I Finally Decided To Pay For A Music Streaming Service

So I finally did it. I have been resisting for years to get into the reoccurring music payment services that are out there like Spotify and Apple Music. I just don't really want to get int oa $10 a month for eternity system that means I would lose all of my music if I decided to stop paying. For the $10 a month, I would much rather just purchase something to add to my music collection. 

I do pay for iTunes Match, which is $24 a year and absolutely fine for the price to add my existing music library to the cloud for streaming. I am actually surprised there aren't more services that do this. All that being said, I didn't actually pay for the service that everyone may have thought I would. So instead of purchasing Spotify or Apple Music, I instead went with a subscription to DI.FM. What the heck is that you might ask? 

DI.FM is an electronic music streaming radio network. It is a radio network, so there is no music that you download. It is a combination of live radio shows and programed radio shows/playlists with a huge variety of electronic music genres, I think there is something like 50 sub-genre stations to choose form. 

Why would I have done this you ask? Well, it really boils down to the way that I like to listen to my music, The vast majority of my time I am listening to music as a background ritual, either while I am working or doing other hobbies. Of that time while listening, I more often than not want to listen to music that doesn't have any lyrics to it or isn't intrusive. I listen to quite a bit of classical and jazz music in addition to electronic because of that. The thing is, is I don't really need to keep that on my person in almost any scenario, except one, which I will get to in a bit. 

My actual music library is mostly a collection of a few selected albums with lyrics that I really like, with the rest being a goto selection of albums and tracks that fit my original "background playing" intent. The Skyrim soundtrack is always on my playlist by the way. 

The one scenario where I may want to listen to something more comes into play with my motorcycle. Those who know me know that I wasn't a huge fan of having a radio on my motorcycle and up until last year I didn't have one. I didn't even have a bluetooth headset to listen to music to while I rode. That changed a bit when I got my new bike past year and it came with one year of SiriusXM on it. Now, I actually liked SiriusXM quite a bit. Having commercial free radio accessible anywhere in the country was really nice and I was very close  to paying for SiriusXM up until a few months ago, after my subscription expired. The thing is that SiriusXM is kinda expensive. It costs $17 a month, and sure you can find some deals online that take it down to $60 for the year, but that involved haggling and in some cases playing the phone game with them much like you would with Comcast for your cable subscription price. I just have zero interest in doing that. I really only listen to 4-5 stations on SirusXM in any real way, so I couldn't justify that price and hassle. 

Now if I could get it in both my car, my motorcycle and online streaming for $15 a month, I might consider that, but the pricing just doesn't compete against even Spotfy or Apple Music. What SiriusXM did though was solidify how I like to listen to music and that is when I began the rabbit whole of looking for some online streaming services. TuneIn, Pandora, etc. all had a good look. I kept coming back to DI.FM though and what is nice about them is I could stream the entire service for free with commercials. I finally gave in here this past week and decided to go ahead and get a subscription, which only cost me $4 a month, which is more than reasonable for the what they offer. They even offer integration to other services and hardware like Sonos or receivers that have vTuners in them, so that may be worth exploring a bit more. 


Finding Some Positivity in Your Online Communities (Critical Role and Peloton)


This is a quick post, but something that popped into my mind this past Thursday when one of my favorite shows came back onto the air after being on hiatus from the COVID-19 situation. Critical Role, finally came back to its regular Thursday night schedule and I can't tell you how much I have been looking forward to seeing it come back.

I have always been impressed with the Critical Role cast and team on how much positivity they put out in everything they do. They just show a tremendous love for their online community and to all of their fans and it suddenly struck me as to how important that is right now. Not just in finding your friends and family and all of that, but finding positivity in your online media. 

It just feels good to be a part of that world and share it in some small fashion. 

While I am at it, I want to give a shoutout to the Peloton brand and that community as well. Another entity that has developed a super positive and uplifting message for its entire and team. Of course exercise always makes you feel better when you are stressed, but I have found that Peloton has really made it a part of their core identity to incorporate all of its users as part of a family that is sharing a journey together. Their entire staff have an extremely positive and almost therapeutic attitude in what they talk about during their classes. 

It is only just now that I am realizing how much those things probably have really helped over the past four months. 

OurHome App: What a cool way to track house chores

Megan and I recently came across a cool app that we are using to keep track and manage our chores and other tasks around the house. I have been struggling for a while now on divvying up household tasks. I have admiringly been frustrated as I feel like I am spending my days off doing more house chores than Megan. 

