About week 1649: first days of Spring arrive

What a glorious weather this weekend. I know, I know, it’s only February and as my parents say: “Back when your sister was born late March, it was snowing”, but I happily take this weather to be the first days of Spring. We might pay for it with another cold streak later, but for now I’ll take it.

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About week 1648: about fake news, John Green and the podcast wars

Folks, I’ve decided to mess with the format this week. Hopefully it makes for better reading than the bulleted list I used before. I guess bullets are mostly useful when you’re a person of fewer words (so not me).

Also, the iPad Pro is back and fixed! Yay. Which makes me happy, and is maybe probably also the reason that these week notes are published on Sunday night, like before. So, here we go.

Hidden Brain

Every once in a while, there’s a special podcast episode that I feel like writing about. In this case, an episode of Hidden Brain about the spreading of theories and ideas – and misinformation. Starting with the fact that it’s impossible for us to check every fact ourselves, we rely on the social spreading of information. The double-edges sword of relying on social interaction to spread information is fascinating. It helps spread both credible information and lies. In The Vegetable Lamb, philosopher Cailin O’Connor talks about how people used to believe stories from travelers about a vegetable with a lamb growing inside it, but also about statistical models on the spreading of information in scientific communities. Really worth a listen.

Turtles…

This week I finished reading John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down. I sort of expected a quirky teenage detective story from the short description I read, but of course I should have known better. The Fault In Our Stars wasn’t just a love story, it was also a story about living with a disease. And with John Green’s opening up about his battle with anxiety in publications such as The New York Times in recent years, it’s actually not that big of a surprise that this novel deals with mental illness rather than just be that quirky detective story. It kind of starts like that, but then all that stuff fades to the background as inner turmoil of the main character becomes more and more prominent. I’ve got to say I’ve never really read a book like this before. When I was younger we had young adult novels dealing with drugs and alcohol, or bullying. But none of them were like this. If you want to truly dive into the mind of someone with compulsive thoughts, this is your chance. I am very impressed with this book.

Spotify starts the podcast wars

So the rumours turned out to be true, this week Spotify bought podcasting company Gimlet Media. And to top it all off, they also bought Anchor, an app that lets you podcast to the world right from your phone (I tried the app once, but never actually got round to publishing an episode). And so, the Podcast Wars have begun. Apple is now a big player in the podcasting world, allowing anyone and their grandma to publish a podcast. And while companies like Audible, Stitcher and others have dabbled into premium exclusive podcasts, the podcasting world has been largely an open one. Which I like, because it gives you freedom over the way you consume your podcast. For one, I don’t use Spotify for anything other than music streaming. So no podcast streaming in Spotify for me, since the experience is simply not as good as having a dedicated podcast app.

But soon we’ll have no choice, while Gimlet has assured fans that their current roster of shows won’t go Spotify Exclusive (for now… I’d like to add), you can bet your grandma’s podcast on it that there’ll be more exclusive shows coming in the future (like the second season of Crimetown already is). I’m sure Gimlet will profit from the Spotify acquisition too, for one they can probably focus on actually creating the shows and it will probably be even easier to partner up with big brands to create branded podcasts. Good for them, I say.

For listeners, this probably won’t be a good thing. Now Spotify aggressively moves in the world of podcasting, there’ll be more and more companies wanting a piece of the pie. Soon, Apple will do exclusive podcasts and maybe Netflix will start doing tie-in exclusives too. And what about all the other streaming services… I was already slightly annoyed by the many video streaming services popping up but if I now need multiple subscriptions for audio content too, well, that’s just gonna suck, isn’t it?

At least the alternative / anarchist / activist podcasts will grow louder and prouder. And become the better for it. But that’ll probably the only good thing coming from this.

So to end on a happy note

One day, singer/songwriter Moddi was skiing outside Oslo, as one does, and saw big logging machines destroying some of his favourite trees. Not wanting to be Danny Downer, he realised that instead putting all of this in a depressing song, he could also just simply write something about the invisible forces trying to improve the world little by little everyday. It turned out to be pretty hard to write something positive about the times we live in, he writes on his website. But the result is pretty good, thankfully. And it can be listened to here.

About week 1647: the end of podcasts, Andrew Bird and more

Well that’s the second week in a row these week notes are late. Sorry folks, it’s my intention to ideally post these in the weekend – like Sunday night – but it completely slipped my mind last night. Even though I did some preparation throughout the week. So here it goes.

