Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Noise-Canceling Headphones Review

Shortly after starting a podcast with a friend he recommended to me the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 noise canceling headphones. While doubtful about wired over-ear headphones, which I hadn't worn in a decade, none-the-less I tried them out.

They immediately became required equipment.

Since Bose introduced the QC 15s five years ago they have become a common sight on frequent travelers in airports and train stations the world over. Now Bose has updated the line with the Quiet Comfort 25 noise canceling headphones .

Here are my thoughts on the QC 25s after three weeks, two trains, and one transatlantic trip.

The Reason You Buy Them

You buy the Quiet Comfort headphones from Bose to distance yourself from the acoustic intrusions of the world: construction, babies, jet engines, music, traffic, babies, and babies.

Take, to pick a random example, babies. Their voices designed by millions of years of evolution to be unignorable. In the confines of a crowded airplane, a single baby can tear asunder the calm and quiet thoughts of a hundred or more grown humans with a mere cry. What baby is going to pass up that kind of opportunity?

There is nothing -- legally anyway -- that you can do about a screaming baby, but the Bose Quiet comfort headphones are the next best thing. Your metaphorical smothering pillow, as it were.

And a pillow really is the best way to describe the effect. The noise canceling doesn't really cancel out the sounds of the world around you, as the name claims. The headphones aren't a mute, but make sounds muteed. The noise 'canceling' effect when combined with music, however, makes it easy to ignore the world and slip into isolated comfort. It works best for low constant sounds (Cabin airplane noises and street traffic almost disappear) and least well for irregular, high sounds (babies, sirens) but still makes them tolerable.

Once you stop actively listening to them, the sounds slip away from your mind. I've had the pleasure of living next to construction sites for, oh, the last five years. When I first put the headphones on, I can still hear the jackhammers, but any construction work that starts after that is hard to notice. Once in this state it can be startling to take off the headphones and be plunged back into cacaphonic horror.

All the above holds true for the QC 15s and, to my ears, the 25s are even better at reducing noise. So much better they can be too quiet for comfort in an already quiet room without playing music through them. If you have tinnitus you'll never want them on your head without some sound playing. (This has led me to the strange situation of playing recorded airplane cabin noise through the headphones, while on an airplane.)

The noise reduction is so good they need to come with a warning: these headphones are not safe to wear on the street. Sirens are still audible, but approaching cars are deadly silent. Without the ambient awareness of footsteps, people appear from behind without you noticing them in advance. If you're going to wear them on the street, even with one headphone off they can surprisingly limit your aural information.

What's the same

Two things that many people complained about the QC 15s are still the same in the QC 25s:

The headphones are still wired. This isn't a big deal: while wireless would be better, if the cost was battery life I'd rather stick with the wire. Besides, most situations where the headphones are at their best, like working in a cafe, are not high-mobility situations. If you plan to be moving around a lot Bose does have a line of wireless noise-canceling headphones. (I haven't tried these, I'm using and recommend the BlueBuds for wireless)

Second: the headphones still run on a AAA battery. People complain mightily and I'm baffled as to why: Running on AAAs is a huge advantage. The headphones are most needed when they can be charged the least. An 11-hour flight from London to San Francisco is no time to find yourself with dead headphones.

AAA batteries are easily bought at any airport or train station in any country. Charging stations, if available at all, are the rare oasis. Even if you find one, you better hope you didn't forget to pack yet another charging wire.

Bose claims the AAA battery lasts more than 30 hours -- and I believe them. Trying to run the headphones down by using them for everything all day took the better part of the week even on an old rechargeable battery.

Welcome Improvements


The QC 25s are ever so slightly smaller than the QC15s. Glancing at them side-by-side it's hard to see -- but Bose picked all the right places to shave millimeters. For something you wear on your head small improvements in size and weight yield an outsized increase in comfort. You can wear them at work all day.

The case for the QC 25s is much smaller than the previous generation. New hinges in the headphones allow them to rotate to a collapsable position to fit in the smaller and, thankfully, more rectangular container. (A helpful illustration on the interior shows how they should go -- I use it every time)

One of my biggest complaints is also removed: the QC 15s would let you know the battery was about to die with a sudden 'clack clack clack clack' sound. It was loud enough that, if I left the headphones on in the room next to my bedroom when the batteries ran down in the middle of the night the clack clack clack clack could wake me. The experience of wearing the headphones when the battery went low was… not pleasant.

