Your weekly, stream-of-consciousness hello.
Happy Sunday to you, dear reader!
Summer is officially with us - even if the calendar start says we’ve got a few weeks to go. Maryland’s hot and humid, my “to-see” list for movies in the theater is growing ever longer (maybe I can wait on Dark Phoenix, though), and my wife and I had our first snowballs of the year yesterday.
From what I’ve seen on the list of subscribers so far (hello new friends!), not everyone is a Maryland local, so you’re probably wondering what exactly a Snowball is.
Good news - people better and smarter than me have already written about them.
In Baltimore, we take our snowballs seriously.
You may think you know what a snowball is. That conical treat of chunky ice where all of the flavor drips out of the bottom of a paper triangle? Nope, that’s a snowcone. That fruity, pureed ice that you have to scrape with a wooden spoon? Nope, that’s Italian ice. Or maybe the fluffy bowl of ice with condensed milk on top? Wrong again—that’s Hawaiian shave ice.
The closest thing to a Baltimore snowball can be found in New Orleans. But in the Big Easy rendition, the ice is shaved more finely, for a consistency that’s delicate and light but easily turns soupy.
A classic Baltimore snowball arrives in a Styrofoam cup: shaved ice sloshed with sweet syrup—mostly artificial flavoring and not any of that “real fruit” stuff—and typically topped with marshmallow cream. While the ice is shaved, it’s not fine enough to dissolve, leaving the snowball chunky and intact enough to survive humid Baltimore summers. Most of us from Charm City would say that these treats are as imperative to a complete summer as cracking through a bushel of steamed crabs.
Ice, flavoring, marshmallow - it’s what a Baltimore Summer tastes like.
Even if I prefer some of the alternatives (ice cream, Italian ice, etc.), this is a Baltimore summer thing which has to be experienced once a year. Hell, there’s even fancy hipster snowballs now.
If you’re ever here, give one a try. I recommend an Egg Custard flavor.
Every week, I’ll toss a few thoughts out on what I felt the biggest story of the week was.
As discussed in last week’s edition, Apple kicked off this week with their annual WWDC event.
It was, as expected, a parade of software updates. Cool new options for your phones and tablets, fancy features for your watch, fixes and fun stuff for your computer. (There was even a computer if you have more money than sense!)
But the biggest announcement? It seems innocuous on paper, but the bit which will probably change the world…is a sign-in option.
You know how, many times when you’re setting up a website online, to make things easier, they have that “Sign in with Facebook” and “Sign in with Google” buttons?
Apple is launching “Sign in with Apple” this Fall.
Why on Earth would I give a hoot about a sign in option?
Because of one of the most important tenants of tech these days: privacy.
Apple is introducing its own single sign-on (SSO) service, a direct competitor to the services offered by Google and Facebook. The new service is aimed at paring back data collection, with only minimal data shared with the app and a promise to quarantine any data collected within Apple itself so it can’t be used for other purposes. More importantly, the service will be mandatory for any iOS apps using SSO, which makes it an instant competitor to Google and Facebook’s offerings.
All those leaks? All those security problems? All those moments where because you signed in with Facebook, they know your personal info? All those moments where because you signed in with Google, they start tracking you for ads? They’re gone. The sign in is anonymous. The email the company gets? Single use, just for that log-in. And Apple is the elephant large enough to make every massive company in the world put this sign in option right next to the others. This could be a win for the good guys. I hope.
Another story which grabbed my eye from the week.
It seems we’re in full-on conference season. WWDC this past week, and this week, we enter E3, the video game industry’s big to-do, where almost everyone who is anyone, over the course of the week, showcases their biggest games for the holiday season.
It’s kind of like, if you’re a big movie fan, all of the movie trailers and release date announcements hitting over the course of one week.
Or, at least, it used to be.
This year’s E3 is in a weird place.
First - Sony totally dropped out of this year’s conference, as they work on whatever will come after the PlayStation 4 (I’m going to guess…PlayStation 5. Hire me today, Sony.) It helps when you’ve basically been the king of this generation. You can not have to make a splash at all the parties when everyone already loves you.
Second - the industry itself is in a weird state of transition. Gamestop, the only retailer focusing exclusively on games, is in dire straits. Gaming itself looks to be moving from the realm of dedicated devices and focusing on the Cloud, with Google putting serious money behind their Stadia platform, and two titans in Sony and Microsoft looking to team up on their own Cloud ambitions.
I’m not sure where it’s all going to land, but as we learned this past week during Google’s kind of dry Stadia Connect online announcement event, none of it matters unless there are good games…and this is the week where those games make their presence known. It’s a fun time to be a fan!
A bunch of cool links what I read this week, typically culled from my ever-growing Instapaper queue.
Every week, I’ll make a recommendation of something to read, to watch, or to listen to. I’ll even link to where you can check it out.
This week’s recommendation: The Outsider by Stephen King
With Summer being upon us, that means - SUMMER READING SEASON!
And with that in mind, in this week’s newsletter, I’d like to give some love to my favorite read of last Summer, The Outsider by Stephen King.
Here’s the description, via Amazon:
An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories. An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad. As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.
I’m a long time Stephen King fan (It messed me up something FIERCE as a kid), but I think he’s done a great job of not resting on his laurels and producing great books well into his career. The Outsider might be his best in some time. Split into two halves, the book starts as sort of a Law & Order SVU story in small-town America, but it quickly turns into something darker, more supernatural, and more insane.
Though it runs a hefty 577 pages, The Outsider is a brisk read, and the story is a hell of a page-turner, keeping you engaged for every twist and turn. I loved it, and I think you will too.
But hey: if you don’t like reading, it’s going to be a mini-series on HBO soon enough.
• The Outsider by Stephen King: Buy on Amazon
Have yourself a wonderful week, dear reader.
Stay cool. Enjoy the small things. And don’t let the bastards bring you down.