Black Mirror, Season 5

A few days ago I watched season 5 of Black Mirror, a show I have a sort of love-hate relationship with. The premises are usually pretty interesting, but the morals feel heavy-handed and often don’t even say anything of actual substance beyond “Technology is bad” and “Privacy is good.” It tries to be a modern-day Twilight Zone, but I feel like most of the plots in Black Mirror were actually done better by the original run of the older series.

(As a note, I’ve seen the first two episodes of the current Twilight Zone revival and they’re fantastic. I need to get around to watching the rest of it at some point.)

Anyway. Season 5 returns to the series' original 3-story-per-season format, which helps to keep things fairly tight and focused, unlike the sprawling, interconnected mess that was season 4. (Okay, “Arkangel” was pretty good, and “USS Callister” was at least a fun heist episode, although it over-relied on a bunch of tropes which rubbed me in the wrong way but that’s a subject for a different blog entry.)

So far, critics seem to be loving the first episode (“Striking Vipers”), just apathetic to the second episode (“Smithereens”), and absolutely loathing the third episode (“Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too”). My feelings on the episodes are pretty much completely inverted from that – “Striking Vipers” was just okay (with a decent, but hollow, payoff at the end), “Smithereens” was a lot of setup for a story that didn’t have a lot of substance, and “Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too” is probably my favorite episode of the entire series so far.

Some more detailed thoughts have been pinging around in my head for the last few days so I figure I’d share them. I’m going to try to limit any actual spoilers here, but you probably need to watch the episodes to have a point of reference; this isn’t a review, but neither is it a recap.

Read more… (seriously you should probably watch the episodes first)

Current sleep/pain/etc. checkin

Let’s see, where am I at right now…

  • Sleep: I got a weighted blanket on Meh. I’ve slept with it two nights. First night my sleep was aborted because of a… thing, second night I slept pretty well under it and woke up sore in the morning as if I’d been lifting weights for the last several hours. Interesting.

  • My new CPAP mask has been working pretty well for me. Although somehow I managed to not only take it off but take it apart in my sleep last night. Wat.

  • The… thing: I was feeling a mysterious pain in my left leg and hip starting on… Tuesday, I think? and it was getting worse and worse, and felt a lot like the DVT I had back in November 2017 which threw a clot and turned into a pulmonary embolism which wasn’t exactly a fun experience that I have any interest in repeating anytime soon. So I went to the ER to get it checked out, and it turned up… nothing. So, good news, no DVT. The doctor suggested I just take it easy for the next few days, which I am trying to do, and oddly enough I’m feeling a lot better, go figure. Also I’m glad I’m with Kaiser because the whole thing only cost me $15.

  • But it’s hard for me to take things easy because I want to get my home clean, because my birthday is coming up soon and I am intending to host a completely unrelated pizza party at my home. (Incidentally, if you are in the Seattle area and are interested in pizza and you think I know you well enough to let you into my home, let me know and I’ll maybe extend you an invitation to the party!) Fortunately a friend is coming over tomorrow to help me out with the cleaning stuff (for which I am incredibly grateful!) but I am oh so very tired. So I mean I’m taking things easy at the moment, but I’d rather not.

Read more…

iPhone sync bug report

Remember the iPhone sync issue I was having? Which had me switching back to my 6S and planning to sell the XR? Well, it started happening on the 6S too, a couple weeks ago, so I’m glad I never managed to sell the XR. (That and it would have been a nightmare).

Anyway both of my phones are now stuck in this no-sync state, so here’s the Apple Feedback (née Radar) I submitted last night. Maybe someone else will enjoy reading it, or maybe it’ll just get a bunch of search hits from other people with the problem. (I have a few acquaintences at Apple who are already looking at it, at least.)

Read more…

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.

Read more…

The current state of the fluffy

I guess it’s been a little while since my last post about the unending tire fire that is my mental state. I’ve been yo-yoing a lot, but here’s a summary of where I’m at right now:

CPAP: I’m back on it, trying some different things to make it more useful. The main problem seems to be bad mask fit, so tomorrow I’m going in for a proper mask fitting (rather than the half-assed thing the DME vendor did during the training session). Hopefully that will help.

Nortriptyline: I’m steady at 30mg/day, and have started taking it earlier in the evening, which has helped me with actually being tired when I need to be.

That weird failed drug test: Still no idea what happened with it. As one followup to it I had another diabetes screening (since that’s one possible cause of a false opium positive) but that came back fine (normal A1C and nothing out of the ordinary with my blood sugar), so that’s one less thing to worry about at least.

