Things I like this week, volume 27.

I realized I haven’t done one of these since August, and that made me sad. Part of the reason for doing it at all was sharing fun stuff, but the other part was to make sure I was writing. Things have been extraordinarily busy this fall, but that’s no excuse. I can find 10 minutes to write a paragraph about a fun thing.

Let’s get back to it, then.

Zinio for Libraries

I’ve known about Zinio as an online magazine service for a while. And I am a huge fan of our local libarary, which has terrific kids’ programs and lots of digital media. I’ve been borrowing ebooks for a while now, but I completely forgot they also have a magazine service through Zinio.

This is different than standard Zinio, and you’ll need to make sure your local library supports it, but if they do, you’re straight bonkers if you don’t avail yourself of this. Here’s how it works.

You need a library card. Do that if you haven’t already. You’re paying taxes, you might as well have it. It’s worth it.

Then, download the app–this app, not the regular Zinio one–because it has a special login function that connects to your library’s system.

You visit a page on the web in Safari where you can see current and back issues of lots of different magazines. You pick the one you want. Then you go back to the app, refresh, and boom. You’re reading the latest issue of whatever you want in seconds, like a real grown up person.

This app shines on the 12.9″ Pro too, I’ll add–if you want the truest experience, hold it in landscape and you can see both sides of the magazine like you’re holding it for real. But if you rotate into portrait, while the device is enormous and bizarre, you get a massive, full-size page to read, no zooming required. This may be the only use-case I’ve yet found for the 12.9 in portrait mode, but it’s solid.

I’ve just been doing this in the evenings, lazily flipping pages in some magazines I like, and I don’t feel guilty about spending several bucks on a paper issue I’ll barely read, because it’s totally free, and if an issue sucks? Who cares. Delete it and get something else. Instantly.

Totally great, and a lovely complement to Apple News (another thing I’ve really come to enjoy with iOS 10) as a casual way to read.

Zinio for Libraries

Things I like this week, volume 26.

Catalyst Case for Apple Watch

I’m a longtime fan of Casio G-Shock watches. I have an Apple Watch because I like the idea of smartwatches, and because it works with my iPhone the best. I’ve never particularly liked the way it looked, but I was willing to make a fashion trade off for functionality. It obviously has the best feature set of any watch I can pair with my phone, but it looks like a space lozenge. I mean, if you’re a fan of watches, it really probably isn’t doing anything for you. But it does do a lot of crap.

Anyway, I found this and it’s basically the exact kind of style I want in a watch (chunky, rugged, metal + plastic, colors optional; round) but isn’t out until this fall. It does surf forecasts (yes!) but runs Android Wear (I can use that with an iPhone, sort of, right?!), which may or may not provide what I need/want from my smartwatch. It’s also as much as an Apple Watch, so I’m not sure I want to take that dive. Maybe. I don’t know.

In the meantime, I’ve made an aesthetic upgrade to my setup, by adding this chunky-ass case. I’d heard of Catalyst, because I always buy waterproof cases for my phones (usually Lifeproof), primarily for beach/vacation action, but was unaware they also made a product of similar pedigree for Apple Watch.

I wanted a (smart)watch I could take surfing with me, but they explicitly say you shouldn’t engage in “high-velocity water activities” with the case. I don’t know if two-foot waves on a longboard at the Jersey Shore qualify as “high-velocity”, but hey, who am I to challenge a manufacturer on their product constraints. But I thought I might be able to get away with it, since most of the time I’m not surfing, and it definitely beefs up the Apple Watch in a decent way.

Overall, I think it’s pretty great. I definitely like having a bigger watch, and it is a bit more rugged looking. Because of the shape of the Apple Watch, it’s limited to a larger version of that vertical rectangular layout, but it adds a nice extra bulge on the side where the crown and button sit, which does change the overall shape in an interesting way. I’m not in love with the band, which is soft silicone–don’t get me wrong, it’s insanely comfortable but because of the finish of the rubber, it slides out of its loop quite a bit (the little ring that holds the extra bit of watch band down, I mean), so I end up flappin’ in the breeze a little more than I would like.

