Zack Apiratitham

Some Thoughts on the AirPods Pro

I never owned the regular AirPods. It's not that I didn't want them — I really did — it's just that I never had good enough reasons to get them given my audio listening habits and what they had to offer. Plus a pair of regular EarPods with wires chopped off didn't really sound all that special to me. But since the release, the people on the web and those that I know in person who own them all say that the AirPods are some of their favorite Apple products. I think I would have gotten a pair if they had something more: perhaps noise cancellation or if they don't fall out of the ears so easily. After all, I loved those classic Apple's wired in-ear headphones.

Enter the AirPods Pro. After months of speculations, Apple announced in a press release and made available the long-awaited upgrade to their wildly popular and loved product, all within a two-day period. This pushed me over the fence, and I am now an owner of these headphones.

It just so happened that I was going to be on some long-haul flights not long after I got the AirPods Pro, so they were the perfect testing grounds for comfort and noise cancellation. Prior to the flights, my initial guess was that my Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I, ver. 3.0.3) would be more comfortable for such an extended usage, but it turned out the AirPods Pro were way more comfortable. It must be something to do with my ears because after a couple of hours with the Bose headphones on, my earlobes would always start to hurt as the earpads were pressing on them. With the AirPods Pro, that is not an issue. I'm not as sensitive as some people might be with this type of in-ear earbuds — I actually prefer them over regular earbuds that just sit on the edge of the ear canals — so I was able to wear them hours after hours on those flights. I even went to sleep and woke up with them still in my ears feeling no discomfort around or in them.

As you might know, there are usually quite a few announcements during long flights like these. With the Bose, I would have to either take them off completely, or move an earcup up off one of my ears onto the temple to be ble to hear the announcements. With the AirPods Pro, a click to pause followed by a 1-second hold to activate the Transparency mode was all it took to be able to hear the surroundings. Alternatively, I could just take one out of my ear and it would pause whatever media playing as well as turning on Transparency mode for the other ear. I personally found it to be a much more seamless and less of an annoyance than traditional headphones are in this situation.

The noise cancellation is way better than I expected. In the aircraft cabin at cruising altitude, the ambience noise was, according to my Apple Watch's Noise app, around 70-75dB, which was a perfect environment to test this. I compared them with the Bose headphones with no music and, to my surprise, the AirPods Pro did better at canceling out the noise than the Bose headphones. I did not at all expect this to be the case. And to get a similar level of isolation, I had to turn up the volume a bit more on the Bose. I believe this is due to the nature of the in-ear earbuds creating a seal in your ears blocking much of the noise, combined with the superb Active Noise Cancellation system.

Though when the music is playing, I find that the Bose headphones perform better when it comes to sound quality. This isn't really a fair comparison to begin with and I am no audiophile or have that acute a sense of hearing, but I can tell that the AirPods Pro do sound a bit flatter than the Bose. However, the AirPods Pro do produce quite a lot of bass in such a tiny package.

During one of those flights, I was pleasantly surprised that there was a baby crying a few rows ahead of me which I was completely oblivious of until I turned off the noise cancellation. I happily turned it back on again. The transition from Transparency mode to Active Noise Cancellation is super satisfying. It feels almost literally like the world disappearing right in front of you and you're now in your own world. By the time I flew back in another stint of flights totalling over 24 hours, I ended up just using the AirPods Pro the majority of the time. The only time I had to use my Bose headphones was when the AirPods Pro needed recharging.

The Transparency mode is interesting. With my Bose headphones, I'm used to this "headset" mode that happens sometimes during conference calls in which it relays the sounds the microphones pick up back into the headphones. It is a very off-putting experience since the headphones are canceling out the ambience noise but at the same time that very same ambience noise they're cancelling out, plus your own voice as you talk, is being played back. It kind of makes you feel like you have hyper-hearing or something. And with the AirPods Pro, I was half-expecting Transparency mode to be something like that. Again, to my surprise, it's better than I had anticipated. I can definitely tell that they're playing back what the microphones pick up but the effect is definitely not as startling an experience. To me it's very close to sounding perfectly natural, except it sort of has this quiet background static noise added to it. I can definitely hear the surrounding way more compared to when the Transparency mode is off. This is a very useful feature if you want to have a conversation while wearing them or be mindful of your environment when you're out and about.

The AirPods Pro also work with the Find My app (I actually have no idea if the regular AirPods do). What's really cool about this is that in the app there's a "Play Sound" option to help with locating them, just like with the iPhone and iPad. It starts with a quiet beeping that gets progressively louder. I thought this would only work if there's a device currently connected to them because clearly the AirPods Pro themselves are not connected to the internet to be able to receive the command to play the sound wherever they are in the world. But I did some testing by disconnecting them from my phone and going outside so they are out of range. I hit the "Play Sound" and after a few seconds the app said the sound was being played on them. A little puzzled, I came back inside and indeed the beeping sound was playing, and yet they were still disconnected from my phone. A notification then popped up on my phone saying that they were found by my iPad which was sitting in range of them.

IMG 5862

So I think what happens when you hit "Play Sound" on the Find My app is that the phone would first try to connect to the AirPods and play the sound on them. If it cannot find them, it would cycle through other devices you have signed in to your iCloud account and try to connect to them to play the sound. I tested this theory by bringing both my phone and my iPad out of range of the AirPods Pro and doing the same thing in the app. And sure enough, no sound was played. This is such a little thing but I find it so thoughtful and delightful. For all I know, this might already be the case with the regular AirPods and I'm just finding out about it now.

