🎶 App Review: iSyncr + Rocket Player

If you recall, I recently wrote about some problems I was having with my iPod Classics, both of which had been modified with the Tarkan iFlash adaptor to 512GB. Luckily, the fellow who installed the adapter for me was able to get them out of the Reboot loop, and I have restored them. That got me thinking again about non-iPod solutions. There were a variety of options available:

  • Dedicated music players such as the Fiio or Astell & Kern provide great sound quality, but are expensive, require additional SD cards for storage, do not support smart playlists, and cannot integrate with my large existing iTunes library. There are precious little details online about their interfaces, and especially about their interfaces on the PC side for managing the music libraries.
  • An iPod Touch does not work, because their storage is not expandable and currently maxes out at 128GB. An older iPhone has more storage, but is also much more expensive, and has been designed by Apple to have diminishing battery life — plus planned obsolescence.
  • Using my existing Android phone, which can support Micro-SD cards up to 2TB.

When I started exploring the Android ecosystem, the first option was a cloud subscription model. For a multitude of reasons, I do not like streaming music — you need larger data packages for your phone, and you may not always have service where you want it. But programs like Apple Music and Google Play Music (GPM) do allow you to, within limits (50,000 songs for GPM; 100,000 songs for AM), upload your music library to their cloud (where they may substitute existing tracks they have), and then download it into the SD card from your mobile device. Initially, I thought about that option, in particular with Apple Music, which would support Smart Playlists. Both work with iTunes, either natively or with a media manager. They also have other arbitrary limits, such as GPM limiting playlists to 1,000 songs. Both also require monthly payments to Apple or Google, companies that don’t need your money, avoid taxes, and are not longer out to do good, IMHO.

But then I stumbled upon the apps from a small family company, JRT Studio (FB). They have two apps: iSyncr and Rocket Player, that were of interest. The apps had free and pay version, and the pay version was a one time payment. They appeared to do what I wanted to do: iSyncr would read the iTunes database and move the music to an SD card; it would also sync back to iTunes play times, counts, and ratings. Rocket Player was a music player designed to play music from an Android’s internal storage, and provided a widget to add ratings. I use ratings to flag tracks I like, and tracks that need repair.

So, after stumbling on a sale on 512GB MicroSD cards (for $99 at Amazon, half-price!), I decided to go the iSyncr route. I ordered the card, installed it, and attempted to sync. The good news is that, after some stumbles, I was able to get the process working and copied all the music and playlists to my SD card. The Rocket Player works well, and even additionally supports its own form of smart playlists so that I could create ones that do live updates (existing smart playlists in iTunes transfer as a static copy that do not update). In general, the process was easy once I figured it out. Over time, I’m playing with tuning the process to make it more efficient.

I cannot, however, give the products a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating at this time. I have to dial it back to ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ because of some problems.

For iSyncr:

  • The interface is, at times, user unfriendly, or at least, non-intuitive. It took me a while to realize using the USB transfer that it was calculating the space as a preparation to sync, and that you had to initiate the sync separately. If you want to keep adding playlists slowly, it has to rescan iTunes for each playlist. Establishing the permissions for it to communicate is also a bit complicated, although that is in some ways due to Android and Windows. The Windows component also installs straight to the system tray, and the user interface is not explained well.
  • The product needs to be a bit more security aware: it may require too many firewall permissions (it is unclear if those can be dialed back, in particular, the public access option if you only want to sync on home networks), and I’m not 100% sure on the Android permissions. They also need to sign their Windows executable. I understand why they don’t sign it (privacy issues), but I believe those should be surmountable.
  • It would be nice if the product communicated over Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi and USB.
  • There seemed to be a bizarre interaction after resetting the Android Media Library that resulted in a large playlist (Music) being limited to 100 songs. It appears that everything in the playlist transfers, but that the project of the playlist itself is what is short. We thought it was a license issue, but it turned out to be a permissions problem. It was resolved by deleting that playlist in Rocket Player (which required re-granting permissions to the directory on the SD card), and then re-syncing that playlist via iSyncr on WiFi.

