Previous “Features” posts

Timers vs. Alarms

That is very much not what I want.

Today in stupid Siri bugs, let’s have a look at failed timers. When last I wrote about timers, it was to grouse that the iPhone is incapable of running two timers at once. The Apple Watch, however, is a precision timekeeping device. It’s more capable, and has mastered the science of running two (or more) timers at once. Wow!

Unfortunately, if Siri fails to hear the full command for a timer, things go rather wrong. Recently, I wanted to set a timer for three minutes. I said exactly that to my Apple Watch: “Set a timer for three minutes”. However, it seems Siri missed the last word. This was the result:

A two part message. Part 1: “Set a timer for
three”; Part 2: “Timers can't be set for a time of day, so I set your alarm for 3 AM.”

This is a truly terrible automatic behavior. Because it didn’t hear my full command, the system created an undesired alarm and defaulted it to on. If I’d failed to notice this error, I would both not have been alerted when three minutes had passed, and been woken up rudely in the middle of the night. That’s not great.

Rather than assuming I don’t understand the difference between timers and alarms, it would clearly be better for Siri to ask a clarifying question.

The USA Has Gone [Too Few] Days Without a Mass Shooting

“Infinity” is the ideal answer, but I’d settle for just moving that number higher than single digits.

Following Tuesday’s post about gun violence in America, I made a donation to Everytown for Gun Safety. If you’re in favor of sanity when it comes to guns, you can donate too.

If you contribute, you’ll likely be taken to the same donor survey I was:

Text message, quoted below

This portion of the text really struck me:

[W]e’ve always said that the work to end gun violence is a marathon and not a sprint…with the horrific mass shootings that we’ve seen this year, it’s clear we still have a long way to go.

After reading it, I found myself wondering sadly if they change that copy when the new year strikes. If so, how quickly do they change it back? It looks like this year, the answer would’ve been “within a few hours”.

We need to do better.

Everyone’s Favorite Marine Biologist

You can look directly into the eye of the great fish. Or mammal. Whatever!

On Saturday, August 19, the Brooklyn Cyclones will be giving away an incredible bobblehead, based on a classic Seinfeld episode called “The Marine Biologist”. Gaze upon it and weep at its majesty:

[Photo credit: Brooklyn Cyclones]

Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli, I’m angry today, my friends. I’m angry that I can’t attend the team’s 2023 Seinfeld Night to receive one of these glorious giveaways. But at least I can console myself with a well-edited video of the reference in question.1

Previously in marine biologist-related nonsense: Phil Really Missed His Time to Shine


  1. The video is archived here. ↩︎

Something’s Just Got to Give

The worst case scenario is approximately our current reality.

Today, a brutal one-two punch combination, via the Washington Post. First, we have a surreal ban on backpacks, which will do nothing to address the actual problem of unrelenting gun violence in America.

Meanwhile, a second article on cell phones in school featured this utterly devastating quote:

“I’m afraid that if something happens, I won’t be able to contact anyone … to tell people I’m okay or I’m not,” the eighth grader said. “Worst case scenario: You can at least say goodbye.”

A 14-year-old is thinking about this, with good reason. That is just not OK.

We Need the Seeds

So many other buns are just bad.

Trader Joe’s is a different kind of grocery store. They stock only a tenth of the items a larger grocery store offers, and carry almost exclusively their own branded products. As a result, the company frequently discontinues products, providing the shelf space to new items. If you shop at Trader Joe’s long enough, the company will eventually break your heart.

I first experienced this with the company’s “Reduced Guilt Wheat Crisps”. The name of those crackers always made me laugh, because they imply that you should still have some guilt. But less! I frequently snacked on these Wheat Thin-esque crackers with cheese, and I was greatly disappointed when they were discontinued.

As I wrote back in February, they recently reformulated their hamburger buns in an unfortunate way, by stripping the sesame seeds. Since then, I’ve sought out a decent replacement at other stores, but it’s been rough sledding. There aren’t a lot of options, and what’s out there is often too small or just otherwise not great.

This past weekend, while commiserating about lousy substitutes with my pal Amy, I stumbled upon the Trader Joe’s “Discontinued Product Feedback” form. I took a few minutes to express my hope for the return of sesame seeds:

Hi folks,

Recently, you removed the sesame seeds from your excellent hamburger buns. I believe I understand why, as sesame is now included among the top allergens. It’s commendable to have altered the product to accommodate allergic customers.

But these new, naked buns? They’re charmless! They’re simply not as good. We need the seeds!

