Opinions and Facts

The Magic Of Radio

I can’t remember the last time radio was a part of my life. I got my first vehicle somewhere in the mid-90s and from that point on it was CDs, iPods, iPhones, and podcasts. The last real, strong radio related memories I have are laying in bed on Sunday nights during high school and listening to Dr. Demento from 10 until midnight.

Recently, my friend and band mate, Karl, was espousing the SiriusXM Beatles channel and I was intrigued. I have the capability in my car but have never subscribed since I have more than enough podcasts, audiobooks, music and Spotify to fill all my time. However this Beatles channel sounded cool and I wanted to check it out so eventually, after encountering a mountain of annoyances and technical problems in the research and signing up stages alone (bad form, SiriusXM), I finally managed to sign up for a free 30 day trial of their streaming service.

I found myself lying in bed trying to drift off to sleep to all things Beatles and feeling a little of that magic again. Feeling a connection to the world as these waves streamed in to my bedroom live. I had no control of what played (though there is on-demand content as well if you like) and no idea what would come next. I found it especially appropriate to be reliving this with The Beatles as they often spoke of the influences they heard on the radio that had such a hug impact on them. I felt a kinship knowing that John, Paul, George and Ringo probably spent many a night listening to these magical sounds of rock and roll streaming into their bedrooms.

I’m not sure if I’ll actually subscribe when my trial is over (I also hate the fact that they still use the outdated annoyance model of making customers call if they want to cancel), but the content of The Beatles channel has been cool enough to at least make me consider it.

One Razor to Rule Them All

For many years I used a Mach 3 Power razor (the one that has a AAA battery and vibrates while you shave). Then on a whim, I decided to try the Harry’s razors since Mach 3 cartridges can be a but pricey. I thought, “Well, I’m sure a razor is a razor and these little guys are doing the world a solid!” I had the top of the line chrome Harry’s Winston model and used it for years. But I noticed I wasn’t really happy with my shave. I tended to have to go over and over my face and the blades were so close together that they were hard to rinse and got clogged.

So, on a whim, I went to Wirecutter.com, my go to site any time I want to know “What’s the best (insert thing here),” and sure enough they’re top pick was the Mach 3 Power. Sadly, I had got rid of mine in the intervening years and the model they specifically recommended has become really hard to find (though any Mach 3 power, or Mach 3 will likely give you as good of a shave). I don’t shave every day and a cartridge can last me quite a long time. Combine that with the fact that you can get Mach 3 cartridges cheaper if you buy them in bulk on Amazon or wherever, and it seemed worth the extra dough for a better shave.

Years ago I tried the whole “Safety Razor, badger hair brush” thing that many sites rave about as “the best shave” but I never liked it. After a year or two I went back to my Mach 3. I just don’t want to put that much time, effort and thought into shaving.

So here I was being led back to the razor I had previously used. Because I’m a weirdo, I wanted the specific model they recommended (mostly because I liked the green) so I ended up getting one off ebay from a guy in Korea for like $20. I just had my first shave with it and I’m never going back. Such a huge difference. So learn from my experience and research, and just get yourself one of the Mach 3 line. I’ve been to Mordor and back, shaving all the orcs along the way, and I can say it is the one razor to rule them all.

“Well, I’m back,” he said.

On Spoilers: Consideration Has No Statute Of Limitations

I never thought Star Wars and spoilers in general would become more of a hot button jihad inducing topic than religion, politics, Mac Vs. PC, or iOS vs. Android, but it seems it has.

There seems to be a new trend that I’m calling the “Spoilers Rights Advocates” who think that after (T=arbitrary and differing individual lengths of time ranging from 3 days to 10 years) that they no longer have any obligation to be considerate of others and if you haven’t seen the movie then “that’s on you.” I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I disagree. Well, I mean it is true that they have no “obligation” or responsibility to do so, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a great thing to do.

I know of plenty of people who don’t have the luxury that I have of prioritizing going to see a movie. I have a friend who is always extremely busy, pregnant (not always, but at the moment), and wants to watch the original 6 before she goes to see 7. I’ve read many posts from others with other such reasons for not having seen it yet. And they do care. I’ve had a handful of discussions on the matter over the last few days on social media. Some have been very civil and intellectual. Others have ended up with all kinds of aggression, name-calling and fiery indignation coming my way. “Go outside!”, “Get some friends!”, “Get off the internet!” are just a few choice bon mots. Accusations of grandstanding, martyrdom, gaslighting, and so much more! You’d think you had stumbled into a discussion on race, religion and terrorism. Yes, I am a grade A, top choice, huge ass-hat, like an ass-sombrero for thinking that the world would be a better place with a little more consideration (oh, there’s me playing the victim card again…another accusation). I thought I was coming from a good place. I had no resentment, aggression, negative feelings or anything like that, and yet even apologies were met with outright hostility and indignation somehow twisting my words and attempts to diffuse the situation into more accusations. Eventually I realized there was nothing else to do but leave (which I’d tried to do earlier in the meltdown but that was also viewed as me playing the victim and other “tactics” on my part).

