Things I would not expect in late October

  • So much sunshine (not a complaint)
  • Being able to walk comfortably outside wearing only a t-shirt (well, and pants, too)
  • Flowers still in bloom (I never paid much attention to their seasonality until I started taking pictures this year)
  • Snow (I’m not expecting any to happen this October, though I remember at least one Halloween with a few idle flakes falling on the trick or treaters)
  • Valentine’s Day promotions (still hasn’t happened–yet)

iPad Pro update correction

9to5Mac has an article speculating on a possible October event by Apple in which they might reveal updated iPad Pros. I noticed one error in the article and have corrected it below.

You may accuse me of being cynical, to which I would offer:

  • The pricing of the MacBook introduced in 2015
  • The pricing of the redesigned MacBook Pro in 2016
  • The pricing of the iPhone X in 2017
  • The pricing of the iPhone XS Max in 2018 (also candidate for Worst Smartphone Name 2018)

All of these products saw hefty price increases or were introduced at high prices.

You might counter with a few examples, like:

  • 2017 iPad dropping from $499 to $329 vs. previous gen iPad Air 2
  • AirPods at $159 being priced competitively with other true wireless ear buds
  • Apple Music for $9.99 a month
  • Mac Pro got improved specs at the same price in 2017

To which I would counter:

  • The iPad was cost-reduced to create an artificial distinction between it and the “Pro” line of iPads, with several features made worse than the previous $499 iPad Air 2, notably the 2017 model being heavier, thicker and with an inferior display. The base line iPad may cost less now, but it’s also worse than what Apple offered as the base line previously.
  • AirPods is valid. I think Apple really wanted to carve out market share here. They will offer upgraded AirPods in 2019, with an upgraded price. The original model for $159 will go away.
  • Prediction: In two years Apple Music will be $11.99 per month, eventually rising to $14.99 in five years. Every other streaming service will match Apple’s prices.
  • The Mac Pro is still overpriced and outdated

The rumored improvements to the iPad Pro seem to be extremely thin bezels and Face ID. I don’t find the bezels overly big now on my iPad Pro 10.5″, but sure, make them a littler slimmer if you insist, as it makes the display larger without bumping up the physical size of the unit. They’re also said to be adding Face ID. This also seems like a step backward. On the iPhone I rarely unlock it without also holding it up. I often unlock my iPad when it is laying flat on a desk, a situation that will not work with Face ID.

And that really seems to be about it. Neither of these will dramatically change what an iPad Pro (or any iPad) can do. It’ll still have the same OS, the same limited multitasking, the same everything else, just a little faster and shinier than before. And I fully expect this to cost at least $100-$150 more U.S. I would be willing to bet the iPad 10.5″, rumored to be morphing into an 11″ device with the slimmer bezels, will go from a base price of $869 Canadian to a starting price of $1099. Maybe more, especially if they dump the 64GB model and start at 256GB.

As the total sales volume of iPhone and iPad have flattened (or in the case on the Mac, declined significantly), Apple is shoring up its revenue by raising prices across the board, offering lower prices only where they are deliberately seeking to gain market share or to further justify price differentials between lines, as is the case with the iPad and iPad Pro (the iPad pricing can also be seen as Apple trying to make inroads to the education market and an attempt to shore up a shrinking iPad market). As I mentioned when the iPad Pro was first introduced, this is not sustainable, as Apple will reach a point where people will not buy. The danger there is if they go too far–even by just a little–they risk having sales plummet as people look elsewhere and begin removing themselves from the Apple ecosystem. This wouldn’t happen quickly, of course, but it has the potential to upend the company.

Mostly I don’t mind paying a premium price for a premium product, but I think Apple is starting to trade a little too much on the supposed Apple tax. They don’t need to make that much money. Some would say “let them charge what the market will bear” but the problem with that is a lot of people fundamentally lack common sense. Yes, that is cynical, but the evidence is abundant. I wish it weren’t.

If Apple raises the price of the iPad Pro 10.5/11 inch model by “only” $100 Canadian I will make a new post loudly proclaiming I AM WRONG AND ALSO A BAD PERSON.

It’s October, the Octoberiest month of the year

It’s time for a list, specifically an October list! More specifically, several October lists!

