new glasses

I got a new pair of glasses today, with progressive lenses. My eye doctor has been mentioning the possibility to me over the last few years, but I didn’t feel like I was ready to give them a try until recently. Since we got a vision plan at work this year, I though I’d use it to get a new pair of glasses, and give progressives a try.

I got them from LensCrafters, so I’m solidly in the mainstream Luxottica ecosystem now. As this article points out, Luxottica owns Lenscrafters, all of the licensed brands that are sold in LensCrafters, and even EyeMed, the vision plan that we have at work. I’m not too happy about this kind of monopoly, but there’s not much I can do about it.

A few years ago, I got a pair of glasses from Warby Parker, and they were a lot cheaper than LensCrafters, but honestly I didn’t really like the glasses, and they’ve sat in their box since then. So I guess Warby Parker is a good alternative if you like their glasses and if maybe your eyes aren’t as bad as mine are. But if you need special lenses, and you want a professional to help you pick the right frames, and get the glasses adjusted properly, maybe you need LensCrafters or something more traditional.

So far, I’m finding that these progressives aren’t as much of an adjustment as I’d thought they’d be. So that’s good. On the other hand, I’m not sure if they’re really going to help me with reading or computer work, like they’re supposed to. I’m wearing them now, and I can’t see the computer screen any better than I could with the old glasses. I’ll wear them at work this week and see how things go.

a few more iPhone XR notes

I’ve had my new iPhone XR for a few weeks now, so I thought I’d post some follow-up notes on it. My last post on it was on New Year’s Day.

First, while it has been generally reliable, it did crash once. And it required a “force restart” to get it back up, via the procedure described here: volume up, volume down, then hold the side button. It came back up with no data loss, and it’s been fine since, but I hope that doesn’t happen regularly.


On the headphone jack front, I’ve settled on using the Belkin Rockstar adapter in the car, using the $9 headphone jack adapter with my old Sony earbuds at work, and using the Lightning Earpods at home. The whole headphone jack thing got me thinking about headphones vs earbuds vs earphones and stuff like that.

I came to realize that the Sony MDR-J10 earbuds that I’ve been using at work for so long are almost perfect. I bought them many years ago, in a Staples Express in Penn Station NY, for maybe $20. They’re not made anymore, but it seems that they were popular enough that a used pair goes for $50-$100 now. They’re regular earbuds that don’t go all the way into the ear, and they have clips that fit behind the ear to hold them in place. So they’re comfortable and they don’t fall out.

Sony makes a similar pair now, the MDR-AS210/B, but it’s not quite the same design as the MDR-J10. I also haven’t found anyone that makes a similar design that includes a Lightning connector instead of a regular headphone plug.

I’ve been using the Apple “EarPods” at home, for listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and they’re not horrible. They’re not nearly as good a fit as the Sony MDR-J10’s though. (Specifically, the left ear is a good fit, but the right ear isn’t. I guess my ears aren’t both quite the same size.) I’m thinking about buying a pair of the newer Sony MDR-AS210/B earbuds for use at home, with the $9 headphone jack adapter.

I’m also curious about these Urbanears earbuds that I saw in the MoMA gift shop recently. The design is interesting and might be a good fit. (Or not. If I buy them, I should make sure they’re returnable.)

I’m still trying to avoid Bluetooth headphones and/or in-ear designs. I may eventually give up and try Bluetooth, but I’m resisting. I don’t want to add yet one more device with a battery that needs to be charged to my already-impressive list of devices with batteries in them. And the in-ear ones just don’t seem like they’d work well for me.


I’ve bought two cases for the phone, one a sleeve, and the other a silicone case. I ordered the sleeve first, but it only showed up yesterday, since it was shipped ground from Germany. (I didn’t notice that when I ordered it.) I initially tried using the phone with no case at all, but I found that the back was a little too slippery, hence the silicone case. That case does a good job of making it harder for the phone to slip out of my hands or fall off a table.

I’ve noticed that the screen on this phone seems to pick up a lot of dust (or lint or whatever) when I have it in my pocket, hence the sleeve. I like the idea of a sleeve, for a couple of reasons. First, for the screen protection. The second reason is a little subtle, but I like having the phone in the sleeve when I’m not using it; it makes it a little harder for me to pick it up and start fiddling with it when I should be doing something else. It adds just enough friction that it’s a little easier to ignore the phone.