But it’s more in line with the kind of look I want, and it does add some extra water resilience, so I’m pretty pleased with it. Not too bad to take on and off, but you definitely won’t be switching bands quickly. You’ll need a few minutes to undo the case and get the watch out, but it’s not hard: a single tiny screw and a pair of snap hinges, and you’re done. I haven’t put it through its paces in terms of durability because it’s so new, but for looks, it certainly meets my criteria.

Catalyst Case for Apple Watch

Things I like this week, volume 25.

CRNT

I love surfing. Problem is, being a grown up with like, work and kids, I don’t get the straight-up days of beach time I once did. So I need to maximize the time I do get. This means checking tides and forecasts and trying to catch the fickle NJ conditions when they’re decent, and when I can get in the water.

CRNT is an awesome little iPhone app I found at the end of last summer that gives you water conditions for your favorite spots in a really nice package. I really like the design quite a bit, which changes with the time of day. Even better is Apple Watch support, which adds one of the only things I really want to do with my watch. (I’ve had multiple surf sport watches, G-Shocks, Freestyles, etc. but since getting an Apple Watch, I don’t really wear them much anymore, and have been missing this functionality.) The CRNT watch app is simple, focused, and nice. But they’ve also added a glance and a complication to check the tide height and launch the app quickly.1

I realize this won’t appeal to about 99% of the handful of you who actually read these posts, but whatever. You should start surfing so you can use this app.

CRNT: Current Surf Conditions for Your Favorite Breaks | Free Surf Reports


  1. I mean, it’s a relative term. We are talking about the Apple Watch. 

Things I like this week, volume 24.

Great Wallpaper

I was turned on to a couple great sites this week for incredible wallpaper options, featuring breathtaking space photography.

WLPPR is a site and an app, centered around iPhone wallpaper, every one of which is a satellite image. Earth images available on the site, more in the app.

Here’s my current iPhone screen.

Psiu Puxa has more than just iPhone size, and some mind-blowing photos of the Mars landscape. I mean, I found myself just staring at the image behind my home screen icons a few times, reveling in the detail.

Here’s what I’m using on my iPad.

Both sites are total rabbit holes of beautiful imagery, so put aside a little time to browse.

WLPPR (site / app)
Psiu Puxa (site)


X-Men: Days of Future Past

I finally got around to reading the TPB a few years ago, and it’s a great story. I’m also a huge fan of the last couple of X-Men movies, and Days of Future Past, while stylistically somewhat different from the comic, is just incredible. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

This is maybe my favorite scene in any movie in the past few years. Executed perfectly, and just so satisfying. I’m re-watching the movie again in chunks this week (it’s on HBO, and I have it in iTunes, so anywhere I look it’s easy to spend a few minutes with), but I just love this scene in particular. Probably watched it at least a half-dozen times in the past few days alone.

So here’s the thing: I bought the standard version like, day freaking one because I wanted to see it (missed it in the theater, something something young children). Little did I know (because I’m woefully unplugged from nerd culture these days) that a second version featuring a ton of extra footage and a subplot was coming later.

I’m kinda pissed this came out after I bought the other one, but whatever, I’m a baby and maybe I’ll have to get this too (but if I were you, just buy this one because you get both versions of the movie).

X-Men: Days of Future Past (The Rogue Cut)

Things I like this week, volume 23.

A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead’s latest is pretty terrific. I keep listening to it again and again, and I’m still enjoying it. I’m sure there’s probably a million other breathless reviews of this album, so feel free to read one of those instead.

A Moon Shaped Pool


There Goes the Neighborhood

A new podcast about the gentrification of Brooklyn, the role that race plays in this (and other similar transformations), and the impact of it all on the people who call these neighborhoods home. I just started this (the series began in March), but it’s an exceptionally well-produced and compelling story, with a lot of food for thought.

There Goes the Neighborhood

Things I like this week, volume 22.

iPhone SE

So by now it’s not exactly a secret that I’ve made some changes in my everyday workflows. The iPhone SE is one of the nicest mobile devices I’ve ever used. I skipped the 5s generation, sticking with my 5 for an extra year at the time, so this phone, while a recycled version of an old phone for many, feels new to me.

