December 3, 2023

Crashing Clockwise #531: ‘I, Too, Like You’

Audio narration generated using Shortcuts.

Another Wednesday Sunday, another crashing of Clockwise. Being the fly on the wall of these conversations with you guys and your guests is quickly becoming a highlight of my week. You know the drill, let’s get going.

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Dan Moren: I’m curious about how you consume books these days. Are you a paper book person, an e-book person, audiobook? And where do you buy them, and read them?

Well, now, that’s an interesting question. At this very moment, one two three four five six seven paper books on my nightstand, all begging to be read. Also on that nightstand, I have a Kobo e-reader with a couple of digital titles queued up, and that’s definitely my preferred way to read. I’ll download e-books from my library via the Libby app, which the Kobo can do on-device, or I’ll purchase them directly from Kobo if it’s not available to check out and I’m itching to read it now (which rarely happens).

But the true answer is that I haven’t finished any books this year (well, except for one that I re-read in the spring) because I also have an iPad mini chock full of hundreds of web articles saved to read. Those probably equate to dozens of novels consumed in terms of the number of words — actually, I’d love to know that…hopefully Pocket will come out with a wrapped’ feature soon — but little actual book reading gets done in any form lately.

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Florence Ion: What are you doing with your health data?

In a word, collecting. I wear an Apple Watch every day, which keeps track of all kinds of metrics for me, from heart rate to step count to goodness-only-knows-what. For a few years, I was also stepping on our smart scale every morning to log my weight (which I’m only just now realizing I’d stopped and should start that up again). I’ve had connected water bottles, apps, and shortcuts to keep a history of my water intake.

But what do I do with that data? Not much.

I do occasionally like to go diving through the trends and make that weird frown-like shape with my mouth while nodding up and down as I come across some interesting insight. But I don’t have a primary care physician (I know, I know, I will) so I don’t really have anyone to share it with. I guess I’m just tracking on the off chance that it will be useful someday, and I’m happy to keep doing so as long as it doesn’t add much extra hassle to my day.

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Mikah Sargent: How, if at all, have you used technology to help you with house chores?

The first thing that comes to mind is apps. I’ve piled reminders for chores into my task manager over the years, to varying levels of success. I particularly like when you can set a task to repeat X number of days after the last completion. So for things like changing out the cat litter, it’ll restart the clock for when I need to change it next, even if I didn’t get it down on the exact day that it was set to be due. Without those reminders, many fewer chores would get done around our house.

That said, I’m close to declaring task bankruptcy because of everything that’s gotten jammed up in there. Too many tasks are due today” not because they need to get done today, but because I set a due date so that I wouldn’t lose track of them, but I’ve yet to complete them. With dozens of tasks cluttering up my Today’ view, some chores have slipped through the cracks, which is no good at all.

That’s why, as of listening to the very discussion, I’ve moved a bunch of those chores and things that require nagging over to the Due app. Due’s claim to fame is that it will continually send notifications to remind you to get a task done until you actually check it off. I’m hoping that the combination of nagging, and having them separate and prominent, will help me to check them off.

The other bit of tech that has transformed a chore is our litter robot. This contraption scoops” (really pushes) the cat’s business away into a contained area, and then the box only needs to be switched out every few weeks. I love that I don’t need to scoop the cat litter every day, which used to be my least favorite household task, but the machine leaves a bit to be desired. I’m considering picking up a different style of litter robot because I don’t think I can ever go back to doing it manually.

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Christopher Phin: What bit of old software, that you don’t use anymore, do you have a weirdly disproportionate crush on?

As a connoisseur of productivity apps, I still long for the days of Wunderlist and Mailbox. Both were best-in-class, offered delightful interactions and animations, and were each acquired and subsequently sunset”.

Wunderlist by 6Wunderkinder — a fantastic name for a business, by the way — ran my life in the same way that Things does now. I’ve always had an affinity for task management apps, and it was Wunderlist that instilled in me a need for them to look and feel good. It pulled me away from Reminders, and I doubt I could go back now. It was acquired by Microsoft and its spirit now lives on somewhere in Microsoft To-Do.

Mailbox was everyone’s favorite email app, which is a surprising thing to say because nowadays no one can agree on a good email app. It pioneered things that we consider table stakes these days: swipe to archive, snooze, and push notifications for emails. It was also the first app that I can remember to launch with a massive waitlist. It was fairly minimal in its design to begin with, but Mailbox had one of the best redesigns to fit in with iOS 7’s flat” interface. When you cleared out your inbox, it revealed a pleasant version of the mailbox logo and I aspired to see the new version each day. Dropbox eventually acquired Mailbox and killed it off a few years later without a replacement. The closest Mailbox experience I’ve found is Spark by Readdle, although I’d say that’s getting kind of bloated and losing the thread these days.

