Horribleness

Every once in a while, I think I need to write a post, commenting on some random internet horribleness. Usually I resist the urge. But sometimes I give in. And there have been a few semi-linked bits of horribleness I tripped over recently, so I’m just going to point a few out.

First, Scott Adams has (finally?) gone a bit too far, apparently. I stopped reading Dilbert a long time ago, and I pretty much gave up on Adams in 2016, when he was supporting you-know-who for president. GoComics still, technically, carries Dilbert, but they posted a tweet today that makes it look like maybe they’ll finally drop it. (Or not. It’s a pretty weak statement.) Maybe it’s time for me to throw out my Dilbert books and toys. I know I have a few of them around here somwhere.

And of course there’s an Elon Musk angle to the Dilbert story. I’d already made my mind up about Musk too, so that doesn’t surprise me. I haven’t totally dropped off of Twitter, but I don’t check it too often these days. Mastodon has mostly replaced Twitter for me, but there are a lot of folks and organizations that are still only on Twitter.

Speaking of Mastodon and Twitter, I stumbled across a reference to the Pinboard guy on Mastodon yesterday. He had dropped off Twitter in 2022, and I hadn’t noticed that he came back this year. I guess that’s mostly because I’m using Twitter less. Anyway, one of his recent tweets is problematic. I really don’t want to wade into that stuff, but, for now, I’m going to keep using Pinboard (and continue being a Harry Potter fan), but I’m not sure how I feel about any of it.

Along those lines, I followed the news about the open letter to the NY Times last week too. I’d really like the Times to course-correct on this stuff, but I haven’t gone as far as cancelling my subscription. Overall, I don’t feel qualified to express too much of an opinion about some of this stuff, but I do feel like some folks are likely on the wrong side of things, even if their intentions are good.

Anyway, all of this horribleness is probably why I’m spending so much of my spare time reading Pathfinder manuals these days. (And, for what it’s worth, Pathfinder seems to have a reputation as a very inclusive RPG. So that’s good…)

Time Marches On

So it’s Sunday morning again, and I’m futzing around on my laptop, aimlessly, as is my wont.

I thought I should mention Twitterrific again, as it now seems to be 100% officially dead. So I guess I should remove it from my iPhone and iPad and give up on Twitter completely now. I’d been holding out some hope that Elon would reverse course and turn the API access back on, but I guess not. Sigh.

I was also looking around at the “on this day” links on the sidebar of my blog, and noticed this one, originally linking to the website that my brother Pat and his wife Heather set up. Heather gave up the domain name for that, heatherandpatrick.com, a long time ago, after Patrick passed away. But, just for yuks, I decided to see what, if anything was at that domain now. Turns out that another Heather and Patrick are using it as a website for their upcoming wedding! That’s kind of nice. (Certainly better than the domain squatters who had been sitting on it every other time I’ve gotten curious about it over the years.) Anyway, they seem like a lovely couple, and I hope they have a great wedding!

On a completely different subject, I just got a notification that TiVo is turning off their suggestions feature. Kind of sad to see this going away, though I hadn’t used it much since I dropped back to the Broadcast Basic cable plan. This news got me curious about what alternative are out there to watch broadcast TV, rather than cable + TiVo, for me. First, it looks like I would still have no luck with an antenna. AntennaWeb still indicates that I’d need a major-league outdoor antenna to pick up anything from here. So that’s out. And some of the streaming services like Hulu + Live TV include the major broadcast networks, but that costs $70/month, which is way more than Broadcast Basic is costing me. So I guess I’m sticking with minimal cable + TiVo for now, even though TiVo seems to be in a slow death spiral, and my cable provider’s support for CableCARD is probably dicey at this point.

The Giants lost to the Eagles last night, so my interest in football for this year is mostly done, though I might watch the rest of the playoffs and the SuperBowl anyway. I really got interested in football this season, and that was kind of a surprise to me, since I’ve been losing interest gradually for quite some time now. I guess it was mostly the Giants doing well that kept me interested? Maybe also that, this season, football seemed to be just about football. There was almost no talk about politics or racism or COVID or brain injuries or anything. I realize that all those things are still going on, but I could watch a football game and pretend that it wasn’t for a few hours? Or at least not think about any of it? It was a nice escape. (And yes, the Damar Hamlin thing was a sudden jolt of reality, but he seems to be doing reasonably well, so that’s good.)