I have no idea who floated that terrible idea in the design meeting but I hope the near-removal of this 'feature' from the QC25s means they were fired. And hanged. I say near-removal because it took me almost three weeks to realize that the QC25s still do click, but so gently and softly it's easily missed. The tiny green LED on the side of the headphones now blinks when the battery is approaching the end of its life. Also as a plus, even without the batteries, the audio will still work (though with reduced quality and no noise canceling).

As a final small point: the new look is also much improved: the QC 15 was a little cyberman in its appearance. The black and blue color scheme is both less eye-catching (good) and more pro. The phrase 'anonymously handsome' comes to mind.


The Bose QuiteComfort 25s are a welcome upgrade from the QC 15s. Never step on a plane or a train without them.

Politics in the Animal Kingdom: Single Transferable Vote


Extra: STV Election Walkthrough




Queen Lion is looking to make the elections in her animal kingdom more fair. Currently she divides her citizens into ranges each of which selects one representative to go to the jungle council which makes laws for the kingdom.

But her citizens are unhappy, and it's easy to see why: the council is full of monkeys. Of course some of her citizens are monkeys, but not all of them. This council doesn't fairly represent her kingdom.

Queen lion visits one of the ranges to find out what's wrong and how to fix it.

In this range there five monkeys, four tigers, three owls, two lynx and one buffalo. One of each runs for representative and all citizens vote for their own species.

The election rule is that the candidate with the most votes wins, which is the monkey. But it's a pretty unsatisfying result considering that 2/3rds of citizens in this range aren't monkeys and wouldn't vote for monkeys.

This is the same across all the ranges of the kingdom, the monkeys have more votes than anybody else, so they win all the elections, even though they are a minority of the total population. Closer inspection reveals that the independent advisors hired to draw the range boundaries in the first place weren't as independent as they first appeared.

The result is unhappy citizens who don't trust the jungle council to make the fairest laws for all, quite rightly.

Now Queen lion wants to maximize the number of citizens happy with the election results. One way to do that is to abolish the ranges and use a proportional system... ...But her citizens want local representatives.

So Queen lion needs a system that both make her citizens happier by having a more representative council while keeping local elections in place.

After doing a little research she finds out how: Single Transferable Vote.

The big change with STV is that ranges send more than one representative, which may seem weird, but queen lion decides to test it out: she takes three ranges which used to each send one representative and combines them into one bigger range that will send three.

On election day citizens go to the polls and the results in this new range are just the same as they were in the old ranges: 34% for Monkey, 33% for Owl and 33% for Lynx.

But this isn't most votes wins: with STV to figure out the winners take the total votes and divide by the number of representatives needed, in this case 3 which gives 33% as the amount a candidates needs to win.

So all three candidates go to the council -- which accurately represents the citizens in the range.

Whereas under the old system each range would have sent a monkey. Leaving 2/3rd of the citizens without representation. A bigger range with more representatives allows the range to be more proportional.

This test turned out well, but it was also as simple as could be -- now Queen Lion wants to see what happens in a race where not everyone is a winner.

The next big range she tests has five candidates running for office: Gorilla, Tasier, Monkey, Tiger, and Lynx, three of which can be representatives.

Election day comes and goes, and here are the results of citizens first choices:

Tasier gets 5% Gorilla gets 28% Monkey gets 33% Tiger gets 21% Lynx gets 13%

As before, a candidate needs 33% to win. Monkey has that as so is immediately selected as one of the three representatives.

But no one else reached the winning 33% so how are the other two representatives selected?

Step one: get rid of the biggest loser. Sorry tasier -- you really had no chance at all.

Now, when the citizens voted, they could have just put an X next to the candidate they liked most but with STV they can also rank their favorite candidates. This is important because it shows how the election would have turned out if one of the candidates hadn't run.

Tiny and Worried Tasiers would have voted for the big calm gorilla without tasier in the race. So if their candidate can't win, they want their votes to go to Gorilla instead. This pushes gorilla up to 33% and he become the next representative.

Ranking allows citizens to support their favorite candidate without worry -- there's no point in strategizing about how everyone else is going to vote. The system works to maximize voter happiness with the result.

Back to the range: there's still one representative to select, so the next biggest loser is Lynx. His voters don't like simians, but they do think tiger's interests are similar to theirs and so if Lynx can't win they want him to have their votes. Tiger gets reaches 33% and becomes the third and final representative.

The election result looks pretty good especially considering citizens first and second choices.

Now more citizens have a local representative they can feel comfortable approaching, whereas using the old system, everybody gets a monkey.