When you go into the Bluetooth setting and tap on the little "i" icon on the AirPods Pro, it brings up a custom settings page that allows for quite a bit of customization. This includes changing the name, select the noise control, and pick if you want the press-and-hold on the stem to trigger Siri or switch between noise modes, which can be set differently between the left and right ones.

Towards the bottom of the page, there is this interesting little option labeled Ear Tip Fit Test with caption "Check the fit of your AirPods1 ear tips to determine which size provides the best seal and acoustic performance". The test itself just plays this 6-second sound and uses the microphones to determine if the seal is optimal for best noise cancellation. It would tell you if the seal isn't perfect in one or both of the ears. Amusingly for me, I ran this test with all three ear tip sizes and they all reported perfect fits. So I'm just using the medium ones and saving the others as spare parts.

Some other nuggets:

  • The tip takes much more force to pull off than I thought. It felt like I was definitely going to break it.
  • The force buttons on the stems work great and require no getting used to. I thought the act of pressing on the stem would have pulled out or loosen the seal in my ears but they remain unaffected even after repeated pressing.
  • Despite the case being a bit larger than the regular AirPods, they fit perfectly in the tiny change pocket on my Levi's 511 jeans.
  • The case and the AirPods themselves do get dirty quite easily. And now with the in-ear earbuds, it's gonna be earwax town all up in there.
  • When you're charging the case on a wireless charging pad, you can tap on the case near the indicator light and it would lit up showing the charging status. Green for charged and amber for charging. Interestingly, this doesn't work if you're charging it via Lightning cable.
  • There were no Apple stickers in the box.

  1. Interesting omission of the "Pro" here despite the press release never calling the AirPods Pro just generic AirPods. Not sure what the official Apple style guide for this is. ↩︎

Fully Decked Out Mac Pro

mac pro decked out

So now that the new Mac Pro is available for sale, I figured I would go take a look at how much it costs with everything upgraded to the highest possible configuration. And as you can see in the screenshot above, it will cost you $52,748.

Apparently there is an 8TB SSD option coming soon so it will definitely be well over $53,000. For context, the MSRP for a brand-new BMW 5 Series is $53,900.

Then we can also add the Pro Display XDR with nano-texture glass with a Pro Stand which will add $6,998 to it. And why not make it a dual-monitor setup while we're at it.

So now this whole setup will set you back $66,744, excluding taxes.

mac pro cart

Well, at least the shipping is free.

16-inch MacBook Pro First Impressions Roundup

Marco Arment:

I’m on cloud nine. Look at this glorious keyboard! An Esc key! Inverted-T arrow keys! A millimeter of key travel! Enough spacing between the keys for our fingers to accurately orient themselves! And keystrokes will probably work, 100% of the time, for years!


The biggest change is that I finally don’t feel like it’s constantly fighting me. Its design doesn’t feel spiteful. It’s a computer that doesn’t seem to hate being a computer. I’m not afraid to use it in the world, and I’m not avoiding using it because it’s unpleasant. The butterfly keyboard was the opposite, it never got better, I never got used to it, and good riddance to it.

Following in the footsteps of the fantastic iMac Pro, updated Mac Mini, and upcoming Mac Pro, the release of the 16-inch MacBook Pro ends a painful chapter of neglect and hubristic design of the Mac. Apple has finally turned the ship around.

John Gruber:

Really, I don’t think there’s anything I can write here that will convince you how good these speakers sound. However good you think I’m saying they sound, they sound way better than that.


We shouldn’t be celebrating the return of longstanding features we never should have lost in the first place. But Apple’s willingness to revisit these decisions — their explicit acknowledgment that, yes, keyboards are meant to by typed upon, not gazed upon — is, if not cause for a party, at the very least cause for a jubilant toast.

This is a MacBook you can once again argue is the best laptop hardware money can buy.

A lot of high praises for this new 16-inch MacBook Pro. The 15-inch MacBook Pro has been my main personal computing device since the 2010 model and now the 2019 model for work. So I spend a lot of time on them. This upgrade sure does look like it has almost everything I wish for.

Jason Snell (via Michael Tsai):

[D]espite the reduction in bezel size, this is a larger laptop than the 15-inch MacBook Pro—14.09 inches wide (up .34 inches or about 9 millimeters) and 9.48 inches deep (up .2 inches or about 5.2 millimeters). The 16-inch MacBook Pro is also thicker, by less than a millimeter, at 0.64 inches (1.62cm) thick.


Clearly Apple’s design philosophy here was to optimize for performance and battery life and allow the laptop to get a little larger if needed. After many years of Apple seemingly prioritizing thinness and lightness even in its products targeted at professional users, this is a refreshing shift.


The new studio-quality mic array has a signal-to-noise ratio that is so high, it rivals that of popular professional-grade standalone digital microphones. With 40 percent less hiss than before, recordings sound superclean and capture much more of the quieter detail


If you’re someone who was waiting to throw out the industrial design of the MacBook Pro for something that looks different, or to add back MagSafe and a card slot, this laptop will disappoint you. Apple apparently didn’t have those features high on its priority list, if they were even there at all.

