unnecessary headphones

Over the course of this pandemic, I’ve tried hard to be mindful about not going overboard with random internet shopping. And I think I’ve done OK. In terms of major purchases, over the last year, I’ve bought a new laptop (replacing one that was ten years old) and a new Apple Watch 6 (replacing a Watch 3). I’ve signed up for Disney+, Hulu, and Apple Music. I’ve bought a handful of Blu-rays that I didn’t really need. But that’s about it.

All of which is preamble to admitting that I saw that Woot had the Beats Solo Pro headphones on sale for 50% off last week, so I went ahead and bought a pair. I can’t really make a great case for buying these, even at half-price, honestly. Since I’m stuck at home most of the time, I’ve been doing fine with my AirPods. But I’ve had the thought in my head for a while that I should pick up some noise-cancelling headphones. The idea was that they’d replace the old UrbanEars headphones that I keep in my backpack, and which are now in pretty bad shape. My main use case for them would have been on train rides into NYC and on airplanes, neither or which is going to happen any time soon. (Every time I think it might be safe to start visiting NYC again, there’s some bad news, like the new variants that are going around right now.)

So, anyway, I now have a new pair of headphones that I don’t really need. But it’s been fun playing with them. I’ve never tried noise-cancelling headphones before, so that’s been interesting. I’ve read up on what noise cancellation can and can’t do, so my expectations weren’t unrealistic. One day earlier this week, there was a lot of noise outside, as the town was working on removing some snow. I put the headphones on, and they completely removed the sound of the snow removal equipment, except for the back-up beeper. So that was cool. I’ve also found that they can remove the sound of my humidifier and my air cleaner entirely. The humidifier is pretty quiet, so that’s not a big deal, but the air cleaner is a bit noisy.

Having read some reviews of the Beats Solo Pro, I’d say that they pretty much correspond to what I expected of them. (Here’s a review from iMore, one from The Verge, and one from MKBHD, who doesn’t usually like Beats.) The sound is good, but not amazing. They’re a little uncomfortable, but not unbearably so. I’m not sure if I could wear them for an extended period. I’ve heard that they loosen up a bit after you’ve been using them for a while, so maybe that’ll help.

The H1 chip is probably the best reason to choose these over other wireless noise-cancelling headphones. (It’s the same chip that is in the AirPods.) They pair seamlessly with my iPhone and Apple TV (and probably with my iPad and Mac, though I haven’t bothered trying yet).

Overall, I don’t think I’m going to get a ton of use out of them while I’m still in pandemic mode. For most of the use cases where I’m currently using my AirPods, I’ll likely keep using them. The AirPods are fine for podcasts and audiobooks. And they’re probably better for wearing outside, when I’m on a long walk, than the Beats would be. For listening to music, I generally use my Sonos speakers or regular stereo system (if I’m in the living room) or the speakers on my desktop PC (if I’m in my bedroom working). There are a few cases where I might want to listen to music with the Beats rather than over my speakers or with the AirPods. But the tradeoffs (comfort and convenience, mostly) will probably keep me using the AirPods and/or my various speakers most of the time.

So, yeah, I didn’t need these headphones. But for half-price, I don’t see them as a bad purchasing decision. I’ll get enough use out of them, I think, before the battery goes bad and/or they fall apart.

COVID-19 Death Toll Reaches 500,000

I watched the tail end of Biden’s White House ceremony tonight honoring the victims of COVID-19. The death count here in the US is now just short of 500,000. Or maybe it’s a little over 500,000 now. Either way, it’s horrific.

Here in NJ, we’re almost at 23,000 dead. Meanwhile, though, we’ve got more than 500,000 people fully vaccinated in NJ, with more than a million having received a first dose. (There are about 9 million people living in NJ though, so we still have quite a way to go. It’s a good start though.)

We’re about a year into the pandemic now. Maeve Higgins wrote an essay for The Guardian looking back on the last year, and thinking about what she misses from her pre-pandemic life. I miss a lot of those little things too.

