Kobo, Pocket, Instapaper, and some Wheel of Time thoughts

I finished reading Winter’s Heart yesterday, the ninth Wheel of Time book. I do want to start the next one, Crossroads of Twilight, soon, but before I do, I want to catch up with the last couple of episodes of The Wheel Weaves podcast. A lot happens in the last few chapters of Winter’s Heart, and I feel like I need someone to walk me through it so I can understand it a bit better.

I haven’t been actively reading Sylas K Barrett’s “Reading The Wheel of Time” series over at reactor.com, but I noticed that I’m now further along in the series than him, since his latest article is on chapter 25 of Winter’s Heart. The Wheel Weaves, on the other hand, is currently on book 12, so I have a while to go before I catch up with them.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a break from book-reading today and experiment with reading some short fiction and newspaper/magazine articles on my Kobo, via Pocket. Overall, I think I’ve decided that I like the experience of using Pocket on Kobo, but there are a few caveats.

I started this process by taking a couple of New York Times articles, saving them to Pocket, then reading them on the Kobo. That worked out fine. Then, I thought I’d see if I could take a few things I’d saved in Instapaper and read those in Pocket. The first thing I discovered is that Pocket seems to have two modes of saving articles: for some articles, it saves a readable view of the article in Pocket, and for others, it just saves a bookmark. For the latter type, those don’t sync down to the Kobo. Pocket calls these two modes “article view” and “view original” apparently.

One idea that I had for saving Instapaper articles to Pocket was to just hit the Pocket button on the webpage for Instapaper’s readable version of the article. But that just triggered the bookmarking mode for Pocket, and didn’t save the readable version. So that was useless. And I found that, for a few things I’d saved in Instapaper, either the original article had disappeared from the web, or the original article could also not be saved to Pocket except as a bookmark. That was an interesting experiment, and I think it convinced me that Instapaper is still superior to Pocket as a general read-it-later service, since I don’t think I’ve ever found anything that Instapaper refused to save to its own database. Pocket definitely works for the New York Times and the New Yorker, but it’s only about 50/50 on other pages I’ve tried.

So, anyway, having saved a few things to Pocket, I did some reading on the Kobo. I found that the experience was pretty good, with a few caveats. The biggest issue is that I realized that you can’t highlight Pocket articles on the Kobo. That’s maybe not a big thing really, but it is something I’d like to be able to do.

It’s occurred to me that, for longer articles, I could save the Instapaper version to an .epub file, then transfer that over to the Kobo via Calibre (or Google Drive). There’s a point where I’m jumping through too many hoops just to read a short story though. I may spend some more time messing around, but not right now.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking about using the Kobo to read the next WoT book. I’ve already copied it from my Amazon account, into Calibre, then over to Kobo. (The WoT books are sold without DRM, so I don’t need Calibre to remove DRM, just to convert them to EPUB.) On Kobo, I’d lose the X-Ray feature that the Kindle has, which sometimes comes in useful with WoT, given the large cast of characters. But X-Ray is often useless, and I’ve taken to looking up characters in the WoT Compendium app on my phone instead.

I’m not sure if I spent more time today actually reading, vs. playing around with Instapaper, Pocket, Calibre, etc., but I did have a relatively pleasant morning, so I guess that’s good either way.

Black Friday

Well, it’s Black Friday and I have the day off, and nothing in particular to do, so here I am writing another pointless blog post.

Social Media

It’s been just about a year since I created my Mastodon account, and a few other new social media accounts, in an effort to move off of Twitter. So I thought it might be a good time to check in on that.

I gave up on Twitter quite some time ago, but there were a lot of people still hanging on. Elon’s most recent shenanigans have finally caused a lot of those folks to abandon ship. It seems like Threads has become the de facto replacement for Twitter. The White House set up Threads accounts recently, so that’s a good sign. And it seems like most media companies have moved to Threads. The NY Times, Washington Post, and NPR are all there.

I really wish a better alternative than Threads had “won” the “Twitter replacement” lottery. Threads is owned by Meta, and while they’re not as bad as Elon, they’re not great. Threads currently has no ads, but I’m sure they’ll start running ads there eventually. And they’ve talked a bit about adding an API and/or supporting ActivityPub, I’ll believe that when I see it.

My preferred social network at this point is Mastodon. It’s wonderful, but there aren’t enough “normal” people/organizations on there. It’s great for tech folks, scientists, and random weirdos, but it’s hard to find major media outlets on there, or anyone talking about the NFL, for instance.

