Things I like this week, volume 38.

LifeAfter

I’m a big fan of audio drama, especially when it’s done well—by which I mean not simply translating a visual story to an aural one, but crafting a narrative that expands on—and is enhanced by being audio-only.

LifeAfter is just such a project. Building on the success of The Message, this is the second story from the GE Podcast Theater/Panoply partnership, and it’s absolutely enthralling. Without giving away too much, it envisions a future in which a voice-based social network becomes a catalyst for some deep philosophical questions, most notably “what happens to all this digital media we’re creating after we’re dead”, but to hang a hat on that alone is to grossly oversimplify the other stuff happening in the story. It centers around a low-level analyst in the FBI, whose wife recently died, having left a bunch of these audio posts on this network, which he’s become obsessed with in the intervening months.

It gets nuttier from there. And I really don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll stop.

It quickly becomes a fast-paced mystery with tons of twists, all highly satisfying. It’s only 10 episodes, and the story is complete (it came out a while ago) so go ahead and drop it all into your queue. And if you haven’t listened to The Message, do that one first, it’s really short (and it’s part of the same feed, so if you’re lazy, you win). There’s a tiny surprise lurking in LifeAfter for you if you do—but you have to be paying attention.

LifeAfter

Things I like this week, volume 37.

Due

Due is one of those apps that takes the notion of “do one thing for the user very well” and executes on it to a level of sophistication that more complex apps often miss. It is, at its core, a reminder app that also has the ability to set timers. But it allows for a handful of really useful tweaks to that basic model that elevate it to a top-notch productivity app.

It’s not a new app; it’s been around a long time–and it has a lot of fans already. But it didn’t get many updates for a while because it’s maintained by one guy, and I’m pretty sure he had a kid, and as many of us know, despite the life-alteringly incredible emotional uplift a new baby brings, one of the things it usually assassinates is the desire to be productive, or really do anything apart from sleep for that matter.

But the app got some updates very recently. It’s still simple and elegant, but more stable and flexible than it’s ever been. It’s one of those apps I forget about and then re-re-rediscover only to be delighted again.

A friend of mine made a really nice video walkthrough for it a while back when the 2.0 update shipped, which pretty much encapsulates everything better than I can, so watch that, go buy it, get a fantastic app, and support a talented and dedicated developer.

Due for iOS
Due for Mac

Things I like this week, volume 36.

Anker SoundBuds Slim Wireless Headphones

I’ve resisted the urge to order AirPods so far. I don’t know if that’ll last forever, but at the same time, I don’t think I’d want to wear a pair of very expensive headphones for stuff like mowing the lawn. Bluetooth is essential however, and I came across these recently. I’ve been a fan of Anker for a loooong time now. I’ve yet to get something from them that isn’t terrific, so I figured I would give these a shot.

For this price, I think they’re exceptional. Used them today: great seal in the ear, pretty respectable low end, solid battery life. And they’re water-resistant. Ordered a second pair so I can have a “clean” pair and a “dirty” one. Also because I am a child.

DreamObjects

I switched my hosting a while back to DreamHost, and they have their own object storage solution, aptly titled DreamObjects. It’s S3 compatible, so you can use it with about a million things, and I found it easier to set up and manage than S3. They also have their own CDN option baked in, and it’s one click to enable that. Pricing is great, and you can upgrade your storage to a pre-paid plan in a variety of sizes. I’ve been very happy with DreamHost since I switched, and I’m looking forward to using this too.

Anker SoundBuds

DreamHost – DreamObjects

Things I like this week, volume 35.

Sycees 0.5W Plug-in LED Night Light

Sometimes the things that make me the happiest are dead simple. This is one of those times.

And as such, I’ll keep this simple. You buy these lights in a six-pack. You plug them in. They go on when it’s dark, off when it’s not. They are awesome and I have them all over my house now, and at night, it’s like when you’re at a resort, and they have that nice path lighting as you walk around outside.

These stupid lights make me happier than they have a right to. They will make you happy too.

