Combining Playlists with Shortcuts 🎶

Before the iCloud Music Library came along, I had a good system of smart playlists in iTunes which built on other smart playlists to create what amounted to my own personal radio stations. These playlists were dynamic, ditching tracks which once they were played, to keep from hearing the same track over and over again and giving other tracks a chance to breathe.

Once the iCloud Music Library came along, these playlists became a little obsolete. They worked just fine within iTunes on the Mac. But, for whatever reason Apple has, they never synced to the cloud based on the fact they were built off of other smart playlists. I’ve tried other work arounds, including trying to build all these rules into a single playlist, but things can get messy quick.

Enter Apple acquiring the app Workflow which has been since rebranded as Shortcuts. Shortcuts allows you to create what are essentially macros, which makes repetitive tasks streamlines and quick, for iOS and iPad OS. In this case, Shortcuts has solved my problem with combining smart playlists while on the go. With this workflow (which I found on Reddit then added a small edit), I can select the playlists I want to build off of and create a song queue, shuffled and with no duplicates.

This allowed me to get a little creative with some smart playlists. The way I had things set up before was to have playlists within a certain genre set by how new the music is, which goes as follows:

  • New - From the current year (or two) which was added to my library within the last nine months
  • Recent - From the last five years, excluding anything in the new music list
  • Classic - Anything prior to five years
  • Decade lists - 80s, 90s, and so on.

With this, I added a little twist. For each of these options, I created three separate playlists with song limits of 50, 100, and 200. I think of it as measuring the amount of each ingredient I want. I’ve also made a smart playlists of favorite bands with a song limit of 100, to insure through all the randomness I have in my library, that I’ll definitely get something I like. All these playlists kick a song out once it’s played, allowing a new track to move in. Running the workflow looks like this:

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At this point, you select the playlist you want to build from, hit done, and the rest takes care of itself. You have a fresh custom playlist every day. The key here is you can list the playlists you want to build off of, you just have to make sure they are spelled correctly. But, this means if you want to use Apple Music’s own frequently updating playlists, you certainly can.

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You can download the Shortcut here.

On iPad Keyboards

I have a few random thoughts bouncing through my head this morning concerning iPad keyboards, specifically relating to the iPad Pro.

  • I’m intrigued by the new Libra keyboard, which includes a trackpad for iPad OS’s mouse support. I’m very curious how that works in practice, especially since my brain hasn’t quite trained itself to the new iPad OS text selection gestures.
  • I still think the Brydge Pro keyboard is an intriguing option, despite some of the mixed reviews I’ve seen.

I personally own a Canopy from Studio Neat which allows me to use a Mac desktop keyboard. While I think this is the best typing experience I have available to me, I don’t find myself using it a lot.

Much of this is because of the iPad Smart Keyboard Folio, which is always attached to my iPad and thus always available. While some have complained about how it feels to type on this thing, I never really have much of an issue with it. I’m typing on it now in fact, with it sitting in my lap and I feel like I’m typing as fast as I could on a full size keyboard. If I had a complaint with it, it would be the lack of view angles which prevent me from using it if I were reclined. Other than that, I love the thing.

Apple Event Thoughts - September 2019

Going in order of announcements:

Apple Arcade

Apple announced this service back in the Spring, which gives you a subscription to a library of games which can be played across an array of Apple devices. Further, Apple also announced support for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers. This means you can game virtually anywhere, picking up and playing wherever you like with great controller support.

Apple has set this service at $4.99/mo.

Will I subscribe to this? Definitely! The price and flexibility are too good to pass up.

Apple TV+

Just like Arcade, TV+ was announced back in the Spring during the services event. This service is a collection of original content from Apple, much in the same way Netflix, Hulu, etc. have created their own content.

Apple has set this service at $4.99/mo, with a free year with a qualifying Apple hardware purchase.

Will I subscribe to this? Well, I would probably have a wait and see approach on this service, but a free year with a new iPhone wouldn’t be bad. That’ll give Apple a chance to prove themselves with this.

iPad

A new baseline iPad in the same body as they newest iPad Air is a good call. This means it also supports the same accessories as the 10.5” iPad Pro which came before the current iPad Pro models. More screen space and updated chips are never a bad thing and this is a good buy for those looking for a budget iPad.

Will I pick one up? No, I have a current iPad Pro, so I’m good. However, I have a family member who this would be perfect for.