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Bonus Question: Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

When I was young, it was waking up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, after Santa had arrived, and sleeping next to the Christmas Tree waiting for the rest of the family to wake up and begin the festivities.

Nowadays, I like stretching the day out with baking cookies, opening stockings, and then getting to the gift-giving. Giving gifts is my love language (along with email), so it’s always an enjoyable day.

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My Question: Which accessibility feature of your device(s) do you get the most use out of?

I’ve tried many features from the Accessibility pane of Settings over the years, and I actually just wrote up a big blog post about the Personal Voice feature this week. But the one I’m getting the most use out of is the Speak Screen’ feature, which you can use to have your device read out what’s on the screen. It’s kind of like a less detailed version of VoiceOver, and I use it to read articles out loud from apps that lack their own text-to-speech feature. I’ll also use it to proofread this very article!

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This was fun, as always! But that first episode of December will be here before we know it! Until then, thanks for having me on yet again.

Crashing Clockwise

December 3, 2023

7 Things This Week [#121]

A weekly list of interesting things I found on the internet, posted on Sundays. Sometimes themed, often not.


1️⃣ A real blast from the past. [🔗 apple.com] (Via Stephen Robles)

2️⃣ Want a quick pick-me-up? Scroll through this thread of some truly excellent kid-friendly jokes. 😂 [🔗 @mosseri // threads.net]

3️⃣ If you want to be in control of your space on the web, that starts with the domain name. Micro.blog has seriously souped up their domain registration and transfer capabilities this week. [🔗 Manton Reece // manton.org]

4️⃣ This beautiful and short climbing video was filmed here in the Adirondacks. [🧗‍♀️ Cheyne Lempe // vimeo.com]

5️⃣ Based on this introduction video, the holy grail of AI-generated art is here: text-to-video. I’m on the waitlist, so I can’t tell you if it’s actually any good, but it sure does look impressive. [🤖 pika.art]

6️⃣ I haven’t tried this super easy trick to mute gas station pumps, but boy do I intend to! [▶️ Stephen Robles // youtube.com]

7️⃣ Okay, that was pretty funny, and it demos the iPhone’s portrait-in-post feature really well. [▶️ Apple // youtube.com]


Take a Chance


Thanks for reading 7 Things. If you enjoyed these links or have something neat to share, please let me know. And remember that you can get more links to internet nuggets that I’m finding every day by following me @jarrod on the social web.

7 Things

December 1, 2023

50% Off Phone Cases from the HeyDingus Store

Just wanted to pass along a message that Cotton Bureau, where I host the HeyDingus Store, is having a 50% off sale on all phone cases this weekend. That means you can get delightful phone huggers such as these for as little as $14!

Four phone cases with a Ted Lasso design, a triangles design, a six colors ’84 design, and a design with the HeyDingus logo on the backs.
You can’t have too many phone cases, right?

The sale ends at midnight on Sunday, December 3rd. Just use code FIFTY50 at checkout.

Enjoy!

Merch

November 30, 2023

Letters with Kev, November 2023 [#3]

Here’s my final exchange with Kev Quirk for the Letters project this month. You can follow along with our conversation here, but you owe it to yourself to see the awesome email styling that he’s done over on his site.

Jarrod’s and Kev’s avatars and their website domains, heydingus.net and kevquirk.com, separated by the letter emoji.
(Image inspiration: Jose Munoz)

Hey Jarrod,

So here we are, the last email of the month. This has been a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to getting to know Robb Knight in December. So thanks for giving me the idea to do this; it’s a lot of fun. Anyway, onto your email…

You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’re not a fan of Micro.blog/Hugo for a personal blog. I’m curious about what you find so limiting.

It’s the fact that I can’t do things like managed the site header and meta data. Obviously I could do that with Hugo, but I can’t with Micro.blog. I also dislike that full posts and micro posts are all munged up together with no obviously difference between the 2. For Hugo, I dislike the templating. I had a taste of it when I created the theme for the Micro.blog site and it was really difficult for me to wrap my head around - it just didn’t make any logical sense to me.

The climbing gym / doggy daycare sounds like a great idea. It’s a diverse business too, so you’re more likely to succeed. I wish you the best of luck with it…very exciting!

