Sadly for All of Us, There’s No Such Thing as a “Lawyer Dog” 

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

A poor court transcription coupled with willful ignorance by multiple judges is leading to a truly absurd miscarriage of justice. Simply put, no reasonable person could honestly believe that Warren Demesme requested a “lawyer dog”. I’ve no idea if Demesme is guilty or not, but a crucial tenet of our justice system is that we do not accept the right outcome obtained in the wrong fashion.

My Watch Reads This Site

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Yesterday, I posted about the buggy behavior of my Apple Watch as it related to a challenge for the month of October. Totals were inexplicably revised down, and as a result I wasn’t awarded the promised badge. Let me clearly acknowledge that I’m dumb for caring about such a thing. However, Apple created this device and wants me to care, so it seems to me that their device should not be so dumb and/or broken.

As I was writing yesterday’s piece, I tried a few things to get the badge to fill in. I force-quit and relaunched Activity on both the phone and watch to no avail. I then tried rebooted both devices, but the result was the same. The phone was hung up on its bad math, so I decided to try and move on with my life.

It seems all I really needed to do was write about the problem here on One Foot Tsunami. Yesterday afternoon, I checked in to see what my watch was demanding of me for November, and I saw this:

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
Note the double badge for October 2017

That second orange “10/2017” badge, with silver accents, is the badge for the October Challenge. It had finally been awarded to me. Better still, tapping it showed that my math was correct, and Numbers.app was vindicated. I really did tally 3369 Exercise minutes in October.

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
It sounds much worse as 2 and 1/3 days of exercise.

Getting the badge now feels a bit anti-climactic, but I still appreciate it. However, all this prompts me to ask why this happened and why the watch was so slow to properly calculate my total, and why it revised my total downward before later fixing it. That buggy behavior is certainly worth fixing. Addition is extremely fundamental, and it’s worrisome if a device can’t get that right. I was able to manually enter data into a spreadsheet and then sum it, many hours before the watch corrected itself. That’s not how things should work with modern computing devices.

After yesterday’s post, I received a handful of emails from readers who shared their own similar experiences. They too saw various totals for the month suddenly dipped in frustrating fashion, only to eventually correct themselves. Some hadn’t even updated their devices, and still ran into trouble. There was general agreement that the Watch’s gamification of activity was nice, but failures like these were disheartening at best.

Ultimately, I can’t be sure what caused these temporarily incorrect recalculations, but I do have a theory. This is the notification I received on my watch for the next monthly Challenge:

For November, my watch wants me to go 247.1 miles.
Oh come on!

I’m no longer certain that the Apple Watch is dumb. Instead, I think it may just be a jerk.

My Apple Dumbwatch

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Back in 2015, I purchased an Apple Watch to replace both my previous analog watch and the latest in a string of fitness trackers. The watch’s activity tracking functionality has worked well for me.1 While I’ve always tried to keep fit, closing the rings for calories burned (“Move”), active minutes (“Exercise”), and standing (“Stand”) has provided added motivation each day. Earning badges for streaks and other achievements has provided a fun, if rather inane, incentive to be more active.

Early last month, the Apple Watch issued an “October Challenge”. This was an individually tailored goal, one which seemed to be based on recent activity. I screwed myself by spending the summer ramping up for a marathon, which led my watch to require that I hit 3,347 minutes of exercise in October to complete this challenge. An average of nearly 108 minutes of activity every single day for a month struck me as a bit much, even if it would earn me the electronic equivalent of a “A+ Patient” sticker from the pediatrician.

Despite the fact that my marathon training was nearly complete and I was tapering down my runs, I wasn’t smart enough to dismiss the challenge outright. I figured I’d see how things went throughout the month, knowing that my race was in mid-October, and that I had a half-marathon before that as well. Every few days I checked in on my progress with the Activity app on my phone, and each time I found that I wasn’t too far off the necessary pace. With some extra effort each day, it was actually possible I could meet the objective.

Even so, it wasn’t until the last few days of the month that it became clear that this ridiculous goal was attainable. It required me to get moving even more than I already was, but the weather looked nice, it was good for my health, and THE ANGRY WATCH GOD MUST BE APPEASED.

So it was that just before 6 PM on October 30th, I checked my phone and saw that I was only 155 minutes shy of the target. With a busy day planned for the 31st, I felt good enough to grab a screenshot to mark my progress.

A first screenshot showing 3192 minutes earned.
1804 minutes left in the month, but only 155 of them needed to be active.

The next day, I tracked the exercise counter on the watch itself as it climbed throughout my day of activity. I was going to make it, and I was foolishly pleased by this asinine little achievement. The device’s expectations for me had been stupidly aggressive, but I was going to enjoy showing an inanimate electronic device what was what. I knew that this would likely raise its expectations still higher for the next month, but that was November Paul’s problem.

However, in the late afternoon of the 31st, I made what seems to have been a key error in judgement. Specifically, I updated my phone to iOS 11.1 and my watch to WatchOS 4.1. I didn’t really think anything of this as I did it, though not for the first time I found myself annoyed by how long the watch took to update. Once it finally finished, I strapped the watch back on and went about my day.