Day job: Still feeling like this is a bad match for me. Coworker is trying to assure me that I’m doing fine and trying to be helpful at getting me up to speed on the stuff I need to understand, but my brain refuses to play along.

AR startup: Going pretty well, I guess? I’m not doing a lot of active work for it but I’m glad to help out where I can.

Social life: I’m feeling much more withdrawn from my usual activities and am still on hiatus from most of my meetup groups. Ed is no longer hosting karaoke so I’m back to doing my drawing group every week. It’s going just Okay but I mostly use it for hanging out with a handful of folks I like. With a couple of those folks I saw Detective Pikachu the other day, which I enjoyed but I still have thoughts about. The monthly “smol games” group I’m in is still great though, even though I’m not actively working on any games (but I love seeing what other people are doing).

Music: Still plinking away at stuff. Also I really want to be able to attend Song Fight! Live, which is in Madison this year, but planning travel for it is a bit onerous. With music production I keep on waffling between “this stuff I’m making is pretty good, actually” and “ugh this is garbage.” So, same old, same old.

Warning to Xfinity Mobile customers

Xfinity doesn’t do a very good job of publicizing this but if you buy your phone through them, it’ll be carrier-locked, even though the device is paid in full up front. How nice of them. And of course they do warn you about that in easily-missed text at the bottom of one of the maze-of-information articles.

It’s easier to get the phone unlocked if you do it before porting the number, as the helpful CSR can just do it over the phone, but if you failed to, there’s still a process you can take.

Anyway, here’s information that would have been more helpful for me up front:

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.

The ongoing MSG discourse

It seems like the pro-MSG camp is really ramping up their Discourse again lately, and it’s getting really frustrating.

Yes, it sucks that MSG sensitivity was labeled “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” Yes, it is probably the case that a lot of supposed MSG sensitivity was psychosomatic and due specifically to that name. And yes, glutamic acid does exist in a lot of things naturally and does in fact contribute to the “umami” flavor. I don’t disagree with any of those things.

What I do disagree with, however, is the mischaracterization that everyone who has an MSG sensitivity is just faking it or being “racist” or whatever, with the same strawman “gotchas” like “Did you know it’s also in Pringles and Doritos?!” (Yes, I do. It was Doritos which first gave me a reaction, for that matter. Long before I’d ever heard of MSG or “Chinese restaurant syndrome.”)

It turns out that there’s a high correlation between MSG sensitivity and fibromyalgia. And like many things that cause fibro problems, it’s not a single isolated incident that causes problems, but an accumulation of issues. If I have something with a low-ish amount of MSG on its own, I probably won’t have a problem. But if I have something with a lot of it, or if I’ve had it several times over the course of a week, I will have a problem and it will ruin the rest of my day.

And yes, glutamic acid occurs in a lot of things, but not bound to sodium and not in the high quantities that it occurs in with processed foods!

Several studies have shown MSG to be safe for the general population. And I do not doubt that it is. But these studies don’t include people with nerve disorders like fibromyalgia or epilepsy, or with a general history of migraines or the like. MSG actively amplifies the action of the pleasure centers in the brain. Fibromyalgia’s main issue is an inability to downregulate nerve receptors. Can you possibly see how this might cause a problem for some?

These fucking thinkpieces completely ignore the very real problems that a lot of people encounter, and also encourage people to actively put MSG into their food and not disclose it to be a “gotcha” for people with problems.

It’s like putting gluten into the food of someone who has celiac disease because of the backlash against fad gluten-free diets.

It’s like giving someone sugar-based Coke when they ask for diet, because they think it’s funny. Or giving someone diet Coke when they ask for normal, because they think they should “lose some weight.” Both are disastrous for diabetics who have planned their glucose intake for the day. (And incidentally, artificial sweeteners are also a major migraine trigger for me.)

It’s like “testing” someone’s stated food allergy by putting that thing in on purpose. Or not worrying about cross-contamination, or thinking, “Oh, it’s only a little bit.” Which can cause people to die or at least have a very bad time.

Don’t FUCKING do that.

Generally: if someone has a food sensitivity, believe them. Even if you think it’s made up, there’s no harm in believing them, while pretending you know better than them for their own issue can be incredibly harmful. Even fatal.

An imagined scene from the future of Steven Universe

For quite some time there’s been a lot of fan speculation that Lars is AFAB and trans, with quite a lot of compelling evidence to that effect. It’s a thing I absolutely believe and I keep on hoping for confirmation in-show.

