09 January 2017

Send'em Packing

Okay, I’ve got some app recommendations, as usual. These are all utility ones but so far I’ve loved them all. First up is Bear, which is just wonderful because it’s a beautiful note taking app, perfect for replacing Notes. I mean, Notes is nice and all, but if you want/need a beautiful icon of a bear’s profile on your iPhone screen, high recommend. Also, Bear has very nice categorization hashtags, a clean interface, and a Mac app that syncs perfectly — and quickly.

The one downside is that Bear costs money to sync between devices, and while it’s only an annual subscription fee of $14.99 (or $1.49 month-by-month), I know how some people feel about paying for apps. If you’re against it, well, Bear ain’t for you. Actually, all these apps I’m gonna talk about today are paid. But if you want to support creators, you should really reconsider your stance on never paying for apps. Times have changed, and oftentimes paying for an app tends to bring you a more quality product. No more freemium, and the inevitable ads, for me if a better paid alternative is available!
With that in mind, I finally moved over to 1Password. As much as I harp on systemizing and frequently changing your passwords, I know I should have been using a master password solution long ago. So I’m making a change — and upgrade really — and going with 1Password. And I’m glad I’ve waited, as the newest version of 1Password is significantly easier to use than when I tried it a few years ago. Now, 1Password isn’t cheap. The iOS app is $10, and the accompanying Mac app is $50+. Plus if you use their proprietary service to sync/save, it’s another $2.99 per month. (You don’t have to though, you can use Dropbox or iCloud.)

Setting it up can take a bit of time, but be patient, and soon your passwords will be secure and yet easy to use. I’ve been using it for three weeks now, and it has helped in so many little ways. I don’t use 1Password to auto-generate all my random passwords, but I’m working up to it.

Unrelated but a pro tip: Do this for your phone, "The iOS ‘@@' Shortcut As A Text Expander For Emails.” It’ll change your life, seriously. Thanks to SuperLum for changing mine.
And then we get to Deliveries, which just tracks your um, deliveries. If you prefer to do all your shopping online, this is a no brainer. While I didn’t quite see why I couldn’t just check my Amazon account a lot or click on all those emails, now that I’ve used Deliveries, I absolutely love it. I know exactly where my stuff is and when it’ll arrive. No more heading to the mailbox — we have to drive to a PO Box — to see if my exciting order has arrived. And trust me, I’ve been ordering up a storm of stuff recently, from kitchen supplies to books to well, mostly those two things. Also, it’s been useful for work as I can track UPS shipments and stuff too!

Deliveries is $4.99 for iOS and also $4.99 for Mac. I bought both. And if you want to get fancy, you can use IFTTT to cook up some useful Deliveries recipes that automates the tracking info from your email to the actual app. Otherwise you gotta copy/paste tracking numbers in.

My other friend uses Parcel, which is semi-free, and seems to be just as clean and useful, but since I was recommended Deliveries from a trusted source, I went with that one. Alternately, if you want me to keep track of your packages, feel free to send me your tracking numbers and I’ll be on high alert, I promise.
And now we get down to some games. No need to get into super detail here but the two that have been living on my phone are Lost Frontier ($2.99) and Guild of Dungeoneering ($4.99). I auto-buy anything from Mika Mobile because I love their games and art style so much, and Lost Frontier is a cut above due to its Western theme. Plus I’m a sucker for hex based war games and only wish this had multi-player. But I know it won’t likely have it, sadly.

As for Guild of Dungeoneering — “dungeoneering” is just weird to see/spell right? — it’s a twist on the classic roguelike dungeon crawler because you don’t actually control the character. Instead you lay down tiles and try to lure them around a dungeon. You do get to do the fighting, and losing, but when a character dies, you have to go recruit another one to send to their death. Each character is GoD is so cute and has whimsical traits, plus the art is just unabashedly cute! This is another app I like having on my iPhone just because I like looking at the logo…

So, that’s what I got on my phone these days If you have any app recommendations, please share! Actually, just one more. If you’re into fine art, Artsy is a free app for browsing museum collections. Ostensibly it’s also for collecting but I’ve never explored the side of the site/app. Because, I mean, who am I to collect fine art?

04 January 2017

Stuff I've Been Consuming 2016



Well, here we are again, at the end of another year and I’ve failed to finish fiftyfifty.me once more. However, this is my finest effort in years, as I got to 33 books and 64 movies. I spent my NYE trying to cram in one last movie and book -- a very excellent Mustang and a confusing The Hour of the Star, respectively. Obviously I went into the new year right, and totally set the stage for twelve months of productivity and progress. Ahem. Anyway, let’s just get right into it shall we?

MOVIES: Considering I’ve averaged eighty-four movies for the past four years, this year’s sixty-four seems awfully low. But that’s okay, quality over quantity! And there were some good ones on my list. But first, where do I watch my movies? Apparently the breakdown is forty-two movies in the theater and twenty-two at home or in airplanes. I recently calculated that I spent about $1,000 at the movies last year, which comes out to a whopping $23.80 per movie I watched. (By comparison, I spent $300 buying books, clearly many unread ones.) Something about that seems awfully wrong, but it just goes to show that I either paid for a lot of other people's tickets, went to some real luxurious theaters, or I rewatched a lot of things. Like Captain America: Civil War, saw that gem three times. And La La Land, which I saw twice in four days, and almost another time last week.