Apple Watch Series 5

The biggest new feature this year is an always on display, which takes advantage of the OLED display, since black pixels on OLEDs are fully off, saving power. There’s also a compass, but overall this is a slight bump over the Series 4.

Will I upgrade? Nah, I have a Series 4 and this barely offers anything new. Nothing groundbreaking anyway. It could be a nice upgrade coming from a Series 3, however. Anything older than that I’d definitely suggest.

iPhone 11/iPhone 11 Pro

Outside of battery life and processor improvements, it feels like the biggest gain with these new phones is the ultra wide angle lenses in the camera sets. The iPhone 11, which replaces last year’s iPhone XR, keeps the 12 MP camera of it’s predecessor, but adds the ultra wide angle lens. The iPhone 11 Pro, the upgrade from the iPhone XS, again adds an ultra wide lens to the wide and telephoto lenses from the previous package. With that ultra wide lens, Apple is also packaging in a new Night Mode for better low light imagery.

Other than this, the Pro adds a speakers behind the screen for better sound output.

Will I upgrade? Where the XS was an incremental bump from the X, the 11 Pro is an incremental bump from the XS. Not to say the technology isn’t impressive, but it’s not so much that it’s mind blowing. This used to be the case with iPhone upgrades, where you could see the difference from year to year. Now, these things are so damn quick to begin with, it’s hard to notice lag to the point where it’s annoying.

Over the past couple of years, Apple has been spending time trimming the fat off their code, which helps iOS run more efficiently, even on older devices. I’ve been running the betas on my iPhone X since July and, outside of a few typical crashes here and there, haven’t noticed any performance lag.

In terms of battery, unless I’m taxing the heck out of my device, I usually get home from work with about 70% battery. No complaints there. Once I’m home, I usually plop it on my wireless charger next to my favorite chair. My battery health is currently listed at 95% of what it was from when my device was new. Not bad for a nearly two year old device.

On top of this, iOS 13 is flaunting a feature which should help maintain battery health by not keeping your battery capped out at 100% all the time. Instead, it’ll cap it off only at times when it really needs to, based on your personal habits. Say for example you put your phone on the charger when you go to bed at 10 PM. iOS 13 will let the phone get up to about 80% in a reasonable amount of time, but will only cap it off to 100% about an hour or so before you wake up in the morning.

All things considered, I feel like I’m going to hold off this year. I paid for my device out right a couple years ago and have enjoyed not having the extra payment on my phone bill every month. I feel good about the battery life and hardware performance of my current device and I have an iPad Pro for any heavier lifting if needed. Then, there’s also the rumored redesign coming in 2020, which tells me I would really want what’s coming next more than what’s coming now. A two year incremental bump doesn’t quite seem worth it to me, but a three year spec bump with a redesign would definitely get my attention. I’m good for now.

My Sports Saturday Sucked

Today was an 0-3 day for my Seattle teams. The whole thing was just odd & depressing.

The Washington Huskies were setting up to play the Cal Bears in Seattle, where a few minutes into the first quarter a rare thunderstorm rolled through, delaying the game for two hours. It was already a late start with kickoff at 8 PM local time. Play resumed at 10:30 PM, in which I set two hours ahead.

I fell asleep, only to wake up at 3:30 AM (1:30 AM in Seattle) to see Cal lining up for a game winning field goal. Washington loses 20-19.

Earlier in the evening, Seattle Sounders made up their game in Colorado, which was postponed due to snow in April. As fate would have it, the Sounders were missing some key players due to international club call-ups, which is why it was a week off to begin with.

At full strength, I feel the Sounders would take care of business. They’ve been clicking well the last couple of matches, after all. Without their guys, the lost to the Rapids 2-0.

Then there’s the Mariners. They lost the third game out of three so far against Houston, their fifth loss in a row. The season has been over for a while, so it is what it is at this point.

With all of that in mind, today is the start of the NFL season for the Seahawks, who take on Cincinnati. Here’s to getting off on the right foot today.

Belching Beaver Don’t Blink 🍺

Name: Don’t Blink
Style: Pale Ale
Brewer: Belching Beaver - Vista, CA
ABV: 5%
IBU: -
Rating: 3.8/5
Notes: I could drink this for a while. A little grapefruit happening here.

IMG 0089

Report: Seattle council member mulls pedestrian ‘superblock’ in Capitol Hill

Nick Bowman writing for MyNorthwest:

Barcelona’s own superblocks cordon off nine square blocks to thru traffic, reduce speed limits, and move parking off of surface streets and into underground garages. As CHS notes, though, a superblock can feature any number of designs, including narrowed roadways, car traffic left exclusively for neighborhood residents, or simply reduced speed limits.