Checking in on some of the other alternatives that I tried out over the last year:

  • Counter.Social: I gave up on this one pretty quickly. I checked my account there this morning, and it still exists. I don’t think it ever really got enough traction to be a viable Twitter alternative. I still see some interesting folks on there though.
  • Post.News: I gave up on this one too. But they seem to have made steady progress, and it looks like it could be an interesting way to get my news. I should keep an eye on them, I think.
  • Hive seemed promising when I first set it up, and there were a few interesting people on there, but it seems like everybody has given it up in favor of Mastodon and/or Threads.
  • Bluesky: This one had a lot of buzz as a Twitter replacement earlier in the year, since Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is involved. But it’s still in beta, and there’s a wait list to get in. I put myself on the wait list in May, and only just got my invite a few days ago. I set up the account, but it’s maybe too late for them. I think that most of the folks that would have wanted to migrate to Bluesky have already migrated to Threads, and are happy enough there. But we’ll see what happens with it.

So, for me, I’m currently browsing both Mastodon and Threads daily. I’m not posting a lot to either. I’m trying to be careful not to “doomscroll” on either, and not to get dragged into the trap of mindlessly scrolling through either one, but I will admit to a bit of that. With Mastodon, I avoid the infinite mindless scrolling thing for two reasons, I think. One is that there just isn’t enough in my timeline to allow for that, and the other is that my preferred Mastodon client, Toot!, will only load a certain number of posts, then it’ll leave a space with a “load more” button. And that’s usually enough to wake me up and realize that I should stop and go do something else. Threads is worse though. There’s a lot of little funny posts on there, and it’s easy to just keep scrolling through them. And the default feed is their algorithmic “For You” feed, which will have posts from folks you’re following and other posts they think you’ll like. So that tends to promote mindless scrolling.

I’m following some of the same people on both Mastodon and Threads currently, and I’m thinking that I should try to sort that out, maybe, and reserve Threads for mainstream media and mainstream people, and use Mastodon for the weirdos. (And I mean “weirdos” in a loving and not judgemental way.) At some point, maybe Threads actually will support ActivityPub and I can just use a Mastodon client to get myself a mixed timeline from both accounts. I’m not holding my breath though.

Black Friday sales

Wow, that was more than I expected to write about social media. My next topic is Black Friday sales. I’m trying not to spend a bunch of money on dumb stuff, but of course I’m going to spend a bit. I try to spend money on stuff from good people, independent creators who I can support and feel good about supporting. Here are a few things I bought today:

  • I bought the full bundle of Wizard Zines from Julia Evans, in PDF format. I’ve always thought her stuff was interesting, but a bit pricey. For 50% off, I decided to just go ahead and get them all today. I’m not sure I have much use for most of them, but I may print out the “Oh Shit, Git!” one and keep it on my desk at work. I probably need to leave it face-down though, in case anyone gets offended due to the salty language in the title.
  • I bought PCalc today, because it was 50% off, and because I’ve often thought about buying it. I don’t really need it, but having a better-than-average calculator app ought to come in handy occasionally.
  • I also bought Play by Marcos Tanaka today. It’s kind of a bookmark app specifically for videos. It looks much like his MusicBox app, which I use to keep track of stuff that I want to listen to in Apple Music. I’ve been getting a lot of use out of that one. I have more than 600 albums in there now. (And, as is typical for me, I’ve got 500 on my “new” list and 100 on my “played” list. So now I have a queue of music I’ll never get through before I die. But that’s a good problem to have, right?) Interestingly, Play has an Apple TV app. I’m not sure how it works, but if there’s any chance that I can bookmark a video on my phone, then watch it later on my Apple TV, that would be great. I’d really like for there to be a good consolidated watch list app for Apple TV, that can open videos across multiple streaming services. The built-in watch list is almost there, but not really. There are a lot of issues with it. It’s fine for Apple TV+ content, but bad at almost everything else.

And, wow, I’ve now wasted quite a bit of time writing up this blog post. And I haven’t even bloviated about the latest OpenAI shenanigans! Oh well. I guess part of the point of taking Black Friday off is to waste time on meaningless pursuits. I should go out for a walk now. It’s a little cold, but it’s actually sunny out right now.

Software changes – Edge, Apple Music, Windows 11

I thought I’d post a follow-up today on a couple of software items I’ve blogged about recently, plus one new one.

