January 23, 2022•41 words
I've watched six seasons of five shows/specials so far in 2022.
- The Sopranos - S3-5
- Love - S3
- Al Madrigal's Why is the Rabbit Crying? (2013) - 01/09
- Sort of - S1
- American Auto - S1
How am I not myself?
January 23, 2022•41 words
I've watched six seasons of five shows/specials so far in 2022.
January 23, 2022•105 words
Welp! I guess I'm into Wordle now.
January 23, 2022:
Wordle 218 3/6
January 22, 2022:
Wordle 217 4/6
January 21, 2022:
Wordle 216 2/6
January 20, 2022:
Wordle 215 4/6
January 19, 2022:
Wordle 214 5/6
January 18, 2022:
Wordle 213 4/6
January 17, 2022:
Wordle 212 2/6
January 16, 2022:
Wordle 211 4/6
January 15, 2022:
Wordle 210 5/6
January 14, 2022:
Wordle 209 4/6
January 15, 2022•1,603 words
Something took over me earlier in the year, even before I was thinking about how great Peacock is, where I started really thinking hard about the music streaming services available. Sure, I was thinking about the quality of what I was hearing, but also about how well the service treats the artists themselves. I tried to find information (and asked a few friends who'd put out albums) about how good the payout is from the various services, but didn't really come away with anything definitive. This inevitably lead me down a rabbit hole and putting the services through their paces.
I'd like to acknowledge upfront that I am completely aware that everyone's needs are different, that everyone will have a different way of listening to music, and that the streaming quality available may be observed differently through different systems, setups, and ears. I can't even hear many low- to mid-range frequencies in my left ear (thanks, toddler Eric's ear infection!), and I originally went into this thinking, with my less-than-great hearing, that the quality of audio wouldn't matter. What I walked away with, however, was that the higher the quality of the audio, the greater the pleasure I had listening with the service. Who'd've thunk?!
Since the listening experience can be so personalized and intimate, here's what I'm using: Google Pixel 5, Jabra Elite Active 75t (calibrated using Jabra MySound), IKEA/Sonos Symfonisk Bookshelf (calibrated using Sonos Trueplay), Marshall Stanmore (manually tuned to taste), Chevy Cruze (via USB a la Android Auto, manually tuned to taste) (worth even mentioning?).
And without further ado...
The services I've tried in alphabetical order:
... and in the order in which they left my phone:
Pandora was really pretty cool when it first came out. I might even argue that it still has one of the best "like this" style of streaming radio through which to discover new artists/tracks/albums, but there's a lot that holds back Pandora from even coming close to being a service worth paying for:
For these reasons, Pandora was the first service on which I closed the box.
Spotify, Spotify, Spotify... What a frickin' mess. Your app is ugly and not easily navigable, though maybe if I'd been using Spotify for years and years it wouldn't bother me. Maybe I might also find that it knew my tastes better than I knew them myself (as many longtime Spotify users claim), and then I might be more inclined to enjoy what's on offer, but(!):
After all the shitting on Spotify I just did, I will give it this: Spotify Connect allowed for direct control of the Sonos listening experience right through the Spotify app itself, which was a nice convenience. (Though it was probably only made possible because Spotify does not make any audio hardware to lock itself into.)
And I suppose Spotify Wrapped is fun enough, though I don't disagree with The Guardian's Elle Hunt's take on it either.
With that said, Spotify was the second service from which I removed myself.
I was surprised to find that there's actually lot to like about Deezer. Using and listening to stuff in the Deezer app feels like if someone at Spotify gave a shit about anything at all, like if someone said: let's tidy up this mess; let's offer things in a similar fashion but make it easier for new users to use; let's offer a really nice-to-pretty great experience; let's actually offer high-quality audio (for a price).
It seems like Deezer wants artists to get paid fairly too, which is nice. So why didn't Deezer make the cut?
That's really it. I was kind of hoping to love Deezer, and I think the service deezerves more recognition for everything it does right, but it just fell a tad short, so for that reason: I'm out.
