This post is delayed on account of the Lunar New Year weekend; hope you had a good one if you celebrate!
After two years of restrictions and fear (not to mention peace and quiet), we returned to the old chaos with a few family gatherings and house visits. Unfortunately, one of my favorite parts of the whole thing, a large reunion dinner on the Eve with some of our most senior relatives, was still off the table on account of their mounting health issues. I wonder if we’ll ever get a chance to see everyone on that side of the family all together again.
I brought my GR III out to capture some of these moments, and fortunately Ricoh released their previously mentioned new Diary Edition model just the day before, which meant the firmware update for older models to get their new Negative film-inspired “Image Control” mode was also released. After some experimentation, I’ve settled on these settings: Saturation +1, High Key +2, Contrast +1, Shadow Exposure -1. Am looking forward to using it for more everyday snaps in 2023.
While hanging around with some relatives in the afternoon of Day 1, a few of us downloaded the Dimensional personality test app and began answering its slew of profiling questions to compare our toxic traits, love languages, and all that. It co-opts a bunch of well-known existing frameworks like the MBTI and so on into one gigantic pile of traits. Does that constitute a unique and proprietary offering? I don’t know, but it’s fun enough and free. Be warned, completing all available questions can take over an hour.
Speaking of apps, my advance pick for 2023’s game of the year launched this week on Apple Arcade: Pocket Card Jockey Ride On. It’s a remake of the Nintendo 3DS eShop exclusive now fixed up with better graphics and subtle gameplay tweaks. If you never played the original, do yourself a favor and give it a try. It’s an addictive solitaire-based game; the main downside (for me) is it’s time-based and needs some concentration and so isn’t something you can play while in a noisy environment.
My Mastodon use has fallen off a little. I actually prefer Twitter’s algorithmic timeline to a chronological one because I tend to follow too many people to keep up, and need some help sifting out the “best” content from the rest. Mastodon is beginning to give me the uncomfortable feeling of a full inbox, but perhaps I should simply follow fewer people.
The general rule around here is to avoid talking about work — although it is usually such a big cost center for my time — but we had a new colleague relocate from Shanghai, and it was nice welcoming them to town and having a couple of impromptu beers on a weekday night.
Last episode, I mentioned seeing some Tezos NFT art at Singapore Art Week. Well I came across one of the pieces for sale (entitled D-909 Groove Arcade) and decided to go through the trouble of creating a Tezos wallet and getting some funds in so I could buy it. It’s one edition out of 167, and so was only like USD$20, but I’m super happy to have it. Can art be absolutely adorable and funky at the same time? Provably yes!
I also continued generating non-existent videogame screenshots using Midjourney, expanding the fictional timeline to include modern-day remakes of old games. I should spend more time pushing this idea further but so far I’ve only done it in spare moments or when I should really be doing something else.
Everything But The Girl is back after what feels like decades, and the video for their new single is an incredible piece of choreography and one-take execution. I could only think of the immense pressure on each person not to fuck up. Dimensional seems to concur, reporting that my main motivation is Security.
My first PC was their homegrown Cubic CT, basically an IBM-compatible XT 8086 system, with a CGA (Color Graphics Array: just four colors) graphics card, 5.25” floppy disk drive, and no hard drive. I’m pretty sure my dad drove down to Sim Lim Square or somewhere like that and picked it up in person. After a few years, we upgraded to a non-Creative made system based on the Intel 386SX chip (how that SX suffix haunted me, making me feel like I had an inferior machine! The DX was the model you wanted; the SX lacked the dedicated math co-processor, not that I ever really knew which programs made use of it).
Neither of these first two computers had proper audio capabilities, just the awful default “PC speaker”, as it was called back then. You could only get beeps and boops. One needed a dedicated audio card like an Adlib or Roland or Sound Blaster to hear proper music or sound clips. So every PC game I played had awful crude calculator music you wanted to turn off, but when I went over to play at my cousin Bryan’s house (he had a 286 with EGA graphics — 16 colors! — and a Sound Blaster), those very same games would have synthesized orchestral instruments and realistic sound effects. I wanted a Sound Blaster more than anything and wouldn’t have one until we upgraded to a Pentium system much later.
Years before I got my first iPod and switched over to a Macintosh, my first MP3 player was a Creative-made device. The year was probably 1999 or 2000. I was looking to move on from the MiniDisc players I’d been using for years, and these new devices let you carry tons more music around without a folder full of discs in your backpack (this was really a thing we did). The model I chose was a Creative MuVo, a nondescript white plastic square with a tiny LCD screen and a soft joystick nub for control. It played WMA files as well as MP3s, which was a deciding factor for me as you could stuff more music in at an equivalent quality using the WMA format at the time. That little guy kept me company through two long years of mind-numbing administrative work during my national service.
