Last day of vacation

Today is the last day of my planned NYCC vacation. Several months ago, I put in a PTO request for Thursday and Friday of last week and Monday (today) of this week, thinking that maybe I’d try for a “normal” NYCC vacation: going into NYC for all four days of the con, maybe staying at a hotel, and using today to get my laundry done and rest. In reality, I went to the con on Thursday, came back home that evening, then spent Friday through Sunday mostly sitting on my couch, watching con videos, watching random stuff on TV, and not much else. I was low-level sick on Friday and Saturday, and started feeling better yesterday. I feel mostly “back to normal” today, and should be fine for work tomorrow.

I was surprised yesterday to realize that I was thinking of this as a “successful” vacation. I didn’t really do much, but at least I got into NYC for a day, and I got the chance to avoid thinking (much) about work for several days and relax. And, while I was a bit sick, it wasn’t that bad. I don’t know if this is a sign of my admirable zen-like equanimity, or if my soul has been crushed by everything that’s happened over the last few years, so just “going into NYC for a day and not getting COVID” counts as success.

Getting back to the MacBook issue that I mentioned in my post from Saturday: I thought I’d fixed it, since it didn’t recur at all yesterday. But the MacBook crashed again this morning, while I was watching an NYCC video, so I guess I didn’t really fix it. My current theory is that it’s got something to do with the battery misbehaving and/or the CPU overheating. It seems to happen only when I’m watching video, with the MacBook unplugged from A/C power, and only when I’ve been using it for awhile. I got a full Carbon Copy Cloner backup done on Saturday, and it didn’t crash, and of course I had it plugged in to A/C power for that. And it hasn’t crashed at any point when all I’ve been doing is browsing the web or working in Evernote or whatever. It’s always when I’m watching video (or have recently been watching video).

So I don’t really know what to do about it. I could bring it into the Apple Store for service, but it’s out of warranty. so it’ll cost me some money, and they might not even find and fix the problem. I could assume it’s software-related, and do a full wipe & re-install of the OS, but that’s a lot of work, and might also be pointless. I could trade it in for a new MacBook, but it’s only three years old, and I don’t really want to buy a new MacBook right now.

I guess I’ll live with it for now, and see if it gets better or worse. Maybe the macOS Monterey upgrade will fix it? (Or maybe Monterey will be a good excuse to get a fancy new M1 MacBook Air, as some features of Monterey will only work on M1 Macs.)

I’ve also (reluctantly) considered switching from Firefox to Safari on the Mac. Safari is supposed to be much better at managing CPU usage and battery than Firefox, so maybe just switching would solve the problem. But, since I use both Mac and PC, that means dealing with different browsers on the two platforms, which will create extra work and frustration for me. Well, I’m going to try to postpone any decisions on that for now.

Getting back to NYCC and comics: I’ve now watched a bunch of the panels from the con. Some were live, and some were Zoom-style panels. Some were really good, but a few had enough technical issues that I gave up on them. I enjoyed the spotlight panels for William Shatner, George Takei, Adam Savage, and David Harbour. I enjoyed the Ghostbusters and Animaniacs panels.

I would like to have watched more panels that were specifically about comic books and comics creators, but honestly there weren’t that many that I was that interested in. There were a couple that I started watching, but gave up on, due to sound issues and/or the fact that they just weren’t that interesting to me. I did enjoy the Brian K. Vaughn panel (though I still haven’t watched the whole video for that, since my laptop crashed while I was watching it this morning).

For TV-related panels: I still want to watch the Expanse panel, and the two Star Trek panels (Discovery and Prodigy).

