Quick-elets? (No)

Used the new silicone muffin pan Liz bought me for Xmas to make some quiche muffins (although we’re trying out different names – “protein pucks”?). I used my standard spinach mushroom bacon recipe, which made two pans of “puckelets” (no).

The nice bit about the silicon muffin tin – no greasing of the cups needed nor paper cups.

Froze most of them. We have found the best way to reheat them is to let them thaw at room temperature, microwave for 40 seconds, and they taste great.

Quiche muffins2 564px

Clone wars

While spending a few evenings this week diagnosing the problem with Disk Utility not erasing my external hard disk, I also searched the Carbon Copy Cloner site for clues.

During those latter searches, I found this MacMost video on why cloning is a poor choice as a backup strategy.

Gary’s point is a valid one: cloning your disk should not be one’s sole backup strategy. Although CCC can certainly do incremental backups, that is not its strength. He outlines three cases where a cloned drive can be helpful, but by and large he is against the use of cloned drives. He prefers a mix of Time Machine backups and cloud backups.

Gary fields lots of offended comments on that page from folks who don’t share his faith in Time Machine backups (they do fail and act capriciously; it’s happened to me). Anecdotes are shared on how a cloned hard drive enabled folks to recover from disk failures in less time than using Time Machine.

I’ve always tried to be a good little boy when it comes to computer backups. I have:

  • Time Capsule backing up the whole drive
  • Backblaze backing up our individual user directories
  • Carbon Copy Cloner’s weekly incremental backup in case of disk failure
  • Dropbox backing up my user directory, photos, music, etc.

Up to now, I’ve not thought of this as overkill. My iMac is the center of my computing universe; I sync my iPad and iPhone regularly. Although my wife has an iPad, she only syncs it to the iMac twice a year: to put on or take off her Christmas music.

Still, Gary’s strong statements in the comments that cloned drives really aren’t needed made me review my choices. I can only think of two times when I’ve needed backups:

  1. I upgraded the hard drive on my old MacBook. I used Time Machine to basically restore my old files and setups to the new disk.
  2. My MacBook and Liz’s laptop were stolen in a burglary. At the time, we used Crashplan and Dropbox to restore our key documents. When I bought the iMac a little while later, I can’t remember if I restored the old Time Machine backups or just started fresh; probably the latter.

A cloned drive would have been nice, I suppose, but wasn’t really necessary in these cases, I think. Time Machine worked just fine, as I recall.

As of now, I’m OK with my backup strategy. I do have things backed up to CCC, such as iMovie projects, that I have not bothered to upload to Dropbox or Backblaze; they’re simply too huge to push through our tiny internet connection. I view my cloned hard drive as insurance, something I carry while hoping I never need it. I am happy now to go back to ignoring my automated backups as they chatter in the background.

Fixing Disk Utility error -69877

Carbon Copy Cloner’s weekly backup task broke after my iMac’s upgrade to Catalina recently. I followed these instructions from CCC to reformat the external drive as APFS but Disk Utility kept crapping out with error “-69877: couldn’t open device.”

I tried different compatible formats but Disk Utility resolutely refused to reformat the disk.

Many searches for -69877 solutions yielded people who recorded numerous reformats, reinstalls, etc. I held off taking the complicated solutions seriously, though; I particularly ignored the worst-case solution: junk the disk. I figured if I kept looking, some stray sentence somewhere would ring my bell.

And it did. In one of many forum discussions about -69877 on the Apple site, I found this gem:

Sometimes when Disk Utility gets stuck like this for me, I choose a PC format to initialize the HDD then reformat with the Mac settings. So after you give it a name, click the first pull-down menu and select MS-DOS (FAT), then click the second pull-down menu and select Master Boot Record. Go ahead with the reformat. When it completes, just re-format again with the Mac settings.

I reformatted the drive as MS-DOS (FAT) and Disk Utility erased the entire drive. Success!

I was then able to follow the CCC directions to select APFS and create the CCC partition and an extra partition I want to use for storing large files.

Syncing third-party calendars from Google to iOS

I center my email and calendar activities around Gmail and Google Calendar. They feed the Mail and Calendar programs and apps I use on my iMac, iPhone, and iPad.

I’ve encountered the following issue a few times: a new calendar I’ve added or imported into Google Calendar does not appear on my iOS/iPadOS calendars.

Most recently, it was importing the ICS link from my workplace’s Outlook Web app into GCal. I could see my workplace schedule on my Google Calendar but not on my other devices.

Troubleshooting this was maddening. I’ve selected the right calendars in Google, the calendar connections to my iMac and iDevices look fine – why am I not seeing what I KNOW should be there?

I found the answer in this 2015 blog post from Online Tech Tips. The writer correctly pinpoints the problem to third-party calendars that show up under Other calendars.

And he identifies the solution – a specific link that “for some ridiculous reason…does not appear anywhere on any page while in Google Calendar…However, this page is key to getting those other calendars to show up in the Apple calendar app.”:

https://calendar.google.com/calendar/syncselect

Google calendar sync

And indeed – my workplace calendar was unselected in the list. Ticking the box, clicking Save, and checking my iPhone later showed that the new calendar was now there.

File this under “yet another 20-second solution that took two hours to find.”