Speaking of escapism, I started watching Star Trek: Discovery season 4 yesterday. I signed up for Paramount+ a little more than six months ago, largely so I could watch all the new Star Trek shows, and I still haven’t watched a lot of it. I’ve mostly just been using Paramount+ to watch Inside the NFL lately. I need to catch up on both Discovery and Picard. Maybe now that the Giants are out of the playoffs, I can catch up on all my sci-fi TV.

more dumb social media stuff

The big news on Twitter today was that Elon is banning accounts that promote rival social media platforms. I have a link to my Mastodon account in my Twitter profile, so let’s see if that’s enough to get me banned. Meanwhile, there was some hilarity when one media outlet got confused and thought that Twitter had banned someone named “John Mastodon.” So I may have spent too much time today switching back and forth between Twitter and Mastodon, following all the silliness around that.

I’ve decided to turn off the function in WordPress that automatically shares posts to Twitter. And I added a link to my Mastodon account to the site footer. I’m probably going to keep checking Twitter, since there are still a bunch of news sources that post there, but I think I’m going to keep trying to wean myself off it (as mentioned in my last post).

I’m starting to think I should work on my short attention span problem, so maybe I should get off social media entirely. I almost read this article at The Guardian today, but it was too long. I saved it to Instapaper. I need to read more of the stuff in my Instapaper account and spend less time on social media, I guess. I have a bunch of long New Yorker articles saved to Instapaper, and I never get around to reading them. I started reading this 1955 article about the dead sea scrolls recently. I have no clue when or why I saved that, but it’s a good article.

I also wound up reading this 1951 NY Times article today, because I was trying to figure out what the phrase “the smile of the absent cat” meant. (See also this related article.) I feel like I should have something pithy to say about the contrast between¬† Einstein arguing with Viscount Samuel about theoretical physics is the 1950’s and Elon Musk arguing with… everybody about… nonsense today. But I don’t really. All I can do is roll my eyes and sigh.

Mastodon

OK, so I finally gave in and signed up for a Mastodon account. You can find me at @andyhuey@mastodon.social. I spent too much time, initially, stressing about which instance to sign up at, then gave up and just used mastodon.social, which is what pretty much everyone else uses. (I really wanted to pick a “cool” instance that would mark me as one of the “cool kids,” but then I remembered that I’m a 55 year old nerd.)

I also have CounterSocial, Hive, and Post accounts, but honestly I think Mastodon is “winning” the war for Twitter refugees. I used Fedifinder to get a list of my Twitter “friends” and follow them on Mastodon. It found 35. Apparently, I’m following 380 accounts on Twitter, which is more than I would have guessed. (A lot of those are probably inactive, but still, that’s a lot.) So I guess around 10% of the accounts I follow on Twitter are on Mastodon. I guess that’s a good start.

Jeff Jarvis has a good write-up on Mastodon here (and a video too). I used his write-up to get myself started.

I searched my Pinboard account for references to Mastodon, and found one from 2017, so I’ve at least been aware of Mastodon for several years now. I probably should have signed up for an account back then, so I’d be able to say that I was into Mastodon before it was popular. Really, I guess I’m at the point in my life where I’m not usually an early adopter anymore. I’m too old to get excited about messing around with half-baked projects that might or might not go anywhere. At least I can say that I got my preferred “andyhuey” username on all of the new services I signed up for, so that’s something. (Though, with Mastodon, there are multiple instances, so there could be other andyhuey’s on other servers.)

I haven’t tried the official Mastodon iOS client yet, but I’m going to do that today. I might also try one of the third-party ones. I do wish that the folks who make Twitterrific would make a Mastodon client. i really like Twitterrific, and would love to have a similar app for Mastodon.

I’d also like to see WordPress add Mastodon support to their social sharing tool. Right now, I’m auto-sharing my blog posts to Twitter. They also support Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tumblr, but not Mastodon yet. There’s at least one third-party plugin for Mastodon posting, but I don’t know if I want to mess around with it yet.

Anyway, I’m going to see if I can switch some of my social media time over from Twitter and Facebook to Mastodon this week. The problem, I think, is that there isn’t a lot of mainstream media presence on Mastodon yet. A lot of my time on Twitter and Facebook is spent clicking on links to news articles from the NY Times account, Washington Post account, and so on. Really, I should try to switch over to my RSS reader for that kind of stuff. So maybe, between RSS and Mastodon, I can wean myself off Twitter and/or Facebook. We’ll see how far I get with that.

social media, and comics, and RSS

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about social media and related stuff.

First, I got off the waiting list for Post not long after I wrote yesterday’s blog entry. So I now have an account there. So far, it’s mostly dog and cat photos, and “hello world” posts. So I guess I’ll just keep an eye on that and see if it develops into something interesting or not.

