Liz bought her first smartphone today, an iPhone 7. The Apple customer support person we spoke to was great and she passed along this really clever tip.

The iPhone or iPad is on the table and you're eating a sandwich and you need all your fingers to hold the messy thing together and your phone buzzes and you need to open it but it requires a fingerprint and your thumbs are too occupied keeping the damn sandwich from falling apart to deal with that.

But if you have added your pinky fingerprints to the Touch ID, then you can hold on the sandwich and use either pinky to unlock the phone.

I don't use my pinkies much, but I would certainly miss them if they weren't there.


Yesterday, I weighed 210.2, about a pound under my control line. This morning, I weighed 211.8, about a pound above my control line.

I could attribute the increase to a bigger than usual lunch, a supper of starchy leftovers, trying to lose weight in the winter is a mug's game, the dates I snacked on in the afternoon (if grapes=candy, then dates=chocolate caramels), a week of consistently poor sleep, or 104 other variables.

No matter the cause, I have to take the scale’s report as truth and act accordingly.

Mark Forster, when he devised his version of the No S diet, defined a set of rules for such occasions. Every day he was over the line, he added a rule. Every day he was on the line, he kept the same rules. Every day he was below the line, he relaxed a rule.

It’s an eminently sensible plan.

I started defining my own set of rules, ranking them by severity, etc. but decided to go easy on myself. I have my own toolkit of techniques; as I mark my weight on the graph, I’m already calculating which ones I will deploy that day.

The techniques are a mix of the following, in no particular order, and as the day allows:

  • No snacking
  • No sweets, though an apple or clementine is allowed
  • Water, coffee, and herbal tea only (no ciders, no diet sodas)
  • Only cold boiled potatoes during the day, with a normal supper
  • No seconds, smaller portions
  • Stop eating by 7pm or thereabouts
  • Extra laps around the parking lot at work, or a workout at home
  • Skipping one or two meals
  • Start eating at 4pm and stop eating by 8 pm

Today, I had 3 meals (cold boiled potatoes at lunch), small portions, no snacks, and walked the parking lot at work. I did have a cider.

If my weight is still over the line tomorrow, then I will aim to have my large meal about midday. I’m scheduled for a workout, so that will help burn some calories. For the rest of the day: eat less, move more.

Although trying to lose weight during winter is like pushing a car out of a ditch.

Update, 1/27/2018: I weighed 209.8 this morning, a little less than a pound under my control line. Success! The goal today is to eat sensibly, have a workout, and continue to stay on or under the line.


Ever since the death of Google Reader, I have avoided finding another RSS reader.

I already have Pocket, which as of today reminds me that I have 1,459 unread web pages. Isn’t that enough? Apparently not for me.

Still, I also am not a tech reporter who needs (or feels he needs) to stay on top of a raft of news sites, blogs, Twitter feeds, and the like.

Perhaps the best advice I got on maanging RSS feeds was from Michael Leddy, who suggested dropping them all. Instead, when you want to or have the time, simply open up the sites in your browser and read as much as you want until you feel caught up. There are only so many inboxes one needs to check in life.

Still, there are a few sites I follow (some belonging to friends) that post infrequently and I do not want to miss them. I wanted to avoid investing time and effort in learning an RSS reader that worked across my Mac and iDevices for only a few feeds.

What works best for me is Blogtrottr, a web service that lets me receive RSS content via email.

I assume we know how to manage our email. Why learn a new app? Skim or read the emailed posts as I have time and then delete or archive them in Gmail, as needed.

Blogtrottr has paid tiers of service, but I find the ad-supported free tier works fine for me. Daily Deals

Back in 2001 when I first started subscribing to Audible, you got one free book a month.

I stopped subscribing when I went through some lean years and never went back. I agree with Ramit Sethi that, in some cases, buying something as I need it or want it is better than subscribing.

I subscribe to WAY too many services these days, but as far as Audible goes, I’ve tended to buy a book only when I really wanted it for a trip.

BUT. If you like audiobooks, it pays to sign up for Audible’s daily deal email. Each day, one book is discounted to $1.95–4.95.

The books can include Great Courses books, fiction, non-fiction, classics, etc. Most days I delete the email because the selection is not something I’m interested in. But when something comes my way that I didn’t know I wanted – such as Patton Oswalt’s Silver Screen Fiend or Ken Grimwood’s Replay or Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine – I scoop it up.

