Post Pandemic Podcast Economy

In the last couple days the impact of the post COVID-19 economy finally hit home in a way that took me by surprise, but probably shouldn't have: podcast advertising. Advertising spend is down everywhere, but it was kind of fascinating to have this week be the one where I finally connected the dots. Three shows that I listen to regularly were directly impacted in obvious ways.

First Ubuntu Podcast made a special announcement episode explaining that one of their longtime sponsors will no longer be providing editing support so they've created an Ubuntu Podcast Patreon solely for the purpose of funding a professional sound editor. None of the hosts have the time or inclination to do it themselves so this seems totally reasonable. Thankfully, as I hoped and expected the community quickly stepped up to the plate and it looks like they should be covered.'s Rocket podcast was the second one that caught my attention. Historically they've had a fair amount of advertising fluctuation, but two to three ads per episode was the tier they were operating at for most of last year. This week no ads. That said, as I look back over the year so far they've actually only been garnering a single ad per episode for most of 2020. So I'm curious if they will bounce back in June or if this is it for a while.

The really big sign to me was this week's Accidental Tech Podcast. ATP had been a solid three ad per episode podcast powerhouse for it's entire run of 7 plus years. This week a solitary Basecamp ad. And in fact looking back at their feed I see as of April they were only doing two a week- it just didn't cross the threshold of being noticeable to me at the time. So it's very clear why the membership rumblings have been happening in these circles for the last month or so. Podcasting ad spend is clearly drying up.

It's certainly depressing when the real world intrudes on yet another one of my favorite sources of entertainment. The good news is that all three of these podcasts have the backing of communities that are large enough to help keep them going even in the face of economic shifts like the one we're in, and they're unlikely to just go away. I am very curious to see what ATP is going to offer with their as yet unlaunched membership program because that's a completely new direction for them. has had a paid membership program for quite a while. I've yet to sign up, but I feel like what they're offering now (private community Discord, special episodes, member only podcasts) is way more compelling than when they first started out. Change is inevitable and it's not always good, but in this case I look forward to the opportunity to continue to support and learn from some of my favorite podcasts as they work through this challenge.

Not Dithering

I heard that John Gruber and Ben Thompson were collaborating on a new podcast called Dithering, but I couldn't find it in Overcast. Then I did a little more digging and learned that it's a paid 15 minute podcast that drops three times a week for $5 a month or $50 a year. It sounds like they've already got 20 episodes in the feed and around 5,000 subscribers out of the gate- which doesn't surprise me given their online following and the quality of their tech analysis and commentary. With advertising budgets at risk because of the pandemic it makes sense that podcasters like Gruber would explore new revenue streams, and in fact I've noticed that is starting to promote their paid membership program more actively as well.

I have no problem with these efforts because I think quality podcasters should be able to make a living doing what they do. I also feel less motivated to go out of my way to support the podcasts that I listen to when they have sizable followings. I enjoy the podcasts that Gruber and Thompson have done together in the past, but they're both already quite successful and more short conversations for a monthly fee doesn't appeal to me at all. I've got to say that Relay centering their $5 a month membership around a Discord community, a couple member only podcasts, specials, and other perks is a lot more interesting to me now than it was when it first debuted. All things considered I'm a lot more selective about what I'm doing with discretionary spending right now and it's hard for me to get excited about spending money on what has always been a free diversion for me up until this point.

From Tot to Drafts 5

Over the years I've used a variety of different note taking apps on Mac and iOS. On the Mac side NVAlt was probably the first application that I really got on board with. The simplicity and ease of search made it a great environment for collecting my thoughts, gathering information and URLs, and writing down solutions to various tasks that required a few steps on the command line that I could never fully remember.

For notes capture on the iOS side I've mainly used Drafts 4 since it came out and it has served me well. When Drafts 5 came out it looked promising, but I wasn't terribly excited about another iOS software subscription and Drafts 4 continued to work fine for me. I've used 4's text action features at times over the years, but not enough that I needed additional power and functionality.

There was also a real disconnect between my Mac note taking tools and my iOS tools. On the Mac side everything I tried over the years worked via plain text or markdown files (which is great). But that made syncing between macs and iOS challenging and usually involved Dropbox, or a similar third party service. That also increased the chance of file modification conflicts if I was working in my notes app on a couple different macs at the same time. And there was no direct connection between Drafts and my notes archive folder on Dropbox.

Last week John Gruber plugged a very simple and elegant mac text capture app from the Icon Factory called Tot. It's free on the Mac so I downloaded it and gave it a try at work on my work iMac and PowerBook Pro. It synced seamlessly between the two machines and worked well enough that I actively considered whether I would be willing to spend the $20 for the iOS app to finally have a nice integrated solution between platforms.

