It Seems I’m Not The Only One

MacOS is starving for attention. It is stagnating. It is falling apart. High Sierra is in many ways pathetic and scary in how sloppy things were done with it how many bugs there still are in many areas. The security bugs are embarrassing. I mean, it’s getting worse. Every release seems like it’s getting worse. Sierra was a terrible release also. Very unreliable, lots of bugs, lots of problems, lots of subsystems and things that were seemingly rewritten for vague reasons and then were worse and more buggy. This is increasing over time because they are not putting the resources into the OS that it needs to be stable and secure and to be moved forward.

I’ve found myself just more and more annoyed that things that used to reliably work, don’t work anymore. And then I see these software issues that are just disheartening and it makes me just feel like I want to throw my hands in the air and plop them down on the desk and say, “Now what? Now what do I do? Cuz I’m just screwed. Where am I gonna go? It’s just frustrating because it used to be this was my happy place. And maybe the problem is because I’m clinging to the Mac and the Mac is dead, but I don’t know where the issue is. Is it me? The Mac? Is it Apple?” ~ Casey Liss, speaking on this week’s Accidental Tech Podcast

Fixed. For Now.

Well, it’s fixed. It has been for a couple weeks now. I just haven’t bothered to write about it because I know y’all are tired of hearing me bitch.

As expected, the entire top case was replaced. At minimum that included the keyboard, trackpad, and battery. I suspect that the system board was also new, since the SSD (hard wired to said board) was returned with a clean install of Sierra (unfortunately not High Sierra as it had gone out with).

The keyboard (as evidenced by the new markings on the control and option keys) is from the mid-2017 line, even though my original was a late-2016 model, leading me to believe that the entire machine was swapped out except for the bottom cover (where the serial number is engraved) and that the serial number itself was transferred from one machine to another in firmware. I understand there are some minor changes in the 2017 keyboard design (there have been far fewer complaints of keyboard issues), so hopefully this will be the last trouble I have with this laptop for however long I end up keeping it.

My Stuff – Inspirations, Morning Routine, and Appreciations Edition

Inspired by the column of the same name in Vanity Fair

Inspirations
What inspires You? – Music
Spirit animal? – I once claimed Polar Bear for the answer to this question.
Living or deceased, whom would you most want to have a drink with? – Barack Obama
A word you love or hate? – literally
What would you do for a career in your next life? – I would stick it out in architecture and not give up on it. Leaving the field is one of my biggest regrets in this life.
Favorite vacation spot? – Any place with a beach, although a cabin in the woods far away from civilization also sounds nice.
What do you steal from your hotel room? – With the exception of an  occasional shampoo or soap, I don’t.
Do you collect anything? – Funko POP!

Morning Routine
Weekdays, I get up at (or usually a bit before) 6 and let the dogs out while I get their breakfast together. I let them back in and while they’re eating, I pack my breakfast and lunch for the day. I sit down at the computer for a few minutes to check email and news, and then shower and dress. I’m usually out the door by 7. Weekends are similar, except that I don’t have to pack breakfast or lunch. Sometimes I’ll go ahead and eat breakfast while checking email and news, and then crawl back into bed for a couple more hours of sleep.

Appreciations
Favorite film director? – Ridley Scott, and—despite the lens flare—JJ Abrams
Your all-time Hollywood crush? – Armie Hammer
Favorite movie character? – Christine Payne, from Personal Services
Favorite show to binge-watch – Westworld, Preacher
Your guilty pleasure? – television wise, The Curse of Oak Island or any of the ancient alien shows on The History Channel
Most embarrassing moment? – nothing comes to mind, but I might just be good at wiping those things from memory
Hidden talent? – I can curl my tongue. Is that a talent?
If you could choose a superpower what would it be? – invisibility to eyes and all EM sensory apparatus…at will, of course
Greatest indulgence? – My vinyl habit. Once upon a time I said, “I’d never spend $40 on a record.”
Favorite cuisine? – Mexican

My Stuff – Tech, Home, and Clothing Edition

Inspired by the column of the same name in Vanity Fair.