And a little bit of insight from Phil Schiller in an interview with Roger Cheng:

To make this new scissor mechanism work appropriately in a notebook, we had to adapt it to the angle, which is different in a notebook than in a slanted desktop design for ergonomics. And it had to work in a design that had a backlight, which the notebook has that desktops do not.

Lewis Hamilton Won the F1 2019 World Championship

Lewis Hamilton has stepped out of the great Juan Manuel Fangio’s shadow to join Michael Schumacher as one of only two drivers in history to have won as many as six F1 world championship titles.

What an incredible achievement. One more to go to match Schumacher with the most world titles of seven. I hope Hamilton will surpass him though I don't think it will be easy with the regulation changes coming up in the next couple of years.

Side note: I'm a complete newcomer to F1 but I highly recommend Netflix's documentary series Formula 1: Drive to Survive. It's what got me started with this sport.

John Gruber's AirPods Pro First Impressions

John Gruber of Daring Fireball:

[T]here’s no question how AirPods Pro compare to regular AirPods. The difference is like night and day. Amtrak trains are pretty noisy — especially at what we in the U.S. so adorably consider “high speeds” — but with AirPods Pro the clackety-clack rumble was effectively blocked out.


My corner store has a noisy refrigeration unit. With AirPods Pro on — playing nothing — I couldn’t hear it at all. I couldn’t tell that my dishwasher was running even though I was sitting right across from it in my kitchen.

The AirPods Pro's noise cancellation seems to be better than expected. Even MKBHD thought so too. I'm pretty sure it's no better than those in Bose and Sony over-ear headphones. But I'm going on some long haul flights soon and they are perfect testing grounds for this. I'll report back in a couple of weeks.

Also, an interesting tidbit:

The force sensor — the flat section on the earbuds stem that faces forward when in your ear — is effectively a button. But it’s not a button. It doesn’t actually move, and it doesn’t provide haptic feedback. But it acts like a button and — most importantly — sounds like a button. When you press it, the AirPod Pro plays a click. I use the singular AirPod there because the click only plays in the bud whose force sensor you pressed. The effect is uncannily like clicking a real button. In a similar way to how force touch trackpads on modern MacBooks and Touch ID iPhone home buttons feel like they truly click, the AirPods Pro force sensors feel like actual clicking buttons. They actually have more of a premium clicky feel than the truly clicking buttons on Apple’s wired EarPods, even though they don’t actually click. It’s uncanny, and Apple at its best.

Ultralearning by Scott H. Young

Great book with a lot of useful tips and interesting anecdotes about how to learn effectively. A lot of these principles can be applied directly to your own learning goals. I'm quite inspired by it and planning to start my own ultralearning project soon using these techniques I learned from the book. A must-read for any lifelong learners.

Check it out on Goodreads.


  • Directness is the practice of learning by directly doing the thing you want to learn. Basically, it’s improvement through active practice rather than through passive learning. The phrases learning something new and practicing something new may seem similar, but these two methods can produce profoundly different results. Passive learning creates knowledge. Active practice creates skill.

  • First, deep learning provides a sense of purpose in life. Developing skills is meaningful. It feels good to get good at something. Ultralearning is a path to prove to yourself that you have the ability to improve and to make the most of your life. It gives you the confidence that you can accomplish ambitious things.

  • The opposite of this is learning optimized for fun or convenience: choosing a language-learning app because it’s entertaining, passively watching trivia show reruns on television so you don’t feel stupid, or dabbling instead of serious practice.

  • Your deepest moments of happiness don’t come from doing easy things; they come from realizing your potential and overcoming your own limiting beliefs about yourself.

  • Professional success, however, was rarely the thing that motivated the ultralearners I met—including those who ended up making the most money from their new skills. Instead it was a compelling vision of what they wanted to do, a deep curiosity, or even the challenge itself that drove them forward.

  • The best ultralearners are those who blend the practical reasons for learning a skill with an inspiration that comes from something that excites them.

  • The first problem that many people have is starting to focus. The most obvious way this manifests itself is when you procrastinate: instead of doing the thing you’re supposed to, you work on something else or slack off.

  • Make a mental habit of every time you procrastinate; try to recognize that you are feeling some desire not to do that task or a stronger desire to do something else. You might even want to ask yourself which feeling is more powerful in that moment—is the problem more that you have a strong urge to do a different activity (e.g., eat something, check your phone, take a nap) or that you have a strong urge to avoid the thing you should be doing because you imagine it will be uncomfortable, painful, or frustrating?

  • If you actually start working or ignore a potent distractor, it usually only takes a couple minutes until the worry starts to dissolve, even for fairly unpleasant tasks. Therefore, a good first crutch is to convince yourself to get over just the few minutes of maximal unpleasantness before you take a break.

  • Flow is the enjoyable state that slides right between boredom and frustration, when a task is neither too hard nor too easy.

  • Researchers generally find that people retain more of what they learn when practice is broken into different studying periods than when it is crammed together.

  • Multitasking may feel like fun, but it’s unsuitable for ultralearning, which requires concentrating your full mind on the task at hand. It’s better to rid yourself of this vice than to strengthen bad habits of ineffective learning.

  • When we learn new things, therefore, we should always strive to tie them directly to the contexts we want to use them in. Building knowledge outward from the kernel of a real situation is much better than the traditional strategy of learning something and hoping that we’ll be able to shift it into a real context at some undetermined future time.