Until Jan. 28, they’re offering a selection of their 2017 daily deals and I took advantage of this to buy My Antonia, English Grammar Boot Camp from the Great Courses, The Lathe of Heaven, and many other books.

I’ve been wanting lately to listen to fewer podcasts and instead start listening to more substantial fare. No better time to start than now.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

I am also a supporter of a Kickstarter-backed documentary on Le Guin.

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She'd gone to school for years to study library science. He didn't see how it could be so complicated. It seemed like a hoax.  

J.D. Daniels, "Letter from Devils Tower,"  The Correspondence 


Well, that was interesting.

I logged in to Liz’s account to back up her home directory to my Lacie portable drive.

While there, I thought, “Let’s see if Time Machine will back up to the Time Capsule from here.”

Apparently, it did. Although it reported the copying stopped with an error, it was a different error than the one I’ve been seeing in my account. But the backup was marked as complete and verified.

So – we have a Time Machine backup! Getting one was a top priority, though I thought it would happen on the new external drive first.

(I bought an external drive yesterday but have not unboxed and plugged it in yet. Life. Don’t talk to me about Life.)

The lesson here may be that my account has too much cruft, both on disk and in RAM, that hinders an effective TM backup. My account is due for a scrub-up: deleting unused apps and Library subfolders, mainly. But it’s total guesswork whether this would do any good; magical thinking, more like.

Tonight, I purchased a two-year subscription to Backblaze and installed it. It’s got a more Mac-like UI than Crashplan did and started immediately. I like its default settings so far. It is backing up files as I type.

To be continued!



I had a full-sized wired aluminum Mac keyboard for years. I used it with the MacBook and later with the iMac.

After the 2015 break-in, the police came and did that thing that reassures homeowners but that rarely yields usable results: dusting for fingerprints.

That left me with a Mac keyboard that not only had a few letters (notably the "N" key) wearing off, but that sported coal-dust looking smudges over half the surface.

I got a Bluetooth Magic Keyboard with the new iMac after the burglary. It was OK but I never really got comfy with it. Its connection to the Mac would drop suddenly, or it would have trouble connecting on startup. I also thought the smaller size made typing feel cramped.

So I continued using the smudged, fading full-size keyboard. Which, because it was wired, took up one of the USB slots on the back of my new iMac.

For whatever reason, change is in the air. I heard Merlin Mann talk -- was it on Mac Power Users? -- about using a Bluetooth keyboard that with the touch of a button let him type on his MacBook, his iPad, or his iPhone. I finally tired of seeing this smudgy, fading keyboard. And I realized that I really envied the backlit keyboards; I tend to like having reduced light in my office in the evenings, and a backlit keyboard would make night-time writing and keying much more comfortable.

I went with the Wirecutter's recommendation of the Logitech K811 and it has so far proved an excellent purchase. I had thought about getting a Matias aluminum keyboard with backlighting, but decided to go with the cheaper option first; if I didn't like it, then I could justify spending more money for a demonstrably better keyboard.

Some notes on the K811:

  • It has a built-in rechargeable battery. I can charge it using the same micro-USB plug I use for several of my other devices. But it does not show percentage of remaining battery from the Bluetooth menu bar icon.
  • The backlit keyboard is wonderful. Just moving my hands in place over the keyboard will activate the backlight without my touching a key. I have the brightness set at just the right level to show the letters but not distract.
  • It can pair with three devices. It's very simple to do this. I am running a Time Machine backup on my Mac and typing this on my iPad. With the press of a key, I can switch between the two computers. I'm leaving the third key unassigned for now.
  • I had to download software from the K811 support site to allow me to use some of the function keys (such as Mission Control) as the Mac Gods intended.
  • I had used the Magic Keyboard to write my blog posts on my iPad when we traveled recently. It worked fine, and I was planning to get a travel case for it. Now...I'm not so sure. The K811 has the same approximate dimensions, is lighter, and it's backlit. This may become my travel keyboard.
  • The feel of the K811 is plasticky. It does not have the satisfying mass and density of the full-size keyboard it's replacing. It feels durable enough.
  • I don't like that the K811 lies flatter on the desk, with less tilt, than the Magic Keyboard. If I find this tiring during longer writing stints, I can glue some rubber feet to the bottom of the K811. 
  • The K811 has the chiclet keys that look and feel noticeably smaller than the Magic Keyboard's keys. That said, I can type just as fast on them and the keys' travel feels just right to me. 