And if super white LED isn’t your thing, apparently they have a warmer variant as well.

Sycees LED Night Lights

Things I like this week, volume 34.

Bojack Horseman

Netflix has a lot of original content these days. A lot. And some of it is incredible. And some of it is just there. I’d seen Bojack Horseman come up a lot in the carousels the service shows you when you’re using it. My match rating was high. A ton of people whose work I enjoy contribute voices to it. Everything was pointing me in the right direction. But I just never watched.

What finally nudged me in was an episode of Imaginary Worlds, a previous TILTW that’s a terrific exploration on its own. Through the podcast’s descriptions of the show, and the style, and the characters, and the tone, and right through the interview segments with Lisa Hanawalt (the show’s designer), it just seemed like something I had waited too long to look at.

So I finally sat down and watched episode one. And was immediately drawn into this quirky, hilarious, and poignant world that had been created. I was amazed at how utterly silly and heartbreaking the show could be in almost the same breath, which I consider a huge achievement.

If you’re an animation fan and looking for a new obsession, there’s almost certainly something here for you.

Bojack Horseman

Things I like this week, volume 33.

Moana and Hamilton

In keeping with my long-running theme of discovering things later than everyone else, partly because of my own willful detachment from things people rave about and partly because life moves fast and I’m busy, I’m head over heels in love with two things that people told me were great and I had to just find out about in my own time.

Moana is probably one of the best movies–not just animated features, but movies–I’ve seen, maybe ever. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, the animation is staggering, the music is incredible, the story is uplifting… I don’t have a single bad thing to say about it. My kids are obsessed with it, and I’ve crossed right over through Stockholm Syndrome into full-blown adoration myself. I’m constantly singing the songs, which is not surprising, given that Lin-Manuel Miranda had a hand in them.

Which brings me to my next point.

I’m probably the only person in America (possibly the world) at this point who hadn’t listened to the songs from Hamilton. I know, it’s a cultural phenomenon, blah blah. I get it. It’s great and everyone loves it and I should too.

You can start to see why it took me so long.

I have a hard time in a lot of cases getting on board with things that people breathlessly rave about. I’m way more inclined to check something out that got a great review from one person in my world whose opinion I trust, and that’s usually how I discover things. When the entire world is infatuated with something, my natural physiological response is to repel it.

I’m also not a huge fan of musicals. I’ve always found them to be somewhat grating, although I do make exceptions for certain ones that found a place in my heart, and for movies with songs I love. Sung-through musicals where every bit of dialogue is part of a song? Forget it. I’m not going near that.

So I begrudgingly finally decided to check this music out after two things happened recently: I shared part of a train ride with a family who had just seen it and really enjoyed it a week ago, and Tim was like “So you love Moana and you won’t even listen to Hamilton? What’s wrong with you?”

Having admitted my feelings for the music of Moana, I thought I could fight this battle no further. I love history, and I live in a part of the country where most of this stuff actually happened. I also like good music.

I’m sure you can see where this is headed now.

I’m absolutely hooked on this soundtrack and have now adopted it as the “thing I will literally not shut up about” for the next few days. I think I also have developed a bit of a crush on Mr. Miranda, since holy crap, he makes musical choices that resonate so strongly with the way I like to hear songs constructed, it’s like parts of this damned thing were written from my own thoughts. He’s made his way onto my list of People I Would Love To Sit Next To On A Plane And Speak To At Length But Stopping Short Of Being That Guy. This is a short list, and includes only a handful of famous people whose work I would describe as life-changing.

If I want to see the show, apparently I can buy very expensive tickets for sometime in 2018. Probably not going in my next actions list just yet.

So yeah, I’m a dope, these things are great, I love them, the end.

Moana – Deluxe Soundtrack

Moana – Film

Hamilton – Original Cast Recording

Things I like this week, volume 32.