  • Many ultralearners opt for projects rather than classes to learn the skills they need. The rationale is simple: if you organize your learning around producing something, you’re guaranteed to at least learn how to produce that thing.

  • One strategy I’ve seen repeatedly from ultralearners is to start with a skill that they don’t have all the prerequisites for. Then, when they inevitably do poorly, they go back a step, learn one of the foundational topics, and repeat the exercise.

  • [S]omething mentally strenuous provides a greater benefit to learning than something easy.

  • Whether you are ready or not, retrieval practice works better. Especially if you combine retrieval with the ability to look up the answers, retrieval practice is a much better form of studying than the ones most students apply.

  • Fear of feedback often feels more uncomfortable than experiencing the feedback itself. As a result, it is not so much negative feedback on its own that can impede progress but the fear of hearing criticism that causes us to shut down.

  • Ultralearners carefully adjust their environment so that they’re not able to predict whether they’ll succeed or fail. If they fail too often, they simplify the problem so they can start noticing when they’re doing things right. If they fail too little, they’ll make the task harder or their standards stricter so that they can distinguish the success of different approaches. Basically, you should try to avoid situations that always make you feel good (or bad) about your performance.

  • One of the pieces of studying advice that is best supported by research is that if you care about long-term retention, don’t cram. Spreading learning sessions over more intervals over longer periods of time tends to cause somewhat lower performance in the short run (because there is a chance for forgetting between

  • Psychologists theorize that the difference between grand masters and novices is not that grand masters can compute many more moves ahead but that they have built up huge libraries of mental representations that come from playing actual games.

  • Simply spending a lot of time studying something isn’t enough to create a deep intuition.

  • One way you can introduce this into your own efforts is to give yourself a “struggle timer” as you work on problems. When you feel like giving up and that you can’t possibly figure out the solution to a difficult problem, try setting a timer for another ten minutes to push yourself a bit further.

  • Explaining things clearly and asking “dumb” questions can keep you from fooling yourself into thinking you know something you don’t.

  • In a fixed mindset, learners believe that their traits are fixed or innate and thus there’s no point in trying to improve them. In a growth mindset, in contrast, learners see their own capacity for learning as something that can be actively improved.

  • Experimenting is based on the belief that improvements are possible in how you approach your work.

  • Experimentation is the principle that ties all the others together. Not only does it make you try new things and think hard about how to solve specific learning challenges, it also encourages you to be ruthless in discarding methods that don’t work. Careful experimentation not only brings out your best potential, it also eliminates bad habits and superstitions by putting them to the test of real-world results.

  • The biggest obstacle to ultralearning is simply that most people don’t care enough about their own self-education to get started.

  • I recommend setting a consistent schedule that is the same every week, rather than trying to fit in learning when you can. Consistency breeds good habits, reducing the effort required to study.

  • Finally, take all this information and put it into your calendar. Scheduling all the hours of work on the project in advance has important logistical and psychological benefits.

  • [I]n my own experience, I’ve noticed that enjoyment tends to come from being good at things. Once you feel competent in a skill, it starts to get a lot more fun. Therefore, although a tension between the two can exist in the short term, I think pursuing aggressive ultralearning projects is often the surer way to enjoy learning more, as you’re more likely to reach a level where learning automatically becomes fun.

  • A hungry person can eat only so much food. A lonely person can have only so much companionship. Curiosity doesn’t work this way. The more one learns, the greater the craving to learn more. The better one gets, the more one recognizes how much better one could become.

How I Framed My Landscape Photo

I have a confession to make. I never actually printed out any of my landscape photos, framed it, and hung it on my wall before. So I embarked on a little project with a goal to do just that.

Picking the Photo

In the collection of landscape photos I took over the years (you can see some of them at the gallery), I was looking to pick out one that's unique and has that, dare I say, fine art quality, worthy of being hung prominently on a wall.1 There were a couple of candidates, but I landed on this one (still a camera-processed JPEG):

IMG 0631 camera raw

This photo was taken back in summer of 2015 in Thailand. To get this shot, I had to get up early enough to be at the trailhead by 4 in the morning, then hike in the dark on a mostly unmarked trail for about 3 miles up to this relatively unknown viewpoint to catch the sunrise. The effort it took to capture this made it so satisfying, and that's part of the reason why I chose this.

Re-processing the Photo

Back when I first took this photo, I already did the post-processing and uploaded it online. Though looking at that photo now 4 years later, I don't really like how I had done it; it felt a bit too cool for my liking. So I took another shot at it, and this time with proper preparation for prints.



After some research, I settled on ordering the print from Mpix. I wanted the highest quality they had to offer so I went with a 10"x20" Giclée print on their matte "Fine Art Photographic" paper. I considered doing 12"x24" but with a mat board and a frame, I figured it would be too large.


I had absolutely no idea how to even start with this. My initial plan was to just have it framed by Mpix with the print order, but unfortunately it's not very customizable and they can get quite pricey. Researching for some local frame shops revealed that they can also get expensive quick and the turnaround time could be a few weeks. In the end, a couple of guides online convinced me to go with the semi-DIY route. So I ordered the frame kit from Frame Destination.

frame customization

The kit is a custom-sized 14"x24" Black Wood Frame with a 2 1/8" mat board. For the glazing, I picked the acrylic over glass as I wanted to keep this relatively light. It's also more optically pure than glass and shatter resistant.