I don’t have anything insightful to say about any of this, really, but I thought I’d at least mention it here on the blog. It doesn’t seem right to just ignore it.

paying for Pinboard

I’ve been using Pinboard as my primary bookmarking service since 2010. When the service first started up, the creator (Maciej Ceglowski) charged a one-time fee to open an account. Since then, he’s switched over to a yearly subscription model, but all of the old-timers (like me) have been grandfathered in. And we still are, but Maciej sent out an email recently politely asking us old-timers to consider switching over to the subscription model. So I went ahead and did that today, paying $51 for 3 years.

Pinboard has been a pretty good low-key service over the last ten years, but I’ve had some frustration with it. It’s really just run by Maciej, on his own, so he can only do so much. There’s no official iOS client (or Mac or Windows client), just the bare bones web site. And the API that third-party developers can use has been pretty iffy of late. I briefly considered switching to raindrop.io instead, and I might still experiment with that, but Pinboard is good enough for me, for now.

Even before I got the email about switching to a subscription, I’d been meaning to write a blog post about Pinboard. I’ve made some changes in the way I’m using it, and I thought it would be a good idea to write some stuff about that.

First, the Pinboard bookmarklet stopped working in Firefox a couple of weeks ago. (The developer is aware of the issue.) That was kind of annoying, but it got me looking at Firefox extensions for Pinboard. The last time I’d done that, I didn’t find any that seemed to be worth using (vs the bookmarklet). But I have now found a pretty good one and have started using it. It doesn’t really offer much beyond what the bookmarklet would do, but it works fine.

Second, the iOS app I use to save stuff to Pinboard, Pushpin, has been acting up lately. Trying to refresh my bookmarks almost always results in a timeout. I’d stumbled across a new app, called Pins, and decided to try that out. Initially, that didn’t seem to work at all, but it turns out that Maciej was just having trouble with the API that weekend. Once the API started working again, Pins started working fine. I’ve since paid the $10 to unlock the full version of Pins. I still have Pushpin on my iPhone & iPad too, but I think I’ll try to start using Pins instead now, and see how well it holds up.

On my Mac, I’ve been using an app called Spillo to help organize my Pinboard bookmarks. Spillo hasn’t been updated since 2017, I think, but it still works. And the new Pins app also has a Mac version, so I’ve installed that too, though I haven’t had a chance to play with it much yet.

I’m the kind of weirdo who spends way too much time organizing and maintaining my bookmark collection. I have a little over 17,500 bookmarks in Pinboard, and really there’s no good reason for that. Of those, 1700 are still marked “unread”. The general idea of the unread status is that I stumbled across something that I’ll want to read later, but I’ve clearly just let it turn into a link graveyard. And, for the “read” ones, the purpose of bookmarking them is usually that they contain something that I think I might want to reference later. Most of the time, that never happens. I bookmark a page and never return to it. But having all this stuff bookmarked does come in handy sometimes.

There’s a second tier for Pinboard accounts, where Pinboard attempts to archive the actual content of all the pages that you bookmark, so you can do full-text search on your collection, and so you can access content that might have disappeared from the web. When I switched to a paying subscription today, I didn’t bother going for that extra functionality, though I did think about it. I do have a lot of dead links in my Pinboard account, but honestly, that’s fine. (One of my pointless rainy day tasks is to identify dead links in Pinboard and delete them. This doesn’t really serve any useful purpose, but I guess it keeps me out of trouble for a little while. Spillo can identify dead links, so that’s what I’ve been using for that task.)

burning data DVDs in Windows 10

I’ve never had a problem with burning data CDs or DVDs in Windows 10, as far as I can remember. I’ve generally used the built-in burning function in Windows Explorer. Well, today, I bought a bunch of comics via this Humble Bundle, downloaded all the comics in it, and then wanted to burn them to disc as a backup. I’ve done that plenty of times before, but I couldn’t get it to work today.

After going through a bunch of troubleshooting steps, I finally gave up and downloaded CDBurnerXP. That worked fine. I’m pretty sure I’ve used CDBurnerXP in the past. (I had an entry for it in my Pinboard account from 2009, so I was at least aware of it.)

I briefly considered going back to Nero, which used to be my go-to program for CD/DVD burning, as far back as 2004. But I’m not sure about Nero anymore. They do still sell their “Nero Burning ROM” program, but there doesn’t seem to be a freeware “light” version anymore, nor is there an obvious way to get a 30-day trial of their full product, so I didn’t want to spend money on that, not knowing if it would work or not.

