Things I am Thankful For in 2020


This year has been different for many reasons. Despite the current situation, I have been fortunate enough to have still my job, my home, and my healthcare. Beyond that good fortune, here are a few things I am particularly thankful for this year:

  • Elyssa — She is the only one that I would want to go through all of this maddeness with. For much of this time, she has been the only person I have been able to talk to in person. She has been my workout partner, my dinner date, and my best friend. If I was going to get to have only one person to get through this with—I am glad it’s her.
  • My Almost Two-Year-Old Niece — I have not been able to spend as much time with her as we might have otherwise, but the times we have gotten to see her have been a blast. I think she’s going to enjoy going to Disney World with Elyssa and me in a couple of years.
  • My New Pen Hobby — It’s been an excellent combination of distraction and comfort. I have enjoyed learning more about the pens, figuring out what I enjoy using, and then actually using them. I’m sure I’ll post about how I got into things at some point in the future (I have already written the first draft in one of my notebooks), but the big thing is that it has been an escape from all the chaos of what is going on.
  • Clemson Football– Similar to the above-described pen hobby, Clemson Football has been a distraction for me. I think I realized how much having Clemson football games made things feel “normal-ish” when COVID-19 forced Trevor Lawerence out of two games and then resulted in the cancellation of the Florida State game. I am hopeful that college basketball being back (the first games were yesterday) will provide some further escapism in the coming weeks.

Obviously, I do not intend for this post to be a comprehensive list of everything that I am thankful for this year. My family’s continued good health would have to be part of a more detailed list. The people and things listed above, however, have helped keep me semi-sane during this crazy time.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Exploring Analog Comforts in a Digital World


It has been quiet here over the past couple of months. Part of the reason for that it has been a hectic time at work, but the other reason is my (unexpected) new hobby: Fountain Pens.

I know, I know if you had told me a few months ago that I (a guy with notoriously bad penmanship) was going to get wrapped up in a hobby that involves so much handwriting, I would have said you were crazy. Still, in 2020, everything is upside down, and here we are.

In the next couple of weeks, I may explain how I got into my pen hobby, but I wanted to make this milestone post first. I call it a milestone since it is the first post I initially drafted by hand, using one of my notebooks. 2020 is crazy.

One of my first “non-starter” fountain pens.
One of my first “non-starter” fountain pens.

The First Red Sox Game of the Season

Fenway the Husky in Fenway the Park
The last time I was at Fenway Park, we saw a walk-off grand slam

Baseball is back. It was not the typical late March opening day (for obvious reasons), but last night the Boston Red Sox played their first game of the season.

While watching Boston beat down the Orioles 13-2, one thing I noticed was how well the broadcast team seemed to be working during the game. I then immediately was worried about how they are handling Jerry Remy’s previous lung cancer issues when we are fighting a disease that wreaks havoc on people’s lungs. Thankfully, Steve Buckley from The Athletic gave addressed all of these questions:

[I]t is a NESN room with a NASA feel to it. It’s a secure location with all kinds of bells and whistles to assure it remains off-limits to anyone other than O’Brien, the Red Sox play-by-play voice, and color analysts Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley. If Tuesday is any indication, senior producer Dan Aspan will be popping in now and then, but only to deliver a live read or relay some other piece of information.

That’s it. As O’Brien, Remy and Eckersley do their pregame work in the conference room before going upstairs to the studio, no well-wishers, no sponsors, no assistants to the assistant in charge of this or that are allowed in the room. Once the game begins, there will be no Ben Affleck-, Lenny Clarke-type celebrities who just happen to be in the neighborhood. It’s O’Brien, Eckersley and Remy plus the occasional handoff from Aspan.

Despite how sterile this setup sounds, the actual coverage during the game was great. The interactions between Eck, Remy, and O’Brien were sharp and they (mostly) stayed focus on what was happening in the game and with the Red Sox. NESN also added a little din of crowd noise to the audio track to keep from having gaps of complete silence when the announcers were not speaking. It was just the right mix of “normal” in the current, strange times.

Even though the game sounded like a real game, the empty ballpark was jarring to look at. I do not think I want virtual fans added in like FOX is planning to do, but seeing any seats empty at Fenway always looks out of place, let alone all the seats.

With the continuing uncertainty around COVID-19, the protocols in place regarding quarantines, etc… who knows if this whole “season” (of 60 games) will play out. For one night, though, I was happy to listen to Remy, Eck, and Dave call a baseball game.

WWDC Prediction Results and Reactions


It has been quite a few years since I could consider myself a fulltime software developer. It has probably been about the same amount of time since I could justify the cost of spending a week in San Jose to attend something like WWDC. That said, the conference has always interested me, and I was really excited to participate in this year’s entirely virtual version.

Prediction Results

Before I get into some thoughts about the event, let’s go over Elyssa’s and my predictions.

Elyssa’s Predictions

Elyssa predicted that Apple would announce it is donating a substantial sum of money to charities associated with current social movements. Tim Cook addressed these movements, but did not announce any new donations. Elyssa says she gets half a point for this one.