It’s fairly typical for me to spend a bunch of money at a con, buying back issues, graphic novels, toys, and other stuff. At the con itself this year, I only bought one book (Love and Capes: The Family Way, by Thom Zahler). But, back at home, sitting on the couch, I wound up ordering a few other items, prompted mostly by stuff that got mentioned on panels. During the David Harbour panel, I remembered that I’d never seen his Hellboy movie, and I noticed the digital version was on sale at Amazon for $6, so I bought (and watched) that. (It’s not a great movie, but I guess it was worth the $6.) And during the Ghostbusters panel, it occurred to me that I haven’t seem either of the original Ghostbusters movies in a long time, and that I could buy both movies on Blu-ray from Amazon for $13. So I did that. And something on some panel or another got me thinking about Fables, and led me to buy Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland from Comixology, which was on sale for 50% off, and was (probably) the only major Fables book I didn’t already own (physically or digitally). So, overall, I didn’t blow a lot of money, or bring home a lot of physical stuff to clutter up my apartment, so that’s a win. (But I feel a little guilty that most of my con-related spending was through Amazon, and didn’t really do much to support the comics creators who showed up for NYCC.)

It’s now past noon, and my last vacation day is quickly passing by. I had a few more things to blog about, but I’ll stop here. I should probably try to eat something interesting and different for lunch today, so it feels more like a vacation day, but I’m probably just going to make a turkey sandwich.

NYCC and MacBook stuff

So I went to NYCC on Thursday, as planned, and it wasn’t too bad. The vaccine check-in was smooth and quick. Getting in to the con itself took a little while, but not too long. I got there around 10:30, so the initial crush of people trying to get in at 10 (assuming there was one) had subsided. It still took a while to get in, due to the usual metal detector, bag search, empty your pockets routine. (I kind of wish they could have skipped that this year, but I guess that kind of thing isn’t going away any time soon.)

I honestly didn’t stay too long, just a few hours. I bought a book from Thom Zahler in artist’s alley, but that’s all I bought. I spent a good bit of time wandering the show floor and browsing. I didn’t make it to any panels. I had intended to go to the Sandman Audible panel. I watched that yesterday, at home, and I don’t feel too bad about missing it. It was a good panel, but it was just a typical COVID-era Zoom panel. And I think it was pre-recorded, so the “live” panel at Javits was apparently just a showing of the Zoom call on a big screen.

I had also thought about going to the William Shatner spotlight. That actually was a live event, with Shatner doing his usual thing, talking about his recent projects and telling some stories. I watched that this morning. That would have been fun to go to, but I’ve seen Shatner live before, so I don’t terribly regret skipping this one either. I’ll probably watch some more of the panels today and tomorrow, from the safety of my own couch.

I started feeling a little sick yesterday, and I’m still feeling it a bit today. Hopefully, this is just my usual post-con malaise, and not COVID or anything serious. I’m fully vaccinated for COVID, of course, and I’ve also had my flu shot this year, so this is probably just the typical “con crud.”

While I was writing this post, my MacBook crashed. It’s been doing that a lot lately over the last few days. I initially thought it might be an issue with the NYCC video player, since it seemed to be happening most when I was watching NYCC videos. Then I thought maybe it was a Firefox issue, since it was only happening when I had Firefox open. (But, honestly, 90% of my MacBook usage is just doing stuff in Firefox.) Anyway, I’ve now run macOS diagnostics, Disk Utility, and Onyx. None of them found any issues. And I’m almost done writing this blog post, and the MacBook hasn’t crashed, so maybe that’s a good sign. I should probably hook up an external drive and run a full Carbon Copy Cloner backup, just in case. (And if it does that without crashing, that’s another good sign…)

AirPods Pro

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I just bought AirPods Pro for myself. I already have regular AirPods, bought in November 2019, and Beats Solo Pro, bought in February. So now I have three pairs of wireless headphones. I really resisted wireless headphones when they first became popular, preferring to stick with wired ones. And it bothered me greatly when Apple discontinued the headphone port on the iPhone. But now I guess I’m all in.

I use my old AirPods all the time, and I really like them. I mostly use them for audiobooks and podcasts, but music sounds fine with them too. I use them for TV watching too, via the Apple TV.

