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Disordered thinking

I have always been a night owl. Society in general shuns the night owl; waking up early is to be praised, you’re a go-getter, you’re proactive. Waking up late means you’re lazy, you’re irresponsible. Medicine is finally waking up1 to the reality that different people have different natural sleep cycles, and this is okay, but their way of describing this is by calling the late-shift folks “delayed sleep phase disorder.”

People who are trans are told they have gender identity disorder.

People whose brains process stimulus differently and have a tendency to hyperfocus on problem-solving are told they have attention deficit disorder.

These aspects are framed as being outliers, deviations from the norm, problems to be fixed.

Disordered.

All these things that are inherent to me are framed as being problems. Things to be ashamed of. Things to cure.

But they are the things that make me who I am, and which give me strength.

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A peculiar argument regarding accessibility

I was reading the article Advocating for a Compassionate UI from Rally Health, a tech company who runs a benefits portal for my insurance company. I was reading it specifically because I’ve had various accessibility issues with their website1 and I wanted to see what their thoughts were regarding accessibility.

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Another pain, another frustration

For the past few days I’ve had some low-grade pain building up in my shoulder, just like it did in November 2017. Today it got excruciating. So I went to the hospital to get it checked out to make sure I wasn’t going to die of an embolism. I shared my medical history with this stuff (repeatedly) and the nurse and doctor focused on getting an embolism diagnosed.

That turned up negative. Which is great! But I’m still in excruciating pain. Which isn’t.

The doctor was dismissive of my pain. The nurse was too. She said that maybe knowing it’s not an embolism means I’ll feel better, and suggested the pain was just anxiety. But no, it is absolutely not just anxiety. Or just chronic pain. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for over 20 years now. I know what chronic pain feels like. This ain’t it.

I wasn’t in excruciating agony while lying down, but as soon as they discharged me they were nowhere to be found. As soon as I sat up I was in agony but I couldn’t find anyone to talk to. I already had my discharge paperwork, and it was late at night, and I wasn’t dying, so, just toss me out onto the street, don’t even try to find a sling or something that’ll help me.

I did at least manage to get a prescription for some painkillers. Maybe that’ll help, but I got home well after the pharmacy closed.

I mean I’m glad I’m not dying and that this probably wasn’t because of the clot, but holy heck am I in agony right now.

Maybe I should have put on more of a show about how much pain I was in. After the past two decades I’ve gotten pretty good at powering through pain and not, like, screaming and crying. That doesn’t mean I’m not hurting, it just means I’ve gotten good at not showing it. I’ve always learned to minimize my pain. So people see my pain as not being “real.”

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The ongoing quagmire that is iTunes Catalina Music.app

So, the latest issue with iTunes is that for whatever reason it’s stopped letting me actually play in a shuffle-from-library way. Which is to say, they got rid of the view where you can just see your whole library as the library, and click a “play” or “shuffle” button from there. I don’t know when it disappeared, but I know it used to be there, and now it isn’t.

It used to be that if you just had your view set to “albums” and pressed play anyway, it’d go ahead and choose something at random to play. But today it just kept on doing the same album: The Bends by Radiohead. Which is, granted, a great album, but I don’t know why it was choosing that one and that one alone, and I only felt like listening to it once, you know?

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The printer arrived!

So my new 3D printer arrived today. I went with the Artillery Genius, since it seemingly had the best blend of features and physical characteristics.

So far I like it, although wow the out-of-box experience could be a lot better. Not from the printer so much as from the software that drives it.

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Everything has to be sweet

So part of whatever this is I have is muscle pain, and my doctor directed me to take 1000mg of acetaminophen up to 4x daily. So I bought acetaminophen at the drug store just now, and the only non-expensive version they had was these “cool capsule” versions with an “instant cooling sensation.”

Which is to say they are cloyingly sweet and have a hint of mint flavor.

Of course the sweetness comes from an artificial zero-calorie sweetener which will probably end up giving me a headache.

