope now is to vote for Donald Trump and hope to God he can put an end to this madness. Tim Cook is Muslim, right?


Breathe...

No, the Smart Battery Case is not very attractive. No battery cases are. They're all enormous and bloated. They have to be. They're filled with fucking batteries. The entire product range is an exercise of function over form.

Yet, not one of them promises to offer the same sort of experience that this case does. Flexible silicone exterior, making inserting and removing your phone significantly easier than any other option out there. A Lightning port that can easily fit onto a dock, and allows you to charge both the case and the phone at exactly the same time with a single cable. An intelligent battery indicator that integrates seamlessly with iOS. Extra antennas built in to ensure that using the case as intended doesn't ruin your reception. Not to mention keeping the areas surrounding the battery itself as thin as possible to provide the best possible ergonomic situation. You can't say any of that about any other option out there.

The people shopping for battery cases for their phone are well aware that they add considerable bulk and weight. And if they're not aware of that, it's something they'll quickly learn. Apple's option is the least obtrusive for being what it is. It's designed for function, and appears to easily surpass its competitors. Joanna Stern believes so. Even Reddit user, sionnach, is a believer after using it for a day.

Wait... So we shouldn't trust the collective knee jerk social network/comment section snark to say what is or is not well-designed? Maybe we should hear from the people who are in the market for something like this and have actually used it?

Shocking.

It's always baffling to see this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't mentality when it comes to Apple. When a device is designed with form over function, people bitch. When they go the opposite direction, people bitch. Apple literally can't win in their eyes.

And then there's the convenient, seemingly deliberate obfuscation of history with the conjuring of Steve Jobs. He would have never let anything like this happen. As though he wasn't responsible for this little motherfucker. Apple's mouse game has never been on point. Don't try and pretend otherwise.

Mouse tangents aside. The reality is that nothing is ever perfect. There are always compromises. Yet, somehow, Apple is expected to flawlessly execute 100% of the time, while also eschewing the laws of physics, and creating products that apparently must be the exact fit for every single one of their hundreds of millions of customers. I see no other company held to such impossible standards, and being lambasted every step of the way.

It's almost as though the problem isn't with Apple, but with us.

Never Change

Phillip chewed on the end of his pen, his teeth occasionally finding their way into tiny grooves that fit his molars with crafted precision. His gaze was inexplicably drawn beyond the plate glass wall that lined his living room. A sweeping vista of green hills stretched out for miles beyond the shining tower. Tall, slender cylinders, the color of porcelain, jutted upward from the luscious canopies of trees. Curved blades affixed at the top spun hypnotically with the constant breeze. He sometimes couldn’t tell if he could hear their distant hums, or if the energy they provided managed to sing with harmonic resonance through the myriad wires and lines that snaked their way through each and every wall in the building.

His leg began to shake, and when he became conscious of it, he stood up and walked to the window. The pen dangled from his mouth whilst he crossed his arms. He didn’t stop chewing. The shake that infiltrated his leg somehow managed to make its way up to his finger—leaving him idly tapping his bicep—while he looked at the world below. Even eighty-three stories up, he could make out the sprawling park surrounding the building. Though he couldn’t identify each individual from this distance, his eyesight was of such impeccable quality that he could easily discern their clothes, their hair, their skin color. A diverse collection of people milling about, enjoying the company of all.

Their lively bodies walked from one to another, almost as though every movement was carefully blocked out by an astute choreographer. The fluidity with which they moved was transfixing. Excited waves and friendly gestures beckoned each person to take part in the elaborate dance of harmony. Some played instruments in a circle while their compatriots interpreted their music with wild undulations of their bodies. Others lay motionless on their backs, basking in the sunlight. Phillip glanced just off to his right, and a large portion of the window became opaque. An animated illustration of the sun dropped into his view, completely unobscured of any clouds. The numbers “74” popped into view. They lightly bounced and wobbled in place until his attention returned to the scene below, and the window become fully translucent once more.