I will keep the Magic Keyboard as a backup keyboard in case the K811 goes south for some reason. But for daily use on the iMac and occasional use on the iPad, the K811 has proven its worth. 

BACKUPS (cont'd)

So, backups.

  • On my Time Capsule (ca. 2015) I get the same bland unhelpful error message described on this blog post.
  • I got the same error message when I moved the Time Machine backup to my Western Digital 2TB external drive (ca. 2010). I've been using the latter mainly for miscellaneous photos, DVD rips, and the like. A junk drawer, of sorts, with not many valuables.
  • Is the problem the Time Machine software or the drives it's writing to? I can't tell.
  • I used Disk Utility to 'repair' both drives, which wound up deleting the last good Time Machine backup on the Time Capsule, and I think wrecked the WD2TB. I cannot now write or edit any file on the WD2TB.
  • Most hard drives have an average life span of about 5 years, so it's past time to upgrade the WD2TB, I suppose.
  • I have key folders synced with Dropbox, and my and Liz's user folders backed up to Crashplan. So our really critical stuff is still OK but it would take time to restore all those files. I would feel more comfortable with one or more full local backups.

Here's my plan, such as it is:

  1. First, do no harm. Stop trying to repair these devices. It just seems to bollix them up more.
  2. Focus now on getting one or more reliable local backups of this iMac.
  3. Buy a 4TB external drive and plug it into the iMac. Use Disk Utility to format it and split it into two 2TB partitions.
  4. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to create a bootable backup on one of the partitions.
  5. Use Time Machine to create a versioned backup on the second partition. Cross my fingers that it will work.
  6. STOP! Get two local backups and verify they work before fiddling any further.
  7. Use Disk Utility to wipe and repair the WD2TB. If the drive continues to cause problems, securely wipe it and recycle it.
  8. Document our wifi settings in Time Capsule in case the next step clobbers them.
  9. Perform soft and hard resets on the Time Capsule as necessary to see if that will help kickstart Time Machine backups there.
  10. Take the damn thing to the Apple Store if I can't get it working as I'd like. Has the disk gone bad? Do they need to puff more blue smoke into its inner circuitry?
  11. If it's not the Time Capsule, but the Time Machine application? Lord, I do not want to go there.

I'm using Joe Kissell's Backing Up Your Mac ebook as a guide for planning and thinking through the local backups.


At the start of Awareness, Anthony deMello shares the secret divulged by all mystics of all faiths,

[A]ll is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.

I started writing a little list of various troubles – not great ones, but small ones – afflicting me at the moment:

  • The looming government shutdown does not bother me as much as the deadend nature of my job. Updating my LinkedIn and resume are dutifully done. There is not much to look forward to.
  • I continue to put off dealing with my long-term finances, a delay that I’m sure will bite me later.
  • My Time Capsule and an external drive have both decided to pack it in – I now have no backups of my iMac.
  • Squarespace promises a lot but in many small ways it disappoints.
  • My office, which I’d tidied just last week, is now a mess.
  • And on and on…

If deMello is right – and let’s assume he is – then all is well.

My job, my computer, my office, my finances, my health – they are my nightmare. They are real and cause anxiety only as long as I am in the dream.

But don’t they call out to me? Don’t I have these serious feelings to let me know that action must be taken?

Maybe. I find myself saying “We’ll see” a lot more lately.

Sometimes the best thing to do in an emergency, is nothing. My external drive is flaking probably because of something I tried without knowing what would happen.

First – particularly when we’re dealing with the physical world – do no harm. Don’t make things worse by taking unnecessary, thoughtless, fearful reactive action. If what looks to be a problem is just a nightmare, I could be making things worse.

One of my coaches, Mary Schiller, posted a video emphasizing one of her basic points: don’t take your thinking seriously. Don’t take your feelings personally. Our experience of life is bigger than our little thoughts, bigger than our overwhelming feelings.

Don’t get stuck there.

As deMello says later in that passage,

Waking up is unpleasant. It’s irritating to be woken up…Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.

So how am I dealing with these – let’s call them “situations”?

I am copying the files that can be copied from my external drive to my iMac. I will go to work tomorrow. I will put a few things away to keep my office tidy.

When I don’t engage with the nightmare and fret about how awful it is, ideas come to me in the quiet. I try them out. I get more ideas.

I wake up a little before going back to sleep.