• Mac users: turn any webpage into an app with Fluid

    I've been using Instapaper for a long time. Typically, I read the stories I save to the service it one of my tablets. There's an app for that. There is, however, no dedicated Instapaper application (although the service can be accessed by a wide number of RSS readers) that allows me to get into my Instapaper account on my MacBook.

    "What's the matter, Bellamy? Firefox not good enough for you?"

    No, it is not: I receive notifications from a number of websites on a regular basis. When I'm reading, I don't want to deal with that shit.

    The best solution for getting around this, that I've found so far, is Fluid. It's a free app (although it has enough utility that you really should spring for the $5 unlocked version) that lets you transform any website into a standalone application.

    Getting your own, custom app sorted out, couldn't be easier: download the app, install it and let 'er rip. You'll be asked to enter the URL of the site you want to create an app for, its name and where you want to store it in your computer. Fluid will even grab the website's Favicon for you, so it looks snazzy in your Mac's dock.

    I have no idea of how secure any passwords or information plopped into a Fluid-made app might be. As such, I don't plan on creating a Protonmail app with it any time soon. But for a low-risk service like Instapaper or Google News, it's a pretty sweet deal.

  • This five-year diary is my new favorite thing

    As a fella that's been hit in the head, a lot, I tend to forget things, a lot.

    I've got the same stuff going as a lot of folks do: I frequently walk into a room and forget why in the hell I'm there. However, my forgetfulness typically goes a helluva lot deeper than that. My partner asks me to do something for her? It passes through my skull faster than shit through a goose. I wear a smartwatch to remind me when to take my meds and when to prepare for work meetings. There are sticky notes on our refrigerator that ask me 'Have you checked the fridge' for leftovers before I pull out anything from the freezer.

    While I'm a fucking savant at remembering terrible shit that went down two decades ago, I suck at retaining memories of wonderful experiences or what I've gone over with my therapist during a session. For years, I've relied on photographs and using an app called Day One to keep track of my life.

    My favorite feature of the app is that it tells me what events have occurred, in years previous, on the same day. So, while I'm writing about what happened on October 19th, I'll get a reminder that shit went down on October 19th two or three other times, over the years.

    My least favorite feature of the app is that it's, well, an app.

    As I spend up to ten hours each day sitting in front of a computer, the last thing I want as I wind down for the night is to find myself tapping out a journal entry on my laptop or phone. Sadly, an analog iteration of what DayOne offers me has eluded me… until last week.

    While cruising Wonder Pens, my favorite stationery supply site, I can across the 5 Years Journal from Midori. That it's made by the same company that produces my favorite notebooks got my attention—their paper does things to fountain pen ink that keep me coming back for more. What clinched the deal for me, however, is the way that the diary handles its entries. Each day of the year has its own page, which is subdivided into five sections. This year, I'll write in the section at the top of every page. During year two, the next section, and so on.

    Goodbye Day One.

    All I need now is a sticky note to remind me to write in the diary, every evening.

  • Writing advice from crime novelist James Crumley

    For me, James Crumley ranks right up there with the likes of Donald Westlake (AKA Richard Stark) and Raymond Chandler. His novel, The Last Good Kiss, is on constant rotation in my home, popping up on my e-reader at least once every few months.

    Crumley never sorted out a list or book full of writing advice before he passed away. However, the folks at CrimeReads were good enough to assemble one, made up of tidbits from interviews he gave over the years.

    My favorite rule of the lot comes from a 1993 interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air:

    Always tell strangers you sued the telephone company.

    "For years I wouldn't tell anyone in a bar that I was a writer. I would tell them that the telephone company had run over my foot and I had gotten a big settlement and I was living off that. It was a wonderful way to begin a conversation because everyone has had trouble with the telephone company in one way or another and they're always happy to see someone who's engaged them and won. So they start that and you get the stories without them having to turn to you and say 'you're a writer, huh, boy you could make a novel out of my life,' which is the worst way to get a story."