Microsoft Edge

First: my switch from Firefox to Edge at work. I’m not having any real problems with Edge, though I’m missing a few things I had in Firefox. And I’m experimenting with some Edge features that look interesting. One thing I tried to figure out today is the difference between tab groups, collections, and workspaces. (And whether or not it was worth using any of them.) In Firefox, I used to use the OneTab extension to take groups of tabs and save them off to the side. That extension is available for Edge too, though it’s not on our “officially approved” list. So I thought I’d see if I could just use a built-in Edge feature for that. Here’s what I figured out:

  • Tab groups are a simple way to group a bunch of tabs together. You can’t really do much with them other than group them together. Tab groups seem to survive closing and reopening Edge. I’m not sure if they’ll sync between my laptop and desktop, but I suspect they will.
  • Collections are a little more flexible than tab groups. You can add open tabs to a collection, and you can also add text notes and images apparently (though I haven’t tried). Collections definitely survive closing and reopening Edge, and I’m pretty sure they sync. You can dump a collection out to a new OneNote page too, so that’s potentially useful. And you can copy all of the URLs in a collection to the clipboard, which is similar to something I used to do in Firefox with a specific extension. (I can’t remember the name on that one, but OneTab replaced it, really.)
  • Workspaces looked promising, at first, but I think they’re mostly useful for sharing a group of tabs/pages with a group. There are limitations on using them that, I think, make them less useful than tab groups or collections for my purposes.

So, in a nutshell, I think I’m going to start using collections for the stuff I used to use OneTab for.

Apple Music

I mentioned last week that I’d installed the Apple Music Preview on my PC. It’s working out OK, I guess, but I had been assuming that I could switch back and forth between Apple Music and iTunes. That turns out to be incorrect. If I launch iTunes now, it shows me a message saying that it can only be used to manage podcasts and audiobooks now. Once you install Apple Music, you can’t use iTunes for music anymore. And, on top of that, you need to install Apple TV Preview if you want to manage your movies and TV shows. So I went ahead and did that too.

If I knew that there was no going back to iTunes, I don’t think I would have installed Apple Music. But now I guess I have to get used to it.

Windows 11

I got an email today saying that my work machines would be upgraded to Windows 11 soon. (I have a laptop and a desktop, both on Windows 10 right now.) They’re going to push the upgrade out through Windows Update. I’m a little unclear on timing, but I think they might be pushing it out over the Thanksgiving weekend.

It occurs to me that I’ve never actually done a Windows 11 upgrade. At home, I have a Windows 10 desktop and a Windows 11 laptop. The desktop can’t be upgraded to Windows 11, unfortunately. It meets all of my needs, otherwise, so I’ve just stuck with it. But if my work machines are all going to be running Windows 11, I probably need to ditch the old desktop at home and buy a new one that can handle Windows 11, so I’m running it everywhere.  And if I do that, it’s going to push me into a bunch of other upgrades, I think. Like maybe getting a new monitor that actually uses HDMI instead of whatever old standard my current monitor uses. And probably buying an external DVD burner, since new machines don’t ever seem to come with built-in optical drives anymore. Oh well. I got this old PC in 2016, and I’m not sure how old the monitor is. So it’s probably time for some new hardware.

Grammar checking – Grammarly and alternatives

I have a bunch of stuff to blog about today, and I sat down expecting to write a long rambling post, but then I got sidetracked into some grammar checking stuff, so now I’m writing a post about grammar checking.

As part of my general mucking around with AI stuff, I decided to finally give in and sign up for a Grammarly account. I’ve always avoided Grammarly, mostly because I’d heard very bad things about their privacy policy and practices, back in their early days. I guess that’s gotten better, and they have a page on their site with many assurances about how they don’t sell your data, and so on, so maybe they’re not so bad now. We recently acquired some kind of site license for Grammarly at work, but that’s only available to salespeople, I think. But the fact that we’re paying for it at work indicates that they are likely taking privacy pretty seriously, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten past our InfoSec folks.

I briefly installed the Grammarly app on my Mac, but that quickly got to be more of a pain than a help. Most of my writing on my Mac is in Evernote, and Grammarly works there, but I’m not generally writing in complete sentences in Evernote, so most of Grammarly’s advice there is more of a hindrance than a help. So I removed that. It occurred to me that the only place where I really need Grammarly, in my personal life, is on these blog posts. This is really the only long-form writing I do where I’m trying to write in complete, grammatically correct, sentences. So, for now, I’m experimenting with copying & pasting my posts into the editor on the Grammarly web site, making any corrections there, then copying back into WordPress. Overall, that’s helped me catch a few minor errors, but nothing worth paying a lot of money for. And I’ve found that I can’t copy the whole text from Grammarly back into WordPress, since it’ll muck up the HTML, so I have to see what Grammarly wants me to fix, then fix it myself in WordPress, which is time-consuming. There’s probably a way around that, but I’m not sure what it is.