I have always used Omnifocus for my own task planning and project management. While I have used it for my own chores and errands as well, it seems to be a bit overkill for just managing chores around the house. It also unfortunately does not have a  good way to share tasks with other people in a shared in environment, and it is pretty expensive for an iOS app. 

After some searching online a few days ago I came upon the OurHome app, which seems like it perfectly fits the bill. It is originally designed for families to assign chores to kids, but if you read the reviews online it appears that there are a lot of couples using it to just manage their household. They even have a special FAQ section for that. 

OurHome  has the basic "to do" list and tasks list for chores, which is what we are using it for right now, but also has some really cool features that expand upon that that make it perfect for chores and house tasks. 

The app features a really nice "autofill" feature that will suggest different types of chores. You can also peruse their "suggestions list" for various household tasks that you need to get done. You can also assign tasks, setup reoccurring schedules and more. One really great feature is that you can have tasks that are setup to "always be available" everyday. Something simple, like making the bed is available once and can be done by whomever gets to it first. It is very quick to make a task, assign it to yourself, spouse of leave it open for anyone to do and then just move on. 

It follows the GTD metholdogy that i like to use whereas you need to get something out of your head as soon as you think of it, otherwise it'll be forgotten or take up previous headspace. 

One other thing that I like about the app is you can assign reward points for tasks as they are done. It defaults to a number of points associated with how long it takes to complete a tasks. 15 minutes = 15 points. This is a feature primarily aimed for kids, as they complete their chores, they accuse points which they can then cash back in to mom and dad for rewards, like a allowance, a trip to the movies or something. 

I don't quite know what we are going to do with this yet, but Megan and I both think it will be fun to setup some sort of rewards for each other that we can cash in. 

There is also a calendar feature for shared events, a grocery list and a message center for group chats. All, very cool features, but I'm not quite sure if we will end up using those. Time will tell I suppose. 




Skateboarding

Yesterday Megan and I went out to the mall to just get out of the house and walk around. It was a really nice night outside (finally summer) and we just wanted to be out and about. While at the mall we decided to pop out heads into the Vans store. I'm not sure if the Vans store is new at the mall or if I just had not been into it, but we probably spent a good 15 minutes walking around, touching all of the shoes. 

Up through high schoolI used to wear Vans all the time. To be honest I am not quite sure why I stopped wearing them. I have wide feet and it has always been difficult for me to find a good pair of shoes and Vans always had sizes for me. 

Anyways, I think the nostalgia train immediately kicked in. I'm surprised I didn't go and buy a pair of vans right there, but the conversation immediately went to skateboarding. Skateboarding is one of those sports I have always wanted to get into, but I never did. I am not quite sure if it is because I was so invested in other sports growing up, but my mind immediately went to "why don't I learn how to skateboard?"

Ok, let's back up a little bit here. Why am I even thinking about skateboarding at all? Well, as I noted above I think I have a bit of a nostalgia trying going, even though I have never been a skater. It's summer, skateboarding is very much a summer sport and I have been listening to some mall punk almost non-stop as of late. Sum 41 has a new album coming out and Blink 182 put their new album out a couple of years ago. It's like the 90's pop punk thing is back. I just need to wait for ska it make is resurgence. 

I have also been thinking a lot about LA for some reason. A co-worker of mine went to LA last summer and it always has seemed like a cool city to me. It also has a reputation for skateboarding. 

So, here I am now, thinking about "why shouldn't I try skateboarding?" It isn't that expensive, $100 or so for a board and another $40 for a helmet maybe. There are skate parks at almost all of the park districts around me, and hell, it is summer. I really want to learn something new. 

So, I think in the next couple of weeks here I am going to try and hit up a local skate shop and talk to them to try and get into skateboarding. Goal is to be able to successfully do an ollie by the end of the summer. 


Movement Detroit 2019

Last weekend Megan and I headed up to Detroit and we had one of the best weekends we probably ever have had. Detroit was hosting the Movement music festival, an electronic music fest in the heart of the birthplace of Techno. This year, my favorite band, Orbital, was performing. They almost never come to the US and the opportunity to see them in the midwest was something I couldn't pass up. 

Let me first start off this blog post to say that Detroit was amazing. We have all seen in the news how Detroit has has really gone through some rough times the past decade or two. I obviously didn't see all of the city, but it does seem like the city is starting to bounce back. There is a rejuvenation of the restaurant and shopping scene, at least in the Corktown neighborhood and it seems that much of the blight from abandoned buildings has been cleaned up. Several of the older factories and other industrial buildings appeared as if they were going through a renovation into residential and commercial. 