Tech
Favorite App – (iPhone) Instagram (Mac) Grids (which sadly no longer seems to be available anywhere)
Last Person Texted? – Ben
Favorite Podcast? – Accidental Tech Podcast (because I’m a huge geek)
Favorite Web Sites – Joe.My.God, The Palmer Report, and any number of Tumblr sites—for the articles, bitches!
Thoughts on Social Media – With the exception of Instagram, it all needs to die in a house fire.
On Your Music Playlist – Which playlist?
On Your Workout Playlist – What’s this “workout” you speak of?
Album You Could Listen to On Repeat – Right now I’m alternating between the BladeRunner 2049 and The Last Jedi soundtracks.
Favorite Person to Follow On Twitter – Other than Ben, I don’t have one. I can stand to be on Twitter for about 30 seconds a day at this point.
Favorite News Source – Joe.My.God.
Which app do you use the most? – The Nest app, to check in on the doggies.

Home
Favorite coffee shop? – Copper Star Coffee
Favorite piece of furniture? – My big comfy black leather IKEA chair
Do you wear shoes inside your home? – Yes
Favorite drink? – iced tea (and I have the kidney stones to prove it!)
Favorite piece you collected while traveling? – A very simple blue and white glazed vase I picked up in Portland.
Favorite family heirloom – an antique paper-thickness measuring device owned by my grandfather (he was a paper maker)
What’s on your reading list? – I haven’t been able to make it through a book in years.
Can’t leave the home without? – Like most of the rest of the world, my phone.

Clothing
Most recent purchase? – Underwear from meundies.com
Silk or terry-cloth robe? – Neither.
Favorite pajamas? – Who wears pajamas?
The piece you love but never wear? – I have many pieces of hopelessly out-of-style clothing that I can’t seem to part with.
Favorite fashion trend of all time? – Jeans in the workplace.
Go-to bag for the day? – my grey tweed Timbuktu messenger bag
Sneakers or dress shoes? – sneakers
Biggest fashion faux pas? – white 501 jeans
Favorite watch? – haven’t worn one in years.
Favorite piece of jewelry? – my wedding ring
Favorite designers? – don’t care about designers
Go-to outfit? – jeans, polo shirt, sneakers

Musing Luke Skywalker and The Last Jedi

I know I’ve written nary a word about The Last Jedi, which is kind of odd considering the inveterate Star Wars fan that I am and my philosophical connections with the films, but it’s not laziness; I’m simply still processing the film after all these many weeks and have been rather tongue tied on the subject. But the other day I ran across the following and found it absolutely amazing and too good not to pass on:

(Warning, spoilers)

Rewatch The Empire Strikes Back and I think it’s apparent that there was no other choice for Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, given the events of The Force Awakens. The entire premise of The Empire Strikes Back is that Luke Skywalker can sense Han and Leia in danger before it happens across the galaxy and drops everything to save them.

Which makes the biggest question in The Force Awakens, to me, “Why didn’t Luke save Han?” Not Snoke, not Rey’s parents, nothing. Why did Luke Skywalker let Han Solo die?

Luke is the central mystery of The Force Awakens. The opening sentence of the crawl is “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” The closing shot is Rey having found him. The film is begging us to ask these questions about Luke. Why are we getting sidetracked by Snoke and Rey’s parents?

Because of Empire and The Force Awakens, I don’t think Rian Johnson COULD have done anything else with Luke Skywalker and have it make sense. There were slight variations that could have been made, sure, but the broad strokes of what Johnson gave us are pretty much inevitable. I expected Luke to toss the saber the first time I saw the film. That’s his thing. I’ve been on the “Luke is turning to non-violence” bandwagon for a while. But I was furious the first time I heard him say, “Where’s Han?” BUT! I realized there had to be a reason for it… My patience paid off in what I find one of the most heartfelt and stunning moments in the film: when Rey realizes that Luke has cut himself off from the Force.