“Beautiful,” he thought. “Just like every day.”

A delicate chime. Phillip again looked up. Embedded in the frosted patch of glass—where just a moment before the forecast presented itself—was the live image of a dear friend. He nodded.

“Phillip! How are you?”

He smiled. “Ida. Wonderful. How are you?”

“Starving. Want to grab lunch?”

“That sounds delightful. Where should we meet?”

“I’m in Tokyo right now, but I’m in the mood for something a bit more American. Would it be alright if I dropped in?”

“Of course. I’ll set the pad to receive.” He raised his arm and tapped on the glass band that clasped around his entire wrist. Behind him, in the center of the living room, a circle illuminated on the floor. The purple light shot upward to the ceiling, filling the space for a brief moment before it dissipated completely. In its wake stood Ida, smiling. She waved. They embraced. He held her for maybe a moment too long.

Teleportation was such a common part of life, but its early days haunted him. An unfortunate incident where a bug in the prototypes once caused a friend to materialize, arranged improperly. Arms for ears. Hips spun round 180 degrees. Lungs never accounted for at all. No matter how hard he tried, Phillip could never fully forget the monstrous vision of his friend gasping for air that he’d never again taste. That was nearly forty years prior. He always wondered if a vastly extended lifespan was worth it if he was to be constantly reminded of the past tragedies. However, a quick tap on the spot behind his right ear would fill his spinal column with warmth, and the horrors would melt away.

Ida frowned. “Martin?”

Phillip nodded.

She placed a hand upon his cheek. “You know you don’t have to worry anymore. That was so long ago.” She tapped the spot under his ear.

Euphoria washed over him. “I know. I just can’t help but worry.” He paused, eyes closed. His lips curled into a drunken smile. “All is well now. Where should we eat?”

“Call an Uber and we’ll figure it out along the way.”

“Alright.” He tapped his wrist. A cheerful ding confirmed his request for pickup. He sighed and dropped his arm.

“What?”

“Five minutes for the car. Christ, this service.”

“It’ll be okay. Don’t worry about that. Let’s just figure out food.” She raised her wrist and spoke to her own clasp. “Tweet. Just ported from Tokyo to Omaha. Period. Getting food with @filtothelip now. Period. We live in the future. Exclamation point. Happy face emoji. Dancing woman emoji.”

Phillip smiled. He pointed at the window, and the frosted panel displayed a series of menu options.

Ida laughed. “Hey, weird question.”

“What’s that?”

“Do you remember SARS?”

“Uh.”

“SARS. You know. The disease. Terrible respiratory failure. Early naughts?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I dunno,” she said. “I just suddenly remembered it. It’s so funny. The name. SARS.”

He chuckled.

“SARS,” she said again.

“Things used to be really different,” he said. “They all had weird names. Cancer. Ebola…”

“AIDS,” she said and began laughing.

“Oh my god, AIDS! I almost forgot that one.” He laughed with her.

“Can you imagine,” she said. “Can you imagine telling someone that they were going to die of something called AIDS? Oh God. Who thought that was a good idea?”

“Can’t believe how terrible things used to be. Man.” He shook his head. “What a weird thought. Where’d you come up with that?”

“I truly have no idea. Some things are meant to be a mystery, I suppose.”

He smiled. “It’s so weird. Thinking of diseases.”

She nodded. “Wars.”

“God, yes! Wars. How stupid. Oil. Pollution. Hunger. Water shortages. Global warming!”

She laughed. “I remember global warming! Climate change! Oh my gosh, climate change! That whole ordeal.” She shook her head. “Things were scary there for a minute.”

“I’ll say. Glad we don’t have to worry about any of that stuff anymore.”

Ida’s wrist chimed. An animated heart slowly floated around her clasp’s display. She raised her arm to investigate. Her brow furrowed. Mouth twisted.

Phillip pointed at her clasp. “What the hell is that?” He said.

She shook her head. “It says that someone ‘liked’ my Tweet.”