My next question, though, is how do you keep them all synced up?

I don’t. :-) I have 1 watch (a G-SHOCK) that automatically sets its time via radio, so that’s the main” watch that I use to set all my others by. A lot of my watches are mechanical, so they stop after a couple of days in the case anyway, so they have to be re-set with every wear. For the digitals, the only time they really need to be set is for DST, or reverse. I used to set them all in one go, but it was a pain. Now I just re-set set them as I wear them.

I’ve noticed over the years that I’m good in a crisis; when big stuff goes off, I keep a cool head and am usually the voice of reason. But small things (like a handful of watches not being perfectly in sync) really irks me, so I’m trying really hard to not let this kinda thing bother me as it isn’t good. Another good example is when I’m using shampoo and conditioner - if one is used at a higher rate than the other, it really bothers me. I’m a details person, and I need to try and stop this ridiculous stuff from annoying me.

That’s why I don’t set my watches. :-)

However, I do follow the RSS feeds…

Some really good recommendations there, thanks. I try not to watch the news these days, as it’s often depressing and I don’t want that in my life. I think the quick summaries would be good for keeping up with current affairs though.

Are you a podcast listener?

I am. I tend to switch between audiobooks and podcasts while walking the dogs. At the moment I’m on podcasts. A few of my favourites are This American Life, Serial, Smashing Security and Land of The Giants. I’ve also recently started listening to Vergecast, and while it’s generally good, it feels very AI heavy. IF you have any other recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

I think that’s that wrap. I’m happy to keep this conversation going, but I obviously won’t publish it. It also might take a little longer for me to reply. Like I said at the top of the email, thanks for the idea, I’ve really enjoyed this process and I’m looking forward to both reading your subsequent letters, and taking part in mine.

Thanks,

Kev


Hey Kev,

Man, that month flew by fast! I’ve had an excellent time getting to know you. I agree, this longer format is super fun to explore. I don’t hear from many people about the posts, so I wonder if other readers also find it naval gaze-y or awkward to eavesdrop” in on these conversations, like that one gentleman mentioned. But I like reading them, and I can’t wait to hear what you get into with Robb.

It’s the fact that I can’t do things like…

Those are solid, respectable reasons. I’ll admit that the little I’ve looked into the templating with Hugo, it does not read very logically. I picked up what I needed to from Mustache fairly easily, so I’m not too worried that I’d get stumped by Hugo, but you’re right, it’s a bit jumbled. The more I’ve looked into it, the more I think I need to wait for some key features to get introduced before I’m ready to make the leap. On micro-posts and regular posts being mixed together…that’s an issue I’ve gone back and forth on a bunch. I think I’d offer a toggle at the top of the page (maybe it could somehow save a reader’s preference) that would switch between showing just regular posts, just micro-posts, or everything. Seems like an interesting design challenge.

Thanks for the encouragement about my small business idea. I think I’ll make it a goal to have some sort of progress made toward it next year.

I don’t. […] [T]hey have to be re-set with every wear.

Haha, that’s what I imagined. At first, I thought that would be super annoying, but now I think it would be a nice ritual. It would slow things down a bit and present an opportunity to really appreciate each watch as you go through the motions of syncing it up.

I’ve noticed over the years that I’m good in a crisis; […] But small things (like a handful of watches not being perfectly in sync) really irks me

I’m exactly the same. I think many of us who joyfully dive into customizing every aspect of our computing life and online presence probably have some sort of detail-obsessiveness to us. I don’t know if that correlates with performing with a cool head in a crisis, but I certainly feel that way. The world condenses down to just what I can control in those situations, and solutions typically come to mind with extra clarity.

I wish you luck on your not caring so much about the little things” journey. It sounds like it’s working out alright with the watches. Life is stressful enough already, why let yourself add any extra, right?

I try not to watch the news these days, as it’s often depressing and I don’t want that in my life.

When I go to my parents’ house and the news channel is always on in the living room, it drives me absolutely bonkers. I can’t imagine now how I lived with all that blaring into my earholes every day growing up. I’ll just straight-up turn it off when I’m there to get some peace.

I tend to switch between audiobooks and podcasts while walking the dogs.

Audiobooks used to be bedtime and car ride pleasures. Now all my listening time has been devoted to podcasts, but I think I’m about ready to diversify more again. I’ve been atrocious about reading books this year, even though my want-to-read stack grows ever larger. It’s just that there are all these great blog posts that I discover and save every day, and those seem more time sensitive to get to…so they suck up all the reading time. I can passively recognize that I’m far more likely to remember and value the time spent reading a book, and yet it’s so hard to change the habit. Keenan’s blog post, ironically, has been a brainworm, though, and is helping me to reconsider things.