Years later, after graduating and stumbling into my first proper full-time job, the very first task they gave me was writing video treatments for a Creative Technologies product demo DVD. Creative happened to be one of the agency’s longtime clients, and the viral video above was one of the things that happened under their watch before I joined. I remember my partner and I excitedly pitching a direction to our bosses only to be shot down and told to try again. Weeks later, after going out west to Creative’s offices and getting their feedback, it turned out we had gotten it right the first time. That was probably the end of my journey with the brand, although I was intrigued by their attempts to bring a new version of their X-Fi surround audio tech to market in recent years. I almost bought a pair of their headphones to try it, but now Apple’s spatial audio on AirPods has one-upped their approach by delivering a massive library of professionally mixed Dolby Atmos music instead of relying on fake surround processing on stereo tracks.
His death is a sad loss and I wonder what the company will do from here. Looking back on the various products I’ve owned or tried over the years, they offered unquestionable technical merit, above average build quality, and always great value for money.
The new year got off to a gluttonous start with an impromptu visit to one of my favorite buffets, followed by Chinese hotpot, and then an all you can eat Korean BBQ (these were three consecutive days). Then I rested for a day before hitting Mexican cocktails and an izakaya with 1-liter highballs on Friday, and then rounding off the weekend with a burger from Blooie’s Roadhouse on Sunday.
Incidentally, that last meal was my first time at The Rail Mall, which most Singaporeans are probably familiar with, and which I used to pass on the bus daily during the aforementioned two years of national service but never stopped at. There were a few other interesting places we’ll probably be back for, like a craft beer taproom and an all you can eat wagyu yakiniku (so, like, probably tomorrow).
I got into the hottest beta program around: Ivory, the new Mastodon client from Tapbots. It builds on their work for Tweetbot, and it makes using Mastodon as a primary social media platform very enjoyable. I’ve checked Twitter a lot less this week as a result.
I finished my first playthrough of Citizen Sleeper on the Switch and will probably not be back for more until a little later. So many games! I’ve started on Arcade Spirits, a Western visual novel about working in a video game arcade. Not to be confused with Arcade Paradise which is a business sim that lets you run an arcade cum laundromat. If Spirits doesn’t pick up soon, I’ll probably abandon it for Kathy Rain or the Monkey Island sequel.
In need of a new book, I picked up Eugene Lim’s Dear Cyborgs but it didn’t click. I cut my losses after about an hour.
King Princess’s Hold On Baby would probably have been my pick for Best Album of 2022, if I’d chosen an Album of the Year. I’ve played it through about four times this week and still can’t enough. As with quite a few things I really love, I kinda hated it at the start. I mean, I used to hate Macs and Korean food.
We did a deep clean of the fridge and freezer on Sunday. If you’re ever doing the same, Apple’s Cleaning The House playlist may help.
Twitter’s devolution continues and this John Gruber summary of the week’s palm-on-face events should be enough to convince you that maybe it really will become unusable this time, and you should rethink your continued engagement with Elon/SpaceKaren/Elmo’s platform and find somewhere else to be.
It was a tradition in the early years to assemble the team at work for a Christmas dinner and festive activities, but COVID and various organizational obstacles meant that it hadn’t happened in recent years (I wasn’t around last year either). It wasn’t looking good this time, especially since all the people who’re good at planning anything weren’t around, but at the last minute we managed to make something happen on Wednesday, albeit not Christmassy at all in theme or cuisine, and it was good to have at least tried. Perhaps a proper event will happen next year, if enough stars align.
There were two more oversized seasonal dinners with friends and family this week, one vegetarian — if that helps with the health aspect. Okay, but the other was a buffet, so maybe not. We also stayed up to watch the admittedly quite exciting World Cup final on Sunday: the only match of this entire problematic and odd tournament that I saw. Blog archives reveal I was once quite into watching football World Cups, though. And in a case of history repeating from 2006 to the present (related: still haven’t finished Netflix’s First Love), the week ahead looks to also be a very busy one at work.
Honesty warning: I had another very hard week as a cat owner and am reflecting on whether this is something I can/want to do for the rest of her life. If you’re also a struggling germaphobe/anxiety nexus considering a pet, I recommend you think really hard about your own limits and expectations, along with your partner. I don’t expect others to understand but at the risk of sounding dramatic, it sometimes feels like my life is about to fall apart.
My camera roll and expense tracker tell the story of a quiet week, mainly spent at home getting this cat to like me (I think it’s working) and not die by falling from the second floor or chewing electrical cables. She’s become more comfortable climbing up and down the stairs, and now joins us to watch TV in the living room without being forced.
Achievements yet to be unlocked: switching her to occasional dry food, giving her a bath, clipping her nails, trimming the fur around her butt, sitting still in my lap for more than a few seconds, and trusting her enough to be left roaming the house at night.
