I did’t get into Scribblenauts all that much, but having characters I know and love might get me interested in it again.
It’s about damn time.
Toilet slippers are not optional.
I’ve gotten into using Finder color labels again lately. I played around with OpenMeta tagging (and still use them in a limited capacity), but I’ve found that for most purposes, color labels are my best way of adding a bit of metadata to a file. Tags are great, but they don’t create the visual pop that color labels do. If you’re looking at a folder-full of files, color labels immediately show you something about the files. I use color labels in a very GTD sense.
OpenMeta tags (for me) had two purposes. On one hand, I tagged them depending what kind of file it was and what needed to be done with them. I have a lot of Hazel rules that auto-tag files based on what kind of files they are, so that they can be categorized and searched more easily, I find that actions that need to be done with files work better when I can see them quickly and Spotlight can recognized color labels and I have smart folders in my Finder sidebar for quick access to inbox items, next actions and other GTD-related lists. They function the same as a small set of OpenMeta tags, but the colors trigger a response in my brain, that tags don’t.
If you don’t use color labels all that much, I’d recommend integrating them with your GTD workflow and also match your OmniFocus color schemes in a similar way. The uniformity between the two can be useful.
I’ve been looking for a good set of Bluetooth earphones for a while now. Not a headset for calls, mind you, but an honest to God, capable of playing music well Bluetooth earphones. I happened to be at the Apple Store in Nagoya the other day, and I caught sight of Jaybird’s Bluebuds X Sport. They are built with exercise and sports in mind, and while that’s important, I was also deeply concerned about the aural quality of the earphones. I’ve had three Bluetooth earphones (for calls) in the past, and the audio quality has always been terrible. I have listened to music with Bluetooth headphones that were geared for music and they sounded great, so I know that it’s possible to do good audio over Bluetooth. I did a quick Amazon review check and they were mostly positive. I also did some research on the Jaybird site and every thing looked good. I decided to give them a spin but I really wish I had paid more attention to the boxes. I grabbed the white ones by mistake.
The Bluebuds X Sport are not as expensive as I thought they might be. The Apple Store here in Japan had them for just about ¥15,000, which will be different depending on when you read this, but let’s just say between $150-$160. I was expecting to have to pay around ¥20,000 for a good pair of Bluetooth earphones. Amazon US is currently selling them for about $170 (as of 2013-04-25). I was also surprised by the sound quality of the Bluebuds. I’ve used a lot of Bluetooth headsets in my time, but I’ve never use any that were actually geared towards listening to music. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Bluebuds sounds almost as good as wired headphones I’ve had over the years. While the bass isn’t as good with the Bluebuds as I’m used to, I’m definitely happy with the sound they produce. The battery life on the Bluebuds is also excellent. The product description states that the earphones’ battery will last up to 8.5 hours, but even after 3 hours of continuous listening, the Bluetooth battery indicator on my iPhone 5 never dips. This may be an inaccurate reading from the iPhone, but my iPhone’s battery runs out before the Bluebuds’ does.
Most of my complaints with the Bluebuds have to do with their remote. They have a voice that they named “Jenna” (who the Hell knows why?) who tells you super useful things like, “Power On”, “Headphones Connected”, and “Power Off”. Why they didn’t to give her a special name, I have no clue. That’s all she ever says. At the same time, whenever you invoke Siri (on an iOS device), there’s a delay before Siri speaks and she sounds awful! It’s like Siri’s talking through a tin can 50 yards away. Why is it that the headphones can play musically crystal clear, but they can’t handle the voice of Siri. It’s a mystery to me. The buttons on the remote are squishy too. There’s no satisfying click when you press them, just a smush. You also must be careful not to interact with the Bluebuds remote the way you do with any iPhone headset. To fast-forward or go back, you need to hold the volume buttons up or down. Double-clicking on them just increases or decreases the volume, and volume changes are not instant. The indication beep for the volume cuts out the audio you’re listening to. My one non-remote complaint is about the fit of the Bluebuds. You kind of need to “work them in” each time you wear them. Because they’re meant for sports, in order to make sure they stay put while running, need to push them into your ear a bit. I think I’m wearing them correctly, at least. They’re perfectly comfortable once you get them in, but you’ve got to twist them and work them into your ear every time. The upside to this is that they do stay in place well.