What I expect in October:

  • 31 days
  • 31 nights
  • Temperatures to be on average cooler at the end of the month than at the start
  • Many leaves on the ground
  • Rain
  • Air conditioners put away until next June or thereabouts
  • Halloween
  • Halloween candy
  • Halloween candy to share shelf space with Christmas candy
  • Thanksgiving
  • A pseudo-turkey (a real one doesn’t work well with only two people to eat it, unless you really, really like turkey leftovers

What I have planned in October:

  • To maybe drop below 160 pounds for real
  • Don’t laugh, I’m serious
  • To avoid all Halloween candy
  • To also avoid the Christmas candy
  • To probably avoid fudge
  • Mmm, fudge
  • To pick my NaNoWriMo 2018 novel and outline it in preparation for the glory of NaNoWriMo in November
  • To finally settle on what I’ll be using for writing the above-mentioned masterpiece. Still leaning toward WriteMonkey.
  • To run at least on weekends, no matter what the weather
  • To take more pictures, especially of trees and their leaves
  • To continue spring cleaning four months after spring ended

A list of failure, a list of hope

Here’s a list of things I have tried and failed to do (or didn’t do enough) that I’m thinking of trying again:

  • Typing. I mean, I can type, I just don’t touch-type, and while I’m reasonably fast for someone who uses three fingers instead of ten, I know I could be a lot faster. However, past attempts have not gone well. Still, enough time has passed that I think I’m ready to give this another shot. I may not choose Mavis as my guide this time, though. Sorry, Mavis!
  • Swimming. I live on the coast. Knowing how to swim is a good thing. As with typing, previous attempts did not end with great success. I can at least go into this knowing that I have a fear of water to overcome. Or maybe more precisely, a fear of drowning, which technically requires water (yes, I could also drown in a giant vat of chicken broth, but I’m more likely to go swimming in water than chicken broth).
  • Programming. Just kidding. This is one area where I’ve made peace with my mind just not being suited for this kind of task. I’m okay with that. I like to think I’ve helped someone else gain employment as a programmer through my diligent avoidance of programming.
  • Drawing. I am not bad at drawing, though I’m not good, either. I’d like to dabble in this more as a kind of therapy or meditation. I find doodling soothing and relaxing.
  • Stretching. I just need to do this. I used to stretch before runs, then got paranoid that I’d injure myself. Then I injured myself anyway, probably because I wasn’t stretching. So I plan to start stretching. Then I can say I have a stretch goal. Thank you, I am here all night.

Things we’ll all laugh about in the future: A list

Things we’ll look back on and have a good chuckle about:

  • Facebook
  • Democracy
  • Stable climate
  • Florida
  • Internet-connected anything
  • Fossil fuels

Well, that was kind of depressing. But let me try to expand a bit on each.

Facebook. From a simple way to see what’s happening with your friends and family, no matter where they are, to a complicit force in the spread of conspiracy theories, hate speech and the undermining of democratic governments, Facebook is easily the #1 tech-based scourge. I do not believe its absence would make the world worse in any way, and would really like to see a competitor try to recapture what it originally was. But it may be too big to stop now.

Democracy. The last few years have demonstrated how fragile democracy is. It’s also shown how bonkers the U.S. system of government is. It is something of a miracle that it has stood for so long (that whole civil war notwithstanding). I don’t know what the next few years will bring, but if someone got kidnapped by Bigfoot and was never seen again, like some American president, for example, the world would be better off.

Stable climate. Here’s the thing: the climate on Earth is always changing. Just look up “snowball Earth” to see. But while the climate is changing now and for the worse (as far as human habitation goes), our blundering, polluting ways are making the changes happen faster and with more severe consequences. Short of aliens with superior technology stepping in and saying, “Okay, you dumb Earthlings, you’ve screwed up enough” I don’t think we’re going to see much improvement here.

Florida. Related to the above. It’s not a question of if Florida will be submerged under the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, but when. I wonder if there’s a plan to relocate Walt Disney World?

Internet-connected anything. It’s all a bit silly now, but I have to admit, I still enjoy barking at Google Maps on my phone to “take me home” and getting real-time directions, or using Siri to start a run, add items to a list, or even just record a random thought or idea. Maybe we won’t laugh about this in the future.

Fossil fuels. Unless we learn how to make new dinosaurs and accelerate the millions of years it takes to turn them into oil, fossil fuels are as doomed as Florida. We’ll laugh because of how crude (not an oil joke. Really.) fossil fuels will seem as we jet around in fusion-powered flying cars. Assuming we haven’t nuked the world, of course.

The coolest things ever (when I was 10 years old)

The coolest thing ever (when I was 10 years old). A weird list of food, places, objects and seasons.