At the risk of looking super pompous, I signed the print before framing it. I went back and forth on this for a while because, for starters, I don't really have an actual signature and I thought maybe this print isn't of fine art quality enough that it warrants a signature. Plus this project was for my own enjoyment, it's not like I was planning to sell it at an art show or anything. But in the end, after some reading around and stumbling upon this video, I went ahead and signed it. This acid-free Decocolor gold paint marker worked out nicely.

IMG 7114 Of course, even after pages of practice, not only did I not sign it as nicely as I'd like, I also didn't even space it properly from the corner. Oh well...

When it came time to actually put it all together, I would soon learn that I should have taken that B&H guide more seriously — especially around how acrylic can become statically charged — and gotten myself some anti-static gloves or cloths. Being in a small-ish apartment with two cats, I could not believe how much cat hair and dust particles are floating around in the apartment which, to my dismay, all chose to hang out on the acrylic. After frustratingly fiddling around for an hour, feeling utterly defeated trying to get all the cat hair off of the acrylic, the frame was ready to be assembled.

Using this linen hinging tape, I did the T-hinge to mount the print to the foam board, and the foam board to the mat board. Everything had to be in the right order: first the empty frame, then the acrylic, the mat board, the print, and the foam core. Securing all the frame points, then attaching the wire to the frame, and it was completed. Lastly with a basic picture hanging kit, it is now proudly displayed on the wall.

IMG 5583 2

It finally feels finished that this photograph takes up physical space in the world and is no longer just 1s and 0s on a hard drive or in the cloud somewhere to only be double-tapped on and forgotten about after a couple of seconds of being looked at. If you haven't printed out your favorite photos, I highly recommend it.

  1. Obviously a sunrise shot like this isn't by any means unique but I'd say given the location which is relatively unknown to the wider world, it's unique enough for my purpose. ↩︎

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

Truly fascinating read about the wolf reintroduction project to Yellowstone, which I've never heard of until I came across this book. Now my appreciation of these majestic creatures is higher than ever before. And Yellowstone National Park just moved up to the top 3 of US national parks I must visit.

Check it out on Goodreads.


  • Every pack in Yellowstone had at least one wolf that had been darted from a helicopter, collared, and assigned a number by the park’s small team of wolf biologists.

  • Territorial conflict was the most common cause of death for the park’s wolves, most of whom didn’t live beyond four or five years. Life for wolves was an adventure, but it was usually not a long one.

  • O-Six’s great-grandmother had been one of the first wolves reintroduced to the park, captured on the plains of western Canada, eight hundred miles to the north, and ferried south by plane and truck in the winter of 1995. By that time, Yellowstone had been essentially devoid of wolves for almost seven decades.

  • Once found in virtually every habitat between the Arctic Circle and present-day Mexico City, gray wolves had been the target of a centuries-long campaign of trapping and poisoning—a war waged both for their valuable pelts and to protect livestock. They were all but eliminated by the 1920s across the vast majority of the Lower 48.

  • Rangers patrolling on horseback finished the job the trappers had started: finding active dens, destroying the pups, and then trapping or tracking the returning adults so they could be killed as well.

  • As a science, wildlife management was still in its infancy, and park officials genuinely believed that predators would eventually decimate the park’s prey population if left to their own devices. They didn’t realize that wolves and elk had coexisted in Yellowstone for thousands of years, that the two species had in fact evolved in tandem with each other—which explained why the elk could run just as fast as the wolf but no faster.

  • Hunting was big business in the Northern Rockies—not just for the professional hunting guides who relied on a steady stream of clients to earn a living, but also for the restaurants and motels that hosted the influx of out-of-town hunters who arrived every fall.

  • Now, just fourteen years after the first pens were opened in the Lamar Valley, the wolf population in the Northern Rockies had grown to over seventeen hundred animals.

  • Ensconced in the sparsely wooded Lamar Valley since the early days of reintroduction, the Druids were the easiest pack to spot for researchers and park visitors alike, making them the face of the reintroduction program for over a decade.

  • As the years went by and Yellowstone wolf-watching became a full-blown phenomenon, Rick became something of a celebrated figure himself, with all the perks—and headaches—that appertained. Visitors interested in seeing wolves learned by word of mouth that their best course of action was to look for Rick’s yellow Nissan Xterra.

  • Rick never quite got used to being followed, but he grew resigned to the routine: if he so much as paused in a pullout or parking lot, it was just a matter of time before one car would stop, then another. Soon a dozen cars would be squeezing in. Like a grizzly or a bald eagle or any of the park’s traffic-jam-inspiring attractions, he had been sighted.

  • Wolves had an evolutionary imperative to become attuned to the emotions of others because they lived in packs, where cooperation—for hunting, for protection from rivals—was paramount. Sociability enhanced the chances for survival.

  • Over years of watching wolves, Rick had become convinced that empathy was the single most important trait that an alpha could have, and 21’s capacity for it continued to amaze him.

  • Alpha wolves with Druid lineage were now spread throughout the Northern Range, including the female who would eventually lead the Agate Creek Pack and give birth to O-Six. To Rick, the Druids were like the Kennedys, American royalty.

  • Rick mourned 21’s death for a long time. In the years he’d watched the wolf, he felt he’d learned everything there was to know about him—his quirks, his moods, his strengths and weaknesses. He could guess what 21 would do before he did it. Rick liked to tell visitors that “21 never lost a fight, and he never killed a vanquished rival.” In fact, Rick sometimes called him “Superman,” because he’d always felt that 21, of all the wolves he’d known, had the perfect blend of valor and nobility. He hung a poster-size print of the enormous silver male on the wall above his writing desk in his cabin. Captured at full sprint, he appeared to be flying.

