Excellent article on a small city’s car-free transformation

Spain’s Happy Little Carless City

Pontevedra, once choked with cars, is a laboratory for how smaller cities can implement a few simple tricks to reduce driving dramatically.

Many great points here including:

  • free parking at perimeter of city

  • make streets for walking (get rid of sidewalks)

  • small, incremental steps

My hope is that one day Red Bank elects the kind of forward-thinking leaders capable of this kind of vision. We are a long way off from that.

Catalina Inbox not Syncing with Gmail

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Good to know I’m not the only one, but I don’t think the issue that I’m having is widespread which makes me nervous!

The gmail IMAP inbox on my Mac running catalina bears ZERO resemblance to the inbox I see on my iphone or in gmail thorugh the web browser. Frightening. And still AAPL is at an all time high. #freemarketfailure?

Catalina

Upgrading my MacBook Pro, the Catalina upgrade hung up on “Setting up computer…” but as I had already looked into that issue for a buddy of mine the other day, I know that’a a widespread problem so I just rebooted and it everything came up fine.

Was a bit of a bummer that Scrivener 2 didn’t make the cut for Catalina and as it’s a 32-bit app and I’m not paying to upgrade I went through and exported all of my Scrivener projects as text files before the upgrade. This, part of a larger plan to try to narrow down the number of buckets/apps I use for writing/notes/etc. So exporting ten or so projects was a bit tedious but I discovered that I have written A TON of stuff over the past six years or so. Way more than I thought I had. And that’s not counting journal writing which lives in Day One.

Other than the loss of Scrivener, I’m noting mostly positives since upgrading:

  • apps launch so much more quickly under Catalina.
  • sidecar doesn’t work with the last, best MacBook Pro Apple ever made. Not sure it would have changed my life, but would have been cool.
  • the Photos.app is really, really good at picking out your best photos. It’s uncanny. I wish there were some way to say “find all my lousy photos so I can just batch delete them.” But maybe that’ll come. For now, it’s great just to scroll through the days or months view and see what iPhoto thinks are my best photos.
  • Music app is better though since moving my library to the cloud with iTunes Match, I’m noticing some wonkiness with my album covers getting lost. Need to carve out some downtime to clean up my album covers in iTunes. It’ll make browsing what to listen to much more engaging.
  • iCloud account info under system preferences seems to be much better organized now, especially around Family Sharing type information.
  • everything else seems pretty smooth and snappy.

Fingers crossed on this Spotify update for iOS

I’ve been seeing references to the latest beta of Spotify on reddit where users report that Siri support now works with Spotify. This will be great if it works well!

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I have been loving my stereo homepods but am itching for better automation/shortcuts and Siri integration and have been using my iTunes library to play most of the music but it’ll be great to have access to my Spotify playlists.

Microsoft Outlook on Mac.

Been using this for work lately. Crashes pretty regularly which I could live with if it would only support emacs keybindings like Mail.app does (ctrl-a for start of line, ctrl-e for end of line). Very frustrating!

HomePod with iTunes Match

I’m running stereo HomePods in our living room. Boy what a difference a second HomePod makes!

Doesn’t sound as good as my beloved Vandersteens which got relocated during a recent furniture rearrangement and frankly the Homepods don’t make for great “active listening” because the imaging is way to fuzzy and nebulous but for just hanging out and getting things done, the sound of stereo HomePods is really excellent.

So naturally I wanted to have access to music to be able to yell at the HomePods and ask Siri “play the album Babylon by Bus.” But I am cheap and already subscribe to Spotify so didn’t want to have to subscribe to Apple Music on top of Spotify. So I dug around a bit and ended up springing for the $25/year iTunes Match service which allows me to take my 30k songs from my iTunes library and upload them to iCloud so they’re available on all my devices (iPhone and HomePods in this case).

It took a lot of BS and fiddling to get this solution to work but ultimately it did and now I can ask Siri to play anything that is in my music library without having to airplay it from my Mac or iPhone.