For Rocket Player:

  • Their live list capability is a bit more limited that iTunes. Here are a few things that I noted:
    • iTunes smart playlists provide full equation capability — that is: a & b & (c | d) & (f | g). Live lists give each predicate an option of mandatory or optional, where “optional” means connected to the other predicates with an “or” (and that only really comes into play if there is one required component — if all are optional, you get the entire library)
    • There are conditionals available on iTunes, such as “starts with”, that are not available for live lists. Of course, Apple needs full regex matching, but that’s probably a reach.
    • There are fields you can test for in iTunes, such as the length of the track, that are not available for Live Lists. This was particularly annoying for me, as I have Smart Lists that partition my podcasts based on length, and I couldn’t reconstruct them in Rocket Player
  • One of these apps (I suspect Rocket Player) may be a battery drain. I noticed since adding the apps that the battery drains faster, but I haven’t fully figured out the culprit. It appears it may be Rocket Player, when it is in the foreground or rescanning the SD card. It appears to be managable. What is unknown if other players would be equally draining if they were the ones in the foreground and doing the scanning.

However, the biggest problem for both apps was, well, dealing with bigness. The programs do not work efficiently with very large libraries such as mine: 45,600 songs, playlists that are 20,000 songs, and at least 256GB in music and podcasts. iSyncr originally took an hour or two to process the playlists to sync. By tinkering with which playlists I transfer (and recreating the smart playlists and live lists and not transferring them), I’ve gotten the time down to 15-30 minutes.  Rocket Player takes a long time to start up and recognize the music, and an even longer time to scan for new music. Some of this may be due to the Android media library, but I don’t think that’s the entire picture. I think they tested in on smaller libraries and it worked just fine; my library is an anomaly and very large.

Given that the products are (currently) a backup, and that I only plan to sync once a day when it is near my computer, the faults are not insurmountable. Still, they are annoying (and thus the 4½⭐ rating). I hope that they can improve the efficiency and user interface of these products in the future.

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🎶 iPod Woes / Android Music Apps and SD Cards — Recommendations Needed

Yesterday, my iPods went south. I don’t mean that they went to Orange County (although one of them did); rather, I mean that they both are not working. Last night, after syncing them to iTunes 12, they both got into endless reboot loops. Given that this happened to both of them, I suspect a Windows Update corrupted the Apple Device Driver. I will attempt to reset them, and may need to reinstall iTunes, but there is the possibility that they are useless until Microsoft fixes the problem.

Le sigh.

So, the question is: What to do to get me back and running. Here are the critical parameters of the problem:

  • In my iTunes library, I have over 45,000 songs, and about 100 podcasts, MP3 and AAC format.
  • Size-wise, this iTunes library is between 256GB and 512GB.
  • I do not want to stream music; I prefer to play it from downloaded copies
  • My iPod Classics are my only Apple ecosystem devices. I have a Windows 10 PC, and an LG G6 Android phone.
  • I would prefer to be able to use my smart playlists and retain my ratings and play counts.
  • My LG G6 does have a MicroSD slot, and I’m open to getting a 512GB MicroSD for my phone.

I see two options at this point, and I’m open to suggestions about which to do. For the sake of this discussions, let’s assume that I get the SD card, install the card, format it, and mounted it.

Option 1: Google Play Music.

👍: Google Play Music has a music manager that runs on Windows 10, and can see and read your iTunes library. It permits you to upload up to 50,000 songs to its cloud library, although if the track is already in its library, it doesn’t upload your copy but uses its local copy. It appears to then permit you to download those songs to the SD card and play them from storage. It contains a podcast feature, but it looks like Google Podcasts may also integrate with the same storage.

👎: Supposedly, Google Play Music will be going away in favor of YouTube Music, but when that will happen is unknown. Supposedly, Google will make the transition seamless. It is also unknown the extent to which Google Play Music supports smart playlists. Playlists may be limited to 1,000 songs.

💲: $9.99/month. $14.99 family. It looks like you can do a free option as well, but the limitations of the free product are unclear.

Option 2: Apple Music,

👍: Apple Music integrates with iTunes on the PC because iTunes is Apple Music on the PC: You just set iTunes to upload to your iCloud account. It permits you to upload 100,000 songs to your cloud library, although if the track is already in its library, it doesn’t upload your copy but uses its local copy. It does not upload tracks it considers to be “poor quality”. It appears to permit you to download those songs to the SD card and play from storage. There is a separate Apple Podcasts app that supposedly integrates. Smart playlists supposedly move over.

👎: First, it is a continuation of the Apple ecosystem. Supposedly, iTunes will be going away and transitioning to the Apple Music model. The impact of this is unknown.