I don’t get it. I don’t get the attitude, the ire, or any of it. It’s really this simple with me: consideration has no statute of limitations. People often come back with “Oh, so are you gonna tag spoilers on [SPOILER FROM ORIGINAL STAR WARS], or, [SPOILER FROM SIXTH SENSE], [SPOILER FROM CITIZEN KANE], [SPOILER FROM THE CRYING GAME], [SPOILER FROM ANY SHAKESPEARE PLAY]?”

Yes. Yes I am. Because it costs me nothing. It doesn’t inconvenience me at all. My quality of life and the enjoyment of it is not in any way adversely affected by not posting that spoilery cartoon. Or at the very least tagging it as such. On several such posts, I’ve commented “SPOILER” not to in any way chastise the poster or try to bend them to my will but simply as a warning to anyone who might stumble upon it and care. And there have been comments from people such as “I haven’t seen it yet…mostly bc I have this little baby and also bc Alamo was sold out when we tried to go over the break. I glanced at your pic and then saw the word SPOILER on your friends comment, so I haven’t looked at it again. Thanks Heath Allyn! (For the record, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan so I wouldn’t cry over a spoiler, BUT I would like to be surprised if there’s a big surprise.)”

So again, I didn’t post asking the person to remove their post, or change it or tag it. I just left a comment explaining why I was leaving that comment as a helpful warning. Which has only been a problem once and led to all the above accusations and name calling. The irony is that I don’t even care that much about spoilers. I do try to avoid them but if I get spoiled, it’s not the end of the world to me and it probably won’t affect my enjoyment, but to others, it is a big deal and I can respect that. I have no reason to say “Fuck you, then! That’s your issue! Stay off the internet because my right to post untagged spoilers after (T: see above) trumps your desire to not be spoiled, which you gave up any way by not seeing the movie fast enough to my liking!”

I actually know of someone who just watched the original trilogy last month. Another friend recently reminded me that she had never seen them until I sent her the VHS tapes somewhere around the early 2000’s. There’s tons of “classic” movies I still haven’t seen. Does that mean I think you’re a big jerkface if you you reveal [SPOILER FROM CAVE PAINTING FROM 550 B.C.]? Of course not, but I certainly appreciate it if you are considerate enough to still tag spoilers or ask if I’ve seen it.

With the reactions of some people you would think I had asked them to strangle a small puppy when all I’m really saying is, some people would really appreciate the tiniest morsel of consideration here, and it’s so effortless and easy. I’m sure I have my share of responsibility in these blowups. Poor phrasing, reacting too emotionally. I know one thing I thought was a good idea but ended up being a mistake was that as I was pruning my feed, there were some folks I wanted to know that though I wouldn’t be reading their posts any more, that I really enjoyed their posts overall and would miss them but that doesn’t work in this context. It just ends up sounding like a big “I’M UNFOLLOWING YOU!” announcement, so lesson learned there.

In the end, there’s some generally great people and some people I don’t know at all who now think I’m the biggest douche-canoe on the planet because I think it would be cool to go beyond our “obligations” and “responsibilities” to maybe, possibly help someone out that you don’t even know would appreciate it and maybe, just maybe make the community of humanity just a little better with a drop of extra consideration.

Of course, the only people who will actually read this are people who probably don’t need to read this, so at least let me say, I appreciate you. And if you can take these genuine, heartfelt words and somehow twist them into something negative, then you don’t know me at all. Which is probably true any way! If this particular form of consideration is just too much for you bear, then try to do something, somewhere, even just the smallest token to make someone else’s world a better place on a regular basis. That’s probably a way better plan any way. I guess all I can hope for is that this is some kind of self-regulating Darwinian mechanism that just keeps me surrounded by only the most amazing people. Seems to have worked so far.

