Apple Watch - A Year Later

 Recently, Steve has been discussing his relationship with his smart watch and it's got me thinking about mine. I bought my Apple Watch SE about a year ago. The main purpose at the time was to help me track my workout and hopefully encourage me to keep at it. It was a reward for losing some weight and hopefully an investment in continued good health. A year later, it hasn't quite worked out that way.

I haven't stepped on a scale, but I'm pretty sure I gained back the 20 lbs. I lost. I feel pretty sick about it to be perfectly honest, but I just haven't found the motivation to get back down in the gym and working out. I think I've just been overwhelmed with stuff at the apartment, our routine changes (my wife getting a job, the kitten, my promotion) and I just haven't made it a priority like it should be. But enough about that, let's talk about the watch.

Currently, my main use for my Apple Watch is twofold: text notifications and as an alarm clock. I love how great the texts come across, although it doesn't have full support for Signal and since a couple of my friends primarily use that, it defeats the purpose. The alarm clock is great. I still use a traditional alarm clock, but my watch is my backup and I got to admit, a little vibrating watch is so much better than an annoying alarm sound.

I occasionally use my watch to start/stop Spotify, but I find the Spotify app doesn't always work well. So, it’s usually just easier to pick up my phone. 

It's interesting because these features were the features I cared nothing about. The features I was excited about Workouts and Meditation Timer are the ones I no longer use.

The Meditation Timer isn't bad, it just isn't much. I'd prefer to use the Oak app or something else to track my meditation.

The workouts were great, at first. All day long I'd get my wife's updates on her workouts, and I'd have mine, until that got annoying. So, I had to turn those off. But what ultimately ruined the workouts for me was two things:

  1. Sometimes I'd hit my watch or forget to turn it on. So having inaccurate data is worse than having no data at all, at least in my all or nothing mindset.

  2. The watch became a problem when using kettlebells and even boxing gloves. I'd end up having to flip my watch around, or loosen it up to wrap my hands, and all the time I wasted managing the watch could have been used to work out. 

I still love the fit and size of the Apple Watch and I have no regrets buying it. I still find it useful. I do, however, wish I had upgraded to one with better battery life because charging this watch daily has gotten old, fast. But with how I currently use my watch, there is no way I can justify upgrading, so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and maybe something else neat with come along for the Apple Watch.

Brandon's Journal

22 May 2024 at 12:57

Fighting the Urge to Change Email Providers

 In his week's issue of stupid stuff I'm considering in some idiotic quest for perfectionism I keep thinking about changing email providers from Fastmail to Proton. This is a stupid idea even further since I just paid my $50 to Fastmail for the year less than a month ago, so I'm hoping by writing this out I can slow my roll.

I was tempted last year to make the move, arguably because I like how clean the Proton app is. I even dabbled with a free account, which I then proceeded to lose the password (and of course, I didn't set up a recovery option) so that account was lost. I put that all behind me, since Fastmail has been good to me, and outside of a lackluster app I have no complaints.

Last weekend, I needed a Google Drive alternative since I'm done with Google. I'll be honest, I like iCloud as a sort of extension of my regular device storage, but I'm not a fan of it as a cloud drive. It's just too muddy and I'm just not a fan of that. Anyway, I needed to share a couple of large files, so I signed up for Proton Drive, quickly upgraded to five GB for free and it worked well. Files uploaded twice as fast as on Google Drive and again, it's clean and looks nice.

This got me thinking about making the move. One of the biggest obstacles was worrying about going through the pain of changing all my account logins, and that's when I realized, that is not a problem. I'm using a custom domain, so there really isn't much stopping me.

But let's look at the pros and cons for a moment.


-Nice clean look

-Extra security

-I like supporting good projects


-My threat level is nowhere near needing Proton type encryption

-I worry the prices will rise and continue to rise as additional development occurs

-There would still be work on my end to get everything up and running

One other determining factor is the 5 GB I got for free on Proton Drive will most likely serve all my purposes. I really don't need to pay for more, although if I signed up for ProtonPass realistically I could stop paying for Bitwarden, Mullvad, and Fastmail. 

I really don't have a great reason to make this switch right now, other than throwing away money. Maybe I'll re-evaluate if a great Black Friday sale happens.

Update (5/21/24): 
Well, after some great discussion on Mastodon, I'm going to stick with Fastmail. I heard some great feedback from users of both services, and it seems like for what I truly need Fastmail is the best bet. I knew I was just getting wrapped in wanting something new and different. I'm sure once I made the switch I would have regretted it.