Lastly queen lion wants know what happens in a range with just two political parties. Under the most-votes-wins systems, multiple candidates from the same party would be a disaster: they'd split their voters and hand the win to their opposition.

Queen lion makes one last test range with 2/3rd tigers and 1/3 gorillas that as before, needs three representatives.

Because with STV citizens rank their candidates there can be more than one candidate running at the same time without any problems.

The tigers run two candidates as do the gorillas.

White tiger becomes the first representative, but what happens next? While tiger seems to be the biggest loser, it's also obvious that he would have gotten way more votes if white tiger wasn't in the race. If a candidate has more votes than they need, like white tiger does, the first step is to give the extra votes to their second choice. This gets tiger to 33% and he becomes the next representative.

If that seems strange, there are two things to consider:

1) If instead the extra votes were ignored, and tiger eliminated then the gorillas would get the remaining two wins, which would obviously not be represent the range.

2) Ignoring these 'extra' votes is punishing citizens who backed the popular candidate, which makes voters start thinking about how everyone else will vote, rather than what they really want. If a candidate gets extra votes in the first place it also means that those who voted for him are a big section of the population and thus fairly should get more representation.

Right: after the extra votes go to tiger, the election finishes as before: Silverback came in last, is eliminated and his voters' second choice is the younger candidate so gorilla gets in. And the results are fair.

Queen Lion has now seen STV work. Whether a range has one party or lots the process is still the same:

  1. Citizens rank their favorite candidates.
  2. Any candidate above the threshold wins immediately,
  3. 'Extra' votes go to their next choice.
  4. If no winner, last place is eliminated, and the votes to go their next choice.
  5. Repeat until all the winners are found.

This whole this process is designed to maximize the number of citizens who are happy with the result.

This process gives STV has many advantages over the old, most-votes-wins system:

  1. Citizens can honestly vote for their favorite candidate without worrying about what everyone else is going to do.
  2. It's more proportional. So monkeying with the borders matters less.
  3. Almost all citizens will have a local representative they actually voted for.

In the end Queen lion decides to switch the council's elections to Single Transferable Vote to make a better jungle council for all.

The Professional Sharer

I'm changing the way I run my email list. Some of you won't like it. If that's you, I've made the unsubscribe button as obvious as possible.

Now, the change:

Facebook and YouTube and things like them are, what we call in the business, 'platforms'. People stand on the platform and share things with their audience. Most of this is memes and baby photos and inside jokes for friends and family.

If someones shares enough things that people like and enough people join the audience, that can turn into a career: the professional sharer.

But I've been on The Internet long enough to see a trend. As platforms grow more popular: professional sharers cannot trust the platforms upon which they stand, audiences cannot trust the platform to show what they asked to see.

This isn't to say that platforms are bad, or that people shouldn't use them. The keyword above is trust. A lion tamer is better off with a lion -- the lion draws a crowd and the tamer dazzles them with his skills. But the tamer would be a fool to trust the lion -- to expect the lion to act in his best interests. The truth is the lion and the tamer have incentives that are mostly aligned at the moment, but as the lion grows that may change.

When platforms like Facebook get big enough, they start to use 'bots: little digital machines that watch what you, as the audience member, does. Bots watch you, what you look at, what you click on and what you don't. The bots then make changes to the platform, hiding some things that people have shared, promoting others.

The bots optimize the platform -- usually toward making more money.

There's nothing wrong with money. Running a platform that millions, or literally billions of people use isn't cheap. But when the bots show up is usually the moment the divide between the goals of the professional creators, the audience, and the platform goes from a crack to a schism.

This is frustrating for the professional sharers and the audience that wants to see what they have shared.

On YouTube the 'subscribe' button, which used to guarantee you'd see new videos from the creators you like most, is now mostly a suggestion to the platform of what you might like to see. 'SubscribedToChannelX = TRUE' is now a data point for the bots in their optimizing. Maybe you'll see what you asked for. Maybe you won't.

Professional sharers, like myself, can only exist with an audience. Platforms help bring that audience, and sharers help grow the platform. But growing a platform faster only hastens the day when the bots arrive and the platform can no longer be trusted to deliver what the audience asks to see.

So what to do?

I'm surprised to find myself, well into the second decade of the 21st century, doubling down on a technology invented before I was born: email.

Through a lucky accident, no company owns email. It's like language: used by all, controlled by none.

Also lucky is email has, to a first-world approximation, 100% population coverage. An email address is as required as a physical address to exist in the modern world.