First I had the difficulty of just getting my 30k songs into the cloud. That took about 3 days and 3 attempts at telling iTunes to “update iCloud Music Library.” But after about 3 days all of the tracks had either “matched” or “uploaded” next them. I presume the latter is when iTunes Store doesn’t have access to the track.

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After that, I was able to see all of my music on my iPhone which was pretty cool (tons of live dead shows now!). But still the HomePods would say, “sorry I can’t find that” when I asked them to play something from my library. So I removed them from the “Home” app on my phone and then restarted them. At which point they now seem to be aware of all of the music in my library.

Very cool to be able to say “hey Siri, shuffle some Antonio Carlos Jobim” and have it just work.

Now to make some playlists!

Bose warranty = awesome/great customer service

A big part of the sound of Kül d’Sack (one of the bands I play in) is our Bose L1 paired with the Bose Tonematch mixer.

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The prebaked digital modeling settings for Shure microphones is just great on these Bose devices. The sound quality is uncannily good.

Unfortunately a few gigs back one of the channels on the mixer started exhibiting some static noise. I thought it might have been one of the guitar rigs but over a few weeks the channel noise made it clear that the issue was inside the mixer.

I called Bose, explained the problem and within 90 seconds the customer service rep said he wanted to send me a new unit. I was worried about having to pack mine up and have it repaired. A new unit is much better.

Super-pleased about this whole process and it’s a joy that something that works and sounds so good also has a good company standing behind their product.

WTF? Why does iMessage search suck so bad.

Can’t find a message that I JUST FRICKIN’ SENT a few days ago! Let’s try Googling:

Redditimessage

Well, I’m not the only one!

The inability to use the Messages app on the Mac to search message history is really a nuisance. That, and I’m noticing Spotlight search in general seems to really be crappy lately. I wrote this a while back which seemed to kickstart Spotlight back to life:

sudo mdutil -a -i off
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist
sudo mdutil -a -i on

But it doesn’t work under Mojave. Bummer.

Grove Collaborative

Grove

We use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save for monthly deliveries of household stuff like garbage bags, cleaners, etc. This month though I did some Googling while reviewing our deliveries and found that Grove Collaborative was cheaper on a few products. Just placed an order, we’ll see.

They are a B Corp which makes me feel a little better about supporting them (though, natch, shopping locally/independently would be even better if I had the time). From their about page:

We offer products that are gentler on the earth, prioritize post-consumer materials for packaging, and carbon offset every shipment that goes out our door.

Will try to revisit this next month with an update.

Things + GTD

Thingsapp

Incredible to think that I’ve been using Things for 10 years now. Amazing application and I can not imagine living without it. That said, I’ve only half-heartedly been maintaining/cleaning/pruning my lists in there and it is totally out of control and probably still contains “Someday/Maybe” items from 10 years ago.

Listening to Tim Ferris interview Getting Things Done author, David Allen the other day got me thinking about being a bit more disciplined about my Things lists.

I haven’t actually made any progress. Yet. But I did find a terrific writeup by Johnny Chadda on how he uses Things for GTD. Really excellent writeup with super-useful screenshots. When I do actually make progress on using Things for GTD is will be because of his how to guide.

Best Apple Watch App for Running

Part of the problem with Strava’s ubiquity on the workout/app front is that once you start using it you don’t often look around to see what else might be available. That said, I’ve never loved the way strava worked on my Apple Watch so did a little digging and found this amazing gem of an application called WorkOutDoors.

So good. Such a better alternative to Strava.

Especially if you run. Even more so if you adhere to the MAF running method (low heart rate, high cadence).

I’ve been using WorkOutDoors consistently for a few weeks now and it is a joy. It required a bit of tweaking/settings modifications that might be a bit complex for a non-tech savvy person but once I got the settings dialed in, it does exactly what I want it to do, reliably and WAY better than Strava.

WatchStripOverview

The app allows you to configure multiple watch screens for each activity (Running, Cycling, etc.). And you can do those configurations from your phone, so no futzing around with the tiny watch interface.

I only use it for running and created a single screen that shows me:
– cadence
– heart rate
– distance
– pace
– time.