💲: $9.99/month. $14.99 family. There appears to be a 3 month free trial, although the limitations are unclear.

ETA: Option 3: iSyncr + Rocket Player

While researching Apple Music, I ran across a product called iSyncr. This appears to — for a one-time $10 fee — run in the background and sync iTunes information to the SD card on an Android phone. It syncs stats (bidirectionally if you use their player) and ratings, and handles smart playlists by syncing a snapshot of the playlist. As long as it syncs play counts back, that’s fine. They have a music player called Rocket Player that works with their app.  I’d much rather give a mom and pop operation my money on a one-time basis than give the highly-profitable, tax-avoiding Google and Amazon a monthly fee. Right now, I’m leaning towards this option.

Based on my research, it appears that if Windows Update fucked this up and the iPod Classics are dead, I’m going to need to move to a subscription service, about $120/year. That’s the bad part. It does look like I can still keep the music in iTunes and after the time-sink of uploading and downloading, have the music locally on my phone. But which service? Right now, I’m thinking Apple simply because it has a larger song limit and assuredly supports Smart Playlists. Google is appealing to get out of the Apple ecosystem, but (a) it is Google, and (b) it may be going away with the transition unknown.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences.

 

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📰 Pod People Read the News

One of the categories in which I collect news chum is titled “Music and iPod”. The articles I’ve collected here fall into two broad categories. The first looks at the changing music marketplace. The second collects information on potential iPod replacements. So unlock your device, take your scroll-wheel for a spin, and let’s start.

The music industry is changing. What’s old is new again, and maintaining what you have becomes more work. The world is divided between those that want to own their music (some say “hoard, my precioussss”), and others are just fine with leasing it and paying subscription fees. Generational divides are at play here. Here are two articles exploring that divide:

  • Spotify is fine. But let’s mourn the passing of CDs. Once loved, the humble CD is now derided. It’s forefather, the vinyl LP, is having a resurgence. There are those giving the cassette some loving for the mixtape. But the CD? It’s sound was “too perfect”. Is it time for the requiem?
  • Wired headphones are having their quartz moment. When Apple decided to get rid of the 3.5mm port for headphones, wired headphones began to be pushed out the door. People were willing to live with the spotty connections and limited battery life of unwired headphones. But just like mechanical watches and vinyl, wired headphones are finding their space.

One of my worries is the eventual death of the iPod and the iPod ecosystem. I’m not sure whether it will be due to the death of hardware, or Apple deciding to remove iPod Classic support from iTunes, leaving iPod users high and dry. So I’m always looking for alternatives. Here are some articles related to that:

 

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Updates from the Pod People World

The following are some news items that have caught my eye over the past few weeks regarding the iPod, the larger iPod ecosystem, and the world of digital music:

  • Are Dedicated Music Players Useless? In today’s world of multifunction devices, such as your smartphone, is the dedicated MP3 player useless? The answer is a resounding “No!”, as this article shows. In addition to the 10 ways in the article, there are some even more important reasons. Dedicated MP3 players don’t use streaming bandwidth, and can be used in places where you have no Internet. They are also not visually based, so you can often operate them without looking. Being more narrow function, they are also usable in situations where phones are not (for example, MP3 players are not treated the same as phones with respect to moving vehicles). Lastly, if you upgrade storage, you can often have a much larger music library with you than you can even with services like the Amazon cloud or iTunes match, especially if you come in with a lot of preexisting music.
  • Upgrading an iPod. Stories about how one can upgrade a later generation (5G or later) iPod classic to use solid state memory come around periodically. The most recent iteration was The Verge and the Circuit Breaker Podcast having an article how to do so. However, they made one major error: they indicated you get the boards and supplies through eBay. Nonsense! I’ve had three iPods updated, and a 4th will eventually be upgraded as well, and in all cases I went straight to the source: the iFlash Adaptor site. I’ve used their iFlash Dual card for all three of my iPod Classics. They also have a useful blog with advice on batteries and memory cards. If you’re local to LA, I’ve found a good person to install the card, if you’re not a hardware person (and I’m not). Drop me an email or a comment and I’ll get you in touch with the person I used.
  • Digital vs. Physical Music . In the days before there was an iTunes store, how was digital audio and video shared? The answer is: via Usenet, and it was this new style of digital sharing — across a forum originally intended for textual messages — that led Usenet to its slow death, while spurring on the growth of the web and online music and video stores. Meanwhile, we’re seeing the death of the physical form for digitized media — CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays — in favor of streaming. This is a very bad trend, and we must all work to support physical media. There are a number of reasons. First, the physical media made available many rare shows and albums that were saved from obscurity. It also preserved additional information, such as directors cuts, audio tracks, bonus tracks, commentary. Those aren’t present for streaming media, and there is no assurance that rare material will be available for streaming. It is also much easier, with only streamed media, for the media content owner to make the content unavailable. You also can’t easily share streamed media with friends. It is a bad move for the consumer.
  • End of the Headphone Jack. The simple 3.5mm audio jack. It has been around for over 50 years, coming in with the transistor radio, replacing the large headphone jack. It is now starting to disappear, and we should mourn (if not protest) its demise. There are many advantages to this format. Being analog, it is not subject to restricted digital format or digital rights management. It works across all vendors, and you don’t need different products for different devices. Its analog signal is also adaptable, being used for not only sound but any electrical signal such as a card reader, health monitors, and such. By moving to proprietary digital connectors (as they did with streaming), vendors are tying you to using their product, and their enforcement of accessibility to your music. They are creating waste and making obsolete numerous devices, which often go to landfills.
  • Music Management Software. Those who use an iPod or Apple device have a love/hate relationship with iTunes. Often you must use it, but it could be so much better. Here’s a review of 7 iTunes alternatives. The problem is that none of them are iTunes replacements: it is unclear if they handle accumulated metadata, such as the number of plays; it is unclear if they can communicate with older Apple devices (such as the iPod Classic); and it is unclear if they support Smart Playlists. Often, these replacements aren’t too intelligent: they don’t understand synchronization, and they presume album-oriented play. That’s great for a college student with perhaps 50 albums; its bad when you have over 2000 albums and over 42000 songs.
  • Wither iTunes? Of course, the issue with iTunes may be forced. Apple has the ability to make your device obsolete. Just ask the people with first-generation Apple TVs, who are being disconnected from iTunes. Just ask those who use iTunes on Windows XP or Vista. Just ask those hoping to purchase iTunes LPs with additional album content. All have had, or will have, support discontinued by Apple. This is a big worry for me: Why does Apple have any reason to continue to support the ability to synchronize with discontinued iPods, such as the iPod Classic. It is one reason I will not buy an iPhone (requires the latest iTunes), and one reason why I haven’t upgraded from iTunes 11. I still worry that, one day, iTunes 11 will not work on Windows 10, or will no longer support podcasts. At that point, will I be forced to Rockbox, if it still exists? Their iPod Classic ports aren’t stable. Will I need to find a new media player, such as the Fiio Players? What will that mean for my metadata and smart playlists.

We’re going to a world where we may not have physical LPs or CDs for our music. As we age, what will guarantee we’ll be able to bring our music with us? Are we destined to copy our music from server to server (I hope you remembered that backup), or paying companies indefinitely to store it in the cloud? And when that cloud or drive goes “poof”, how will historians discover our music? Analog is essentially forever (or as long as the media lasts), but digital is remarkably ephemeral. Enjoy your music while you have it, for tomorrow it will be gone.

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Fears and Frailty

We all have fears. Some find strength in them. Some let them shape their lives.

Fear, thy name is Apple.

This post, of course, is brought to you by the letters “i”, “t”, “u”, “n”, “e”, and “s”. Put them together, and they spell “iTunes” — the reason for this musing, especially after reading an article titled “How iTunes built, and then broke, my meticulous music-listening system“. I’m one of those folks: curing my iTunes library, making sure the meta-data is right, the album art reflects the version of the album I have — for all of my 40,000+ songs (yes, I’ve crossed the 40K song mark). Although the article discusses the problem of iTunes with newer devices, I’m dependent on the software to sync with my modded iPod Classic (512GB storage). I’ve even stayed on iTunes 11, because I know that will work with the device. I will never get an iPhone, because that would mean upgrading iTunes — and we all know that will spell doom.

So what are my fears?

Well, my iPods could die. I’d still have the music of course: tracks lovingly downloaded, ripped from CDs, recorded by hand from LPs, extracted from videos. Most of the music not available elsewhere digitally. But that’s why I have a backup iPod Classic. Primero and Segundo. Prime.