Email is also stable. A simple way to estimate how long something will stay around is to ask: "How long has it been around?" Email has been with us for decades, so it's reasonable to guess it will last for decades more.

If you are, or want to be, a professional creator email is your platform.

All this is to say that my email list -- originally created to send the most occasional of messages -- is going to get a lot busier. There is no other tool I can rely upon to show the people who want to see the things that I have made, the things that I have made.

If getting my videos and articles and other projects in your inbox doesn't interest you, I've made the unsubscribing as easy and as obvious as I can.

But if you want to be sure to never miss out on anything I share, you can go ahead and sign up below.

Book Notes: 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott

I'm going to attempt, for a little while anyway, to make public some of my notes from some of the books that I've read. This is partly because people are forever asking what I'm reading, but it's mostly as a way to try and encourage myself to read both more deeply and more frequently -- a target I have been trying, and failing, to hit for all my adult life.

All projects and hobbies of mine eventually die from lack of attention if they cannot serve multiple purposes. So it is my hope that these notes will add even more reason to engage more frequently with long-form writing.

These won't be reviews, they really will just be some sections of the book with a line or two on why I highlighted them. But I hope that they can give you a good idea of if a book might or might not be for you, and if you should read it yourself. Many non-fiction books can be summarized with a few lines, but Bird by Bird captures, for me, why it still often feels necessary to read the entire thing and why you may want to as well even after reading my notes:

There may be a flickering moment of insight in a one-liner, in a sound bite, but everyday meat-and-potato truth is beyond our ability to capture in a few words. But the whole piece is the truth, not just oust one shining epigrammatic moment in it.

I often decide to pick up a book when I hear about it from too many different kinds of people. So it went with Bird by Bird which I'd been recommended not just by writers but also by many people with entirely un-writerly lives.

The Big Idea

When discussing the weekly column that Lamott wrote she said of the moment she sat down at her desk to actually write something:

Even after I'd been doing this for years, panic would set in.

As a person who makes semi-regular things, it's relieving to hear others express the same thought. After every, single, video I think: “I’ll never be able to do that again”.

The idea of the shitty first draft is that you shouldn't expect the first iteration of anything you do to be good. It's not supposed to be good: it's just supposed to be started.

All I had to do was to write a really shitty first draft of, say, the opening paragraph. And no one was going to see it. So I'd start writing without reining myself in. It was almost just typing, just making my fingers move. And the writing would be terrible.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up .

Also, trying to fix the unpleasant feeling of creative work is pointless. It’s always unpleasant. That’s just what creation is.

I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts… Very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled.

Pink Highlights

Pink highlights are reserved for particularly striking or important passages. I found them in the section on writers' 'block':

The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you're empty.

'Downtime' is less downtime than filling-up time. But just because you are empty doesn't mean you are off the hook. Empty isn't an excuse to stop working: it's a warning to just have your non-zero work day and go fill up with learning or experiences.

But if you accept the reality that you have been given that you are not in a productive creative period you free yourself to begin filling up again. I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let it go at that.

Actionable Items

Twice Lamott pushes the point of why reaching out to other people while in the stages of your own work is beneficial thing to do:

The truth is that there are simply going to be times when you can't go forward in your work until you find out something… So figure out who would have this information and give that person a call… And it may also turn out that in searching for this one bit of information, something else will turn up that you absolutely could not have known would be out there waiting for you.

By far and away, this is the thing that I have the most problem with:

But by all means let someone else take a look at your work. It's too hard always to have to be the executioner. Also, you may not be able to see the problems.

On rare, rare occasions I’ve asked for feedback on scripts that I’m either particularly uncertain about or that have had unusually tight deadlines. The result is always better than before. But I don’t like the imposition that it causes — even though those same people have, on occasion, asked me to look at their own things and I am always happy to.

Other Notes

On inspiration:

And… you're off and running. And it really is like running. It always reminds me of the last lines of Rabbit, Run: "his heels hitting heavily on the pavement at first but with an effortless gathering out of a kind of sweet panic growing lighter and quicker and quieter, he runs. Ah: runs. Runs." I wish I felt that kind of inspiration more often. I almost never do. All I know is that if I sit there long enough, something will happen. My students stare at me for a moment. "How do we find an agent?” they ask.

On not listening to the radio station in your head:

If you are not careful, station KFIKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one's specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn't do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything that one touches turns to shit.

On taking notes:

Hostile, aggressive students insist on asking what I do with all my index cards. And all I can say is that I have them, I took notes on them, and the act of having written something down gives me a fifty-fifty shot at having it filed away now in my memory.

