2018 Update

It’s been over a year since the last update. I’ve got a server running in my house now, cobbled together from older parts after a recent PC upgrade.

I brushed up on my Linux, and installed the Ubuntu 16.04 server distro, with Ubuntu MATE desktop environment for occasional non-command-line management tasks. Teamviewer, the free single-user edition, handles the remote connection to the MATE desktop. Otherwise, I log in to a terminal command line from either my Galaxy S6 using the JuiceSSH app or from my main PC using MobaXterm.
The Linux server is there for three main reasons:

Plex Media Server. Plex with the subscription (“PlexPass”) is the best home theater media server out there, at the moment. This one was running on my main PC, but while streaming to my Roku apps, or mobile Plex apps, it put a strain on the PC’s modest resources. So, it’s nice having a dedicated box for that, and the main PC breathes easier now.

Calibre. My main activity on breaks at work is reading SF books. There’s no better reader for Android (for now, only Android, sadly) than Moon+ Reader Pro. It is the best epub/mobi reader on any platform, far superior to Amazon’s own Kindle product line, and B&N’s, and the many competitors. I’ve tried many. It’s one of the things keeping me locked on Android mobile devices. How could I switch to iPhone, and lose my favorite reader app? Anyway, it integrates with Calibre library software effortlessly, and Calibre has a Linux version. One less server running off my main PC. I need to donate to the dev coding Calibre; he’s a saint.

I have two Foscam security cams watching my place. After trying all the main software suites out there, the opensource Linux version proved superior (no surprise there). It’s called Zoneminder. Yes, the learning curve is steep, but it’s well documented.

So that’s three server-based software suites I don’t need to worry about hogging resources and slowing down the main PC. Previously, I would just turn one or two off, to take the strain off whichever one I was using. Now, I have the luxury of a set-it-and-forget-it server and uninterrupted access to three useful server-based apps, all happily running crash-free on the excellent Ubuntu Linux server platform.

Podcasts remain another lifesaver for work and commute. Again, I’ve tried all the Android-based alternatives to Shifty Jelly’s Pocket Casts, but it remains the best pod catcher out there. (Plex just got in the game, but they’ve got a long way to go to get my attention off Pocket Casts).
I dumped the Rubin Report because it got repetitive, boring, and annoyingly tilted toward libertarian causes. Also, he never asks a tough question. I lost interest in Penn Jillette’s Sunday School, even though I retain much respect for the man.

My current playlist, updated:

  • New York Times’ The Daily, now only Mon-Thu, is still a list-topper. Two caveats: Michael Barbaro has a painfully slow, overwrought cadence to his speech. Happily, it’s not often you have to hear him, since he usually just starts and ends the episode, but that’s usually enough to irritate. Pocket Cast’s speed control and silence-trimming feature help some. Also, it’s a poorly edited podcast, for being so high profile, and presumably high-budget. For example, when Michael’s first audio clip is the phoned-in voice of one of his colleagues at the Times, we don’t just hear the reporter’s introduction to the topic; they leave in the sounds of Michael dialing the number, the ringing, the answer, and preliminary chit-chat, sometimes even the chit-chat with hotel switch-boards also… I can only assume the producers think listeners are fascinated with Michael Barbaro’s career to the extreme of wanting to listen in on even mundane portions of his day. Other problems include long pauses and long, longgg music breaks for emotional impact. For a news outlet, they seem pretty motivated to pull on the heart-strings. It’s all so very pretentious and wasteful of the listeners time. It is a glaring error in judgment, in my opinion. Please, Daily producers, hire a real editor. Otherwise, it’s got good production values and well-written stories.
  • Sam Harris’ Waking Up and subscriber channel, too. My current favorite podcast, and always trumps all others on the list whenever it’s released.
  • Also, Twenty-Thousand Hertz, mentioned below. Probably the podcast with the highest quality audio. That makes sense, given their topic, and who is producing it, but theirs is the one I would recommend above any other for new pod casters to study and emulate.
  • Reply All. Delightfully weird, hipster in the best ways, often heart-wrenching. Stay for the post-credits mini-series of some weird inter-dimensional traveler and his dog(?). From the Gimlet network (high quality stuff, there).
  • Binge Mode. I started listening after they split off the weekly show from their GoT-obsessed one (I’m not into Game of Thrones. Shoot me.). Catch up gems: Star Wars Heroes, Westworld and the Nature of Consciousness.
  • The Rewatchables. Good catch-ups: Good Will Hunting, The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride, The Dark Knight, Speed, The Silence of the Lambs, A Few Good Men.
  • The Recappables, Westworld edition. These last three are from the Ringer network, and have really high production values; they raise the bar for podcast quality.
  • The Joe Rogan Experience, but not all episodes. I always skip the fight recaps and most all comedian interviews, but when mainstream authors come on, it’s always the best long-form interview you can get. And there’s a YouTube video of every episode, if you want that. Recent gems: Michael Pollan, Matt Taibbi, Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz, T.J. English & Joey Diaz, Bret Weinstein & Heather Heying.
  • Radio Atlantic, produced by the editorial staff of the Atlantic magazine.
  • Crazy/Genius, another in the Atlantic house.
  • The Caliphate, a spin-off miniseries from the New York Times.
  • Intelligence Squared debates. Optional, only if waiting on the above pods.
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Recent episodes are extremely long– several hours, usually– but worth it if you have the time and interest. Oddly, the first few episodes were produced with background sounds and music accompanying Carlin’s narration. It was a good decision to dump that; it’s unnecessary and distracting. But I would like to learn more about both sides of that decision (to do it in the first place; and then, to stop it).
  • Switched On Pop. Two scholarly music reviewers, thoroughly deconstructing pop songs. Their take on Demi Lovato’s Sorry, Not Sorry was great fun. This one’s optional.

In March, I got my five year pin. I’m still at Hollywood Studios. The new Toy Story Land is opening later this month, and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (really? couldn’t just call it Star Wars Land, which we all will anyway?) opens in about eighteen months. These two changes, combined with getting a station on the new Skyway gondola network going in, should make for some pretty big changes in attendance at my park.

I quit Facebook (and their Instagram platform, too, though I was fairly inactive on that one). I deleted my Tumblr, which only had about ten posts anyway. The only social media I kept was Twitter, and I only look at it for news, and rarely ever write anything on it. I don’t miss social media a bit, and have a much healthier relationship with my smart phone. I also recently finished the last couple mobile games I’d been working on. No more games or social media pull me to my phone. I’m proud of that!

I’m all caught up on Asimov’s Foundation canon, Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller series (he needs to publish a new one! Please!), the published works of Neil Stephenson, and Ernest Cline’s two great books (so far).
Currently, I’m working on James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series. I got four books in, and then caught up with the SyFy Channel’s adaptation, three seasons long so far. The actors are not A-listers, and most of the cast is way too young; plus, casting actress Shohreh Aghdashloo as Avasarala is unfortunate, but not because of her skill, I think. Science fiction isn’t her thing; her pronunciation of so much technical jargon and her character’s generous use of cursing just feel wooden coming out of her mouth. Her almost opaque accent is irritating, too. That, combined with Corey’s made-up “Belter” pidgin English phrases freely mixed into the dialogue (without captions, unless you turn them on for everyone) make it a bit of a strain to keep the disbelief suspended. CGI effects are pleasantly well-budgeted, however, and the fairly strict devotion to the source material make it worth the viewing time if you’re enjoying the series. Word is, SyFy is giving over production of the fourth season to Amazon; luckily, I have a Prime subscription.