  • But O-Six, since leaving her natal pack, had become surprisingly adept at single-handedly bringing down prey.

  • Experiencing Yellowstone through a spotting scope was an entirely different experience from seeing the park from a car or even from a hiking trail. Only when you tried scanning the entire length of Specimen Ridge or Druid Peak one two-hundred-yard diameter circle at a time did you get a sense of how big the Lamar Valley really was.

  • The Lamar Valley boasted the highest prey density of anyplace on earth outside the African Serengeti.

  • From a high of 174 wolves just seven years before, the number of wolves had plummeted to roughly 100.

    Project biologists had long suspected that such a drop would occur as a kind of equilibrium was reached between predators and available prey, but it was still hard for veteran watchers to accept. Wolves were now harder to spot than they had been in years, and Rick resigned himself to the inevitability of an occasional day without a sighting.

  • Every year since reintroduction, they’d seen more wolves and fewer elk, as Louie had known they would. In the last count taken before wolves were reintroduced in 1995, over nineteen thousand elk were roaming Yellowstone’s Northern Range. By 2010, that number had plummeted to six thousand, roughly what it had been back in the 1960s, before rangers stopped culling the park’s herds.

  • In the rest of America, hunting was dying. Rates of participation had been declining for decades—only 6 percent of Americans still hunted. But in the Northern Rockies, it remained integral to the culture—Montana had the highest number of hunters per capita, and Wyoming wasn’t far behind.

  • For some, it was less a sport than a means of supplementing the family food budget. Butchering a five-hundred-pound elk yielded upward of 250 pounds of meat for the freezer, enough to last an average family nearly a year, all for the price of a fifty-dollar hunting permit.

  • Wolves were once the most widely distributed land mammal on earth, and every early pastoral civilization in the northern hemisphere outside of Africa competed with them for land on which to run livestock—and for the livestock themselves. Wolves very rarely attacked people, but a single wolf could ruin a shepherd’s livelihood if he developed a taste for cattle, sheep, or goats.

  • Humanity’s most beloved animal and its most despised were essentially the same creature, but the wolf’s threat to the shepherd’s livelihood poisoned relations between men and wolves, and the wolf’s reputation never recovered.

  • One brother would sometimes show up at the den carrying a large piece of elk, such as a leg assembly, but this process was clumsy, involving frequent stops to renew his grip. More commonly the males used their stomachs as grocery bags, swallowing up to twenty pounds of meat and making the long journey back to the den. When they arrived, their sides bulging noticeably, they regurgitated the meat for the pups, like birds feeding chicks in a nest.

  • The most common practice was to ride for several days in an enormous circle, leaving poisoned buffalo meat all along the route. By the time the wolfer came back around to the beginning of his circuit, dead wolves—along with countless other predators and scavengers, including eagles and other raptors—littered the ground. The wolves were skinned on the spot; the rest of the carcasses were left to rot.

  • His commitment to reintroduction was about science, not sentiment. Wolves belonged in the Northern Rockies because they played a vital role in the ecosystem, not because they were beautiful or fun to watch.

  • Wolves had become one of those polarizing issues, like abortion or gun control or war in the Middle East, about which the country could not seem to reach a consensus.

  • The real struggle was over public land—what it should be used for and who should have the right to decide. The federal government owned almost half of all the land in the West, in large part because nineteenth-century homesteaders found much of it too arid or too rugged to settle, unlike the more hospitable Midwest, which settlers had made into the nation’s breadbasket.

  • Rick knew that in the field of wildlife biology, imputing human characteristics to a creature that it doesn’t really have—anthropomorphizing, as the habit is known—is considered a cardinal sin and a hallmark of amateurism.

  • But wolves, Rick felt, were more like humans than they were given credit for, in their tribal ways and territoriality; in their tendency to mate for life; and in the way male wolves provided food and care for their offspring, so unusual in the animal world.

  • More than anything, what wolf advocates fought against was the long-held notion that wolves were nothing more than killing machines.

  • O-Six, as Laurie frequently pointed out to her readers, was rarely “cuddly.” But that wasn’t why she and so many other watchers had come to admire her. It was her stunning blend of confidence and competence that inspired them, her indomitable will, her ability to bend a harsh landscape to her own ends, to do what needed to be done to provide for herself and her family every day, without fail. Seeing her in action was like watching a gifted athlete,

  • More wolves, it seemed, meant more beavers, but that wasn’t all: the return of Yellowstone’s top predator was having repercussions up and down the park’s food chain.

  • In short order, Yellowstone’s newly dominant canines reduced the Northern Range’s coyote population by half.

  • hunters could shoot a hundred wolves on the other side of Alaska without engendering a peep of protest. But shoot one park wolf that people had come to know and love, and suddenly everyone in the state was talking about the evils of wolf-hunting.

  • When an alpha died, especially a female, packs tended to splinter.

  • By the time the hunting and trapping seasons around the park concluded, twelve Yellowstone wolves had been lost, including six collared animals.