Spoiled Brats (Don’t Be One)

Open letter to all who feel the need to spoil shows before the credits have even finished rolling:
Look, I’m not even that bothered by spoilers. What I am bothered by is the careless attitude.
It is inconsiderate and disrespectful and just not cool. Why do you feel the need? Do you feel the need to be “firsties” or “in with the cool kids who are in the know”? Why the verbal (or textual) diarrhea? Many people can’t watch right away and it’s ridiculous to expect those people to simply avoid the internet completely (which is what would be necessary). I watch shows and then keep my damn mouth shut except for private conversations with people who have seen it and want to discuss it.

And you may think you aren’t spoiling anything by being “vague.” You aren’t. even the vaguest of comments sets viewers to now spend the entire episode looking for that vague thing you mentioned, and in my case, almost always seeing it coming when I wouldn’t have seen it before. Even when purposefully trying to avoid any spoilery conversations, I have been spoiled by accident, by some glimpse that was enough before I could parse what it was and that I shouldn’t read it.

Again, I find the actual spoilers only mildly annoying but the total disregard for other people and their feelings or enjoyment and the entitlement piss me off. If you feel the need to unfriend me over this, I really don’t care. I certainly may at least hide you if you are going to be so inconsiderate of others.

My feed has been ridiculous. Sure there are accidents, and people with good hearts and intentions and people on the other end who are WAY TOO sensitive about spoilers, like “OMG, you said this was a really great episode! SPOILERS!” Or people who think there is no statute of limitations on spoilers. “DAMMIT! Now I know the ending to Soylent Green and The Sixth Sense!”

Just use your heads and try to be considerate. It’s really not that hard. And if you’re selfish enough to think it’s the reader’s problem and they should just live in a cave until they’ve seen something, then good riddance to you.

Who’s The Real April Fool?

I despise April Fools’ Day. Seems like I’ve had a lot of discussion about it this year so I thought I’d collect my various thoughts here in one place.

It’s a day when most people seem to think simply lying is somehow witty or funny. A day when I can’t trust anything anyone says or anything I read. Weeeeee! What fun!

It takes no intelligence or wit to lie to someone. If I tell you I’m engaged, or moving to Alaska, or have cancer, or whatever, none of these things are witty or funny and I didn’t really “get one over on you,” I just lied to you and you believed it because, why the hell shouldn’t you? “Haha! You trust me to be truthful! Sucker!”

It’s just annoying. Some people like Thinkgeek, Google and ACL did funny things but they were funny because they weren’t actually trying to “fool” anyone. They were ridiculous humor.

If Google was like “we are introducing free internet and global wifi coverage! APRIL FOOLS!” That would not be funny.

As my friend Lauren said “April fools day is to comedy what St. Patrick’s Day is to Irish culture.” I just see a lot of annoying lies being pawned off as “Haha! I got you! I’m so clever!”

No. No you’re really not. There is no intelligence or wit involved. The only April fools are those who think that simple lies and taking advantage of people’s trust equates to humor, wit or intelligence.

The Movie Called “The Hobbit”

Quick summary for the impatient: cool, inventive, fun action sequences. Little else. It should have been called (Some Other Title): Very Loosely Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”

I loved the Lord of the Rings films. As a huge fan of the books, I thought they were about as good of a translation to films as could be done, mostly. Some changes that made sense for the films, etc.

Now, I went into The Hobbit not having read the book, so I got to see it without that bias. However, I also then got to hear about it from someone who loved the books and it was interesting to experience both sides. My own unbiased experience was that apart from the fun, inventive action sequences, there wasn’t much to speak of. I found a lot of it completely lacking in subtlety of dimension. Some baffling story points and two dimensional characters along with a lot of obvious audience emotional manipulation like a war hammer to the head.

Now what I found interesting was that when discussing it with Elly who loved the books and knew exactly what was different, I found most of my biggest complaints turned out to be the things that Jackson and company completely fabricated for the film. Turns out that apparently Jackson and company aren’t as good at writing as Tolkien. To be fair, the best parts of the films (the action sequences) were also almost entirely fabricated and not at all based on the books, so I guess they get that credit.

Basically this wasn’t The Hobbit at all. Thus why it should have just been called something else “loosely based on The Hobbit.” Unlike LOTR, the changes they made seemed completely unmotivated, really bad ideas. It also really only needed to be one film. Two at the most (while LOTR probably could have actually used more time to get more of the books in).

A fun, if mostly empty ride.

iPhone 6 Mini Review: Love It!