WEIRD - An acronym used in academic literature to identify possibly biased results:

Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic

What acronym could accommodate those + “young” and “male”? Thinking here of diet and exercise studies, or studies of online behavior, where the results are hard to generalize due to the limited demographics of the study population.

John Simon, R.I.P.

John Simon was a critic I read voraciously for many years, mainly in my 20s when I reviewed movies and theater as a reporter for a small-town newspaper. Simon’s breadth of material was astonishing; his movie and theater criticism were expert, though as my friend Scott observed, he seemed to have no feel for American artforms like the cartoon or slapstick.

I found Simon’s opera and poetry criticism more interesting because those topics were more unfamiliar to me; I could feel his love for those artforms shine through. I think he loved them more than theater.

Simon was a relic of a different, lost world of print and publishing, the way George Jean Nathan represented the sort of Broadway reviewer represented by George Sanders in All About Eve. I subscribed to New York magazine solely for his theater reviews and Peter Davis’s music reviews. And yes, I subscribed because Simon’s takedowns and insults were so entertaining. But when Simon loved a work – and his collected reviews tended to finish with an unalloyed positive appraisal of a book, movie, or play – his writing would soar and it made me want to see or read the work that elicited such praise.

Forbes's "Should You Upgrade iOS" column

If one lesson can be learnt by all this it is to stop blindly leaping to every new iOS release.

Gordon Kelly is a frequent critic of Apple so I have always taken his iOS update reports with a grain or three of salt. But with the recent 13.x releases, I now wish I’d listened to him and held fast to iOS 12.

My SE, which usually held a good battery charge all day, drains down to 5% within an hour simply sitting on my desk.

My SE is 2+ years old so, on the off-chance, I’m having a new battery installed this week. If I still see a drain, I’ll know it’s iOS.

I have turned off automatic updates and am holding fast, for better and worse, at 13.2.1.

Update, 2019-11-13: Took my iPhone to an Apple certified service shop. The repair guy hooked my phone up to his diagnostic computer and it said the battery had gone through 600 recharge cycles; Apple says the battery has a lifetime of 500 cycles. So yeah, the battery was shot. The Battery Health setting is an OK criteria (mine was at 88%) but not the decisive one; it’s the number of cycles that is decisive. But the user cannot see the number of recharge cycles a battery has gone through, only a technician. Charging the phone up now; hoping for good times ahead.

Best fun Halloween movie for all ages has to be Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein: a great send-up of the grand old Universal monsters, whose great days had sadly passed by this time.

Overcast’s File Uploads came back online, all of a sudden. The file I’d been in the middle of listening to reappeared, ready to pick up where it left off. All other uploads are there too. But I’ve already moved to Castro and am liking its Sideload feature. But then I have 20 GB of backlogged podcasts in Overcast (shut up) so I may just work away at that for a while and let Castro manage the ‘real-time’ podcasts.

One advantage of getting a new credit card: getting reminders of all the services I subscribe to when “that time of the subscription month” arrives. Gives me the opportunity to assess if I want to continue subscribing; also reminds me of how many friggin’ subs I have.

"Art is what gets away with you"

Art isn’t what you can get away with … Art is what gets away with you. Every encounter with a work of art is an elopement. The seduction of the self, the abandonment of the self to a different kind of experience, is what art offers. Every renewal of the artistic method and process is an attempt to wrestle art out of the marriage and into the love-affair. By which I mean the Keep Out signs of convention, respectability, familiarity, jargon. The high priest cult of ‘art’ is a lie about what art is. Art is feeling and experience and excitement before it hardens into meaning.

Jeanette Winterson

"Individually tailored care"

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, Hendrik Groen, Hester Velmans (Translator)

After a while, the phrase old-age home began making people feel uneasy. It was replaced with retirement home and then assisted-living facility. The nursing home became a “care center.” And in the latest version, it seems I am enrolled in a “market-oriented health-services organization providing individually tailored care.” I now understand why health-care costs keep skyrocketing.

From Overcast to Castro

Overcast’s Upload Files function was removed with the most recent update to iOS 13, I think; the option is disabled in its settings and the uploads page is gone from the website. I could not find any info about this change online. What annoyed me was that this capability was removed while I was in the middle of listening to an uploaded audiobook file.

So am reluctantly moving my podcast listening to Castro, which has most of the functionality I use plus lets me add audio files more easily.

I will miss the custom playlists feature of Overcast; I divvy all my Sleep With Me and ambient music podcasts into their own playlists, for example.

I was so comfortable in my technological rut! But am making the best of it. I’ve stopped most all the feeds in Overcast and am starting fresh in Castro. I have a huge backlog of audiofiles in Overcast anyway, so maybe I can whittle them down while keeping up with my current diet of audio snack foods.

A software engineer posted all the Google searches she made during a week of work:

What I’m trying to show with all this is that you can do something 100 times but still not remember how to do it off the top of your head. Never be ashamed of googling, even if it seems like the most basic thing you’re looking up.

Google doesn’t know everything, of course. An engineer I work with spent an hour using Google searches to find a specific mathematical formula. He found a book on his shelf that gave him his answer in 3 minutes.

Still, I hardly ever bookmark pages anymore because…why create another junk drawer to lose stuff in and rummage through? Just search – Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing – whatever your pleasure.

A stupid text message I got today from a stupid spammer.