iPhone theft and staying vigilant

I considered writing about this the other day. Then I decided not to. What’s the big deal, right? It happens all the time, and the outcome is much worse for many people. Then I thought more about it again. The truth is, what happened a few days ago keeps running through my head, and perhaps it’s best to just let it out.

I was robbed the other day, publicly and in broad daylight. As I do every work day, I left my apartment around 7:30 am and walked to the corner of Potrero and 24th to cross the street and head towards BART. I had my headphones in and was listening to music on my iPhone, holding the phone at my side as I walked. As I walked by the bus stop on the corner, I noticed that there was an above-average number of people waiting for either the 9, 9L, 33 or 48 to come by.

I started to cross the street. Then I felt a sharp tug on my right arm and on the string of my headphones, and I immediately turned around. A young guy (perhaps 18? 20? Or younger? I’m terrible at guessing ages) was crouched behind me and had managed to force me to drop my phone so he could grab it.

He fumbled it a little. I grabbed onto his arms to stop him from taking it. He yelled at me to let go and shoved me off. I yelled at him to give me back my phone. My own voice sounded foreign. Maybe I managed to grab him again, and he shoved me off again? The exact details are fuzzy now.

We’d moved into the street at this point, in front of the bus stop with all the people waiting. Many cars were waiting at the stoplight. He started to run across the street, through traffic. Someone honked at him. A guy waiting at the bus stop made a half-hearted attempt to run and yell at the guy, then stopped.

I chased him across the street. He was too far ahead of me at this point, and sprinted down Potrero, past 23rd. It’s done. I’m defeated, humiliated, shocked and shaking.

A car pulled over and the driver stepped out to ask me what happened. Another guy met me at the corner and asked if I needed to use his phone to call someone. I didn’t really need anyone’s help at this point, however, since I live across the street. I returned home, cancelled my AT&T service, changed some passwords, and cried on my boyfriend’s shoulder.

Why was I so upset? It’s not about the phone. It was certainly a nice phone (an iPhone 4), and a good portion of my daily life revolved around using it (listening to music, utilizing the GPS, surfing the internet, etc.). But material items are easily replaceable, and this phone is easily replaceable. I’m in the fortunate position where I can afford to buy a new phone (although I’ll end up buying the cheaper model, which is also fine – I only had the new model due to some random happenstance anyway). I spent two days without a phone after it was stolen, and aside from not getting my music fix while riding BART to get to work, I didn’t especially miss it.

It’s the act of being robbed, I think, that’s sticking with me. I can still feel the guy tugging hard and fast on my arm, the feel of his sweatshirt as I grabbed at him to try to stop him, the feel of 50+ people idly watching as this all went down.

And it’s also a feeling of disbelief. I thought of myself as someone who maintains a good sense of vigilance, especially when I’m on public transit and when it’s later at night, and fewer people are around. Since I first upgraded to an iPhone, I’ve always kept in mind the huge numbers of Muni thefts, reported mugging attempts and successes, etc. I try not to get so lost in my little device that I forget my surroundings.

I guess I never, ever imagined that something like this would happen in such a public, open space, with so many people around, under a bright shining sun with nowhere to hide. So I walked across the street holding my phone at my side, when it should have been tucked away in my bag instead. This was my daily routine, and I thought it was a safe one. Lesson learned.

The silver lining? Apparently while this was all going down, someone did call the police (as I found out later that same day). The police arrived a few minutes after I’d returned to my home, and at least one or two people gave witness reports. The police drove around looking for both me and the thief (witnesses apparently saw him jump into a car and drive off). So, I can’t claim that no one tried to help – although I can’t help but wonder how this story would have been different if someone, anyone, had stepped in to help while this was happening, had tried to pull the guy away like I did. Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten away with this, and the volume of these types of robberies would decrease. Additionally, what if I’d tried to kick him or push him away with more force? Am I not tough enough?

But I can’t know what could have happened, because it’s a done deal. Plus, it could have been worse – what if he’d had a weapon, for example? And, like I said, it’s just a phone. It’s not a rare bicycle, nor was anyone kidnapped or injured. So, it’s fine. I’m fine. From now on, it’s all about keeping my valuables hidden safely away, not ever letting my guard down and keeping a sharp eye out for both myself and my fellow city dwellers. Let’s all be safe, strong and vigilant.

On RSS and the “dying” of Really Simple Syndication

I love RSS. I love my Google Reader. I use it religiously. I subscribe to way too many blogs and websites, because I can. I can add all the subscriptions I want, quickly scan my feed to see what piques my interest, and read as much or as little as I want and “mark all as read” as necessary. I visit a lot of sites and discover many new ones as a result.

I star entries frequently (especially recipes that I want to try), and also search my feeds for certain topics and ingredients (which I can do so, easily, because I categorize my feeds). I find this infinitely easier than bookmarking, especially since I’m dealing with a high number of sites and individual entries.

There have been a whole mess of articles lately about how RSS is “dying,” Facebook and Twitter are “killing” RSS, etc. The latest in a long string comes via TechCrunch, and the writers/editors recently got into an “RSS War” on Twitter with Dave Winer, who apparently pioneered the development of RSS.

