Category Archives: Articles

Social Media Stress

Higher use of social media is linked to “negative physical health, negative mental health and negative life satisfaction”:

Trimming your social habit down to just one platform may lighten your brain’s load. And, though it’s easier said than done, Vannucci recommends unfollowing or blocking the people or news streams that tend to stress you out.

And:

based on what experts know today, taking time away from social media seems more likely to brighten your day than bum you out.

(from Time)

My Attempt to Understand Court Proceedings of Case to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

The website of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia has a live blog of the Supreme Court case on whether to liquidate and ban Witnesses in the country. Unless you read Russian, view it in Google Chrome and use Google Translate. It’s not great, but you’ll get the gist. This post is my attempt to clarify it for myself; I’ll do my best to leave out things I am unsure about.

The court refused the Witnesses’ counterclaim for recognition of acts of political repression, on the grounds that the Supreme Court is not the correct court for such a claim, and that making objections in the current case is adequate protection.

Under Russian law, local religious organizations (LROs) are separate legal entities. However, the Ministry of Justice is trying to act as though they are organizational units connected to one another and the Administrative Center. In other words, Russian law does not allow banning/liquidating all 395 LROs just because the Administrative Center is liquidated. The Ministry of Justice has not warned all 395 LROs in writing and provided time to correct deficiencies, as it is required to do by law.

Notification from the Ministry of Justice arrived to the Administrative Center only on 28 March 2017, nearly 2 weeks after the claim was filed – only 1 week before it was to be heard by the court.

The court refused the defendant’s request to bring in experts on whether Witness publications have extremist langauge. The court refused the participation of foreign organizations that have property at stake in this hearing.

Calling the LROs extremist arises from their connection to publications that have been deemed “extremist” by the Russian government; the court was unwilling to review whether such publications actually met such a standard.

Court adjourned, to resume on 6 April 2017 at 14:00 Moscow time.


After presenting its argument against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, the Ministry of Justice requested the immediate liquidation and ban of the religion and its legal entities. The judge asked, ‘How can you ask to both legally eliminate and ban them? How can you ban something that does not exist?’

The court felt that cases against other LROs did not affect the Administrative Center, as it is a separate legal entity.

The Ministry of Justice claims that LROs of Jehovah’s Witnesses violate the rights of citizens. This prompted a line of questioning from the judge.

  • What kinds of citizens’ rights are violated? (Receiving medical treatment.)
  • What proof do you have that LROs of Jehovah’s Witnesses prevent citizens from receiving medical treatment? (None.)
  • In light of your recent large investigation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, how is it that you are unable to provide proof for such a claim?
  • What threat to public safety exists because of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (Unspecified.)
  • If Jehovah’s Witnesses are banned, would they be prosecuted if gathered for prayer? (Yes.)
  • Is the Ministry of Justice reviewing the Federal List of Extremist Materials (FSEM)? (This list may be revised from time to time.)

Defendant was allowed to proceed with questioning. It was clarified that the court case on medical treatment the MoJ was referring to made no mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This caused the judge to ask MoJ why it was included in case materials.

Defendant line of questioning:

  • What offenses were committed under the influence of Witness literature listed on the FSEM? (None.)
  • Does your claim boil down to the following 3 points: 1) the import of “extremist” literature, 2) financing MPO, 3) failure to take effective measures to prevent extremist activity? (Yes, with the addition of 4) threat of violating human rights and civil rights. MoJ is unable to expound on what human rights violations they have in mind.)
  • Regarding “failure to take preventive measures”, is MoJ aware of letters sent to LROs regarding material on the FSEM? (Yes.)
  • Would the MoJ consider such letters to be an effective measure? (We don’t know.)
  • Is there a criterion of inaction toward extremist activity? (Answer indicates no such criterion.)
  • Is the MoJ aware that “extremist” material comprises 0.1% of all Witness literature? (No. It is pointed out that Rsotov Regional Court refused to admit dozens of Witness publications to the list.)
  • Is the MoJ aware that such “extremist” literature has not been imported for 2 years now? (Yes.)
  • Then why, in 2017, is the MoJ bringing up the issue of liquidation? (MoJ cannot provide evidence that “extremist” literature has been distributed over the last 12 months. Further, the list does not specify when items were added to the list.)

Judge interjects to ask, ‘Can a claim be made against an organization for previously importing something that is added to the FSEM in the future?’ (This only applies to FSEM.)

Defense continues:

  • Is a ‘global organization’ a legal entity? (This is a canonical concept.)
  • Is a ‘structural unit’ a legal concept? (No, this is also a canonical connection.)
  • In what sense is the MoJ saying that LROs are ‘structural units of the Administrative Center’: canonical or legal? (The MoJ considers these to be identical.)
  • Can extremism law be applied to an LRO that was not notified even if a ‘structural unit’ was notified? (Warning should be made to each LRO.)
  • If the warning is issued to an LRO and not the Administrative Center, is the LRO a ‘structural unit’? (No answer.)

MoJ indicate that what is not forbidden by law is allowed. Judge asks if notice was sent to the Administrative Center? No evidence exists of this.

Defense:
– Is the MoJ able to answer when an item was added to the FSEM? (This answer can probably be given through judicial reqeust.)
– How do different parts of the MoJ come to opposite conclusions about presence or absence of extremism? (We do not know.)
– Why does the MoJ only support conclusions of presence? (We do not know.)
– Does the MoJ review cases with such a contradiction?

Court reminded by defense that the MoJ has not intiated a revision of the FSEM after amendments to the law.

