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Two Weeks with Beats Music

It’s been two weeks since Beats Music launched, and I was a day-one subscriber. I even bought into the “save your name” campaign they were running, and made sure to get the name I wanted.

First things first: the launch was a disaster. Beats Music worked barely and rarely during the first 48 hours. When it did work, it was pretty cool, though. I waited patiently for the opening day growing pains to be taken care of, and haven’t had any problems getting into or using it since then. I’ve spent a good deal of time with Beats Music over the past 14 days, and overall, it’s been a mostly positive experience.

The UI is, for the most part, great. There are some minor annoyances with some of the gestures being a little hard to initiate due to a small area to tap on, but more often than not it works exactly like you’d want it to. The on boarding process is simple, fast, and actually pretty enjoyable. You’re presented with bubbles that have different genres of music in them; one tap means you like that genre, two means you love it, and holding your finger on it for 3 seconds will cut it completely. After you’ve chosen the genres your interested in, you’re presented with a second bubble field of bands. You repeat the process, and that’s it. You’re looking at a screen of music that’s been chosen for you. On first launch, I was amazed at how accurate the selections were. Playlist after playlist of songs that I already knew and loved were presented to me.

I went through, liking and disliking diligently. I made sure to let Beats know how happy I was when they’d given me gold, and how disappointed I was when they gave me Mumford & Sons. This is when things started to fall apart a bit… the big draw of Beats Music is supposed to be the curated playlists that are handled by real, music-loving human beings. That’s all well and good until it starts handing you professionally curated playlists of things that you’ve explicitly stated that you hate.

I’m a rock/metal guy. I like angry, aggressive music. I do not like Belle and Sebastian. I’ve told Beats Music that I do not like Belle and Sebastian by hating all of their albums and all of their songs individually. Still, I’m being handed a playlist entitled “Intro to Belle and Sebastian”. Yes, I’ve hated the playlist. No, it won’t go away. It’s almost like those playlists aren’t refreshing. Is it possible that I was too enthusiastic and have exhausted every recommendation that the brain trust behind all of those curated playlists has for me? That feeling of “wow, this actually works” has been slowly replaced with “wow, this app doesn’t listen to me at all”. That’s a frustrating feeling, and one that flies in the face of their advertising campaign; the more I’ve rated, the worse my suggestions have gotten.

There are only two other negatives regarding Beats Music, and one of them is the lack of a “radio” option. In Spotify, for example, I can start a radio station from anything. Artist, song, album, playlist… literally anything. Beats Music doesn’t do that. I’m assuming they don’t have that feature due to the last complaint I have about the service, and they call it The Sentence.

In theory, The Sentence is amazing… a mad-libs style fill-in-the-blank affair that should be able to give you music to fit any situation or circumstance you find yourself in. In reality, it’s a horribly executed gimmick that really has no use whatsoever. It’s really only good for jokes. Trying to make a playlist based on “punching walls to hardcore” left me skipping through middling punk tracks from the late 70s. After 10 skips (and hates) in a row, I gave up. On the flip side of that, I was able to get “Loose Booty” by Sly & The Family Stone by saying “I’m at the gym & feel like taking my clothes off with the boys to disco.” The Sentence, in its current form, isn’t providing the magic they’re advertising. It’s an incredibly hit or miss option that really doesn’t add anything at all to the overall experience.

I don’t dislike Beats Music, and I haven’t given up on it. There are some issues to work out and some growing pains to get through, and I’m aware of that. I’m not deleting the app from any of my devices just yet. I still think the UI is great, and the audio quality is superb. I love having a library instead of having to rely solely on playlists like I’m forced to do in Spotify. For now though, I have gone back to Spotify. I’m still watching Beats Music intently in the hopes that each update brings it closer to being the service that I hoped it would be.

6 days down

As is customary, I made a silent and half-hearted resolution this year… to blog more and, more importantly, to blog regularly. It’s harder than it sounds.

The main roadblock that I have in keeping up any sort of regular blog is that I doubt myself. No one has less faith in me than I do. I’ll occasionally think to myself a random passing thing that strikes me as being something that I could very easily write about, and I’ll even sit down to do it… then I’ll immediately psych myself out, deciding that I actually don’t have anything to say after all, and that I should probably just play World of Warcraft or something instead.

I’m going to make an attempt to limit the amount that I do that. I’m never going to get better at this unless I actually do it. Self-discipline isn’t exactly what you’d call one of my stronger points! Excuses are just excuses, though, and I’m done with them. I hope. The truth is, I stopped typing for a second a thought about deleting this entire thing. So instead, I’m going to click Publish and let it go. I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be present.

Some Atheists.

Whoa, hot-button topic. Atheism. Religion. The mysteries of the universe. I have to admit, I’m a little nervous, so I’m going to get right to the point here.

There are some atheists out there that piss me right off.

They don’t piss me off because they don’t believe in God and I do, they piss me off because they won’t shut the fuck up about it. I’m not a person that goes around talking about religion or even spirituality, but in the interest of full disclosure, I consider myself to be a Christian. Other Christians piss me off as much as loud-mouthed Atheists do, but that’s an entirely different topic and for now I’d like to stick to the one at hand.