But what if iTunes 11 no longer works when I move eventually to Windows 10. How will I sync my music? How will I move everything to another library system. I really do not want my music in the cloud. There are so many places where streaming just does not work. Not to mention, of course, that it is MY music. I paid for it, I should be the only one to control it.

That, by the way, is why I tend to buy digital music from Amazon, but not use Amazon Music.

This brings us to the problem with MP3 download collections. Unlike CDs or LPs, there’s nothing tangible. Nothing to pass on. It is in a fixed format that might not be supported in the future. Then what? Pay for your music again, if you can find it. I can still listen to LPs from almost 80 years ago (alas, I can’t deal with 78s). We can still listen to CDs from 30 years ago. 30 years ago, the MP3 format didn’t exist.

30 years from now, how will we listen to our expensive MP3 downloads? We will probably still be able to find CD players (although forget those CD-ROMs you recorded — they’re likely toast now). We’ll find the cassette players, and LP players. But will our computers still be able to play MP3s? Ask yourself this: Could you open a Wordstar file?

So a big fear of my: My music won’t age well with me. Of course, in 30 years I’ll be 87. I probably will have forgotten how to use a computer. Hopefully, my iPod Classics will still be working 🙂

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Everything Old is New Again (or Refurbished)

Let’s start clearing out some of the non-Trumponia news. In this collection of links, we look at things from the past that may be getting new leases on life:

  • The Triforium. Those outside of Los Angeles probably have no idea what I mean when I say “the Triforium”; hell, most younger Angelinos have no idea either. The Triforium is a art installation that goes back to when I was in high school, a “space-age-looking pointy edifice that stands six stories tall and is covered with 1,494 colorful lights that once blinked in time to music blasted from its four gigantic speakers”. It never quite worked as intended, and for most of its life has been a barely or non-operative artwork in a below-ground mall only frequented by those nearby on jury duty when they go to lunch. But that may be changing. The Triforium Project, co-founded by musician Claire Evans, Tom Carroll, host of the popular local web show “Tom Explores Los Angeles,” urban planner Tanner Blackman and Jona Bechtolt, Evans’ bandmate in the pop-dance group YACHT,  has a plan to “replace the computer system entirely with something that is network simple, easy to update, open-sourced and remotely accessible so that we can turn the instrument into something genuinely interactive for residents of the 21st century”. The improvements are now in the approval process.
  • Downtown Las Vegas Lights. Derek Stevens in Las Vegas is a man with a mission. He’s purchased one of the original blocks in downtown LV, and is tearing down and revamping the buildings, including Fremont Street’s Las Vegas Club casino and several neighboring properties, including Mermaids and Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch. All told, it adds up one entire city block that the Stevens brothers intend to demolish and build up anew. The problem? This block is home to a number of vintage neon signs that feel pretty essential to the character of the street, including Vegas Vickie, the kicky neon cowgirl that debuted with Bob Stupak’s Glitter Gulch casino in 1980; the sign for Herb Pastor’s Golden Goose casino, circa 1974; and the giant “Las Vegas Club” letters themselves, which have been part of the streetscape for more than 60 years. However, unlike many casino owners, Stevens cares about LV history — and is preserving the signs and planning to operate them — in some way — going forward.  According to Stevens, “The signs are going to be part of the design. Whether they’ll be internal or external, I’m not quite sure yet. … I’m a pretty big fan of Vegas history. I don’t see anything getting the wrecking ball.”
  • Nokia Candy Bars. For the youngsters out there, I’m not referring to the candy bars that are more expensive than the street drugs, at least according to our President. Rather, the candy bar phone — the Nokia 3310 — which the new owners of the cell phone name plan to bring back, at least in Europe. This was an extremely reliable, long-battery-life pre-iPhone cell phone, where you only had a numeric keypad (but you had a great version of the game “snake”). The phone, originally released in 2000 and in many ways beginning the modern age of mobiles, will be sold as a way of getting lots of battery life in a nearly indestructible body. The new incarnation of the old 3310 will be sold for just €59, and so likely be pitched as a reliable second phone to people who fondly remember it the first time around. It will be revealed at Mobile World Congress later this month. For those who want to know where this fits historically, here’s a chart of all the Nokia dumpphones released from the first one in the early 1980s until 2006.
  • LP Records. We all know by now that LP records have made a comeback (it seems everything old is new again, especially analog stuff). So what type of record collector are you? This article attempts to find out, defining 7 types of record collectors. As for me, depending on the genre and artist, I’m either a lifer, a completest, or a casual.
  • iPod Classics. For some, the iPod Classic is seeing a resurgence; for some, it has never left. For those of us using them, something that periodically resurfaces is the article on how to replace the hard drive with SSD devices. It just resurfaced again. The only problem with the article is that Tarkan moved his site with the boards to http://www.iflash.xyz. These are for iPod Classics 5G and later, and he has boards that can accomodate a wide variety of SSD, including SD cards and micro-SD cards. I’ve been using the iFlash Dual in two of my Classics for over a year now (each is at 512GB) with no problems. We plan to upgrade at least one more iPod Classic (a 7.5G). We also have a 80GB 6G, but we can only take that to 128GB. PS: If you are in the Southern California area and need someone to do the mods, I may have a contact for you.