“Liked? You mean ‘favorited.’”

“No,” she said. “It says liked. Liked. Not favorite. What the fuck!”

“Something must be wrong,” he said. “How can you possibly ‘like’ a Tweet?”

“Check the news.”

Phillip gestured to the wall. The food options disappeared, replaced immediately by a stream of headlines, hot takes, and live tweets.

“Holy shit,” Ida said.

Phillip couldn’t fully comprehend what was happening. He started reading the headlines aloud:

Twitter Changes Favorites, Prompts Massive Outrage.”

Why We Should Be Upset About Twitter’s Changes.”

11 Immediate Reactions to Twitter Killing Favorites.”

If You Can’t Live Without Twitter’s Favorite Star, You Can Bring It Back.”

Ida placed her hand over her mouth. She didn’t say anything. Phillip looked back at her and pulled her close.

“This must be a joke,” he said. “You can’t just kill favorites.”

“What the fuck is a ‘like’ anyway? How will people know that this is literally the best Tweet I have ever seen until I immediately replace it with another one 30 seconds later?”

“This has to be a mistake. Check your timeline.”

Ida looked at her clasp. She swiped vigorously through the endless stream of Tweets. “No, it’s true. Everyone is complaining about it. Everyone.”

Phillip spoke into his own clasp. “Tweet. Period. @Twitter, who the fuck thought that a heart was a good idea. Question mark. Bring back the star. Exclamation point.”

Ida said, “Good idea. Don’t stop tweeting about this. Tag Jack in the next one.”

Phillip paced around the room. After pausing briefly at the window, tapping his bicep anxiously again, he turned and stormed over to the table and picked up the pen. He gripped it with both hands, grunted, and snapped it in half before forcefully discarding the remnants on the floor. They leaked trails of black ink as they scattered about.

“What if we get this trending?” Ida asked.

“Create a poll. See if people are actually mad about this.”

“Good call.”

Phillip’s clasp rang. The push notification appeared on his wrist.

YOUR UBER HAS ARRIVED.

Immediately after, the Uber car ascended up to his window.

“Fuck,” Phillip said.

“I’m not even hungry anymore,” Ida said.

Phillip frantically tapped at his wrist, trying to dismiss the Uber. He screamed at the window. “Fuck off, you prick! We don’t want it anymore!” The car eventually descended and sped away.

“500 people have responded to my poll already. It’s been retweeted 30 times and fav—ugh—liked 72 times. People are pissed.”

“Did you tag Jack?”

“No. I’ll do that now,” she said. “Tweet. Hey. Comma. @Jack. Comma. Who do we have to fire to bring the favorite star back. Question mark. I’m fucking done with your bullshit service. Period.”

“Maybe if we tweet enough at him, he’ll reverse it.”

Ida nodded. Her eyes locked with Phillip’s. They were wide, full of terror. She looked to be on the verge of tears. “He has to. You can’t just change a favorite. This is bullshit.”

“I don’t see how the Twitter community will possibly put up with this.” Phillip walked over to the window and looked down at the park. The trees were ablaze, puffing out horrid, black smoke. The previously happy pedestrians below had appeared to evacuate. Those that remained were entangled in a brutal battle with one another. The green grass stained red with the blood of those that had already fallen. “Oh my god.”

“I’ve gotten so many replies. Everyone agrees with us. They’ve started a hashtag. #fucktheheart. We’re all using it now.”

“Hopefully it starts trending,” said Phillip. “How amazing would it be if this went viral?”

“Oh my god, that’d be incredible,” she said. “It has to, right?”

“It has to.”

“What if it becomes a Moment?”

Phillip spun around and looked at Ida. He shook his head. “Jack would never let that happen. He’d shut it down before it became a Moment.”

“Then we can Tweet about censorship. There’s never been a scandal worse than this. Not that I can remember. This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Ever.”

He walked over and held her. “It’ll be okay,” he said, struggling to choke out the sentence.