By Halloween night, I had completed almost three hours of activity for the day, and I knew I was set. Just before 11 PM, I opened the Activity app on the phone to gaze upon my newly won badge for the first time. This is what I saw instead:

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
29 hours later, I’d somehow lost time.

Well that’s…not right. That’s not even possible! How exactly did I manage to do negative 128 minutes of activity since the previous day? I quickly found myself in the first two stages of grief, denial (“What the hell?”) and anger (“What the hell!”).

With just 77 minutes left in the month, the watch now claimed I was almost 300 minutes short of the prescribed goal. Even if I literally ran out the rest of the month it wouldn’t change anything. As such, I quickly jumped to the last stage of grief, acceptance (“What the hell.”). I figured that if nothing else, this ought to lower the watch’s demands for the future.

I spent the dwindling minutes of October pondering what in the world had happened. The OS updates had likely affected things somehow, but had they changed the way past activity was calculated? I scanned through each day’s readings and punched the daily recorded activity into a quick spreadsheet. This was the result:

Spreadsheet showing a total of 3369 minutes
That just raises further questions!2

Ultimately, the problem here seems to be with the Apple Watch’s addition skills. That’s pretty bad, as proper math is rather essential for a usable computing device. Alternately, I suppose the problem could be that Apple’s Numbers spreadsheet application can’t do simple calculations. That would certainly be even more shocking. Perhaps the two products are even in some sort of cahoots, the exact nature of which I’ve yet to ascertain.

Either way, I’m trying to maintain a Zen attitude about this. The only thing stupider than spending an entire month overexerting myself to earn a meaningless digital badge would be getting upset when said badge is denied due to some sort of bug. All we are is dust in the wind, and all this is is pixels in the ether. Still, I do think it would be nice if my watch could count.

Update (November 2nd, 2017): It seems that yesterday afternoon, my watch finally got done performing a recount, and awarded me my badge. Read more here.


Footnotes:

  1. One particularly nice thing is that the Apple Watch tracks calories burned directly, rather than the rather imperfect stand-in “steps” used by earlier trackers I’d tried. It was always clear that something was off when running five miles earned the same number of steps as walking about half as far. ↩︎

  2. The relevant video clip is archived here. ↩︎

Won’t Somebody Think of the English Majors? 

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Not content with automating away physical labor jobs, scientists are now creating AIs that can write scary stories.

Coffee Was a Bad Choice 

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Paqui makes incredibly spicy tortilla chips, using some of the hottest peppers on earth. They sell the “Carolina Reaper Madness” chip individually, and the whole experience seems to be more fraternity initiation than culinary indulgence. When Denver’s Channel 2 news team chose to try the chips on live TV, things quickly went south for anchor Natalie Tysdale.

Paging Dr. Dre to the Onstage OR. Dr. Dre, to the Onstage OR.

Friday, October 27th, 2017

I’m really not much for awards shows on television, but if this report from People is correct, I’m truly sorry I missed the 2017 American Music Awards show.

Headline reading 'Selena Gomez Will Take the Stage for the First Time Since Her Kidney Transplant at the 2017 American Music Awards'

An organ transplant performed live on stage? That is compelling television! I can’t seem to find video of this surgery anywhere, which seems very odd.

Thank You, Come Again

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

When I first moved to the Boston area, there was a local chain of convenience stores known as “Store 24”. As the name implies, most locations were open 24 hours a day. At least one location even featured a fanciful clock to emphasize this:

A clock where the only numbers are 24, at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions
[Photo credit: Julia F.]

Despite its name, however, the Store 24 location closest to me in Somerville’s Davis Square was not open 24 hours a day. Instead, it closed at midnight, and only re-opened again at 6 AM. As such, I took to deriding it as the “Store 18”.

Some years later, I was saddened to notice that the store was now called “Tedeschi”. It hurt so bad to lose the dumb little joke I used to ridicule the provincial hours they kept. Unfortunately, after the Tedeschi chain bought Store 24, they decided to eliminate what seemed a far superior (or at least more pronounceable) brand. On the plus side, the store was no longer making a promise it failed to live up to 25% of the time.

Recently, however, I saw that the shop had changed names again. Here is Davis Square’s erstwhile Store 18, as it appears in October of 2017:

Now a 7-11 Store
[Photo credit: Paul K.]

Yes, following their purchase of the Tedeschi chain, international convenience store mega-chain/Slurpee retailer 7-11 has decided to put an end to that name. This may be yet another step on the road to a world where every single place we shop is just called “Wal-Mart”, but for now, the result is simply delightful.

You see, the one constant throughout all the name changes has been the location’s hours of 6 AM to midnight. As a result, this store is once again named for hours it does not keep. Perhaps I’ll amend my mockery by calling it the “6-12”.

Flying Solo 

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Please remain seated until the seat belt sign is turned off, Karon! Then you may feel free to take any seat you like.

The Colonel’s Secret Is Out 

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Somebody on the KFC social media and marketing team deserves a raise.

When Did the French Get So Prudish? 

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

For years, artist Joep Van Lieshout’s sculpture “Domestikator” stood in Germany. When it came time for it to move to France, however, the president of the Louvre deemed it too sexually explicit. What do you think?


Nine months later, a tiny house popped out.

Most adults will be able to discern a vague representation of intercourse, but the idea that this is “sexually explicit” certainly seems ludicrous.