As a man with, at the time of writing, 2,353 notes in Evernote this is a bit of a relief.

You can get a copy of Bird by Bird at


Hanging Out in Alabama

Last night, far past my bedtime, the tickets for a unique event in Alabama went up for sale. I tweeted, promptly went to sleep and then woke up to a lot of email questions. This is me trying to answer the most common ones as quickly as possible:

1) Are you going?

Yes, I really will be there in person.

2) Will you be wearing one of these?

I won't be hiding my appearance in any way.

3) Won't that be weird?

Yes it will be a strange, strange day for me. If this article of mine really struck a chord with you, you might want to reconsider buying a ticket.

4) Will it be recorded / will the venue change to $LocationBestForMe


5) What is happening on the day?

This event has been quite the evolving thing. But my current understanding is that Destin, Derek, Henry and (possibly?) Brady will be doing a show / presentation of some sort. They've all given real presentations to real audiences before. After their shows there will be a Q&A panel like you may have seen at other conferences. I'll be hanging out on that.

There will also be a meet-and-greet at some stage. I have no idea the logistics of this, but I'll also be there.

6) Can I hug you?

You should probably hug Derek instead. He's much prettier and will like it more.

Still interested? Then you should totally get a ticket here while they're still available.

Dark Mode as iOS Accessibility Feature

With iOS 7, everything went white.  White backgrounds with black text is omnipresent in not just the default apps but increasingly every third-party app is joining the party:


Translation: don’t ever use this app in bed at night.

Translation: don’t ever use this app in bed at night.


In general I’m in favor of the redesign, though there have been examples of apps tragically losing all their personality:

 I still cherish you, Dark Sky, but you're not the same app I fell in love with all those years ago.

 I still cherish you, Dark Sky, but you're not the same app I fell in love with all those years ago.


With each point release of iOS 7 and each beta release of iOS 8, I hoped Apple would craft a black-mirror view of their white world.

I hoped in vain, for a system-wide dark mode.  Where the white background could go dark and the dark texts could go light.  

But alas, now with the official release of iOS 8, there is no dark mode.  I hoped Apple would implement it because dark mode isn't just a feature for night time use.  For some of us dark mode is an accessibility feature.

Sacks of Fluid

Many years ago, on a sunny day, I looked at the bright blue sky and saw a small blurry spot on it that shifted with, but didn’t exactly follow, my vision.

Something was stuck.  On my eye.

I tried to rinse it off myself, but to no avail.  One, slightly panicked, trip to the the eye doctor later and I learned the spot wasn't on my eye but inside my eye.

My first floater had arrived.

Floaters are, among the list of all the things that can go wrong with your vision, pretty minor.  They are nothing compared to the creeping, maddening, horror of macular degeneration.

That said… floaters are still really annoying.

The fluid in your eye congeals a bit, or flecks of the interior wall of your eye break off -- these  solid pieces then float lazily around the interior of your eyes.  Impossible to focus on, yet still getting in the way of your vision.

Many people eventually develop one or two but, if you're unlucky, their number continues to increase until there are always many in your field of vision.  Just how annoying this is is difficult to convey. They follow what you look at but not quite so it is impossible for your brain to learn to photoshop them out. They drift around never quite in the same spot and, given their lightness and the viscousness of your eyeball fluid, difficult to make go away.

As a result – I’ve developed a bit of a tic that I try to conceal when talking to people, – if a floater is too directly in the field of vision I’ll look up and down in quick succession – trying to stir the snow globe of my eyes into a less frustrating pattern.

Back to iOS

Floaters are most visible on a bright white background when trying to discern thin dark shapes.

This is reading.  For someone with a lot of floaters, it always looks something like this.


My animation and GIFification skills are inadequate, but this should give you some sense of what reading with floaters is like.  The true effect is impossible to recreate because it's different for each eye and tracks your focus.

My animation and GIFification skills are inadequate, but this should give you some sense of what reading with floaters is like.  The true effect is impossible to recreate because it's different for each eye and tracks your focus.


Now you may see why, the design aesthetic of iOS 7/8 is problematic.  Black text on a white background is everywhere.  

Dark modes, where the background is dark and the text light greatly reduces this problem and apps like Instapaper and Editorial get super-bonus points because in addition to black-on-white, which is still high contrast, they also have a low contrast off-white text on dark gray or blue background.  This low contrast mode all but makes the problem disappear.  

Instapaper black: so much more readable. 

Instapaper gray: just about perfection.  I'm a normal reader again.