Also, just a heads up for anyone considering swapping from Fastmail to Proton, something I learned is Proton only allows for 15 email addresses. The way I have my email set up, my custom domain hosts a variety of different email addresses. I have 97 different email addresses on Fastmail that I would have had to change/reduce to get under that 15 email address limit and that would have been too much work for me and would have broken my entire email system. 

Brandon's Journal

21 May 2024 at 12:45

The Lad Mags: Maxim, Stuff, and FHM

 It's the summer of 1999, I'm fifteen years old, and my father has just retired from the Navy. We left our home outside of Dallas, Texas and were traveling to North Carolina, where we planned to stay with my grandmother while my father contemplated whether to accept a job in Nashville or Memphis, Tennessee.

We stopped by the Naval Base in Millington, Tennessee (oddly enough, that is where we ended up moving to) for the night. My dad knew our U-Haul would be safer on the base, plus the room was cheap.

While grabbing a few items at the Navy Exchange, I spotted a magazine featuring Shannon Doherty from Charmed and 90210. It looked a bit risqué, but not so risqué a fifteen-year-old couldn't buy it. So, I picked it up, bought it and started flipping through it in the car.

That was my first experience with Maxim magazine, and its knockoff/sister publications Stuff and FHM. I was captivated by the idea that this was Playboyish but not quite Playboy. And while an attractive woman may have led me to purchasing the magazine, it was the content inside I grew to love.

And this is where the controversy comes in at, and why I've hesitated a bit on writing this. What passed as entertainment in 1999 does not pass as easily today. I'm not here to take a political stance or make debate on what is acceptable and not, but I know a lot of folks have an issue with the way the stories, jokes, and content was presented at that time. Whether it was movies, TV shows like South Park or Jerry Springer, music like Eminem, or even Maxim, there are a lot of things that just not acceptable today. I'm not here to pass judgement, and honestly, the rest of this article is going to be me talking positively about my experience with these magazines, so there’s my little warning.

There used to be this joke, "I read Playboy for the articles" which I found to actually be a true statement some years later when I picked up my first Playboy to read a Chuck Palahniuk short story. I was amazed at the quality investigations, political write ups, and storytelling Playboy had. Maxim (which I'm just using as a stand-in for Stuff and FHM) was not of that quality. But you could still find some interesting well researched articles like one breaking down the large amount of firefighters who are arsonists. 

Maxim was the perfect magazine for a hormone filled teenage boy at the time. Sure, there were some nice pictures of the latest celebrity women, with absurdly sexual interviews to accompany them, but there were other fun tidbits to go along with them. Stuff like random World Records with high quality pictures (something Guiness had yet to provide in their books). There were great writes up on the top fights in sports, and I'm talking a four-page breakdown complete with photos. Monthly video reviews, music and movies were always being talked about, and the magazine just felt like it was made for me.

In that first issue I bought, there was an amazing story about a bodybuilder who got hooked on steroids and how it destroyed his digestive tract until he took a razorblade... I'll just leave the rest to the imagination.

There were jokes, the type of jokes you'd tell with your buddies. They'd poke fun at anyone and everyone, and well... it felt authentic. It was stupid, obscene, and at times thought provoking, and I loved sitting down and going through an issue. There was nothing else like it on the newsstand.

At its peak, Maxim circulated around 2.5 million (possibly as high as 4 million) issues compared to classier GQ's 950,000 issues. I had no idea it was as successful as it was in the early 2000's, nor how hated it was by the rest of the publishing world for selling so well while being considered trash. Of course, times changed and we forgot how to laugh at ourselves, and magazines themselves pretty much died out. Some of these magazines are still in print, but they are nothing like what they were. Heck, even by the late 2000's Maxim was already growing old, as the magazine got smaller and the ads more prevalent, and the content less interesting.
I honestly haven't given much thought of Maxim until a few weeks ago when I ran across an issue on There weren't many issues, but I did find quite a few of Stuff. I miss magazines. I miss the idea of sitting down with something that is light to read, isn't designed to entice you to keep reading, but is entertaining. So, sometimes I go looking for old magazines online because they just don't make them like that anymore. I opened up an issue of Stuff on my iPad and I found myself laughing out loud. The next thing I knew, an hour had passed, and I'd read every single word on every single page.
Since then, I've read a few more issues and I'll admit, I miss them. Sure, they aren't really appropriate for today's age, but it's fun entertainment. It feels less slimy than a lot of the AI generated/click bait trash online, because at least Maxim wasn't pretending to be something it wasn't nor did it ever push an agenda. It knew who its audience was and what it was, and it didn't pretend to be a real source for news while hiding behind clickbait and SEO scams. Maybe the authenticity is what I miss the most. When you look for men's entertainment (magazines and websites) it all seems catered to one percenters. Heck, even Maxim's own website today looks that way. Exotic vacations, $5,000 suits, golf, fancy shoes... it's all about class and elegance, which doesn't really interest me, because I'll never own a $5,000 suit and I have no interest in the latest Tom Ford offerings. I guess, I just have more in common with the article written in Maxim for a fumbling teenager trying to learn more about pleasing a woman. Or maybe it's nostalgia, either way, I'm thankful for as usual and that reminds me, I should donate a little money their way.

