18 Sep 2018, 20:44

The Robot

The kids came up with a wacky idea to build a robot, which has been a complete blast.

I took a look at the available kits, and they’re undoubtedly impressive. Some are pretty much stylized RC cars, some don’t require building at all, and some try to use apps to enable some basic programming or at least scripting. Never one to enjoy the shrink-wrapped solution, I stole a few ideas from the marketplace and struck off on my own.

It’s truly striking what Arduino and Raspberry Pi have done to the landscape. Even as late as my college years, PIC microcontrollers were not as much pricey as difficult to work with, and easier solutions that weren’t ground-up DIY jobs were indeed fairly expensive. Programming required flashing via a serial port, which was typically adapted to USB on the way to a laptop running very creaky C-based tooling. Processing power was scarce, and the add-on and adapter scene was thin.

The Arduino-versus-Rpi debate is a difficult one. An Arduino is a gift-wrapped microcontroller with all the good and bad stuff that comes with that: no general purpose as we know them, friendly but more bare-metal hardware interaction, lots of focused third-party libraries for robotics and automation, and good hardware support for things like generating timed pulsed waves and blinky lights. Rpi gives you a whole other host of benefits: full Linux support with any programming language you’d like, wifi, storage, rougher but still available electronics integration, and a huge array of compatible devices. You give up something no matter which way you go, but - depending on what you want to do - there’s almost always at least one good choice.

We went Rpi and haven’t looked back: because of the drivers and capabilities of Linux, I’ve been able to interact with the robot over wifi while it’s powered with an ordinary consumer USB battery pack. A growing array of microcontroller-based daughter boards fill some of the gaps created by the more computer-like Rpi as opposed to the more task-focused Arduino. Strikingly, these little boards are sophisticated, relatively (very relatively) user-friendly devices that generally cost between $5 and $15 apiece. We need one for locomotive motor control, one for power control, and one for 180-degree servo control. That set, plus a motor/gearbox/wheel kit, some mostly scrap electronic parts for hookup, scrap wood for a chassis, and some spare boxes and packaging for body parts, and we are working toward a workable model. We built the gearbox ourselves from a boxed set at the kitchen table. It’s layers of kit-based DIY with a good bit of custom engineering.

I wanted to add talking functionality, something that would have been entirely impossible several years ago. Now it was as easy as a little USB portable speaker plugged into the Rpi, and a connection to a free (up to 1 MB of text per month) Google service to transcribe voice input and send back MP3s of synthesized speech. I had it running in about 15 minutes with Python.

I have a clear ambition to make this grow with the kids, meaning I need to be tight enough with my codebase that it can eventually be adapted or expanded by the kids. I’m not sure if this will ever actually happen, but it’s important to me that it becomes accessible to them if they’re interested.

It’s interesting to see their perspective on things. Growing up in a moment that perhaps lacks game-changing breakthroughs but is more typified by the complete pedestrianization of what would previously be considered black frigging magic, you never know what will impress them. They are keenly aware that I am (currently) “making the robot talk” with my computer, and that’s clearly not as impressive as the Alexa voice responding from the ether. They crave autonomy, something I doubt I would have even thought to covet as a child. They want it to go and do of its own accord, and they want to speak to it and have it speak back. They appear somewhat mystified, but surprisingly not frustrated, when I give them the engineer’s assessments of each of their ideas: impossible, too tough for our budget, too tough for my knowledge, doable, easy.

I have purposefully avoided any kind of chassis materials that appear pre-made or purpose-built in any way. I would prefer to use a Clorox wipe container (the current torso) than something from a kit. I think they feel the improvisation of it, and I’m frequently fielding materials suggestions: use a Rubbermaid container, use a can of beans, use an old box, use a toilet paper tube. It’s a fun exercise in craftsmanship and improvisation to view your household trash and sundries as potential parts for a robot. They have impressed me with their creativity, especially in an era that nearly gives up on a device if its charge port becomes loose.

My personal goal is to see a dance of the Hokey Pokey within a month or so. We’ll see how it goes, and where they want to go with it from there.

10 Apr 2018, 19:11

Against the Usage of "Um" in Discussions

I listen to a few podcasts that are critical of the usage of “Well, actually…” and “Turns out…” in internet culture. With the internet comes a full deck of cite-able sources of various quality and provenance to correct people in an irritating way: “Well, actually the study that said to drink all that water did not say that”, “Turns out salt intake isn’t bad for blood pressure”, etc., etc.