Megan and I had a discussion with one of the shop owners on Saturday and she was describing to us how Ford has been investing heavily in the tech sector, trying to brand itself not as a car company, but as a transportation technology company, and that they were bringing in a lot of young software developers and engineers. It really made the city feel vibrant and it seems like the city is trying to position itself with a music and arts refocus. 

We left Chicago Friday afternoon, around 1:30 PM. Traffic was pretty horrendous and it took us about two hours to make it through Indiana on I-80. We were hoping to swing by Grand Rapids on the way to Detroit to visit Hollander's. It is a store specializing in paper and book making. We didn't make it there on Friday and unfortunately we didn't get into Detroit until almost 8:30. Our hotel was the very artsy Trumball & Porter Hotel. Very hip and they have murals all over the outside, and a great courtyard with bags, a fire pit and a stage. They also had a really excellent bar and restaurant called the Red Dunn Kitchen (more on that later). We ordered a few drinks before heading to dinner. 

Thankfully we did plan ahead for our late arrival and we made dinner reservations for 9:15 at Lady of the House. It was only two blocks from our hotel and was a very hipster place to eat. The interior was decorated with an almost french farmhouse style. The food was fantastic. Unfortunately it was incredibly dark inside. We almost couldn't even read the menus. 


Saturday was the day. The music fest was kicking off around 4:00 PM that afternoon. We had some time to kill during the day, but we didn't want to burn ourselves out. We knew it was going to be a long night.  First up was breakfast at the aforementioned Red Dunn Kitchen. Wow, it surprised us. 

The Corktown neighborhood nearby had a couple of cool shops that we wanted to check out. We hit up the Eldorado General Store, George Gregory and Brightly Twisted. We also spent a good hour in Hello Records and bought have a dozen records there. 

We headed out to the show around 4:00 and walked. It was about a mile. About three blocks from the festival though a major thunderstorm hit that had us scrambled for cover in an office building. It was so bad that they actually evacuated the festival. As a bit of bonus karma, we did discover a very cool building called the Union Trust Building.

Once we got to the festival, the show was fantastic. I'll just let the videos and photos speak for themselves.


Some great acts at the show. Big surprises for us were Josh Wink and Amelie Lens. They made fans out of both of us and of course Orbital was amazing. We didn't get back to the hotel until about 2:00 am at which point we ordered a pizza from Dominos, as it was the only thing still open and we proceeded to wait almost an hour and a half for the pizza to arrive. We got out pizza though around 3:00 am and then finally crashed. The drive back to Chicago on Sunday was uneventful. 

Detroit, we had a great time and I would love to go back to Movement next year. 

I Finally Bought an Apple Watch

About two weeks ago I broke down, after looking at Megan's Apple Watch for six months, and bought one of my own. 

Since the Apple Watch came out I was one of those people in the camp stating "why do I need that?" I never understood the appeal of a smartwatch. I have been a Fitbit user for a long time, close to five years now and I have loved that device for tracking my fitness and sleep habits. There is something about all of that data that I find interesting. The Fitbit app is pretty good, but I have constantly had trouble with my Fitbit devices. I was replacing the bands on them constantly, as often as every three months in some cases. 

I picked up a Fitbit Charge 2 in the fall of last year and for the most part I was pleased with it, but it was not the ideal device that I wanted it to be. It routinely lost my heart rate measurements when I had an elevated heart rate from a workout. 

Watching Megan have her Apple Watch really began to make me jealous. So why did I end up switching to an Apple Watch then? 

Data/Apps 

Apple's Healthkit is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I switched. The integration of my health data across various apps, which allow me to control which data goes where, with a high amount of fidelity is really impressive. Fitbit has integrations through its API to other apps, but that integration just isn't very deep and there are some significant "gaps" in apps supported. External apps do not have good access to heart rate data and there are certain programs, such as mediation which just aren't effectively measured on Fitbit. 

There are also some fantastic apps out there for the Apple Watch which do measure very specific types of workouts. For example, there is an app called Ace Tennis which can measure my tennis serve, the angle and velocity of my racquet. There are a number of third party tools that can also integrate with the system as well for golf clubs and other sports. Using a third party heart rate monitor is easy to do as well.

Accuracy of Heartrate Monitor

Speaking of accuracy, I have found the heart rate monitor on the Apple Watch to be much better. The Charge 2 was pretty good for most exercises, except weight lifting. It would constantly loose my heart rate while weightlifting, which I read online is due to the flexing of my wrist. The Apple Watch has been much more consistent and I have noted it holds my hear rate much better at extremely high rates. My resting heart rate is around 58, but during tennis or running it is not uncommon for my heart rate to get up to 170. The Apple Watch appears to track those numbers much better. 