I love this concept. I’ve often noted while either walking or biking I tend to notice my surroundings more. Life seems to slow down and you can take everything in. In a car, you’re in a metal capsule moving at a greater speed with most of your attention given to other cars. It’s with that in mind that I’ll walk to most places within a mile and a half of me.

The closest thing to this in Lincoln is the Haymarket District, where there’s tons of shops and pesdestrian traffic seems to have more rights to entering the street than other parts of town, as people can basically cross whenever. Still, outside of the farmers’ market on Saturdays, pedestrians are still limited to very narrow sidewalks most of the time.

The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Is Here to Save America

Helen Rosner writing for The New Yorker:

Popeyes fried chicken is fantastic. The meat is flavorful and juicy, encased in a spiky, golden sea urchin of batter—surprisingly light, uncommonly crispy. Fried chicken is one of the world’s great culinary syntheses, found in cultures and kitchens on every patch of the planet: bird, flour, fat. American fried chicken, whose recipe was cultivated by enslaved Africans in the South, is, at its best, a food of transcendent deliciousness, an object of near holiness. There is almost certainly better fried chicken in the world than the version found at Popeyes, but only marginally so—and, in most of the forty-nine states where Popeyes locations can be found, it’s unlikely that whatever’s better is more convenient or reliable. If you were going to try to pass off another restaurant’s fried chicken as your own, and you had a Popeyes nearby—well, you could do a whole lot worse.

This is a pretty dead on description of Popeyes. Unless you live in the South itself, you’d be hard pressed to find better chicken than theirs. That said, Popeyes is better in Mississippi than anywhere else I’ve had it, by my own observation. Popeyes is also the only place I’ll find the kind of sides I like, as I’ll prefer anything remotely cajun over even general Southern food, but especially the fake Cheez Wiz mac & cheese that suffices from most places.

chicken sandwich

As for the new chicken sandwich, this is the best southern chicken sandwich I’m going to find in Lincoln, Nebraska. Good choice on the buttery bread, the cayenne-laced mayo is a good touch, and there’s good pickle coverage. This chicken is a good bite, not dry anywhere with good breading. Well done! Much better than the trash po’ boy that used to be on the menu.

Ronald Acuña Jr. benched, Braves win, and this could be red-letter day in season ⚾️

Jeff Schultz, writing for The Athletic:

When Acuña was benched for standing and admiring the flight of his third-inning fly ball — which wound up being a 367-foot single off the right-field wall, not a home run, a pratfall that contributed to a scoreless inning — it was a significant moment for the player and potentially the Braves this season.

Not only did Acuña loaf to first base, he was then thrown out trying to steal second. Had he hustled initially, he would have had an easy double, eliminating the need to steal in the first place. That bottom half of the inning zapped the energy out of the stadium after the Braves didn’t produce.

When Snitker benched Acuña, it didn’t only send a message to Ronald, but to the entire team. Everybody on the roster was now being held accountable. The Braves responded well yesterday.

Max Fried rebounded from his rough first inning to tame the Dodgers offense for the following four innings. The bullpen then held fort for the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, Rafael Ortega hit his first home run of the year, a grand slam which ended up being the game winner.

These moments matter and it could be a huge reference point if the Braves propel themselves into something special in a couple months.

The Distraction-Free Phone

Mike Schmitz writing for The Sweet Setup:

A distraction-free phone is not a “dumb phone” (although there’s nothing wrong with that approach if you think it would help). It is simply a phone where you have dictated the terms of engagement and all your apps and notifications play by _your_ rules.

I’ve always found this concept interesting. It really goes into a lot of what I’ve been reading in Digital Minimalism, which speaks on subtracting technology from your life to start then evaluating how you’d use an app, service, or device once you reintroduce it back in top your life.

Sounders Notes vs. New England ⚽️

  • Up front, the Sounders can get a push whenever they decide to. They can really cause havoc in the box when they want to. Unfortunately, a few goalposts and crossbars have gotten in the way.
  • Defensively, this team is getting pushed around. It’s not just the back four, but the midfield as well. The entire unit seems to retreat too deep at times.
  • It doesn’t seem like the Sounders are able to keep possession well. Many times this squad goes for the home run when it isn’t there and gives away possession too easily.

Sounders start a stretch of three matches on the road , starting with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.