This is valid cultural criticism and should be noted by people. Much of the time the value of the correction is overshadowed by the irritation it causes, and half the time the “correction” is just as questionable as the original statement.

I would submit that the “Um” prefix is the dirty bomb of such phrases. “Um” does not just telegraph a “get ready to hear something I read that you didn’t”. “Um” says, “You moron, haven’t you read that…”

Anyone familiar with Hacker News would not be surprised to see me use a link to a discussion on that site to illustrate the point. It strikes me as a shorthand for the person who says “Time out” and then corrects someone in conversation. It is both pretentious and superfluous. I struggle to imagine a situation in which the meaning or clarity of a statement is not improved by removing it from the front of the sentence.

27 Jul 2017, 14:19

Riften On My Mind

My time with Skyrim appears to be drawing to a close.

Even the writing of that sentence highlights the complexity of my feelings about this fantastic game. I put quite a bit of time into it, easily the most time I’ve put into a game in the last five years or more, and I enjoyed almost every bit of it. The nonlinearity and openness were huge wins for me while playing.

In retrospect, though, that great strength of the game (thousands of things to do, many having no bearing on the actual storyline) created a bit of a bitter aftertaste in the sunset period. The main quest was awful in many areas, with bugs and design issues impacting somewhere around a quarter to a half of the stage gates in the quest. I actually had to drop into the console and input codes I found on discussion boards in order to get through a pointless cinema sequence at one point. The plot was somewhere between pointless and incomprehensible, with way too much “dragon language” and gopher quests and time travel and other silly fantasy game tropes.

Even as I complain and retrospect here, I am generating counterarguments that minimize my complaint. Yes, this was the “main quest,” and yes, it was bad for me in many areas. But what is a “main quest” in a sandbox game? Was it a mistake for me to even go through that quest?

Interestingly, my approach to Skyrim was heavily influenced by my two runs through Hitman: Absolution (one on easy, one on hard), which revealed my interest in stealth approaches to games. In Skyrim, I played a thief who didn’t steal (much), essentially an ethical assassin.

A dragon-slaying main plot was never going to work well for a thief. There was no going after Alduin the World Eater with a dagger, and my sneaking (even maxed to 100!) was not effective against his preternatural abilities. Since I had no interest in magic and had invested all my time in sneaking and stabbing and shooting everything, I essentially had to play tank for the main quest and count most of my skill development work as wasted.

Speaking of skill-building, what an experience to work through a big game doing something besides the straightforward hack-and-slash! The most interesting (and challenging) thing about Skyrim for me was the experience of starting out in this different context. You know you want to be an assassin type player, and you do what you can in the character rolling to position yourself to get there, but when you start out you’re basically just terrible. This makes complete sense, but it requires real patience in the early days to stick with it and prepare to reap the rewards later.

You are approaching a challenging game wanting to sneak around, but you can’t sneak. You need to attack from afar, but your equipment is terrible and you aren’t that effective with a bow. You would love to get the sneak-and-stab 15x bonus, but you can’t get within 10 feet of someone without them alerting on you. So you sneak, save frequently and reload when you get slaughtered, and grind it out until you get up to journeyman status. Then the game really opens up.

Because everything is so open, you can really experience fun rewards if you concentrate on certain areas. The “perks” skill system has its weaknesses, but tracks such as Sneak are filled with deeply powerful and fun rewards for concentrating effort.

By the end of my time in the game, I was taking out rooms full of people by dropping down on them and doing stab-and-retreat attacks without being noticed. I could pick any lock, my equipment was fantastic, and I really felt like I had built something to be proud of and to enjoy.

I can still imagine dropping into the game occasionally and playing my character. I occasionally think about rolling a new one and starting over, but I don’t think I would. I got it right the first time, and the quest variety is really not that good (perhaps the obvious trade-off that counterbalances the available volume of quests). Too many “bandit has thing, go into cave, kill five bandits plus one magic-casting bandit, three frost spiders, and a pair of draugrs, open chest, get thing, take shortcut out” quests. A little bit of that goes a long way.

There was clearly a lot of love put into the Thieves Guild quests and a few of the other major non-main arcs. They were quite a bit better than the main arc.

