hoping for a good Thanksgiving

I had some plans for Thanksgiving tomorrow, but they fell through, so now I’m looking at a nice unstructured day at home, maybe reading comics or binge-watching something or other on Netflix. I’m a little nervous tonight, though, remembering last year’s Christmas music debacle. They hadn’t started playing Christmas music on Main St this year, as of last night, so I was hopeful maybe they wouldn’t at all. But they’re playing something right now. Whatever it is, I hope they stop it by 10 PM.

A few random thoughts:

  • I mentioned back in September that I was a little sad that the Paris Theater in NYC was shutting down. Well, Netflix just signed a long-term lease for it, so I guess it will be sticking around for a while longer. It’s a little unclear as to whether or not they’ll keep operating it like a regular movie theater, full-time, or not. But it’s cool that it’s not going to get turned into a Starbucks or something.
  • I’ve been thinking a bit about what I might do for Christmas this year. I noticed today that Lincoln Center is showing Sátántangó on Christmas day, starting at noon. So now I’m giving some consideration to the idea of spending most of Christmas day watching a 7.5 hour black & white Hungarian film in NYC. I mean, I’m almost definitely not going to do that. But it’s an entertaining thought. And I really wonder what kind of people I’d see at that showing.
  • Following up on my music post from over the weekend, I still haven’t signed up for a new streaming service, but I did spend $20 at Bandcamp on twelve hours of music from Motion Sickness of Time Travel. I’ve been listening to it at work today and yesterday, and it’s good stuff.
  • I’m also kind of amused by Lifehacker’s article about Spotify being “the Best Life Hack of the Decade”. Seems kind of overblown, but I guess I could see where on-demand access to (almost) any music you’d ever want could be kind of a big thing for some folks.

Sunday morning music thoughts

I read an issue of Warren Ellis’ newsletter this morning, and it’s sent me down a number of rabbit holes, as it often does. (Which is why I generally only read it on Sunday mornings, when I have time for rabbit holes.) I’ve been thinking a lot about music lately (again). Since I got my AirPods, I’ve been listening to a bit more music at work. I’m sure that’s partially due to the novelty of having a new toy to play with, but it’s also related to other factors that have given me more “heads down” coding time recently, vs. some of the meeting-heavy weeks I’ve had over the last couple of months.

I keep two music playlists in Overcast, one for “song of the day” podcasts and one for longer music podcasts. I’ve usually got enough stuff in those playlists to keep me happy, but I’ve been catching up and emptying those out recently, so I’ve been using other sources too. The Radio Paradise app lets you cache a couple of hours of music for offline listening, so I’ve been using that too. Radio Paradise plays some really good stuff, and it’s all commercial-free. (I really should donate some money to them…) And I’ve been downloading some random stuff from Amazon Prime Music to listen to offline, including some Swans and Mountain Goats. Prime Music is a nice side-benefit of having a Prime subscription, except for the too-frequent prompts to upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited. I’ll admit that I’m starting to think about giving in and finally subscribing to one of the streaming services, though I still don’t really want to. It just kind of feels like that’s the way things are going, and doing anything else is swimming against the current.

Getting back to my Warren Ellis rabbit hole, he linked to this essay by Mat Dryhurst. It’s a really long essay, and gets into some “deep thoughts” about streaming music services and the economics of making and selling music these days. He also gets into what he calls the “war between music from nowhere, and music from somewhere.” I’ll admit that, for music I’m listening to at work, I am sometimes looking for that “music from nowhere” category: stuff to drown out conversations around me, so I can focus on work. An exemplar of that kind of music is Focus @ Will, which tries to use music to optimize productivity, and has no artistic goals at all. I’m not so dedicated to productivity that I’d pay for a service like that, but I do sometimes use ambient music for this purpose. The Future Astronauts podcast can be pretty good for that. Often, the music on that podcast just flows together and I stop noticing it. Sometimes, though, something jumps out at me and I find myself looking at the show notes and following a link to somebody’s Bandcamp page and bookmarking it for later. Which kind of cancels out the productivity aspect, but having something new and unexpected or just pleasantly distracting pop up is always appreciated, even if it does mean I lose five minutes of “productivity.”

Zoe Keating has been tweeting about streaming music recently, and some of the discussion that’s arisen out of her Twitter feed is pretty interesting. I will admit that I’ve been listening to her Snowmelt EP on Prime Music, which probably gets her no money at all, rather than buying it on Bandcamp, which would only cost me $4,  most of which she’d probably get to keep. Heck, buying her entire “digital discography” on Bandcamp only costs $12.35. Really, though, I have dozens of albums bookmarked on Bandcamp, and I rarely get around to buying any of them. I’ve been thinking that I’d actually be getting more money to artists if I just subscribed to Spotify or Apple Music and listened to them there. It wouldn’t be much, but it’d be automatic, vs. the current situation, where I just bookmark a bunch of stuff and never get around to buying any of it.