Land of the Giants has been on my listen list for a while. I’ve checked out a few episodes here and there, and they’ve always been excellent. I’ll make just one recommendation this time, and I know I just lambasted the news, but The Good News Podcast has been a daily listen for me for years and years now. It’s short, happy, and puts me in the right mood to start the day.

Thanks again for taking the time to be part of this project. It really has been an absolute pleasure and an honor to chat with you. Let’s certainly keep the communication going, either here or over on the social web. And best of luck with all those house projects. 😉

Take care,

Jarrod


If you’d like to be a pen pal for this Letters project, please reach out! I’d love to get you on the schedule.

Letters

November 30, 2023

Personal Voice: A triumph (and a request)

I finally got around to creating a Personal Voice on my iPhone the other day. I had big plans for it, and was thrilled it only took 15 minutes of recording, and then one overnight of processing — I thought it’d take like an hour, and then days of waiting. Guess what, it’s pretty accurate, too!

Creating a personal voice, and using it with Live Speech.
Creating your Personal Voice involves 15 minutes of reading some quirky phrases aloud to your phone.

If you haven’t heard of Personal Voice, it was introduced as a way for people with degenerative diseases like ALS to preserve their unique voice and use it to speak” aloud with it using their devices. Apple happened to put out a Newsroom article about it today:

This fall, Apple launched its new Personal Voice feature, available with iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma. With Personal Voice, users at risk of speech loss can create a voice that sounds like them by following a series of text prompts to capture 15 minutes of audio. Apple has long been at the forefront of neural text-to-speech technology. With Personal Voice, Apple is able to train neural networks entirely on-device to advance speech accessibility while protecting users’ privacy.

Paired with Live Speech, another new feature from this fall, users can hold ongoing conversations in a replica of their own voice:

Live Speech, another speech accessibility feature Apple released this fall, offers users the option to type what they want to say and have the phrase spoken aloud, whether it is in their Personal Voice or in any built-in system voice. Users with physical, motor, and speech disabilities can communicate in the way that feels most natural and comfortable for them by combining Live Speech with features like Switch Control and AssistiveTouch, which offer alternatives to interacting with their device using physical touch.

The Newsroom article was more than just a reminder about Personal Voice and Live Speech, though. As an entry posted under the new Stories branding, there was an even more personal side to it. Apple spotlit Tristram Ingham, an accessibility advocate, who has a condition which causes progressive muscle degeneration starting in the face, shoulders, and arms, and can ultimately lead to the inability to speak, feed oneself, or in some cases, blink the eyes.”

Ingham created his Personal Voice for Apple’s The Lost Voice,” in which he uses his iPhone to read aloud a new children’s book of the same name created for International Day of Persons with Disabilities. When he tried the feature for the first time, Ingham was surprised to find how easy it was to create, and how much it sounded like him.

That children’s book is the subject of the short film, The Lost Voice’, that Apple made to accompany this story, and, spoilers, Ingham narrates it using his Personal Voice and Live Speech.

It’s a touching film, and an especially relevant article to read this week considering it’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities this Sunday (a fact I didn’t realize until seeing the MacStories article about Apple’s Newsroom feature).

I’m not currently at risk of losing my voice, but I’m certainly sympathetic to those who are. Here’s Ingham on the importance of having a digital voice that captures your unique intonations and mannerisms:

Disability communities are very mindful of proxy voices speaking on our behalf,” Ingham says. Historically, providers have spoken for disabled people, family have spoken for disabled people. If technology can allow a voice to be preserved and maintained, that’s autonomy, that’s self-determination.”

I applaud Apple on having a guiding vision for this set of features. Certainly it’s fun for someone like me to be able to play around with an on-device voice model, but for many other people, it can be the difference between retaining part of their identity or having yet another bit of it snatched from them by the unforgiving jaws of a cruel disease.

Frankly, it’s astounding that we have the power to make a replica of our voice using nothing but the device that already lives in our pocket. I consider the marriage of microphone quality, software UX, machine learning models, and neural engine cores coming together to make this feature possible a true triumph.

Also, you never know when you might need it. I (also) encourage everyone to spend the few minutes it takes to have a replica of their voice ready, just in case.