Apple Music launches Apple Digital Masters collection of high-quality songs - AppleInsider

I’m imagining master quality audio on the HomePod.

A Mindful Approach to Technology

Mike Schmitz writing for The Sweet Setup:

But we’ve noticed that the way people use their technology has changed over time.

In short, we’re consuming instead of creating. By default, we’re constantly chasing “more.” We can’t resist the siren call of the new and shiny, so we’re pulled mindlessly toward the mesmerizing glow of our screen without thought to what we’re really doing there.

I caught this article this morning, a day after writing a note to myself describing things I feel I need to lean back towards. None of these things neccesarily deal with erasing technology from my daily routines, but instead seek to repurpose how I use technology. Over the past few days, I could feel myself mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed with this overwhelming need to know what was going on within the moment. None of this was stuff I couldn’t go back and check on later. It’s this behavior I want to avoid.

Beyond that, I simply feel reading, writing, listening to music, and excercising are far more benificial to me than being a mindless drone who uncontrolably scrolls. With that in mind, I’ve written a little. Now, it’s time to go roam my city on my day off now that the rain has stopped for the next few hours.

Note to Self: Things to Do to Stay Sane in a Troubled World

I’m reaching my breaking point with the news cycle and am feeling the need to withdrawal from social media as a result. Here’s a few things which help me relax instead.

Music

There’s really no better feeling for me than a room with no TV on and some music playing instead. I’m trying to listen to albums more instead of just the stream of single tracks.

Reading

iOS 13 in introducing timed reading goals in the Books app. It’s a good incentive to get a little reading in everyday.

Writing

This thing I’m doing here, where I spill all my thoughts out to black & white is a good habit to have. It’s not even about wether someone else reads it or not, but more about just not having it internalized.

Walks

Walks are my zen time, when I can clear my head and think about nothing. Some people run. I only run from bears. But, I always feel good when I get my walks in and close my rings on my Watch.

Just a few simple things to get through it all.

iOS 13 Darkens Wallpaper with Dark Mode

There’s two things going on here.

  1. Dark Mode is a new, long-awaited feature of iOS 13. It provided a darker look to the interface with apps going with a fully black background. I like it better for my own eyes, especially in dimmer environments. Also, for people like me with OLED displays, those blacks are true blacks, meaning the pixels are actually off where true black is shown. That can save some battery life in the long run.

  2. The most recent beta of iOS 13 offers Dark Mode as an accessibility shortcut, which is activated by a triple-click of the power button. It’s a bit quicker than digging through control center where the dark mode setting is buried. That allows me to demonstrate just how dark Dark Mode makes a wallpaper when activated.

11 years without the Seattle SuperSonics 🏀

Jeffery Brown writing for Cascadia SN:

I know for myself and the majority of Sonics fans just hope that the NBA decides to expand to Seattle over relocation. It would be less messy, and we wouldn’t have to put another team’s fan base through the relocation nightmare and despair. My hope is that the league will seriously consider expanding to Seattle after 2021 when Seattle’s new arena is fully operational. But if it ends up being relocation, I will welcome that team as my own.

This is basically my thought process. I know the guys with NHL Seattle would like a couple seasons for the new franchise to take hold so they can lock in the fan base for hockey. For Seattle, this would be the first professional winter sports team in the city in 11 years, so it’s a huge void the NHL is filling. With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new NBA franchise is announced sometime around 2022 or 2023. That’s totally a guess on my part.

Can a team of 25 Ichiros win the World Series? ⚾️

Kofie Yeboah from SBNation sets out to see if a team of Ichiro clones can win the World Series in MVP baseball 2005. As a Mariners fan, the result makes me happy and sad.

Dear Fantasy Football: It’s Not Me, It’s You 🔗🏈

Derek Hernandez writing for No Coast Bias:

Fantasy football is like that friend that has terrible tastes in TV shows, but swears if you give The Big Bang Theory a shot you’re going to like it.

I think I’ve gotten to this point with fantasy sports as well. I just want to watch the games I want to watch and enjoy them without having to root for a player on a rival team.

Albums I Hope to Listen To This Week 🎶

I’m going to try listening to more full albums and rate tracks as I go along. Here’s what’s on my radar this week:

  • Nas - The Lost Tapes 2
  • Common Market - Triple Crown EP
  • Big K.R.I.T. - K.R.I.T. IS HERE
  • The Black Keys - “Let’s Rock”
  • Royal Teeth - Hard Luck

I think if I start small I can get through it, then go from there.