If I do decide to pay for a streaming music subscription, maybe I should try Deezer, since they’re at least trying to pay artists more fairly. (Assuming that this whole UCPS thing isn’t just a marketing stunt, and actually does result in a better deal for artists.) (And that would still be swimming against the current somewhat, since Deezer isn’t exactly the most popular streaming service and will probably get stomped out by Apple/Amazon/etc at some point.)

One alternative I’ve considered is setting aside a $10 per month “Bandcamp budget” and setting a reminder to myself to buy something from my Bandcamp “bookmark backlog” with it at the end of every month.

I’ve been working on this post for way too long, given that it’s all just navel-gazing really, but it’s a rainy Sunday morning, and I guess it’s better than a lot of other things I could be doing. Still, I should probably stop before I turn into Indie Rock Pete. As a way out of this particular rabbit hole, I should go back and reread this article about Mister Rogers’ anti-consumerism. What would Mister Rogers have thought about all this? I think he’d probably still be a vinyl record guy.


backups (and maybe upgrades)

I haven’t upgraded my MacBook Air to Catalina yet, but I might do it soon. I should probably wait for 10.15.2, really, but 10.15.1 might be good enough for me. I did a full backup with Carbon Copy Cloner today, and also ran a Time Machine backup, so I’m ready, I guess.

Between CCC and Time Machine, I’m pretty well covered on the Mac. I’ve been having trouble finding a good backup solution for my Windows 10 desktop machine though. After my problems from last last year and into early this year, I’ve been trying to find something that works well. I’ve had problems with both Macrium and Acronis, which seem to be the two best consumer-level Windows backup tools out there. I gave Arq a try, back in February, but had some issues with it and didn’t go back to it. And I gave Macrium one more try in September and couldn’t get it to work.

I do keep most of my important files in OneDrive, so I’m not really too worried about losing anything. And I have File History set up and working. (Though the drive I’m using for that is a little finicky.) So I’m mostly covered there. But I wanted to get something a bit more like a full backup going.

I tried something called Bvckup today, and it’s not exactly what I’m looking for, but it worked well, and it might be close enough. It’s more of a file sync program that a backup program, so that’s the main issue. It doesn’t create full system images, or even compressed files. It just mirrors one folder to another folder. I have it set up to copy all of the data folders from my hard drive to a second drive. I’m excluding my Windows and program folders, but including pretty much everything else. The backup ran pretty quickly, considering how much data it had to copy. It hit two errors, but reported them clearly in the log and proceeded past them without any issues. The two errors were CRC errors on a couple of fairly random PDF files. Both files were in OneDrive, so I replaced the copies on my hard drive with good copies from OneDrive.

I’m a little worried about these random errors, but I hope they’re just leftovers from the mess in November 2018 (or the related mess in January 2019). Anyway, I’m going to try to get regular backups going with Bvckup now. I’m on a two-week trial. If things work out, I’ll probably spend $50 on the pro version. I may also swap out the drive I’m using for File History with a slightly more reliable one. (Drives are cheap enough that I should be able to talk myself into dumping the slightly dodgy one…)

I’m also getting close to finally giving in and paying for a cloud backup solution. If I do that, it’ll almost definitely be Backblaze. If I were to decide to run it on both my Mac and PC, though, it’ll be fairly expensive, so I don’t know about that. I’m thinking about it though.


Gahan Wilson

I just heard that Gahan Wilson passed away earlier this week. Here’s something from the NY Times, and an article from the New Yorker, and finally a blog post by Neil Gaiman.

From the New Yorker:

Weird was his specialty—he thought that way, and he drew that way. Wilson was part of a select group of cartoonists who own their style, who deliver on paper what seems to be a good piece of themselves. (…) The work is somehow inseparable from who they are, and that’s part of what makes it so memorable.

I’m not sure where I first saw his work, but it was probably in National Lampoon, since I was buying that occasionally as a teenager, but definitely wouldn’t have been buying the New Yorker or Playboy, the other two magazines that published most of his cartoons. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, he also drew cartoons for F&SF, so maybe that’s where I first saw his stuff. Either way, I’ve always loved his work.

A collection of his F&SF cartoons is available from Comixology, as is a large collection of his Playboy cartoons, both published by Fantagraphics. A couple of other collections, Still Weird and Even Weirder, are available for Kindle, at a pretty low price. I really should pick up one or more of those. I could use a little more Gahan Wilson in my life right now.

There’s also a documentary about him, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, that can be bought or rented from Amazon or iTunes. I haven’t seen it, but I might rent it tonight.