She pulled back and looked at him. “Oh no. Phillip.” She wiped a tear that was slowly trailing its way down his cheek. “I believe you. The Twitter community will correct this horrible injustice.”

He nodded, suddenly finding himself unable to speak. She pulled him in close.

“I promise,” she said. “You’re right. Everything will be okay.”

“I just never thought that it would change. How could it change? If there was one thing I could count on, it was that star.” He looked down at her. “Martin,” he said. “Promise me. Promise me you’ll never change. Never change. Don’t do this to me.” He buried his head in her neck. His shoulders shook with each labored sob.

Ida patted his back. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll keep tweeting at them. That fucker, Jack, will never know what hit him.”

'Actual Formatted Capacity Less'

Today, I dipped my toes in an ongoing Twitter conversation regarding how Apple advertises hard drive capacity for its devices. The catalyst for this particular issue was that a brand new iPhone, advertised as a 64GB device, in actuality only has around 55GB of space available to the user out of the box. As a former Apple employee, I've heard this complaint before, as well as numerous claims that Apple is "falsely advertising" the capacity of its devices.

The problem with that statement is that Apple is not falsely advertising anything. In fact, all hardware manufacturers follow this same standard when advertising the hard drive space of their products. If Apple lists an iPhone as 64GB, then that phone does actually have a 64GB hard drive in there. However, there are a couple things to take into account:

  1. Apple, like all other companies, uses the hard drive manufacturer's decimal defintion: 1GB = 1 billion bytes (or 1,000MB). Software, however, uses the binary defintion: 1GB = 1,073,741,824 bytes (or 1,024MB). So in the case of a 64GB phone, the actual formatted capacity, according to the operating system, would be 62.5GB. (Update: Reader Adrian Godoy points out that my math is off, and that the actual formatted capacity would come out to 59.6GB.)

  2. Apple, like all other companies, includes an operating system and other software on their devices. All of the cool things that make an iPhone an iPhone (like 3D Touch, Siri, Apple Pay, live photos, not to mention the ability to send an iMessage or make a phone call) are software included in the operating system. Depending on their complexity, each feature requires a certain amount of space. Ultimately, the collection of everything that makes your iPhone more than just a $750 brick of aluminum and glass needs to be included on the device in one form or another. So Apple pre-installs this software on the 64GB hard drive in your phone so you can do things like pull it out of your pocket and say, "Hey, Siri, tweet @tim_cook: Why are you falsely advertising the storage space on your products?"

With these two things in mind, Apple knows full well that the space immediately available to the user will be significantly less than what is listed–for simplicity's sake–on their site, which is why they clearly state in the marketing materials for all of their devices:

 
 
 
 

Apple never claims for a second that what you're getting is a device with the full capacity of its hard drive made available to you. They're actually extremely forthcoming with this information. A lot of other companies do provide similar statements to stave off the occassional frivolous lawsuit, but it's typically buried in some support document somewhere, using obtuse legalese we've all grown accustomed to when reading terms and conditions. Not Apple, though. Their fine print is clearly listed on the same page as the device itself. They even offer a more in-depth explanation of storage capacities that is written in plain language. Easy to read.

(It's also important to take a moment and note that Apple is far more efficient with how much space their operating systems and included software take up compared to a lot of other companies'. When you look at the percentage of space available in a new Apple device versus, say, a new Microsoft Surface–which was famously advertised with 32GB of storage, only to have about 16GB of actual usable space (don't even get me started on the 500GB Xbox One only offerring 362 actual GBs on which for me to install 60+ GB games)–you start to appreciate the restraint from the folks in Cupertino.)

"Fine. I get all that, but the least Apple could do is clearly advertise the actual formatted space alongside the full capacity of the hard drive."

This is an argument I saw, and it seems like a reasonable enough expectation at first glance. But let's consider how unrealistic this would be in practice.