Of course, the sleeve is too tight for the phone to fit when the silicone case is on it, so I’m going to have to work that out. I’ll probably go back and forth between the two for awhile.

I was amused to see that Apple is now selling a battery case for the XR and XS. The XR’s battery life is good enough that I shouldn’t need an external battery any time soon. Apple’s battery case is ridiculously expensive, at $129. But that’s Apple. There are third-party battery cases that only cost $35.

Yet More Windows 10 Grief

My desktop PC has been running fine since rebuilding it back in November. But today, something happened. I don’t know what exactly. I had left the PC on all day, having taken care of some bill paying and stuff in the morning.

I noticed early this evening that it seemed to be stuck in a reboot cycle, crashing every time it rebooted. Long story short, I had to use the “Reset My PC” option to reinstall Windows 10. That option lets you keep all of your files, but forces you to reinstall all of your applications. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few hours.

My best guess is that Windows 10 decided to install some updates during the day, when I was out, and something went awry that borked my Windows install. I haven’t seem any evidence of an actual hardware problem.

Since I’ve only just recently had to redo my setup, I still had pretty up-to-date notes and install files, so getting everything back was pretty painless. At this point, I’ve installed just about everything. It took about two hours total to reinstall Windows and all of my applications.

But I’m getting a little annoyed with Windows 10. It seems like there’s way too much that can go wrong with Windows updates these days, and there’s not really any way to control them, if you’re using a consumer version of Windows 10. I’m too deeply attached to the Windows ecosystem to be able to easily pull out and switch over to Linux, or anything like that. And I love macOS, but I can’t really go Mac-only either. (And the Mac ecosystem has its own problems.)

Anyway, here’s hoping that this box holds itself together for a while longer. After some of the expenses I’ve had over the last few months, the last thing I need would be to have to go out and buy a new Windows PC.

WordPress 5

I just updated this blog to WordPress 5.0.3. I’d been putting off updating it to WP 5, partially because I wanted to wait until they’d gotten a few point releases out and fixed any major bugs. And partially because the big new feature in WP 5, the Gutenberg editor, is not that interesting to me. I tried it out on my test site, and didn’t really like it. For now, I’m leaving the Classic Editor plugin installed and enabled. I’m glad they’ve provided this plugin, rather than trying to force the new editor on people. I’ll probably give Gutenberg a try again at some point, maybe after watching a video tutorial or two. (I haven’t gone looking for any, but I assume they’re out there.)

There’s been a lot of controversy and grumbling about Gutenberg, but I don’t have a problem with it, as long as they’re not forcing it on people, and as long as they take constructive feedback on it and keep working on it. I’m just thankful that WordPress continues to exist as an open source project, and continues to get updated. I’ve been using WordPress for almost five years now, and it’s been great.

A day in NYC

I had a pretty good day in NYC today. I’d been wanting to go in at some point over the holiday season, but never got around to it. So I went in today, and hit the Met, MoMA, and the Morgan Library. At the Met, I got a chance to see the Christmas tree before they take it down. And I saw the Epic Abstraction exhibit, which was pretty good. (I’m a fan of Pollock.) At MoMA, I didn’t really see anything new, but I enjoyed wandering around a bit. And at the Morgan, I finally got to see the Frankenstein exhibit I’ve been wanting to see since Halloween. So it was a pretty good day. Manhattan was less crowded than it would have been if I’d gone in December. And the weather was pretty good. Here are a few random photos from the trip.

iPhone XR day four

I didn’t talk about my new iPhone XR in my New Year’s Day post, since I knew it would set me off on a tangent and add another 2000 words to the post, so here’s a separate follow up to my previous iPhone XR post.

I’m still struggling with the headphone jack thing. I bought these urBeats3 Earphones at the Apple Store the day after I bought my iPhone, then returned them today. They plug into the Lightning port, just like the Apple earbuds, so I thought that would simplify things. My thought was to use them as my main headphones at work. These were the first in-ear earphones I ever tried though, and it turns out they don’t work well for me. They include tips in four different sizes, but none of them fit my ears well. And microphonics turned out to be a big problem for me. I tried the trick of looping the cord behind my ear, and that helped, but also made the tips even more likely to fall out. I also thought about trying some Comply tips, but I don’t know if those would actually help, and I didn’t want to spend another $20 just to make a pair of already-overpriced $60 earphones work better. So, in a nutshell, I think I need to avoid in-ear earphones.