I bought the Beats Solo Pro because I wanted noise-cancelling on-ear headphones that would sound better than the AirPods. I don’t use them that often, but I do like them. The noise-cancelling is good, as is the sound quality. (I used them to drown out some noisy passengers on the train this weekend, and that was great!)

I’d resisted buying AirPods Pro up until now, since I’d tried them out in an Apple Store once and they didn’t seem to fit my ears well. But I figured I’d give them another shot. Costco had them on sale for $190, and it’s easy to return stuff to Costco, so I went ahead.

My initial impression is that they fit my ears well enough, but not perfectly. The left one is a little loose, but the right one is just about perfect. I guess I’m using the medium tips. (Whichever ones were on them out of the box.) The noise cancellation is OK, but not nearly as good as the Beats Solo Pro. The sound quality seems to be a bit better than the old AirPods, but probably not quite as good as the Beats. So that means that I should probably hang on to those too.

I’m not sure that there’s any point in hanging on to the old AirPods now. I’d thought that maybe I’d use those for podcasts and more casual listening, and use the AirPods Pro for music, but I guess they’re comfortable enough that I can just use them all the time and get rid of the old AirPods. Hopefully, I can find a new home for them. They’re still in good working condition, so I don’t want to just send them in for recycling if I can avoid it.

On a related note, I’ve been listening to some of the new Spatial Audio stuff in Apple Music recently. I think the hype around it is a bit overblown. But it’s interesting. I still haven’t found a song or album yet where the spatial audio stuff really blows me away. But there are a few I need to give a close listen to. Spatial Audio works on all three of my wireless headphones. It probably works best on the AirPods Pro, but I’m not really sure. I really don’t just stop and listen to music much anymore. I’m usually listening to it in the background while I work, or while I’m out for a walk. I really need to do some deep listening. I may write another blog post about Spatial Audio and the other stuff going on with Apple Music, but I’ll save that for another day.

Memorial Day 2021

It’s been a quiet Memorial Day weekend so far. It rained all day Saturday and Sunday, and Friday night, so that kept most people away from downtown. It’s looking nicer today, so maybe Main St will be a little busier. There’s no Tour of Somerville today, of course. It’s been rescheduled for Labor Day. Hopefully, that’ll work out OK. The race attracts people from all over the US, and even some international racers, and I’d hate to see it turn into a super-spreader event for whatever variants are floating around in September.

Downtown Somerville is planning on returning to a somewhat “normal” schedule of events for this summer. I’m not too enthusiastic about that, since I’ve been finding them more of an inconvenience/annoyance over the last few years. But hopefully this summer will be a little more subdued than recent pre-COVID summers.

As I mentioned in my last post, the NJ mask mandate is now (mostly) gone. I haven’t gotten much of a feel for how that’s working yet, since I stayed in almost all day Saturday and Sunday, due to the rain. I did go out to my local coffee shop, and found that they were about 50/50 on masks now, among both staff and patrons. I also went on a quick trip to ShopRite this morning, and found that nearly all patrons and employees were wearing masks. I still haven’t gone out without a mask, but I may try skipping it for my morning walk tomorrow and see how it feels. Tomorrow will be exactly two weeks since my second vaccine shot, so I’ll be officially fully vaccinated then.

Apple TV

Since it’s been raining all weekend, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the TV. (I guess I could have been reading books or comics, but I didn’t really have the energy for that.) So I have a few more thoughts on my new Apple TV box.

First, I had some trouble figuring out how to deal with HDR. My TV uses a different set of video settings for HDR vs regular HD, and I found that stuff that displayed in HDR looked way too dark. The first issue is that the Apple TV, by default, is always in HDR mode, regardless of whether or not the content you’re showing is HDR. As mentioned in this article, you can fix that by going to Settings > Video and Audio > Match Content, and turning on Match Dynamic Range and Match Frame Rate. That keeps the TV in regular HD mode for regular HD content, so that fixes the problem for most content.