My Nintendo Switch profile tells the story of actually playing a game this week, completing Sifu at the Student difficulty level. I have not gotten the hang of parrying attacks and dodging combos, so I think my character was in his 40s when I beat the last boss. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a cinematic martial arts game with a novel aging mechanic: each time your character dies, he/she is revived by a magic amulet that ages them by a year. So you can start the game in your 20s and finish as an old wizened kung-fu master in their 60s. Maybe even older! As you get older, your maximum health decreases but your attack strength increases, plus you unlock new skills along the way.
My Goodreads profile (you get the point by now) attests to my also finding the time to read again, finishing John Scalzi’s Kaiju Preservation Society which was a fun little side quest — it had seemingly been described by its author as a pop song, a necessary gift of levity to the world, written during Covid and referencing it (it’s not about Covid). That brings me to 12 books in 2022, short of my overly ambitious goal of 24. It’s like I forgot I was going back to work this year or something.
I spent more time in Mastodon this week as Twitter continued to burn. Musk’s comically shit handling of layoffs and code reviews that aren’t code reviews have been so absurd that there’s no more room for shows like Silicon Valley to parody it. Just like with The Onion and real news headlines these days. If science fiction imagines technological futures that we become compelled to realize, satire sends us towards irresistibly amusing hellscapes.
In doing so, I decided that my original Mastodon identity (which used “brandon” as a user ID) wasn’t great for people looking to find me, so I’m now at @firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s kinda dumb that you can’t change your user ID; I’m not sure if it’s a result of Mastodon’s federated model, having to support legacy links and all that. So the only way was to create a new account on a new server and “migrate” over. The migration process does NOT move your old posts, only your followers. If you want to follow the same people you did before, it’s an extra manual step of exporting and importing the database via a .csv file, and it’s not mentioned as part of the migration flow. I found out myself, after I had already manually re-followed everyone.
This is what people mean when they say Mastodon’s a little rough around the edges, but what open source software isn’t anyway? As software, as a service, I like it a lot already. As a community, as a place where I can find the opinions and recommendations I want, it will take time. And the final, unmistakable collapse of Twitter. I don’t think a critical mass of people will choose to use both at the same time.
My Apple Music listening history shows that I’ve enjoyed Fred again..’s latest installment in his Actual Life series. They are sort of mixtapes, except I’m not sure people in electronic music use that term? Anyway, Actual Life 3 (January 1 — September 9 2022) is great stuff; try it on your commute.
It’s that time of the year again, but we’re getting some actually good Christmas projects. Brett Dennen has a Christmas EP! And Jesse Malin, another longtime favorite of mine, has also rerecorded two older songs to put out as a two-track single entitled Xmas, Etc. Alicia Keys’s Santa Baby looks promising, but I haven’t been in the mood yet. The holidays still feel so far away.
However, Kim decided it wasn’t worth me waiting another month to get the new AirPods Pro as a gift I already knew about (nor worth her hearing me talk about them for another month), so Christmas came early! They’re actually a big improvement: the XS tip fits my problematic ear quite well, everything sounds both clearer and more fun, and the ANC is way more comfortable. I’ve never had a problem with the “pressure” that turns some people off noise canceling, but it’s so absent here thanks to the redesigned acoustic vents that… they feel open? It’s like how Transparency mode makes it feel like there’s nothing in your ears, but with silence.
On Sunday afternoon we visited an exhibition organized by Leica Singapore at Gillman Barracks, featuring some extraordinary work including Nick Ut’s famous “Napalm Girl” shot from the Vietnam war. We had a chance to speak with Rosalynn Tay about her evocative travel photography which I really loved (if they were NFTs I would have bought them on sight) and will probably attend her talk next week. The exhibition is on until Nov 27, registration seems to be required.
8. Fix Tweetdeck. Fix Twitter for Android. Fix Twitter for OSX. Twitter for OSX still has a hard limit on how many blocks it can apply because they didn’t bother updating the API call when they switched to paged requests. It also crashes a lot if you’re receiving a lot of notifications. Tweetdeck doesn’t use server side mutes. The ability to mute users originated from Tweetdeck prior to Twitter buying it. They then added this functionality to Twitter itself, but never updated the client to store these mutes server side.
What a fantastic to-do list for the people at Twitter. Reading this, what strikes me most is that the product really is a shitheap on fire sailing down a river with passengers onboard. It’s got so much legacy crap; so much inscrutable complexity built up from rounds of careless iteration and business priorities, that it’s really hard for a team still working under said priorities to fix it all within further digging the UX a grave. Same goes for iTunes, really, but so much harder for a real-time social service that people are posting to thousands of times a second.
The good news is that the most toxic parts of Twitter, the abuse and management of noise, are probably the most within reach for a quick fix without anyone having to relearn anything.