I picked up a second $9 Lightning headphone jack adapter when I returned the Beats. So my plan for now is:

  • Keep the Belkin Rockstar adapter in the car, so I can charge and connect to the car stereo at the same time.
  • Keep one headphone jack adapter at work, and keep using my good old comfortable Sony earbuds. (I won’t be able to charge and listen at the same time, but that’s probably fine.)
  • Keep the other headphone jack adapter at home, and use it with my Sennheiser headphones, when I want to listen to something at home, and don’t want to pipe it through my Sonos speaker.
  • Try to remember to toss that second adapter in my backpack when I travel, so i can use it with the Urbanears headphones that I keep in my backpack.
  • Consider giving AirPods a try at some point in 2019.

So that’s more complicated than it needs to be, but is probably workable.

I do still have a couple of minor annoyances with Face ID. Sleep Cycle works a bit differently with this phone than it did on the old phone, and I’m finding that I need to unlock the phone to stop the alarm every morning. And Face ID isn’t working for me first thing in the morning, so I have to type in my passcode. So that’s a bit irksome. In theory, Face ID should work in the dark, but, well, it’s not working for me. It’s probably that I’m not picking up the phone at the right angle for it to work. But it’s 6am, and I just want to shut the alarm off, and I’m not thinking about lining up my phone with my face properly. Maybe I’ll get that figured out over the next week or so. Overall, Face ID is working fine for me, but honestly it’s at least slightly less convenient than Touch ID.

I’m still finding the phone to be a bit unwieldy. I might pick up a silicone case at some point to make it a bit harder to fumble.

That’s about all for now. I briefly thought about returning the phone, and getting an iPhone 8 instead, so I could at least go back to Touch ID and a slightly smaller form factor. But that would be a lot of hassle, and probably a bad decision long-term. I think I’ll get used to the XR, and will probably start liking it more over time, as I get used to it.

New Year’s Day 2019

It’s 7am on New Year’s Day, and I don’t have anything big planned today, so I might as well get started on my traditional New Year’s Day blog post. I’ve been doing this for several years now. Here are some links to the last few posts:

Weight, Sleep, and General Health

My general health was been OK this year. I had blood work done a few weeks ago, and it looks very similar to 2017’s blood work.

My weight has been pretty steady for the last few months. I was 140 on New Year’s Day last year, and I’m 135 now. I’ve been steady at 135 for a while now, +/-2. Last year, I wrote “I can’t see myself dropping to 135, but we’ll see.” Well, I did drop to 135. This year, I’ll say that I can’t see myself dropping to 130. If I do, then that might actually indicate a problem. My doctor this year actually asked me if I wanted to put on a little weight, or if I was OK as-is. I think I’m fine, but if I drop another 5 pounds in 2019, that might be a problem.

I’m still using Lose It every day, and recently paid for a lifetime subscription.

I’ve been doing OK with exercise, relying on the Apple Watch to keep track of things and give me a little nudge now and then. I got a new Series 3 Watch for Christmas, so I’ll likely be sticking with that. My move goal was 440 for a while earlier in the year, but has been adjusted down to 390. I generally hit that goal 5 or 6 days per week.

Sleep is still an occasional problem. I did OK (but not great) last night, and I’ve had a few bad nights recently. I still use Sleep Cycle to track my sleep. I’ve cut back on caffeine a bit, but probably not nearly enough.

I’ve been meditating on and off this year. I had a little streak going back in October, but I stopped again and haven’t started back up. When I do meditate, I’m using Insight Timer. I’ll likely stick with that. I want to get back to meditating regularly. If Bill Gates can find time to meditate for 10 minutes a few times a week, so can I.

My vision is continuing to go downhill, though I haven’t had anything really bad happen yet. (Given my family history, I’m kind of expecting that I’ll be legally blind at some point in my 60s, though maybe I can avoid that.) I went to my eye doctor earlier this month and got a prescription for progressives, so I’ll get that filled at some point this month and see if I can get used to those, and if they help me with computer work and reading. We have a vision plan at work now, starting in 2019, so I can at least get those at a discount.