I also signed up for an account on Hive today, after reading an article about how a bunch of comic book creators are moving to Hive. But their email verification system was down today, so I couldn’t complete the account registration. Maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I decided to finally pay $5 to update to the latest version of Reeder for iOS, then also talked myself into paying $10 for Reeder for macOS. And I went through my RSS subscriptions in The Old Reader and organized things a bit and added some more subscriptions. So maybe I can convince myself to spend more time in RSS vs. Facebook and Twitter.

Also meanwhile, GoComics might be back up! It’s not coming up for me right now, but apparently it was for some people, earlier today. So maybe I’ll be able to read Garfield tomorrow morning. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Oh, and one more thing: the unread count on my “read/review” folder in my email is now at an even 6000. So, really, I’m not going to run out of stuff to read on the internet any time soon.

Social media alternatives

I’m still using Twitter, despite all of the Elon Musk nonsense. I access it only via Twitterrific, which makes it much nicer than via the official app or website. (No ads, and a simple reverse-chronological feed.) Still, I’m looking around at alternatives, both in terms of social media platforms, and in terms of “things to do on the internet” in general.

I signed up for an account on CounterSocial, but I don’t see much of a point to that. And I got myself on the waiting list for Post, which sounds interesting, but I can’t do anything there until I get to the top of the waiting list, I guess. I’ve looked at Mastodon,¬† but I haven’t set up an account there, partially because I’m not sure which server I should use. So I haven’t really hit on anything that “replaces” Twitter.

Meanwhile, I re-subscribed to GoComics recently, and I’ve been reading my daily comic strip email every morning in place of my early-morning Twitter browsing, and that’s been good… until this weekend, when GoComics seems to have gotten hacked or something. There’s not much info out there on the outage, so I have no clue how long it’s going to last or if I should be worrying about my credit card number.

ComicsKingdom is the other big comic strip site. I don’t subscribe to that one, but I’ve been thinking about it. They had a minor outage today, but apparently just a blip. It’s back up again.

So, moving on from comics, I’ve also tried to get back into reading stuff via RSS feeds. I still have an account at The Old Reader, and follow a bunch of news sources and blogs via that account. I use Reeder on iOS/iPadOS to browse the account, and I just use The Old Reader web interface on my Mac and PC. I keep thinking I should switch from The Old Reader to something fancier like Feedly or NewsBlur, but I never get too far with that.

I’ve also been trying to catch up a bit on my backlog of email newsletters. I’m currently on April 2021, so about a year and a half behind. I have them all in a “read/review” folder. Sometimes, I sort it “newest first” and look at some of the new stuff, but usually I sort it “oldest first” and just read through the old ones and discard them as I go. I feel like I should just delete a bunch of the old ones all at once, and maybe “fast forward” a year or so. I’ve thought about doing that a few times, but I can never talk myself into doing it.

So I guess I have plenty of stuff to use to distract myself, outside of Twitter. It’s always fun to spend a little time evaluating sites, sources, and tools, and tweaking things a bit.

almost cord-cutting

I’ve been thinking about canceling my cable TV service for quite a while now. But I can never quite talk myself into it. I finally managed to at least convince myself to drop back from the “Optimum Value” package to the “Broadcast Basic” package, and I called and took care of that today. The math on my cable bill is complicated, but the change should save me somewhere between $50 and $70 per month.

Broadcast Basic is the tier that just gets you broadcast channels, plus News 12. And at this point, that’s about 90% of my cable TV viewing. I’ll also watch stuff on TCM, BBCA, and SyFy occasionally, but not that often. Not enough to justify $50 or $70 every month.

I was pleasantly surprised that Optimum didn’t make me work too hard to do this. They didn’t try to get me to keep the old package, or put me on hold, or disconnect me or anything. All told, it took about 15 minutes.

For streaming video, I’m now paying for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, and Apple TV+. So there’s plenty to watch there. Of course, I’m also tempted to sign up for Paramount+, for the Star Trek stuff, and HBO Max, for the DC stuff, but I’m not too tempted.

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.)

more frog boiling

I’ve had a follow-up to my previous frog boiling post kicking around in the back of my head for the past couple of weeks, and I think maybe it’s time to write it up. This is liable to turn into a massive Old Man Yells at Cloud post. You’ve been warned.