Here we have the single most powerful Force user in the galaxy forced to cut himself off of every instinct he has for fear he’ll do the galaxy more harm than good. From Luke’s perspective, this abstinence of the Force is heroic. Another Jedi purge becomes impossible. The perspective of the audience hasn’t been as sympathetic. But this is also one of the central themes of The Last Jedi: that we can all perceive the exact same thing in a different way.

I’m not just talking about the Rashomon sequence (which I thought was brilliant filmmaking), but the vision Rey and Kylo shared and discussed on the elevator. They saw the same thing and came to different conclusions about what that outcome would be.

“Always in motion is the future,” Master Yoda would say.

But let’s talk about the Rashomon sequence. Because, to me, this is what made Luke the LEAST Luke and the MOST Luke and the more I watch it, the more heartbreaking it is to me in the best ways. In case anyone is unfamiliar, Rashomon is a groundbreaking 1950 samurai film by Akira Kurosawa, who has always been an intense influence on Star Wars. It tells the tale of a murder in a meadow from three different perspectives. The film never offers us an objective truth on what happened, merely lets the narrators be as reliable or unreliable as our point of view allows.

Our first glimpse of the “Rashomon” triptych in The Last Jedi comes when Luke explains that he’d sensed the Dark Side in Ben. He went to confront him about it and it didn’t go well. No sabers were in play. This is how Luke WISHES it would have gone, if at all. The second version is from Ben’s perspective. Naturally, he’s the hero of this version. Luke practically has Sith eyes and his green lightsaber is almost a sickly yellow. From Ben’s POV, Luke arrives to murder him absolutely. There is no question in his mind. And then, the third time, we’re given Luke’s version. A blend of the two with plenty of shades of gray. And, for my money, the version of the story I believe. And it’s the one I think truest to Luke’s character, too.

Luke goes to check on Ben and the darkness growing inside him. This wellness check is already filled with self-doubt. Luke, like every creative or heroic person I’ve ever known, suffers from impostor syndrome. Just like Obi-Wan’s.

And here he sees a darkness greater than anything he could have ever imagined. And a future where all of his loved ones are killed and the Jedi order he cared about burned to the ground. What happened the last time he was confronted with an image of this? The last time this happened, he was in the Death Star Throne Room and Vader taunted him with this vision of the future and he lost control. He ignited his saber out of instinct and fought. With rage and anger. But he pulled himself back from doing the thing he swore he wouldn’t do: kill his own father. Then he tosses his lightsaber and says, essentially, “kill me if you have to, but I’ll die like a Jedi.”

Now, he goes to Ben’s hut and sees that future all over again. And, as before, his saber ignites. And this is startling to him. He’s instantly ashamed of himself and must deal with the consequence of that split-second consideration. We know he’d NEVER kill his nephew. Ben doesn’t. Some have said that Luke wouldn’t consider this again, but facing the Dark side of yourself isn’t a “one time and it’s over thing.” It’s a constant. We learn and we grow and we constantly have to reevaluate that.

And here’s where Luke decided it was ultimately the right thing for the Galaxy to end the Jedi and quit the Force. Because these cycles of violence will happen between good and evil jockeying for power. And the constant in Luke’s view was the Jedi.

Their failure. Hypocrisy. Hubris. If they were off the playing field, there would be no Vader. Or Kylo Ren. So instead of doubling down and training NEW Jedi to take down his nephew, he simply ends the cycle. VIolence begets violence and Luke would no longer participate.

And that’s why I love the end of the movie. Luke finally learned from his mistakes. He could stick to his non-violence, but still set an example that would ignite the galaxy. Which is why his saber never touches Ben’s during the fight. It’s 100% evasion. He had lost the understanding of the value of the Legend of Luke Skywalker, but Rey helped him find it again. And he could once again believe in himself. And the Jedi.