She then predicted that Apple would announce some kind of COVID-19 prediction technology. Apple did not do that, but it did announce hand washing reminders. Elyssa says she gets another half a point.

Elyssa’s last prediction was a new Apple Watch. Apple did not announce any new hardware at all during WWDC, so Elyssa gets zero points for this prediction.

Overall, Elyssa ended up with one point based on her three predictions. Not too bad for someone who does not follow Apple news at all.

My Predictions

The Keynote Will Be a Combination of a “Live,” on Stage, Presentation, and Pre-Recorded Videos That Explain or Demo Feature Details.

I think I got this one, though the “in front of socially distanced people” part in my explanation might lead you to believe otherwise.

Macs will be Transitioning to ARM.

This one was the biggest “lock” prediction one could make, so I am not sure I should get a lot of credit. I’ll have more to say about this transition below.

OS Improvements to Help with Working from Home.

There was a part of the presentation about being at home, but there did not seem to be an emphasis on new features related to working from home. I will have to wait to try the beta to learn if issues like split-screen video conferences have been addressed.

iPadOS Home Screen Improvements

I got this backward. I thought Apple would definitely improve the iPad home screen, but any changes to the iPhone home screen would minor. It turned out to be the other way around. iPhone got more options to display widgets in various places and also got the new ‘app library.” iPad can display some of the new widgets, but the widgets are still pinned to the left side of the screen. iPad is apparently not getting the app library feature.

Items I was hoping for, but that I doubted would happen.

Apple did announce that the first ARM Macs will start shipping in 2020. It did not, however, make major improvements to the Files app (though it did redesign the app, with a better sidebar and smaller icons.) There was no mention of bringing Shortcuts to the Mac (even with the announcement that ARM Macs will be able to run iPad and iOS apps natively.)


Because the most significant changes this year seem to all be related to the Mac, I am going to separate my Mac-related thoughts from everything else.

Everything but the Mac

  • The pre-recorded keynote was excellent. I loved the format and the little bits of humor Apple tried to throw in. Two hours without applause breaks or transitions from people walking on and off stage made the whole thing pretty exhausting to watch, though. I am glad I did not have to liveblog it.
  • I also enjoyed the developer sessions. Having shorter, targeted sessions made it easier for me to watch them when I had availability (instead of always having to block off 45-50 minutes for session, even if it felt like there was only 20 minutes of content.)
  • The ability to add widgets to my iPhone home screen is intriguing. I have been looking at my current home screen and have already identified a few apps that will lose their “Home screen One” status when I move to iOS 14.
  • The changes to Messages look good and helpful. Even just pinning a few key conversations to the top of the message panel will make the app easier to use.
  • iPadOS did not get as many changes as I was hoping for. Specifically, it did not receive changes that would address the few remaining things that I just punt until I am in front of a Mac (e.g., saving five attachments from an email into DevonThink.) I am cautiously optimistic that the design changes (sidebars, context menus, etc.) will result in some quality of life improvements when using the iPad, though. I am pretty sure the new search on iPadOS will be a sneaky, big improvement.
  • Sleep tracking in watchOS 7 is nice. I wonder what the killer hardware feature will be in Apple Watch 6 (and if it will be enough to make me want to upgrade…again.)
  • Even though Shortcuts is not coming to the Mac, information that has come out since the keynote suggests that Shortcuts on iOS and iPadOS got some significant updates. The updates are so good that they are already tempting me to install the iOS 14 betas. I have a few Shortcuts that are time-based automations, and the ability to just have those run in the background without my input would be helpful.
  • Most people seem to be saying the betas are pretty stable. I am tempted, but I have too many major things going on right now to risk something going wrong. I really should wait until at least mid-August to install any betas on my devices. At a minimum, I will see what people say about the next few rounds of betas and how certain apps work with them. It is always tough to balance my desire to use the newest and greatest stuff with the knowledge that I have a metric-butt-ton of stuff to do.

Mac Changes

  • On the hardware side, Mac is transitioning to ARM (or “Apple Silicon” as Apple is currently calling it.) On the software side, macOS is finally moving up to version 11 with macOS Big Sur.
  • The Big Sur design as been polarizing. Mac “traditionalists” seem to dislike it. I like how much it looks like my iPad. The design language used in Big Sur has lead many to speculate that Apple will release a touch screen Mac in the future. I would love for macOS to adopt the iPad’s cursor, but I imagine that it would be even more of a shock for Mac traditionalists. I would not bet against it happening at some point, though.
  • Apple’s ARM chips look like they will be quite fast. GeekBench has said Apple mobile chips have been faster than Intel laptop chips for years, and I am looking forward to seeing them in action. (I would guess Apple already knows their ARM chips will be significantly faster-running macOS than the current generation of Intel chips.)
  • The ability to natively run iPad and iOS apps on an ARM-based Macs has me more excited the more that I think about it. Part of the reason I prefer using an iPad for most of my work is that iOS / iPadOS has more of my favorite apps. If I can end up using those apps on my Mac, that would completely change my analysis.
  • The combination of promised speed, better power management, and the ability to run iPad apps natively, have me drooling over a new Macbook Pro running on Apple Silicon. I really hope the rumors are true, and the first Mac out of the gate running on Apple Silicon is a 13” Pro. I would buy that in a heartbeat. (It also means I will try to hold on to my current, 2017 Macbook Pro w/o Touchbar until a new ARM-based Macbook Pro comes out.)