So, the Very Trans Narrative ending of Season 5 could lead to a future episode (or the upcoming movie) to finally answer this.

Here’s how I think it might happen.

Read more… (Spoilers for Season 5)

New version of propellAR released

We (Workshop 3D) have just released a new version of propellAR, which is free and fun and you should try it out! Even if you think it won’t work on your phone, try it anyway – its device requirements are a lot lower than most AR apps.

Also, we’re going to be showing it off at Tacoma Mini Maker Faire this weekend.

Finally, we are running a photography contest for those who are so inclined.

Anyway. Try out our app and tell your friends, so we can keep on making cool fun toys like propellAR!

Full Course on Kickstarter

Oh yeah, back when I was trying to do music full-time I started working on a soundtrack for a visual novel, but put the work on hold pending funding for the game itself. It’s taken a bit, but the Full Course Kickstarter is finally live, and if this game gets funded I’ll be able to finish making the soundtrack.

Leaving the mess behind

I ended up leaving a bunch of my meetup groups and networking events and their respective Discords, and also decided to take down my studio streaming setup, because they were all wearing on my mental health. I want to get back to working on stuff because I want to, not because I feel obligated to “grow my audience” or whatever. My fun activities were starting to be less about fun and more about my failure to get any sort of cachet, and something had to give. And I didn’t want that “something” to be the things I enjoy doing.

It’s totally fine to want to do things, but it’s important to realize why you’re doing things, and be willing to course-correct when you realize that those things are getting in the way of the intended purpose.

Read more…



It’s been a while since I’ve worked on IndieWeb stuff, but I finally got around to releasing an extremely preliminary version of reblob, a little commandline thingus to make this stuff easier. Eventually I’ll also have a server-based version here, at least as an example.

Of course this is the first entry I’ve written actually using it. Lots of rough edges but whatever!

ICANN seeking comments regarding gTLD pricing deregulation

From Namecheap’s blog:

Imagine if next year you had to pay 10 times as much to renew your domain name as you paid this year. Based on an action proposed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), price caps could be removed on several top level domains, which could significantly increase the price of domains.


ICANN’s current contract with Public Interest Registry (PIR), the group that runs the .org domain name, lets PIR increase the wholesale price of .org domains by 10% a year.

That’s a lot, but at least it’s capped.

Now ICANN is proposing extending the contract to operate .org but letting PIR set whatever prices it wants. Rather than a 10% increase to renew your domain next year, it could suddenly start charging registrars like Namecheap 100 times as much. Registrars would have no choice but to pass these charges on to customers.

This actually affects .biz and .info as well as .org; you might notice that this website is on a .biz domain, so it affects me. I also have an .org site that would also be impacted. And there are so many other .org sites out there which are run by non-profits or individuals who do things for reasons other than pure profit.

Read more…

The commoditization of free time

Once upon a time, people would fill their spare time with hobbies, things they do because they enjoy doing it. They could be passive, like watching TV, or they could be active, like knitting or playing piano, or they could even be a side gig for extra income, like woodworking or painting.

When the Internet came about that made for many more varieties of things that people could do for their spare-time hobbies. They could make weird little videos for YouTube or they could record music and produce albums that other people could listen to (and maybe even buy), or they could stream their video game playing to hang out with others or to compete online.

Somewhere along the line, as a society we seem to have decided that all of those activities must be done as a source of income. You can’t just “make videos on YouTube” or “stream on Twitch,” you are expected to become “a YouTuber” or “a Twitch streamer.” If you make things as a hobby it’s expected that you set up an Etsy store to sell them online; if you collect books or figurines or old video games it’s for making a collection you can sell on eBay. If you record music and put it online you have to put it on all the streaming services and market yourself to make it worth your while, because otherwise how will anyone discover it? Oh, you want your friends to listen to it? Well they’re all using Spotify now, and they’re only going to listen if The Algorithm tells them to.

If you’re not spending all your time doing marketing or sales or producing Content for the Content Gods you are Doing It Wrong.

Every time you post a video to YouTube it goads you about how far you are from monetization. Every time you do a Twitch stream it follows up with an email about how far you are from making Affiliate. I don’t know what Affiliates get after their streams – probably something about their monetization stats or how far they are from Partner or something. I don’t know. I don’t think I care. But whenever I attend the local Twitch streamers meetup, invariably all of the discussion revolves around how recently everyone got Affiliate, or how far away everyone is, and how sad it is that I’ve been streaming on and off for years and don’t have it yet and I have got to Find My Audience. It feels like a cult.

Read more…