But for actual HDR content, I had to keep messing around. This article from Wired addresses the specific issue of HDR content looking too dark, and was helpful. In the end, the solution was to turn off the “energy saver” mode. I’d really been resisting making that change, because, well… I don’t want to waste energy. But it seems to be the only way to get a bright enough picture.

On the subject of the new Apple TV remote: I like it, but I had a little trouble figuring out some stuff. Here’s an article that explains some of the less obvious commands. Initially, I couldn’t figure out how to do the “rewind or fast forward 10 seconds” thing or the new “scrub” thing. The official Apple doc on this stuff is here.

There’s a fairly long review of the new Apple TV here. It’s worth reading (or at least skimming) if you’re thinking about buying one.

WordPress

I was going to add another section to this post, talking about some troubleshooting I had to do with WordPress on Saturday, but this thing has gone on long enough, so maybe that’ll be a subject for another day.

trepidation

This post is going to be a bit of a follow-up to my previous post, from Thursday.

To recap my vaccine timeline: NJ opened up vaccine registration to everyone on April 19, I got my first shot on April 20, my second on May 18, and I should be at full immunity in two weeks, on June 1.

So, basically, for anyone in NJ who waited for general availability of the vaccine, and got a two-dose vaccine, the earliest they could possibly be at full immunity is right around June 1.

NJ still has a mask mandate right now, which is good, but it looks like we’ll be dropping it on Friday, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. I know that, technically, people who are not fully vaccinated are still supposed to wear masks, but that’s not going to be checked or enforced, and I’m sure a lot of unvaccinated people are going to stop wearing masks. NJ currently has around 55% of adults fully vaccinated, which is great, but I’d really like to see that number closer to 75% before we get too enthusiastic about reopening. (But of course nobody’s asking me for my opinion.)

I’m seeing a lot of other signs that people and organizations are rushing to open things back up. The Catholic Bishops of NJ are lifting the dispensation on the Sunday mass obligation, effective Sunday June 6. That doesn’t really matter to me, since I stopped attending mass regularly at some point in the 90s. But a lot of Catholics take that stuff seriously.  (Hopefully, good Catholics might also be the kind of people who care enough to get vaccinated and/or to wear a mask to mass.)

We got an email at work this week saying that there would be an announcement next week about returning to work. I’m not sure what they’re going to announce. I’m sure it won’t be anything crazy, like “we’re reopening the office on June 7 and everyone needs to come back full-time.” But I’m a little worried about what it might be, and I’m finding myself not at all enthusiastic about returning to the office. (And I’m not the only one.) I’d love to see the company require vaccination for all employees, but I doubt they’d do that. The original, pre-vaccine, plan was to have people come in two days a week, in two groups, so the office would basically be half-full Monday through Thursday, and (mostly) empty on Friday. Post-vaccine, they may decide that’s not necessary, but I’d like to see something like that to start. I don’t necessarily mind going back to the office at this point, but I really hope they’ll let us continue to have some flexibility regarding remote work.

I saw a quote on Twitter today that said “No amount of guilt can solve the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future.” (I’m not sure where that came from originally. It seems to circulate in various forms, usually with an “unknown” attribution.) So I guess I should just relax and enjoy the weekend, and stop worrying about returning to work, at least until I know more about my company’s plans.

Meanwhile, on the topic of distractions, which I touched upon in the previous post: I am now binge-watching the old Clone Wars cartoon on Disney+. This seems like a perfect thing to do at this stage of the pandemic. There are seven seasons to get through. It’s got some complexity to it, which keeps me engaged, but it’s all just nonsense, really. Basically, it’s a perfect distraction from my anxiety.