I’m one of those geeks who got up at 2am to order the new iPhone. After 5 phone calls to mostly incompetent AT&T representatives due to various order issues, I did indeed receive my phone on release day!

I’d always wanted an iPhone that was a little bit bigger but not too much. The iPhone 6 is perfect for my tastes. I was worried that I would wish I’d gotten the Plus but I’m happy I went with the regular. The Plus does have even more battery life since it has a bigger battery, but even the regular 6 has the best battery life of any iPhone yet.

I love the feel of the phone. Something about the glass of the screen feels better than any iPhone before it. Solid and smooth and just nice to touch and tap on. I was surprised how much bigger the phone seems than my 5. I didn’t think it would be much difference but it really feels larger in the best possible way. The screen looks far better to my eyes as well. Everything just looks sharper, more detailed and more vibrant. The whole phone just feels very well made, sturdy and very high quality. While I do like the new form factor, it can be difficult to pick up off of flat surfaces due to the rounded sides, but I don’t mind. We will see if this changes when my case gets here. It’s so thin, that I don’t think adding a case (which I really only do to preserve resale value when I inevitably upgrade) will really impact the general sleekness of the phone. I stopped using screen protectors several iPhones back and have not regretted the decision. The glass feels so much better and is very sturdy and scratch resistant. Your mileage may vary of course, and I am generally very mindful and take care of my phone without being too focused or obsessive about it. I’m just a little more attentive when pulling it out of my pocket to not fumble or drop it.

I’m also loving the whole touch ID to unlock the phone. I was surprised how fast it responds. I push the home button and leave my thumb there and it unlocks almost immediately. It took me a day to unlearn my muscle memory of pushing the home button and then swiping to unlock, but I got used to it fast. I didn’t use a lock code before because it was a pain. Now with touch ID, I don’t mind it at all. There have been a handful of occasions when, for some reason I wanted to unlock the phone with another finger besides my right thumb (which is the finger I used to set up touch ID) and in those cases I just have to type in the code since you can only set it up with one particular finger. I don’t know if I prefer the new power button placement on the side, but I don’t have strong feelings either way. I do find that I occasionally accidentally turn my volume down a notch with the opposite finger when pressing the power button to lock the phone with my thumb.

The speaker is also much louder and sounds better to me.

As for iOS 8, I’m pretty happy with that too aside from them taking “camera roll” view out which was far more efficient, in my opinion, than having to view collections. I just want all my photos in one big easily scrollable view. I can make albums if I want to.

Overall I’d say I am completely satisfied and love the new iPhone 6. It’s everything I wanted it to be and have no regrets not getting the Plus.

Why I Choose the iPhone

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had the conversation with people asking “Should I get an Android phone or an iPhone?” on social media. Every time it happens I’ve thought “I should just make a blog post so I don’t have to keep typing out my thoughts on the matter,” so here it is!

Short answer: iPhone

Long answer:
Before I made the jump into the smartphone market, I did a lot of research because that’s how I am. Hell, I do the same thing if I’m thinking of a new toothbrush. I always painstakingly research and read and think, and ponder and weigh proc and cons and get opinions and check forums and reviews and try things out and everything else I can think of to do. In the end, I decided (and still feel) that the iPhone is the best smartphone out there. And this is coming from a PC user who loves all things Google, so that’s saying something. I’m someone who wants to love Android, someone who constantly re-evaluates and dips my toes back in the water hoping that this is the time that I finally convince myself to make the switch, but as of yet that hasn’t happened. Why? Well, that’s hard to answer and it’s all subjective anyway so there is no right or wrong, but for better or worse, I’ll try to remember as many points as I can.

First off, let me say that everyone is different. What we like as individuals is different. Our needs, wants and how we use our phones is different. For this reason, it’s really almost impossible to base your choice off anything other than experiencing it yourself, but unfortunately, most of don’t have the luxury of “living” with two different phones for an extended period of time and seeing which we personally like better. Before I had my own iPhone, I had played with many friends phones to at least get a taste. I dated someone who had an Android phone and so had a lot of experience playing with her phone and helping her with it (I’m a very naturally technically apt person so I end up being tech consultant to lots of my friends as well). I’ve borrowed friends’ phones as often as I can to play with them as well.