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About week 1646: iPad gone, Rosie Carney’s art, snow and rain

The iPad Pro is gone. Well not indefinitely, but the device that is turning out to be my main productivity tool, has gone in for repair the second time. I love the thing, but the touch screen sometimes doesn’t respond. The whole device is active, it just doesn’t respond to touch until I return to homescreen or wait for 10 seconds. Well, sorry Apple, but I expect better from a device that set me back over 900 euros.

So I sent it back to the store I bought it from. And they returned it without being able to reproduce the error. Thus, I recorded a video for them and after some emailing back and forth, I sent it back in again last Tuesday. I hope they fix it now, but I can already see them sending it back with the same reason. Which will mean I get more annoyed. But we’ll see. For now, this means I’m now typing this on the Windows work laptop, and it already feels more boring. Part of the Apple magic is all marketing of course, but the iPad is a sheer joy to use at times. Writing in a well-designed app like Drafts and then exporting to WordPress, adding some final touches and hitting ‘Publish’ feel pretty good. This does not. Please come home, iPad, and please be fixed.

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About week 1645: new plan(t)s

Writing with a headache isn’t ideal, but leaving it till Sunday night to write these week notes isn’t either. But here I find myself writing on Sunday night with the headache. So forgive me if this update is slightly shorter than usual. Having said that, thankfully I’m doing better than many of my plants. Despite taking excellent care of my friend’s plants while he was on holiday, keeping my own plants alive is proving to be much harder. This week I had to say goodbye to another casualty, sadly. There’s still enough plants left, but I fear I’m just not very good at keeping them alive. That, or my house is poisonous for plants? So when’s the point where I give up and don’t get new plants anymore. Not yet… Not yet…

And while the new year is for making new plans, I’m working on that too. There are many ideas to be realised this year. I’m excited to try some new things in the next few months. Try a lot and see what sticks, I guess… We’ll see.

Watch

  • So I watched the Netflix documentary about Fyre Festival on a train ride home Saturday night. For those not in the know: Fyre Festival was supposedly the Summer music festival of your dreams. The marketing launch was as representative of the festival as our own Instagram posts usually are of our lives (so not really) and the documentary shows how things quickly went downhill from an organisational standpoint. What was supposed to be a luxurious private island for influencers turned out to be a complete and utter disaster. While it’s a great reconstruction and it’s a nice way to make fun of influencers and rich kids getting swindled, it’s worth pointing out that according to this much shorter Internet documentary, there were a lot of normal people who bought into the marketing and actually didn’t pay thousands of dollars to go to the festival.
  • Not sure if I’d recommend *You *as good television, but it is a pulpy Netflix series that is entertaining too.
  • Finished the latest season of BoJack Horseman. It might have been one of the best, though I felt the emotional impact of previous seasons was bigger. Maybe it’s because I’m happier? It had some good laughs too, this season.

Cook

  • Made this tofu dish tonight, except I didn’t have the fancy lentils, and I used regular peppers and regular tofu instead of smoked. But I was at the very least inspired by the dish. Added some extra zing to it with garlic and more vegetables.

Music

  • This Friday Rosie Carney’s debut Bare is released. I’m very excited. Check out www.rosiecarney.com for details.
  • This song by ELO popped up earlier this week. It made me dance.

About week 1644: Back to work

The first week back at work after prolonged time off (in my case three glorious weeks) isn’t the easiest. One of the benefits of having time off is being able to relax and wind down and view your life from afar. The downside is that you reset your rhythm twice: once when the holiday begins and you don’t have to get up before anything good happens – and then once again when you have to wake up early again. So I won’t say it was the easiest of starts, especially when my normal rhythm (my 4-day-work-week with a day off on Wednesday was disrupted due to other nice engagements), but by Friday I found somewhat of a rhythm again. Though I look forward to the time when there’s something resembling daylight when the alarm goes off…

Doggo

This weekend I got to hang out with Pablo, the cute dog that barks loudly sometimes. He’s nice and cuddly most of the time though, and he has nice eyes. But sometimes he barks really loud. When I was a child I was a bit afraid of dogs, so I’ve come a long way to sort of befriend an animal creature like this. But I still can’t get used to the (loud) barking. I remember going to see the first Lord of the Rings movie way back in the cinema. In the first half of the movie there’s a scene that made me jump up to such an extent that the whole row noticed in because their seats moved too… It didn’t have anything to do with orcs or Sauron. It was a barking dog that made me jump…

Watch

  • I completely forgot to mention I saw Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse in London. It was absolutely glorious, poking fun at the many Spider-Man origin stories we’ve seen in cinema (and comic books) in the past decades, but also paying homage to different art styles and comic books in general. I don’t remember when I last saw an animated film that felt so fresh and unique. Whole-heartedly recommended, even if you feel like you saw one or two too many super hero films in recent years.
  • My girlfriend made an animation (with her friend) which is available for your viewing pleasure here. I did some funny / weird voices for the philosophers. It’s in Dutch, mind you, so you might not be able to make sense of it. But it looks good, right?
  • We finished the Netflix adaption of A Series of Unfortunate Events on Saturday. I thought the ending was rather satisfying and the last season brought some real depth thematically. Enjoyed that a lot.