Each model of Apple device, depending on configuration, all sport different actual formatted capacities. The 64GB 6s will have a different amount of space than that of the 64GB 6s Plus, for example. Which means Apple would have to calculate and list each device's capacity individually.

"So what?"

Sure, probably not a big deal there. You know, aside from the aesthetically displeasing block of explanatory text that accompanies the capacity of every single product they sell. Apple could easily do this.

However, a much bigger problem arises when we start to consider when these devices are actually being sold. At launch, the iPhone 6s came pre-installed with iOS 9. Even though iOS 9 was officially replaced by iOS 9.0.1 a week after its initial launch, I assume the vast majority of iPhone 6s devices sold over this past weekend still only had iOS 9 installed. This is all due to the fact that QA, packaging, and shipping tens of millions of devices takes considerable time. They can't possibly keep them all up to date.

Now, off the top of my head, I don't know the difference in available storage capacity between devices with iOS 9 and those with its subsequent update. I'm sure it's negligible. Still something to take into account.

A better example would be the iPhone 6, which–if you bought one new in lieu of an iPhone 6s due to the lowered price–would most likely still be on iOS 8.4.1, because they were packaged and shipped before iOS 9's release. Depending on stock levels, you could potentially buy an iPhone 6 with 8.4.1 weeks after iOS 9 released. There's no guarantee that the phone you purchase will come pre-installed with the latest version of iOS.

At that point, how does Apple go about advertising the actual formatted capacity? After all, the space available could vary greatly between purchasing the device when it's on iOS 8.4.1 and when you ultimately upgrade to iOS 9.0.1. If you even upgrade at all.

If they go based on the actual formatted capacity of the device with the latest version of iOS it supports, Apple actually would be falsely advertising the out-of-the-box available capacity for phones that hadn't yet been upgraded before shipping. Accounting for these factors, It's wholly unreasonable to expect Apple, or any other company for that matter, to jump through ridiculous hoops to specify the exact amount of formatted storage capacity for a particular device they sell. With the plethora of configurations and the ongoing changes made with each software update, the feasability of precisely providing such information is slim to nil. In this case, it's actually more accurate for Apple to rely on the simple fine print: 1GB = 1 billion bytes. Actual formatted capacity less.

And we're just talking about how impossible it would be for them to keep this information accurate on the website. Apple provides the same fine print on the back of each box of every device they sell. I'll spare you the argument surrounding the logistical nightmare of keeping all of the stickers printed and up-to-date.

Companies put fine print in there for a reason, and it is expected that consumers make a reasonable attempt at reading such information. It's there to protect both parties. Apple's method is perfectly acceptable, and, truly, the more honest way of doing things. I'm not alone in thinking this. Apple has been sued before over this issue. For iPods and for iPhones. The courts have yet to disagree with their handling of the storage situation. Hell, even Microsoft was sued over the Surface's usable storage. That case was ultimately dismissed.

The fact is that, in this case, there's no false advertising whatsoever with regards to storage capacity of gadgets. The reality of the technological landscape today is that consumers are expected to understand that they're not just merely buying pocketable hard drives. These are fully-fledged computers that rely on software to provide amazing services. There's an intrinsic acceptance of this when you purchase them.

Demanding a company to conform to some unreasonable expectation that completely deviates from the previously established standards–standards that have been around for decades–is absurd, regardless of the logo on the back of the gadget.

Solitude in Solidarity

Preface - Added November 27, 2015

Over the past week or so, a plethora of new evidence has surfaced that all but confirms that Samantha Bielefeld is actually a man named Victor Johnson. Victor is a documented con artist who appears to have created this female persona, fabricated threats and harassment against “her,” and deliberately courted controversy over the last few months in an effort to elicit sympathy and support, as well as ultimately monetize a budding tech blog. The bizarre clusterfuck has mainly unfolded in the tangles of various Twitter conversations, making it obscenely difficult to follow for anyone who hasn’t paid close attention from the onset. Few events have highlighted the inherent limitations of Twitter quite like this one. Luckily, there have been a couple people who have taken up the cause of providing more in-depth summaries. If you’re interested in what is known as of this moment, I would kindly direct your attention to the following:

The following piece was written in response to a despicable act, before any of the above information was known (at least by more than a few). While it was written about a specific event that I am now aware did not occur, women do face daily threats and harassment from men on the Internet. This type of behavior is intolerable, and should always be met with vehement resistance, because fuck those guys. I am regretful that my words of support were wasted on a fraud, but the sentiment is one that stands regardless to all those who constantly face the ugliest side of the Internet.