  • dinosaurs
  • sharks
  • fire trucks
  • realistic Matchbox cars (I never liked Hot Wheels. I was kind of weird in how I preferred realism)
  • dioramas
  • roller coasters
  • amusement parks
  • canyons (as long as I didn’t get close to the edge)
  • summer days
  • fudge
  • Peanut Buster Parfaits
  • Filet-o-Fish
  • snow days
  • Mad magazine
  • raw peas

Now I want a time machine so I can go back to the summer of 1975 to savor these things (I’m okay with missing the snow days). Some of this list is clearly nostalgia-driven, but a surprisingly large number of these items still rank up there as pretty cool even to my sensible, more jaded adult self.

In fact, the pleasure I’d feel while eating some fresh-baked fudge while ogling a diorama of, say, dinosaurs, on a warm summer day, would be downright intoxicating.

Instead I’ll just do a GIS for fudge and lick the screen of my laptop. Or…maybe not.

Three things I like right now

Time to put a more positive spin on..a couple of things.

  • my legs are still sexy, albeit with less tone than a few months ago. But still sexy.
  • I lost almost four pounds during my kidney infection. Sure, not the best way to lose weight, but a nice (if unintended) boost to my weight loss plan. It’s also helped to steer me away from snacks or at least blatantly calorie-rich ones. I actually bought apples!
  • still no nuclear war

Not the greatest list, but good enough for now. I’ll gussy it up later. I probably won’t, actually, but wanted to use the word “gussy.”

April, the shortest month of the year (when it comes to blog posts)

April was a bad month. Let me make a list:

  • I bombed out on a relatively easy goal for Camp NaNoWriMo 2018
  • I had to visit the emergency room after two days of throbbing pain in my mouth
  • I had to visit the dentist due to the above and get a semi-tooth yoinked due to infection
  • I had to take antibiotics due to the above which have fun side effects like diahhrea
  • I barely ran at all due to weather, my suddenly sore knees and general ennui
  • I gained 1.1 pounds (I’m actually surprised it wasn’t more)
  • I felt like no progress was made in work-related matters (this may change)
  • I wrote almost no fiction at all
  • My one-post-per-day blog rule fell to dust (this is post #21 and I’m pretty sure I’m not cranking out nine more tonight)
  • Other stuff

There were also some good things and I am more hopeful for May. If nothing else the weather should be better.

Also I’m going to start the 21-day complaint-free challenge again. I feel like I went from being super-observant in watching what I was saying (ie. complaining) to just opening my mouth and spewing rants almost randomly. I need to get back on track and find my inner teddy bear.

The spring list

Things to do, things to suffer through, things that just happen. This is spring.

  • warmer weather, yay
  • allergy season, boo
  • bees are back. As long as they are not killer bees, yay
  • still kind of rainy, boo
  • but now the sun feels warm again, yay
  • it’s still light after dinner, yay
  • still dark early in the morning, boo. But it’s early in the morning, so not a big boo.
  • next season is summer, yay
  • Easter weekend has two stat holidays, yay
  • Easter eggs, yay

On balance, spring is a pretty good season.

The Obsolete List: 1964 Edition

Technology always marches forward, except for things like the Dark Ages and I guess World War III. But generally, it marches forward. The pace of change can sometimes be startling, while in other cases it feels like it’s taking a lot longer to progress for unspecified reasons (example: car technology has improved but not substantially changed at a mass production level in over a hundred years. The majority of vehicles are still fueled by gasoline that powers an internal combustion engine. Sure, whizzy electric cars and hybrids have gained, but they’ve yet to take over on a mass scale).

I was born in 1964, the same year a bunch of stuff happened. The Beatles were pretty popular. The American space program was in full swing and only five years away from a moon landing. And cars ran on gasoline that powered internal combustion engines.

But what technology over the past 50+ years has become obsolete or so little-used that it’s effectively obsolete? Most of it is stuff I grew up with. Do I yearn for any of this bygone technology? Let’s have a look at The Obsolete List and find out!