  • In the five years since legal hunting began, trophy hunters had taken over 2,500 wolves in the Northern Rockies, 1,500 of them in Idaho alone. Wolf populations are notoriously difficult to estimate, but official counts showed that the total in Montana at the end of 2014 was 554, down about 100 from pre-hunting levels. In Idaho, game officials had managed to reduce the population from a high of 893, in 2009, to 770.

  • Hunting was an intellectual pursuit for him. You had to know your prey, and you had to take them ethically. He spoke often about the principle of fair chase and what it meant to him. He wanted me to know he’d followed the Lamar wolves’ movements for weeks before he found them, driving around Crandall looking for tracks and listening for their howls. “I put in my time to get that wolf,” he said.

  • Humans might not have become humans, in other words, without wolves.

  • Wolves have larger brains, and studies of captive wolves have found them to be demonstrably smarter than dogs; they are better able to distinguish quantities, for example.

  • After the death of O-Six, the mantle of world’s most famous wolf fell to a gray female who had been collared by Wyoming game officials near Cody. In October 2014, she showed up at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, the first wolf sighted in the area since the 1940s.

The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

I have been a big fan of what Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been doing for a while now. In this book, Melinda tells stories about the women she met through her work and how empowering them improves the society as a whole. She touches on a range of topics including birth control, women education, child marriage, unpaid work, and women in workplace. Some of these stories are incredibly sad and shocking but also very eye-opening at the same time. This is a terrific and important book that I think everybody should read.

Check it out on Goodreads.


  • How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings—and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity. And how can we create a moment of lift in human hearts so that we all want to lift up women? Because sometimes all that’s needed to lift women up is to stop pulling them down.

  • Being a feminist means believing that every woman should be able to use her voice and pursue her potential, and that women and men should all work together to take down the barriers and end the biases that still hold women back.

  • The reasons are simple: When the women were able to time and space their pregnancies, they were more likely to advance their education, earn an income, raise healthy children, and have the time and money to give each child the food, care, and education needed to thrive.

  • When children reach their potential, they don’t end up poor. This is how families and countries get out of poverty. In fact, no country in the last fifty years has emerged from poverty without expanding access to contraceptives.

  • Whenever you include a group that’s been excluded, you benefit everyone. And when you’re working globally to include women and girls, who are half of every population, you’re working to benefit all members of every community.

  • Women’s rights and society’s health and wealth rise together. Countries that are dominated by men suffer not only because they don’t use the talent of their women but because they are run by men who have a need to exclude. Until they change their leadership or the views of their leaders, those countries will not flourish.

  • “What do you know now in a deeper way than you knew it before?” I love this question because it honors how we learn and grow. Wisdom isn’t about accumulating more facts; it’s about understanding big truths in a deeper way.

  • Vishwajeet told me, “Their cup is not empty; you can’t just pour your ideas into it. Their cup is already full, so you have to understand what is in their cup.” If you don’t understand the meaning and beliefs behind a community’s practices, you won’t present your idea in the context of their values and concerns, and people won’t hear you.

  • We tend to push out the people who have qualities we’re most afraid we will find in ourselves—and sometimes we falsely ascribe qualities we disown to certain groups, then push those groups out as a way of denying those traits in ourselves.

  • But condoms are often unhelpful for women trying to avoid pregnancy. Women have told me over and over again, “If I ask my husband to wear a condom, he will beat me up. It’s like I’m accusing him of being unfaithful and getting HIV, or I’m saying that I was unfaithful and got HIV.”

  • When women can time and space their births, maternal mortality drops, newborn and child mortality drops, the mother and baby are healthier, the parents have more time and energy to care for each child, and families can put more resources toward the nutrition and education of each one. There was no intervention more powerful—and no intervention that had become more neglected.

  • That judge, who sentenced Sanger to thirty days in a workhouse, was expressing the widespread view that a woman’s sexual activity was immoral if it was separated from her function of bearing children. If a woman acquired contraceptives to avoid bearing children, that was illegal in the United States, thanks to the work of Anthony Comstock.

  • In Comstock’s eyes, and the eyes of his allies, women were entitled to very few roles in life: to marry and serve a man, and bear and take care of his children. Any detour from these duties brought disrepute—because a woman was not a human being entitled to act in the world for her own sake, not for educational advancement or professional accomplishment, and certainly not for her own pleasure.

  • A woman’s pleasure, especially her sexual pleasure, was terrifying to the keepers of the social order. If women were free to pursue their own pleasure, it would strike at the core of the unspoken male code, “You exist for my pleasure!” And men felt they needed to control the source of their pleasure. So Comstock and others did their best to weaponize stigma and use it to keep women stuck where they were, their value derived only from their service to men and children.

  • I’ve come to learn that stigma is always an effort to suppress someone’s voice. It forces people to hide in shame. The best way to fight back is to speak up—to say openly the very thing that others stigmatize. It’s a direct attack on the self-censorship that stigma needs to survive.

  • The United States has also been successful in bringing down teen pregnancy rates. The country is at a historic low for teen pregnancy and a thirty-year low for unintended pregnancy.

  • The people who push these policies often try to use the Church’s teaching on family planning for moral cover, but they have none of the Church’s compassion or commitment to the poor. Instead, many push to block access to contraceptives and cut funds for the poor.

  • It’s the mark of a backward society—or a society moving backward—when decisions are made for women by men. That’s what’s happening right now in the US. These are not policies that would be in place if women were making decisions for themselves. That’s why it’s heartening to see the surge of women activists across the country who are spending their time knocking on doors, supporting family planning, and changing their lives by running for office.