What I do not regret is what I wrote about Victor Johnson. When I originally described him as “a man I hope is so witless that he chose to use his real name in an email encouraging someone to kill themselves,“ I didn’t realize how prescient I was. Now, having interacted with Victor directly for months, I can stand by my assessment of his character with confidence. I wouldn’t change a single thing.

The piece that follows remains unedited since its initial publication.


I started #NoOctothorpe last year in April. In its infancy, friends provided me with enough traffic and comments that I felt like I was doing something relatively constructive with my time. I made a valiant effort to continue writing as much as possible, only finding myself in existential crises on rare occasions. Maintaining motivation was major progress. Nevertheless, toward the end of that first year–after pretty consistent spans of time where I wouldn't post anything–I started to consider shutting the site down. This is something I documented pretty thoroughly in a piece I wrote months back. As I said then, things changed for me, and I've been more active with my writing now than ever before.

A few things happened as a result of John Gruber giving me a tiny bit of attention. A huge boost in traffic to the site. A few new followers for my two different Twitter accounts. The teensiest taste of that sweet, sweet virality people on the web crave nowadays. I saw my work being shared by complete strangers on Twitter, on their own sites, on comments sections of popular tech sites as they were trying to bolster their own arguments (in very constructive and thought-provoking ways, obviously). It was surreal then. It continues to be surreal when it happens now, organically, on a far smaller scale.

The best thing to come of it, though? Community. Having my name and my work posted on a popular site is thoroughly exciting, but also completely overwhelming. When #NoOctothorpe was merely a personal channel for my thoughts, with my friends chiming in periodically, this whole endeavour felt safe. With thousands of people flooding the site, that barrier was suddenly torn down. The thin veil of safety stripped away. The manic energy that pulsed through my body was tempered only by a horrifying thought: "Holy shit, what happens when people start being dicks to me?" This is the Internet, after all, so I felt that worry was completely warranted. I expected the worst.

Instead, I got the best. The outpouring of positivity was astounding, unanticipated, and universal. Out of the dozens, if not hundreds, of people who talked to me (and continue to talk to me) on Twitter and elsewhere after my posts found some traction, not a single comment was negative in any way. Initially, I chalked it up to Gruber's audience being comprised of thoughtful, kind people who appreciate nuanced opinions on technology... But I've seen the types of comments he gets (also, I don't really think my commentary is all that nuanced). Maybe it was more that my site was so completely insignificant that the trolls decided it wasn't even worth their time to shit all over. But I feel like that cheapens the efforts people have made to read my work and get in touch.

Regardless, in a year and a half of maintaining the site, I've received no significant backlash from the greater Internet community. Unless you count the brief exchange that was the impetus for my recent piece, Leaving Apple, but I don't. It was mean, but it was rooted misunderstanding, not blatant malice.

(Oh, also there was that moment where Joshua Topolsky insinuated I was a fuckface, but in his defense, I was totally asking for it.)

Simply put, my audience's track record for not being insufferable dickshits is astoundingly good. Pat yourselves on the back. How's about we get a massage train going? I don't quite understand what I did to deserve your attention, but even someone as verbose as I am lacks the vocabulary to accurately convey how much this all means to me. How much you all mean to me, and how it's impacting my drive to keep moving forward.

Keenan, I can hear you say, This is super nice and all. We definitely appreciate the positive sentiments. Your beard is super majestic, and your voice is literally warm butter dripping in our ears... But what's up with all the sappy, masturbatory nonsense?

