Ghost in the Shell – Heart Grenade

I mentioned a while back about how I couldn’t locate the song “Heart Grenade” on Apple Music. I found it today, on a collection called Ghost In The Shell Superb Music, which was released in January. I’m going to try to embed the song below.

The full “Superb” collection seems to be a 5-CD set in a metal can. Pretty cool. The version in Apple Music is missing a bunch of tracks, but that’s fine. The part of my brain that was never going to be happy until “Heart Grenade” was in my iTunes library is now satisfied.

And all this reminds me that I still haven’t gotten around to watching the Netflix GITS show, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045. It’s gotten mixed reviews, but I liked the earlier SAC stuff, so I’ll probably like this one too.

Nor have I watched the 25th anniversary edition of the original Ghost in the Shell movie that I got on Blu-Ray a while back (SteelBook 4K Ultra HD version, of course).

(So much to watch and so little time…)

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.

Heavy Metal

I discovered the Heavy Metal movie soundtrack on Apple Music recently. I had it on vinyl back in the early 80s, when I was in high school. I never bought it on CD, or from iTunes, because, for a long time, it just wasn’t available.

I’m not sure when I first actually saw the movie. It came out in 1981, but I don’t think I saw it until I was in college, so it would have been late 80s. And, likewise, I never got around to buying the movie on DVD or Blu-ray, though I’m pretty sure I had it on VHS at one point.

Anyway, I really listened to that soundtrack album a lot. Hearing it again is triggering long-dormant neurons in my brain. Now I guess I should buy the Blu-ray and see how many neurons get lit up by that.

I’ve been meaning to try an Apple Music embed on this blog, and it might as well be this. So here you go: the Heavy Metal soundtrack! It’s pretty corny and dated, but it’s one of my favorite albums from my misspent youth.

Sunday morning

I’m not sure I should really be writing a blog post right now, but I might as well give it a shot. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I’m still a little groggy. But I want to post a few links and get some stuff out of my head, so here goes.

First topic: Biden’s inauguration. A lot has already been written about that, and I don’t really have much to add, but I’d like to note one item of interest: Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem. Here’s an article from the NY TImes and one from NPR, both of which include video. I think it’s worth watching her read the whole thing. I’m not really a fan of this particular style of poetry, but I really think this was the right poem (and poet) for this particular moment in time. Here’s an interview with Gorman, again from NPR, from the day before the inauguration. And here’s something from Literary Hub, with every inaugural poem, ever. (There aren’t that many.)

Next (and completely different) topic: robocalls. I’ve been getting a lot of them lately. I can’t do much about those that come in on my home phone line. I get so few calls on that number that nearly all the calls I do get are robocalls (or unsolicited calls from actual humans). I’ve thought about dropping the line entirely, but I don’t really want to lose that phone number. Porting it over to a VOIP provider that does robocall screening is possible, I guess, but I don’t really want to mess with that right now.

For my cell phone, I’ve started looking at iOS call screening apps. I already have Verizon’s Call Filter app enabled on my phone, but it doesn’t do much. And I sometimes turn on the iOS silence unknown callers feature, but I can’t leave that on all the time. Here’s a Washington Post article from 2019 that I used as a good starting point for third-party apps. I’m worried about the privacy implications of some of them. For now, I’ve installed and enabled Nomorobo. The Sweet Setup, in this 2017 article, named Nomorobo as the best app for blocking robocalls. The guy who wrote that article shares a lot of the same privacy concerns that I have, and Nomorobo is just about the only app that doesn’t have some privacy issues. I’m on a two-week trial subscription. So far, I don’t think it’s successfully blocked any robocalls, so it’s not looking good. Since robocallers can basically just randomize their phone numbers, I’m not sure any call blocking solution is going to be really effective.

I’ll probably give up on the whole idea and just stick with the “silence unknown callers” method. That does mean that I’ll have to continue toggling it on and off, whenever I’m expecting a call from someone that’s not in my contacts (like a mechanic or doctor’s office that might not be calling from their main number). Here’s a blog post from someone comparing the utility of SUC vs DND (do not disturb). My thoughts on it are pretty similar to his. I think SUC would be a lot more useful if Apple would put a toggle for it in control center.

Next topic (also completely different): Sátántangó. I mentioned about a month ago that I had pre-ordered the new Blu-ray release. It should have shown up this weekend, but apparently got lost somehow. So I guess I’m not going to spend the day watching a 7.5-hour, black & white, Hungarian film.