All in all, I think Skyrim is a game that should be played precisely how you want to play it. You can’t let the actual presence of a storyline push you too hard to play it that way, unless you really want to do that. The tricky thing is feeling a sense of completion in that environment. Have I “beaten” the game? Am I “finished”? There’s certainly more to do, but why would I do it? It forces you to think deeper into your true motivations for playing, which might or might not have a good answer.

It’s a much more complex way to play and enjoy a game, but I definitely prefer it to the old one-way variety of these role-playing games.

26 Apr 2017, 13:30

Hitman: Absolution

I knew something was up with my preference in games when I started enjoying playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Suddenly I was sneaking around, taking cover, avoiding confrontation, and thinking strategically. My Deus Ex save game was lost in a misunderstanding between myself and the Steam client, but I will revisit at some point (probably on the Xbox 360, since it was a free game a while back).

Since then, I’ve jumped headfirst into Hitman: Absolution, which I’ve found to be a revelation in terms of how I play and enjoy games. I played through the whole game on Easy, but in hindsight I realize that my play-through on Easy was sort of a simulated Hard. I was unforgiving, relentlessly resetting to the last save point if I was spotted. And I also now realize that I was far too hard on myself in terms of avoiding enemy attention.

The game easily passed my Media Test (do you want to re-watch or re-play from the beginning as soon as you’re done?) and I took the test literally, firing up a new game almost immediately and playing through on Hard. I’m well past halfway through on Hard, playing a little differently (a little more dirt under the fingernails being tolerable to me when game mechanics are less accommodating by design).

At least at my (gravely limited) natural ability, Hard pushes you to push the system. On my first play-through I would have looked down my nose at crouching and sneaking when in disguise (looks weird, wouldn’t actually work in person), but on Hard I’ve learned to work the system to my benefit. The AI is pretty shabby in this game (much is being asked of it, and the general high-quality nature of the rest of the game definitely casts some shade on this weak point), but in its limited way it acknowledges that these types of behaviors are frequently required to get through in more clamped-down modes. You get the occasional “Dude, stand up, stop sneaking around” AI heckle, but you can generally cruise on by, huddled up to the wall, scaling covers in front of your “peers”, and make it through without consuming your precious blending-in “Instinct” power.

You also learn the finer points of things like disguise: a disguise is only suspicious to those who are also wearing the same outfit. So - in guard outfit last night - I sneaked past the guard booth into the locker room for lab techs. Finding a lab tech disguise in a locker, I put that on, sneaked away from the other techs, and backtracked through the guard room without issue. This is the sort of low-end non-linear thinking that is rewarded in this class of game: you’re not solving Zork puzzles here, but they are pushing you to notice an air vent as you slip past a guard, or perhaps consider grinding up the sleeping pills into the pizza rather than clocking the guy in the head.

The “signature kills” are becoming an obsession of mine. Every time I choke somebody it feels like a missed opportunity to trick them into urinating onto an electrified fence or ignite a leaky gas pump.

And the game does throw you some bones to keep you out of stealth mode all the time. I did a ninja run of a certain factory scene on my Easy play-through, deftly distracting and knocking guards unconscious, slipping through narrow passages, climbing through vents, only to discover in my Hard play-through that a sniper rifle was perched next to a wooden tower. On Hard I picked up the rifle, took cover, and cleared my curious opposition out, walking confidently over their remains on a clean path to the plant. The genius of a game like this is that it’s not overly judgmental: I took a ding on score for doing it that way, but it was cathartic after juggling disguises and crafting movement plans in previous levels. It doesn’t lose sight that it’s a game, not Mission Impossible, and sometimes you can break some eggs.

Now considering delving back in the Hitman corpus (ha) for previous titles…

29 Mar 2017, 16:07

Goals, But Not in the Usual Sense

I’ve always been a projects-oriented person. I think in projects, I work in projects. Even standard, periodic work is best treated as a project to keep me engaged in it.

Blog writing used to be a bit of a project, but not so much anymore. But it is still nice to have a white sheet of a paper that’s quite more public than a diary but not public in the “OMG donuts <3 <3 <3” thumbs-up sense of Facebook.

I’ve been thinking some about various projects that might bring me joy and fulfillment in adult life. The mindset around time clearly changes as one passes into different stages of life. I’m convinced that one almost never experiences a true surplus of time whether it is actually present or not. Time consumption is a gas, or at least a liquid, and expands to fill what it can reach.