Court adjourned until 7 April 2017 at 10:00 Moscow time. This post will be updated accordingly.

The Russian Federation and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Even though I’ve been microblogging about it, I think a more comprehensive post on this is useful. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have long dealt with oppression—both from the USSR and Russian Federation. On 15 March 2017, the Russian Ministry of Justice moved to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is expected to rule on this tomorrow, 5 April 2017.

15 March 2017

Russian Ministry of Justice moves to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia..

21 March 2017

Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world are engaged in a letter-writing campaign, appealing directly to high officials of the Russian Federation for relief.

28 March 2017

The Helsinki Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, condemns pending legal action against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.

4 April 2017

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights releases a statement urging Russia to drop the lawsuit.

News organizations including TIME Magazine release articles on the situation.


A website called Russia Religion News, maintained by a professor emeritus of Stetson University, has a well-documented list of news articles from around the world concerning this situation (they can currently be found under “Recent 2017 News Items”).

I’m interested to hear the Supreme Court’s decision as it affects not only 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the religious freedom of all Russians.

Want a Mac Pro? Build a Hackintosh, way faster

Filing this away for later. The growing concensus seems to be that if you want a true Mac Pro, you’re not going to get it from Apple.

Worth mentioning, from Dan Benjamin’s guide:

 Building this PC is absolutely legal … But, unlike most operating systems, running macOS on non-apple hardware violates Apple’s End User License Agreement (EULA), and doing so might get you into trouble.

iMessage Link Previews and Jetpack Plugin

When sharing the link to this website in Messages for iOS 10, a blank image was being displayed in link previews. This post said it’s an Open Graph image, so I started searching for information on that and WordPress. It turns out the Jetpack plugin takes care of this, and you can customize the image that displays or remove Jetpack’s Open Graph tags by adding code to functions.php. I chose the latter method, which uses the following code:

add_filter( 'jetpack_enable_open_graph', '__return_false' );

Update: Jeremy Herve tweeted a patch which will be in the next Jetpack release. It fixed the blank image issue. And while I don’t like my big head being more than a favicon, it’s slightly better than a blank og:image.

Something is Deeply Wrong

“Something is deeply wrong [at Apple]. Where is all the effort going? That’s what I want to know. ‘Cause it’s sure not going into the Mac, it’s sure not going into the Apple TV, it’s sure not going into the iPad, some of it but not much is going into the Watch—like, where is it going? Some of it’s obviously going to the phone, but does it really take the whole company to keep the phone up-to-date at a reasonable pace, which even that is kind of questionable?”

—Marco Arment on ATP 213

Humility & Modesty

Just some thoughts on these two qualities after reading “Why Modesty Still Matters”.

Humility (n.) attitude of lacking pride or arrogance

Modesty (n.) behavior in recognition of personal limitations

Humility is internal; modesty is external. Both are necessary; though they generally accompany each other, neither guarantees existence of the other.

A modest person not only recognizes the limit of his ability, he recognizes the limit of his responsibility. This moves him to show respect and support for the roles of others.

Laptop-style iPad

Ben Brooks, linking to his members-only iPad Productivity Report:

I talk about rumors and I’m still upset that people want a laptop style iPad.

iPad 2 was my first; Air was my second, and I practically never use it.1 Without a keyboard, iPad is a lesser work machine than my iPhone. Without Apple Pencil, it’s not great for drawing. The current iPad line-up doesn’t make me want to upgrade, nor does a “laptop style iPad”. At this point, I don’t think there’s anything that makes the iPad compelling to me.

What Makes the Perfect Office?

The office is a highly personal tool shop, often the home of the soul … this fact may sound simple, but it eludes most architects … They have a mania for uniformity, in space as in furniture, and a horror over how the messy side of human nature clutters up an office landscape that would otherwise be as tidy as a national cemetery. – T. George Harris, Editor of Psychology Today (1977)

The more autonomy workers have over their workspaces, the more productive they will be.

(Tim Harford via Chris Bowler)

iPhone 7 Plus Camera Issue

In late January or early February I had my iPhone screen replaced at an Apple Store. Shortly after, I noticed that any third-party camera app (e.g. Snapchat, Instagram, Scanbot, ProCam 4) had a bad shake while attempting to focus, accompanied by a clicking sound. But this didn’t seem to happen in Apple’s Camera app, nor could I reproduce it on another iPhone 7 Plus.

Starting on 12 February 2017, I tried to get Apple’s assistance. They twice referred me to talk to app developers, even though it was not isolated to one or two apps.1 On 27 February, I was assigned a Senior Advisor. After troubleshooting – including a full restore in Recovery mode – the issue was escalated to Apple engineers; a resolution has not been reached.2 In the meantime, I’ve done a little more investigating.

Recently, ProCam 4 released an update offering a new control, which appears select which rear lens(es) you want to use. When the smaller (telephoto) option is selected, the focus shake does not occur. When the larger (wide angle) option is select, the shake and clicking both occur. This seemed like a useful narrowing of the problem scope.

screenshot of ProCam 4 lens selection with telephoto selected

ProCam 4’s lens selection feature

So, I went back to Apple’s Camera app. Going through every mode, I discovered the following.

  • Time lapse: clicking and shaking
  • Slo-mo: OK
  • Video: OK
  • Photo: OK
  • Portrait: clicking, no shaking
  • Square: OK
  • Pano: clicking and shaking

I passed this information along to Apple and am waiting to hear back, but didn’t expect to be working on this a month after contacting them.