Finish the job with your own apps, please, Apple

About those big plans” for my Personal Voice that I mentioned earlier. For years, I’ve dreamed of automatically creating an audio version of my blog posts, read in my own voice. We talk about a writer’s writing voice being distinctive, but I think there’s something extra special about hearing their written words read aloud in their verbal voice. Ben Thompson has this dialed with his Stratechery articles released both in text form, and read by him in a podcast. I don’t have the time, tools, or bandwidth to record a bespoke podcast for each of my silly blog posts. But I could create a close approximation with Personal Voice and Shortcuts.

Or, at least, I’d like to, but Shortcuts lacks the ability to use my Personal Voice with its actions. I was so sure that my Personal Voice would appear as an option in the Speak Text’ and Make Spoken Audio from Text’ actions once it was finished processing. I even had a shortcut built out, ready to start producing narrated versions of my blog posts. Why was I so convinced? Because the Personal Voice pane in Settings provides a specific option to let other apps use your voice. Certainly Shortcuts, the first-party Apple app that has hooks into all kinds of settings and that is the poster child for extending Accessibility features into complex workflows that can’t be accomplished any other way, would be the first to request use of my voice. Alas, it appears to have slipped through the cracks.

Personal Voice settings showing the toggle for other apps to use it, and Shortcuts’ list of voices with mine missing.
You’d think Jarrod’s Personal Voice’ would be in this list, right? 🤨

My dream will have to wait. But getting this included is far more important than my inconsequential audible blog post idea. Shortcuts’ integration with the rest of the system features makes it way more powerful and able to handle nuanced situations.

Having some saved phrases in Live Speech is great, but imagine having dictionary full of common phrases you use, able to be contextualized and surfaced base on location, calendar events, or Focus mode.

Pasting or typing text into the Live Speech field is useful for ongoing conversations, but what if you wanted to save that favorite bedtime story, read in full in your voice, as an audio file that your granddaughter could listen to, again and again, long after you’re gone?

With Shortcuts and Personal Voice, those ideas could easily be reality, able to be harnessed by billions of people around the world.

In the meantime, I’ve laid out this case in a Feedback (FB13427747) to Apple and hope we’ll see Personal Voice get the extensibility it deserves very soon.

Shortcuts

November 29, 2023

Apple is Accused of Censorship Again in the TV+ Department

Jess Weatherbed, reporting for The Verge on the terse words Robert De Niro had for Apple after part of his acceptance speech for the Gotham Awards was removed last minute:

Robert De Niro slammed Apple and the Gotham Film & Media Institute this week after claiming his speech for the Gotham Awards had been censored — allegedly by an Apple employee just minutes before the show started, according to Variety’s sources — to remove criticisms about Donald Trump and the entertainment industry.

Weatherbed goes on to say that a source claims this was a miscommunication and they didn’t know De Niro hadn’t approved the final draft. Either way, this is an unfortunate smear on the record for Apple and its high-profile Killers of the Flower Moon film. It’s not a good look, especially after similar censorship rumors continue to float around Jon Stewart’s show cancelation.

When a member of the cast or crew accepts an award on behalf of the rest of the studio, I do think that the studio should get some input on the acceptance speech to make sure it reflects the values they hold. But it should be a joint effort, and it’s certainly no compromise if the copy is edited last-minute without the knowledge or approval of the person actually making the speech.

Our concern that Apple executives would be overly involved in the creative production of Apple TV+ shows and films essentially dried up when we saw how adult” their first releases were. It seemed like they trusted their creative partners to tell compelling stories without corporate oversight. I don’t know if that trust is eroding, or Apple is becoming more cautious as a company, but I fear that with these allegations flying around, talent and production partners are going to think twice about signing on with them.

Go watch De Niro’s speech in full.

Linked

November 29, 2023

Marcos Tanaka’s Play 2.0

If you’re the kind of person who likes to save articles to read later, you’re going to wonder how you lived without Play in your life. It’s a read-it-later app, but for YouTube videos! I’ve mentioned it before, and Play continues to be one of my very favorite apps across my iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV.

Today, Play’s developer Marcos Tanaka, introduced a major new release of Play, version 2.0, with some incredible features that will save you from having to delve into the YouTube app, maybe ever again. You should definitely check out the app’s website, the MacStories review of v2.0, and Devon Dundee’s blog post for a good rundown of the new features and its (pretty reasonable, I think) new subscription.