From my perspective, given Luke’s inaction in The Force Awakens, this is the ONLY thing that could have been done with him. And why I’ve embraced the arc so much. I love it. You don’t have to like it, but this is the Luke I saw up there. And when he has his heroic moment on Crait and binary sunset… It’s a perfect capstone to his character, given the turn the universe and canon took.

Quote of the Day

I can’t believe I’m living in a timeline where the ‘in thing’ is to ignore all medical and scientific sense. Like, I cannot believe that there are people out there honestly willing to drink unfiltered water, eat cyanide filled peach pits for ‘health,’ and not vaccinate their kids. Those 20 year olds in Medieval times didn’t routinely die of an abscessed tooth or a minor cough for this.” ~ Sodomymcscurvylegs on Tumblr

And let’s not forget coffee enemas.

Latest Acquisition

Loscil: First Narrows

First Narrows was the soundtrack for many a snowy commute while we lived in Denver, both while driving and while taking the train. I sang the praises of Loscil about a year ago, but somewhat surprisingly, I’ve never heard his music in non-digital format.

I don’t remember what prompted me to seek it out on Discogs, but lo and behold there it was. I was very curious to hear it on a good stereo instead of just over headphones via my Mac or iPhone, so I paid the man and eagerly awaited this two-disk set.

It’s awesome. As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t realize how much you’re missing until you hear something on vinyl after only being exposed to digital mp3 format. And as an added bonus, this set has an extra track that wasn’t present in the digital release.

I can’t recommend Loscil enough if you need some serious chill-out, leave the world behind music.

 

Movie Review

I stumbled across this film via Spewing Truth in The Face of Lies, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s what I affectionately refer to as “hard” sci-fi, in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar, and Moon. No space battles, no laser swordfights, no retina-searing special effects.

The only thing about the story I find a little off is I find it very hard to believe NASA would send a single astronaut on a mission of this import and duration. Other than that, the acting, sets, and storyline were well worth the running time. A few reviews berated the ending; the movie failed to explain exactly what the message was that the spheres were sending us, but at the same time the ending left things open for a sequel—something that after seeing this film I would wholeheartedly welcome.

Lastly, I don’t know if it was the escapism or simply being allowed to step away from the shit show that is our current existence or something more, but it actually gave me hope for our future as a species.

Renovated

Our next door neighbors to the east (not our landlords, which live next door to the west) were evicted a couple months ago because the owner of the house wanted to renovate and sell it. The place was more than a bit of a dump.

Over the course of the past few weeks, renovations have been taking place. It started out slowly, and I really didn’t expect much, but I have to admit I’m impressed with what’s been done to the place. The tenants had let the front lawn die from lack of water, and one of the first things the owner did was reseed it. It’s a lush green carpet now. It ought to be; it’s been watered once a day. They removed a dead tree that was between our two houses, and ripped out the unsightly eye-level box hedge that had enclosed the front porch. They repainted the exterior from a dreary peach to a bright white with dark gray trim and a red (of course) front door. I think it’s a little too white, but it looks a hell of a lot better than it did.

Until a couple days ago, I didn’t really have much idea of what had been going on inside. I knew that at least the kitchen and bathroom were being totally renovated (something that made me insanely jealous since our landlords have chosen to keep those rooms stuck in 1948 in our house, the year the place was built) because I saw them hauling cabinets and fixtures out the front, but I hadn’t seen what had been put in their place since until only a few days ago the old blinds had been kept in the windows and I couldn’t even walk over and peek!

About a week ago work picked up considerably both inside and out, led by two cute boys who I couldn’t determine were partners or partners. They bickered a lot and always arrived in a single vehicle so in my perverted mind I’m going with the latter. In any case, the place was starting to look good.