So I can keep using the free version of Grammarly, I guess, but I don’t know if I will. It’s a little aggressive about trying to get you to upgrade to the paid version, and it’s not that much help, really.

I’ve started to look around at alternatives to Grammarly too. There seem to be two primary ones: Ginger and Hemingway. Ginger is much like Grammarly: similar tools, similar pricing. I didn’t spend too much time on it. Hemingway is a bit different. It does an analysis of your writing style, focusing on several things, but it doesn’t seem to do the simpler checks that you get from Grammarly and Ginger. For instance, it doesn’t seem to catch simple homonym errors, which is honestly the most frequent error I make that isn’t caught by spellcheck.

I was curious about comparing the privacy policies of these three products, so I asked Bing Chat to compare them. It came back and told me that all three products had similar policies, but the sources it cited all came from Grammarly’s policy, so it was obviously hallucinating the info for Ginger and Hemingway. (And, as is normal with these things, you’d never know that without checking sources.) I asked the same question of the web search assistant in Poe, and that did a little better, though I suspect that it was also bullshitting somewhat (which is probably a better word for it than “hallucinating”). In short, Hemingway seems to have a slightly better privacy policy than Grammarly or Ginger.

The Poe results referenced a couple of useful comparison articles that I checked out. One of them was WordPress-specific, so I read that one. It mentioned a Jetpack grammar module, which sounded like exactly what I need, so that was exciting, but it turns out it was discontinued in 2019, so that’s not an option, unfortunately.

So I guess the end result here is that I still don’t know what to do. I don’t really want to pay $100+ per year for Grammarly or Ginger, so I’ll stick with the free Grammarly account for now and see how it goes. Maybe I’ll just keep proofreading my posts myself.


no more Firefox (at work)

I got a little surprise this morning, when I logged into my work PC and launched Firefox. The program still worked, but I got a popup from Windows telling me that access to the Mozilla update site was blocked.

Firefox has always been on our approved software list, so that surprised me. There hadn’t been an email about banning it, or anything like that. I checked the list, and it was still on there, so that got me wondering if the block was a mistake or something. I also considered that maybe they’d switched to a managed install, with updates pushed out from Software Center. But that didn’t seem to be the case either.

So I gave up and opened a support ticket to ask about it. (I’m always hesitant to do that for stuff like this, because I get paranoid that maybe I was never supposed to be using Firefox, and asking about it is going get me sent before the Spanish Inquisition or something.) I got a response back that, yep, InfoSec had decided to block Firefox. So, oh well, I had to switch to Edge today.

Edge actually isn’t that bad. And it has one advantage over Firefox (at least in our org). We’ve always blocked syncing Firefox user profiles, so I can’t easily keep my bookmarks or preferences in sync between my laptop and desktop with Firefox. But we do allow sync in Edge. So that’ll be nice.

The thing I’ll miss most about Firefox (and the main reason why I’ve stuck with it at work) is the Multi-Account Containers add-on. I have to juggle a bunch of different Microsoft accounts, and it’s nice to be able to have a container for the oddball ones, so they don’t confuse things for my everyday work under my normal AAD account. In Edge, I guess I’ll have to just use private windows for that, which kind of sucks, since I’ll then have to log in every single time. But I can deal with that.

I managed to import my Firefox bookmarks into Edge, then spent a bunch of time cleaning them up and organizing them. All said, I probably spent about two hours today figuring out why I couldn’t use Firefox, switching to Edge, cleaning up bookmarks, logging in to sites, poking around in preferences, and so on.

As part of this switch, I’m also going to try to switch from DuckDuckGo to Bing. Microsoft really wants you to use Bing, and there are some advantages to it, so I’m going to give it a try.

We’re also planning a mass Windows 11 upgrade at work. I’m not sure how they’re going to do that, but I’m a little worried about it. If I have to upgrade both my desktop and laptop, that could take a bit of time and involve a bit of risk. I guess that maybe I’m better off there than a lot of people, since i have two machines, and I can keep using one while the other is getting upgraded. (Most people now only have a laptop.)

Oh well, I guess it’s time to embrace the all-Microsoft future, and get used to Windows 11, Edge, Bing, and whatever else they throw at us.

digging in to ChatGPT and similar AI stuff

I’ve successfully been ignoring all the hype around ChatGPT and similar AI stuff all through this year.

I was initially amused by some of the stuff folks were posting to Twitter when ChatGPT and DALL-E and other tools were made publicly available. There was a lot of funny stuff out there, with folks getting oddball results out of the chatbots, and using the image generators to make some really crazy images. Initially, it seemed pretty harmless, but also fairly useless.

