Home Screen Defaults & Subscriptions — 2023

I’ve been enjoying all the posts about people’s default apps, and other posts about subscriptions. I’ve found many new awesome people to follow through my feed reader. So here’s my contribution.

I’m pretty boring, for personal use I generally use all the default apps (Calendar, Mail, Notes, Safari, Contacts, etc) because I find them sufficient for my needs, and I have history in all of these apps going back to 2004 or 2005. Seriously, I can look at my calendar from 2005 to see what I was doing back in college because that was the first year I got a Mac.

For work, I use whatever they give me, usually Gmail & Slack.

Outside the Apple apps, here’s what I’ve settled on for other uses:

  • Tasks: Things. (I am VERY bad at keeping this up to date)
  • Journaling: DayOne. (1,500+ streak strong! :D)
  • Feed reader: Reeder
  • Bible: NeuBible except when I really want to read the Message or NLT, then YouVersion
  • Podcasts: Pocket Casts (though I have not listened to a podcast in over a year at this point)
  • Read it later: Pocket (and I’m very unhappy with it)
  • Music: Apple Music (it’s only okay)
  • Library books: Libby (love it)
  • Audio book subscription: Libro (support independent booksellers!)

Subscriptions

Alas, it is hard to get by these days without a bunch of subscriptions. Here’s what I have:

  • Apple One Premier: $38 + tax.
    • When it started, it was only $30/month. I use all the services that are included (top ones being: Apple Music, TV+, Fitness, and photo storage space) but the price has been increasing much faster than the value. If there’s another price increase, I will probably seriously look at scaling this back or eliminating it entirely.
  • YouTube TV: $73/mo.
    • This one is new for our family, got it to give our media obsessed (especially sports obsessed) kids something to watch at our house instead of going out to Buffalo Wild Wings every-time there’s a game. It’s basically cable but with a much better digital UI.
  • Netflix: included in cell-phone plan.
    • We’re back on Netflix. Of all the streaming services, I find Netflix content to be the most mediocre. For a while we subscribed to the $9.99 ad-free plan, but they killed that literally a week after we subscribed. We changed cell-phone providers and now it’s included in that plan. I wouldn’t bother otherwise.
  • Libro.fm: $15/mo
    • Basically Audible but supporting independent bookstores. I just put this on pause because I now am way behind on using my credits. Without a daily commute, I’m finding I listen to very little audio content.
  • Journaling: DayOne premium. $25/yr.
    • We’ll see what Apple’s journal app provides after a few years of updates, but I am liking DayOne quite a bit.
  • Website: Vultr. $10/mo.
    • Hosting this blog on a little instance for $10/mo. Been completely satisfied with them.

Previous subscriptions

  • Disney Plus.
    • I loved Disney+ when it came out and considered it a great deal at $7.99/mo. Now at $14.99/mo, I’ve already watched most of the back catalog I was interested in, and all the new content is hit or miss. Andor was amazing. Most of the rest of new content was not that appealing.

Moving Air

Growing up — all the dads in the neighborhood had leaf blowers and were obsessed with blowing leaves around. I have become one of them.

Actually, I think my newest obsession is just moving air. Here are some of my favorite ways to move air.

  1. Dyson Stick Vacuum. We got the v11 animal (I think?) and frankly I think Dyson has too many models of vacuums to pick from. But we got ours on sale at Costco and I love this thing. It’s battery operated and we put ours in the kitchen. Our old vacuum cleaner was a chore to move around, so it was a big production to vacuum the house. Not this portable little Dyson. It’s right there, super easy to carry to anywhere that we need it, and it does a great job on both our hard floors and rugs. I wouldn’t say that we vacuum any more consistently then before, but anytime I notice a problem (crumbs on the floor, dog hair on the couch, whatever) — it takes about 45 seconds to solve — so we are spot cleaning WAY more then before. (Pro tip: check the Dyson renewed store for deals)
  2. Electric leaf blower. This thing came in a kit of electric tools we bought from Home Depot. This thing is AMAZING. It’s way quieter than the gas powered ones that our neighbors have. And since we live on a corner lot, we have a lot of sidewalk. Usually I’m blowing leaves from the gutters and sidewalks on to our yard (because leaf mulch is so good for the soil!). I’m also frequently using this to quickly clean the dirt that accumulates in our garage, or blow leaves off the trampoline, or whatever. Since it came in a kit, it’s not a particularly powerful leaf blower and I’m thinking of upgrading to one of the higher powered ones.
  3. Air duster. I have had other dusters, including a battery operated one, but this one is more expensive and it plugs in. That makes it slightly more inconvenient but my gosh this thing is SUPER powerful. In high mode, I’m pretty sure this thing is more powerful than those cans of compressed air. I like using this to dust things like our plants, ceiling fans, regular fans (the one in our bedroom was getting SO gross), keyboards, vents, and surfaces. Then I’ll follow up a few minutes later by running the vacuum cleaner across the floor to pick up all the dust that settled on the ground.