And there’s still a Roxio product for burning CDs and DVDs, but again there doesn’t seem to be a freeware version or a trial version available.

All of which leads me into a rant about trying to find legitimate freeware/shareware Windows software these days. I’ve found that the best way to find something is to go back through my own Pinboard bookmarks and/or blog entries, and try to find something familiar that I’d used in the past. There used to be good semi-trustworthy sites for finding freeware/shareware, like Tucows (which surprisingly was still around until about a month ago.) There were a few others, but at this point, I can’t ever remember their names.

Nowadays, we’ve got the Windows Store, which should be good and trustworthy, but there’s a lot of questionable stuff in there. Is MajorGeeks.com good/trustworthy? Maybe? Their burning tools page looks pretty good. And this Best Free Software of 2020 article from PC Mag has some good stuff in it (including CDBurnerXP). I guess PC Mag is still reputable.

I get worried about downloading freeware programs that may contain malware. The Windows Store should take care of that, I guess, but it still seems like there’s a bunch of crap in the Windows Store, and a bunch of the more useful freeware utilities don’t ever make it into the store.

I wound up tweaking some security settings as part of my troubleshooting today, and I just noticed that Windows has flagged the installer for an old version of ImgBurn from 2010 as a risk. I let it delete that. (A more recent installer, from 2016, didn’t raise any alarms.) Makes me wonder if that was a false positive or not. Did I download a hacked version of ImgBurn in 2010? I guess it doesn’t matter at this point, since I wasn’t going to install a ten-year-old version of ImgBurn anyway.

Oh well. This is just another blog post from a cranky old man who wanted to spend five minutes burning a DVD backup today and wound up spending an hour or two troubleshooting and working around annoying Windows problems.

more fun with audiobooks, on Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day, and I have the day off from work. In a normal year, I’d maybe take this opportunity to go into New York and visit some museums, or maybe just go out and see a movie, but this year, between the pandemic and the coming ice storm, I think I’ll just be staying home and doing largely pointless nonsense. (I could maybe look at this Times article, and do something meaningful that ties in to the holiday, but.. nope.)

Pointless activity number one for today has been “messing around with audiobooks”, so this post is going to be a follow-up to my last fun with audiobooks post. Since that post, I’ve finished Charlotte’s Web, borrowed from my local library via OverDrive. And I’ve started The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, via Serial Box.

From an iOS app perspective, I’m realizing that I need to use multiple apps now, depending on where my audiobooks are coming from. Books bought from Apple, and DRM-free books that I’ve dragged into Books on my Mac, can be listened to via the Books app on my phone (or with Undulib or something similar). Audible books need to be listened to via the Audible app. Library books can be listened to with OverDrive or Libby. And Serial Box books probably need to be listened to via the Serial Box app.

I have figured out, though, that it’s possible to save OverDrive audiobooks (if they’re in MP3 format) to my local PC (via the OverDrive Windows app). And it’s probably still possible to export Audible books via OpenAudible or AudibleSync. And I’m pretty sure that it used to be possible to download MP3 files for Serial Box titles, but they seem to have discontinued that and locked it down, so you’re stuck with their app now.

I’ve also been messing around with utilities to combine MP3 files into consolidated audiobook files. I’d been looking at Join Together and Audiobook Builder. Those are both $5 apps available for the Mac. I wound up buying Audiobook Builder, though Join Together would probably have also worked well. I don’t really need to create consolidated audiobook files, but it does allow me to clean things up a bit, specifically for audiobooks that I’ve ripped from CD. I’ve run a few books through Audiobook Builder, and it seems to work fine. I’ve pulled in MP3 files and output M4B files, and the output always comes out smaller than the input, and seems to work fine in Books (on Mac/iPhone) and iTunes (on Windows). I can edit the metadata for the combined file, and for the chapter titles.

Since paying for Audiobook Builder, I noticed Audiobook Binder, which is quite similar, but free, and open source. I probably should have tried that first. The visual similarity between the two programs is kind of suspicious. If Audiobook Builder didn’t have a fairly long history, I’d think it might just be a fork of Audiobook Binder that somebody tweaked a bit, then tossed up in the Mac App Store. But it’s been around since 2006, so that’s unlikely.