Last topic: Harold Budd. I was listening to a podcast this week and the host mentioned that Budd had passed away recently. I did a little searching and found obituaries from the Times and NPR. His death was apparently related to Covid-19, so that’s one more artist lost in 2020 to this pandemic. My favorite Harold Budd album is The Pearl, an album he recorded with Brian Eno in 1984. Today might actually be a good day to listen to some Harold Budd. Some nice slow ambient piano music might just help me get my brain back on track, after last night’s troubled sleep.

 

New Year’s Day 2021

I’ve been writing big New Year’s Day posts on this blog every year for the last several years. I might as well do one this year too. Obviously, last year was a doozy, and a lot of stuff has changed, and a lot is still in flux. I’m not even sure where to start. So I’ll start with links to the last few New Year’s posts:

And I guess I’ll follow a format not too different from previous years.

Health, Weight, and Sleep

My weight has been pretty steady at around 135 pounds this year. It dipped a bit in spring & summer, getting down to 130 briefly, but has rebounded back to 135. I dropped some weight at the beginning of the pandemic, probably because I wasn’t eating any take-out food. I’m still logging all of my meals with Lose It, which I’ve been using since 2013.

I’m also still using Sleep Cycle as an alarm clock and to log my sleep. I’ve been having some weird dreams this year, but apparently so has everyone else. My sleep quality has been mixed, I’d say. Some nights I’m fine, and some nights I’m not.

I was pretty good about exercise through the spring and summer. I did a lot of walking. I’ve cut back on the walks now, since it’s been getting colder. If I don’t go out for a morning walk now, I try to do ten minutes on my exercise bike instead. (I’m glad I didn’t get rid of that thing.) I need to be careful about not letting up too much through the rest of the winter.

On the meditation front, I’ve certainly done more meditation this year than I’d usually do. One of the reasons for that is that I’ve been working from home since March, so it’s easy to take a ten minute midday meditation break. Back when I was working in a cubicle, I was too self-conscious to meditate at work. (And, really, the office environment is too noisy for meditation anyway.) I was using Insight Timer for most of this year, but I switched to Calm in December, since I had a deal to get a free year of Calm Premium. I have enough opinions on meditation apps right now that I should probably hold them for another post. But overall, I’d say that meditation helped me get through this crazy year.

I did finally get my hearing checked this year, in March, just before the pandemic lockdown really kicked in. The results were pretty much what I expected: I’ve lost a lot of hearing in my left ear. My right ear is fine. The doctor said that I’m not really at the stage where a hearing aid would make sense. My hearing issues haven’t really much mattered this year, though. If I’m talking to anybody at work, it’s on my computer, and I can just turn up the volume as much as I need. And I’m never in a crowded restaurant with a lot of background noise, so that’s not a problem either.

Work and Professional Development

I’m feeling very lucky to have had a good, steady, job this year, and to be able to work from home. My performance review for 2020 was very good. I didn’t really expect a raise this year, given the general state of the economy, but I got one. So that’s all good. There are going to be a lot of challenges ahead, going into 2021. Again, that’s probably a whole blog post of its own though.

On the professional development front, one nice thing to come out of 2020 was a lot of free virtual conferences. I didn’t participate in as many of those as I would have liked, but I did manage to watch some content from Microsoft Build and Microsoft Ignite. Most of my efforts at learning new stuff this year were centered around SharePoint Framework (SPFx) and Microsoft’s Power Platform stuff. I wasn’t really successful in getting any projects done with any of this new stuff in 2020 though. I have a couple of big projects at work that will really need to get done in 2021. I’m still not even sure if I’ll be using SPFx or Power Platform or something else though.

Looking at last year’s post, I see I was talking about trying to learn maybe Rust or Swift in 2020. I definitely didn’t do that. The one new general thing I tried to learn in 2020 was React. And that was mostly because I needed to learn it for SPFx.

Finance

I’m in pretty good shape, financially. Certainly better than most people, given the state of things. I’ve actually seen my checking account balance grow this year, presumably because I didn’t spend any money on travel, or on day trips to NYC, or even on a lot of little things like restaurant meals and gas for my car and Starbucks coffee. I expect 2021 will be similar. Given how little interest I make on my checking account, I really need to shunt some money over into my Merrill account and buy some more shares in an S&P 500 fund. The stock market (after a brief crash back in March) has done surprisingly well this year. And I probably need to sit down with a financial advisor at some point in 2021 and move some money around. There’s some stuff I want to do to simplify my finances a bit, but I can’t do it without figuring out the tax implications.