Read

Listen

  • Three albums I’m looking forward to: Rosie Carney’s Bare, plus the new Jessica Pratt and Cass McCombs albums. Yes I’m now on the Cass bandwagon.
  • Andy Shauf and his band made an album under the name Foxwarren. I’ve only just discovered it, but it sounds pretty good. Check it out.
  • A bit late, but I really enjoyed this Slate podcast about Christmas no. 1 in the UK. Besides racing past some nice, awful, weird, wonderful songs that made Christmas No. 1 in the United Kingdom (or nearly made it!), it tells some nice tales about how some of these songs came to pass. One of the songs included came to because of snarky comment by a mother… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Cook

  • This recipe of sweet potato, spinach en lentil dhal worked out pretty well. Obviously we used way more garlic than the measly single clove mentioned in the recipe and I may have gone a bit overboard with the turmeric. But hey, it tasted good. Also I have no clue where to get Thai Basil here. So we changed it to parsley. Not the same I know, but that leaves something to be discovered the next time we eat it.

Journal

  • I picked up bullet journalling again this week. I fell of the wagon last Autumn, and initially didn’t think I would start again, but then, suddenly, I did. So, yea, hopefully these notes will benefit from it.

About week 1643: A new year starts in London

Happy new year everyone. My 2018 was pretty good all in all. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but I’ve done so many things this year that I hadn’t done before. Or at least I’ve done things differently. Being in a relationship all year might have helped, but other things proved to be a catalyst for adventure as well: a wedding in the United States, housesitting in Utrecht for colleagues and many other things. I kind of feel good about a new year starting. Although the news cycle proves to be the same negative rollercoaster as it was in 2018, I feel kind of good of starting things fresh in these dark days of Winter. Starting with these new week notes.

London travel

  • Last Sunday I travelled to London with the lady and it proved to be a lot of fun. We ended up with a vegan Airbnb host that filtered her water and then added new minerals to it with stones from a mine in Russia. Surrounded by chakras, mirrors and herbal smells (and an amazing conservatory full of plants), we touristed the hell out of London, at least when I recovered slightly from my fever / cold / virus thing. I’m still coughing and sneezing throughout most of the night and day, but I feel at least a bit better.
  • We celebrated New Year’s Eve on Primrose Hill watching the fireworks and London skyline. We also visited Waterstones where I bought a book because that’s what you do there. We had dinner at a great vegan place in Covent Garden (Redemption, recommended!) and did some touristy highlights (Buckingham Palace, Westminster etc).
  • I already wanna go back. Now it happens there is a Turin Brakes gig happening in February, hmm…

Read

  • While I did make some progress in 19Q4, I did buy a new book in London and started reading it this weekend. In Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, a young toddler gets adopted by the not quite living inhabitants of a – yes – graveyard. Only two chapters in, I love the mood Gaiman is setting in this novel. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the Murakami epic I’m still kind of working through. I still plan to finish that though. But I might read this first….
  • For Christmas, I gave my girlfriend a book about the design of the excellent animated movie The Secret of Kells. It’s one of her favourites and the book does not disappoint, showing everything from sketches to unused ideas and alternative designs. I don’t wanna boast too much, but this was a gift I very much enjoyed giving.

Watch

  • Yes, a new (and the final) season of A Series of Unfortunate Events has arrived on Netflix. I might be a minority here, but I loved the movie with Jim Carrey a lot, but the Netflix series turned out very good as well. My main gripe with it, is that it’s a bit too episodic for adults sometimes (with a lot of frustrating (similar) plot developments happening over and over again). The first two episodes of season 3 turned out to be a breath of fresh (mountain) air. I look forward to finally finding out how this story ends. Having never actually read the books, I remain unspoiled and thus excited (if a little frightened) about the ending of this series of tragedies.

Listen

  • I mostly listen to podcasts on the way to work and back, so there hasn’t been a lot of listening for me lately. But Adam & Joe Christmas podcast has been a reliable source of laughter this holiday.
  • My girlfriend’s current jams come courtesy of Cass McCombs: Laughter Is The Best Medicine is the favourite. And that means it has been stuck in my head too.