Tidal is in a weird spot right now. The app is good-not-great, the audio features offered are nice (if you have the hardware to take advantage of it/pay a little bit more), it's a music-forward service, it seems to maybe pay the most to artists (or at least has things coming down the pike to make it so), and I think it could be making it even better for artists (now that Tidal is under the umbrella of
Square Block, I can see them doing more with crypto/NFT type stuff which, regardless of where anyone stands on this topic, might be good for artists to at least safely explore?).
Similar to Deezer, however, a few niche albums were missing from Tidal's catalog, and there was one other service that sounded just a hair better to my ears, so I ended up leaving Tidal at bay.
I kinda love Qobuz. The app is a frills-free experience, and feels like a walking into a digital music store (partially because it also is one); Qobuz lets you narrow down your favorite genres, then it displays new releases from what you've selected. Scroll down further, and there are articles about the artists from said genres; a magazine-lite approach to highlighting artists and albums.
There are myriad audio qualities to choose from to match your streaming/downloading preferences, and the service doesn't hide behind vague terms like "lossless," "MQA," or "Mastered for" to define what you're listening to, opting instead to identify the quality of audio by the resolution and bit-rate offered.
Like Deezer and Tidal (though to a slightly lesser degree), a few albums were not available. And I honestly have no idea how well the payout is from Qobuz to artist. The experience, however is honestly the least confusing and most appealing of all services tested and it's the service I ended up using the most -- in fact,
until only just recently when Qobuz started having an issue processing any credit card I've tried to use to continue an active streaming service subscription. I still have the app on my phone and connected to Sonos (I purchased a couple of albums that were on sale through their digital music storefront), and through Qobuz I was loving music again(!), but I also still have and use...
Rating: A (UPDATE 01/15/2022: Payment processing issue resolved; Rating updated from A-.)
As an app, Apple Music is not without its faults. It's cleaner than many, but still not the easiest to explore. The recently released no-extra-charge addition of "lossless" audio for a large portion of the albums on offer here is a nice bonus (though to my ears, it doesn't get better than what Qobuz has on tap). If I'm being honest, though, it's the fact that my entire iTunes music catalog (even the weird and out-of-print stuff) not available elsewhere is still alive here that's probably the thing that most keeps me subscribed to Apple Music.
It's nice to have the ability to share playlists and to see what friends are listening to, but I can't help but feeling like there has to be a better way to be doing it (RIP Rdio).
From what I can tell, Apple Music pays artists decently enough -- maybe less than Deezer or Tidal, but more than Spotify, Pandora, or YouTube Music (as best as I can figure), so there's a little less guilt in continuing to use the service (due to library lock-in?).
I do wish Apple played nicer with non-Apple hardware (I'm mostly just thinking of Sonos here), but I suppose what's the incentive for them to do so?
Regardless of what service you use to stream music, I hope you're having a good time with it and that you're able to love what you listen to and listen to what you love.
January 14, 2022•78 words
I've watched eight movies so far in 2022.
Title (Year of Release) - Date Watched (ツ) = Re-watch
January 2, 2022•28 words
I've read one book so far in 2022.
Author/Publisher - Title (Year of Release) - Date Completed
December 31, 2021•800 words
Overall, 2021 turned out to be as interesting a year if ever there was one. In recap:
And with that, here are some of my favorite things that came out this year:
None of the few books I read this year came out in 2021, but Martha Wells' fifth book in the Murderbot series, Network Effect, came out last year and I read it this year and the series continues to be a fun read -- really, the books equivalent of popcorn films.
Only a few of the many movies I watched this year came out in 2021. In alphabetical order, here are my top three favorite films of the year:
There are two other movies out now that I'd love to see, but I'm back to not feeling comfortable going to the theatre, so I'll just mention here that I'd like to've seen Licorice Pizza and Nightmare Alley but have not.