On a related note, my Apple TV showed up yesterday, and I’ve got it hooked up and working. I can’t see much of a difference between the old, non-4K, box and this new fancy 4K version. But I’ve mostly been watching stuff where I wouldn’t expect to see a difference, like Clone Wars and old episodes of New Tricks. (By the way, New Tricks is another good series if you’re looking for pointless distraction.) I tried the new color calibration stuff on it, but it didn’t work. I may try it again at some point, but it sounds like it might not be worth doing, so I’m not in a hurry on that. The main selling point of the new Apple TV is of course the new remote. I’ll just say that I’m liking it so far, but I’d gotten so used to the old remote that I’m still getting used to the new one. Once my brain starts remembering where the buttons are, I’m sure this new remote will be much less frustrating than the old one was.

post-vaccine blues

I felt pretty good after getting my second shot on Tuesday. But I started getting a headache and feeling tired yesterday. I stuck it out and tried having a normal workday, but I wasn’t having a productive day at all. So I gave up today and called in sick. I spent the morning playing solitaire on my iPad and reading some of Grant Morrison’s X-Men run. I feel pretty good now, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t feel so good if I’d tried having another “normal” workday.

It’s right around noon now, and I have the whole afternoon to kill, so I figured I’d waste some time writing a blog post. There are a few things I’ve been meaning to write about, but haven’t gotten around to. I don’t have the energy to write anything deep, but I’ll just touch on a few random items:

As I mentioned above, I’ve started reading Grant Morrison’s X-Men run recently. I’ve had the trade paperbacks in my “to be read” stack for quite some time. I finally finished reading the last of his Batman run over the weekend, so I decided to dive into his X-Men next. His Batman run is pretty wild, but it’s also somewhat less than satisfying, since it’s spread across multiple titles and had to work around/with other stuff going on in the DC Universe (including the New 52 launch). When his run started, back in 2006, I was still buying monthly books, so I read the beginning of his run back then, as it came out. Then, I took a break from buying new comics for a while. So I’ve read through the rest of his run via TPBs and Comixology. So, for me, it’s been spread out over 15 years. I should probably have gone back and reread the earlier stuff in TPB before finishing it, but I have so much stuff to read that I hardly ever go back and reread anything.

His New X-Men run is fun so far. I’m finding it to be more coherent and straightforward than his Batman run. (Of course, I should say “coherent and straightforward” relative to typical Grant Morrison work. So still less coherent/straightforward than most mainstream comics.)

Looking back at this post from about a month ago, I have a few follow-up notes.

  • I did order a new Apple TV. It should show up tomorrow or maybe early next week. I would have been nice to have it today, since setting up an Apple TV would have been a good sick day activity, I think. I’ll post more once I have it.
  • I’m still not really missing cable TV. I’m watching a lot of PBS lately. And of course there’s plenty to watch on Netflix, Amazon, and so on. My last cable bill was a little confusing, so I’m still not entirely sure how much money I’m saving. The next bill should be for a full month of Broadcast Basic, so that should tell me what my regular bill will look like going forward.
  • I’m taking some advantage of the various services included with Apple One now. Though maybe not enough to justify the cost. I’ve downloaded a few Apple Arcade games, but I’m mostly playing this solitaire game. It’s funny how they can put out amazing games like Fantasian, and I wind up playing a solitaire game that doesn’t look much different from the Windows 3.1 solitaire game.
  • I haven’t delved into Apple TV+ much yet, but I did binge-watch the first season of Central Park recently. I was in the mood for a nice light cartoon, and that really fit the bill. Season two should be coming out next month.
  • I’m getting a lot of use out of Apple Music, but I’m not that excited about the new spatial audio and lossless stuff. I’m not sure I can hear the difference between their normal streaming quality and “lossless” quality. And the “spatial audio” thing sounds like a marketing gimmick. Well, I’ll give both a try when they’re available, I guess.