Referring back to a recent conversation, I might advance the idea that an effective time surplus exists when you can make choices about your time and not have the feeling that you are making a value judgment between options and “sacrificing” one activity for another. I find “sacrifice” to be the operative word at the extreme; “prioritize” would be the neutral term on this spectrum I am constructing here, and I suppose “opt” would perhaps be the far-left side in which scarcity may be even perceptually absent from the picture. “Prioritize” is neutral in the sense that - while your calendar day may be full - you are able to choose which activities fill what I would see as a de facto surplus.

It’s very difficult, in the sense of being mentally stressful, to be in the “sacrifice” space of the spectrum. When articulated plainly, the statements become almost comically selfish: “I am currently cleaning benign goop off of the inside of the garage door in preference to actively participating in the rearing of my children this afternoon. This is something I am doing for me and my house.” Come at me, bro.

Any cost-benefit analysis becomes an exercise in balancing urgency and guilt in (often) emotionally unhealthy ways. The Covey time management quadrants teach us that “urgent and important” almost always wins in terms of prioritization, but the loser is the one dealing with all those emergencies. How does one bring preventative or restorative activities to the fore when nearly everything is important, and a good bit of that is urgent?

The obvious answer is that we implode or explode - depending on our mental and emotional makeup and proclivities - under such stress unless we take time to de-goop the garage door, or take a long soaking bath, or run a marathon, or actually understand Twin Peaks. We stand up and say, “Overriding priority of my life, I am being a jerk by neglecting you now so that I am not a jerk when I am next with you.”

And this works fine, but it still sets a higher bar than we’d probably like to have for what amount to time-wasting activities. Is a football game you don’t care about really a compelling “break” that will restore and feed your soul, bettering yourself and consequently those around you?

This can create a sense of paralysis. Throw a free hour to someone who feels maxed out with meaningful obligations, and they may spend 45 minutes deciding how best to relax.

When looking at elevated, meaningful projects, it becomes clear that, in a high-obligation scenario, much of the less structured time you are often given is essentially the “garbage time” of life. It’s hard to open that new programming project at the end of a long day. It’s hard to stay awake for Twin Peaks, even. Which means it’s going to take some amount of sacrifices and trade-offs of “prime time” to get real, transcendental things done. Which in turn means that a lot of real, transcendental things don’t get done.

And that is fine. But it’s important to keep those things in mind, so that when one is thrown an hour or two, the Rolodex gets spun and something comes to mind. For me, even having things in mind is perhaps as valuable as doing something tangible to achieve them. With this in mind, here are some things I’m thinking about right now, along with the “why” that I see as emotional justification:

Build a software project of any kind that is actively used by at least one complete stranger. Creating something like this that can become part of subsequent projects for others would be deeply meaningful to me.

Create from scratch a source of mostly, if not entirely, passive income. I feel that generating some kind of measurable, sustained value from one’s own efforts, but not requiring ongoing effort beyond the creation, is a powerful affirmation of the capacity for creation. For this reason, I find the magnitude of the income to be almost completely insignificant.

Learn how to play the drums. Perhaps the oddball of the group, I think this would simply be fun and rewarding.

Perform a comprehensive, multidisciplinary renovation on a house using mostly my own work. This would be challenging, and instructive. Also an added benefit from the permanence and tangibility of the work.

Sit on the board of a charitable or service organization. This has a sense of affirmation attached to it, to be invited to do such a thing, and also would be a good challenge in a completely different way.

I think the themes of the above are pretty apparent, and I think going through an exercise like this is important because it gets to the root of what can be sitting unfulfilled in daily life.

16 Jan 2017, 19:52

Dark Matter

Having made it through Every Star Trek TV Episode Ever, it seemed logical to try out a newer hard sci fi series. Netflix has been strongly recommending Dark Matter to me, which would have had a lot more credibility had they not also been recommending Grace and Frankie with equal energy. In any case, I eventually bit and have largely enjoyed the trip.

I am only a few episodes into the second season (the latest one currently), and so far I’ve found the show to be an interesting blend of elements from a few other shows. The main characters form a ragtag, improbable group, somewhat like Firefly. The sci fi content is on the hard end of the spectrum, but without the tiresome technobabble of Star Trek Voyager, and really Star Trek as a whole. The “good guys” are explicitly actually “bad guys”, which makes the show relevant in the current antihero era, although plot complications do occasionally challenge one’s conception of badness in general.