Thinking about Tot's $20 one time price tag reminded me that Drafts 5 has the same price for a year's worth of Pro functionality. If I was going to spend that amount of money for an app that was kind of similar to Drafts, but with a lot less functionality, maybe I should finally take a look at the latest version. I had never actually tried Drafts 5 on the Mac or iOS so I started investigating and discovered a couple very promising facts:

  1. Basic functionality and syncing is free thanks to iCloud sync!
  2. The Drafts Mac application only requires High Sierra.

So there was really no reason not to try Drafts 5 out this week, and furthermore, that last fact offered a ray of hope for my primary home desktop, a 2009 MacPro desktop which had been running El Capitan until yesterday. Having full notes app integration between all the Apple devices I work on would be a big leap forward.

Back to the Grind

My weight has been on a steady upward trajectory since last fall when I cut back on my bike commuting and took a month off from running while I focused on completing a big garden shed project in our backyard. I got back to running, but at a fairly typical reduced rate during the winter and my eating habits weren't particularly good either. Between those two factors it wasn't enough to change the trend so as of right now my weight is higher than it's been in a long time, possibly even a decade. I've started working on my weight during Lent before, but it's been a few years. It was clear to me that this year I'm going to have get back to monitoring my food intake and increasing my exercise output.
I also started phasing out my beer consumption at the beginning of February with the idea that I would completely abstain during Lent and for perhaps longer.

To monitor my food consumption this time around I decided to try a new iOS app called Calory. It has a very clean interface and offers excellent HealthKit integration and no gross ads in the the free version (unlike MyFitnessPal). I think I'm going to spring for the $16 year long subscription price because it's a good deal and a solid product. It took me a little while to figure out how to incorporate calories burned into the days calorie tracking, but it was a simple toggle in settings and automatically pulls the Healthkit record that my workout app iSmoothRun uses.

I've been using iSmoothRun to track my runs and bike rides for a long time and am generally a fan, although since moving to my iPhone 11 I haven't been able to get it to work properly with my Pebble 2HR smartwatch. This was a bummer, but not unreasonable, I got the watch for a deep discount ~$40 and over three years worth of good use after the company was sold to Fitbit. The HealthKit support in iSmoothRun just works, but indoor runs or bike rides have always been a problem since you can't put the GPS to work. On my first attempt at an indoor ride last night I made the mistake of thinking it would do some basic calorie estimation for me, but I think that it needs heart rate data that my watch can no longer provide. I had to go back and do some futzing to get the correct data into Healthkit and accessible to Calory, but I was satisfied with the outcome once I figured things out.

Overall I'm excited to get back to doing more bike riding again. My running has felt pretty uninspired for a few months1, but my fitness is okay and I'm hoping to get my weight down to the low 180s again in time for Bloomsday. I don't have any expectations of running a very good time by my standards2, but I think a time in the 54 minute range is doable if the next ten weeks of training go well and I'm able to reverse my weight trends.

  1. I think it will improve as I shed some extra baggage and the weather starts to come around.

  2. My best is a 47:26 in 2012 at age 38.

Keyboard Rage

Spent a couple hours frustrating hours trying to repair a broken Enter key1 on a third party iPad keyboard tonight. The iPad in question is predominantly used by my older kids and for whatever reason they didn't let me know when the key came off the scissor mechanism. Instead they continued to use it with the key floating freely on top of the switch, until at some point it fell out and became lost. Needless to say I was irate to discover this by accident at the end of the day while looking over my son's shoulder while he played a game. My kids are hard on computers and have broken laptop keys before2 so it wasn't a surprise that they had broken the keyboard, but the fact that they hadn't let me know and compounded the situation by losing the key in question before I could attempt to fix it really set me off.

Nobody wanted to take the blame3 and so loss of computer privileges for all three until the key was found was my immediate reaction. Everybody went to bed angry, and I stayed up and started looking for the key. Luckily, I had a pretty good idea of where to find it and after about a half hour's worth of disgusting work dredging the crumbs, garbage, and debris from the crevices of the kids' favorite brown chair in our TV area4 I found the key.

I then spent the next hour and half trying to get the key clicked back in place. Even though I haven't had the usual age related issues with fine print and detail vision afflict me yet5 seeing what was going on with the key and scissor mechanism was challenging in the low light of my office. There was a lot of flashlight and phone juggling happening as I fruitlessly tried to get the key to snap into place. Eventually I started taking off a few other keys to make sure that everything was correctly in place with the the scissor mechanism I was working on, to confirm that nothing was broken, but I was still kind of stumped.

It was only after I realized that the Caps Lock key on the keyboard was identical to the Enter key that I was finally able to partially fix things. It turns out that the scissor mechanism under the Enter key was missing two tiny tabs that were supposed to click into the key and hold it in place. Bizarrely there was no evidence that they had ever been there and broken off- the scissor mechanism was smooth on both sides (and it seems highly unlikely that they would both break). The obvious solution was to cannibalize the Caps Lock key mechanism and use it for the Enter key going forward so that's what I did.