My first reason is choice of phones. If you get an iPhone, there’s nothing to choose really other than whether you get the latest model or an earlier one. With Android, there’s overwhelming choice. Which brand? Which version of Android is it running? Which “overlay” user interface do they use on that phone? Normally, I’m all for choice, but for me personally, I don’t like this. I feel the iPhone is an easily definable quantity and you know what you’ll be getting and the experience will be the same no matter what. I am not a fan of Apples benevolent dictatorship attitude of “we know what’s best so you don’t need choice” in general, but for me, it’s a good thing when choosing a phone and they have gotten better about that over time, introducing at least a little more freedom and options but still nowhere near Android. That being said, I still like the iPhone best.

In all my experiences with Android phones, it just felt clunky and kind of pieced together. I found the user experience often unintuitive and clumsy, especially for any non-tech-savvy people. And it will vary greatly from phone to phone. Overall, it just never “felt” as good as an iPhone to me.

9 times out of 10, when I wanted to suggest an app or play a game with someone on an Android phone, that app was not available for Android. In the best case scenarios it became available later, long after the iOS version was out. Being that iPhones seem to be the dominant phone, most app developers tend to concentrate on it first. I have only ever encountered the reverse scenario once (I want to play Ingress, dammit!). Most of my top used apps are not available for Android.

Intercompatibility between iPhone users is better and more consistent. This one is harder to explain, but there’s things like Facetime (not that I really care about that), iMessage (which can be handy, especially if you have a limited text plan and don’t want to use some third party app that many times requires others to have the app as well and/or won’t show as your actual phone number), but more importantly there all kinds of little things that just work like they should. Again, with Android, you’re at the mercy of individual manufacturers, carriers, OD version, etc. For example, I can text contact, addresses, a Google map location (yes Google map, not Apple maps) and such and it just works. I remember some of these simple operations just didn’t work when sent to a friend’s Android phone. They would get the text but couldn’t open the information. Now, I have no idea where the breakdown is and it very well could be Apple’s fault in the way they implement it, or maybe not. I don’t know. The point is, I know certain things will work with other iPhone users but will be hit and miss with Android users (who knows which of the various phone/carrier/etc combinations they have).

I’ve found so many tiny, little things about iOS that are just great thinking and programming, but are so mall that people may not even know about or notice them but just take them for granted. So much so I have a hard time thinking of them right now. One is the fact that the camera knows its own orientation (which I’m sure is probably true in Android as well). If I want to use the back camera to take a picture of myself (I refuse to ever use the word “selfie” as it makes me cringe…just typing it made me wince a little), it’s very awkward and precarious to hold your phone right side up from the bottom of the phone, with the back facing you and try to press the camera button on the bottom of the screen. So on a whim, I turned the phone upside down, so now I could hold the whole phone as normal but my index finger could easily reach the camera button which was now at the top of upside down phone. When I snapped the picture, it was saved with the correct orientation (i.e. no matter which way I’m holding my phone, the picture is right side up and wasn’t taken upside down even though the phone was upside down.) I’ve often discovered simple little things that made me think “that’s smart programming.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there is a lot about Android phones that are awesome, and probably some things that I would like even better but overall, nothing has been able to touch the iPhone experience for me. For you, it might be a completely different and opposite experience. Even as long as this post is, I’m sure it’s only the tip of the iceberg and just what I could think of off the top of my head. Nothing is going to tell you what your experience with a phone will be like or how much you personally will like one over the other. If you do seek out opinions though, try to find opinions based on facts, usage, etc., and not just blind preference for one over the other. I find that most people on both sides of the fence don’t offer much that is helpful but just zealous “Mine rules and other one sucks!” In fact, I find this subject so volatile and often Jihad inducing, that I’m disabling comments on this post. I hope this may have been helpful i some way and that in the end, you end up with a phone that you are happy with, no matter what it is!

I also really like the new “ear pods” that come with the iPhone 5. I’ve always thought the default iPhone earbuds were actually really great quality but the Ear Pods are the best yet.

And I know I didn’t even touch on Windows phones but, frankly, they’ve never entered into these conversations. In my limited experience with them, I thought they were actually quite cool but they’re just too much of an underdog for me to ever consider using one. If I had that much trouble with apps not being available on Android, I imagine Windows phones would be exponentially worse in that regard.

If other things come to mind (as they surely will), I’ll update this post.

My thoughts on the show, _Louie_.

I finished season 3 of Louie last night. This has to be one of the most original shows on TV in a lot of ways. I think it’s an example of what can result when you just let someone take something and run with it and not be afraid of experimenting or not following standard formulas. It really feels like his show that he made on his own the way he wanted to make it without network notes and suggestions and all that crap. It often feels raw, real and imperfect and it is perfect in its imperfection.