Okay I might be obsessed with moving air. This doesn’t even count the whole house fan we use over the summer (which is GREAT for saving on A/C), or the fact that my ecobee has a built in air quality sensor that is making me think we should get an air purifier to cut down on the dust and improve air-quality inside.

Housing Diversity

I probably have been spending too much time on my local Next Door group. But, a lot of people there are complaining about various new projects that are working to bring more housing to our area.

Now—granted—I live in the very middle of peak suburbia. But it never ceases to amaze me how the complaints about more density in new housing developments always fall back to a couple of issues.

First, they complain about “ugly apartment” buildings. And while I think a lot of modern development can be a bit soulless, I think the same thing about most new single family housing as well. And I don’t think there’s anything beautiful about some of the new houses that are anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet and may have only two or three people living in them.

Next, they always complain about all the extra traffic from “cramming” a bunch of people into a space. Okay, well never-mind that the people who most often complain about this sort of thing also complain about public transportation and oppose all the efforts to improve transit. (which is the only cure for traffic)

But I think what frustrates me at times is the short-sightedness. Yes – I think there’s a place for single family houses. When you have kids, it’s actually really great to have a good backyard and nice suburban neighborhoods. But—shocker—not everybody has that.

More townhouses, condos and apartments give lots more options for lots more people. I live in a 70-year-old neighborhood that we love, and many of my neighbors are quite old. It’s pretty common (and sad) to see an estate sale at a neighbor’s house and then a few weeks later, a for-sale sign to go up in the yard. Usually these houses have been poorly maintained as the aging owner lacks the ability or finances to maintain their house like they used to.

With more housing types available, I wonder if more older people would choose to leave their single family houses for smaller apartments and town-homes that have less maintenance. And especially if they could remain in a community they love. This would be a benefit both to the older person with less to maintain and worry about, and to whatever young family would move up into the formerly occupied house.

By making effective alternatives available for people, you can accomplish a few things at once. You can enable a higher supply of single family homes without necessarily building more homes. (obviously how significant of an effect this will have will vary greatly on many different factors)

This is the point that I think is often lost with NIMBY advocates. They look at a parcel of land, and perhaps it can fit a few dozen single family homes, but hundreds of apartments and townhomes and other dense housing. The effect this would have on freeing up single family housing is hard to measure — but I don’t think it’s zero.

At the end of the day, everyone’s needs are different, and creating a diversity of housing will better serve an entire community’s needs.

Cynicism

I feel like I can be a pretty cynical person, but occasionally I will open up social media and go hoooboy. This happened to me yesterday after reading some posts on NextDoor (NextDoor seems to be even worse than Twitter and I don’t understand why) after a pretty big and exciting development project got approved in our city. There’s a lot of posts about how poorly our city is run and how this project is going to fall apart and, well, yada yada yada.

Now, I have my own cynicism about this project myself. There’s a lady on city council that is absolutely obsessed about the dirt that is going to be displaced from this project and where is it all going to go. Like, lady, you don’t think a construction company is going to know what to do with a pile of dirt? She has brought it up at every city council meeting I’ve listened to in the past 2 years and I just don’t understand why that’s her main concern about this project or why the developer’s answers the previous meetings are forgotten and we have to rehash how moving dirt is expensive and they will find good uses for it as efficiently as possible.

But if you were to listen to the people on NextDoor you would think we live in some sort of poorly run hellhole that is one or two steps away from total societal collapse. Do we live in the same place? I moved to this city for a lot of reasons but one of them is that it’s pretty well run. Is it perfect? Of course not. Could it do better? Always. And calling out where we can do better is often how we do better.

