Colds, Heat, Apollo 13, and the iPhone

It’s 6am on a Saturday and I am awake with a cough that won’t go away. Like most people, I hate being sick, but I think I hate it even more than the average person. I don’t like being cooped up at home, so tired that all I can muster to do is to watch TV and curse whoever or whatever got me sick. I don’t relish being away from work, because my work keeps my mind engaged and happy. But alas, I got sick and all I can do is wait for it to go away.

This is hardly the worse cold I’ve had, but it’s in the top five. To make matters worse, it’s HOT in the Bay Area this week. Really, really hot, by San Francisco standards at least. Having lived in Arizona for seven years, I am used to the soul-crushing dry heat, and I moved to San Francisco to get away from it. That’s why I am always bitter and grumpy when the fog clears away and the temperatures rise above the typical 63°F.

The only upside to the clear skies is that I can see the moon clearly for the first time in months. I’m currently reading Apollo 13, the book written by Jeffrey Kluger and Jim Lovell that later became Ron Howard’s awesome movie, and it’s neat to get to stare up at the moon and feel connected to it. If you’re a space nerd like me, or at all interested in humankind’s efforts to get into space in the 1960s and 70s, I highly recommend you read it.

Last in this stream of consciousness-like post, I bought an iPhone. For the last four years, I’ve been swearing up and down that I’d never buy an iPhone and that I’d stick with Android for life. Well, never say never. I still love Android and still respect the ecosystem very much, and I’m still reviewing Android phones and software at CNET. It’s just that I want to get better acquainted with the iOS ecosystem, which despite owning an iPad, I feel like I don’t know all that much about. I also want to be able to use all the cool new apps that still seem to take months or upwards of a year to get to Android. Sadly, the phone is still on back order and hasn’t shipped yet, but sometime in the near future I’ll have an iPhone 6 of my own, and people can start calling me an iSheep — oh joy!

The Amazing Things That Happened This Year

If I learned anything in 2013 it’s that I live an incredibly charmed life. In my life I’ve been blessed to hold really cool jobs, meet amazing people, and experience things many people will never get to experience. 2013 was full of charm, but also sadness, loss, heartache, and uncertainty. Like most years, there was plenty of good and bad in my life, but 2013 was also unique and special, in that I was faced with so many new adventures that left a lasting impression. Not wanting to forget anything, I’m outlining the highlights of my year here.

  • A simple announcement from my uncle that he was traveling to Israel in February re-ignited a spark I had to pursue my Birthright trip (a free trip to Israel for Jews ages 18-26). That launched me into full-on planning mode, scoping out deadlines, applications, and trip planning.
  • I found out I have minor scoliosis. Oh, so that’s why I get back pain.
  • I lost my job at Wired just one week before the deadline to decide to take my Birthright trip or cancel it.
  • Not letting unemployment get me down, I spent the time freelancing, exploring parts of San Francisco I hadn’t seen, hiking, and planning my trip.
  • I went to Israel!!! It was indescribably amazing. I met awesome people, who are now friends I see as often as I can. My eyes were opened to the conflicts in the Middle East, and I was able to see how close together countries in the region are to each other. The trip was everything that others had told me it would be, and I am so glad I went.
  • I celebrated my 25th birthday at an A’s game with friends and my loving partner.
  • I landed a fantastic job at CNET, on the reviews team, doing the work I’ve always wanted to do.
  • After years and years of living in the city, I finally went to the Stern Grove Festival and got to sit in the VIP area, thanks to a friend who works for the Parks department. We brought tons of food, drank booze, and enjoyed two wonderful shows.
  • Also after many years in the city, I finally went to Jewish Heritage Night at AT&T Park and saw Matisyahu perform.
  • In July, I lost a very special person, my aunt Yvonne. She battled cancer for a few years and is deeply missed.
  • Woke up at 4am to watch the Perseid meteor shower. That was spectacular.
  • I got to cover a lot of new gadget releases, including the iPhone 5S. Though the work is hectic, it’s really fun to get the first look at a new gadget.
  • I saw the Mythbusters stage show. After years of watching Jamie and Adam on TV, it was a treat to see them in person.
  • Put on a Star Trek uniform and ran through the streets of San Francisco for my company’s Amazing Race competition. Got a lot of weird looks, a few catcalls, and had a lot of fun.
  • Finally converted the tapes my parents shot when I was a baby into a DVD and digital files. It’s great to see the family I have lost on tape, to hear their voices, and see their mannerisms.