    Given how folks tend to ask me for my opinion about the upcoming election (which I can't really talk about) when they find out who I work for, I'm totally gonna give this a spin.

    To read the full list of Crumley's advice, click your way over to CrimeReads. While you're there, be sure to check out the rest of the site. It's pretty great.

  • Canadian goose enters home & fails to kill anyone

    I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: Canadian Geese are assholes. Every single last one of them. They shit and they hiss. They're greasy when cooked and if you turn your back on one, there's a damned good chance it'll roll you and take your wallet. Despite their possessing these fundamental traits, Cai'lin Kroon, of Calgary Alberta, welcomed one into her home after noting that it had been injured.

    From Global News:

    "We sat side by side on my sidewalk for about 10 minutes before I decided to try to move. I thought he seemed to need help, and if I was going to get him help, I would need to contain him while I figured out who to call."

    Her husband was not thrilled about the decision and took their baby upstairs. She put their cats in a room.

    According to Global News, while Kroon waited for Wildlife Rescue to whisk the goose off for rehabilitation (very likely saving her home and everyone from in it from meeting a tragic end), she fed the injured bird peas, gave it a drink of water, and read it one of her children's books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar—which Kron hoped could do double duty as a shield.

    According to Kroon, The goose pecked at the caterpillar in the book, the whole damn time.

    Image via Wikipedia Commons

  • PSA: The Mandalorian season 2 is almost here

    If you pay for a Disney+ subscription, watch it over at a pal's house, use someone else's log-in credentials or torrent, you're likely already aware: the second season of The Mandalorian will be out there and ready to watch on October 30th.

    Given that most kids are going to have a shitty Halloween this year, you couldn't ask for better timing. While the younglings might not be able to go door-to-door, begging for death sticks, at least they can get their Baby Yoda fix.

  • Work remotely from this Japnese theme park

    I'm not sure if this is a genius plan for keeping the lights on at an otherwise vacant theme park during this time of plague or a fresh low point in the long timeline of work ruining damn near everything.

    Yomiuriland, located just outside of Tokyo, has opened its doors, in a very limited capacity, to a very specific class of clientele: remote workers. for just under $20 bucks, you can have the joy sucked out of your life by bickering with your boss on Slack while you ride around on the park's Ferris wheel. I dunno, maybe you might get a chance to enjoy the view between emails and the fourth unnecessary Zoom meeting of the day?

    Once you've had the opportunity to not admire the sites from far above the near-empty amusement park, you'll have the opportunity to remember what enjoying yourself in a sea of relatively happy, mask-free people used to feel like, by continuing your workday in a lounge chair, located next to one of the park's water attractions.

    In late fall.

    As the weather changes for the worse.

    Image via Flickr, courtesy of ykanazawa1999

  • Review: Star Wars Squadrons

    Having played X-wing and TIE Fighter (a lot) back in the day, my having had a PS4 given to me to use made investing in Star Wars Squadrons a given. I pre-ordered it (a first!) so that it'd be ready to play just as soon as the game was released. After playing it on a semi-regular basis over the course of the last couple of weeks, I haven't been disappointed.

    As the name suggests, you're a fighter jock flying with a part of a squadron in the Star Wars universe, with all of the pew-pew-pew that this entails. The game comes with a single-player camp gain baked into it that takes around eight or nine hours to complete, depending on how shitty your piloting skills are.

    Mine… were bad.

    I'm the fella that avoids driving vehicles in Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Horse as I can never seem to get them to get my ride to take me where I want to go. Having what amounts to an eight-hour tutorial teaches you how to fly all of the games fighters, interceptors, bombers, and support ships was definitely a win, so far as I'm concerned. You'll spend a little time flying for the Imperial Navy and some hours zipping through space on the behalf of the New Republic. All of it leads up to your getting your ass handed to you, for at least the first few hours, of mixing it up with other space folks in the game's multiplayer sorties.

    If you can avoid flying into any of this crap, you'll feel accomplished.