I think the overall look and feel is even better than the 5s, due primarily to the matte finish on the chamfered edges, as opposed to the polished ones previously. I got a 64 GB Space Gray, and the finish is consistent all the way around the back and sides and looks tremendous. A cleaner overall look with less visual variation, but in the best way possible.

Inside, this little thing is a beast. It’s essentially got 6s internals, and it doesn’t lag at all. I used a 5s for a week prior to getting the SE, just to see how it felt, and the speed boost between the two is a nice added bonus.

Apparently this phone is pretty hard to come by, however. I placed an online order and was prepared to wait almost a full month for it, which in this age of same-day delivery for certain consumer goods is akin to going into extended hibernation for a trip to Jupiter. So I let the order stand, but I kept checking Apple’s site for availability (I would just go to the “Buy” page and pick my phone configuration and see if any stores had it).

Last weekend, I got a hit. My local store got some in. I immediately called and reserved one for myself. Strolled in the next day and got it, no problem. The person I reserved with was even nice enough to cancel my previous order for me, so it was a total win.

I’ve rediscovered the comfort of a smaller phone, after going all the way around in the course of about a year and a half (iPhone 5 > 6 Plus > 6s Plus > 6s > SE). I keep thinking I need to always have the perfect device, but what I’m realizing is that as my needs change in life, so too might the device I carry. I think the iPad Pro is not only evidence of this, but a catalyst for this realization. So whereas a month ago, I was firmly in the “give me the middle of everything” camp with my 6s and Air 2, now I’m all about the extremes. And I couldn’t be happier.

iPhone SE

Things I like this week, volume 21.

Leuchtturm1917 Pen Loop

I caught wind of this little thing from my friend Myke Hurley, who is a bona fide writing implement enthusiast, but who took this and applied a serious hashtag life hack, and adopted it as a holster for the Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro.

I carry the Pencil with me in my bag every day, but I often don’t use it because I have to go get it (heaven forbid) and get it out. Mostly I just forget about it, but I’d like to use it more, because it’s totally awesome, and I think having it easily available at all times will definitely make me reach for it.

I’ve mounted mine on the center of the part of the back of the Smart Keyboard that folds and remains exposed while the keyboard is deployed in position. I thought about mounting it to the iPad itself, but I like separating it occasionally and using it on its own, and I didn’t want anything hanging off of it. The back of the Smart Keyboard feels like a reasonable place to apply it, and it doesn’t look too bad. It’s there when I want it (if the cover is closed) and hidden away in the back if I’m typing–but always around.

It’s a very nice, not-too-expensive add-on to my setup that continues to make the iPad Pro the ultimate notebook/computer for me right now.

Leuchtturm1917 Pen Loop

Things I like this week, volume 20.

The Esquire Classic Podcast

Last summer I began exploring different kinds of podcasts, having grown somewhat tired of tech-focused shows. I’ve continued to do this, adding a show here and there to my list of favorites I can’t miss.

The Esquire Classic podcast has quickly become one I really look forward to each time it’s released. It is a show in which some of the magazine’s most famous non-fiction articles are reviewed, dissected, and discussed, either with the author or in many cases the editor at the time. Portions of the piece are read alongside the discussion, which adds a bit of dramatic narrative and storytelling to the analytical parts of the conversation, and overall, it’s a great mix.

As compelling as the pieces themselves are, the stories behind them are often absolutely incredible and full of rich detail about the surrounding situation, the process by which the article was written, or about the author’s feelings and approach. It’s a terrific look at a type of journalism we often don’t get in quite the same way these days, viewed in a modern context, and bridging the stories of the past with a critical look through the lens of hindsight.

If you like great stories and hearing about how they came to pass, it’s a pretty sure bet you’ll dig this.

The Esquire Classic Podcast (iTunes)
More at Esquire.com

Things I like this week, volume 19.

iPad Pro 12.9″ and Smart Keyboard

As I mentioned earlier this week, I took the plunge and finally talked myself into getting the big iPad. I’d convinced myself that it was too big, that it wouldn’t be comfortable for the things I do the most, and that the 9.7″ size was right for me. I was in love with my Air 2, and planned on keeping it for another year.