  1. It should really be labelled Return in my opinion, but whatever!

  2. No way they're ever getting a Mac with a butterfly key mechanism!

  3. Also not unusual, but an ongoing source of frustration with my kids.

  4. With a brief equally gross intermission between sides of the chair that I spent searching under the cushions of the sofa in that area.

  5. Knock on wood!


It's been like a week and half, so kind of hilarious that it took me this long to realize, but apparently Dave Winer blocked me on Twitter because I voiced my opposition to one of his Democratic Presidential Candidate faves Amy Klobuchar. Here's what I tweeted after he tweeted an article calling her the thinking moderate's electability candidate:

Treats her staff like crap. Highest turnover in the senate during her time in office. Hard no.

And apparently that's what got me blocked. Amazing. I've been following one of those former staffers on Twitter for a few years now, had friendly exchanges about random life things outside politics, and trust their expressed experiences and assessment completely. The high staffing turnover is public information.

In the last week or so Dave's assessment of the debates and presidential race has diverged pretty sharply from my take. Bernie Sanders has taken the lead and he's in a full on Bernie panic. I didn't like Bernie 4 years ago. I thought he was too old then and too much of an outsider to get anything accomplished if elected. Personally I prefer Elizabeth Warren and I loved the way she went right after Bloomberg in the most recent debates. But I think it's pretty clear that a lot of people like Bernie, he has a lot momentum right now, and I absolutely think he's as viable a candidate to defeat Trump as there is.

But Dave is all in on Amy Klobuchar and electability narratives, and this tweet of his from today is a real gem:

Smartest move is this imho.

  1. Sanders, Warren, Biden, Bloomberg, withdraw.

  2. In favor of this ticket: Klobuchar + Buttigieg.

Before South Carolina. Make a sacrifice, compromise, do it for our country.

No brokered convention. We start the campaign against Trump now.

There were a lot of likes, and a lot of dissenting replies, but SlickMagnum's tweet made me laugh the most.

Survive and Advance

I started taking advantage of our ESPN+ subscription before our Richland game last Saturday and downloaded some 30 for 30 basketball documentaries to watch during the trip down to the Tri-Cities. Last Saturday I watched Survive and Advance, the documentary about Jimmy Valvano and the North Carolina State Wolfpack's improbable national championship in 1983. That's probably the single best one, but I felt like I needed to change it up for the next trip so yesterday I watched The Guru of Go, the documentary about Paul Westhead, Loyola Marymount, and Hank Gathers. I stopped watching after the part where Gathers died on the court which is sort of weird because it gets really inspirational shortly after that point1, but I had started the drive with a couple NBA Rookie documentaries, and was ready for a break.

The game itself ended up being straight out of Survive and Advance,a close, back and forth showdown the whole game. We trailed 18-20 after the first quarter, but used some 3/4 court pressure to take control in the second and went into the half up 7. Walla Walla came out firing on all cylinders in the second half and immediately closed the gap to within a basket with some steals and clutching shooting. The fourth quarter was tight the whole way and the Blue Devils had a two point lead with just over a minute to go. Then Zach Fleming hit a super clutch 3 to put us up 1, and we were able to get a stop followed by a McCoy Spink layup at the basket. Then we fouled, they missed the front end of the resulting 1-1, we rebounded, ran the clock down and missed the layup that could have iced the game. With 14 seconds left they came down and tried to get up a three, but were unable to get an open look as time expired.

Now we get a rematch with Chiawana in Kennewick's Toyota Center on Friday at 5:45 pm after they dispatched Mead 84-69 in yesterday's other game.

  1. But then again, I've seen this before so I know how it goes. I did find it kind of horrifying that nobody started immediately giving him chest compressions- they literally circled around and attended to him without really doing anything. Based on some additional articles, I think he did have a pulse initially, but they just didn't react with the urgency we do now. I think his case directly informs modern practices- today all athletic personnel would immediately assume a heart issue, start chest compressions, and have a portable AED available on the floor in seconds.

Garage Door Opener Project

I spent a lot more of today working on installing the new garage door opener1 than I intended, but it's installed and works. Installation was perfectly straight forward, but some details ended up being fiddly. I discovered that I needed to move the existing ceiling bracket forward and take a hack saw to the vertical struts so that probably added an hour to the process. Once I got the rail, belt, and motor fully installed I had to wire up the sensors. Again straightforward, but slow going and fiddly to pound in the supplied wire clips and work in the crowded corners of the garage.