Buffy comics

I’ve been on a Buffy kick lately. I finished reading the Dark Horse season eight run not too long ago, and that got me interested in picking up and reading season nine and a bunch of the other stuff that came out from Dark Horse along with that.

I’d picked up the first trade paperback of season eight way back in January 2008. I read through the first half of season eight in trade paperback form, though I’m not quite sure when. I donated those trades to a library sale or something like that back in 2015, so it was a while ago. I bought the second half of the series in digital form from Dark Horse in 2012, probably after I finished reading the trades. Then, I just never got around to reading the rest.

So, at some point last month, I was in a mood for Buffy and started reading those digital issues. The whole arc of season eight was pretty goofy, but it was a lot of fun. I’m glad I finally got around to finishing it. Then, of course, when I started looking into buying season nine, I realized that Dark Horse had lost the rights to Buffy, so none of their stuff was in print anymore. I have a little bit of season nine from an old Angel and Buffy Humble Bundle from 2016, so that gave me a starting point. But the back issues, trades, and hardcovers are all getting hard to find. I wish the current publisher, Boom!, would get this stuff back in print. I don’t know if they actually have the rights to the old stuff though. Maybe they just have the rights to print new comics. Either way, I managed to snag a full set of the Angel and Faith season nine TPBs from eBay for a reasonable price. And I managed to find all of the main Buffy season nine series, though maybe I shouldn’t mention how I got it.

So I’m reading season nine now. I’m hoping I can talk myself into stopping at the end of season nine, and maybe moving on to something else, or going back and reading some of the older stuff that was in that Humble Bundle. But I’m enjoying season nine so much that I may wind up hitting eBay again to find season ten, and maybe paying a little too much for it.

On a related subject, I started listening to the first episode of the Buffering podcast recently. It’s pretty good. I’ve been a fan of Jenny Owen Youngs for awhile, and heard about the podcast through her Twitter feed. It looks like they’re up to season five now, so I don’t think I’d really be able to catch up, but maybe I’ll listen to a few more episodes at random. Of course, that may lead to me actually wanting to re-watch Buffy, which would be even more of a time sink…


I finally broke down and bought myself a pair of AirPods yesterday. I didn’t get the fancy new AirPods Pro, just the regular AirPods, with the regular case (not the wireless charging case). They were on sale for $140 at Costco. I’ve considered picking up a pair a few times over the last year, but never quite talked myself into it. But I’ve been reading and watching a bunch of headphone reviews recently, and stopped at the Apple Store over the weekend to try out both the older AirPods and the newer AirPods Pro. The “Pro” model didn’t fit my ears well, though I only tried the medium tips. But it was the kind of thing where I was pretty sure that none of the tips was going to be quite right. (And I didn’t want to pay $300 either.)

The AirPods don’t fit my ears that well either, honestly, but they’re good enough. My “use case” for them will probably be for listening to music at my desk at work, podcasts and audiobooks at home, and maybe podcasts & music on the train occasionally. So I’ll usually be fairly stationary when I’m using them. Still, I may pick up a pair of these tips from Comply or these Earhoox things to get a better fit.

I had a lot of resistance to adding a new battery-powered device to my life. I feel like I have too many of those already. I had a lot of resistance to the Apple Watch for that reason too, but I’ve really gotten to like the watch. I suppose I’ll get used to the AirPods too. I plan on charging them right next to the Watch, on my computer desk, overnight. I had to buy a new two-port USB charger so I could do that, since I didn’t have a spare AC outlet near there. (And the AirPods don’t ship with an AC adapter anyway, just a Lightning/USB cable.)

I used the AirPods a bit at work today, and they worked well. The sound quality is similar to the old Sony earbuds that I’ve been using at work, but maybe a little better on the bass end. I listened to some rock, classical, and ambient music today, and they sounded fine on all of that. The ambient music sounded best, probably because it had the most bass. The classical (some Itzhak Perlman Mozart stuff) was not terribly impressive, but I wouldn’t expect it to be. You need good headphones or speakers to really get the full effect from something like that.

There are a few semi-interesting things that you can do with the AirPods that you can’t necessarily do with other headphones. I played around with Live Listen for a bit yesterday, and I’m curious to play with that some more. I do have some problems hearing, and I feel like that might help me out in certain circumstances.

I’m also curious to try them with my Apple TV. I do sometimes use headphones while I’m watching TV, but the way I do it now is a little inconvenient. (I’m using wired headphones connected to my stereo receiver.) I’m curious to see how the AirPods would work when watching a movie on Apple TV.

I haven’t used them for a phone call yet, but I’ll try that at some point. And I need to look at the Apple documentation to see if there’s anything else I can do with them that might be worth trying.

Overall, they’re fine, but they’re not life-changing, and I’m not sure they’re really worth more than $100. (But hey, what else am I going to spend my money on?)