I don’t know if the headlining new Follow Channels feature — where you can now use Play as an inbox for new videos from your favorite channels and save the ones you want to watch — will be for me. I’ve used RSS for years to keep on top of new videos from channels I follow and I don’t think I’ll end up wanting a separate place to check for new stuff, but I can totally see how it would be great for anyone not as all in” on RSS as I am. That said, I’m using the one week free trial to see if it’ll change my mind about that.

[Update: I made this shortcut to help with following all your existing YouTube channel subscriptions in Play all at once.]

But what I am super excited about when it comes to channels, and that actually came in a release earlier this year, is the auto-populating folders for each YouTube channel that you have at least one video saved from. So when I save videos from a shortcut or the share sheet, they show up in that channel’s list in the sidebar. I tend to binge stuff from a single creator, so it’s perfect for the way I like to watch videos.

iPad screenshot of the Play app navigated to a channel folder for the ‘Miranda Goes Outside!!’ channel with 18 thumbnails for their saved videos.
All the videos sorted by channel at last. Miranda Goes Outside!! is one of my favorite YouTubers — she’s hilarious!

The last thing I’ll leave you with is a couple of screenshots that show how I’ve set up Play-specific home screens. I love how I can jump right into a video without having to browse the app first. As of iOS 17, they’re even interactive so I can filter by tag or Smart Search lists.

iPad and iPhone home screens with lots of play widgets that show video thumbnails and tag filtering buttons.
All* Play, all the time. (*mostly all)

The one shortcut icon you see next to Play is this one, my YouTube Launcher that presents a menu to jump directly into specific parts of the YouTube app, which prevents me from getting having to navigate throughout the app and risk distraction from my goal.

Congratulations to Marcos on a solid new release, and for earning not just a spot on my home screen, but multiple full home screens with this vital creation.

P.S. Once you’ve downloaded Play, go ahead and try two of Marcos’ other apps, MusicBox (it’s like Play, but for songs, albums, and playlists you want to listen to later), and MusicHarbor (for keeping up with every new release from artists in your music library).

Apps Reviews

November 27, 2023

Two-Sentence Reviews of Some Gizmos I Got

In celebration of the cyberiest of Mondays (and because I’m apparently not dutiful enough to write full reviews for each of these), here are my brief impressions — née snappy summaries — of some stuff I’ve picked up over the last few months.

[Yes, most of these are affiliate links. But I think we know each other well enough by now that you understand I wouldn’t give a dishonest review of something in an attempt to make pennies off your click. I honestly don’t remember the last time I had an Amazon Affiliate payout.]

NOMAD Stand One MagSafe Dock

This thing looks so sleek on my desk, and works way better than the old Qi charging pad I was using. StandBy mode is pretty sweet too.

Get it →

MagSafe Battery Pack

It’s great for the iPhone mini and has saved my bacon a few times (especially while hiking), but probably not worth it for bigger phones. Because of all the special sauce it gets, I can’t believe Apple discontinued it without a replacement!

Get it →

Furnace Industries Ice Axe Drytooling Picks

Actually, I can’t tell you much about them because I haven’t installed them yet. I was so stoked to get these and use them to train up for ice climbing using my actual ice axe shafts, but then the weather turned cold and I can’t see the point of swapping my ice picks for them since I’m probably just going to start climbing real ice again soon.

Get them →

Mountain Equipment Firefly Jacket

A ridiculously expensive jacket that I could only afford because of my steep employee discount in our gear shop, but I can’t deny that it’s my new favorite shell. It’s so lightweight and svelte while being completely waterproof that I don’t mind carrying it around as an extra layer just in case of bad weather.

Get it →

Apple Watch Trail Loop Band

After wearing just the one Alpine Loop band for my Apple Watch Ultra for an entire year, I was pretty excited to have a second option. Somehow, it’s even more comfortable than the previous king-of-comfort, the Sport Loop bands, while also being more secure on the wrist.

Get it →

Anker USB Car Charger

I’ve had more need for charging bigger devices in the car, and my old no-name, off-brand 5W charger couldn’t keep up. This one can deliver 30W and doesn’t worry me that it has feeble innards that will either fry my electronics or catch on fire.

Get it →

Cafele 3-in-1 Retractable Charging Cable

I’ve been a big fan of 3-in-1 charging cables that let you power multiple devices at once, but I needed a USB-C one to go with the Anker car charger. With 100W capability and the retractable cable, I think it’ll meet my needs for many years to come and do so while not taking up much counter space or room in my car’s arm rest cubby (yep, I bought two of them).