So much density of readable data on that screen!!!! Amazing.

I also set up a couple of alarms so that if my cadence falls below 170 or my heart rate exceed 145 I get some haptic feedback on my wrist. I love it. This app is great. If you run, totally worth trying it out.

Oh, and after you get done with your run you can also very easily press a button and upload the activity to strava. So you’re not cut off from the social part of strava, either.

Journaling and Journalism and Personal Photography

This past weekend we went out with a couple of other New Jersey families to Cranks Around the Campfire.

I’ve wanted to go to this mountain biking/camping/family-friendly event for a few years now but each year it has coincided with our annual pilgrimage up to New England in the VW to go swimming in various lakes. This year though, we didn’t do our annual summer trip so we were in NJ and were available. So a few months ago we organized with a few other families to attend.

So glad we did. It was a blast. Not quite as fun as wandering around in Vermont or Maine in the Vanagon for a couple of weeks but a great way to sleep outdoors and ride bikes and hang together as a family unit and bid the summer goodbye.

As I was going through my pictures from the weekend though I was a bit disappointed with the photos that I shot. Even though I brought my Fuji with me instead of relying on my iPhone, I still wasn’t very happy with my photos. Some were technically good but I didn’t really capture the context.

Which gets me thinking about the food writing I did and the advice the editor gave me about photos I took to accompany my articles: capture as much information as possible. That is great advice, even for taking pictures of family trips. Maybe even especially when taking pictures of family trips.

I am so grateful for the stint I did writing over at PieHole. For one thing, it made me soooo much better at being comfortable asking people questions. Interviewing a couple of people a week for a year or so can really get you out of your head/shell and more comfortable just approaching anyone and asking them about themselves.

And the thing is that people really like to talk about themselves. Until I did the food writing gig I was always uncomfortable asking people questions because I didn’t want to intrude. So that’s one thing.

But then there was the whole photography end of the food writing gig. I wanted to take technically correct photos of food. But that didn’t serve the journalism. Instead what I learned was taking pictures of people doing things they loved, interacting with tools or places they knew well–that’s a much better way to take a photo.

Unfortunately I have gotten rusty on both of these fronts:

  • I’m not asking strangers enough questions and
  • I’m not approaching my personal photography with the same need-for-context that I did back when I was writing food stories.

Just a note to self to try a bit harder here!

Credit Card Confusion

First off, here’s this from an interesting read over at The Week:

In brief, payment card companies are piggybacking on public systems and guarantees to gouge the American public, especially with credit cards. They act as middlemen, skimming fees off transactions and using their size to bully businesses into accepting their terms — who then raise prices on all consumers. The associated profits, both for Visa and company and the issuing banks, are effectively a tax on everything Americans pay for.

Also, two other credit card facts I learned this weekend:

  • KMart doesn’t accept American Express
  • Audible (despite being owned by Amazon), doesn’t accept the Amazon Store Card.

iOS Shortcut to upload photo to WordPress & Instagram

I am trying to reduce the friction of posting photos to my site from my phone. In the process I thought it might be useful to simultaneously upload photos to my Instagram profile at the same time as my site.

Over the past year I’ve cobbled together a bunch of pieces to make this process work and it’s never been super-reliable in part because sometimes shortcuts likes to upload a .heic file instead of a jpeg.

##Heic file error

By default, the iPhone stores images in the .heic format. It seems that once you edit a photo on the iPhone it is then saved back to the library as a .jpeg. But I don’t want to have to edit a photo just to ensure that it will upload through the shortcut correctly.

What I’ve realized is that when you do anything with a photo using the share icon, iOS also converts the photo to a .jpeg.

As such, calling the shortcut through the share icon from the Photos library instead of calling the shortcut and then selecting the photo seems to get this whole thing working pretty consistently.

I can’t take credit for this shortcut working as good as it does. I pulled most of it from a website that, sadly, google can no longer find. I have no idea why. In any case, if you’d like to try it out, here is a link to my version shortcut.

You will need the WordPress iOS app installed on your phone for the shortcut to work.