Overall, I’ve been really happy with my Bluebuds X Sport. They weren’t as expensive as I thought they might be, they sound great and the Bluetooth signal rarely hiccups. Check them out on Amazon.
I think the biggest reason why Americans (or any Westerners) come to Japan and feel surprised is due to their expectations of how things should be. It’s not that Japan is weird or that people can’t handle the people or food, but it’s that (especially) America trains us to expect that everything should be about “me”. Americans pride themselves on their sense of individuality. We tell all the kids that they’re special. We know they aren’t, but we try to make them feel good about themselves, and in the process create expectations that the world owes them something. We all grow up and wind up complaining about everyone else around us and how they feel like “the world owes them something”, but then Americans go home and tell their dumb ass children that they’re special and that they can be “anything they want” (which isn’t usually true) and create the next generation of people that we’ll continue to hate.
Japanese parents and schools don’t preach this same level of “specialness” to kids. Sure, Japan tries to make kids feel good about themselves and they don’t like to foster competition (except for a few special occasions) but they don’t tell kids they’re special or that they can be anything. Unlike American kids (who all want to be rich or famous), when you ask a Japanese kid about their “dream”, you get one or two kids who want to be an athlete but for the most part, their dream jobs are pretty low-key. Most kids want to either do what their parents do or something like carpenter, teacher or (for some weird reason) dog groomer. They don’t aspire for glamorous jobs. There’s an underlying notion in Japan that we all have our role (or “place”) in society. Japanese kids have the same level of opportunity that American kids do. It’s no easier or harder for kids here in Japan. There is however, a lower level of expectations about what you’re going to get out of life.
Ashes for Fever° started off a couple years ago as an iPad-only Fever° client. It was buggy to say the least. It was slow and it crashed constantly. After looking forward to a better way to look at Fever° on my iPad (compared to the non-iPad specific website) only to be let down by a poor iPad app, I was heartbroken. The app looked beautiful, but its performance was awful.
Having said that, you can imagine my surprise to see that there is a new Ashes now available for iOS, and it’s for both the iPhone and iPad. The two version are largely identical, but that’s fine. The app retains its orangey and reddish hues, and where other apps would use white, Ashes uses a manilla folder yellow. Some may not like it, I didn’t at first, but after a few days of use, the color scheme has grown on me.
So what’s special about Ashes? For one, the performance issues of the past are gone (for the most part). The 1.1 release that’s currently available (as of 2013-05-09) is rather snappy. There are times when swipes aren’t recognized on the first try, but it’s not bad. The sync speed seems slow at times, but that’s largely dependent on how many sparks you have on your Fever° install. I have 300 or so, and because Ashes caches every article of every spark, if you have a lot of sparks, it can take a while. Also, because you host Fever° on your own, those with slow hosts will have slower speeds. When my host is running fast, Ashes syncs rather quickly. At busier times, my host just can’t spit Ashes the data very fast. YMMV.
The most impressive aspect of Ashes is its “Share Anywhere” feature. Share Anywhere allows you to craft your own sharing URL schemes. If you’ve used Drafts or Launch Center Pro, you get the idea. I was able to create sharing actions for Ashes that tied to my existing Drafts actions for adding to my daily journal, creating link lists from Fever° articles, and I whipped up a little action to send articles from Ashes to OmniFocus. You can read the tutorial about “Share Anywhere” on the the Ashes site.
So, should you buy Ashes? Well, even if you bought the old iPad app, you’re gonna have to buy Ashes again. I know, it might sting to buy it again. It was a $7 or $8 app back then, and it’s currently $6 and will go up to $8 after the introductory price period ends. It is a brand new app though. It’s completely new. It’s being actively developed, and there was a major update shortly after 1.0 shipped, and small bugs from 1.1 have been fixed and an update is coming again soon. If you’re happy with Reeder or Sunstroke, you might not need Ashes. If like me, you weren’t super happy with either of those options or if you’re really into the idea of creating your own sharing actions, Ashes could be a good investment. The power of Share Anywhere should not be underestimated. While Drafts empowered a lot of us with iOS automation, this is the first time I’ve seen a news reader give you the ability to create your own automated share actions. The possibilities are endless. You can buy Ashes for Fever° in the App Store.