  • Just twenty years after the program began, Mexico has achieved gender parity in education—not only at the primary school level but also in high school and college. And Mexico has the world’s highest percentage of computer science degrees awarded to women.

  • A girl who is given love and support can start to break the self-image that keeps her down. As she gains self-confidence, she sees she can learn. As she learns, she sees her own gifts. As she develops her gifts, she sees her own power; she can defend her own rights. That is what happens when you offer girls love, not hate. You lift their gaze. They gain their voice.

  • In India, women spend 6 hours a day doing unpaid work, while men spend less than 1. In the US, women average more than 4 hours of unpaid work every day; men average just 2.5.

  • That is hugely significant because it is paid work that elevates women toward equality with men and gives them power and independence. That’s why the gender imbalance in unpaid work is so significant: The unpaid work a woman does in the home is a barrier to the activities that can advance her—getting more education, earning outside income, meeting with other women, becoming politically active.

  • If there is any meaning in life greater than connecting with other human beings, I haven’t found it.

  • Bill said, “I had a better exposure to software development at a young age than I think anyone did in that period of time, and all because of an incredibly lucky series of events.”

  • You can’t dedicate your life to the principle that all lives have equal value if you think you’re better than others. Bill, at his core, doesn’t think that way at all, and that is one of the qualities I love most in him.

  • I’ve never held the view that women are better than men, or that the best way to improve the world is for women to gain more power than men. I think male dominance is harmful to society because any dominance is harmful: It means society is governed by a false hierarchy where power and opportunity are awarded according to gender, age, wealth, and privilege—not according to skill, effort, talent, or accomplishments.

  • Child brides are often under intense pressure to prove their fertility, which means that their use of contraceptives is very low. In fact, the percentage of women using contraceptives is lowest where the prevalence of child marriage is highest. And low use of contraceptives by girls is deadly: For girls age 15 to 19 around the world, the leading cause of death is childbirth.

  • Tradition without discussion kills moral progress. If you’re handed a tradition and decide not to talk about it—just do it—then you’re letting people from the past tell you what to do. It kills the chance to see the blind spots in the tradition—and moral blind spots always take the form of excluding others and ignoring their pain.

  • One sign of an abusive culture is the view that members of the excluded group “don’t have what it takes.” In other words, “If we don’t have many women engineers here, it’s because women are not good engineers.” It is unimaginable to me both how flawed the logic is and how widely it’s believed. Opportunities have to be equal before you can know if abilities are equal. And opportunities for women have never been equal.

  • Tech is the most powerful industry in the world. It’s creating the ways we will live our lives. If women are not in tech, women will not have power.

  • The percentage of computing graduates who are women has plunged since I was in college. When I graduated from Duke in 1987, 35 percent of computing graduates in the United States were women. Today, it’s 19 percent.

  • There are likely a lot of reasons for the drop. One is that when personal computers made their way into American households, they were often marketed as gaming devices for boys, so boys spent more time on them and it gave boys exposure to computers that girls didn’t get. When the computer gaming industry emerged, many developers started creating violent war games featuring automatic weapons and explosives that many women didn’t want to play, creating a closed cycle of men creating games for men.

  • The United States is one of only seven countries in the world that do not provide paid maternity leave—joining the company of Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and a handful of other island nations. This is startling evidence that the United States is far behind the rest of the world in honoring the needs of families.

  • The lack of paid leave in the US is symptomatic of a workplace culture that also struggles with sexual harassment, gender bias, and a general indifference to family life. All these issues are aggravated by one reality: fewer women in positions of power.

  • Every society says its outsiders are the problem. But the outsiders are not the problem; the urge to create outsiders is the problem. Overcoming that urge is our greatest challenge and our greatest promise. It will take courage and insight, because the people we push to the margins are the ones who trigger in us the feelings we’re afraid of.

  • Women must leave the margins and take our place—not above men or below them, but beside them—at the center of society, adding our voices and making the decisions we are qualified and entitled to make.

WWDC 2019 Wish List

wwdc 2019

We're less than a week away from Apple's most exciting event of the year, WWDC. And these are the things I hope to see announced on Monday, in the order of how much I want them:

Dark Mode for iOS

This one has been in the list the longest for me. And it looks like my wish will finally come true this year.

Mac Pro

Just please, Apple. It's been a long time since we heard anything about this. I was really hoping they would show it off during WWDC 2017, and then still nothing in 2018. Now is the time we see it.

Screen Time for macOS and tvOS

I love Screen Time for iOS and monitor mine often. But I also spend a lot of time on these two other platforms and I would really like to know how I spend them, especially on the Apple TV.

New External Display

They also promised that a new Apple display is in the works. Showing this alongside the new Mac Pro during an event aimed at developers doesn't sound like a bad idea. So far looks like I might be in for a treat.

Apple Card

Apple Card was announced back in March of this year. It was probably the one I was most surprised and impressed by during the event. So I hope to get a date for this so I can apply for one.

Sleep Tracking on Apple Watch

I wear my watch to sleep sometimes, and having a first-party sleep tracker on it would be really nice.

macOS 10.15 "Sequoia"

Okay, it's obvious we're getting macOS 10.15. I'm just putting it here because I think Sequoia is a pretty dang good name for it.

© 2012-2020 Zack Apiratitham