As someone who has never actually been to WWDC (and likely would not attend in person for quite some time), I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual format. Selfishly, I also enjoyed that my favorite tech writers were also at home, providing even more coverage of the event than normal. I am not saying I hope that WWDC is always virtual, but I would not hate it if it were.

Looking forward to the WWDC Keynote


At 1 pm Eastern on Monday, June 22, 2020, Apple will take the stage for its annual WWDC keynote. There are things going on the Apple world right that I find frustrating, but I still am pretty excited to see what happens at WWDC.

My Predictions

The keynote will be a combination of a “live,” on stage, presentation, and pre-recorded videos that explain or demo feature details.

I think Apple will want to have some overall structure that makes the presentation feel “normal.” This will involve Tim coming out on a stage in front of socially distanced people. There may be other presenters at various points, but I think a lot of the detailed discussions will be in the form of pre-recorded videos. I think this whole thing will have been recorded before 1:00 pm on Monday.

Macs will be transitioning to ARM.

I’m not going out on a limb with this one. It has been widely reported.

OS Improvements to Help with Working from Home.

The past few months of working from home have identified some issues that Apple could fix in software. For example, Apple could fix the problem of most webcams being terrible by making it easy to use your iPhone as an external camera for a video conference. Also, Apple could make it easier to video conference on your iPad while also taking notes in another application.

iPadOS Home Screen Improvements

This one almost made my “hoping for, but doubt it is going to happen” list, and I also hope that it comes to iOS. That said, I think a nice, middle of the road, prediction is that the iPad will get some improvements (widgets, ability to place folders or files on the home screen, etc.) in the upcoming iPadOS revision.

What I am hoping for, but that I doubt will happen:

  • A statement that new ARM Macs will start shipping in 2020. (This feels too early.)
  • Major improvements to the File management experience on iPad. (It’s the major thing that I still really find easier on my Mac.)
  • Shortcuts on the Mac. (Shortcuts is how I do most of my automation now, and Apple adding it to the Mac would mean Apple is invested in continuing to develop it.)

Elyssa’s Predictions

For some added fun, I asked Elyssa if she had any predictions for what is going to get announced during the keynote. Here is what she said:

  1. Apple will announce it is donating a substantial sum of money to charities associated with current movements (e.g., Black Lives Matter), and that it is making a concentrated effort to diversify its leadership.
  2. Apple will announce that they are working on software to help you identify whether you may already have COVID-19 (similar to what may be found in the Oura rings.)
  3. Apple will announce a new Apple Watch that will work with the above-mentioned software.

For someone who does not really follow Apple news (except when I blabber about it to her), I think those predictions are pretty good. Apple has already made a statement about its stance against racism, and WWDC would be a good place to say something further. I also think there is a good chance that Apple will have some software feature in one of its operating systems that relates to COVID-19. I am not sure it will be the Apple Watch, though. I also do not think it is likely Apple will release new Watch hardware in the summer, but it may do so in the fall.



It was about ten years ago that I first signed up for a Linode instance. My goal at the time was to use it to host a new website ( and also be a place that I could do things like play with Ruby development or other programming tasks.

Over time, that little Linode instance grew to support multiple other websites (my father’s dental practice; Elyssa’s photograph business, Kivus & Camera; and, my Disney site, Rope Drop DOT Net). I also wrote a few posts that I am still particularly proud of, namely:

As time went on, however, I started “writing” less and ended up mainly just sharing links. In 2017, I stopped writing at altogether. Also, during that time, my father hired a firm to design his website, and Elyssa moved to a platform specially designed for photography businesses. I would still write occasionally on Rope Drop DOT Net, but not as much as I would like. I would also think about setting up a new site for more general writing.

Unfortunately, my efforts to stand up a new site failed on several occasions. Also, I realized that I no longer wanted to deal with all the security configuration, updates, etc.. associated with running a Linode instance. Instead, I just wanted a place that I could write.

On a recent episode of the Six Colors, Jason Snell explained that he was moving his site to Pressable, a WordPress hosting service provided by Automatic (i.e., the people who make WordPress and Jetpack.) Though Pressable is more expensive than my old Linode instance, it took me about 20 minutes to get this new site set up (instead of the hours it would take via Linode.) Also, I was able to automatically migrate Rope Drop DOT Net over without any issues (well, issues that I have been able to find so far.)

Ultimately, this is an end of an era for me. Once I get moved over (in some form—the site is so old, I wonder what the Pressable people are going to say), I will turn off that Linode instance I have been using for almost a decade. Maybe, at some point, I will decide I want to maintain a server again, but, for now, I just want a place that I can acutally write something again.

A New Place to Write


Every few years I get the urge to start a new place that I can write. I still have Rope Drop DOT Net for my Disney writing, but I have not had a place to write about other things for a number of years. I am hoping this can be that place.