I opened two new credit card accounts this year, which is pretty unusual for me. I traded in the AmEx Green card I’d had since college for an AmEx EveryDay card. That was done mostly because the fee on the Green card had gone up to $150, so I wanted to replace it with a fee-free card. And I finally gave in and got an Apple Card. I’ve only used the Apple Card to buy my new Apple Watch, in November. I don’t really anticipate using it for anything other than Apple Store purchases.

I’ve also been thinking about getting an Amazon Prime credit card. I spent nearly $2000 at Amazon this year, so the 5% back could be as much as $100 for me. There’s really no reason for me not to get it, other than not wanting to add yet another card to my wallet.

Subscriptions

I’m always obsessing over subscriptions. The pandemic has caused me to pull the trigger on a few subscriptions that I’ve been holding out on for years. Partially because I have some extra money to spend (as noted above), and partially because I have some extra time to kill at home. So I might as well spend some money and time on nice stuff that’ll distract me from the horrible state of the world right now.

I finally subscribed to Apple Music. I signed up for a six-month free trial in October, so I don’t need to start paying for it until April. But I will likely keep it going when that happens. After years of trying to resist switching from CDs & MP3s to a subscription service, I’ve finally given in and embraced the new way of doing things.

I’ve also signed up for Disney+ and Hulu. I wanted Disney+ for The Mandalorian and Soul. And Hulu had a Black Friday deal where you could get the ad-supported tier for $2/month for a year, so that seemed worthwhile. I’m still resisting HBO Max, but I might give in on that one too eventually. If Wonder Woman 1984 had gotten better reviews, I’d probably have done it by now.

I might also sign up for the Apple One subscription bundle at some point in 2021. I don’t really need Apple TV+ or Apple Arcade, but if the pandemic keeps going, I’ll probably give in on that.

Books and Comics

According to Goodreads, I read 86 books in 2020. I’d set a goal of 100 books, and I didn’t reach it, but I’m OK with that. Most of those were comics, but (again) I’m fine with that.

For my Great American Read group, I didn’t really get through much, but I did finish Gone With The Wind in March, so that was a big one. I also read White Teeth, Invisible Man, and The Outsiders from the TGAR list. I’m still an admin in that group, and we’re still posting monthly group reads, but I’m not sure why I’m still bothering with that. The other admin is doing about half the work, so that’s good. I feel like we’re going to have to wind that group down in 2021, but I’m not in a hurry to do so.

My favorite comics of the year were probably the Resident Alien collections that I read back in May. And the Locke & Key series was also surprisingly good.

I’m still ordering a few titles from Westfield every month, but I think I’m going to wind that down over the next few months. I haven’t gotten on board with DC’s Future State thing, and I’m not reading any Marvel books. So that just leaves a few books from smaller publishers, and it’s probably best if I just switch to digital and/or trades for those. Also, my Comixology backlog is nearly 200 books (mostly collections, not single issues), so just working through that could take me a few years.

Movies

As I mentioned recently, I watched a lot of movies in 2020. Looking at Letterboxd, I see that I watched a total of 73. Probably my favorite film of the year (that actually came out in 2020) was Soul. My second favorite would have been Onward, so the year for me was bookended with solid Pixar films. I did a rewatch of all four Avengers films early in the year, and a rewatch of all the Daniel Craig Bond films just recently. Those were both fun distractions. I also tried to watch a bunch of Kurosawa films, but I only got through four. For 2021, I want to watch some more Kurosawa, and maybe rewatch a bunch of Miyazaki films. (I bought several of them on Blu-ray earlier this year, and haven’t watched any of those discs yet.)

Summary

I am kind of proud of myself for getting through 2020 in one piece, not too much worse for wear. I managed to avoid putting on weight, picking up a drinking habit, getting COVID, and losing my job. I think my mental health is reasonably OK, all things considered. I’m trying not to stress about things I didn’t do. I’d like to have spent more time on “enriching” activities and less on pure distraction, but I’m mostly OK with having watched 73 movies and lots of TV, and having read a lot more comics this year than novels or non-fiction books.