Get it →

HOU iPad Mini 6 Keyboard Case Folio

I had such high hopes for this thing because it’s such a lightweight and unobtrusive way to always have a keyboard at the ready with the iPad mini. But the keys are just way too small and weirdly laid out that I don’t think I could get use to typing with them.

(Probably don’t) Get it →

Doqo iPad Mini 6 Keyboard Case with Touchpad

If this keyboard were made out of different materials, or dropped some features, to make it lighter, it would a runaway success — a true iPad Pro mini-maker. As it is, the typing experience is pretty good and the trackpad surprisingly excellent, but it’s so heavy that I don’t want to use it as a daily driver.

Get it →

Wemo Stage Controller for HomeKit

You get three functions for each of the three keys for nine(!) different devices or scene automations this remote can run. It’s pretty reliable and doesn’t require a separate app for setup or updates — I just wish it were a little bigger/more substantial.

Get it →

Hansabenne Dehumidifier

Our bathroom doesn’t have a shower fan, or an easy way to install one, so, after hours of research, I found this dehumidifier that (1) can auto-drain, (2) is small and unobtrusive, and, most importantly, (3) can monitor the active humidity level and automatically turn on when it goes above a pre-set level (i.e. when taking a shower). I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by its effectiveness at clearing out the humidity and preventing mold.

Get it →

Tatofy Magic Mouse 2 Grip with Wireless Charging

Such a clever device, trying to kill two birds with one stone: (1) overcome the objectionable bottomside Lightning charging method of the Magic Mouse by adding wireless Qi charging, and (2) give the Magic Mouse more (ergonomic?) substance. Everyone’s hands are different, so your mileage may vary, but mine tends to prefer the lower profile of the naked Magic Mouse even while I applaud their success on the charging mechanism.

Get it →

Continuity Camera MagSafe Mount

This is the gizmo that you didn’t know you needed, and, by golly, it’s flawlessly executed. Stick this thing on the back of your TV and you’ve given yourself a Continuity Camera mount so you can slap your iPhone on your TV for FaceTime calls, but then effortlessly hide it away when not in use.

(Definitely) Get it →

TubShroom Bath Tub Drain Protector

An Instagram ad that got me, but I’m glad it did. It makes cleaning up drain-clogging hair a breeze, even if it doesn’t let water through when clogged” as effectively as you might hope.

Get it →

SinkShroom Clog-Free Sink Strainer

I saw they had sink versions when researching the TubShroom, and I’d say this version is even better. It does let water drain when when clogged”, it looks good, and, best of all, food particles don’t get hung up on it’s edges when chasing them around this sink with a stream of water.

Get it →

DrainShroom Tub and Sink Snake Auger

Are you catching the theme here? This supposedly easy and efficient drain snake was a big disappointment and I don’t recommend it; just get the real deal instead.

(Really, don’t) Get it →

Hoto Cordless USB-C All-in-One Screwdriver

[Full disclosure, I added this one after publishing because I remembered it after I saw on The Verge that you can get it for 55% off (just $36) right now.]

Where has this screwdriver been all my life?! It houses all the bits in its carrying case, is charged by USB-C, has plenty of power for household screwdriving needs, has a built-in light, and fits in tight places where a traditional drill won’t — what are you waiting for?

Get it →


Great! I got more of my opinions out onto the internet! Just what the world needs. Anyway, that was actually kind of fun to write. You should try it and send your reviews to me. My rampant consumerism hasn’t be sated by Capitalist Hellscape Week, so I need to know what you found that totally, definitely has been (or will be) the missing link to eternal happiness.

Reviews

November 26, 2023

7 Things This Week [#120]

A weekly list of interesting things I found on the internet, posted on Sundays. Sometimes themed, but often not.


1️⃣ Indie App Sales has a list of over 300(!) apps that are providing some sort of discount for the Black Friday shopping event/week. I have a feeling that my digital wallet is about to get a bit lighter… [🔗 app.indieappsales.com]

2️⃣ I’ve enjoyed following along with Matt Birchler’s 365 Albums Project this year. I didn’t often listen to a full album he recommended, but I have been rocking out to the compilation playlist lately. In the moment, I didn’t appreciate his custom header images for the albums. Check out this retrospective post for some superb examples. I’m considering doing something similar next year… [🎵 Matt Birchler // birchtree.me]

3️⃣ I promise you that I do not climb like this. But the sheer audacity of this 9000-foot traverse, not to mention the manner by which these guys completed it, is jaw-dropping in every sense of the phrase. (Oh, and this crag, The Gunks, is kind of in my downstate backyard. I’ve been there a couple of times this month!) [▶️ Well Good Productions // youtube.com]