It would actually be more convenient for me to have a program like this on my PC, but there doesn’t seem to be much available for Windows. I found something called AAC Audiobook Creator, which might work, but it hasn’t been updated since 2011. So I guess I’ll stick with Audiobook Builder for now, since I’ve paid for it and it works well enough.

Getting back to iOS apps, I haven’t really had any issues with the multiple apps I’m using now, though it would be nice to just have one great one. The Apple Books app works well enough, for both books bought from Apple and DRM-free books synced from my Mac. The OverDrive app works fine for library books. (I’ve also installed Libby, and took a quick look at it, but I don’t think it’s any better than OverDrive.) As I mentioned last time, I think the Audible app is working for me now, though I haven’t actually tried to use it to listen to anything lately. And the Serial Box app is a little clunky, but good enough. All of these apps have the basic controls available, plus multiple speeds (if you’re interested in that) and sleep timers.

Having content spread across multiple apps and providers does make things harder to keep track of, but that’s what Evernote and Goodreads are for. And speaking of content, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. The current Serial Box book I’m listening to, The Witch Who Came In From The Cold: Season One, is pretty good. I’ve previously listened to the first season of Bookburners, and enjoyed that one too. I thought I’d written a blog post mentioning it, but I can’t find it. I did write a relatively long review on Goodreads, though. I got the first seasons of four different Serial Box serials as part of a Humble bundle back in 2018. Serial Box is a pretty interesting publisher. They publish stuff as serials, in both audio and text format, and use a “season” format similar to the way a TV show would be produced. The “seasons” have individual “episodes.” There’s generally a group of writers working on a season, with individual episodes written by individual writers, but sticking to a consistent voice and style. It works pretty well, for the two serials I’ve tried so far. When they started out, they were doing original stuff, but now they’re also doing serials featuring licensed characters from Marvel, like Black Panther. And they have a subscription service now too, which gets you access to a library of more traditional audiobooks in addition to their own stuff.

Once I’m finished with the serial I’m listening to now, I’m not sure what I’ll listen to next. I’ve got a lot of options. Maybe some of the Neil Gaiman stuff that I haven’t listened to yet. Or maybe I’ll get back to the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.


Paris during the pandemic

A friend sent me, via good old-fashioned snail mail, a clipping from the print edition of the NY Times recently. I was feeling kind of lonely and ground down that day, so it really cheered me up to get something in the mail like that, from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The friend in question is my old high school French teacher, so it was a clipping about how Paris is doing right now. The answer is, unfortunately, not that great. Here’s the article. And a quote:

Paris is gone for now, its lifeblood cut off by the closure of all restaurants, its nights silenced by a 6 p.m. curfew aimed at eliminating the national pastime of the aperitif, its cafe bonhomie lost to domestic morosity. Blight has taken the City of Light.

I’d bookmarked a couple of other Paris-related articles over the last year, as the pandemic has progressed, including one from May: Atget’s Paris, 100 Years Later. It compares the photos of Eugène Atget, from the early 1900s, to current ones taken by a Times photographer, both showing empty streets in Paris.

And one from April, back at the beginning of the pandemic: Denuded of Tourists, Paris Reveals Its Old Beating Heart. It’s kind of sad how there doesn’t seem to have been much progress made between last April and now. Paris has a 6 PM curfew, and the Louvre is closed.

I’d been thinking about a trip to Europe on and off over the last decade or so, but never actually got around to making any real plans or committing to anything. Now I’m regretting that. I don’t think I’ll be comfortable with the idea of international travel any time soon, probably not for at least another year or two. So maybe 2023? Heck, I’m not even comfortable with the idea of a train ride to NYC yet.

Anyway, I guess I need to cherish whatever human connection I can get right now. I think I’ll print out this article about the Louvre and send it off to my friend, via good old snail mail. Or maybe this one from the Post about Edward Hopper’s early Paris paintings.

meditation apps

A couple of weeks back, I mentioned that I might want to write a blog post comparing Insight Timer and Calm. I was primarily using Insight Timer (the free version) for meditation last year, but I switched to Calm this year, since I got a free one-year premium subscription, via an AmEx promotion.

