A New Mac: An Update

In my previous post from Thursday, I mentioned that I was having some eye and head pain when using my new Mac. Thanks to everyone who commented with suggestions. I don’t think computer glasses are an option at this point because of the expense. I have prescription glasses, so I’d have to buy a second pair just for the computer. When you factor in the expensive high-index lenses I need… well, I’m not eager to spend extra money on glasses!

But I do have good news. I used my Mac on Friday after work and had zero problems. I used it quite extensively yesterday and today as well. And I still feel great. What I did to stop the eye and head pain while using this new computer is dial down the brightness a lot. I’m actually using it at fifty percent brightness right now, which is way dimmer than I ever did with my previous computer. I can still see the screen perfectly fine, though, so it’s working out so far (fingers crossed it keeps on working out!).

I may buy a screen protector, as commenter J.T. suggested on my prior post. I’ve never used a screen protector with a glossy screen before, but I do know many people who have and they say it cuts back on the screen shininess a lot, which is what I want.

I am enjoying the computer a lot. I transferred all my data over and have been listening to a lot of music. Seriously, these speakers are amazing. If you have an older Mac, it’s worth upgrading for the speakers alone, as these are the nicest laptop speakers I’ve ever used.

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A New Mac

Despite my proclamation that I returned, I’m not doing such a good job of posting, am I? Oh, well. That’s okay because I’m posting now and I have a good reason for not posting this week.

On Sunday, I decided, at long last, to place an order for a new Mac computer. I ordered a custom-built MacBook Pro (no Touch Bar, fastest processor available for the model, 16 GB of RAM). Much to my surprise, the store I had it shipped to notified me on Tuesday that the computer was ready for me to pick up.

I’m relatively sure that Apple keeps a bunch of the model I ordered in some warehouse in the United States somewhere, because there’s no way something could get from the factory in China all the way to the US in just two days. I’ve ordered Apple products before and it can take up to a week or more for them to get here. I never order the overnight shipping or anything, either.

Anyway, that doesn’t matter because I have my new Mac! (I’m typing this post on it right now!) I originally set it up with Migration Assistant, but that caused problems, so I set up a brand-new account on the new computer, then used file sharing to transfer my data over. (If you want a tutorial on how to do this, just let me know in the comments and I’ll attempt to whip something up this weekend or next week.)

People who follow Apple-related news will recall that there was lots of (virtual) ink spilled about these new computers. My model is the 2017 MacBook Pro, by the way, so it has the new keyboard and only two ports and comes in space gray or silver. I haven’t exactly had the thing that long, but here are my impressions so far:

  • I’m really impressed with the speakers. Man oh man, they are AMAZING. Why doesn’t anyone mention them in the reviews? Sure, some reviews I read said as an afterthought that the speakers were amazing, but for me, I think they’re actually a selling point for the computer. My old Mac, which is a mid-2010 model, 13 inch, has possible the worst speakers in the history of Mac laptop computers. I got used to them because I needed that computer and overall enjoyed using it, but dang, they are terrible. I’ve been listening to music nonstop on this new computer because the speakers are so incredibly amazing.
  • The keyboard, which everyone talks about so much, is fine. I don’t have a passionate love for it (yet), but I don’t despise it with the fire of a thousand suns like some reviewers did. I’m still getting used to it and I’m giving it a chance.
  • My old Mac didn’t have a Retina display. Honestly… I am not crazy about it. Yes, it plays beautiful video. But after I stare at the screen for five or ten minutes, which isn’t very long, my eyes and head hurt a lot. I’m still experimenting with it to try to make this not happen because honestly, it would be something I would return the computer over, except I’m pretty sure all Apple screens are Retina now. Anyone have any ideas? I’ve turned down the brightness a lot and scaled the resolution to make everything bigger. Seriously, the display resolution that it comes with out of the package is unreadable because it makes everything so incredibly tiny. I’ve also made the screen color yellower by using the app Flux (which is free for Mac and Windows, by the way). Apple’s Night Shift doesn’t go yellow enough for me. I’m not sure what the solution is if this doesn’t work—a screen protector to cut down on glare? My old Mac had the glossy screen too, but I never had any problems looking at it unless it had been for hours and hours. This new one makes my head hurt after such a short period of time.
  • The trackpad is different but still good. Seriously, no one makes trackpads like Apple. I’m always appalled at how bad the trackpad is on my HP laptop I have at work. That thing is painful to use.
  • I bought the space gray color and I love it. I think I would have liked the silver, too. I really don’t think you can go wrong with either color.
  • The other thing that really, really impresses me is the processor. Not only is it fast, but it’s so cool. The fans barely run at all, according to the monitoring app I use. My temperatures have not once exceeded 95 degrees Fahrenheit. My old Mac ran at about 130 degrees, just for comparison. And my first Mac basically destroyed its own insides due to heat retention. I can’t remember what temperature my first Mac ran at, but I do know it had two fans and it still had trouble staying cool enough. This one is amazing. I’ve watched a ton of YouTube videos and it still hasn’t exceeded 95 degrees. My old Mac sounded like a jet engine as soon as I loaded the YouTube home page (which was why I converted to watching videos on my iPad, leading me to forget until tonight how amazing a 13-inch screen is for watching videos!).