Editorial: where I spend most of my working life.  It's the world's most feature-packed iOS writing app.   I use it solely because on iPad the background is dark blue.

But! But! Invert Colors Mode!

Invariably when an iOS dark mode is brought up people point out that Apple already (sort of) has this: inverted color mode. Yes, without a doubt inverted colors help, and yes, I’ve mapped invert colors to the trip click of my home button.

But it’s not really a solution, it’s a hack with downsides.

Here’s why inverted colors isn’t a solution:

1) All photos and images are useless.


What's wrong with your face?


2) Color meaning is lost.

Many apps pick opposite colors (green & red, orange & blue) to highlight important, meaningful parts of their interface.  While this make it easy to quickly spot important information.  Therefore, inverting colors also inverts the meaning of many interface elements.  

For example, uses orange for flagged messages and blue for unread.  



Now here’s the app with inverted colors:

Wait, what?

Wait, what?


Inverting the colors also changes the tone interface elements to the opposite of what their designers intended.  Take OmniFocus for the iPhone:


Not that I look at this text-heavy screen too much anyway.  It's just the command center for my entire life.  

Not that I look at this text-heavy screen too much anyway.  It's just the command center for my entire life.  


Freak-out colors (red, orange) are used for overdue and flagged, and chill-out colors (blue, green) for the rest. Invert colors makes the less important parts of the screen pop more and subdues the parts that are supposed to draw your attention.

3) Dark Mode Must Be Constantly Turned On and Off

Because of the above problems, and because some apps do have their own dark mode while others don't, invert colors needs to be turned on and off constantly.  The invert colors setting lives in: 

Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Invert colors

Given that placement, we must thank the Gods of Apple it's possible to set a triple click of the home button to invert the colors.  


Even with that shortcut it's still a seven-click/tap process to switch from an app in inverted color mode to another app that isn't.  (double click home, swipe to app, tap app, triple click home to invert) Sure, it’s no Endorian Holocaust, but it's a theoretically avoidable annoyance piled on top of an unfixable frustration.


I'm still holding out hope for Apple to, one day, introduce a true system-wide dark mode for iOS that apps can opt into participating with their defaults.  (Apple already has done this with OS X, sort of.)

But until that day comes, I ask developers of text-heavy apps: please consider including a dark mode for your app not just because it's a night-use feature but also because, for some of us, it's an accessibility feature.  

The End of Hello Internet Season #2 (Also T-shirts!)

I wasn't sure if we'd make it through a single season, but now Brady and I have wrapped up two with the most recent episode.

We are planning to do a season three and, if you're interested, one of the ways we are going to be supporting the show is with our stylish Hello Internet t-shirts.  Get yours today.  


Faceless Voices

For the last decade of his life, my grandfather lived in a world of faceless voices.

His vision lost, he listened to the audiobooks and radio dramas my father brought him: westerns and space operas and stories that, as a child, I would never have spontaneously picked up. But the drive to my grandfather's was long and the tapes already with us, so my father put them on and created for me a childhood filled with the spoken word.

The habit formed, in high school and college I borrowed audiobooks from the library in their large, clunky plastic cases of CDs. At the start of my adult life I had a digital music player in my pocket filled with audiobooks and then-new podcasts.

My flatmate at the time had never met anyone who so constantly listened to 'radio'. Years later she has acclimated (mostly) to the sight of her husband, always around the home with one earbud in, listening to others.

My audio world is largely one of faceless voices. Though unlike my grandfather this is by choice, rather than forced by a failure of biology. What the owners of many of the voices I listen to look like I don't know, and I don't want to know.

The spoken word combines the expansive possibility of writing with the exactingness of visual media. An audiobook narrator can give the text a depth the words alone could never convey. An author reading his work can shift his tone or emphasis to draw attention to particular words far, far more than italics ever could.

The right voice with the right story expands the inner eye to its widest.

But this inner eye is a delicate thing -- a palace of glass seen brightly, if ethereally. Discovering the face of a voice is not an addition, but a subtraction. The face becomes the voice in the way an actor becomes the character they play from a book.

This feeling can be so strong that I suspect the brain treats voices from unknown faces differently than faced voices. That under the scrutiny of an fMRI we could see that while listening to an unfaced voice the visual cortex is still -- allowing the inner eye to see, but a voice with a known face stirs the visual cortex disrupting the imagination.

No longer is there a shifting palace of glass in the mind -- the real vision, too clear, too precise replaces it. An inert, opaque blueprint. The inner eye, forevermore, blind in that direction.