Is there any chance we could see a return of sesame seeds? Perhaps you could have both seeded and seedless varieties.

The form makes it clear one shouldn’t get their hopes up on anything returning to the shelves, with the top text including the phrase “We make no guarantees”. Further, after submitting, that message is reinforced:

A note reading: “We do not enter into the decision to discontinue a product lightly. We understand that it can be disappointing - we are Trader Joe's customers too, after all. However, we want you to know that we take customer requests into account when we develop new products or revisit old favorites. We appreciate you taking the time to share this valuable feedback with us.”

Still, perhaps with enough people submitting feedback, a change might come. If you like a solid sesame seed bun for your home burger needs, you too can submit feedback to Trader Joe’s. Just tell them “We need the seeds!”.

I Was a Victim of Bird Strike

But seriously, what the fuck, goose?

Yesterday morning, I was hit by a goose. A mile and a half in to a seven mile run, a goose flew directly into me. Physically, I’m mostly fine, if a bit sore. I don’t appear to have any beak bruises, at least. But mentally? Man, I don’t know!

The banks of the river Charles where I do much of my running are infested with Canada geese, munching on grass and honking the day away. They’re generally just benign poop factories, though they might be a bit too tame:

A goose directly below the photographer
So I’m just sitting on a bench and eventually I gotta say “Ay, goose, ever heard of the concept of personal space?”.
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

And when they have goslings, they’ll hiss up a storm at you:

A goose directly below the photographer
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

That’s usually as far as it goes though. So when I spotted two of these pests flying low at my 2 o’clock, I didn’t think much of it. As I kept running, it seemed they were going to be landing pretty close to me, but that’s fine. At the last moment, however, I realized one of these hefty bastards was going to collide with me. In a split second, I turned my body away, it slammed me square in the back, and I yelled out “Jesus!”. The goose, I would like it noted for the record, never made a single sound.

After I got hit, I slowed down and looked around, but there was absolutely no one in sight. Nary a soul had witnessed this honest-to-goodness bird strike (not engine suck). I swiveled my head to look back at the winged pair, who were now standing around, goosing it up like nothing had happened. In disbelief, I yelled out “What the FUCK?!”.

I had broken stride when the collision occurred, but thinking it wise to get some distance from my assailant, I hadn’t stopped completely. As I continued on, I again scanned the area for people. I wanted someone to reassure me that they had seen what happened, and that they would commiserate as a fellow human against these out-of-control waterfowl. Alas, I again came up empty. I picked my pace back up and sped away from the site of my bird-based embarrassment.

Frankly, I should’ve turned around and gone home. I don’t think anyone could have blamed me for just giving up at that point, on the run, and even on the whole day. But instead, I ran another five and a half miles wondering what the fresh hell had just happened to me.

It was suggested to me that the goose himself might be having similar confusion. But no! He had a friend there. At the very least, they can talk it over together. “Pete, why was that guy on our landing strip?” “Oh, Gary, I don’t know, he came out of nowhere!”. Or maybe it was intentional, and they’re actually out there laughing at me. “I really whacked that non-flying schmuck! Running – pfft. Get some wings!”.

I’ll never know the truth of the situation. I sure do wish I could see a replay, but there’s no video, no witnesses, no evidence at all. In an effort to restore my own sense of self, I’m chalking the whole thing up to pure avian incompetence, coupled with the law of averages. I’ve decided to simply accept that running thousands of miles along the river meant that sooner or later, I was bound to get nailed by a clumsy goose.

OK, Post, Go Get a New Name

Seriously, just pick something else. Anything else.

While reading my pal Cabel’s recent look at a wide assortment of snacks, I came upon the following:

Ok Go! Cereals
I only bought this because Post is in the middle of a lawsuit with — surprise! — the band Ok Go, and I thought this was my one chance.

Two small cereal containers, with the brand name “OK Go!”[Photo credit: Cabel S.]

Readers of this site may know that I’m a fan of OK Go, and I’ve posted about them several times over the years (2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2010). Despite that, I had entirely missed this story of corporate malfeasance. I immediately went looking for more information, and landed on a helpful Variety article. It included a good overview of the issue at hand:

Trademark fights turn on the concept of “likelihood of confusion,” which can dilute the power of a trademark. Courts analyze a series of factors, including the strength of the plaintiff’s mark and the degree of competition between the two products, in deciding whether consumers might be confused.