So overall, I do like the computer. If only I could stop getting terrible eye pain and head pain while looking at the display, it would be perfect. Maybe I just need to get used to the display. After all, I know my iPad also has a Retina display and I’ve never had any problems looking at it.

I Have Returned.

I am Grand Admiral Thrawn. I have been away, but now I have returned. I know some of what has occurred. You will fill in the details of the rest when I come aboard. Rejoice, Captain, for the Empire will rise again.

–Grand Admiral Thrawn, from the story A Grand Admiral Returns

Yes, dear readers, it is true: I have returned. I’ve been away from blogging for a while—over a month, by my count—and I was questioning whether I wanted to continue writing this blog. You see, there have been certain events taking place in my life over the past month or so that really threw me for a loop. These events are ongoing, by the way, so unfortunately there is no resolution (yet). Due to this, I’ve been having trouble doing anything I enjoy lately, aside from reading.

Since I wasn’t doing other things I like—writing, knitting, playing violin—I’ve been reading. A lot. I’m on track to read over a hundred books this year. So much for getting a lot of writing done like I planned. To look on the bright side, though, I’ve had the chance to read a ton of random books I may not have picked up. I read a Star Wars trilogy, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d do! I’m not a hardcore Star Wars fan—I’ve seen one of the movies, know the basic premise of a few others, and that’s about it. I do like science fiction a lot, though, so the books I read (Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy) were right up my alley and I enjoyed them immensely. I haven’t read the story from which I took the quote at the beginning of this post, though. I’d love to read it, but it’s a short story, not a novel, and I can’t seem to get my hands on the book in which it was published.

What else is new? I’ve been trying to study Russian more. I feel like I’ve gradually gotten away from Russian and I don’t want that to happen, so I’ve been making a conscious effort to incorporate more Russian into my life. (And just so you know, you can never have too much Russian in your life.) I’ve been listening to some audiobooks and knitting—doing two things at once is amazing, especially when they’re two things you like. And I’ve been going to work, of course, since I need money to fund my reading and knitting.

One thing I have not been doing is writing fiction. The certain events that are taking place made me so upset I couldn’t write. I became especially upset at the novel I was working on—I can’t even look at the thing right now. (To be fair, I had been getting rather frustrated with that book long before the events started taking place. I have a bit of a history with that manuscript and I’m beginning to think it’s time to just let that idea go and work on something else.) I’ve started brainstorming for a new book I’ve wanted to write for years. It’s historical fiction that takes place in Soviet Russia. I also have a manuscript I need to sit down and edit, but I haven’t done that yet, either.

I am back, though. I don’t want to give up blogging. I don’t want to give up Russian. I don’t want to give up writing fiction. I’ve missed having them in my life. It’s late enough right now that I’m going to bed soon—but I will work on some writing tomorrow, even if it’s just editing a few sentences in my manuscript for fifteen minutes.

Decluttering

Fear not, dear readers, I am still here! The past couple of weeks have been busy for me—we’re trying to wrap up the first stage of a project at work—and so I’ve been working and reading and working on a bit of fiction writing.

I’ve also been decluttering. Now, I don’t think I have that much stuff. Compared to a lot of my friends, I’m very decluttered indeed. But there are a fair amount of things I have that I’m not so sure I need anymore. (Did I ever need them in the first place? That is a good question.) As of late, my focus has been on decluttering papers. My papers are stacked in various places throughout my apartment. There are the financial papers on a shelf I use for office supplies and other stuff. There are the old notes I have in a cabinet. And there are the completely old and random papers in my closet.

A couple weeks ago, I found a bunch of old papers from high school in my closet. High school, you guys! I didn’t like high school and so I have no idea why I was even hanging onto these. I put them in the stack to be disposed of, along with some other things from my college graduation (I’ve saved some materials from that event, but I didn’t need three copies of the same exact document). I also found old sheet music I never play anymore, along with a few old music articles that I have no use for.

The biggest thing I decided to declutter, though, are my class notes. Longtime readers will know I was a history major back in the day. I loved my major. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a person who loved that major more than I did. I planned on teaching history and ended up saving a lot of my notes from various history classes.

