A Nerd’s Review: The iPhone XS

From the hyped-up keynote to the adrenaline filled pre-order evening, I finally got in my hands the all new iPhone XS Max. This year Apple introduced three new models to the iPhone X lineup, and two of those were the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The only difference between the two is battery life and screen size. The iPhone XS Max is just about the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus, 7 Plus and 8 Plus—and so, it’s a familiar size for many plus owners. The only difference, it’s essentially all screen! This was what I wanted when the iPhone X was released this time last year. I wanted an all screen plus-sized iPhone, but instead, I settled for the smaller brother. At least, until now.

My first thought about this year’s announcements, was that there wasn’t much to cover. Until I wrote myself a list and realised (for an “S” year upgrade) there’s actually quite a number of improvements. Apart from the larger display on the iPhone XS Max, there’s also stronger glass (for all you clumsy phone owners), faster speeds with the new A12 Bionic chip, iP68 water/dust resistance, gigabit LTE, dual sim support, improved battery, huge updates to the camera and much more.

The camera is by far where the iPhone XS saw the most improvements. I took a trip to Lake Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand and put the new camera through its paces. Not only was battery life on the phone impressive, but the shots and videos that came out were certainly a new standard (for what can be captured from something that goes in your pocket).

The updates to the iPhone 8 over the iPhone 7 weren’t huge, and I felt it didn’t justify a new title (but rather should’ve been the iPhone 7S). But, this is certainly for me one of the biggest updates in an “S” year. I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple brings to the table next, like the rumoured iPad Pro that mirrors the new standard of bezel-less design (even if technology hasn’t advanced enough to eliminate that pesky notch).

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Rant: Sydney Opera House

A close friend and I recently took a day trip to Sydney Australia to see the sights and be stock standard tourists. After making our way out from the airport on public transport, we went and visited the Sydney Opera House. I’d only visited once before when I came to Sydney for the iPhone 6 release.

I’m an avid photographer and wannabe vlogger so I was taking lots of photos/videos with my iPhone. One other thing I was using was a video stabiliser which is really just a selfie stick that helps keep videos from being too shaky.

DJI Osmo Mobile – My Selfie Stick 😎

Around the right side of the Opera House (an area with a lot less foot traffic) a security guard came up to us and asked us how we were doing. He then asked if he could take a look at the photos I was taking “for security purposes”. He also said that no “professional” photography is allowed. I didn’t immediately show him my photos, and I said like every other person there we were taking photos of a landmark. I also asked if he was going up to ever other person with an iPhone, and asking them to show him their photos.

Eventually I begrudgingly showed him the selfies and shots of myself and my friend. Within a second of looking at my screen he said to me; “see, that’s fine. Just cooperate.” He walked off as I said to him I felt that was stupid and over the line. He agreed and shrugged his shoulders.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman was a tremendously written alternative approach to mental health. Neal used a method of portraying our main character’s mental anguish as a somewhat split storyline, that eventually for the reader started to tie together and make sense. It alternated between Caden’s real life and a fictional-fictional journey to Challenger Deep. As I came to the end of the book, I started to have moments of “oh I get it now” and “oh that’s who it is!”

At first, I felt a little hazy. As the characters and events in Caden’s internal storyline started to come into existence, it took some time before I realised this journey on the ship wasn’t real. But once I came to appreciate the voyage to Challenger Deep (and the diverse characters onboard) was related to things in Caden’s life, I began to value the book even more.

Mental health is a tough subject to write, specifically because the feelings related to each and every case are different. No one person ever feels those things identically, and so no one author can depict mental illness in it’s entirety. All they can do is present a perspective of it, and hopefully have an impact on it.

No one author can depict mental illness in it’s entirety.

That, is exactly what Neal Shusterman has done with Challenger Deep. The novel brought to light Caden’s schizophrenia in a unique way that drew me in like never before. I felt Neal’s technique of leaving myself to unravel who the characters were functioned as an excellent tactic to keep me on the edge of my seat while not being left entirely in the dark. As a slow reader, I found myself excited every time I curled myself away to read this book. And when I finished, there was (and still is) a promising desire to explore more from Neal Shusterman.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Thoughts: Wonderful, Wonderful

While on my three month hiatus in the US of A, my favorite band of all time today have released their new album; Wonderful, Wonderful. Today was also the day that tickets for The Killers went on sale for their concerts back home in New Zealand. Thanks to awesome people on the Reddit forum I got the pre-sale code and was able to buy tickets to all of the concerts, but of course.

I’ve been listening to the album through and through today and wanted to share some opinions. And my opinions will actually include a broader topic than just this wonderful new album from The Killers (I tried to be a comedian there, sorry). In the iTunes editor write up for the album, I noticed a comment about Brandon’s wife dealing with depression. As I listened to “Rut” which was said to be Brandon’s song that addressed the fore mentioned depression, and then listened to songs like “Some Kind Of Love” I really started to put together a theme for this record. A song like “The Man” pokes fun at fame and fortune and shows the shallowness of it, while “Run For Cover” for me shared thoughts about the world and it’s flakey state that it’s in. Heck, that song even made comments on politics and almost to me sounded like there were a couple of stabs at U.S president Donald Trump (“big smile, fake news, run for cover you’ve got nothing left to loose”). I’m probably far off with that one, but the theme I’m more pointing at is that of mental health.

In some alternative way, my favorite band and my favorite author (John Green’s New novel; Turtles All The Way Down) are creating content that is highly influenced by what is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Heck, it’s recently been brought into the spotlight thanks to the horrific representation by the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series. And even more with other novels like All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven which is on its way to becoming a film. I’ve researched, looked at statistics and read multitudes or articles on this topic. And my thoughts are going to shadow a lot that already exist out there. Is mental health becoming a larger issue, or are we just talking about it more?

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: Playlist For The Dead

When I first read the synopsis for Michelle Falkoff’s Playlist For The Dead, I for a moment thought that it had some striking similarities to Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. Thankfully it wasn’t too similar. The story was unique even with its reminders of the girl who doesn’t want to fit in any more, like in Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places. And how she starts to become the shoulder to lean on for the boy who’s struggling. This book deals with suicide because of bullying, which does indeed to some degree catch some similarities with 13 reasons. But at the same time there wasn’t any connection with sexual abuse and whilst yes, this is a story about mental health, it’s portraying it in another light.

One thing that I struggled with to some degree while reading this book, was keeping track of who’s who. There were quite a few characters with usual names, like Jack, Jake, Jason etc… The introductions to some characters that we saw quite often like Sam’s sister were rather brief, however much we continued to see her pop up during the story. With that said, I don’t think that’s a drawback. It may just be my inability to concentrate that could be getting in the way. As always, the reason I review this book with satisfaction is because of its ability to draw me into the story. I noticed myself smiling at moments of joy, and concentrating deeply for moments of conflict. All in all, it was a book that I enjoyed to the end and was happy being able to keep turning page after page.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Excitement: My New Puppy!

Hey guys. I would like to introduce you, to Pixel. She’s a mix between a cocker spaniel and a poodle, aka a cockapoo or spoodle (as referred to in NZ/AU). She’s absolutely adorable and is currently full of energy. I’m in that process of course where I’m working at getting the potty training just right. She unfortunately one morning decide to pee right on my bed. This was partially my fault due to not letting her out first thing after waking up.

I felt the name Pixel was best suited. Something nerdy but still short, easy and works well for a female dog. At the moment she’s about 8 weeks old and is a mix between crazy playful and utterly knocked out sleepy. I’ll of course be keeping you guys updated with her as she continues to grow older.

– Michael Topschij.