My hearing is also going downhill. I haven’t seen a hearing doctor yet, though I plan to do that in 2019. I’ve been following advances in hearing aid tech, so I hope that, if I need a hearing aid, I can at least get a good one that works with my iPhone and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I signed up for AARP last year too. I’m hoping I can get some useful information out of that in 2019. I’m trying to be proactive about aging, from both a health and finance standpoint.


I hit the five-year mark at SHI in January 2018. I spent a lot of time this year working on a project related to Microsoft’s Partner Center, so I got to do a good bit of C# programming this year, and got to play with a few things in Azure, so that was good. This year, we should be opening a new warehouse, so that’s going to keep us busy, with related projects.

I, once again, got a very good performance review from my boss this year. I’m not going to get too specific, in case any coworkers stumble across this post, but I’m doing well.

Professional Development

I didn’t do any structured professional development this year, really. I watched a few Pluralsight courses, mostly related to specific stuff I needed to learn for work. Looking at my Goodreads history, I see that I read a handful of programming-related books this year:

Wow, that’s actually a longer list than I thought it was going to be. Some of those aren’t really programming books, like “Hit Refresh,” Satya Nadella’s book, and some are just short ebooks, but it’s still enough that I feel like I put some effort into keeping my skills sharp and staying current.


I did a quick year-end finance review over the weekend, and it’s a bit depressing. Any gains I had for the year were soundly wiped out by the recent stock market plummet. But, ignoring that, I can at least say that I have things in order. I did a little bit of reorganization in 2018, including moving some money from my legacy Merrill CMA account to a new CMA Edge account, where I can do my own trading online. I invested some money there into a couple of Vanguard index funds. I read John Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing in May, and I’ve tried to reorient my finances in a more “Boglehead” direction, though I still have a lot of old-style mutual funds. I also made an attempt to book a session with an independent financial advisor, but failed to find someone who looked good and was willing to take on a new client. I should probably try again in 2019, since I really should have someone else look at things, given my age and the somewhat haphazard state of my portfolio.


According to my Year In Books on Goodreads, I read 106 books this year. A lot of those are actually short stories, short ebooks, and comic books, but I did read a fair number of novels this year too. I participated in a Great American Read group on Goodreads, and read a number of books that were outside my comfort zone. I posted about that in November. I’ve finished a few more TGAR books since then (Lonesome Dove, The Lovely Bones, and Lu), and started To Kill A Mockingbird, which was the winner of the TGAR poll.

I should note that I used my local library system a lot more this year than I have in previous years. I’ve used it for physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks. I’ve visited both my local branch, and the larger Bridgewater branch multiple times. So I’m thankful that we have such a good library system here in Somerset County.

As to comic books, I posted in December about my current indecision about sticking with Westfield for buying new comics, or maybe just giving up on buying new monthly books for awhile. I think I’m probably going to stick with Westfield for a few more months, at least, but I’m not sure. The reading pile is getting too big again. I’m pretty sure that I’ll stop buying monthly comics at some point this year though.

Looking at my Goodreads 2018 list again, I see a lot of Batman and Batman-adjacent stuff this year. Probably my favorite comic book read of the year would be Warren Ellis’ The Wild Storm series.

In terms of general reading goals for 2019, I want to (finally) read a couple of books on meditation that I bought early last year, Search Inside Yourself and 10% Happier. I also want to read this book on “finances after fifty” that I bought last year. I don’t have any specific goals related to fiction reading. I have a bunch of books piled up that I’d like to read, that I didn’t get to last year, including Ready Player One, and several other science fiction novels. I put off some of my genre reading in favor of TGAR books last year. I’m glad I did that, but I’d really like to get back to some SF. My “want to read” list in Goodreads has 308 books on it right now, so I’ve got plenty to choose from.


I’m skipping over a few things I could include here, but it’s now almost 10am, and I have a few things I want to do today, since it’s stopped raining and it’s reasonably warm out. So this post will be a little shorter than last year’s. Maybe I’ll write some follow-up posts over the next few weeks.