    Once you're ready to step up to multiplayer, you'll have likely decided on which ship suits your playing style best/that you crash into the debris and star destroyers the least with. In my case, I like to rock the New Republic's A-wing. It's fast, nimble and makes me feel like I'm half-competent as I zip through debris fields and floating ship yards. In order to unlock any mods for your ship, you've got to duke it out in dogfights in order to earn points. With enough points, you'll be able to upgrade your ship with a new paint job and the few mods that the game has to offer.

    Now, about those dog fights: it's a five-on-five affair. Playing with friends makes in the same squadron makes for some good times. If you're a moody hermit like I am, however, you'll find that Squadron's matchmaking system works ok, as well. During the first week it was out, the game's multiplayer squadron building was all over the place. I was killed, repeatedly by some droog in a TIE bomber, 15 levels higher than me. Things seem to have levelled out this week, however, matches feel more even and as such, a whole lot more enjoyable. Once you've gained a little more confidence, you can engage in Fleet Battles as well. It's you and four other flyers trying to take down an enemy capital ship, all the while doing what you can to protect your own. It's intense and, in turns, both frustrating and fun.

    For some, the fun that the game offers could be short-lived. You'll only dog-fight in a handful of locales and fleet battles, while occasionally ass-puckering can quickly become old hat, depending on how often you fly them. Word around the campfire is that EA has no current plans to offer any additional DLC for Squadrons. What you're playing now is very likely, what you'll be playing six months from now. But that's OK! There was a time when video games didn't come with add-ons new levels or in app-purchases. If you're old enough to have played them, the first time around, I'm certain you'll remember enjoying yourself. I don't doubt that I'll be digging Squadrons for some time to come.

    It's not a game I was drawn to for a strong storyline, loot boxes, or a constant push for new gear. I came to live out my childhood dream of flying an X-Wing, taking down Tie fighters, and seeing laser and ion bolt zip past my cockpit. No doubt, a lot of other players log on for the same experience. I'm betting this alone will keep the game feeling fresh, for some time to come.

  • Anderson Cooper tears MyPillow CEO open like a bag of chips

    Mike Lindell is the CEO of MyPillow. It's a pillow company! So, when he claims that oleandrin is an incredible breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19, you know you can trust him. But hey, if the medical opinion of a pillow company manager isn't enough for you, you can rest assured that supplement has been vetted by the FDA!

    Except, no. To all of this.

    Oleandrin is a poisonous plant that could maybe do something good for someone, somewhere, for something. Thus far, however, there's no peer-reviewed study of it being useful, in any capacity, in the fight against COVID-19. Then there's this thing where the Food and Drug Administration isn't responsible for reviewing supplements. Did I mention that Lindell was successfully dinged for one-million dollars for making bullshit medical claims about his company's pillows, back in 2016?

    All of this is cool, though, as Lindell has consulted with a medical professional on the matter. Dr. Ben Carson said that using Oleandrin was totally awesome for dealing with a disease that's killed over 173,000 Americans, not to mention the scores COVID-19 of deaths, worldwide. Yes, Dr. Ben Carson: the Oreos guy.

    Anyway, here's Anderson Cooper casually eviscerating Lindell and his bullshit over the course of an 11-minute interview. Enjoy.

    Image via Flickr, courtesy of Gage Skidmore

  • LEGO piece spends two years inside of a child's skull

    When I was a kid, something inspired me to jam so much Cheese Whiz up my nose that, even after a trip to the hospital, there's still very likely some hanging around in my sinus cavities, 35 years later.

    Anyway here's a story from The Guardian about a young fella that had a piece of LEGO stuck in his face for two years.

    From The Guardian:

    Seven-year-old Sameer Anwar of Dunedin, in the south of New Zealand, inserted a tiny piece of Lego up his nose in 2018. Sameer's father, Mudassir, and his wife became alarmed when their son told them he had lost a piece of Lego up his nose, and couldn't find it.