  • Rotary dial telephones. People often still refer to “dialing a number” but no one actually does it anymore. I remember back in Duncan you only had to dial the last five numbers instead of all seven and at the time it made dialing bearable, though you still hoped people had numbers like 222-1111. By the time the proliferation of phone numbers required you to enter all seven digits, plus the area code, we had moved on to push button phones and it was inconvenient but not the utter madness that it would have been on a rotary phone. Do I miss these devices? No. There is no nostalgia value in having to wait for a rotary dial to finish turning before you can enter the next number.
  • 8-track tapes. I’ve discussed these before and the short answer is no: digital music does everything an 8-track tape did, without all the weirdness of putting songs out of order, duplicating tracks, splitting them in two and not to mention the inevitable tape-eating that happened. These had one minor convenience over cassette tape, in that you didn’t have to flip the tape over (if you were one of those poor sods that didn’t have a tape deck that could play both sides automatically). Speaking of…
  • Side A and Side B. Okay, this isn’t technology, strictly speaking, it’s more about how albums were always split into two halves before the Compact Disc (see below) took over. While this allowed some bands to experiment by doing different things on each side, I think the benefit of having a single cohesive whole makes for better albums overall.
  • Cassette tapes. These are still around, so like vinyl, technically not dead, but it’s very much a niche product. While more compact than vinyl, durability was always iffy, with tapes unceremoniously unspooling and getting eaten in the tape deck. You also ended up with the degraded tape exhibiting a lot of pops, cracks and other un-musical sounds. May casette tapes rest in pieces, I say.
  • Floppy disks. No one in their right mind would miss these. Everything now is better. I still have a box of them dating back to the mid 90s. I wonder if they would be readable today? (I checked and you can get a USB floppy disk drive for $30. I’m not sure it’s worth $30 to find out.)
  • Compact Disc (CD). Officially introduced to the world in 1993, they became the dominant music format by the end of the decade. Now, with digital music and especially with the rise of streaming music, the CD is not dead but is on life support. It had a few advantages over vinyl: better audio quality (provided the recording was managed properly–vinyl aficionados will always argue that records offer a “warmer” sound than CD), a more, ahem, compact format, the ability to hold more music (about 75 minutes, where vinyl was pushing it at 48-50 minutes) and because the disc was read by a laser, you no longer had to worry about a needle scratching across your record when you bumped the player. Instead you had to worry about the laser blinding you. Do I miss CDs? Really, no. They were better than vinyl and tape, but ultimately they now look like more of a stopgap on the way to digital music. And they could still get scratched and have playback suffer. Plus the album art was hard to make out.
  • Compact Disc-Recordable (CD-R). These were discs you could record to (multiple times in the case of CD-RW) and they allowed for early mass backup/storage. But they were slow, prone to errors and clunky to use. DVD-Rs were not much better, just higher capacity. I do not miss these. As with floppy disks, everything now is better.
  • Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs and monitors. You know, the big, boxy things that you could warm your cat on and weighed between 50 and 1000 pounds. While the cats probably miss them–LCD monitors and TVs offer little room to accommodate sleeping felines–the only aspect I miss about CRT monitors is how blacks were much..blacker. This is offset today by OLED technology, but OLED hasn’t really percolated into widespread use, apart from some TVs, smartphones and laptops, because it’s still really expensive. I don’t miss the weight, energy cost, blurry text or industrial beige styling of most CRT monitors, though.
  • Digital watches. OK, these aren’t obsolete, but with watches now being more fashion statements than actual timepieces, who would still wear one? Anything a digital watch can do can be done better on a smartphone, or even a smartwatch. Still, I kind of miss that Casio I had back around 1978 or so. It could play 12 songs for no real reason and it was cool to set alarms. It felt like being in the future. As digital watches go, it wasn’t hideously ugly, either. At least that’s the way I remember it.
  • Mimeograph machines. I remember these from elementary school, circa 1971-1977. They produced weird purple text and the ink smelled strange and alien. Smudges abounded. It felt like 1850s technology that somehow lasted into the 1970s. I don’t miss them. I suspect teachers may have paid for the privilege of smashing these machines when photocopies and printers replaced them. Speaking of…
  • Dot matrix printers. These are still used in some places where multi-part forms are needed and the people there haven’t figured out how to load a tray with three different kinds of paper at once. They were noisy, slow, pretty bad at graphics, did I mention noisy, required ribbons you had to wind and worst of all, they would go haywire as soon as you turned your back to them. It was like they knew and waited to misfeed the paper. Again, I don’t miss these. Ink jet printers are better in all ways, save for ink drying out if not used for long periods of time, but that’s easily solved by getting a laser printer instead. Or just go paperless, like we were supposed to 40 years ago.
  • Microfiche. This was very cool in the early 80s. It’s been superseded by, well, computers, and the ability to digitize content. Back in the olden days you had to load a negative from, say, a newspaper, into a microfiche reader, then zoom in and pan around like you were using a microscope, except instead of bacteria, you were examining old news stories. I actually do kind of miss this. Looking back on the times I used them, it felt like I was doing real research and making real discoveries instead of just typing something into Google’s search box and getting 10 million results. The latter is still better, mind you.

More to come as I think of them.