I’m expecting the first couple of months of 2021 to be pretty rough. I think the vaccine rollout will be slow. I don’t expect a change in the status quo on mask wearing and social distancing and working from home. Winter will probably still be in full force through to early March, so we’re not going to be able to do much outdoors. I think the current surge of COVID cases will continue through February, and not start to let up until March. I don’t see us all being able to return to anything like normality until very late in 2021, if at all. But, hopefully, by summer, we’ll have enough folks vaccinated and the political situation will have stabilized enough that we’ll start on the road to “normal.”

I’m thinking a lot about short-term strategies for getting through winter. Things like getting my groceries delivered, watching a lot more “comfort” TV, reading a lot of comics, working out on the exercise bike, meditating, blogging, journaling, whatever helps. I’m not making any resolutions for 2021. I’m going to take it day by day, and I think that’s what we’re all going to have to do.

 

end of vacation, end of year

So it’s back to work tomorrow, after my week-long vacation. Looking at my “things to do on vacation” list, I didn’t do any of them. Which is fine. I did a few things, including updating my MacBook to Big Sur, sending out my Christmas cards, reading the entire Locke & Key comic book series, and, um… replacing the battery in my smoke detector. Yeah, I know those aren’t big accomplishments, but hey, it was supposed to be a vacation, right?

I’ve also been doing a lot of end-of-year thinking and planning. I got a few end-of-year things done this week, and there are a bunch more that I’m still working on. One thing, of course, is figuring out which services/subscriptions to keep and which to cancel, and whether or not I should be signing up for anything new right now. So the rest of this post is going to turn into yet another rumination about all that stuff.

For video, I added Disney+ recently, and also Hulu, via their $2/month Black Friday deal. So now I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu for video services. I’ve been thinking about canceling my traditional cable subscription, but I still haven’t done that. It’s looking like my cable bill might go up by $20/month in January, so that’s pushing me more in that direction. I’ve been experimenting with using my Apple TV more and my TiVo less, and figuring out how to get some of the stuff I like on regular TV without a cable subscription. I can get most (or all) of the PBS content I want from the PBS Apple TV app. And I can watch clips of the late-night shows on YouTube. So that’s probably fine.

For music, I’ll probably let my Apple Music free trial turn into a paid subscription when the trial is up. I’m actually using it a lot.

For comics, I do intend on dropping my Westfield subscriptions at some point, but I haven’t done it yet. For December, I would have had just three comics on my order, but I added a couple of graphic novels. That might be my last order, or I might hang in there for two more months. I have a couple of series I’d like to complete before giving up on print comics.

I’ve also been thinking about some financial stuff. Specifically, I’ve been assessing my credit card situation. I signed up for the Apple Card recently, as I’ve probably mentioned here before. I don’t like some things about that card, but the cash back for Apple Store purchases makes it worthwhile. Now that I’ve had it for awhile, I think I’m a little more OK with it than I initially was. Even though I can’t download transactions from it directly into Quicken, the process for saving a QFX file and importing it into Quicken isn’t that bad. And the Apple Card is better about privacy than most other cards, so maybe I should consider using it for more stuff.

Meanwhile, I switched my AmEx card from the Green card to the EveryDay card earlier this year. That was a good decision, since the Green card annual fee was going up to $150/year, and had mostly travel-related bonuses. The EveryDay card has no fee and has extra bonuses for everyday stuff like groceries. So it’s almost like I knew the pandemic was coming, when I switched back in February. I’ve certainly spent a lot more money on groceries this year than I have on travel.

I’ve been spending a heck of a lot of money at Amazon this year too, so that’s got me thinking about signing up for the Amazon Prime credit card. That gives you 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, which would have gotten me as much as $100 this year, depending on which purchases are eligible. But if I get that card, then I’ll have a total of five cards (Citi MC, AmEx, Macy’s, Apple, and Amazon), which might be too many cards. Maybe I should drop the Macy’s card. I’ve ordered a few things from them online this year, but not nearly as much stuff as I’ve ordered from Amazon.

I’m a little worried about how opening multiple new credit cards in one year might affect my credit score. But, then again, I’m not planning on borrowing any money any time soon, so I probably shouldn’t care about that. I don’t know. I guess it’s good to have enough free time and enough money to mess around with all this stuff.