OK, so that’s a nice long rambling blog post that took about an hour to write, on and off. Time to put the computer away and take a nap, I think.

one shot down

I got my first vaccine shot done today, after scheduling it yesterday. it went smoothly. I got the shot around noon, made it home by 1 PM, and had a huge headache at 2 PM. I took some Tylenol, and a nap, and I feel a little better now. (It’s around 4 PM now.) So I’m glad I took the day off from work. Trying to work this afternoon would have been rough.

The CVS I went to was pretty close to the town I grew up in, so the drive there and back brought back a lot of memories. I thought about blogging about some of that, but it probably wouldn’t be interesting to anybody.

I missed watching any of today’s Apple event, since I was eating lunch (and then napping) while it was going on. The one thing they announced that I’m ready to buy would be the new Apple TV. My Apple TV box is from 2015, so I’m due for a new one, and it’d be nice to have 4K support. The new remote looks much better than the old one, which was always an abomination. I’d order one now, but it looks like it can’t be ordered until 4/30. So I guess I’ll have to wait a bit. But I should be able to get one before my second vaccine dose!

Apple stuff, vaccine stuff, and more

I’ve got a few things to blog about, and I think I’m just going to write a hodge-podge post with a random selection of subjects. I guess that’s a reasonable thing to do on a cold and dreary Saturday morning.

Apple stuff

I noticed in my “On This Day” widget that I bought my current iPad two years ago today, and my first Apple Watch five years ago today. The iPad is still in pretty good shape, though the battery life isn’t what it used to be. Next week’s Apple event will probably include an announcement about new iPads, but I think I’ll stick with my current one for a while longer. I primarily use it to read comics and browse Twitter and Facebook, and it’s fine for all that.

As for the Apple Watch, I’m quite surprised to realize that I’ve been wearing one for five years now. I’ve got to say, Apple really got it right with the Watch. I was leery about a few things when I first bought one, but it’s been great. I got used to the Sport band pretty quickly, and haven’t ever bothered to try a different style. I don’t want to give the Watch all the credit for the fact that I’ve kept my weight down and my fitness level up over the last five years, but honestly it probably deserves a lot of credit. It’s dumb, but closing my rings does motivate me to get out and exercise more often than I would otherwise.

Vaccine stuff

I’ll finally be eligible to get the COVID vaccine, starting Monday. I’m registered with the state of NJ, so we’ll see if anything comes of that. I’m also getting myself ready to try other avenues, including RWJ, CVS, and Walgreens. This (subscriber-only) NJ.com article has a good round-up of vaccine resources. The suspension of the J&J vaccine and the opening up of eligibility on Monday may mean that I won’t have much of a chance of getting vaccinated any time soon, but I’ll give it the old college try, and maybe I’ll get lucky. In general, availability seems to be better in south Jersey than around here, but I hope I can find an option that’s relatively local. I really don’t want to have to drive down to Atlantic City.

Apparently, more than a third of adults in NJ are now fully vaccinated, and more than half have received at least one dose. So that’s good news. Meanwhile, the global death toll has passed three million. So we still need to take this thing seriously.

Reading, Watching, Listening

I dropped my cable subscription down to Broadcast Basic this week, and I’m doing fine with that so far. I miss TCM a bit, but I still have eight or nine TCM movies on my TiVo that I haven’t watched yet, so that’s no big deal. And I miss The Daily Show, but I can always watch bits of that on YouTube.

I’ve had Apple One for about a week now, but I haven’t watched anything on Apple TV+ or played any Apple Arcade games yet. I did get all my photos up to iCloud though, and did a bunch of organizing there.

My two favorite TV shows right now are probably Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+ and Invincible on Amazon. Both, coincidentally, have related podcasts from Comic Book Club. There’s a whole mini-industry going right now around podcasts and web site articles recapping and discussing various nerdy TV shows. Sometimes, I think there’s a bit too much of that. Even the NY Times does recap articles now. But, hey, it doesn’t do any harm, and sometimes the discussion is interesting and fun. I’ve been watching/listening to the Comic Book Club guys on and off for more than ten years, so they seem kind of like old friends. (You can read a bit about their history here.) I never made it to any of their live shows in NYC, and now I kind of regret that, since they never be able to start those back up again.