A Shortcuts Version of Spotify's Daily Drive

I really like the concept behind Spotify’s Daily Drive playlist, which combines morning news podcasts in with some music you should enjoy. That said, I really like iOS’s automation, which Spotify hasn’t set itself up to play nice with. The other thing I don’t like is Spotify picks music for you, which may or may not for the mood you’re in on a given day. I’d like a little more control.

So, I set out to create my own version of this in the Shortcuts app. Unfortunately, I can’t get it to behave how I want it to. While I can select a single playlist, I can’t get it to play just one episode and then continue on. If you have any ideas for a work around on this, please shoot me a response.

White Elm Permanent Saturday 🍺

Name: Permanent Saturday
Style: IPA
Brewer: White Elm - Lincoln, NE
ABV: 5.8%
IBU: -
Rating: 4/5
Notes: Plugged as a key lime pie IPA, it’s more key lime than pie. That said, it’s delicious. I want this around the home.

Permanent Saturday

White Elm Scoop 🍺

Name: Scoop
Style: Nitro Golden Ale
Brewer: White Elm - Lincoln, NE
ABV: 5.7%
IBU: -
Rating: 3.5/5
Notes: Easy drinking, obviously smoothed out from being nitro’d. Almost has a honey flavor on the backend.

Scoop

Left Hand Milkshake 🍺

Name: Milkshake
Style: IPA
Brewer: Left Hand - Longmont, CO
ABV: 7%
IBU: -
Rating: 4/5
Notes: Advertised as having orange and vanilla flavors, I pick up the orange more. Overall smooth.

Milkshake IPA

America’s Drug Code is Ass Backwords

So, I had jury duty this past week and there’s something that’s sticking with me right now. I presided over a drug case, possession of a controlled substance, in this case meth. Meth is a schedule II controlled substance. I really have no argument with that.

What bothers me is cannabis is a schedule I controlled substance. That is to say, to the federal government, cannabis is thought of as worse than meth. Are you fucking kidding me?

The amount of times I have seen or heard about meth wrecking someone’s life. The subject in question this week had five previous cases, four for a controlled substance, with one of those cases having two offenses for the same thing within a month. The withdrawal symptoms of meth and its addictive attributes are something I could never say about cannabis. I hung around potheads my junior year of high school. Once I grew tired of sleeping all the freaking time, I walked away, scot free, no feeling of being pulled back in. I was able to be done when I wanted to be. And yet, you’re telling me the federal government thinks that’s worst than meth? That has to change.

And that’s without mentioning the benefits of CBD. But I digress.

On the Connection Between Megan Rapinoe and Nipsey Hussle ⚽️🎶

Justin Tinsley writing for The Undefeated:

Hussle knew the location of his soul. There’s honor in loyalty. In the company one keeps, and the morals one lives by. The graphic stories Hussle narrated were born and bred in South Central. They were for his people. But they were meant to be heard, embraced, and they were calls to action for neighborhoods far beyond Slauson and Crenshaw. Clearly, that resonated with Rapinoe.

There’s much of Hussle’s message that can and should be carried through life, regardless of your background. In the end, it’s about making the world a better place by making us all better people. Integrity and motivation will have a lot to do with getting us there.

Jerry West is Basically a Wizard 🏀

I never saw this coming. I don’t think anyone else did either. Somehow, someway, the Los Angeles Clippers not only landed Kawhi Leonard, but they also swung a deal to acquire Paul George from the Thunder. You’re talking the Finals MVP joining a regular season MVP candidate, both of whom are from Southern California. Talk about a dream if you’re the Clippers.

It didn’t come without the Clips giving up a lot to get George. To be specific they sent OKC:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Unprotected first round picks in 2021,2022, 2023, 2024, and 2026
  • A protected first round pick in 2023
  • Pick swaps in 2023 and 2025
Talk about a deal that could make Billy King blush. But, unlike that silly trade the Nets made that crippled their franchise for half a decade, the Clippers are receiving two players in their primes with plenty of time to spare. I see no reason this team shouldn’t be in contention for the next few years at least. Further, they may have finally made the Clippers a place players want to go, especially given the fact they have the richest owner in the league in Steve Ballmer, one of the best general managers in Jerry West, a future hall of fame coach in Doc Rivers, and a potential move to Inglewood, CA, which would give the Clippers an identity they don’t have sharing an arena with the Lakers.

Crazy news to start the morning!