Splendid isolation

Sometimes, I take a little time and go through my unread Pinboard links, and try to clean them up a bit, deleting some if they’re no longer applicable, and maybe reading a few random articles that I’d bookmarked long ago. Today, I stumbled across this one: Splendid isolation: how I stopped time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours, a fairly long article from The Guardian that I’d bookmarked back in January.

I know the phrase Splendid isolation as the title of a Warren Zevon song, but apparently it’s a term “used to describe the 19th-century British diplomatic practice of avoiding permanent alliances,” according to Wikipedia. (And I see I’ve referenced the song previously on this blog.)

Anyway, that article from January predates the pandemic, of course. The concept of “isolation” in general has cropped up a lot this year. I’ve been following Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Journals, for instance, though I’ve fallen behind in reading those emails, so they’re piling up in my “read/review” folder, along with a bunch of other stuff.

Isolation has come up in some music I’ve listened to this year, including this Music For Isolation project and this Isolate With compilation. I’m also kind of interested in Ulrich Schnauss’ ‎A Strangely Isolated Place. It’s an older album, but I’ve only started to listen to Schnauss recently. I don’t suppose there’s much point in just linking to a bunch of music with the word “isolation” in the title, but it amused me for a few minutes, and it’s all good music.

Anyway, the article I started this blog post with is a pretty good one and has got me thinking about my relationship to time right now. It definitely changes, when you’re home all day and the lines between home and office pretty much disappear. I find myself getting distracted a lot and then feeling guilty for not getting enough work done. And I’m trying to impose some discipline on my “free time” also, feeling guilty if I don’t make some progress in a book I’m reading, or fall too far behind on a TV show I’m watching, or whatever. I feel that I need to try to maintain a certain schedule and a certain amount of discipline to keep myself sane and on track, but it’s starting to wear me down.

I have several vacation days left that I have to use up before the end of the year. I’ve scheduled a full week off in early December. In any other year, I’d have plenty of interesting things to do with a week off. But this year, a lot of my usual options are either closed off or a bit too risky for me right now. I kind of like the idea of disappearing into the woods for a day and just sitting in a circle and doing nothing for 24 hours. But that’s maybe a little too extreme for me. Maybe just having a full week where I don’t have to get through work every day will be enough to let me hit the reset button on my anxiety, at least a bit. Maybe I can relax into some unstructured randomness. (Though I suspect the results of the election will affect my anxiety level, for better or worse, more than any amount of vacation time will.)

Evernote, and Apple, and other stuff

In my last post, I mentioned that I had not yet upgraded to the new version of Evernote on iOS, Windows, or Mac, nor had I been prompted to upgrade. Yesterday, the iOS client got pushed down to my iPhone. And I was prompted on my PC to upgrade to the new Windows client. (I skipped that and stuck with the old version for now.)

The iOS client is fine. I don’t have any issues with it. It looks good, and it’s no less functional than the old client, as far as I can tell. It’s not particularly fast, but neither was the old iOS client. So I went ahead and updated it on my iPad too. It works fine there. So no problems with iOS.

For Windows, I decided to upgrade it on my Lenovo laptop and play with it a bit. I’ve honestly barely used that laptop since I bought it back in June. So it seemed like a good place to try out the Windows client without having to worry about messing up my regular setup. The new client works fine, and I think I like a few things about it more than the old client, but I’d need to work with it some more to be sure. It seems to be a little slower than the old Windows client. And the font looks a little weird, but that might just be that I need to tweak the display settings on the laptop. There’s a dark mode, and I’ve found that it works better for me than the light mode. Overall, it definitely seems to be less configurable than the old version, but there’s nothing in particular that I want to change, and can’t.

On another subject: I’ve upgraded both my iPhone and iPad to iOS 14. I waited for 14.1 to come out before upgrading. I’ve had no issues on either the iPhone or iPad. I’ve messed around with widgets a bit, but I haven’t gone nuts with them. For now, I’m just leaving them on their own screen. There’s not much else in iOS 14 that I’m really interested in, but I do want to try out the “headphone accommodations” feature at some point, given that I’m partially deaf in my left ear, but have (fairly) normal hearing in my right ear. Maybe it’ll help.

Upgrading the iPhone triggered the notice to upgrade my Watch to watchOS 7. That turned out to be quite a problem. The update needed 3.1 GB of free space, and I didn’t have that much. In the past, rebooting the watch would often clear enough space to run an update, but this time I had to go as far as un-pairing and re-pairing it. That basically wipes it and leaves you with a fresh OS install, so I then had to go back and reinstall apps and redo my watch face customizations and reset all my preferred options. And it turns out that watchOS 7 doesn’t really do much for you if you have a Series 3 watch, like I do. I was hoping for at least the handwashing timer, but you need a Series 4 for that.