In general, I’ve been sticking with my meditation practice this year, though I’ve only been doing ten minutes a day, five days a week. That’s pretty similar to what I was doing last year, though I wasn’t always that consistent. I’d skip days if I got too busy at work, or if I just wasn’t in the mood.

With Insight Timer, I was mostly just using the timer function. I did occasionally try a guided meditation. Insight Timer has a ton of guided meditations available (over 50,000), most of which are available even for non-paying users. And I tried a few of their live events too (which are also available to everyone). I found a few instructors I liked, including Hugh Byrne and Joseph Goldstein. Overall, I didn’t really have any reason to switch away from Insight Timer. I was just curious about Calm.

With Calm, I’ve generally been doing the “Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt” meditations. Levitt is their “Head of Mindfulness” and the Daily Calm is a daily ten-minute guided meditation. I’m not sure if they’re actively creating new ones every day, or if they have a set of them that they cycle through. Either way, I haven’t heard the same one twice since I started. They’re pretty straightforward and not too “woo-woo” (if you know what I mean). They generally just concentrate on breathing and reinforcing the basics of meditation and mindfulness.

They also have a new series called The Daily Trip with Jeff Warren that started up about a month ago. I listened to one of those, out of curiosity, but I’ve been sticking with the Levitt ones. At some point, if I get a little more ambitious, I might try doing the Levitt ones during the day and the Warren ones in the evening, and see how that works out.

Calm also has a library of miscellaneous guided meditations, though I don’t think they have nearly as many as Insight Timer. I think that their selection is more “curated”, whereas Insight Timer lets just about anybody sign up as an instructor and start posting meditations.

When I started using Calm, I was kind of surprised to find that they didn’t have a simple timer, like Insight Timer does. I did eventually find one, though it’s buried in their app (under the “less guidance” category) and isn’t as functional as the Insight Timer one.

Both Calm and Insight Timer have been doing celebrity meditations, which I’m not terribly interested in. Calm has LeBron James. Insight Timer has Gisele Bündchen. Personally, I’d rather have a trained meditation teacher rather than a basketball player or a supermodel, but that’s just me.

Both platforms also have music. I don’t really see much value in this, and I can get plenty of ambient music elsewhere, but it’s kind of interesting to see what they’re doing. Insight Timer has a fairly odd selection of stuff from artists you probably haven’t heard of. Some of it is pretty good though. Calm has some pretty well-known artists in their music library, including Moby, deadmau5, and Sigur Rós. Though, again, I don’t know why you’d want to listen to this stuff in your meditation app rather than your music app.

And both apps also have gotten into the sleep stories trend (and other sleep-related audio). Calm has stories narrated by Stephen Fry, Matthew McConaughey, and Keith Urban. Insight Timer has an eclectic collection of sleep stories, talks, and music, but no big celebrity sleep content, as far as I can tell. (The sleep tracking app I use, Sleep Cycle, also has some sleep stories, though I haven’t tried them.) There’s an interesting article in the NY Times, from 2019, about Calm and their sleep-related content here. I haven’t really tried out the sleep stuff at all. Maybe I should give it a shot, one of these days.

In general, I’d say that, if you’re new to meditation, and don’t mind paying for Calm (or can get it for free like I did), it’s not a bad deal. I don’t place much value on the celebrity content, but the regular daily meditation content is pretty good. Since I’d already been meditating for a few years (on and off) when I started with Calm, I didn’t bother checking out their beginner content, but it’s probably pretty good. If you’d rather go with a free app, Insight Timer has some good content for beginners, including their Learn How To Meditate In Seven Days course, which is free. They also have a free 40-day course called Mindfulness Daily At Work, which I did last year, and it’s really good. (Their other courses generally require a premium subscription.)

If you’re an experienced meditator, and you just need a timer, then the free version of Insight Timer should be fine for you. If you’re looking for a wide range of guided meditations, then, again, Insight Timer is great (though you may need to wade through some mediocre ones to find the good ones). If you’re experienced, but looking for some professional, high-quality, guided meditations, and you don’t mind paying for a subscription, then Calm is a good choice. Likewise, if you’re experienced and don’t mind paying for a subscription, but you’re looking for a good selection of courses, then the premium version of Insight Timer might be best for you. (Hope that’s not too confusing.)