Apps & Tech

  • I’ve been composing these Week Notes, and the previous ones, in Drafts on the iPad Pro. I must say I’m always trying out new apps for writing, with both a nice design and nice functionality. I didn’t like it that much at first, but Drafts proves to be pretty reliable. I even used it as a HTML-editor yesterday when editing some website files and I didn’t have a computer nearby. So far I’m on the free version, but if this sticks I might see what the pro version holds in store. I like how the app starts as a blank slate for writing, and then has many “Actions” ways of using/converting/sharing your text in any way you want.
  • Apple just gave a warning about their current financial quarter. They will make 5 billion dollars less, apparently. Mind you, that still has them making over 80 billion dollars, so they far from in trouble. And I know the picture is probably more complicated than selling overpriced phones these days, but still… I know Apple is too arrogant to downright lower pricing, but they might find other ways to flog their current generation of iPhones. And hopefully, they’ll adjust their strategy accordingly for the future. Probably not though.

About week 1641: video games, London, Christmas run-up

Video games

Consuming entertainment as an aspiring creator of one, isn’t ideal. While it’s perfectly fine to get inspired by reading, watching or listening, there’s sometimes a bit of guilt involved when it comes to life and things. Then again, sometimes it’s great to take a deep dive in something as immersive as a video game. This week I rediscovered The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch. I had clocked many hours in this game already in 2017, but never bothered to finish it, let alone play the DLC-content which I purchased too. It’s not that I didn’t want to finish it, I just felt like I had to make the most of the experience before definitively finishing it. This week I decided I should probably finish it already, otherwise I might never. And thus I did defeat the final boss and then dove straight into the DLC. Turns out the whole DLC thing is such a joy and an absorbing experience, that I spent a fair few afternoons this week strolling through Hyrule and its different areas. Great fun, but then again I had also sort of promised myself I’d work on some websites, finish a book I’ve been reading for most of the year and do some writing. So enough is enough, and here I am writing my second ever week notes to kick things off…

Christmas

Ah, Christmas. I regret to inform everyone reading here that I have no Christmas tree this year. I had a tiny mini small not that big a Christmas tree, that sadly perished in the Summer drought this year. I have some Christmas lights up though, so that’s something. We thought about getting a tree but it’s getting a bit late now, and while I will be home for Christmas, there’s a lot of plans coming to fruition that might not make the whole Christmas tree thing worth it this year.

London

Since I found some of the best friends I ever had in London back in 2005/2006, I’ve been visiting London almost every year, usually coinciding with a London show of my favourite band. But this year, while I did make a whirlwind visit to a southern part of the UK in October, I didn’t see my friends or my favourite city yet. Thankfully, right before the year is over, I’ll visit the London by ways of Gatwick (let’s hope no drone disturbances, then…), for New Year’s Eve and a couple of bonus days. No Turin Brakes gig planned however, though there is one happening in February. On a Saturday night. Ehm, I feel like it won’t be a year till the next London trip… We’ll see…

USA

I haven’t really written about my America trip yet. Even though there’s plenty of experiences to write about. I might find a way to do that sometime soon (but no promises). Here’s something.

Listen

  • Season 2 of Heavyweight obviously. I’ve been writing a longer blog about why this show is so great. But for now just go and listen to it.
  • Spotify has compiled a top 100 list of my most listened to music. Sadly it has been infected by my girlfriend’s musical taste, which is excellent but slightly different. She’s been stealing my Spotify quite a lot, but thankfully the top 10 still looks pretty “Stefan” to me:
    Turin Brakes – Lost in the Woods
    Villagers – A Trick Of The Light
    Flyte – Victoria Falls
    Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
    Sharon van Etten – The End of the World >> my gf used this as inspiration (here)
    To Kill A King – No More Love Songs
    Rhye – Open
    Andy Shauf – Early To The Party
    Roo Panes – Little Giant
    The War On Drugs – Pain
  • Oh should I post Christmas songs here?

Watch

  • I am currently watching the latest season of Bojack Horseman, which remains both depressing, funny, sad and poignant.
  • The gf and I just finished the bizarre but enjoyable Maniac and we are also enjoying the latest season of Doctor Who, which feels very different compared to the previous ones, but nice nevertheless.

Tech

  • As an iPad Pro 2017 user, I’m a big believer in using it as a productivity device, but the fact that Apple feels like it can get away with selling $900+ devices and being bent right out of the box. Well that is ridiculous.

About Week 1623

According to this website, I’m now in week 1623 of my life. Time to try out some weekly notes for a while. I need a way to reflect on my life. This is one attempt.

