So I’m thinking about how some time last year, I tried watching Outlander. The beginning of the show is amazing, premise and environmental setup of the whole show is amazing but something got me to stop watching it. I’ve thought a lot about what this something was and it’s mostly that there were just too many damn rape scenes and gore from unnecessary things like the main character getting whipped on screen for a solid two minutes was not something I wanted to watch.
I really wanted to like it but I just can’t go back to watching it. I got about 7 episodes in before quitting on one half way through.
I’ve been busy the past month with work and when not working staying away from the computer. I want to highlight some changes to my daily routine and also update on some books I’ve read or listened to recently.
About 2 years ago when Kristen and I adopted our dog Samson, I started waking up early with him because he had some magical internal circadian rhythm telling him to wake up around 7am. This was new to me and I had a tough time getting used to the first few months. But as time went on, I started to go to sleep earlier to accommodate waking up early. Nowadays, I’m automatically waking up around 7am and taking Samson on a walk.
This has also led me to be mindful about what I do with my time at night. One main change being that I’ve stopped browsing the Internet on my computer. The last time I interact with my MacBook is either if I get a Pagerduty alert from my work or when I leave work around 5-6pm.
And so because I’m not on my computer, I’ve started reading more or on days when I’m feeling lazy, I’ll play video games but the main goal is to not be reading random blog posts or new articles on my computer. And that reminds me, I’ve read and listened to quite a few books since I last posted so I’ll cover those below.
I’ve been pretty diligent about reading books and listening to audiobooks. Any spare moments I’ve had, I try to read. The book I’m struggling through right now is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Mainly because it’sa horror book that I don’t like reading before sleep 😴. Below are short reviews on recent books. Headphones 🎧 means I listened to the audiobook version.
Dune by Frank Herbert, a classic sci-fi epic that keeps you wanting more. It’s definitely worth a read to see where other sci-fi worlds like Star Wars might get some influence.
The Body by Bill Bryson 🎧 a fun listen most of the way, gets a bit depressing and unavoidable by the end. Bryson covers the whole body and its many functions and shortcomings. Narrated by Bryson himself! I highly recommend this one. Probably one of my favorite listens of the year.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. I am not a huge Gladwell fan but this one I was able to get through the whole way and I did like some points that he made, especially the fact that most people default to truth when talking to strangers and familiars alike.
I don’t like the WordPress editor, even with its features that are probably the best in the industry, I don’t find myself craving to write in it. The main reason for me is that the features get in my way, I have to hide away all the UI cruft to be able to write. So, I was thinking of how I liked posting, almost 10 years ago. This was back on my favorite blogging platform, Posterous. That was through email, so I started thinking if it’s possible to do that with WordPress, turns out, it’s very much possible using Jetpack’s ability to write from email. So I’m trying that right now, this was posted with email.
I’m sure when there are posts that require more organization, I’ll write using the block editor (Gutenberg) but for a lot of my posts, they should be pretty simple so I wanted to try this.
Update: so it looks like it worked well! There is a link to Posterous and that carried over fine. I’ll be posting more like this now.
I was in the middle of writing my thoughts on the book version of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and then I realized that I should just wait until the movie comes out to write up my thoughts on both together.
If you’ve read the book and haven’t seen the movie, I’d suggest not reading ahead.
The book is about 800 pages and I listened to the audiobook version which is about 35 hours long. Listening to it entirely took me about a month since I was listening on and off. The book is great, Tartt does a great job of describing important scenes and emotions within and around Theo. A lot of stuff happens in the book and so the 800 pages feel warranted and not excessive in my opinion.
Now, the movie tries to squeeze everything that happens in the book in about 2 and a half hours. That’s not enough time. Some scenes felt like they were skimmed or filmed for the sake of showing fans the faces to characters they’ve read a lot about. My favorite character, Hobie, gets little screen time and as someone who is such an interesting character, he is hardly shown in his true form. The casting for Hobie was perfect but a little bit of screen time doesn’t make up for that.
The plot is extremely intricate in the book and in the movie, it’s confusing and downright annoying at times because things just don’t make any sense from scene to scene.
Today, Apple announced new three iPhones, an iPad, and the Apple Watch series 5. I’m sure you’ve already seen all the news about this, my post is not about specific features or what Apple didn’t release. I’m only posting to note that I’m going to be buying the iPhone 11 not the “Pro” model.
This will be my first time upgrading and not going for the flagship model. In the past, Apple has mostly kept to the mid-size and large size iPhones but as of the iPhone XR, it’s clear that the line up will now have a 3rd, the lower end iPhone. Here “lower” end doesn’t necessarily mean low-end, because the specs of an iPhone 11 non-pro are pretty spectacular except the screen which is still the LCD screen. But is an extra $300 worth the slightly brighter screen?
You might be thinking is it really slightly brighter or actually very different? Let’s go with the latter, let’s say the OLED screen is vastly better than the LCD screen. Does that mean it’s necessary for an average smartphone user to have a vastly better screen on their phone? Probably not. After today’s announcement, some features are not must-haves at this point for me, and I bet for a lot of other people as well.
I upgrade my phone every two years and this year, I might be moving very much laterally than upwards with a new iPhone.