I tried out a bunch of music streaming services, and I recently just started back up scrobbling to last.fm, but these 11 albums came out in 2021 and, in my opinion, are worth your time. Or, at the very least, listening to them will draw you a pretty accurate picture of the type of person I am (alphabetical by artist):
Courtney Barnett - Things Take Time, Take Time
Lucy Dacus - Home Video
girl in red - if i could make it go quiet
Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
Pinegrove - Amperland, NY
Remember Sports - Like a Stone
Royal Blood - Typhoons
Shannon & the Clams - Year of the Spider
Sleater-Kinney - Path of Wellness
Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine - A Beginner's Mind
Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend
(I'd also like to mention Born Ruffian's PULP, which also came out in 2021, but it's kind of like the third in a trilogy that started in 2020, and I think it's best heard when listening to the trilogy as a whole -- JUICE, SQUEEZE, PULP -- so give it a listen if you'd like, but first please just know where I stand on this very important topic. Please. I beg of you.)
I'll cut to the chase: I'm kind of over writing this and linking to things, so I'll just say this: Between my thoughts on current streaming services and my list of shows watched this year, you can probably find something worth watching -- there are just too many good shows out there!
The Jewish new year came to us a few Gregorian-calendar months ago. A little while after the fact I'd tweeted:
I've made some decisions in my life that weren't great, and I've made some that were. So have you (general statement, not pointed). Let's both be better in 5782, okay.
And so I'll say the same right now and hope for all of us to do just a little bit better in 2022. Happy New Year, e'rybody!
December 31, 2021•210 words
I've watched many seasons of 37 shows in 2021.
December 31, 2021•509 words
I've watched 68 movies in 2021.
Title (Year of Release) - Date Watched (ツ) = Re-watch
December 31, 2021•28 words
I more or less completed three games in 2021.
December 31, 2021•113 words
I've read seven books in 2021.
Author/Publisher - Title (Year of Release) - Date Completed
December 26, 2021•1,343 words
This originally started as a love letter to Peacock. As much as I love Peacock (and I do!), it turns out that I didn't actually have a lot to say about it, so then I thought "Why not just say a few words about all the services I currently subscribe to, suggest a few exclusives on each that I enjoy, and then give the services a rating" and so now here we are.
While I'm generally a big supporter of rating things on a scale from 1 - 10, for some reason the letter grade scale strikes me as more fitting for this task, so that's what I'll be using -- A through F -- where A is the best and F is the worst.
The services I have in alphabetical order:
I hope the generally negative feelings toward Amazon that I harbor don't paint the opinion I hold for its streaming service in too much of a negative light, but to be frank, if it weren't for my wife renewing her Amazon Prime subscription every year, I probably wouldn't miss having access to its offerings.
Also, the app is kind of atrocious to look at and navigate.
Exclusives: I think Catastrophe and Fleabag were great, I enjoy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Honey Boy was one of my favorite movies to come out of 2019...that might be about as much love as I can give to Amazon Prime Video. There is a part of me that's excited about the Lord of the Rings show that's coming out, but time will tell if it's actually any good.
Apple has a bundle where you get Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage -- a $21 value! -- for $15/month. I was already paying $10/month for Apple Music and wanted to see what all the Ted Lasso fuss was about, so I caved and went for the bundle. Having only watched the first season of Ted Lasso, I wonder if I'm a sucker for continuing to pay the extra $5/month for the whole shebang.
Also, navigating the app is like walking through Jell-O, takes forever to load, and will occasionally buffer mid-program or have terrible audio dropouts.
Exclusives: Everything Apple TV+ offers is exclusive, so I suppose that's one positive way of thinking about its lineup of shows and movies. That said, having only watched the first season of Ted Lasso, I wonder if I'm a sucker for continuing to pay the extra $5/month for the whole shebang.
discovery+ offers a surprising amount of content for the price ($5/month with ads, $7 ad-free), and the app is fairly well organized considering the number of channels it encompasses and myriad shows it provides. I think this is one my wife pays for, but I could see myself being pretty bummed if it went away.
Exclusives: Something happened to me over the past year and a half that I don't want to get into right now but I promise I can explain: I've become a Guy Fieri fan. For me, the $5/month is worth it just to be able to watch Guy's Grocery Games, but the Property Brothers also have a show where they team up with celebrities who pay to do home renovations for their normie friends, and that's also really enjoyable.
Lastly, I think my wife would want me to mention Cheap Old Houses, a show where a husband and wife drive around the country and highlight huge old houses that are going for $150k or less.
I'll tell you what, it's not TV...it's HBO -- MAX!