The Invincible show has gotten me interested in the Invincible comic book again. I bought and read the first four volumes some years ago. I enjoyed them, but didn’t get around to buying any more, until 2016, when I bought volumes 5-13 from Comixology during a sale. There are 25 volumes, so I need to pick up 14-25 to get the whole run. There’s another sale going on at Comixology, so I can get them for half-price right now, but that’s still enough money that it’s not an easy impulse buy for me. I haven’t actually read those volumes that I bought back in 2016 yet either, so I don’t think I need to be in a hurry to complete the set. But, of course, the collector’s mentality has kicked in, so now I’m probably just going to go ahead and get them.

I’m somewhat tempted to buy physical copies rather than digital, but I know that’s a bad idea. I have way too many books in my apartment now, and I haven’t been able to get rid of them via library sales like I used to, since my local library system suspended their book sales when the virus hit. As I mentioned recently, I’ve stopped ordering comics from Westfield, so hopefully I can start putting a dent in my backlog of physical books (both comic and otherwise) and then find something useful to do with the ones I’ve read. Maybe the library can start up their book sales again over the summer. Maybe they can do them outdoors in the parking lot or something like that. That would be cool.

Apple One

My free six month trial of Apple Music is coming to an end soon, so I’ve been thinking about what to do next. I like Apple Music enough that I’d already decided to keep going with it after the trial was done. And since that means I’ll be giving Apple $10/month, that got me thinking about signing up for Apple One for $15/month, and getting Arcade, TV+, and 50 GB of iCloud too.

I’m still not happy about the number of subscriptions I’m paying for right now, but I guess I’m resigned to it. I could go down the hole of listing them all out again and thinking about whether I need them or not, and whether I’m getting enough use out of this one or that one, and what the alternatives are, but life’s too short and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Eventually, I’ll have to cull some of them, but for now, eh, I might as well give Apple $15/month so I can listen to music and watch Ted Lasso and play some games. So I signed up for Apple One today.

The first thing I’m doing with it is turning on iCloud Photos. Up until now, I’ve been syncing photos from my iPhone and iPad to my Mac the old-fashioned way, and using the photo library on my Mac as my master library. It’ll be nice to have that all happen automatically now, and have access to all my photos on all of my devices. Prior to turning on iCloud Photos, I had about 4500 photos, taking up about 12 GB, on my Mac. The library seems to be getting a bit bigger since I turned on syncing this morning. I guess that’s due to duplicates, which seem to be showing up on the Mac as the iPhone sync progresses. I turned on the “optimize Mac storage” setting in Photos when I turned on iCloud, so I might wind up with a smaller local library, eventually. I’m not sure how much total cloud space it’ll use up, but I’m sure it’ll be well within my 50 GB limit.

It looks like I’m going to need to run a cleanup to get rid of the duplicates. I have an old program that I used once to clean up dupes in my old iPhoto library, a long time ago (2014, I think), and it appears to still work. When I launch it, it “recommends” that I upgrade to a new program that costs $20, but the old version still seems to work fine. It found 168 dupes and put them in an album. From there, I could delete them via the Photos app. If I didn’t already own that program, I’d consider PhotoSweeper ($20) or PowerPhotos ($30), both of which I found via recommendations from the MPU forums.

Speaking of MPU, I’ve been thinking that I should take a look at David Sparks’ Photos Field Guide. I should learn more about taking, editing, and managing digital photos. Of course, I’ve been home alone for the past year, so all of my recent photos were taken within a one-mile radius of my apartment. I have so many photos of Van Fleet Gardens at this point that I could probably stitch them all together into a 3D model. But hey, someday we’ll be able to travel again, and I’ll go someplace interesting and take some cool photos.

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.