Build Quality 

The build quality on the Apple Watch appears to be much better than Fitbit. Yes, you are paying at least 2x's as much, but Megan's Apple Watch looks basically brand new after eight months of wear. My Charge 2 had to have the band replaced after just four months of use. The Apple Watch is noticeably more comfortable to wear. That isn't to say that the Charge 2 is uncomfortable, but the silicon band on the Apple Watch is extremely soft and really disappears on the wrist. I thought that the larger and heavier device would be more noticeable than a Fitbit, but it isn't. 

This Smartwatch Thing is Handy

So, this whole smartwatch thing is pretty cool. I bought the Apple Watch primarily as a fitness device, which I still believe is the primary reason someone should get one. The Apple Watch is one of the best fitness trackers out there though, hands down. That being said, there are some pretty neat features for the smartwatch. Quickly viewing texts, declining calls and viewing my calendar appointments is very handy and effective. It does allow me to keep my phone in my pocket and not have to have my eyes on it all the time. 

 


Top 10 Summer Songs

Megan and I had a conversation the other day about our top summer songs. These are all songs that I have some sort of particular memory or connection to summer. Perhaps it was a cool summer night, hanging around a campfire, going to a rave in a warehouse or something else. 

So in no particular order, here are mine. Let me see your favorite songs in the comments below. 


Katy 180 - Sixteen Candles

This first one hopefully no one will know except my high school friends. This was a local high school band and they put out a fun album. Several good songs on there, but this one is a personal favorite that I am uploading directly to my blog here. 


Blink 182 - Dammit


Southern Sun - Paul Oakenfold


Superdrag - Sucked Out


Spacehog - In the Meantime


Soundgarden - Burden in My Hand


Daft Punk - Around the World/ Harder Better Faster Strong


Basement Jaxx - Where's Your Head At?


The Mighty Might Bosstones - The Impression that I Get


The Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin' Beats


Bonus Song

John Digweed - Heaven Scent

I'm gonna throw a bonus song in here, in particular this scene and track from the movie Groove. This whole vibe is very emblematic of some of the warehouse and Goa Trance parties Megan and i used to go to. This movie in particular just puts a huge smile on my face so go give it a rental. 

Goodbye Flavors.me

This past week I received an email from Flavors.me that it was being shutdown. Flavors has been one of my favorite website tools over the past several years. It was bought out by Moo.com about four years ago and it appears that they have put the team on Flavors over to their own Monogram app. 

Flavors has been a wholly unique platform that unfortunately there is no good replacement for. It started out as a sort of landing page website, similar to About.me. Flavors.me had the great feature though of aggregating social media sites into a page for you. It didn't just link to your social media, but it actually brought the content in. They had links to dozens of social media sites, so it was really a great tool to bring in all of those platforms that musicians and artists are already using. Flavors really was probably the best website photographers, musicians and artists could have used. 

In my photos above you can see how i used it to bring in content from my blog via RSS, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Instagram, etc. It is unfortunately a site that isn't replaced by anything else and at $20 a year it was quite a deal for the service it was. 

After spending several weeks trying to find a replacement I have settled on a Wordpress.com site. The basic Wordpress.com site can be had for about $2.99 a year. It won't give me the same features of bring my social content into the page, but it will allow me to have my landing page setup once again. I am still in the process of building my new page, but you can find to at http://matthewsupert.me.

So you may be asking yourself why do I use Posthaven for my blog if I am going to be using Wordpress for my main site? Well, in short I have years worth of posts here at Posthaven now. The other thing is that for the $5 a mont I pay for Posthaven, I have nearly unlimited content uploads for my blog posts. My motorcycle trips and vacation blogs wouldn't happen unless I paid for substantially more for Wordpress. Could I go for a self hosted site? Yes, I could and I have done that in the past. The problem with those is that I have to stay on top of security updates and keeping the plugins, widgets and CMS installation up to date. Quite frankly, I just don't want to have to deal with that sort of stuff right now. I struggled for years trying to find the best place for me to blog. For me I need things to be as simple as possible. Posthaven allows that for me and continues to allow that. For now, Wordpress seems to be the best place to build an affordable personal landing page. 

Moving on from Evernote......

Why is it whenever you find a product or service you really like, it seems to fall apart? If you haven't been following the news this past week, Evernote has announced changes to their privacy policy that take effect January 23rd. The internet has been pretty upset with these changes because the new policy explicitly states that Evernote engineers could be allowed access to view your data for various reasons ranging from law enforcement requirements to them just trying to improve their service. 