 

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A Sweet Circular News Chum, with Raisins

round challah userpicIt’s Rosh Hashanah afternoon (L’Shana Tovah to all), and I’m exhausted from the morning. Yet I have a bunch of news chum to post. Let’s see if we can braid it into something sweet and circular, coming back by the end to where I started. This time, we’ll just give headlines and a few comments.

  • The O shaped iPod? On Rosh Hashanah, you dip Apples in Honey, so where else to start but with a circular Apple product. This article describes a new circular design for the iPod Shuffle that is quite cool, if a Shuffle has enough storage for your needs.
  • The Taxonomy of Tech Holdouts. As we’re talking about iPods, here are the nine archetypes of planned non-obsolecence, from the Anachronist to the Careful Curator. I think I’m the latter.
  • Navy scuttles sailors’ enlisted rating titles in huge career shake-up. Moving from holdouts to non-holdouts. The Navy is holding on to specialist ratings no more. Effective immediately, sailors will no longer be identified by their job title, say, Fire Controlman 1st Class Joe Sailor. Instead, that would be Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Sailor.
  • New college at Onizuka Station pays homage to the ‘Blue Cube’. Moving from the Navy to their sister service, the Air Force. Those in the Bay Area might remember the blue cube, the former Onizuka AFS. It has been converted into a local college, but still plays homage to its history. The walkways leading from the parking lot to the campus are speckled with flecks of blue paint harvested from the cube. Once inside, there is the Onizuka Cafe for hungry students and the Satellite Lounge next door for relaxation and study. Two murals that previously had been inside the cube are now hung in campus hallways. One features the Challenger shuttle with a memorial poem. The other is signed by many former employees of the Onizuka Air Force Station and coincidentally features a large owl—Foothill’s mascot—with a lightning bolt in its talons.
  • An Abandoned Hospital in West Adams Has Been Filled With Fine Art. Moving from an Abandoned Air Station to an Abandoned Hospital, although this one is still abandoned. The LA Metropolitan Hospital was one of the first black hospitals, but it close a few years ago and is pending redevelopment. However, for the next month, there is an interesting art exhibit in the abandoned hospital.
  • Texas prisons ban books by Langston Hughes and Bob Dole – but ‘Mein Kampf’ is OK. A hospital is a pubic service building, and so is a prison. So here’s an interesting prison story: prisons in Texas have banned books by Bob Dole, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Sojourner Truth. But inmates are more than welcome to dig into Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or David Duke’s “My Awakening.” The rationale: they ban offensive language or violence or sex, but not offensive ideas.
  • Palestinians’ Abbas seeks British apology for 1917 Jewish homeland declaration. Moving from Hitler to another group that doesn’t like the Jews: the Palestinians. According to the Palestinian President, Britain should apologize for its 1917 declaration endorsing the founding of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and should recognize Palestine as a state.
  • Your Samsung washing machine might be about to explode. Moving from explosive ideas to explosive washers. The problem it appears, is a defective support rod that is causing washer tubs to separate, potentially launching wires, nuts and other parts.  Boom!
  • The one step you shouldn’t skip when cooking with your cast iron pan. Moving from the Laundry Room to the kitchen, here are some tips regarding use of cast iron pans.
  • Fat Flora? Gut Bacteria Differ in Obese Kids. What do you cook in a cast iron pan? Food. And what happens if you eat too much food? You get fat. Researchers have found that obese children have a different population of microorganisms living in their intestinal tracts, compared with lean children. These microorganisms appear to accelerate the conversion of carbohydrates into fat, which then accumulates throughout the body, the researchers said.
  • Attack of the plastic eaters: Can mushrooms, bacteria and mealworms save the planet from pollution? Speaking of bacteria, it runs out they may be the solution to accumulating plastic. As it turns out, nature might offer us the solution to our man-made problems. Scientists around the world are harnessing — in test tubes, under glass domes, and within large bioreactors — the power of living things that can digest plastic without suffering harm.
  • Inside Arizona’s Pump Skimmer Scourge. Of course, if you’re in Arizona, you should keep a close eye on your plastic — not due to bacteria, but criminals that are doing a lot of skimming of gas and other credit cards.
  • Why the Hallmark Card Company Owns Thousands of Priceless Artworks. Plastic, of course, refers to a credit card, and who is one of the largest purveyors of greeting cards? Hallmark. Here’s the history of Hallmark, and why the company owns lot of priceless art.
  • UC Berkeley mascot Oski celebrates 75th birthday. Of course, you send greeting cards on an anniversary, and it just so happens that Oski, the mascot of UC Berkeley, is celebrating an anniversary — his birthday.
  • Horses can communicate with people using symbols. Oski is a bear, and another type of animal is a horse. It turns out that twenty three horses learned to tell trainers if they wanted to wear a blanket or not. Subjects were shown three symbols: a horizontal bar to say “I want a blanket”, a blank square for “No change”, and a vertical bar for “I don’t need a blanket”. They learned the meanings in a day or two and using them to convey if they were too warm or too cold, building the case for self-awareness.