Why the heck does everything have to be super-sweet? Maybe we wouldn’t need artificial zero-calorie sweeteners in pretty much everything if we didn’t have this expectation that everything taste like candy all the time.

I don’t know how it is in other countries but at least in the US we seem to have forgotten how to taste things. Everything’s loaded up with sugar and super-sweet. And so we have zero-calorie sweeteners to reduce the amount of sugar (instead of just reducing the amount of sugar in things that didn’t need sugar in the first place), and then we have sugar taxes to incentivize people away from sugar.

When I want to reduce my sugar intake, I generally do so by not eating sugary things. Yeah, I have a tendency to keep too much candy and snacks and so on around and I could stand to remove more from my diet. But it’s hard to avoid sweets when everything is sweet. And now I’m left with the horrible aftertaste of acesulfame potassium in my throat, this pernicious coating of not-sugar that just feels gross.

I just wanted some fucking Tylenol, man.

The end of two eras

Two things happened today of note:

  1. My new audio interface (affiliate link) arrived
  2. The demolition on my kitchen happened

Neither are things I really wanted to have to, y'know, spend this kind of money on right now, but they were both necessary. If badly-timed.

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More Corel shenanigans

So simply disabling the Corel Update Helper wasn’t enough to get my machine back in reasonably working order; I couldn’t figure out what was causing CUH to relaunch periodically and simply disabling the LaunchAgent didn’t do that. So, I ended up deleting CUH entirely:

sudo rm -rf /Library/Preferences/com.corel.* /Library/LaunchAgents/com.corel*

and while I was at it, I uninstalled Corel Painter.

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Corel Update Helper focus stealing

For the last few months, every now and then my foreground window will “blip” out of focus momentarily. This is slightly annoying whenever it happens, since that means that whatever I was doing gets disrupted. If I’m drawing a line, the line gets hecked up. If I’m typing text, letters get dropped. If I’m recording in Logic, my audio drops out for a couple seconds. You know, annoying.

I was searching high and low for what it might be, and in doing so I noticed that Karabiner-Elements (which I use to remap some of the keys on my non-remappable keyboards) has a window focus log (from the Karabiner menu choose Event Viewer then Frontmost application), which is intended to make it easier to tell the bundle name for per-app layout overrides.

Well, this is handy!

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Stop calling .org non-profit!

Yes, it sucks that the registry behind the .org gTLD has been sold to a for-profit corporation. But this article, and many others like it, keep on propagating a really messy misconception which I feel has done active harm:

The decision shocked the internet industry, not least because the .org registry has always been operated on a non-profit basis and has actively marketed itself as such. The suffix “org” on an internet address – and there are over 10 million of them – has become synonymous with non-profit organizations.

The Register is at least being careful to be technically correct1 here, in that the registrar is non-profit and has “become synonymous” with non-profit organizations. But the .org gTLD was never intended to be for non-profit organizations. In the original RFC, the intention was that the gTLDs were:

  • .gov: for government institutions
  • .edu: for educational institutions
  • .com: for commercial enterprises
  • .mil: for military use
  • .org: for everything else; the “org” was short for “organizational” as in “we don’t know where else to put it for now”

This was also when .net was created (despite not being in the RFC), referring to network services and infrastructure providers.

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iTunes Match kinda sucks

So remember how I was using iTunes Match and a smart shuffle app to manage my music?

Well, that hasn’t ended up working all that well.

The smart shuffle app, in particular, is incredibly unreliable and slow, and also my iTunes Match-backed library has… Issues.

Like, a lot of songs won’t sync over because of an “unspecified error” (I assume label interference, because they’re all songs from a particular label as far as I can tell), and a lot of other songs won’t sync over because they appear as “duplicates” since like… sometimes I have more than one instance of a song across multiple albums. Best-of compilations and singles releases and so on. Sometimes it does legitimately find a duplicate I want to get rid of but most of the time it’s just… not. And even when it does, it’s a crapshoot as to which one it decides is the duplicate and which is the “real” one.