The other day I came home early before heading for an eye exam, and a new face was next door peering out the front window. As I got out of my car he came out and introduced himself. He was the real estate agent who was getting ready to put the property on the market. More curious than ever what had been done to the house (as well as the layout of the house itself), I asked if I could take a look inside.

Though it’s smaller than the place we’re renting (it’s a 2/1 versus our 3/1), it’s so much more fresh and modern after the renovation. Ben doesn’t like that there are no real uppers in the kitchen, but it’s obvious from the colors and choice of materials the owner has been watching the same home flipping shows we have…

living room
kitchen/dining
kitchen/breakfast nook
kitchen
bathroom

The back yard hasn’t been touched. The yard, like ours, is huge, but unlike ours, totally barren…except for an outbuilding/workshop, it’s just a sea of dirt. Not even a tree. I’m sure it’s going to be marketed as “a bare slate.”

The agent said he’s looking to put it on the market for $214K. Seems a bit high for the neighborhood, the size of the house, and the fact that the back yard is unfinished, but hey…more power to him if he can get it. I only wish our place looked as good.

Robopsychosis

If you’re tired of hearing me bitch about Apple and technology, you might want to just skip past this one because it’s gonna be a long one.

“It Just Works!”

Except when it doesn’t.

As I wrote a few days ago, I’d decided to bite the bullet and take my six-month-old MacBook Pro into the Apple store so that the wonky keyboard could be replaced. I knew it was going to have to be sent out because the entire top case would have to be replaced. I went ahead and made the appointment.

I’d upgraded Ben’s old MacBook with a 512GB hard drive and bumped the RAM to 8 GB—the same configuration I had on my new machine which would allow me to effortlessly move all my data onto the old machine while the new one was getting fixed and not have to pick and choose like I did the last time I had to use the trusty old warhorse.

I’d initially wanted to get my data transferred before I took the machine in for service in case I ran into any glitches, so as I’d done dozens of times before when restoring my entire profile onto a different machine, Friday night I installed a fresh copy of the OS on the old machine, logged in with a Temp Admin account, and then ran Migration Assistant. It kept crapping out. Even though everything was properly checked off, the first attempt transferred everything except the Applications. What the hell? I attempted to go back and just select “Applications” at that point, and after churning away for another hour or so it informed me it was finished. I logged in and nothing had been transferred.

At this point I wiped and reinstalled again. This time I selected only Applications. Success! But when I went back and attempted to restore everything else, it crapped out each time it got around to discovering “Other Files and Folders.” After banging my head against the wall for the better part of the evening, I decided to attempt a peer-to-peer restore from my new machine to the old one. Once again I wiped and reinstalled the OS. Set up the peer-to-peer option for restore and waited. And waited. Because it was going over our wireless network, it was going to take hours, but it seemed to be working. That was fine. I was ready for bed anyway.

Saturday morning I woke to find it hung at “51 minutes remaining” on restoring just my profile (it hadn’t even gotten around to the Applications or “Other Files and Folders.” No problem; my appointment wasn’t until 11:45. It was only 7 am. I had plenty of time.

Except it never changed. Finally at 10:45, I pulled the plug and wiped and reinstalled the OS on the new machine before taking it in. Call me paranoid, but I don’t trust Apple that much with all my data. I figured I could sort out the Time Machine issue one way or another when I got back. Little did I realize it would literally take all day yesterday get up and running again. Flashback to 2009 and Windows HELL.

Upon arrival at Apple Biltmore, the concierge  gave me more than a little attitude when I approached her. I don’t know what the problem was, but she was anything other than smiles and welcoming vibes. In fact, the whole energy level of the place was vile. I remember when I used to enjoy going there, whether it was to buy something or get something fixed. Now I dread it.