Now. Atheists. I don’t think this applies to all of you, so hear me out. Those of you that — like me — are content to let everyone believe whatever they want because it has zero effect on your life? This isn’t directed at you. This is for those of you that think “Christian” is synonymous with stupid, backwards, or whatever your insult of choice is.

It isn’t.

I believe in God, and I believe in evolution. I don’t think that everything in the Bible should be taken literally, because it’s a book that was written by people and has been rewritten by politicians through the ages to suit their own agendas. I believe in Heaven, and I don’t believe that the entirety of existence was created in 144 hours.

I believe in a higher power; I also believe in science.

So those of you that think those two things are mutually exclusive are wrong. The people who don’t seem to understand that are the ones that are quick to try to prove how much more intelligent they are because they don’t believe in God. How exactly does not believing in something automatically make you not stupid? It doesn’t. There are plenty of people out there that are stupid, stupid atheists. (Yes, I know, there are plenty of stupid Christians as well. Neither here nor there.) I will never meet an atheist and think that it is now my mission to slam Jesus Christ down their throats. Why do some atheists feel like it’s their duty to belittle and degrade people who don’t share their beliefs?

You don’t believe in God? Honestly, I don’t give a shit.

Something that a lot of people miss is that spiritual or not, the definition of a good person doesn’t really vary that much. Are you kind to others? Honest? Trustworthy? Then you’re cool in my book. Why is it that when you find out that someone is a person of faith, you suddenly turn into a smug, look-at-me-I’m-smarter-than-you asshole? I don’t care what you do or don’t believe; that’s your business, and I respect that.

Why can’t that go both ways?

Starting Over. Again.

I’ve had many blogs in some form or another over the course of the past few years, but one thing has stayed irritatingly constant… the stark white background that represents my canvas, and the blinking cursor sitting atop it that represents my not knowing what I want to say.

Are you ready? Here’s a peek into my thought process.

In the small, quiet hours I can think of so many things I want to say — things that I want to tell the entire world! — or at least things I think the world needs to hear. When the moment comes, and I’m sitting in front of that cold, vast void that I’ve declared my own to fill, I come up empty. During my daily life, I’ll think to myself about how I should write a blog post about egg noodles, or how I should write a blog post about not really understanding why any given thing is the way it is.

What can I say? The world and all it holds are mysteries to me.

I’ve often used a blog as a way to vent, too. I took a sick joy in spewing out flesh-eating diatribes against the everyone and everything that I decided in my own (closed and underused) mind was wrong. A little word of advice that I learned the hard way… just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean it’s incorrect. Morals are not binary. It took me more than 30 years to learn that simple lesson, mainly because I’ve been a very judgmental person in the past, which I’m going to blame with a nudge and a wink on being raised a Southern Baptist.

In reality? It was just that I am was scared to death of everything and everyone.
Humans fear what we don’t understand, because… well, we’re hardwired to. The hypothalamus gives us two options when faced with something we don’t get but are sure is going to kill us, and on present day Earth, everything is going to kill something. Take raisins. For us, they’re a great, moderately healthy snack. For dogs, though, they’re poison. For us, yummy dried grapes. For dogs? Yummy kidney failure. Eat this, not that! Oh wait, we’ve been wrong for the past 20 years and you should really be eating that, not this. In the 1940s cigarette ads used doctors to tell you how ridiculously smooth their product was, and that you’d be a damned fool not to smoke. Now we understand a bit more about the fact that cigarettes, much like the air in a heavily populated metropolitan area, will kill you until you are dead, and medical professionals no longer tell you that smoking is the coolest.

You know what this is? A literary leitmotif.

I’m not going to use this blog to complain. I’m not going to use it to talk about things that I don’t like. I am going to use it to talk about things that interest and/or confuse me, which should offer a deep enough well to last for years to come. For now, though, I really just want to thank you for reading. I probably don’t know who you are, but since you’re ready this, I’d certainly like to, especially since you made it this far.

Hi, my name’s Erik. What’s yours?

Excellent post on the state of affairs in North Korea and the inherent value (or lack thereof) in the availability of the Internet. Very well written and thought provoking.

The Geek Whisperer

I’m a bit phobic of of dictators & dictatorships. Near as I can tell, there is no dedicated word for it like geniophobia, “the fear of chins” (no joke). I love to travel and what to see as much of the world as possible, but I run the other direction when dictators are in charge. I’m just not that adventurous.

Google North of the Demilitarized Zone

This brings me to Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt’s recent trip to sunny North Korea, the land of forced labor camps, starvation, near-absolute isolation from the outside world, and apparently unicorns.

Schmidt’s goal seemed to be encouraging the North Korean government to open up Internet access for its people. After his trip he stated:

“We made that alternative very, very clear. Once the internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government…

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I’m going to bed because for some reason the entire internet is boring to me now. This could become a problem.