That list doesn’t include the amazing new friends I’ve made, beautiful sunny days spent on the beach, hikes with friends, delicious dinners, new experiences with my partner, and the countless number of happy and sad times I’ve had this year. 2013 was awesome, and I can’t wait for next year.

Why I love my Note 2

My unusually large phone gets a lot of flack.

I bought my Galaxy Note II last year, because I was in need of a new phone, and it was the most powerful device on T-Mobile at the time. The size bothered me, because I didn’t want a phablet. TouchWiz really bothered me, because it’s ugly. Nevertheless, I ponied up a few hundred dollars to buy it and have been defending it’s massive size ever since.

“OMG, that thing is huge, can I hold it?” is the most common response I get if I ever dare pull my phone out in front of strangers. It’s usually followed by “Oh, it’s not as ridiculously large as I thought.” After more than enough wisecracks about my Note II (which I am sure would have given it a complex by now if phones could feel shame), I present my reasons why I love it:

1. It’s humongous, meaning I can read more of a webpage than you can, see larger photos, and watch videos without getting super close to the screen. Widgets are big enough to display all the info I want to see, too.

2. It’s super fast. Rarely does it lag enough that I notice it or become frustrated. I’m running a launcher on it too and it’s still giving me all the performance its processors have.

3. It’s kind of a tank. I dropped it once, from about 4 feet on solid concrete. The damage was a few scratches on the outside edge and a scratch on the back plate, but that was it. I’ve been known to trash talk the poly-carbonate exterior of the Note 2, but it takes a beating well.

4. The camera is good enough. The camera app might frustrate me, but the camera itself takes nice pictures. See exhibit A below.

Mission Dolores Park April 2013

So yes, my phone is too big to fit into a pocket or some purses. But it’s powerful, resilient, and bigger than yours, so there. I’ll probably size down for my next device, but I’ll defend the value of the Note 2 forever.

Favorite Things of Late

Just a list of stuff I’m loving lately.

XOJane, and beauty sister site XOVain. I’m usually bothered by most content directed at women. It’s either the same rehashed garbage advice about sex, makeup, and fashion that’s filled women’s magazines (and there respective websites) for the last ten years, or it’s too aggressively feminist and/or self-righteous for my tastes.

XOJane strikes a nice balance between superficial advice I actually want, human interest stories (I can’t get enough of those), and people talking about general life issues I always wanted to talk about, but felt were too “rude” to bring up to my friends. And when some writers get a little too feminist for my taste, I just look the other away. I’ve even met a group of gal friends through XOJane, which is awesome.

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French Toast, The Lazy Weekend Way

When I was kid, I really disliked French toast. I didn’t like eggs and the way my mom used to make it was more egg-y than custard-y. I wasn’t having any of that.

Over the years of watching Saturday morning Food Network shows (Good Eats is the best), I learned of the custard-variety french toast, the kind usually served at fancy brunch places. The batter is often a base of eggs and cream or milk, plus flavorings. After I successfully made my first crème brûlée from scratch I thought “Hey, I can make a custard-like substance with ease!” and thus my French toast recipe was born. The first time I attempted to make French toast, I was living in my college dorm. I casually combined some ingredients on a weekend morning and voila, I had French toast.

Recipe: French Toast, The Lazy Weekend Way Continue reading