As Jeffrey pointed out to me, the implementation and use of RSS is simple enough (no pun intended) that it won’t necessarily just go away. And pretty much all publishing software (such as WordPress) will provide feeds automatically, so the option will always be there. So hopefully there’s no need to really fear a dramatic death of RSS, the day when all feed readers just stop existing (like birds falling out of the sky).

What bothers me the most about all this is how this decline in RSS use will affect the design of RSS entries. Website developers have the option to configure RSS so that the content displays a certain way when a new entry pops up in a reader. Sometimes the entire post is displayed, so the user can read all the content at once; and sometimes the post is truncated, so only some of the content is posted and the user has to click through to the site to get the rest of the information.

I have no problem with truncated RSS posts, especially when so many sites rely on page views for a number of reasons. I do have a problem when truncated posts look like crap and fail to give the user anything useful.

I subscribe to some SF Weekly blogs, but this bugs me:

SF Foodie RSS

Just a sentence or two more would provide the user with a more comprehensive idea of what the post is about and encourage a more worthwhile reading experience.

On the contrary, Smitten Kitchen utilizes a really good RSS compromise by displaying a few paragraphs and photos in each entry, before requiring the user to click through to the actual site to see the actual recipe:

Smitten Kitchen RSS

Overall, I just hope that people continue to do the basic development work for RSS, despite the fact that user numbers are down. There’s also reason to believe that RSS will make a comeback, especially if Facebook and Twitter feeds become too saturated. Who knows?

On Pixar and the lack of female protagonists

I love Pixar films. I have complete and unfettered adoration of every single film, long or short. I think they’re brilliant, absolutely original and always creative. They make me laugh out loud and cry like a baby and, as cheesy as it may sound, inspire me to be a better person.

However. Is it so much to ask to have a female protagonist in a Pixar film?

This is not to say that Pixar depicts female characters in a negative light, and/or neglects to feature them at all. It’s quite the contrary, in fact. The female characters in Pixar movies are confident, intelligent, witty, and undoubtedly play a central role in the films – and can most definitely be considered as positive role models.

But having said that, it’s difficult to justify Pixar’s film catalog once you realize that never, not once, has an illustrious Pixar journey been conquered by a female as the main character. Inherently, this is remarkably irresponsible and completely disappointing.

Yet still! According to Wikipedia, The Bear and the Bow is currently in production and will feature a female lead. It will also be produced and directed by women.

Although, as Sociological Images points out: “. . . this is Pixar’s ‘first fairy tale.’ So apparently though we get a female lead here, she’s of the spunky-princess type often found in fairy tales.”

Good point. The topic of the Pixar gender imbalance is not new – perhaps this new film is not based on the company’s organic story process, and instead on Pixar bending to criticism? Hopefully not, but it’s impossible to tell.

I’d be interested in finding out more in regards to a gendered profile of Pixar as company. Seeing the meaning behind the phrase “write what you know,” it would make sense that Pixar’s main characters are male if, in fact, most of the staff in directing/writing/producing positions are male. “Make sense” sounds like an attempt to justify the means, but I’d like to think it’s more of a way of trying to see where this came from in the first place in order to aid the problem at its core.

It’s an interesting discussion, at the very least, and I love Pixar so much that I’m nonetheless looking forward to how they continue to develop any and all female characters in their films. Pixar is in the position to change world views and perceptions, and have already successfully tackled some troubling issues, so here’s to seeing what the company has in store.

Maine, Virginia . . . and California

In the sixth (seventh?) grade, my best friend came out to me and one of our other friends. She was in love with a female friend of hers. She pined for her. She wanted nothing more than to be her girlfriend. This was obviously something that she had been struggling to confess for a long while.

This girl had been one of my best friends for years. She ended up at a different high school, and then at a college across the country, where she is still living and working and loving – and she also happens to be a lesbian. Facebook tells me these things. I’ve been happy to follow her over the past couple of years, to know that she’s working hard at an admirable job and living a fulfilling, giving life.

One of my dearest friends from college is a gay man. I’ve been his friend since he met his first official boyfriend; his first great love; his first great heartbreak; his first “this is the real deal.” We’ve been through a lot together over the years, have had some wonderfully fun times, and continue to maintain a solid friendship here in San Francisco. He is incredibly smart, hilarious, kind, and open-minded. One of his ex-boyfriends remains as a friend of mine to this day – he even came with me to the Bonnaroo Music Festival back in 2007.

Another one of my dearest friends from college is a gay man. He’s easily one of the most warm-hearted, hard-working, intelligent people I’ve ever known. The fact that he associates with me as a good friend makes me proud, makes me want to be a better person, as I admire him on so many levels. He inspires me, and many others.

And that is just scratching the surface. I have other friends from over the years that identify as gay – all wonderful, fun, lovely, intelligent, hard-working people, trying to make it in this world, just like me. The people we meet in our lifetimes ultimately shape us, make us who we are, inspire us to move forward. I’m proud of all the people who have shaped me, and continue to do so.

To many people in this country, my friends are second-class citizens. Maine, Virginia, my own home state of California . . . it makes me heart hurt.

Can this just be over now? Can these people who vote against gay marriage, with their ridiculously bigoted, close-minded views, just fucking get over it and move on? And if marriage is so goddamn sacred, why is divorce legal?