Like. My whole thing is listening to albums, not individual songs, and if a song appears in multiple albums, I want it to be played within all of those albums.

At least they seem to have figured out that there are sometimes multiple versions of a song by the same artist and on different albums (like, it never seems to show the various Past Masters versions of Beatles songs as duplicates of the album versions). (Oh I guess I talked about that last time too. Obviously this is important to me.)

I’ve also noticed that playing songs on the iPhone doesn’t update the play stats in my cloud library, and even with the enormity of my library I’m still hearing albums more frequently than I’d like.

I feel like there has got to be a better way than any of this.

Oh wait, there was one, and Apple stopped bothering to support it.

Stop it with the zero-calorie sweeteners

I love my Sodastream carbonator. But I don’t like how all of its soda syrups have “50% less sugar” by them replacing it with Stevia or sucralose. Yesterday at Target I saw that they had a new line of syrups that claimed to be made of just fruit juice, and I looked at the ingredients, and didn’t see anything problematic, so I bought some.

Just now I made a cup of soda with it, and at the first sip realized that they’d snuck Stevia in. I looked at the ingredients again, and there was at the very end, steviol glycosides – the distilled essence of what makes Stevia Stevia.

So, that’s $10 down the drain, literally.

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How the heck I can listen to music the way I want to

Okay, after posting my rant, someone on a Slack I’m on pointed me to Smart Shuffle, an alternate player for iOS which plays music the way I want to listen to it. (Thanks, Roman!)

I also signed up for iTunes Match, which provides the only part of Apple Music I care about (while also costing way less). And it seems to be doing a good job of pre-populating my device with music, and Smart Shuffle is able to play from iCloud while I’m on wifi and then automatically switch to stuff that’s locally cached when I’m not on it, so hopefully that makes for a reasonably seamless experience.

I guess with the vast quantity of music I have at this point I don’t really care about play stats for excluding stuff I’ve heard recently since I have so much of it that it’s less likely for duplication to happen like that.

The iPhone does have a setting for how much music to prefetch but as far as I can tell there’s no way to tell it which playlists/songs/whatever to prioritize; as far as I can tell it intends to focus on stuff that I listen to already, which is pretty much the opposite of what I want.

I suppose that if I care incredibly deeply about having proper randomness available on my phone I could just get a 512GB iPhone when I inevitably upgrade. I guess that’s a decision I can make next time I’m in Portland (which is in just two weeks).

One annoyance with iTunes Match so far is that it refuses to cloud-upload songs which it sees as duplicates. Fortunately its duplicate detection seems to be a lot better than in the bad old days of just matching artist and title, but unfortunately it still means that if you have an artist who has released multiple close-enough-to-each-other versions of the same song on different albums, or has released a best-of compilation, you’ll only get one rendition of it and it won’t appear in all the albums, and you can’t even choose which one is the canonical album placement. Kind of annoying. But less annoying than all the other things iTunes annoys me with, I guess.

How the heck can I listen to music the way I want to?

I collect music. Lots and lots of music. I have something like 250GB of the stuff. It’s across basically every genre known to man. Possibly a few unknown to man, too.

The way I’ve preferred to listen to music for the past 15 years or so is to have my player device of choice shuffle by album - which is to say, choose an album at random and then play it all the way through, in order. It works really well for my listening habits, because it ensures that I will, for example, get a complete opera (following all of its cadences), followed by a complete rock album (following all of its cadences), followed by a complete abstract electronica compilation, and so on. Sometimes I’ll get singles interspersed between them. That’s fine.

The main way I discover more music is if I come across something I like (from random YouTube exploration or adding the SXSW torrents to my library or whatever), I will just buy that artist’s entire discography all at once, with the hopes that those albums will eventually come up in my listening sometime in the future. It’s like a little present to my future self.