    The concerned parents took their son to the GP, who was also unable to find, or remove it. The doctor advised them the piece would move through their son's digestive tract, if it had even been there in the first place.

    However, the LEGO was not pooped out as predicted.

    It stayed in Sameer's skull, largely forgotten about, until, two years later. As Sameer inhaled to take a big hit off the bouquet produced by a plate of cupcakes, his nose began to hurt. Concerned that her child might have inhaled a bit too much cupcake, his mother encouraged the boy to blow his nose.

    Boom: LEGO.

    The piece that Sameer had hitchhiking inside of his head during the ordeal appeared to be, according to The Guardian, a part of a LEGO figure's arm.

    Image via Wikipedia Commons

  • The Queen of England frigging loves Flash Gordon

    Say what you will about the British Royal Family, but Queen Elizabeth II has excellent taste in movies.

    In a recent article published by The Guardian, Brian Blessed, actor and goddamn international treasure, is said to have stated that The Queen's favorite movie is the 1980 sci-fi touchstone, Flash Gordon. In the film, in Blessed played the pivitol role of Prince Vultan.

    From The Guardian:

    "Everywhere I go, they all want me to say 'Gordon's alive!'," said Blessed. "The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say 'Gordon's alive!', it's their favourite film."

    He continued: "The Queen, it's her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas."

    The actor then assumed the Queen's accent, quoting her as saying: "You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don't mind, I've got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying 'Gordon's alive'?"

    I don't know about you, but I like the idea of someone who puts on a stern, steady face for the public, wasting a few hours with an exceptional B-movie whilst digging into a packet of Jacob's Mini Cheddars with her grandkids.

    Image via Wikipedia Commons

  • Shut-in Sounds: Mike Plume Band—Promise Me You'll Never Tell

    Sometimes, being trapped inside and distanced from the world, with all of the other worries you may have on your plate, leads you to wander back to darker times.

    I first heard this song back in 2001.

    I'd left the east coast in the early days of the year, to move back to Ontario. My mind and body were broken. I couldn't write anymore. I was numb, to most things. When I wasn't doing shift work, I occupied myself with non-prescription sleeping pills and pint glasses of Jameson in a prayer for dreamless sleep. I was nowhere near close to being ready to address the trauma in my life or the damage I'd done to others over the past few years. I was trying to build a life and move on, but everything showed to the outside world was what I thought I should be, instead of who I was.

    I recall walking through a near-empty mall, perhaps a week after September 11th. There was a pair of televisions in the middle of its atrium: an unmanned kiosk, advertising cable packages. Footage of the tragedy in New York City played repeatedly, in silence, as CNN chyrons raced to the edge of the TV displays. A nervous-looking Sikh father ushered his wife and young children through the mall. I didn't feel a single emotion over any of it. I remember being disturbed by this.

    As I walked home, my shopping done, the song came on the radio, filling my ears. Its sentiment gnawed at what little was left of my soul, but I couldn't stop listening. I shifted between bawling and hyperventilation as I worked my way back to home. I finished the last of a bottle in one pull.

    I can listen to the song now, without losing my shit. But the memory of the pain I felt at its introduction into my life tugs at my coat every time I hear it.

  • I miss The Traveling Wilburys

    When you're talking garage bands, you'd have to work very hard indeed to find one as playful, tight and superstar-packed as The Traveling Wilburys. I first heard them when I was 12. My mom's a Beatles fan and pulled the trigger on their first album because of George Harrison's involvement. I feel in love with their sound. When their second record was released, The Traveling Wilburys Volume 3, I lost my shit thinking that I'd somehow missed a whole album of theirs. It took me two years before I discovered it was a joke.

    Man, I miss these guys.