HBO's synonymous with high-quality, premium cable programming and, after a few bumpy and false starts on the streaming-end of things, HBO finally came into its own and max is pretty pretty pretty good.
One thing I love about the service is, like discovery+, it offers so much more than the HBO experience; you get Turner Classic Movies, Crunchyroll (for nerds), Looney Tunes, Cartoon Network/adult swim, and more. On the other hand -- and I don't know the economics behind running a kids show, but -- I have a hard time wrapping my head around how HBO (Time-Warner? AT&T?) having such a large financial stake in Sesame Street and denying the first-run episodes (the episodes are held back for 9 months before airing on PBS) from those less fortunate to be able to afford HBOmax ($15/month) is a good thing...
Hulu is in a weird spot at the moment. Various co-investors (Disney, AT&T/Time-Warner, NBC Universal) kinda have their own things going on these days (Disney+, HBOmax, Peacock), but Hulu's still kickin'. Since my wife pays for ad-free Hulu, if something is available on both Peacock and Hulu (Making It), we watch on Hulu, but I actually prefer the Peacock interface; I always feel like I'm not clicking on the right spot in Hulu.
Do you have a library card? Check to see if you can access Kanopy, then. It's a service that partners with library networks to offer a variety of films to stream. A library network I'm part of offers a ton of docs, foreign language films, and a decent selection of Criterion and A24 films, but from what I understand, other library networks might have access to different...libraries...of films, so mileage may vary here.
Exclusives: I'm not sure if Kanopy has exclusives necessarily, but some of the movies here are not really found anywhere else as far as I'm aware.
T-Mobile was giving a free year of Paramount+ to its users so I took advantage of it (in the sense that I have signed up for my free year but have not really used Paramount+ yet).
Finally, the one that kicked off this whole damn post. I honestly believe that Peacock is an unsung hero in the streaming service wars all because of its exclusives.
While there's a (fairly limited) free tier, Peacock also offers a $5/month tier that offers basically everything, but mostly with ads and you can't download anything to mobile devices (this is the tier I'm on), and a $10/month tier that offers everything, but some things still have ads and you can download most things to mobile devices.
Outside of being the new home for a number of popular NBC shows (The Office, Parks & Rec) and classics (Columbo, Murder, She Wrote), Peacock also offers access to a number of Universal films, and exclusives...
Exclusives: Now this is where the gettin' is good! Girls5eva is a delight, Rutherford Falls is great, and We Are Lady Parts is terrific. Not sure if any of these are available for free, but they are absolutely worth $5 in my opinion.
All of these services are being accessed primarily from a Roku device. This is a half-joke inclusion on this list, but it half-seriously does have a few decent movies and shows available to stream. I'm not sure if you actually need a Roku to be able to access The Roku Channel, but if you don't, it's totally worth it just for...
Exclusives: ...Mapleworth Murders. I hope it gets a second season, but I absolutely do not expect it to (it was originally a Quibi Original) (Quibi's dead).
May your streaming be an enjoyable streaming!
October 7, 2021•1,227 words
A few years ago, and not necessarily out of the blue, I became increasingly more aware of how advertisers track us online, how companies use and sell our personal data, and how governments make use of this information as well. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I kinda went off the deep end with it and quickly approached tinfoil hat territory. I’ve since been able to reel it back quite a bit, but there are still quite a few things that stuck with me that I continue to practice and make use of today.
With that said, I should admit that I am far from being an expert really on any topic, and when it comes to privacy and security, one absolutely should do their own research to see if what I do, use, or recommend is even legitimate (though all I’m practicing/preaching are just pretty good general-use actions that would behoove anyone to consider or implement for themselves).
Now, I don’t want to get too into the Edward Snowden revelations, but let’s briefly touch on what he leaked: The U.S. government actively spies on us, and it does so with the help of most-if-not-all telecom companies and, to a potentially lesser degree, hardware and software manufacturers.
There are plenty of arguments both for and against Snowden’s whistleblowing, and for and against the government’s actions, and I’m not here to tell you which side of any argument you should be on (Ed’s a hero and should be treated as such and the government is bad and evil), but regardless of where you land, Ed’s widely-used and most quotable quote should ring at least a little true for you and/or yours:
Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
— Edward Snowden, from basically any interview he’s ever done, or even his memoir, Permanent Record, available now wherever you get your books.