Once I got everything wired up it was time to calibrate the door and set the close and open limits. That went pretty smoothly once I learned the correct button sequence, but it took me a little while to get dialed in. I think I may have damaged the door slightly when the initial closing limit was high and I accidentally torqued down on the mounting point pretty strongly. I'm not completely sure though, the damage may been have present before and I just didn't notice.

After I started fully testing the door I was impressed with how quiet the motor and belt drive were. The speed didn't seem that different from our previous opener even though it was probably a little slower. I also forgot that it came with a battery that provides full operation up to 50 times in the event of a power outage. That's a pretty handy feature that hadn't occurred to me before I started looking at openers- apparently it's required of all openers sold in California.

Tomorrow I'll get all the remotes squared away, set up the external keypad, and start investigating the phone app. I'm looking forward to that feature because I don't want to keep a remote in my car when I'm parking it outside regularly, but I want to be able to open and close the door remotely. The app is also supposed to be able to monitor whether or not the door is open or closed at any given moment. No more wondering if you accidentally forgot to close the garage door when you left for work!

  1. A Genie model that Costco carries, but doesn't seem to be available elsewhere.

NFHS Rules Questionnaire

This morning I got an email requesting that I take part in an NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) Basketball Rules Questionnaire. There were a wide range of different questions with some fairly significant rule changes. Here's a brief summary of the proposed changes that stood out to me and my thoughts on them:

  • 35 second shot clock in all states. Yes, absolutely yes. Washington State has had this in place for over a decade and it's been great. Playing Idaho teams in Idaho is a little annoying because they don't use a shot clock currently, but in fairness almost all the large classification schools there play at a fast pace anyway so it's not a huge issue.

  • Dunking in warmups. This has been stupid forever because teams begin warming up as early as 30 minutes before game time and referees do not take control of the court until the 15 minute mark. So teams with permissive coaches allow their players to dunk prior to the arrival of the officials anyway, and teams with old school coaches that are rules sticklers (thinking of my dad and me when I was younger) don't and are annoyed that the other team gets away with it. I can say with complete confidence that player athleticism has gone up in Spokane over the last 30 years and impressive dunks have become much more commonplace. It's a fun thing for the kids to do, it's entertaining to everyone in the gym, and I think it was made out to be an intimidation/sportsmanship thing that is just not the case today if everyone is allowed to participate. This was also the first year that a Spokane official at a team rules presentation before the season actually came out and flat out said that it was basically cool and fine to dunk in warmups before the officials come out, but once they arrive you will get a technical. So I'm fully on board with legalizing the practice.

  • Foul Shot Bonus Administration There were a bunch of related questions about rule variations on this topic so I have to think there's a lot going on behind the scenes with this one. The main proposal was to switch to a system where team foul totals reset after each quarter, 1 and 1s would be eliminated, and a two shot free throw would be awarded after the 5th team foul.1 I was not for this change because it appears to allow teams to foul more without repercussion, but I'd be curious to hear what NCAA women's coaches think about it. And the more I think about it the more open I am to it if there's a good explanation of the benefits of the switch.

  • Uniform Colors There was at least one question about uniform color and allowing the home team to wear solid colors with the visiting team going to white. Basically switching the longstanding tradition of white for home teams and dark colors for visitors. I'm a traditionalist and don't see any reason to change this one.

  • Gear Color Coordination Rules Asking coaches and officials to worry about which color compressions shorts, tights, sleeves, headbands, undershirts, etc. that players are wearing in addition to their jersey is just a waste of time for everyone involved as long as they're a neutral or team color. This has actually gotten better in the last few years, but there was at least one survey question about making it more restrictive again.

  1. It was unclear to me whether you would shoot free throws on the fifth team foul or the sixth, but NCAA women do it after the fifth foul.

Running Woes

It's been a hard winter for running. Not so much because the conditions have been terrible- overall it's been pretty warm and snow free compared to most winters. I just haven't really had my running mojo since taking a bunch of time off back in the Fall to finish our shed project. My weight is up more than I'd like and I think it will be tough to get it back down to where it was for Bloomsday last year and even then I wasn't at an optimal running weight. My plan is to cut out alcohol through Bloomsday at least, try to be a little more disciplined on how I eat, and increase my weekly exercise. I'm kind of dreading another slowdown in my Bloomsday time this year, but I believe this would be my 10th year running in a row so I should probably stick with it even though I'm going to be unhappy with my time.

All my minor complaints about running form aside, I got in a decent short run today after I got home from work. I didn't pack my gear to run at work because I thought I would probably be at practice, but that's not how it worked out. I ended up going straight home because Sean gave the team a shorter easy practice to recover from yesterday's game. I opted to listen to my Brasshouse Gameday Spotify playlist rather than one of my many podcasts and that helped a lot too. I ran at a faster pace than usual and just felt a little more motivated than I have been lately. I'm not going to run tomorrow, but will probably try to fit in a longer 10K+ run sometime Saturday morning.