The political universe is refreshingly neither utopian (Star Trek) nor disutopian (seemingly everything recent from futuristic media) in nature. Power is invested in multiple competing intergalactic mega-corporations, which probably makes it sound like the basis of a freshman college essay but actually works pretty well. There is no blanket “empire” a la Star Wars that is improbably evil. The formal government appears to be somewhere between a puppet and an explicit consensus installation of the corporations themselves (although Season 2 has invested much more time in this so far than Season 1 did, so my understanding is limited at the moment). The mega-corps are capricious and strongly self-interested, which mostly takes inherent evil out of the equation on their side as well.

With all of this in mind, the moral landscape is also refreshingly not clearly cut like it is in Star Wars, which can feel almost like a fable in its good/bad split. However, this is no Breaking Bad style of rooting for the bad guy, so the show hits a little less heavy and it’s easy enough to have straightforward feelings - good or bad - about the choices made in an episode.

There is an android, admirably acted, who is an interesting counterpoint to Star Trek TNG’s Data. While Data played the striving-to-be-human-by-design Pinocchio angle, this android considers her emergent humanness to be a bug rather than a feature (also an emerging Season 2 plot line). But with very nice continuity with the rest of the show’s thematic character building material, she embraces her “defect” and pursues humanity seemingly out of loyalty and affection for the rest of her crew. Her brokenness plays even stronger since she was designed to be perfect in the scope of her function.

One thing that was clear from the later Star Trek series was that playing an android or otherwise emotionless character is quite difficult. It didn’t help that it was the object-of-desire female character of both Voyager (Jeri Ryan as human-turned-drone-turned-mostly-human Seven of Nine) and Enterprise (Jolene Blalock as Vulcan T’Pol) were given the toughest challenges in this area, as this character in a Star Trek series is mostly playing from behind to start (see also Marina Sirtis as TNG’s Counselor Troy, who gets an undeserved amount of flak in my opinion). The Android in Dark Matter doesn’t explicitly have the “eye candy” role as far as I see it, and her portrayal of the character benefits from a lilting tone that brings dynamism to delivery that is still believable as being synthesized.

I’m a sucker for fresh starts, and I’d have to say I preferred Season 1 over the beginning of Season 2, but Season 1 clearly had the benefit of unwrapping the backstory layer-by-layer, where Season 2 has had to make its own way from the Season 1 finale mostly forward.

This show is a SyFy original, which definitely places it a few rungs down the ladder on a budgetary basis. The special effects never feel so instrumental to the plot that this presents a distraction visually. I do feel that the economy of the writing lacks a bit versus the polished big-ticket stuff, with most of the issues showing up in slow pacing of certain episodes.

Based on where I am right now, I’d say it’s a strong recommendation for someone who has seen enough real sci fi that they know they can tolerate it.

14 Dec 2016, 14:08

Commence Rake-Shaking at Children

One thing that bugs me about children’s programming, especially girl-oriented programming, is the idea of a “rock star.” On the surface level it’s intended to be an empowerment archetype, where a female lead displays her independence and talent to adoring fans, but it’s almost always portrayed such that the fans are applauding the glamour and star-ness of the performer rather than the performance itself. I know this is basically pop music at-a-glance in many ways, but it is really an unfortunate picture to paint. Most of the time these sorts of things are cutaway dream sequences or at least just little snippet vignettes, and you only hear the last line or two of the song. This typically goes something like “Yeah, we know the music, yeah, and we’re rockin’ it like superstars,” or something to that effect. Then the crowd goes nuts.

With guitar sales falling due to lack of interest in singer/songwriter-type music, or really any type of music that can be created and performed without electronic production, I suppose this is just an affirmation of the larger trend we’re seeing outside of the toddler entertainment industry. There is always a lot of unavoidable survivor bias in music: everyone remembers the Beatles and Led Zep, but all the terrible acts were interleaved among them on the radio fade out of memory. But even with that effect always at work, I think it’s clear that we’re in a phase right now that lacks a sense of artistry around pop music itself.

I occasionally listen to a light dose of dubstep when I work from home, and I definitely feel a sense of care and creativity to the best examples of that electronic work. And the indie scene will always be doing something, but we’re basically in a phase where reasonably large swathes of the population don’t have much regular exposure to more traditional aesthetics of music through the pop channels. We are losing something when that happens, at the least because it’s very difficult to imagine capturing a lot of the art and fun of this music in your bedroom with a guitar or piano.