I agree fully with his sentiment here, but to peel that back just a few more words to where I said “true for you and/or yours,” the “yours” part is where I really want to draw focus. You might not personally have any reason to hide anything from anyone or any body (government, corporation, advertisers), but that doesn’t mean that the people you interact with (friends, loved ones, co-workers, dealers, bookies) don’t. Once you care about and take actions to protect your own privacy, however, you inadvertently start to care about and take actions to protect the privacy of others. It’s not a bad cycle to be in, and it’s almost never been easier, which is why I use and recommend Signal.
If you’re an iPhone user who only ever texts other iPhone users, you likely do not have to give privacy too much of a thought. Apple has its own messaging platform built into its devices called iMessage. iMessage is end-to-end (e2e) encrypted when texting other iPhone/iPad/Mac users (it’s why you have blue messaging bubbles with those folks). The encrypting of a message end-to-end means that, when you send or receive a text from someone via blue-bubble iMessage, the only two people who can (theoretically) read it are the sender and its recipient. When texting a non-Apple user, iMessage sends a normal, non-encrypted, government-readable text (green bubble). For some, wanting to avoid seeing this green color alone is what keeps them devoted to the Apple ecosystem. Outside of the general device lock-in that this can create (meaning someone only buys a new iPhone every year or three because it’s what they know/like), it’s also slightly hostile toward non-Apple users. For a company that claims it’s as privacy-focused as it is — CEO Tim Cook even stated that “Privacy is a fundamental human right.”1 — it’s done little to remedy this lack of privacy for non-Apple users.
Enter Signal. Signal is a messaging app not unlike iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or countless others, but what makes Signal special is that it e2e encrypts its messages by default. In fact, you can’t disable it. This means that, similar to iMessage, the only people who can read the messages sent between Signal users are the senders and recipients. The app has a few other niceties built-in, too — e2e encrypted voice and video calls, stickers packs, and reactions — but the best part, in my opinion, is that Signal is multi-platform. If you have an iPad, an Android phone, a Mac at home, and a Windows PC at work, and Signal is installed on each device, your messages will conveniently be synced across all platforms.
While this is the best part for me, an iPad user with an Android phone, for others, it might be the price: Free. There’s nothing to sign-up for either, because Signal uses your existing cell or VoIP (Google Voice, MySudo, etc…) number to log you onto its servers for easy breezy beautiful e2e encrypted messaging.
This really should be a no-brainer for Android phone users for a couple of reasons:
(That said, messages sent to or received by non-Signal users remain normal, non-encrypted, government-readable texts [think green bubbles from iMessage]. A conundrum perhaps, but not if more people start using Signal, whatever their device.)
Since iPhone users cannot currently set a different messaging app to be the default, it means iPhoners will have to use different apps for different sets of people. This might be a slight nuisance for them, but it’s one that comes with myriad benefits for others.
The last thing worth mentioning is that Signal messages work off of a data connection. This means that high quality images and GIFs, as well as documents, can be sent between users (e2e encrypted as well). Or, if you’re in a hospital with no cellular reception, but free WiFi, you can still message the people you love or whatever.
I can’t recommend the use of Signal enough, but like I said, you don’t have to take my word for it…
EU Commission to staff: Switch to Signal messaging app – Politico, 02/20/2020
Ditch All Those Other Messaging Apps: Here’s Why You Should Use Signal – Wired, 11/05/2017
11 tips for protecting your privacy and digital security in the age of Trump – Freedom of the Press Foundation, 01/30/2017
And just for fun: Signal Messenger receives $50 million from WhatsApp co-founder – Engadget, 02/22/2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook: Bring on a US data privacy law - CNET, 10/24/2018 ↩
December 31, 2020•123 words
I watched many seasons of 22 shows in 2020.
December 31, 2020•301 words
I watched 42 movies in 2020.
Title (Year of Release) - Date Watched
December 31, 2020•24 words
I more or less completed three games in 2020.