Unfortunately, the modern music app landscape makes this incredibly difficult to do. Back in the classic iPod era, this worked well enough - I’d make a smart iTunes playlist which just filtered out stuff I’d listened to recently, and then populated with random albums up to whatever storage limit the iPod had. (Once upon a time I could fit my entire library into a single iPod Classic but that hasn’t been the case for well over a decade now.) And I continued with this with the iPod Touch and iPhone and so on, because even though those devices didn’t support shuffle-by-album, the smart playlists still worked.

But now a few stupid things have all happened:

  • My iOS devices stopped being able to sync (and none of the “fixes” I’ve found work at all)
  • iTunes switched from being a “manage your library” thing to an “Apple Music frontend player”
  • I tried using iTunes Match to at least get the iCloud Music Library thing but now that’s made it so that even my smart playlists don’t work anymore – even after disabling iTunes Match! (In particular, they no longer shuffle by album and I’m no longer able to force it to re-select a new set of songs, which I used to be able to do by removing items from the playlist.)

For years I have stuck with iTunes and iPod/iOS because they were the only ecosystem I could manage to get to work right with my listening preferences. I haven’t found any other players, much less device synchronization systems, that allow for the shuffle-by-album thing. But now even that isn’t working anymore, and Apple is showing no interest in fixing it; I’ve had bug reports open for years on each of the individual issues I’ve mentioned above, and nobody I know seems to run into these problems but nobody I know wants to listen to their music in this way; they’re happy to just listen to random radio/Apple Music/Pandora/etc. stations, and don’t care about plumbing the depths of their gigantic, varied collection.

I keep hoping that someone will know of some alternate player and sync solution that lets me do what I want though. Every now and then someone will maybe mention that there might be a Foobar2000 plugin or something but I’ll look into it and not only is Foobar2000 Windows-only but it doesn’t actually do what I want, or it has no way of synchronizing with plays across devices or whatever.

I’m not even asking for anything that exotic or unknown. iTunes used to do this as its normal mode of operation. But it’s like everyone who makes music software and library managers has forgotten about everything, possibly because of the streaming services which are in turn patterned after radio, which never provided a listening experience I enjoyed.

I’m not about to start hand-managing my library either. My brain isn’t nearly large enough to keep track of what music I’ve listened to or make the decisions of what to listen to next. I want a simple unbiased random algorithm to do that for me!

Why is this so fucking hard?

EDIT: It looks like there are macOS and iOS versions of Foobar2000. The macOS version is outdated, abandoned, and doesn’t support album shuffle (or external device sync). The iOS version supports album sync but just uses the iTunes library on the device, which is great if you can sync music into it but I can’t. So frustrating. But it looks like maybe there’s a way that I can sorta bludgeon it into working? We’ll see.

EDIT 2: So of course right after I posted this, iTunes suddenly started behaving again. Let’s see how long it lasts this time.

Also someone on a Slack I’m on wrote:

Perhaps it’s time to concede that whatever you want from it is just not going to work reliably any longer, and adjust expectations and habits accordingly? It’s quite obvious that it’s not going to get fixed anytime soon.

Nah, fuck this attitude entirely. I’d have to completely change the way I listen to music, and all of the ways that are even feasible anymore are the ones which just so happen to help the record labels instead of actual musicians, for some reasonGee golly whillikers.

I am so sick of control being taken away from me, especially in a way which doesn’t benefit the musicians I want to support.

Drawing apps, still meh

Once again it’s getting time to renew my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and once again I really don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars for another year of access to Photoshop. So as usual I’ve looked at other drawing programs to see what the state of affairs is for my uses, and boy howdy is it still pretty dismal.

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So about that AMP-script thing

Two days ago, Google breathlessly announced this amazing new revolution for websites:

Or in other words:

Let’s make a limited subset of the web that guarantees performance! No JavaScript, to keep it lean!

(Two weeks later)

So about that JavaScript thing…

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Support networking

I’m in the midst of a really bad fibro flareup lately, and am burning through my sick days at work pretty quickly. It’s frustrating and I need a way out, and something else that I can do as sustainable income.