Now, perhaps Evernote has been doing this for a long time and they are just now clarifying their practice. What is unfortunate though is that Evernote has now established a trust problem with its users. Evernote has been the better part of the past five years migrating their platform from a note taking application to a business collaboration platform. With that migration has come a rather hefty annual fee. The business account is $120 a year. I paid for that account because I liked Evernote and I prefer to pay for my services whenever I can. The problem though is that when you pay for a product or service you expect certain things in return. If Google or Facebook were to come along and state that their engineers were going to look at my data for their own uses I would be annoyed, but their services are free and they make money off of leveraging my data. 

Evernote is not that service. I am a paid user and when the service costs as much as it does I expect my data to be fully secure. They have courted businesses and it is not unreasonable to expect some of those businesses to now have confidential or proprietary information store in their Evernote accounts. Having any sort of direct access by any personnel at Evernote is just not acceptable. I would even expect these days that my entire Evernote database can be fully encrypted so no one at Evernote can ever access it. 

Not everyone may share my point of view, but I think it would be in Evernote's best interest to encrypt the data so even if law enforcement does come knocking with a warrant, they can simply say "We don't even have access to the data". 

Evernote's CEO posted a clarifying statement this morning, which I don't feel has clarified much. In the end I feel that Evernote's fundamental and core initiatives no longer match my own and what I want to get out of the service. It makes me extremely disappointed. 

I have been an Evernote user for more than five years now. I have everything from my grocery lists to tax information to my creative writing stored in there. They have continued to show that they are losing their way though. They have increased the prices of their service while not implementing features that have progressed the platform. Basic things such as a night mode for their applications, distraction free writing or even archiving of data just doesn't exist. When you have thousands of notes like I do then searching can become cumbersome. 

Just a few months ago I finally found a great writing application that uses Evernote called Alternote. That app is great, but now I feel like I can't really use it. 

So where does that leave me? At this point I am not sure if I can really stay with Evernote unless they come out and really change the course of their ship. Evernote's business account was nice because my business note and personal notes were kept completely separate. I feel like I will now have to bring my business notes over to Onenote. 

The question is where do I end up with my personal notes and writing? Right now I don't know. Apple's Notes app actually looks pretty robust and being an Apple users I think I can be fine living in that platform. That would solve all of my basic note taking needs. What it won't do is get me where I need to be for my writing. I want to have that minimal writing platform with a night mode. 

I may give Ulysses another look, something I was testing a few months ago. Another candidate though looks to be Bear. It is a really clean note taking interface and with a $15 a year subscription it seems affordable. Time will tell though as I begin to test stuff out over the next week. 

Matt's Reading Suggestions for Political Theory

You won't often see me get onto a soapbox on my blog here, but with the whole political atmosphere as of late I have seen too many posts on social media and elsewhere from people who have taken a few words from a political philosophy, put it onto a meme and then expanded that to encapsulate and summarize what an entire political theory is. That sort of stuff annoys me to no end. If one wants to disagree with a political ideology they should take the time to try and understand what that theory is, where it came from and why it's ideals came to be where they are. 

My undergraduate degree was political theory, and while that seems like a sort of useless degree to have in a practical world, I feel like being exposed and reading the works of political theorists has made me an extremely well rounded person and one who can empathize with various points of view. These political theories, philosophies, and movements were born out of a need. They didn't just spring up out of nowhere so there is always at least some degree of legitimacy to what they are trying to convey. Some, in fact many have not stood the test of time, while others ebb and flow in their prominence around the world depending upon various political and socio-economic conditions in the world. While none of them are the Truth, all of them hold some bit of truth and reasoning for why individuals and societies believe what they may believe. 

So with that in mind, I am going to outline a couple of the works that I have found to be the most influential upon me. Hopefully, you will read some of these yourselves. And please, in the future, don't just Google something and take the first sentence or two of Wikipedia and use that as your education on a topic. All of the books here also have volumes of work worth of discussion and critique upon them so I won't go and try to summarize in detail what they are about. Instead I'll try to mention the main topic from each book that is typically drawn out and discussed in conversations.  

Most of the books I will recommend are probably in the public domain, so I will try to link to their ebook and if it is available the audiobook. 

Finally, before I get into my list I want to point everyone to another resource which i feel is way more useful than Wikipedia for a lot of these topics. The Internet Encyclopedia or Philosophy, is a great place to go if you need to get your summarized version for some of these books. Most of these are going to be hard to read so some sort of companion is truly helpful.