But there seems to be a pervasive hopelessness or cynicism about almost everything. Have you been to other places in the world? It’s not perfect and we have some things we really need to work on — but there’s a lot to celebrate too.

Yesterday as I was driving home from a volunteer meeting I was getting pretty cynical about something someone said in the meeting. I was getting really frustrated. And I stopped myself to really analyze why I was getting upset. Were there things that happened imperfectly and I would have liked to see happen better? Yeah. If I were in charge and did the same thing, would I want to receive more grace then what I’m currently giving this person? Yes, that too. And, in the grand scheme of things, are things going really well and am I hyper-focusing on one little thing and blowing it way out of proportion? Yes, absolutely.

And recognizing it, I stopped doing that. I moved on to other things.

Life’s too short.

Back on the e-bike

It’s been about a year since I’ve ridden my ebike, my new bike has taken most of my energy. But I finally fixed the flat tire and went for a nice and long 30 mile ride on a very hot day.

I love all sorts of bike riding. The ebike is really great for going longer distances and exploring paths I don’t normally ride. The extra power gives me a lot of confidence to try routes I may not be comfortable with on my acoustic bikes. I always know I can make it home with the battery power.

Today’s ride was so great because I explored a new path, and of that 30 miles, easily 26 miles were on dedicated trails with zero interaction with cars. Heavenly!

Filling Others Up

Every now and again, I need to revisit this amazing section from King’s Cross, a Tim Keller book.

There are a lot of wounded people out there. They are emotionally sinking, they’re hurting, and they desperately need to be loved. And when they are with you, you want to look at your watch and make a graceful exit, because listening to them with all their problems can be grueling. It can be exhausting to be a friend to an emotionally damaged person. The only way they’re going to start filling up emotionally is if somebody loves them, and the only way to love them is to let yourself be emotionally drained. Some of your fullness is going to have to go into them, and you have to empty out to some degree. If you hold on to your emotional comfort and simply avoid those people, they will sink. The only way to love them is through substitutionary sacrifice.

Or think of an even more dramatic example—parenting. When you have children, they’re in a state of dependency. They have so many needs; they can’t stand on their own. And they will not just grow out of their dependency automatically. The only way that your children will grow beyond their dependency into self—sufficient adults is for you to essentially abandon your own independence for twenty years or so. When they are young, for example, you’ve got to read to them and read to them—otherwise they won’t develop intellectually. Lots of their books will be boring to you. And you have to listen to your children, and keep listening as they say all kinds of things that make for less than scintillating conversation.

And then there’s dressing, bathing, feeding, and teaching them to do these things for themselves. Furthermore, children need about five affirmations for every criticism they hear from you. Unless you sacrifice much of your freedom and a good bit of your time, your children will not grow up healthy and equipped.

King’s Cross by Tim Keller, page 142.

Some Favorite TV Shows

Now to counter-balance my whining and complaining, on the flip side of things, here’s some stuff I’ve really been enjoying lately:

Apple TV+. I wouldn’t ordinarily subscribe to yet another streaming service, but it’s included with our Apple One subscription so it’s basically a freebie. The search and highlighting of shows within Apple TV+ suuuucks but there’s some really hidden gems in there. Some of these you’ve maybe heard of, but maybe not:

  • Defending Jacob. I binge watched this entire series on a single ~11 hour plane ride. It was SO good, highly recommend it. A student is murdered and one of his classmates is the main suspect.
  • Hijack. We’ve been watching this show every week after it gets released, and it’s so good! The series finale is next week, and I can’t wait to see what happens. There have been a number of twists and turns.
  • The Morning Show. The first season was phenomenal, my wife and I binge watched the whole season in a little over a week. The second season we didn’t love, and we’re excited to see if the upcoming season three brings back some of the magic of the first season.
  • For All Mankind. We all know that the US won the space race by landing a man on the moon first, but what would happen if we the Soviets did instead? Really interesting premise that gets pretty thoroughly explored.
  • Tehran. A really great show all about Israeli spies in Iran. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? It’s hard to say because you want each character to win. Season three is coming soon!
  • Trying. Maybe I’m biased because we are an adoptive family, but this series follows a couple who want to become parents through adoption. There are some hilariously good moments in this one. And one of my new favorite songs was written for this show.
    • The family and friends of the main characters are all extremely supportive, in their own way, and try to help wherever they can. One of my favorite scenes is where the grandfather shows up with a bed he made at 8am and he gets asked: “You made a bed before 8 in the morning?” And he responds, “No, I made two beds. After making the first one, I knew I had a better one in me.”
  • Ted Lasso. Everyone has heard about this one. It wasn’t my favorite show, but I really enjoyed it. The redemption arc in the second to last episode in the final season makes the whole show worth it, in my opinion.
  • Shrinking. I really enjoyed Harrison Ford in this show.
  • Loot. Loved this one, every bit of it. I kept joking it’s the MacKenzie Bezos story, and honestly it’s probably not too far off.
  • Invasion. Here’s another plane-binge show, one that I binged on a few long flights last year. Season two is coming out in a couple weeks and I’m looking forward to where it’s gonna go.