First, to follow up on the last post, I still haven’t decided what to do with my cable TV service, though I’m leaning towards dropping back to the “Broadcast Basic” package. I’m not currently watching a lot of TV shows outside of the regular broadcast channels. The biggest one would probably be Doctor Who on BBC America, but I could just buy that from Apple. That’s what I did for the last few seasons, when BBCA wasn’t part of my cable package. (Side note: I didn’t much like the first two episodes of this season, but it’s really picked up steam since. The last two episodes, the ones with Tesla and the Judoon, where both a lot of fun.) Anyway, I’m going to wait for my next bill, see how much the prices actually go up, and them decide.

The next thing on my list is my web hosting plan with IONOS (aka 1&1). I’ve been with them since 2003. Their monthly cost went up to $11 in 2017. I got a notice earlier this month saying that it’ll be going up to $14 next month. I guess I’ll still be sticking with them. I could get cheaper hosting, if I wanted to, but it’d be a hassle to move, and I haven’t had any issues with IONOS recently. I did just move two of my six domains to the “included” domains that come with my package, so that’ll save me the renewal cost on them. I current have “andrewhuey” and “andyhuey” in the .org, .com, and .net TLDs. I really only need andrewhuey.com and andrewhuey.net. I’m not using the “andyhuey” domains, and I’m not using either .org domain. I’m a little worried that the yearly cost for the .org domains might go up if the .org sale goes through, so I should probably just drop those.

One more item is my AmEx card. I’ve had it since college, but they’re raising the annual fee on it to $150 this year, and that’s kind of crazy for a card that I use primarily as a backup card. I should really drop it and just get a random no-fee card to use as my backup. I have this weird sentimental attachment to it though. It doesn’t make any sense, I know, but I’ve had it for so long.

And of course I’m still considering dropping my monthly comic book order with Westfield Comics. But I can’t quite talk myself into that either. I did manage to drop one book last month (Nightwing). Maybe I’ll talk myself into dropping Batman and Detective this month. My backlog just keeps getting bigger.

Lastly, the price of Flickr Pro is going up. It was $100 for two years when I last renewed it. It’ll be going up to $118 for two years now. My subscription doesn’t renew until March 2021, so I don’t need to be in a hurry on this one. And there’s a deal where I can renew for another two years now at the old $100 rate. If I do that, I won’t have to think about it again until 2023. So I’ll probably do that. I don’t upload that much stuff to Flickr anymore, but I’ve got a bunch of stuff up there.

Well, I guess that’s all I had to get off my chest today. I thought this was going to wind up a lot longer, and possibly a bit angrier. In the end, I guess my attitude is more of a “meh, what are you gonna do?” kind of thing.

The boiling frog

I’ve been thinking about the boiling frog metaphor a lot lately, both with regards to small things and big things. This blog post is going to be about some (relatively) small things. (And also, a bit, about the sunk cost fallacy.)

My cable bill this month had a notice of a rate increase, starting next month. It’s a pretty big increase, both on my TV service and my internet service. But there’s also a note that says that existing customers won’t see their rate increase by more than $14.50. The wording on this was a bit hard to parse. It said “rate” and not “bill” so it wasn’t clear if it meant that no individual charge would go up by more than $14.50, or if the total increase wouldn’t be more than $14.50. I called to ask about it, and of course it’s the former. So it should be two $14.50 increases, plus a handful of fee increases, mostly in the $1 to $2 range. So my overall bill should go up by maybe $35. If they’d actually done the full rate increase all at once, my bill would be going up by more than $60, and that would likely have moved me to (finally) drop my cable TV subscription. But the $35 increase isn’t necessarily going to push me to do anything rash. Every time I think about dropping cable, I remember that I’ve got a TiVo which would become useless if I drop cable. But I bought that back in 2015, so I’ve certainly got my money’s worth out of it, and I shouldn’t worry about that particular sunk cost.

There’s some talk about the new rates on the DSLReports forums. Nobody’s happy about it, but for folks like me that only have one option for internet and TV, there’s not much you can do about it. I have no other option for internet, so I just have to pay whatever they charge and live with it. And I don’t think I’m ready to drop cable TV entirely, but I’m considering dropping back to Optimum’s “Broadcast Basic” package which is $25/month and just gets you the broadcast channels and a few others.

I did briefly consider dropping cable entirely and recycling the TiVo, but I still can’t talk myself into it. And, heck, I should really stop watching television entirely, since it’s probably going to give me Alzheimer’s. (I may be oversimplifying those study results. Still, it’s probably not good for me.)

Relating to boiling the frog, but not to anything else above: Boil the Frog is a neat service that generates a Spotify playlist linking any two artists together, in a (nearly) seamless way. I tried some random artists and got some interesting lists. The one linking Jimi Hendrix to Boards of Canada is nice.