Except then I left the field and found something else to do. Don’t get me wrong—I still love history. I read history books, both nonfiction and fiction, and would like to write some historical fiction of my own someday. But it’s been over five years since I last took a formal history class. Did I really need a bunch of old history class notes hanging around? For ages, I’ve thought the answer to that was yes, but today I realized the answer is probably no, so the old notes are in the to-be-disposed-of pile right now. I saved a few papers I wrote that made me happy, but that’s it. There’s no point in keeping some notes around that I haven’t read in nearly ten years.

This goes for electronic version of notes as well. During my freshman year in college, I typed all my notes. I switched to handwritten notes during sophomore year, but I still had old Word documents from freshman year sitting on my hard drive. Those are now in the trash on my computer. I hadn’t opened those since 2008 or 2009. Did I really need that? Obviously, the answer is no.

What I didn’t expect is how good I feel after deciding to get rid of all these papers (and computer files). I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t even realize how much they were dragging me down until they, well, weren’t anymore. Seriously, the cathartic and therapeutic value of decluttering is seriously underrated. If you want a quick pick-me-up, go declutter something. It doesn’t have to take hours. I do it in fifteen to thirty minute spurts and I always feel great afterwards.

Wednesday Music: Debussy’s ‘Suite Bergamasque’

I realized recently that I don’t think I’ve ever posted about a piece by French composer Claude Debussy. I don’t think I’ve played his work and I’m pretty sure he’s best known for his piano pieces (and I don’t play the piano). Nevertheless, his omission from Wednesday Music is a mistake that must be rectified. Therefore, today’s piece is Debussy’s Suite bergamasque. Here’s a bit about it.

  • The suite has four movements and even if you think you haven’t heard of it, you actually may have. The third movement is called “Clair de lune,” which is one of Debussy’s most famous pieces. I actually thought it was a single piece by itself—I didn’t realize it was part of a suite.
  • Debussy composed the suite around 1890, but revised it heavily before it was published in 1905. His revisions included changing the names of two of the movements. The fourth movement, “Passapied,” was originally called “Pavane.” The third movement, “Clair de lune,” was originally called “Promenade sentimentale.”
  • Musically, the style of “Clair de lune” (I actually wanted to make the post just about “Clair de lune” but then I discovered there are other movements, too) is French impressionism. I was unaware the was an impressionist movement in music too. I’ve only heard about it in the context of painting.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

A Labor Day Weekend in Bullet Points

  • I don’t feel like writing a traditional, proper posts with paragraphs because I’m tired, so I thought I’d use bullet points instead. I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’ve been tired all day.
  • I didn’t really do anything for Labor Day Weekend and it was kind of glorious. I mainly lounged around and read. In fact, I binge-read a Michael Crichton book (Sphere) because I basically could not put it down. I also needed to vacuum but I didn’t get around to that, but it’s no big loss. 😉
  • The weather here has been gorgeous for the past several days. Very low humidity, which is amazing. I’m always surprised at how much humidity can ruin an otherwise nice day.
  • I went on a trip to Arizona recently (last weekend, including Monday and Tuesday as well, making it a long weekend). I was so tired that I slept for eleven hours on Friday night. I will post pictures at some point—I haven’t even gone through all the ones I took on my phone! But rest assured I plan to create a photo gallery.
  • I haven’t been writing fiction very much lately, so I’m going to go work on a novel after I type this post. I also have an idea for a historical fiction detective story that I’m eager to brainstorm and write. I always brainstorm with a pen and paper—because I’m old-fashioned like that—and it can be really relaxing to just sit and handwrite.

Wednesday Music: Mussorgsky’s ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’

Wednesday Music is back, everyone! Since the poll I conducted last week was overwhelmingly in favor of it—well, it’s here to stay, at least for a while.

This week’s piece is Modest Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev.” Here’s a bit about it.

  • This piece is actually part of a larger work Mussorgsky wrote for piano called Pictures at an Exhibition. It is made up of ten movements and five promenades, for a total of fifteen parts.
  • The original name of this piece in Russian isn’t actually “The Great Gate of Kiev.” It’s usually translated into other languages that way—for example, in French, it’s called La grande porte de Kiev. The Russian title is Богатырские ворота (В стольном городе во Киеве). That more closely means “The bogatyrs’ gate in the capital city in Kiev.” A bit wordy, for sure!
  • Even though this piece was written for piano, the video I have embedded below is an arrangement for orchestra. I usually try to go with whatever the composer intended when I choose the videos—as in, if it was written for piano, I’ll find the piano version—but I really wanted to share an arrangement this time because I played this piece in youth orchestra years ago. I’ve actually never listened to the piano version.

Enjoy!

Click here to listen on YouTube.