Yes, the point! I have one.

Yesterday, due to the microcosm of serendipity that is social media, I stumbled upon a new site by someone named Samantha Bielefeld. I was reeled in by the tantalizing title of her most recent piece, Hey Nilay, You're Being a Jerk.

Surely, I can relate to this! I thought as I clicked through. Lo and behold, my perfunctory assessment of the title turned out to be correct, and I found a shrewd piece of commentary nestled under a poignant clickbait headline. (Go read it. I'll be here when you get back.)

Internal monologue: bookmark this site. Follow on Twitter. Send unsolicited compliment. I know how much the kindness of strangers means when you're dipping your toes in the water. To be vulnerable for an audience is no feat for the weak. The brave should be rewarded.

With how thoughtfully the whole piece was written, I was shocked (yes, shocked!) to find that this was but one post of a handful of others she's published since launching her site a week ago. She's just getting going, and she's coming out swinging. Damn, and she's built up a Twitter audience in a month that rivals the one I've cultivated over seven years. Oh fuck, I've been on Twitter for over seven years. What am I doing with my life?

Snap back to reality.

Mad props, Samantha. Get 'em. It's delightful to see a new voice emerge with such vigor and poise. And it's no secret that the tech community is in dire need of some diversity in its myriad voices. (Says the painfully self-aware twenty-something, hyphen-loving white guy tapping away at his MacBook Pro. So meta.)

It's rare you get to experience the work of an author just getting off the ground, so I seized the opportunity to read through her other pieces. Tight, astute writing. A unique voice. Each article brimming with obvious passion and care for the subject. Some biting commentary, eschewing the belligerent cynicism common in tech writing today. That alone should be commended.

In reading her debut post, published a mere six days ago, a paragraph resonated:

I shared my thoughts, and mainly my concerns, for creating this website with the small following I have already gained and the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. It not only reaffirmed my belief that there's a lack of balance between men and women in the spotlight, but it taught me that people are eager to learn as much as possible about a topic of interest. If I focus on explaining my unique perspective, and steer clear of only regurgitating the words of others, many people would be happy to read what I write. Not only did Twitter play an integral role in placing me back in the 'let's do this' camp, I can tell that this engaging community will only continue to further educate me, and help me hone in on what I care to write about most.

A deep warmth filled my heart from reading something so unexpected. Her apprehension was repudiated by an enthusiastic and welcoming community. The same validation I was lucky enough to feel wasn't unique to me. I wasn't special. Someone else out there found their desire to create encouraged by their peers. That made me feel even happier than if I was the anomaly. That someone else could share in the love of the community that I felt was a greater joy, because I knew it meant that I wasn't alone. It was in this particular moment where I sort of fell in love with the Internet. It wasn't just a bastion of assholes. There was a place for us all in this little niche after all.

Then my heart sank.

A third piece, published not even twenty-four hours after her first two. Just looking at the title alone, my instincts told me that I was about to find myself very, very disappointed.

Always trust your instincts.

After a heartfelt thank you to this newfound community in her introductory paragraph, she followed it up with a second:

I had provided my email address as a form of communication for people who either don't interact with me on Twitter, or simply prefer to use email. Over the course of the day I ended up receiving a lot of messages from people. There was some praise for adding my female voice to the mix, lots of suggestions for styling the site, and some arguments for/against what I had written. All of that was great, but not everyone reached out to me in a positive manner, though.

I encourage you to click the above link. Everyone should stare into the eyes of hatred. Especially if you are a straight white dude. You know nothing of the impotent rage of the Frail Anonymous Internet Misogynist.

(Let's pause and ruminate quickly on the title of her piece: Well, That Didn't Take Long. How horrid. She was expecting this. She knew merely because of her gender that creating something would make her a target. She was prepared for it, but you get a sense from the wording that she wasn't expecting the inevitable hatred to be upon her with such swiftness.)