     

    Image via Flickr user badgreeb RECORDS

  • Report: wireless phone charging is an ecological disaster waiting to happen

    If you've bought a premium smartphone handset over the past few years,  it's a safe bet that it came equipped with wireless charging technology baked into it. Wireless charging is wicked cool! In the Long, Long Ago, we had to carry one of the many USB cables most of us had kicking around our home if we wanted to charge our phone. Said cable needed to be plugged into a USB port and damn, they were really hard to find.  Such a nightmare. Today, praise the gods, we have the privilege of having to rely on a wireless charging pad plugged into a wall at home. Or the office—they're not terribly portable and you pretty much can only use them on a flat surface like a desk or the top of a casket. And, unlike the horror of using your phone while it's connected to a USB cable, your phone will stop charging as soon as you remove it from it's charging pad. But hey, wireless!

    I kid, I kid. Wireless charging's actually pretty great becau—oh shit.

    From OneZero:

    On paper, wireless charging sounds appealing. Just drop a phone down on a charger and it will start charging. There's no wear and tear on charging ports, and chargers can even be built into furniture. Not all of the energy that comes out of a wall outlet, however, ends up in a phone's battery. Some of it gets lost in the process as heat.

    While this is true of all forms of charging to a certain extent, wireless chargers lose a lot of energy compared to cables. They get even less efficient when the coils in the phone aren't aligned properly with the coils in the charging pad, a surprisingly common problem.

    To get a sense of how much extra power is lost when using wireless charging versus wired charging in the real world, I tested a Pixel 4 using multiple wireless chargers, as well as the standard charging cable that comes with the phone. I used a high-precision power meter that sits between the charging block and the power outlet to measure power consumption.

    In my tests, I found that wireless charging used, on average, around 47% more power than a cable.

    As OneZero's Eric Ravencraft points out, the power being used to charge your smartphone, compared to the juice that the rest of your home consumes, is like a fart in a hurricane: hardly even noticeable. That 47% loss? even more so. Think about how many times a year you charge your phone. That you're losing close to half of the power that should be going into your handset makes that fart robust enough that you might get a quick whiff of it as the hurricane continues to whips around. Now, consider all of the other people wasting electricity to charge their phones. The stink of all of that lost power becomes strong enough that you'd swear you were standing in a bathroom at the Cracker Barrel.

    As part of Ravencraft's investigation, he spoke with the good people at iFixit. They estimated, assuming that the estimated 3.5 billion smartphones were all being charged at 47% efficiency, you'd need 147 coal power plants running for 24 hours, just to charge all of those handsets, just once.

    Given how fucked our environment is already, you might want to consider kicking it old school with a USB cable the next time you charge your smartphone.

    Image via PxHere

  • Toshiba's laptop business shuffles off this mortal coil

    In from the min-1990s, right through into the early years of the new millennium, Toshiba churned out some pretty solid laptop hardware. I've used a number of their lappy's in the past, across various industries. No matter what I threw at them, be it text, Photoshop, or a bit of gaming when the boss wasn't looking, Toshiba's hardware always proved capable of standing its ground.

    In recent years, Toshiba's taken a number of quiet steps away from their laptop business. This week, however, they dropped everything and ran like like hell from it: In a less-than-well-publicized press release, Toshiba announced that what little they had left to do with making laptops has been handed over to other, more interested companies.

    From Toshiba:

    TOKYO—Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO: 6502) hereby announces that it has transferred the 19.9% of the outstanding shares in Dynabook Inc. that it held to Sharp Corporation. As a result of this transfer, Dynabook has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sharp.

    Under the terms of a June 2018 share purchase agreement between Toshiba and Sharp, Toshiba transferred to Sharp 80.1% of the outstanding shares of Toshiba Client Solutions Co., Ltd (hereinafter TCS), then Toshiba's wholly-owned subsidiary in the personal computer business. That transfer closed in October 2018, and TCS changed its name to Dynabook in January 2019. On June 30, 2020, under the terms of the share purchase agreement, Sharp exercised a call option for the remaining outstanding shares of Dynabook held by Toshiba, and Toshiba has completed procedures for their transfer.

    So, That's that: a little less selection in an already underwhelming number of companies aspiring to meet our computing needs.

    Image via Flickr, courtesy of Cheon Fong Liew