I explained my problem to the “Genius” and he whisked the laptop to the back for several minutes, finally returning to say that yes, he was able to verify my issues. He said it would be 3-5 days for the repair

Upon returning home, no matter what I did to restore the data, it wasn’t working. I wasn’t too worried; I knew all my data was safe, and most importantly I had multiple manual backups of my photos and music in case something was really seriously out of whack. Everything could be restored. Finally, somewhere around 9 pm I did a deep dive on Google and the overwhelming recommendation was to run a repair on the Time Machine. I started that as I went to bed.

Yesterday morning, finished, it reported multiple errors, none of which could be repaired.

FUCK.

“The data is safe. The data is safe. Your important stuff is backed up multiple places.” Nonetheless, my anxiety level was rising.

So once again I wiped and reinstalled the OS. At this point I knew i was going to have to reinstall all my apps either by moving them manually from the Time Machine or worse—from scratch—and then manually pull the rest of my data from the Time Machine. While I didn’t look forward to it, it was probably well past time for such an endeavor. Multiple installs and uninstalls of apps and multiple OS upgrades over the years since I last did a clean install probably guaranteed there was a lot of sludge on the drive that needed to go away. It would also afford me a new, good backup to use with Migration Assitant when I got my machine back from repair. And if nothing else, philosophically it was a good way to start the new year. My two main concerns however were restoring my mail folders (I store pretty much everything locally, and based on past experience, moving Apple Mail from one machine to another is a pain in the ass, unlike Windows and Outlook where it’s generally just a matter of copying a .pst file.) and my Chrome Bookmarks. I hadn’t bothered to export them before all this started, foolishly thinking everything was safe and sound.

By late morning I’d located the mailboxes. Each one had to be individually imported back into the new instance of Mail I’d set up, but everything was there. I know it’s a silly, first-world problem, but I like to keep that stuff. My anxiety level dropped a bit.

When I fired up Chrome, I logged in and—braise the baby cheebus—all my bookmarks were there. The same went for my RSS Reader. Since I switched to Feedly some months ago it was simple to reattach it to the Reader. Anxiety level continued to drop.

The rest of the day was still spent in robopsychosis, but at least my anxiety had bottomed out; I copied all my apps over from the Time Machine backup, knowing full well that more than just a couple of them wouldn’t work properly at first. That proved to be the case, and a simple uninstall and reinstall from the Mac App store solved 95% of the problems. The remainder were licensing issues, solved by contacting the developers who—amazingly—were actually working yesterday and able to help me get everything sorted out.

Ben and I headed out yesterday afternoon to do our usual Sunday grocery run and prior to leaving I started manually copying the +150GB worth of music files back from the Time Machine. When we got home, everything was transferred, and firing up iTunes verified that everything was present and accounted for.

As if I hadn’t experienced enough Tech Hell this past weekend, Ben and I decided to switch cell providers. We’d been with Verizon for years and were very happy with the coverage and service, but in the interest of saving money, a few months ago we switched to T-Mobile. BIG mistake. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” could never be more true. Coverage was spotty (Ben had no service at his school), customer service was a joke, and while we still owed $1000 on the two new phones, we knew we had to get out of the contract.

So back to Verizon we went. Unfortunately, we had to buy two new phones because T-Mobile phones are locked to the carrier. Supposedly our numbers were ported over (we got these at Target), but as of this morning, all the phones are still active with duplicate phone numbers, and it’s causing nothing but grief for sending/receiving calls and SMS messages. We’ll get it sorted today, but damn…really?!?

Anyhow, before we went on our Verizon run, I set to copying the ±150GB worth of personal photos and um…”other” pictures from the Time Machine. It was still running by the time we got back, but eventually everything came through.

By the time 2018 arrived last night, the Mac was back in order except for the issues caused by two different phones with the same number trying to link to the Messages application.

Lesson learned? I really do have a lot of stuff on my laptop that I can’t afford to lose. Multiple Time Machine disks are necessary and I need to run disk repair on a regular basis on each of them to prevent this from ever happening again—because having to go through all this is exactly the kind of shit that sent me fleeing Microsoft, and as much as I bitch about Apple, I could never go back.