DEVONthink

I’ve bounced between a lot of note taking and reference apps over the years, and none have felt like home for more than a little while. I’d resigned myself to just using files and folders in Finder or iCloud Drive or my Synology or whatever, and thought that was the end of the road. The logical conclusion to not finding anything that really ever fit long-term.

I’d heard about DEVONthink before, probably first and most often from Gabe over at Macdrifter, who’s written and talked about it a lot. It always seemed like one of those insane apps that did way more than I could ever have needed, and with my focus on developing simplified workflows where possible, it felt like serious overkill for what I wanted to do with information.

Fast forward to March of this year. I’m re-reading GTD, in an effort to more fully embrace it, as opposed to the semi-adoption and remixed personal approaches I’ve always tripped into in the past. The notion of a place for actions and a place for reference material is critical to success. I ruminate on this, as I have information scattered across many areas and find it intensely frustrating.

At the same time, I read another of Gabe’s excellent, detailed posts about DT. I find myself fascinated with this app’s potential and continue digging into posts and other info. I decide to go all in, buying it on the Mac and iOS. I decide it will become the place where my information lives.

I have not regretted this decision.

I could say a lot about it, but do yourself a favor if you’re even remotely interested in a significant overhaul to your digital workflow and read Gabe’s stuff. Start with that link in the paragraph above.

Then, go support great software and buy it. It will absolutely change the landscape of your information and how you access and use it.

DEVONthink (iOS)

DEVONthink (Mac)

Things I like this week, volume 31.

Offshore

A podcast that’s just wrapped its first season, focused on real events in Hawaii, and that aims to shine a light on the issues the state faces in context with the rest of the country. Long thought of as paradise, Hawaii struggles with many of the same social problems we see elsewhere on the mainland. Season one deals with a killing of a young Hawaiian by a white federal agent in 2011 and brings to bear a turbulent, racially-charged past that continues to exert its influence on the people of the islands to this day. Highly recommended.

Homecoming

Compelling audio drama from Gimlet. Six episodes in S1. (I thought it was a standalone set of work, but apparently they’re already working on S2, which is awesome.) Features great sound editing and terrific performances from Catherine Keener, David Schwimmer, David Cross, Amy Sedaris, and others. A chilling mystery with an interesting path.

I binged both of these shows entirely in the span of less than a week. My guess is you’ll feel the same once you start.

Offshore
Homecoming

Things I like this week, volume 30.

Mozart in the Jungle

Amazon has, in the past few years, gone from “the place where I buy almost everything” to “the place where I am continually surprised to find extremely compelling original entertainment”. When the company announced it was creating its own content, it seemed like a very me-too move. But to its credit, it’s gathered an insane amount of talent and continues to put out some incredible stuff with its Prime Video service.

Apart from the high-visibility shows like the absolutely amazing Transparent, there are a ton of other efforts, some of which barely register on the radar but are still very good. One of these shows is Mozart in the Jungle. I’m not going to get into plot summary, but suffice to say if you like snappy dialogue and classical music, you’ll probably like this show. Hell, even if you don’t like the music, you’ll probably like it. There are several recognizable faces and some outstanding performances from a few you don’t yet know.

It will probably take you a few episodes to get into it, but since it’s a half-hour show, you can chew through it really quickly. Season three just landed in early December and I haven’t started it yet, but we’re about to and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s charming, scathing, heartwarming, and hilarious in equal parts, and once you get into it, you find yourself strangely compelled in watching the lives of these characters unfold. It’s a look at how utterly normal and relatable seemingly different people can be, and it’s a delight.

Mozart in the Jungle

Things I like this week, volume 29.

Twenty Thousand Hertz

This is a new podcast that I discovered thanks to it being featured on a recent 99% Invisible episode. It’s all about telling “the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds” and is exactly the kind of stuff I adore–people examining something that permeates our consciousness and culture at a deep level. Great storytelling, great production value.

And the latest episode is literally about one of my favorite things: 8-bit sounds. I had the biggest grin on my face as I listened to it.

A delightful show, and I can’t wait to hear more.

Twenty Thousand Hertz