Brandon's Journal

20 May 2024 at 12:50

Sundays with Hank Hill

 In the fall of 1996, my family moved to Cedar Hill, Texas, a small suburb outside of Dallas. My father’s military career had taken us from Orlando to Cedar Hill and the most stable place we ever lived.

We were only in Texas for three years, but those three years were my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade years, that pivotal age when you start coming into your own. I'm not sure if it was my maturity at the time or maybe it was a fresh start in Texas, but our family seemed happy. We lived in nice, rented houses, spent lots of weekends camping and fishing, and my dad and I played basketball almost every day. When I think about my youth, those three years stand out the most.

A few years ago, I began becoming nostalgic for that time. It started off once or twice a year, but slowly it's evolved into an every Sunday evening thing and I blame King of the Hill for that.

We had only been in Texas a few months when King of the Hill debuted. I was excited, because I had spent the last three years soaking up everything Beavis and Butthead that I could. Of course, King of the Hill is very different from Beavis and Butthead, but there was still something charming about the Hill family and when combined with The Simpsons, it became a Sunday ritual to watch.

This only lasted a few years, as I grew older and found new and different things to do on Sunday evenings, but there is something inside me that links me, living in Texas, and that happy period of my youth to those Sunday nights watching King of the Hill.

Four years ago, I started rewatching King of the Hill. I still haven't finished it, but I think just rewatching those early episodes unlocked these memories for me. It made me think about those quiet Sunday evenings. The Sundays where I'd cram the homework I didn't do and probably eat leftovers because my parents were too lazy to cook. A Sunday that felt calm, quiet and where the Texas sky was as beautiful as those animated skylines in Arlen.

I dreaded Sundays as a kid, because I didn't want to go back to school, but the amount of dread that I encounter as an adult on Sundays is so much worse. It's like, for two days I get to live life the way it should be lived, and I get to be myself, only to give that up and go back to smiling and pretending to be something that I am not for the next five days. And in the midst of the Sunday blues, there's this little nugget of calm that comes up, this little reminder of when Sundays were more peaceful and even a bit exciting as I anxiously awaited those fired up guitars to begin the King of the Hill theme song. A time when my life merged a bit with a cartoon, and maybe, if memory serves me right, we were all happy. Well, as happy as we could be, I suppose.

Brandon's Journal

19 May 2024 at 05:02

A Haunting Question

 When I was in the seventh grade, I had a strange interaction with my bus driver that has haunted me for the past twenty-five years. I thought I might share that story today.

I was living in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, and my bus driver was probably in her late thirties or early forties. I was a good, quiet kid, so I never had any reason to interact with her other than saying good morning or thank you, so imagine my surprise when her arm reached out, grabbed my arm to stop me and sort of spun me around to look at her.

I mean, I got off the bus every day without issue, I had spent the entire bus ride reading, so I didn't know what had prompted her to put her hands on me aggressively enough to turn me to look at her.

So, I had a look of surprise on my face, I'm sure, when she looked me in the eyes and with a bit of aggression said:

"Are you a Jew?"

Stunned... I just sort of mumbled, "A what?"

"A Jew, are you a Jew?"

"No ma'am" I mumbled, still trying to process where this line of questioning was coming from or going.

"Are you sure?!" 

"Yes, I'm sure. I'm not Jewish." 

And she let go of my arm and I got off the bus and we didn't interact again for the rest of the year.

I don't know what that meant and every once in a while, usually when I see a school bus, that memory pops into my head. Like, I feel like it was a bit aggressive, so I want to believe it was a negative thing, but what would have happened if I said yes? I mean, the bus was full of kids. 

Then again, maybe she just never met someone Jewish and here was a white kid with black hair, who had lost his Southern accent after living in Orlando for a few years. Maybe, she made a dreidel in pottery class and wanted to give it to someone. 

Then again, my neighborhood did receive pamphlets around this time from the KKK, so maybe as an African American woman she was trying to warn me or my family if we happened to be Jewish. 

Of course, I'll never know the answer to this question, but it’s the only time in my life someone has asked me if I was Jewish, and I'd love to know what brought that on.

Brandon's Journal

18 May 2024 at 05:07

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