I got to write #NoOctothorpe for over a year and half without one inkling of enmity from the people who read my work. When I did have a fleeting brush with criticism, I considered giving up altogether before overcoming my anxiety and channeling it into my writing. The perceived slight against me wasn't even that bad.

Samantha didn't get to experience the bliss of unimpeded acceptance for even a full day before some coward suggested she end her life. Her response?

I am not going to make my email address private, nor am I going to disable direct messages on Twitter from people I don't follow. This will not end with me closing off a method of communication that I personally find very beneficial. If anything, I now feel even more driven to share my insights with others.

It's beyond me how anyone could face that kind of hostility and stay composed, not to mention motivated to push forward. That's a certain level of strength I will never know.

If you haven't taken the time to explore her work yet, you might be curious as to her crime. I'll tell you: the abhorrent, unforgivable act of assuming for a second that her ideas had merit. The notion that her voice had a place amongst the others. That her commentary was just as valid as anyone else's, despite her gender.

Where's the controversy in that?

Spoiler alert: there fucking isn't one.

And yet there's some childish dickwad, Victor Johnson–such a plain and unassuming name that I can't even find respite by picking it apart in a juvenile attempt to sully someone based solely on the idiotic choices their parents made when faced with the daunting task of finalizing their child's birth certificate–who is so fragile and weak and terrified of anything that challenges his pitiful status of World's Most Capable Troglodyte Named Victor Johson, that he feels compelled to assault a person he has never met, will most likely never meet, and whose actual impact on his own existence is so insignificant, this pale blue dot upon which we reside looks like one gigantic fucking blueberry of relevance in comparison.

There is a man out there, a man I hope is so witless that he chose to use his real name in an email encouraging someone to kill themselves because that person dared to write about technology of all things. He is a man who was subjected to who knows what sort of horrors as he grew up. Abuse? Neglect? The calculated, ruthless banishment of his peers throughout his childhood?

Or perhaps just the warm insulation that so many men feel as they are lauded simply for their innate ability to grow even the tiniest of penises. I can only speculate as to that, and, empathetically, I want to feel bad for him.

But this horrid beast that trolls the web, looking to threaten and intimidate any woman he finds, deserves no sympathy. This oozing pustule whose miasmic contents inexplicably congealed into something halfway resembling a person and gained sentience even without the luxury of a fully-developed frontal lobe. This human manifestation of the backwash swirling around the bottom of a bottle of Schlitz, soon to be mixed with the warm, amber piss of a dehydrated shitkicking chucklefuck whose sole ambition in life is to bury his diseased seed into a sullied hankerchief.

This blight on humanity has no place in our society, and yet, he'll go on to do this over and over again, encouraged by the vocal minority of invertebrates that somehow all find one another in the darkest recesses of the Internet. Idiot moths tirelessly flapping their way around a bright blue light dangling from the porch of some shanty in the bayou. At some point one ventures too close and experiences the spontaneous expulsion of its innards from its delicate thorax.

(In this metaphor, the bug zapper is reality.)

Maybe I'm overreacting, I'll grant you that, but it's hard to contain my indignation when faced with an injustice such as this. I wouldn't feel right sitting idly by and saying nothing.

There is something very wrong in this world where a white dick alone warrants a free pass from indiscriminate abuse towards a creator; whereas a creation of equal value from someone with a vagina–or different skin pigmentation, or (good lord) a vagina attached to someone with different skin pigmentation(!)–is fair game for unbridled derision by a cluster of grundle barnacles masquerading as human beings.

As someone who has experienced the very best of this community, I know that we, as a whole, are better than this. We don't have to allow this behavior. I imagine most of us would feel immense shame knowing that one of our own is being attacked and we did nothing. It will take some work, but we must put ourselves out there and fight against it. It's not fair to put the burden on those who are the unwitting subject of ridicule. It's something we can share and push back against together. That might mean willingly putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations.

There are some of us who don't have the benefit of choosing.