4️⃣ The thing I love about Chris Sharma is how unassuming his demeanor is. If you can subscribe to Reel Rock to see the full version of this video, I highly recommend it. You see him tackling this bleeding edge climb at the highest difficulty, while also balancing being a father and business owner. It’s so inspiring to see someone do it all. [▶️ REEL ROCK // youtube.com]

5️⃣ My wife and I have been loving Lessons in Chemistry on Apple TV+. Brie Larson is undeniable as Elizabeth Zott. Now Apple has put together a site with key recipes from the show! We’re gonna have to give some of these a try. (Oh my god, there are even premade ingredient carts for Instacart!) [🍽️ Apple TV+ // lessonsinchemistryrecipes.com]

6️⃣ I can’t disagree with any of these sources of awe, and in fact, I agree with all of them. [😮 @pratik // microblog.pratikmhatre.com]

7️⃣ Great, now I have a new pet peeve. Maybe skip this one if you don’t want a new thing to be bothered by. [😤 Mike Crittenden // critter.blog]


Take a Chance


Thanks for reading 7 Things. If you enjoyed these links or have something neat to share, please let me know. And remember that you can get more links to internet nuggets that I’m finding every day by following me @jarrod on the social web.

7 Things

November 24, 2023

Not So Fuzzy Feelings About ‘Fuzzy Feelings’

I wasn’t going to say anything about Apple’s traditional holiday short, but after reading Andy Ihnatko’s dissection of it on Six Colors, I realized I wasn’t the only one put off by it. They’re usually heartwarming, heartfelt, and sweet, but this year’s short fell, well, short for me this year. Andy did a great job summing up the myriad of things that felt off about it. You should go read his whole post, but I’ll call out a few points that stuck out to me as well.

The protagonist’s revenge stop-motion film seemed over the top for the grievances her boss performed against her:

How many weeks did it take her to complete just one of those humiliating scenes? She designed and constructed dolls, props, and sets; she invested lots of money and ingenuity in doing the lighting and rigging; she animated each shot one painsaking frame at a time; and then did all of the editing.

You must agree with me that this is an utterly psychopathic amount of work. It’s very correct to witness this behavior and then fear for that man’s safety out in the real world.

One of those grievances”:

I’ll also point out that one of the little things the boss did that annoyed and angered her was that he noticed that she was very late for work. He communicated his disappointment in a quick, low-key way that drew no attention from the rest of the office. Close examination of the previous scene reveals why she was late that morning: she’d gotten so wrapped up in her whole Torture My Boss By Wooly Proxy project that she’d lost all track of time.

And then, her empathy was far too forthcoming for the supposedly deep-seated dislike she held for him, just because he (wishy-washingly) handed her a handmade gift (that he also gave to the rest of the office), and then she saw him eating alone.

It just felt like too little for her to completely change her mind about the man, after she had clearly spent weeks (months?) imagining his painful humiliation. Andy seems to have felt the same way:

So when the lady in the Fuzzy Feelings” video exercises her empathy only conditionally, after she comes to pity her boss (itself a form of dehumanization), it comes across as… well, not wrong, but definitely odd.

A real gem in Andy’s piece is this declaration about human empathy:

Well, whatever. Empathy is the point of today’s sermon. Empathy requires each of us to never ever forget that we should treat fellow humans like human beings and not human-shaped objects. No exceptions and no excuses.

Simple? Oh, sure. But holy cats, it’s hard to get a consistent grip on the thing, isn’t it? It’s easier to know that we’ve misplaced our empathy than it is to be sure of what we should do with it.

So good that I copied it to my quote journal!

But I don’t really buy Andy’s theory that the protagonist’s capacity for empathy is influenced by the fact she she uses Windows at work and Apple products at home:

So maybe the lady’s capacity for empathy is intact… but her ability to access it is influenced by her environments. When she’s in the office and her boss gives her a gentle rebuke for a legit HR infraction, her proximity to a Microsoft operating system influences her to choose a path of (needle-felted stop-motion) violence.

That’s a little too grasping at straws” for me, but the manufacturer of her work tools was an interesting detail that I hadn’t noticed.

Apple’s had a good run of theses warm and fuzzy holiday shorts. I’m not faulting them too hard for one flop out of many years. I guess I’m just a little surprised that literally the fuzziest one of all didn’t land so well.

Linked