My Top 10 Albums of 2017

Or “Why I don’t know anything about the current state of pop music.”

I apparently only bought seven albums this year. That may actually be higher than average compared to most album buyers, since the album format is either dead or dying (or just on a temporary downward trend if you’re feeling less doom and gloom about it).

The albums I bought fall into these categories:

  • Albums previously owned but purchased for the sake of having them in digital format: 1
  • Albums bought because a friend had them and I liked them and they were on sale: 2
  • Albums that were cheap and had at least one song I liked so I figured why not: 4
  • Albums I bought that were released in 2017: 0
  • Albums I bought that were released in the 21st century: 0
  • The year each of the seven albums were released:
    • 1976
    • 1978
    • 1982
    • 1983
    • 1984
    • 1986
    • 1992

So really, this was an exercise in 1980s nostalgia. Not surprising since that was the formative decade for my taste (or lack thereof) in music. The seven albums are:

  • Hotel California, The Eagles. I’ve heard the title track a billion times and somehow I am still not tired of it. The rest of the album holds up well given its age and Don Henley’s cynicism is just as appropriate–or moreso–in 2017.
  • The Cars, The Cars. The Cars! This album got played endlessly in Drawing and Painting class in junior high but I didn’t mind because it’s a crazy good pop confection.
  • Vacation, The Go-Go’s. Worth it for the title track, “He’s So Strange” and “Worlds Away.” Not quite as catchy as their first album but pretty close.
  • Eliminator, ZZ Top. For some reason I can never bring myself to listen to the whole album, just the singles that I’m familiar with like “Sharp-Dressed Man” and “Legs.” I have no buyer’s regret.
  • Welcome to the Pleasuredome, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. What an improbable success. A friend had this on that newfangled CD format and it’s a bizarre mix of covers, ersatz prog rock, dance music and ballads. Somehow it works, in no small part due to Holly Johnson’s commanding presence.
  • Crowded House, Crowded House. A lovely pop album with one of the most essential songs of the 80s, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
  • Harvest Moon, Neil Young. The title track is a sweet ballad and the rest of the album is similarly soothing as Young gets quiet instead of weird or angry.

Maybe one of my resolutions for next year will be to buy an album released next year. Hey, it’s happened before! (Last time in 2014.)

If I had a million dollars

First, a million dollars wouldn’t go nearly as far as it once did. Heck, you couldn’t even buy a lot of fairly ordinary homes in Vancouver for a million dollars.

So let’s start with if I had ten million dollars. What would I do with my riches, assuming I hadn’t acquired the money by extorting a bunch of strangely wealthy orphans?

  • Buy a fairly ordinary home in Vancouver. That immediately takes care of about 10% of the windfall.
  • I suppose I’d get a car of some kind, something nice but not flashy. I’d have to get my driver’s license renewed, too.
  • Give a couple million to a few charities/good causes. I don’t have a list yet, I’d have to do some research.
  • Buy a 4K TV. honestly, I’d have to come into a lot of money unexpectedly before I could get past the  first world guilt of getting something I absolutely positively don’t need.
  • Give some money to my co-workers before quitting. Because I’d totally quit. The last two weeks would be glorious.
  • Give some money to family and friends–equal amounts, no favorites. No limits on what the money could be used for, as long as it was legal. If someone wants to spend thousands on Beanie Babies, who am I to deny them?
  • Stash away a bunch of money in some sort of interest-generating account or investment (one that is stable, not like “I’m investing in Bitcoin because it’s going to keep going up forever!”) so I always have something to fall back on.
  • Travel. I’m not sure where. Probably across Canada to start. The U.S. is out for the moment as it seems to be in a possibly never-ending downward spiral and I have no desire to deliberately feed any funds into its current government. Or “government” if you prefer. Also, Europe and other places overseas scare me because I hate flying and taking a cross-Atlantic cruise isn’t much better.
  • Buy Twitter and shut it down. I probably couldn’t do this with only $10 million, sadly, but a boy can dream.
  • Maybe buy some Beanie Babies. Just kidding. I’d probably buy giant novelty Rubik’s Cubes instead.
  • Get one of the high end Wacom Cintiq tablets just to see what the fuss is all about. I’d draw stick men and stick trees and somewhere a poor graphic artist would cry out in anguish at the travesty.
  • Buy some macadamia nuts. I love those things but I can’t buy them without thinking they’re some stupid luxury, like caviar or Rolls Royce cars. I wouldn’t buy a lot, though, because that guilt would reassert itself.
  • Probably write a lot more lists. This is not necessarily a positive thing, as you can see here.