I just finished reading Maus: My Father Bleeds History, written and illustrated by Art Spieglman. I’m still processing it. I’ve been reading it over the past days. I’m currently in New York City and I brought the book with me. I wanted to read something different while traveling. I didn’t know much or even anything about the book before I started it. I got it as a gift from a friend last year and I’m finally getting around to reading it now.
If you’ve never heard of this book before, it’s a graphic novel that’s written about Art’s parents, from an interesting perspective. Art visits his father over the course of the novel and each time finds out a bit more about his parents’ time in World War 2.
I enjoyed reading it because I’m on vacation here in New York City. I took breaks whenever I couldn’t take any more of the grim reality Art’s parents were going through.
September in New York is pretty much perfect and I’ve taken advantage of the weather. Whenever I took a break, I either napped or walked around the neighborhood. I’m still processing the book so walking around, with nothing but what I had just read in my head, I’m grateful for this experience since I’m privileged to be able to do this.
I decided to try the Apple Card and so I signed up for one about 10 days ago. Below are some of my thoughts on it but please don’t think this is a full review of the card which I’m sure you can find in many other places, I will only focus on a few things I care about.
The Apple Card lines up very well with the mid-to-high credit score base, this is anything from 680 to 750 and higher. This means that Apple or in the case of the approval, Goldman Sachs, doesn’t really do anything differently than any other bank so if you have a card like the Chase Freedom, any of the non-premium Amex cards, or cards like Uber, Amazon, and Discover It, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting approved for this card. In my opinion, the mid-to-high credit score having base is the base that usually has iPhones so Apple is doing a good pick of their customer base.
So before we get to the app features, I wanted to talk about the Apple Card as a regular credit card and its features. Cashback is pretty easy to understand, albeit a bit backwards:
3% only at Apple (store, iTunes, app store, and Apple.com website)
2% on everything paid for using Apple Pay
1% with on everything paid for with the physical Apple Card
And the above cashback is paid everyday under the term “Daily Cash” that’s deposited into your Apple Cash Card (the other one in your Wallet app). The payout happens around “end of business” day (6-7pm) for me, which might not be the case for everyone but since I’m in the same timezone as Cupertino, it might work out nicely for me.
Other than that, a couple of features I’d like to highlight:
No foreign transaction fees
No annual fees
No late payment fees (although Goldman Sachs will be happy to jack up your interest rate)
App powered Card
The Wallet app has come a long way since Passbook where it contained loyalty cards and boarding passes, now it contains a whole payment ecosystem! Below are some screenshots of what the UI looks like when the card as some activity on it:
So overall, the card as a nice UI but I think there is a lot of room for improvement. A lot of the logistics of the card are hidden away in the settings page which some times you’ll want to be able to access without tapping a couple of times. The main annoyance I’ve felt is that the “Pay Later” mechanism is different depending on where you enter that flow. If it’s from the main card view, it will just ask you when you want to pay later, but from the settings view, you have the ability to choose how much and how often not just when.
One very good thing Apple has done with this card which I believe is a huge credit card experience improvement is simply to show your “current balance” containing allyour spending, including “pending” transactions. Because as a customer, I don’t care if my bank has not “settled” with the other parties yet, I want to know at a glance how much money I’ve spent so far. If I spent $100 today and it’s pending for 3 days, I will still be responsible for it whether it was settled today or from 3 days from now, I spent the money today! Chase is notoriously bad at this, some transactions will be pending for up to a week so your balance will go from $0.00 to whatever you did over the past week all in one day!
Yes, the Apple Card’s colors change in the app but…I’m not sure how they will look day to day since I’m only doing 2-3 transactions at most a day so some day the card looks blue and others it looks orange. Maybe others have had a better experience with this but for me, it looks like a nice marketing gimmick.
As you can see, this is not a full review so please go somewhere else to read that but for me I just wanted to jot down these notes. I do hope it gave you a bit more context 😁
I’ve been going through some painful self discovery in 2019. A lot of contradictory thoughts and feelings in my head. Anything from simple things at work and home to big things like where I want to live has been unreal this year. For instance, at the start of this year, I felt like I wanted to move away from the city to Southern California. That has changed and I don’t really know where I’d like to live in the coming few years, fortunately, the place I’m in right now I don’t have any complaints about.
This post is about meditation, I recently started getting serious about doing meditation. My earlier attempts at meditation were always driven by incorrect or ill-informed ideas such as “you need an empty mind to meditate” or “be away from everything and in a quiet place”. The latter is pretty bad because at my house, the pets are always around me so I wouldn’t be able to be myself and it’s not often quiet. I got a tip from my therapist that I should just try to meditate in places that are far from quiet, like the bus or at work. So far from what I understand, emptying your mind is not the goal of meditation. Seeing your thoughts and letting the float by is one goal and it has been pretty tough. I’ve been reading Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris which has some good ideas on getting started and it also has convinced me of getting rid of some of my doubts. I highly recommend checking it out.
One of the big things I’ve started learning from meditation is that you are going to be always restarting and there isn’t anything wrong with this. The conventional sense of “failure” is actual a success case in the world of meditation. It will get easier to focus on my breathing as time passes by every time a thought takes over me, it’s not a “failure” but instead a challenge that came up and I need to overcome.
My awareness and mindfulness has become something now but I can’t say it’s much yet. I’m trying to be mindful and mindfulness can be cultivated by meditating but I’m still very early in the process.