Stop right here. Pay attention... LA LA LAND!!! I was so in on this movie beforehand it was hard to be overhyped. Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone. Singing. Dancing. The director of Whiplash. More Gosling. How could it fail!? For the most part, La La Land totally lived up to my expectations, and it actually got better upon a rewatch. Needless to say, I’ve been slamming the soundtrack hard the past two weeks. I don’t care what (some) haters say, La La Land is amazing -- and it's gonna take the Oscar this year.

The best movie of the year was probably The Lobster though. I need to watch it again but I just remember how simultaneously weird and fantastic I felt after walking out of the theater. If I had to name a film of the year, it would have to be The Lobster. With La La Land a close 1B if you want to feel happy instead of intensely morosely "whoa" — the after effects of a Lobster viewing -- then go with La La Land. Actually, Gosling + Stone in The Lobster would be interesting too. Gosling + Stone in anything really, and especially a new Sound of Music, as Juliet and Amanda from this Ringer podcast episode suggested. Semi-blasphemy, I know...

2016 list of straight A movies: 10 Cloverfield Lane, ArrivalCaptain America: Civil War, The Lobster, The Handmaiden, Moonlight (which I watched by myself in an empty theater as we descended officially into Trumpworld), La La Land, and Moana.

I also gave high marks to these too: Dearest, Dope, Hateful Eight, Love & Friendship, Manchester By the Sea, Mustang, The Revenant, and Zootopia. Here’s me talking about how much I giggled through Zootopia. And I guess that's about it for movies. I’ll have to get another MoviePass now that I’m back in the States. That almost $24 per movie figure is ridiculous right? All-you-can-watch please!

BOOKS:  Considering I read eleven books last year, I think this year’s thirty-three books read is a big win! I mean, right? Come to think of it, have I ever hit fifty books in a year after that inaugural 2012 year? Um, the sad answer is “no.” It's just been downhill ever since. So I guess 2016 was a semi-resurgence!

The numbers breakdown comes out to fourteen fiction books, ten non-fiction books, six graphic novels, and um, three zines. I know, do we even count zines? They were long zines, so I don’t care! Actually, moving forward, I think to be honest with myself, I need to eliminate graphic novels and zines from the list. So fine, I only read twenty-four “real” books this year.

Of the ones I want to push, at the top of the list is Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others. With the release of Arrival in multiplexes recently, I finally read some Chiang earlier in the year. Wait, looks like I already plugged Chiang on this very blog. So I'll skip the re-gushing. Next on the list is Shawna Yang Ryan’s Green Island, which again, I’ve plugged already. But if you read one book about the White Terror in Taiwan this year, let this be it! And also, another recommend I briefly mentioned was The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits.

I know I didn’t talk about United States of Japan though. It’s an alternative history action-y book about what it would have been like if Japan had won WWII. While it falls into a few too many tropes, I did like the ideas Peter Tieryas threw into the east defeats west setting. “A fun romp, plus giant mechas,” is what my one line review would say. My final recommend is Michael Lewis’ The Big Short. I watched the movie twice, finally read the book, and got all fired up about the 2008 mortgage crisis (again). Fuck Wall Street right? Lewis is consistently great and The Big Short is one of his best.

Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I also really liked the graphic novel Asterios Polyp, which I (once again) talked about already. Ugh, drone drone drone.

TELEVISION: Yeah, we don’t count television shows as part of our fiftyfifty.me diet because really, there’s no challenge to TV. Just sit back and watch the hours float away. Still, for the first time ever I documented all the shows I watched this year. And man was it a long list… Just like yours I’m sure.

Of the high recommends I’d put Atlanta, Black Sails, Chewing Gum, Orange is the New Black, The Night Of, and Westworld at the top. And I guess Stranger Things but everyone already watched that this summer. I want to especially put in a plug for Black Sails, which gets really good after a so-so S1, but then the subsequent seasons filled the Game of Thrones hole for me, with 80% of the conniving and plot twists GoT serves up. Too bad I have nobody to talk Black Sails with… And Tatiana Maslany finally won a well-deserved Golden Globe for Orphan Black, as she is simply amazing. We ripped through all four seasons of Orphan Black in short order, and can’t wait for the finale.

Along with all that, I watched some of The Get Down, Luke Cage, Black Mirror S3, and Joe Swanberg's Easy, but didn’t finish those quite yet. And to be honest, may never return to them. I wanted to like Luke Cage better, wanted to love Easy a lot, but both were pretty hit-or-miss. And Black Mirror, as a series, tends to disappoint on the regular so I may have to give it up altogether. All in all, I effortlessly finished fifteen shows — who knows how many seasons — and that just proves how easy TV goes down.

Sidenote: 2016 also marks the year my mom discovered binge TV, as she was high on Grand Hotel (basically a Spanish Downton Abbey) and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, a serialized detective show from Australia. She never used to watch television, like at all. And since she's not the best with technology, she didn't realize there were many more seasons of each show until I navigated to them. Now she loves her Apple TV more than she loves me, I'm sure. Netflix, bringing joy to all generations!

Okay, that's it for all things consumed 2016, thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe to Cool It Now, my newsletter for pop culture left behinds to feel less behind, as I'll soon be putting out its twelfth issue. And teaser: it's all about Gosling!