For myself, I’m going to stick with Calm this year, for the most part. I may go back to Insight Timer occasionally if I just want to do a simple timed meditation, or if I want to try out one of their live events. And I keep trying to talk myself into meditating seven days a week instead of just on weekdays. But I keep getting distracted with other stuff on the weekend.

Online Learning Resources

I have a bunch of topics I’ve been meaning to blog about this year, and just haven’t had the time to get to too many of them. A lot of my blogging recently has been more “getting stuff off my chest” blogging or “clearing out my head” blogging. But I have a few topics to cover that might be mildly useful to other people. Today’s topic is going to be an overview of online learning resources. I had to write up some notes of this stuff for work recently, since we’re doing a review of the training resources we make available in the IT department. So this post is basically repurposed from an email I sent to my boss.

I get a fair amount of use out of Pluralsight. I have my own subscription, but we also have a department subscription at work. Pluralsight is really good for .NET stuff and other Microsoft-specific programming topics. It does cover topics outside of the Microsoft ecosystem, but not as well. It’s all video training (no books).

We also have a Percipio account at work, and I’ve poked around in it a bit, but haven’t gotten much out of it. There are a lot of books and videos available, and it covers a much wider set of subjects than Pluralsight. There’s probably a lot of useful stuff in there, but it’s not that useful for me. (Percipio seems to be a rebranding of Skillsoft, which I also have access to via my ACM membership.)

I’ve also tried out LinkedIn Learning, which we have access to at work. This platform has a much wider breadth of material than Pluralsight or Percipio, and includes a lot of non-IT oriented stuff. I’m looking at the home page now, and I’m seeing stuff like “Life Mastery: Achieving Happiness and Success”. Basically, a lot of “soft skill” stuff. There’s plenty of content for programmers too though. Like Pluralsight, it’s all video (no books). From what I’ve watched, I’d say that the quality of stuff on this platform is pretty mixed. Some of it is really good, and some of it is more on the level of what you’d get from random YouTube videos. (And LinkedIn Learning is a rebranding of Lynda, which I still (I think) have access to via the Somerset County Library.)

Through my membership in ACM, I have access to the O’Reilly learning platform (formerly Safari), which is, I think, the best one out there for programming topics. They have basically every programming-related book that gets published by any of the major publishers (and some minor ones). It used to be just an ebook platform, but they’ve adding a lot of video content too. And the ACM access used to be to just a subset of the full Safari library, but it’s now the full library, which is awesome. (See previous mention here.)

Outside of paid learning platforms, there’s a lot of free stuff out there now. Microsoft has a lot of stuff at Microsoft Learn and Channel 9. And all of their conferences went virtual (and free) in 2020. Both Build and Ignite had some good content last year. Ignite is already scheduled for March 2-4 this year, and will be free and virtual.

In terms of my own current online learning, I’m trying to finish a course on ASP.NET Core Fundamentals on Pluralsight. I’ve been really busy at work though, and haven’t watched any of it in more than a week. (And yes, I know, I could watch it at night or on the weekend, but I’ve been either tired and/or busy on weeknights and weekends lately too. But that’s a subject for an entirely different blog post.)

too much snow

Fair warning: this is going to be a rambling post, mostly complaining about the weather, and about how crappy I’ve been feeling. You’ve been warned.

We started off February here in NJ with a huge snowstorm on Monday. According to NJ.com, we got 23 inches here in Somerville. I’m pretty sure it’s the worst snowstorm we’ve had since the big one in January 2016. I’m very glad that I can work from home right now. That wasn’t the case in 2016, and dealing with driving and parking turned out to be quite a big problem. This time, I just left my car alone on Monday and Tuesday, and stayed indoors. (I did knock a little snow off it on Tuesday, but not much.) On Wednesday, I made a concerted effort to dig it out of the snow. Over the course of three 30-minute sessions, I managed to get about halfway there. But then, Wednesday night, I felt horrible. Lots of pain, sore throat, headache. I guess I’m just too old and broken to do manual labor anymore. I left it alone again on Thursday, and tried to heal up. I felt a little better today, but still not great. I did a little more digging, but maybe just 15 minutes, total. At this point, between the digging and some melting, I could probably move the car if I had to. But I’m still feeling pretty bad.

