My first week with Fitbit Flex

Last week, I decided to make a move on a decision I’d been debating for a while. I decided to get myself a fitness tracker.

I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for health metrics. I’m completely aware that gamifying parts of my life causes me to be a tad obsessive about them, but I feel that health is the one area where I could afford to be compulsively concentrating on improvement. I was a somewhat early adopter of Nike + iPod and continued using Nike+ to track my runs for six years. I’ve always felt that having my performance tracked gave me extra motivation to do better. In the last year, I’ve been using Sleep Cycle to keep track of my sleeping patterns.

So I decided to buy a Fitbit Flex.

Why I chose Fitbit Flex

Fitbit Flex side view

Neither of these services were particularly intrusive or required much work on my part. Sleep tracking was a bit more intense than run tracking, because Sleep Cycle requires keeping my phone on my bed during sleep, but since both running and sleeping are activities with a definitive start and end, it wasn’t difficult to incorporate tracking into my routine.

Read more

Google’s new Material Design initiative is certainly promising. A coherent design across third party apps is something that Android has needed for a while. But Android has serious competition from the iOS ecosystem. iOS 7 has been out for less than a year, and already, almost all popular apps have adapted to the new design language and created their own designs that work well with the language of the new design. It will be interesting to see if Android’s ecosystem can step up to create an equally great end-to-end experience.

Here are some of the best-designed iOS 7 apps on my phone.

74% of millennials, according to Reason, want the government to guarantee food and housing to all Americans.

Ana Marie Cox

Conservatives might have most of this country convinced that staying alive in the US is something you have to earn, but apparently, they haven’t convinced Millenials. I’m happy to see this particular statistic.

It’s not that the government should never act in secret. Quite obviously that’s neither advisable nor practical. But when it comes spying on citizens by the government — which has the power to take away one’s life, liberty, and property — it would be irresponsible of us to assume that because our view is obscured, there is nothing to see.

Americans Have Spent Enough Money On A Broken Plane To Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion

At a cost of $600,000/mansion, it could also have been a basic income of $20,000/year for 30 years.

People always ask how do we pay for [basic income]? Well? That’s how we pay for it. We stop buying busted planes, and invest in society.

— reddit user mageganker

It’s a little simplistic, because at least at the outset there couldn’t have been a way to know that the F-35 program was going to be so disastrous. But now that it’s still being funded 7 years past its deadline, the point must be made. 

There is a massive problem with how funding is allocated and viewed in this country. Military operations are necessary and always expensive, but the amount of overhead that this country tolerates for military projects, epitomized by projects like the F-35, is shockingly large compared to the money we would need to fix our societal issues. But military spending is approved every single time, while social investments are deemed “too expensive” and often — especially in the case of basic income — written off as somehow “socialist.”

The five Americans whose email accounts were placed on the list come from different backgrounds, and hold different religious and political views. None was designated on the list as connected to a foreign power. Some have come under sharp public scrutiny for their activities on behalf of Muslim-Americans, and several have been investigated by the government. But despite being subjected to what appears to be long periods of government surveillance, none has been charged with a crime, let alone convincingly linked to terrorism or espionage on behalf of a foreign power. Taken together, their personal stories raise disturbing questions about who the government chooses to monitor, and why.

Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain for The Intercept, reporting on 5 prominent Muslim American citizens whom the FBI targeted for NSA surveillance

So far, we know how the NSA spies on American citizens. We know the tools they use and who cooperates with them to enable it. We know how powerful US law is in forcing companies to comply with surveillance. We know that these tools and legal frameworks come together to create a powerful surveillance dragnet that collects the private communications of millions of people every day. We know that the NSA uses this dragnet on American citizens, whether it’s in a general manner during wholesale collection of metadata or in a semi-targeted fashion by monitoring Americans who have contact with suspected foreign threats. We know that the NSA has broken its own policies for protecting Americans from unwarranted surveillance thousands of times. We know that all of these things together form possibly the most dangerous threat to American civil liberties, individual freedoms, and protection from oppressive government in the world today. And now we know that this system consciously has been used to spy on prominent figures in the Muslim community, a massive cultural group that the government unofficially sees as dangerous, even if those figures have no demonstrated ties to terrorism, espionage, or any other activity normally warranting surveillance.

The cry of privacy advocates who find the NSA’s actions to be dangerous has always been to warn that the systems designed to protect us from dangerous foreign elements could be abused and turned against innocent American citizens. And with The Intercept's reporting today, it has become clear that this is possible.

We don’t know why these individuals were targeted. But we do know that FBI and NSA have documented histories of viewing Muslim-Americans as potential threats simply because of their heritage. And the fact that the NSA’s massive surveillance apparatus can and has been used against people with no ties to the types of activities it was built to prevent against is evidence of how dangerous it could be for the average citizen.