Of course, a square is a simple polygon, and if you keep adding sides to a polygon infinitely, you end up with a circle. An a circle, of course, is the shape of the new iPod Shuffle, which permit us to spiral back to where this post began. Of course, circles and spirals are the shape of a round Challah, which we dip in honey as we wish EVERYONE a happy and healthy new year. May you all be written and inscribed for the happiest of years.

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Some Tasty Afternoon Stew

Observation StewNow that the highway pages are done, and the water heater is repaired, I can start some stew cooking on the stove. Loads of interesting articles in here. I’ll group them the best I can.

Things Dying and Dead, But Then Again….

  • The iPod Classic. Nine years ago, Apple introduced the iPod Classic. Last week, they introduced the iPhone 7. The iPod Classic had 160GB in a spinning hard disk, for $349. The iPhone 7 can have 256GB for almost $850. Is this the replacement for the Classic, finally? Or, is it still better to get a 7th Gen iPod Classic off eBay, or from that drawer you’ve been hiding it in, and replace the hard disk with a Tarkan board, some solid state memory (I put in 512GB), and keep the classic. Going the Tarkan route is less than $400, and gives you more memory for about the same cost. Oh, and it gives you a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, so you needn’t pay for adapters or lost AirPods. Then again, the headphone companies don’t care. They’ve got product to sell you.
  • The Colony Theatre. Oh, the poor Colony. We thought you would survive. Now you’re having to rent out your space just to stay alive. And your poor subscribers: We’re left holding the tickets for shows that we will never see (literally — there’s no way I’m gonna see Patty Duke in Mrs. Lincoln — both are dead). Will the Colony come back? At this point, I’m highly skeptical. What they need is new artistic direction, a new board, and a new way of thinking about things. Their collapse shows the perils of keeping the same leadership for far too long.
  • The Advertising Jingle. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the advertising jingle is dead. Who killed it? Cover artists and the licensing of modified lyrics, that’s what. Those are more easily recognizable. So, our hats are off to you, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, “Like a good neighbor”, and “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz”. We’re just left with the Empire Carpeting jingle.

Los Angeles Development

Sensitivity and Culture

  • Tiki Bars. Here’s an interesting question: If you were going to add a third arm to your body, where would you add it? Whoops, wrong question. Try this: Are Tiki Bars offensive to Polynesians? NPR endeavored to figure that out. It is hard to know: Tiki bars are about as close to something really Polynesian as the Chinese Food you got downtown in the 1950s and 1960s was to real Chinese food.
  • Napalm Girl. The furor yesterday was over Facebook and “Napalm Girl” — the famous photo of the napalmed Vietnamese girl. First it was taken down. Facebook banned it. Then they reversed themselves. It makes me think about a debate that occurred many many years ago when that photo was first published: Should photos like this be published? When does news value override sensitivity? These questions are still relevant today.

And the Rest…

 

 

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