What’s left of the snow (and there’s a lot) isn’t likely to melt anytime soon. And now we’ve got another storm coming in this weekend, bringing maybe another eight inches. I’m really glad that I don’t need the car right now. I’ve been ordering my groceries from Whole Foods for the last few months, and getting them delivered. And I have ShopRite in walking distance too. And it looks like my company won’t be asking us to get back into the office for quite some time. So I may just leave the car where it is for the rest of the month. I should probably try to drive it around a little at some point this month, if I can, but I don’t think it’ll be a huge problem if I let it sit for the next few weeks, if I have to.

Now it’s Friday night, and I still have some pain in various parts of my body, plus a bit of a headache, and still kind of a sore throat. I plan on getting up early tomorrow and doing my laundry. After that, I think I’ll just be resting up for the remainder of the weekend. The Super Bowl is Sunday, but I have to admit that I don’t much care about it. I didn’t pay any attention to football this year.

I have a bunch of other stuff I want to blog about, some of which might actually be useful or entertaining. But I sure don’t have the energy for it right now. Maybe if I feel better on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, I’ll try to write something useful. For now, this is all I got.

fun with audiobooks

I have a long history of complaining about audiobook-related issues on this blog. The most recent entry in the saga is here, from November of last year. I’ve been playing around with some audiobook stuff again recently, so I thought I’d write another post.

First, let me say that my issue with the Audible iOS app seems to have resolved itself. The issue started back in June, and was still an issue in November. The app would always crash after about 30 seconds or so. I tried every combination of deleting, reinstalling, rebooting, etc., that I could think of. I guess Audible eventually fixed the issue, or it went away on its own, or something. Either way, I’m pretty sure I could listen to an Audible book now, if I wanted to.

I’ve also been messing around with my library of audiobooks in Apple’s Books app. I mentioned the annoying limitations of the macOS Books app in that November post. Those all still exist. But I spent some time recently cleaning out some old audiobooks that didn’t need to be in the library, and moving some into folders in OneDrive for safekeeping. So now I feel a little better about that.

While looking through the handful of audiobooks that I’d bought from Apple over the years, I discovered that at least one of them was no longer downloadable from them. I still have a copy of it, and it still plays, but if I delete it, I think it’ll be gone forever. So I backed that one up. (Not that I’m ever going to listen to it again. It was a nice mystery novel, but nothing special.) Several of the oldest audiobooks that I have from Apple don’t seem to be available anymore, at least in the same version that I originally bought. They do still show in my purchase history, and seem to be re-downloadable though. These go back to the early days of Apple’s audiobook store, when they were really only reselling stuff from Audible. (I guess that, technically, they’re still reselling a lot of stuff that’s provided by Audible, but they’re not just doing that.)

And I’ve still got a lot of DRM-free audiobooks and audiodramas in my “waiting to read” pile. The next time I want to read one, I might try out Bound, or something similar. Or I might try to create a consolidated audiobook file with something like Join Together or Audiobook Builder, so maybe I can get a cleaner listening experience in Apple’s Books app.

Right now, I’m listening to an abridged version of A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to it already, but it would have been back before I started assiduously logging everything I read (or listen to). Anyway, I’ve forgotten it all, so it’s good to get a refresher. And listening to Bill Bryson calmly talk about science is a nice way to wind down at the end of the day.

Speaking of which, I’ve gotten back into the habit of listening to a bit of an audiobook near the end of the day, on most days. If I’ve got the right book, I think it helps me wind down a bit. Prior to the Bryson book, I was finishing up a BBC adaptation of War and Peace. That was also pretty good for winding down. I’ve got at least one Harry Potter book in audio form. And I’ve got The Hobbit, and some version of Lord of the Rings around here somewhere. And a few Neil Gaiman books. So I should be OK for end-of-the-day listening for the foreseeable future.