Much like the Turkish military (when competent) has rushed in to press the reset button on the government when things get out of hand, I imagine there will be some kind of punk/hipster/grunge implosion to bring this back, just like what happened during the Hair Era in the 80s. Not in a conservative sense of standing athwart history yelling “stop,” but more in a sense of pruning back the cruft and ensuring music comes through.

I feel like I’ve captured a Rush song in a blog post. You can fill in the drum solo.

07 Dec 2016, 21:56

The Inevitable Meta-Post

I set up this nice blogging system when I refreshed my server, and I haven’t posted anything since it was brand new. I’m not really sure what’s going on.

Mostly it’s being pretty busy, and a lot of my thoughts these days aren’t really blog-able for one reason or another.

I also find that tech thinking consumes less of my time these days. I think the areas that usually capture my interest are more stable and don’t demand as much time as they used to.

I’ll keep exploring it, because I truly believe that blogging is good for the soul and should continue.

13 Aug 2016, 07:59

Things Are Moving Along

I have created a novel way to create blog posts in my new system by sending e-mail to a special address on my server. I’m not completely done, but it’s far enough along that I can actually use it.

It’s always cool to be able to create things that are actually immediately useful.

05 Apr 2016, 17:36

iPhone Follow-Up: A Couple of Months In

I was just thinking back to what my original blockers were from considering the iOS ecosystem, since at this point any reservations feel so far away to me.

iTunes was a big one, at least some time ago. I didn’t want to have to sync with iTunes. Well, my 6S has never synced with iTunes and never will. Not necessary. What changed? I merge-uploaded all my MP3s into Google Play Music All Access and manage everything using its own pinned downloads. I use iCloud backups with no concern.

I didn’t want much to do with iCloud (aside from the backups). What changed? I turned off most iCloud stuff and use Dropbox to sync photos, completely avoiding the photo stream and all that other stuff.

I didn’t want to give up my Android apps. Not so much purchases, as my paid app collection was negligible enough to re-buy without much compunction. Mostly just concern that I would have to disturb cross-platform workflows. What changed? All my Android apps, including Chrome in its bastardized but effective form, are available in iOS. I also think that the liberalization of iOS to various third-party stuff (including Chrome) was operative in keeping any related frustration at bay.

I didn’t want to give up control. This is a place where I have had to compromise, but so much less than in the past. I used to run a pretty customized Android setup. I was even running CyanogenMod for some time on the old Galaxy S. What happened here was a convergence between iOS, stock Android, and my own preferences. I started running my Android phone in a much simpler way, which then aligned better with the iOS mandates. I did give up my Google Keep screen on my Android home screen, which I would say has had a noticeable impact on my awareness of my long-term to-do list (skimming past my Keep tiles was a key way to avoid forgetting home improvement tasks over the weekend, for example). This is manageable, and honestly using Keep how I’m using it is suboptimal anyway. I just haven’t found the best next option yet.

What did I get in return?

  • Touch ID: Massive increase in confidence using the phone to its full potential. Some apps are now using it to authenticate with online services.
  • Apple Pay: I kept waiting for Wallet or Android Pay to happen, but Apple Pay is here and works darn near every time. I’ve run into a few POS terminals (looking at you, local HEB) that say they have it and don’t, but otherwise (Panera, the Coke machine in my office, others) it just works.
  • Force Touch: Just kidding, I have virtually no use for this at this point.
  • iMessage: It’s nice. Just about the same, and I don’t love read receipts, but it’s nice. Will be nice whenever I’m out of the country for some reason.
  • FaceTime: Didn’t consider this up front, but it’s fantastic. Again, great for travel, too.
  • First class app citizenship: Even though Android is almost caught up, it will always be catching up until something structural changes that. You get the best options faster on iOS.

These have all been incredible adds for me.

In terms of surprises on the negative side, it’s been all about the alarm clock (still just a persistent minor pain in my neck for my odd use case) and diminished baby monitor functionality (although we’re still using a Nexus 7 as the primary, so no direct impact there).

Size-wise, I would probably align around a 6S-minus if I could. The 5 class is a little too small for my preferences, although a chamfer version (or with a neoprene-type case) would be the best hand feel in the whole mobile world. I can’t quite get my thumb up to the top-left of the 6S with a natural hold, and Reachability takes just enough thought to make it harder than just rearranging the phone in my hand. All in all I can’t complain, since my next Android phone was likely to be within a few tenths of an inch of the 6S anyway.