So that’s got me thinking about picking up a new watch. And, of course, with the iPhone 12 out, I’m a little tempted to trade in my phone too. Both my phone and watch are a little less than two years old, and I like to hold on to these things for three years minimum, if I can. So I probably shouldn’t be thinking about buying new Apple gear. But, hey, in a year when I couldn’t travel at all and haven’t had to spend hardly any money on gas or car maintenance, why not blow a few bucks on unnecessary Apple hardware?

And on one last Apple-related note: I got a lot of enjoyment out of my Apple Music subscription today. The new Bruce Springsteen album came out, and I listened to that twice. And there’s a video interview with Bruce that I watched. (Or mostly just listened to, since I was working at the time.) And a new Jeff Tweedy album came out today, so I listened to that too. And I discovered the “My New Music” mix today. Apple already knows enough about my musical taste to put together a pretty good mix, including new AC/DC, Elvis Costello, John Cale, Pixies, and Bob Mould. So I’m feeling pretty good about Apple Music right now.

still fiddling with Apple Music

I spent some more time today fiddling with Apple Music. (I may have even let myself get a little too distracted from work today. I’ll have to be more careful tomorrow.)

I noticed this article on MacRumors, about Disney adding some new content to Apple Music. And I remembered that I’d added the Legacy Collection version of the Fantasia soundtrack to my Amazon wish list some time ago. It’s a 4 CD version of the soundtrack. It’s actually not that expensive, only $20 from Amazon, but I’d never gotten around to ordering it. So I checked Apple Music, and it’s up there. So I started my work day listening to that.

Later, I started messing around a bit with the idea of replacing some old purchased and matched tracks with higher bitrate versions from Apple. I’d read this article some time ago, and found it again today, and thought it’d be fun to try it out. My first attempt was a bust. I had purchased the original version of the Allman Brothers At Fillmore East album years ago, from iTunes. So the files on my hard drive were .m4p files, encoded at a relatively low bitrate. So my hope was that I could replace them with 256k .m4a files. Long story short, I managed to accidentally delete them from my library, rather than just from my hard drive, and that apparently removes even the entry for the album in your purchase history. So that didn’t work out so well. But I had the original files backed up, so I just put them back. Meanwhile, I looked around in Apple Music, and I see that there’s a 2 CD deluxe edition, and a 6 CD super deluxe edition too. So I added the 2 CD version to my library and decided not to worry about the old one. (I might look at the 6 CD version at some point, but I don’t really need six hours of Allman Brothers right now.)

My second try worked out a bit better. I had an old Afro Celt Sound System album that I’d ripped a long time ago, at a low bitrate. All the songs on it had matched, so I went ahead and deleted them (from my drive this time, and not from my library), and re-downloaded them. Now I have a good 256k, DRM-free, version of it. I might have some more albums I could try that on, but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

One more thing I messed around with today was poking through my old iTunes wish list and seeing if anything on it was available in Apple Music. I hadn’t added anything to that wish list in a long time, but there were a few interesting things on there. One big one was Itzhak Perlman – The Complete Warner Recordings 1972 – 1980. I’m not even sure how many CDs that would be, but it’s 23 hours of music. And I see they also have his complete recordings for 1980 – 2002, which is another 44 hours of stuff! I didn’t add either of those to my library yet, but I’ve bookmarked them for the next time I’m on a big Itzhak Perlman kick.

And one very little thing I had on my wish list was the song Heart Grenade by Sean Lennon and Cornelius. It’s used over the end credits for the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Arise, and it’s just a great song. Unfortunately, while it’s available in iTunes to buy for $1.29, it’s not in Apple Music. I found that to be true for a few other oddball songs and albums I tried. Oh well, I guess you can’t get everything for $10/month. Anyway, when I want to listen to Heart Grenade, I can just find it on YouTube. Though maybe I should go ahead and shell out that $1.29.

So, yeah, I need to rein in my natural tendency to start poking around too much during the work day. Maybe I should listen to Ludovico Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking tomorrow, and just stick with that. That’s long enough to fill almost an entire work day, so if I can just commit to that, maybe I can avoid getting too distracted from work.