Well, as I often do, I let my mind wander, and a few good friends goaded me (not really) into giving it a go. I went to the Apple Store last Friday afternoon, and got a 12.9″, 128GB Space Gray monolith. I also got the Smart Keyboard, which I had tried previously, and detested each time. No, seriously. I couldn’t stand it. It felt like an abomination. I think I literally think shook my head in disgust after the first time I tried typing on it. People nearby probably thought I walked through a cloud of farts or something, the way I must have looked.

Turns out I love the giant screen and adore the keyboard after only 24 hours of solid use. Is it my favorite keyboard ever? No, not by a long shot. But it’s very sleek, adds almost nothing in terms of bulk/weight, and works well.

I’d listened to people talk about the Pro when it came out and had really decided it wasn’t the right device for me, but I’m glad I changed my mind. As I start to move as much of my daily personal computing to iOS as possible, I’ve discovered that while I might not want or need the big phone (I bought a 6s Plus last year but went down to a 6s), having the big iPad makes a lot of sense for me. I haven’t even begun to push it to the limits yet (still just exploring and trying stuff), but I like knowing that it’s got the goods under the hood. My plan is to make this my only computer for the next year at least, and see where I land. For now, it’s the slim, powerful, pixel-filled window I always wanted and I couldn’t be happier.

iPad Pro
Smart Keyboard

Things I like this week, volume 18.

Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case

I haven’t been very active on the internet the past few months, but that doesn’t mean I stopped liking things. In fact, giving myself that time back enabled me to like even more stuff. Which is nice.

One of the things I’ve managed to do in my personal life (work is still a different story) is almost completely eliminate the need for a Mac on a day-to-day basis. I still have and use a MacBook Air for some specific things, and I have a Mac mini on the network to serve media around the house, but my iPad Air 2 is my main personal computing device now. I toyed with the idea of the Pro, but I’m still just not sure that it’s the right device for me. I see tremendous value in having that extra screen space for iOS to really shine, but it still feels a little unwieldy in many of the places I currently use my iPad.

I’ve long favored separate keyboards for the iPad, most recently the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard. It’s a great keyboard in a compact case, and one of the best portable keyboards I’ve ever used. But I realized that while I like the idea of a separate keyboard, in reality, if it’s not always there, I might be less inclined to actually get it and use it, which means I’m less inclined to capture ideas and write–which is a lot of the reason I like the iPad so much in the first place.

With that in mind, I’ve stuck to the Air 2, and augmented it with the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s easily the best iPad keyboard I’ve ever used.

The keys are nicely sized and spaced, and feel great to type on. (I’ve always been ok with the slightly smaller keyboard sizes of iPad keyboards though, so YMMV.) Soft, but not mushy, requiring just enough effort to trigger. I’d say they’re somewhere between the old MacBook Pro keys and the new MacBook keys. There are some iOS-specific function keys, which while nothing new, are welcome. You can also pair two Bluetooth devices and switch between them. Something else that I hadn’t considered is portrait mode; you can rotate the iPad into portrait orientation and write that way as well if you prefer. Not a thing I’d do often, but it’s pretty cool that you can do it, and I can see how it would definitely help in some areas.

The clincher for me is that you can fully detach the iPad and use it by itself very easily. I really can’t get down with folio-style cases that always have to be connected, because while the utility of having keys always there is nice, sometimes I absolutely don’t need them and want to be unencumbered. You have to put the iPad into a back piece, which basically makes the ordinarily svelte Air 2 into a bit of a clunker, but the upside is that it leaves the magnetic side open, so you can use a Smart Cover if you like, and despite the weight addition, the feel of the back case is quite nice.

So physically, it’s pretty great. There’s also a (sort of) weird software component. There’s an app to go along with the keyboard that (supposedly) allows you to update firmware and customize key automations. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it’s kind of a hot mess in that it hasn’t been updated in a while and basically is totally broken right now. But, if it gets an update, it could make this thing completely bananas.

Ultimately, I came to realize that I wanted the always-connected abilities of a keyboard similar to the iPad Pro, but without sacrificing the size and portability I find most comfortable (right now, at least). The Ultimate Pro, while adding a bit of bulk to an otherwise incomprehensibly lightweight device provides a trade-off I’m willing to make right now. I’m delighted with it, and using my iPad even more, which makes me very happy.

Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case