Houses / Cats
I’ve been living in Utrecht these past few weeks, in various houses, cat sitting for colleagues. In the first house I stayed in for almost three weeks. Which was quite long, but also nice because my daily commute was reduced to 15 minutes instead of something like 90. And in the heatwave that dominated the Summer so far, that was a great convenience. The cat I fed in the first house was nice but edgy. In this second house the cat is absolutely lovely. On top of all this catness, I also visited a friend on Wednesday night. She had just got a fresh new kitten (called Bella) and she was adorable and enthusiastic and playful.

Mood
The week has been a bit stressful, I guess. Counting down to the holidays comes with its own kind of stress. Finishing up things at work and knowing you won’t be able to deal with them for some time changes something in my brain. Combined with not enough sleep in the past few weeks (heatwave), let’s just say I’m happy when Friday is over and the weekend and my time off begins. After which I won’t be back at work till the second half of September.

Read
I’ve been struggling for months to focus on Haruki Murakami’s /1Q84/. Not that I don’t like it, I’m just distracted to easily by other things. I’m at 25% though. That’s something.

Listen
* Tom Speight – /Want You/. Tom has been writing enthusiastic folk pop for years now, and with his album on the way, this celebratory tune is more than welcome. If not for you, then at least for Tom himself, who was hospitalised earlier this year due to Crohn’s disease (for the second time, in fact, life’s a b*tch). Fresh out of hospital he wrote this song. I can’t wait for his album to be released.
* Iron & Wine – /Waves of Galveston/. This has been a favourite song of mine ever since hearing it live at Iron & Wine concerts. I’m glad it finally gets a release on the forthcoming EP /Weed Garden/.
* /Reply All 125: All My Pets/. What starts off as a light-hearted episode about YouTube videos, turns dark pretty quickly without being sensationalising any aspect of it. In the end it will leave you both unsatisfied and slightly alarmed. It’s nice when a podcast doesn’t throw everything in your face. I’ve decided to like his episode.
* Also listening to the new Death Cab for Cutie album (/Thank You For Today/). So far I’d describe it as Pleasant Melancholy. Stream it here.

Watch
* Me and the GF finished /Final Space/, a snarky science fiction animated comedy set in space. The action is over the top, and so are the jokes, but after the first few episodes, you get sucked into the vortex on Netflix. Make sure to watch every recap before each episode though, a lot of the fun comes from hearing Gary recount his own adventures that you’ve just watched. Chookity.
* /Better Call Saul/ is back (as well as Better Call Saul Insider, the great behind the scenes podcast). I’ve missed this show so much this year. It’s a show that inevitably gets darker as it goes on, and while there are still light-hearted moments, it more and more becomes a show about the human condition, shot brilliantly I might add. Good to have it back. It’s on Netflix in most countries outside the USA.

Tech
* Twitter did away with its old API things, which were driving some excellent Twitter apps. I’m a big Tweetbot fan, but I can only see it’s mostly appealing to hardcore Twitter users. The algorithm that Twitter uses to provide highlights to casual users (like myself, I must admit), is actually pretty decent. At least, what it shows is interesting. Admittedly I don’t know what I miss due to the algorithmic highlights. I do think it’s a mistake though, for Twitter to effectively destroy functionality in various apps. We’ll see what the future holds though. Twitter is struggling with lots of things (Alex Jones, spam and trolls, etc) and I wonder whether it can find a way forward. Then again, it’s not as if Facebook is doing that great right now.

Things I learned
* Cats love cheese, but apparently it’s too fat and salty for them. It’s like a big burger for humans: fine for every now and then but don’t eat too many of them.

Re: #Apple cutting apps from their affiliate program

I kind of get why #Apple kills their app affiliate program, but it still sucks for publishers trying to survive while offering content on popular and less popular apps and games. As engaging as the App Store editorial content is, and it is in my opinion, it’s become a lot harder to make money writing about apps now.

I guess now, as a site, you have to make deals directly with mobile app publishers to cover their content. Which may jeopardize editorial independence and turn all content into sponsored posts. Not ideal. Alternatively, these publishers now need other revenue streams, including donations.

The idealist in me hopes independent writers and publishers can stay afloat by writing unique enough, in-depth content that is worth paying for. But the realist in me sees only a very small paying audience for websites like TouchArcade.com and others in its current form. Maybe one great, in-depth review per day is worth paying for… But maybe it isn’t…

I’m curious to see how many smaller Apple news sites will be affected by this (including Dutch ones like iCulture and OneMoreThing.nl, I have no clue how much they depend on affiliate links to the App Store, but since iCulture posts daily deal threads that they might kill now, it might be a lot).