Then came the op-eds and think pieces from people worried about the impact that these things could have on the world. Everything from worry about AI causing human extinction, to ChatGPT replacing writers and programmers, to the environmental cost of running all this stuff. A lot of that was overblown, I think.

But recently, something pushed me over the edge and I decided I had to start learning some of this stuff. I’m not even sure what did it, exactly. Either way, I’ve been digging into this stuff, and I thought I’d write up some notes.

First, I’ve been looking at two primary categories of “AI” here: the LLM chatbots, and the image generators. I like playing around with the image generators, but I haven’t found much practical use for them, and they’re not that interesting to me, so I’m going to skip talking about those. I’ll just say that the Bing image creator is pretty fun to play with.

As to the LLM chatbots, I’ve started playing around with ChatGPT and a few others. I registered for a free account with ChatGPT, which gets me access to GPT-3.5.  Upgrading to ChatGPT Plus for $20/month would get me access to GPT-4, which is supposed to be much better. I don’t think I’ll be doing that, but a number of people seem to think it’s worth it.

At work, we have our own chatbot called “Mindspark”, which is powered by Azure OpenAI, which in turn uses GPT-4 and/or GPT-3.5, if I’m understanding it correctly. It’s internal-facing, and at this point, really just an experiment, I think. I’m not sure if there are any long-term plans for it. Anyway, it’s reasonably good, and also one of the only options, from my work computer. For some reason, we block access to ChatGPT’s web interface, so I can’t use that directly at work. (Which is one of the reasons why I probably wouldn’t pay $20/month for ChatGPT Plus. If I was paying for it, I’d want to have access to it at work and not just at home.) I’ve also noticed that we block Perplexity, and I expect some of the other popular tools. (I’m not sure why, though I’d guess it has something to do with distrust of the privacy policies for those tools and worry that proprietary corporate info will get into them and then maybe leak back out?)

I’ve also played around with Poe, which is a tool that gives you access to a bunch of different AI tools, including ChatGPT. They also have a $20/month plan that gets you access to more advanced models, and lets you use it more. I’m not sure how worthwhile that is, vs. using ChatGPT directly. I guess there’s some utility in having access to multiple sources through a single interface. I definitely want to play around with it some more.

And I’ve tried out the new Bing chat. It’s also powered by GPT under the hood, I think. The nice thing about Bing chat is that, unlike the free version of ChatGPT, it combines web search with GPT, so that it can return more recent information than using ChatGPT alone. (And my company doesn’t block Bing chat, so I can use it at work.)

So that’s my brief overview of the front-end interfaces for LLM back-ends that I’ve tried out. I haven’t found one that is noticeably better than the others, at this point, but I haven’t done much with them yet.

I should also mention that all of these things, for a lot of the use cases I’ve tried, are spectacularly bad at returning correct and/or useful data. In general, I’m not sure if they’re super useful as general research assistants. If you can find an answer to a question with a regular web search or a simple Wikipedia check, that’s way better than asking ChatGPT.

Aside from just playing around with these things, I’ve also been reading some articles and listening to some podcasts. I thought I’d include some podcast links here, for reference.

  • Here’s an episode of the New Yorker Radio Hour from a few months ago, where they did an interview with Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI. It’s somewhat interesting, at a high level.
  • Ezra Klein has done a few shows talking about AI and LLMs and stuff. Some of it is pretty interesting to me, but it’s mostly high-level philosophical stuff, and I’m not sure what I think about some of it.
  • On the more practical side, Scott Hanselman did an episode of his podcast recently where he interviewed a guy who wrote a book on “prompt engineering”. That’s the kind of thing that made me roll my eyes, until I started digging into it a bit. I still think the whole prompt engineering thing is a bit overblown, and I don’t want to read a whole book about it, but I’ll admit that some of it is useful, and I have now watched a couple of LinkedIn Learning videos on the subject.
  • Also on the practical side of things, I’ve queued up a few episodes of .NET Rocks related to AI. This one, from August, looks interesting.
  • And there’s a recent episode of RunAs Radio that got into some good no-nonsense explanations for how LLMs work. I think that episode has a better explanation of the tech involved than anything else I’ve read or listened to. (I’m sure there are other good explanations out there, of course, but this is the best one I’ve stumbled across so far.)
  • And, finally, related to .NET Rocks, I see that Carl has a video series called The AI Bot Show that covers this stuff. I guess I’m going to have to watch some of those.

So, in conclusion, I guess I’m doing a little less eye-rolling at this stuff now. I see some utility in it, and I’m getting a better idea of what it’s good for and what it’s not good for.



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.


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.