In its complaint, Post has asserted that there is no likelihood, because Post makes “high-quality, delicious cereal products,” while OK Go is a rock band. The band’s lawyers have countered that consumers will wrongly believe that OK Go has endorsed the cereal.

Trademarks exist on a spectrum of distinctiveness. Some trademarks are unique only in their industry, which is why we can have two very different types of Dove bars (soap and ice cream). A more fanciful mark like “Dasani”, however, enjoys far stronger protection in part due to how distinctive it is. Regardless of the product being sold, it would be foolish for any other company to try to use that name.

Thanks to their many viral music videos, OK Go, the band, is fairly well known in America. Further, though it consists of just four letters spread evenly across two words, the phrase is certainly not common in any other context. Put another way, if I had seen the above-pictured product organically, I would immediately have wondered if the band had some affiliation with it.

Lead singer Damian Kulash spoke bluntly about the matter:

“It’s enraging… It seems like such cut-and-dry bullying,” said Damian Kulash, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, in an interview. “There are so many other things you could call your fucking cereal. Just pick one. Nobody looks good in this. Just pick a new name.”

Indeed, no one looks good here, but Post looks especially bad. In addition to looking bad for needlessly trying to appropriate a name from a small but popular band, the billion dollar company looks bad for another reason, one I only discovered after on a fortuitous click. The aforelinked article also includes this text:

Kulash argued that the band has spent decades developing a distinct image that many brands — including Post itself — have paid handsomely to associate themselves with.

If you click on that linked text, you’ll be taken on the same journey down a rabbit hole that I was. For me, it was like entering an entire alternate reality. Over a decade ago, there was supposedly a streaming service called “Bitbop”, of which I have precisely zero recollection.1 Before it was shuttered in early 2012, the service included a “Honey Bunchs of Oats Original” series called “Honey & Joy”:

A title screen from the web series “Honey & Joy”

All eight episodes are available on YouTube, and I gutted my way through a full 25% of the series for this piece. Please believe me when I tell you that the show is terrible. It is astonishingly bad, yet not bad enough to loop back around to the realm of so-bad-it’s-good. It is simply bad bad, and it should not exist. But apparently, exist it does! And on this show, which, apropos of nothing, features a character named “Dick Cutlet”, OK Go, the band, was paid to make a guest appearance.2

The group has literally been employed by Post to promote cereal! For the company to now attempt to sell a product under the name “ok go!”, without involving the band, is the height of foolishness. It’s even dumber than this god-awful show about which I was once so blissfully ignorant.

Please, Post. Just re-name your vaguely unsettling powdered milk cereal product. When you do, we can all go back to a world where your regrettable web series is once again forgotten.


  1. “Bitbop brings the best of TV to your smartphone, commercial-free!” ↩︎

  2. Their episode, number seven of eight, is archived here. You should not watch it. ↩︎

Terrible Twitter Truncation

I can think of many, many better ways to spend $1,000 a month.

Many years ago, I obtained verification for the Twitter account over at my day job. At the time, verification was free, and the blue checkmark reinforced the trustworthiness of our posts.

Under Twitter’s incompetent new management, however, a blue checkmark is no longer a true mark of verification. Rather than requiring that an account prove itself authentic, a checkmark now simply means that the account holder has paid $8 a month for a subscription to “Twitter Blue”. The backlash against this has been strong, and the blue check has become a badge of dishonor.

Unfortunately, against their will, many popular accounts have been comped with free Twitter Blue. The system then makes the erroneous claim that the account has subscribed and been verified:

A bubble reading: “Verified account  - This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”

This has prompted many accounts to defensively tweet a denial of having paid for Twitter, like this one from MIT:

A tweet from MIT reading: “We did not subscribe to Twitter Blue.”

As CBS put it, it’s a debacle. Given all of this, I was recently eagerly awaiting the removal of Rogue Amoeba’s checkmark. The platform can continue its likely shuffle off this mortal coil without receiving any money from us. Fortunately, earlier this month, our checkmark did indeed disappear.

While confirming this, however, I spotted something even more ridiculous. In the unresizeable sidebar found on the Twitter web site, there was a new entry: “Verified Organiza…”

Twitter’s sidebar, with the entry for “Verified Organizations” truncated down to “Verified Organiza”.

According to the marketing copy, “Verified Organizations is for organizations of all types–businesses, non-profits, and government institutions–to manage their verification, affiliate and verify any related account, and unlock new features”. It seems to basically be Twitter Blue for businesses, and the asking price is $1,000 a month. That’s rather steep.