I’m in a bunch of differently-intersectional support circles, and I’ve noticed the following:

Disability circles: Doesn’t understand the impact of my disability on my profession (because they don’t understand what my profession entails)

Technology circles: Doesn’t understand the impact of my disability on my profession (because they don’t understand what my disability entails)

The thin segment of disability+technology together: Doesn’t have any answers either, just sympathy and relatable experiences with not knowing what the hell to do

I keep asking in technology circles to see if anyone knows other jobs that would use my brain without needing to use my body and I keep on having to grow the list longer and longer with preemptions. No, I can’t go into management; I’m not good at coordinating other peoples' moving parts and it’s not what satisfies me as an engineer, and the brain fog from the pain makes this not a thing I’m likely to be able to get good at. No, I can’t go into teaching or training; that has even more requirements and rigidity in terms of my scheduling and I cannot do anything that requires that I be available at precise times on specific days.

I ask in disability circles, and there’s another, different list; no, I can’t use voice recognition software to program (not while there’s shared open-plan workspaces or I’m working in languages which aren’t suited to it – and I usually don’t have a choice of language). I still can’t go into management; it’s a completely different set of skills and not a natural progression. I already have a good ergonomic setup, both at home and at work. And employers don’t look too kindly on me smoking weed all day.

And in the intersectional circle, the only response I ever get is: “I have no idea, let me know if you figure something out.”

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I’m not buying a Mac Pro

Whenever Apple talks about a new piece of high-end hardware at WWDC, the Internet resonates: That’s so overpriced! Why would anyone pay that much money for a piece of hardware? A Hackintosh would cost way less! Apple is such a ripoff!

The thing is, the reason these hardware announcements are made at the WorldWide Developer Conference is because the conference is for developers. People who are building the software for people to use. And a lot of that software is for highly-specialized, resource-intense purposes.

Yeah, the average consumer doesn’t need to handle thousands of audio tracks and software instruments at once. The average consumer doesn’t need to handle multiple simultaneous streams of uncompressed 8K video. The average consumer doesn’t care about the latest API features in the next version of macOS or iOS. But the average consumer isn’t who’s being talked to in these presentations. There’s a reason the consumer devices get their own “town hall” events with an entirely different tone.

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Back to Ting I go

When I moved back to Seattle, I was using Ting Wireless for my cellphone service. At the time their service was a bit spotty (as they were a Sprint MVNO) and in 2013 I ended up switching back to my usual standby, T-Mobile. At the time T-Mobile had a $30/month plan which covered my needs: 100 minutes per month (with additional at 10¢/minute), and enough bandwidth for my needs.

A few months ago I decided to try out Xfinity Mobile, because it was supposedly only $10/GB/month for me since I’m already an Xfinity Internet customer. (Not by choice, mind you, but that’s a separate rant.)

However, they seem to be a bit aggressive at “overestimating” my bandwidth usage (so my bill was usually more like $30/month, not actually saving me anything), and pretty much every incoming call would get dropped with a “Call failure” error. This is of course a common issue, which Xfinity refuses to acknowledge, and there are plenty of other complaints on the customer forum, all of which are unaddressed beyond platitudes of “we are working on this.” (Going back well over a year now.)

Anyway. I’ve given Xfinity more than a fair shake. Unfortunately, the $30/month plan I was on with T-Mobile is no longer available (I’d been grandfathered in for quite some time), but since 2013, Ting has improved things a lot; in particular they are now doing LTE on T-Mobile (rather than CDMA on Sprint) and given how reliable T-Mobile has always been for me in the past, and how much the folks I know on Ting have continued to sing its praises, I’m pretty optimistic that this will work out better this time around. I do suspect the price will be somewhat higher than Xfinity, but at least I’ll be able to accept incoming calls!

So, all that said, if you want to give them a try, using this referral link will get you (and me!) a $25 credit on new activations.