I’m really looking forward to Strange Planet which is coming out soon. This makes it seem like every show was amazing, and there have been some duds. But I’m pretty consistently impressed with the diversity and quality of shows on TV+.

Some Complaining…

I just want to write this to get some of my recent gripes out of my system, and maybe someone that works for these companies will address these.

“Smart” Home Gadgets

I really think some of the smart home gadgets are really, really overrated. We have a MyQ garage door opener and I sometimes can’t believe how poorly it works.

  • The app takes forever to open. Sometimes I’ll be on my bike and I would love to open the app and open the door as I approach my house. It consistently takes 60+ seconds for the app to even launch.
  • The most basic feature I would want is missing: with careless kids, we keep having situations where the garage door is left open. All I want is a feature where I can automatically close the garage door if it’s been open for more than X minutes. Nope! Not possible. I can schedule the door to open or close on a regular basis (why would I want that?), but there’s no way to automatically close the door if it’s been open for a long time. I would settle for a notification if that’s all they could do, but they can’t even do this. As a result, our garage door has been left open overnight or for several hours during the day numerous times and it makes me so nervous for my bikes. I’m this close to just setting a schedule and having the door automatically close every hour, but what a pain.
  • The app functions mostly as a giant advertisement for their other products or for other services they want me to use. I don’t use the app that often (because it sucks) but every few times I launch it I have to dismiss some new popup trying to get me to try Amazon Key, or Walmart+ or something I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever.

I recently replaced our Google Nest with an Ecobee thermostat. I had two motivations for doing this: 1) to stop sending data to Google, and 2) to integrate into Apple HomeKit. Honestly, I kind of hate the Ecobee.

  • The app is so minimal and basic, it’s nearly worthless. You can’t even see a history of when the HVAC system was used within the app, you have to login to the website to use their HomeIQ feature—and this view is clunky and barely works on a full computer, and is super clunky and only basically functional on mobile.
  • What equipment is currently running is hidden within the app, and not something you can quickly see like with the Nest which makes it very clear with making the background blue/orange or showing a blowing fan icon.
  • The scheduling is extremely basic. Switching between home/sleep/away is about all the scheduling options you get.
  • I really miss Nest’s ability to schedule the fan to run XX minutes per hour between certain times. I want to schedule the fan to run from 12 noon to 6pm for 15 minutes every hour. There is no way to replicate this functionality within Ecobee. I can either set the fan to run XX minutes per hour for the entire 24 hour day, or set a schedule and keep the fan on continuously for several hours.
  • The Ecobee app also seems mostly like a giant advertisement for all their other products. If their other products are missing such basic functionality — no thank you.

I’m so unhappy with the Ecobee I might get rid of it and replace it with a newer Nest with Matter support, but I still don’t like the idea of sending more data to Google.

I had another category of things I wanted to complain about but that was cathartic enough that I’ve completely forgotten what it was. I’m sure it will come back to me. But in the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty easy.

Follow Up On Display Woes

A while back I posted about some of my Apple gripes, one of them being that my MacBook Air M1 and Dell USB-C display wasn’t getting along. A Mac OS update broke it, then another update fixed it. And it remained working until the other day when another Mac OS update broke it again. UGH!

I tried a few things to fix this, until I came across this reddit post which said to cut power to the monitor and plug it back in. I had rebooted the computer a few times but hadn’t thought to do the same with the display and — bam, everything is working again.

Phew! And ugh! Sometimes I hate modern tech.