While staring at this, I found myself tickled. Twitter is attempting to sell companies on a very low-value $12,000-a-year subscription, and they couldn’t even make the full name of this product display untruncated. That is rich.

Same Time Next Year?

Forget the Masters; the Boston Marathon is the real tradition unlike any other.

Eliud Kipchoge is one of the greatest distance runners the world has ever known. Coming into Monday’s Boston Marathon, he had earned victories in 12 major marathons, and failed to win just twice. The man is nearly superhuman, as I’ve documented previously, and he was certainly one of the favorites to win the men’s race.

At 11 AM yesterday, I stood at the Newton firehouse turn (mile 17.3 or so) and saw Kipchoge leading the front pack. It was a cool, rainy day, and for his standards, the pace wasn’t blistering. Nevertheless, it certainly seemed Kipchoge could be on his way to another victory.

Eliud Kipchoge, in red shorts, leading the pack
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

Then came the Newton Hills. Though Heartbreak Hill is the most famous, there are actually four notable hills in Newton, and they come deep into the race, when runners are far from fresh. As has happened so many times before, the hills changed the outcome of the race:

For the first 17 miles, Kipchoge appeared to be in control, leading the pack of elite men’s runners at the front of the race. But as has happened for more than a century, the Newton hills, culminating with the famous “Heartbreak Hill,” proved too much.

An attack from Gabriel Geay, of Tanzania, in Mile 18 put Kipchoge in trouble, as he fell back and was unable to even lead the chase group. By the time the leaders had passed the hills and eventual winner Evans Chebet made a strong move at Mile 21, Kipchoge had been dropped by the leading group and trailed by almost a minute.

In the end, Eliud Kipchoge proved human, and Evans Chebet defended his Boston crown with a stellar 2:05:54. Kipchoge’s time of 2:09:23 was only good enough for a sixth place finish. After the race, he had this to say:

I live for the moments where I get to challenge the limits. It’s never guaranteed, it’s never easy. Today was a tough day for me. I pushed myself as hard as I could but sometimes, we must accept that today wasn’t the day to push the barrier to a greater height. I want to congratulate my competitors and thank everyone in Boston and from home for the incredible support I am so humbled to receive. In sports you win and you lose and there is always tomorrow to set a new challenge. Excited for what’s ahead.

I’m already excited for next year, where I hope we’ll see Kipchoge again.

An Embarassing Glimpse Into the Past

There’s no charge for entry.

Over at my day job, we unveiled something very cool today: The Rogue Amoeba Historic Screenshot Archive. It’s a repository of screenshots of our products dating back to 2002, along with details and stories about many of our biggest updates. Putting together the archive was quite an undertaking, but as I wrote in our announcement post, the end result feels weighty and worthwhile. It’s quite gratifying to be able to look back on our work, which now spans more than two decades.

It can also be humbling and amusing, and thus worth writing about on this mildly-popular humor site. Start with a look at this 2003-era screenshot from our now-retired broadcast app Nicecast:

A screenshot of the very first version of Nicecast

It’s really something. Of course, it’s got pinstripes, which were the style at the time. It’s also got a drawer, an interface element that has long gone the way of the dodo. But what I notice most are the speed recommendations, which include a suggestion for how to broadcast from a 28.8 modem. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Next, take a gander at the “Timer” section from version 1.0 of our recording tool Audio Hijack Pro:

A screenshot of a poorly aligned pair of time fields

If you look closely, you’ll see that the “Start Time” and “End Time” fields aren’t properly aligned, with “End” riding multiple pixels high. Development tools at the time just didn’t provide much help with things like that. While talking to my co-founder Quentin about it, he said “Theres some amount of ‘I’m happy I got this to work at all’ going on too. That Time field was beyond my ability to code in 2003”. It was a very different time.

Speaking of time, I’ll close by noting my favorite thing I’ve spotted thus far. Audio Hijack has long provided optional limits which can be used to end a recording automatically. Here’s how the current version looks:

An “End Recording” option which can be activated via a checkbox, and then configured to X amount of time.

Now let’s compare it against a nearly 20-year-old version of the same product, when this functionality was first introduced:

An “End Recording” option which can be activated via a checkbox, and then configured to X amount of time.

As you can see, rather than providing a checkbox to turn this option off as we do now, the default setting was “Stop recording after Eternity”. “Eternity”! It tickles me so.

I’m sure there’s plenty more to see and mock. Head over to the archive if you’re interested, and let me know what embarrassments you dig up.