Michael Clinton Anderson, 1968 - 2019


A hotel in transition

The following is a review of the Best Western Inn of Sedona (or, beginning in November, the Sky Rock Inn of Sedona) that I posted this morning on TripAdvisor and Google, and which I'm placing here for archival purposes.

This is hard to write. My wife and I have been staying here on every trip to Sedona for the last 15 years or so, but this time we arrived to find a hotel that's undergoing major reconstruction. I booked the room through the Best Western website, which had no indication of the remodeling work being done, and it was extremely disappointing that no effort was made by the hotel to alert us prior to arrival.

Its new owners are disaffiliating with Best Western, and doing a major remodel that will add a bar and restaurant, which will change the character of the hotel. We were told by the front desk staff that Best Western did not favor the changes being made and terminated their contract. I'm not sure I believe that, as I've stayed at other BWs with similar facilities, but that's what we were told.

Remodeling work went on until about 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, and started up again at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. It's obvious that there is little effort being made to maintain the non-remodeled rooms; the torn shower curtain and stained carpet in our room was evidence of the lack of concern. The pool was unavailable (in August!), and temporary construction fencing was everywhere. The "lobby" is currently in an empty guest room, with a pop-up canopy outside. Overall, not the ambience we were hoping for, or that we've experienced on previous visits. The rate, of course, is unchanged, and it really ought to be discounted to compensate for the inconveniences.

It's always been a moderately priced, quiet, well-run lodging with the best views in Sedona under the previous ownership and management, but I'm guessing that with the addition of the bar and restaurant, the quietness will change, and I would be very surprised if the rates don't double to pay for the (in their own words) "multi-million dollar renovation." It may well end up being very nice when it's finished in November, but right now I can't recommend staying there unless you only care about the view, which remains stunning. The rest of the place is a shambles at the moment. If you choose to stay there before it reopens in November with a new name, consider yourself warned.






Farewell to NewsBlur

Well, here we are. Tomorrow, unless I cancel before midnight tonight, I’ll get charged for Feedly Pro. NewsBlur has not had a fully functional Android app for over two months, and there is still no ETA for a resolution (see the back story here and here).

Frankly, I’m surprised. I signed up for a trial of Feedly Pro in desperation a month ago in order to have a way to read RSS feeds on my phone that didn’t make my head hurt. I thought that the NewsBlur team would certainly have a fix by now.

And yet, they don’t.

It’s disappointing.

The good news, I suppose, is that I found an alternative, one with an API that allows for third-party apps. Even if the Feedly app breaks, there will be alternatives. I just wish it wasn’t twice the price.

But frankly, I’ve been waiting far too long for a resolution considering that this is a service I pay for, and at some point, you need to wish them well and cut your losses.

I guess that time is now.

Goodbye, NewsBlur. It was great while it lasted. I hope you fix your problems someday.

The nightmare scenario

It's Wednesday, November 4, 2020.

The Democratic candidate has won the Presidential election by a small margin. Trump and the GOP claim massive fraud, without evidence, and refuse to hand over power. The Democrats take it to court, and it quickly goes to the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

The armed forces, meanwhile, have taken an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

What do they do? Who do they obey?

Who will be the legally constituted authority after Jan. 20, 2021?

NewsBlur update

Since my last post, the new Android developer for NewsBlur has discovered the problem and identified a possible solution:


I tried it, and it and it seems to work. Unfortunately, there are other issues it doesn't fix:


Oh, well. At least the combination of Feedly and the FeedMe app is handling my RSS needs admirably for the time being.

Edit, one week later (2019-05-15): Still no resolution on this issue. I have nine days left to decide, but I think I'm going to stick with Feedly and bid adieu to NewsBlur due to their completely inadequate, hapless, and possibly incompetent response to this issue. Time to move on.

The NewsBlur debacle

I’ve been a loyal and generally satisfied user of NewsBlur ever since Google Reader was killed off. While Google didn’t think a web-based RSS reader was something worth having, not all of us agreed, and NewsBlur was an early beneficiary of that questionable decision. When you live in the 21st century and move from computer to tablet to phone and back, it’s nice having your feeds in the cloud and not tied to a single device.

So for the last several years, I’ve been recommending NewsBlur to anyone who asked about RSS readers, and was generally happy. Then, two months ago, rendering broke in the Android app; all articles were showing a big, undifferentiated black box, a situation only remedied by switching to the dark mode. Dark mode fans are legion, and anyone who uses it regularly wouldn’t notice, but I’m old and prefer black text on a light background to avoid giving myself a headache. I was, therefore, less than thrilled to be forced into using dark mode as a workaround.

Here’s an example of what I mean:


Now, I understand that problems happen, and things don’t always get fixed overnight, but as the weeks dragged on, I was getting more than a little annoyed. This isn’t just an app I use regularly; it’s a service for which I pay an annual subscription fee. After a month, I was wondering about alternatives; after almost two, I was sufficiently irritated to post my annoyance on the support website, after the owner1 posted that if it wasn’t fixed in a week, he’d look into getting another developer. Really? Seven weeks wasn’t long enough already?

Shortly afterward, I said the hell with it, downloaded Feedly, and set up a subscription. It’s been an adjustment; I’m used to things working a certain way, and the UI is sufficiently different from what I was used to that it was initially off-putting until I figured out the flow. After a week, I’m starting to like it; it works well, has fewer little glitches than NewsBlur, and just generally looks more polished and modern. NewsBlur still looks like an iOS 7 app, even on Android. It works (well, until recently), but it isn’t pretty.

The downside is that Feedly Pro is about twice the price of NewsBlur Premium on an annual basis. And I just renewed NewsBlur for another year shortly before the app broke. Ouch.

So this morning, the NewsBlur owner announced that he’d finally hired another Android dev and was hoping the problem would be fixed within the week. Hey, great. Wish he’d done it about five weeks ago. But now I have another decision to make, and that’s whether to stick with NewsBlur, assuming the problem actually gets fixed, or to bite the bullet and migrate permanently to Feedly. I’ve got until May 24 to decide; on that day, they’ll bill my credit card if I don’t cancel. NewsBlur will save me money, but their reputation has just taken a huge hit. It’s been unusable on my phone for two months, and I can’t shake the feeling that if it was the iOS app that broke (i.e., if the owner used the broken app), it would have been fixed a long time ago. I’m very tempted to walk away.

And therein lies a lesson: if you take too long to fix something that’s broken, don’t be surprised when your customers start looking at the competition, and figuring out if keeping their business with you is worth the hassle. Because at the end of the day, your customers have choices, and they don’t have to choose you.

  1. I’m not going to call him the dev in this case; he created the service, but he farms out the app development to others.

Biden jumps in

At long last, Joe Biden has declared his candidacy for the Presidency. On paper, he would seem to be a logical candidate. And yet…

And yet, my gut tells me that he’s on a fool’s errand. Biden will appeal to a certain segment of the electorate, certainly; he will appeal to the segment that is largely older, and remembers a time when we had a broad consensus in this country about what was right and wrong, and our divisions were mainly on issues of policy. Those days, sadly, are gone forever.

We now find ourselves in a reality where right and left no longer talk to each other. We are in a reality where a significant minority of the population is fine with building walls, imprisoning children, suppressing the votes of people they don’t like, and look up admiringly to a brass-plated wannabe strongman. These people didn’t get there on their own. They had help from a network dedicated to propaganda. They had help from an economic system that took their homes, and left the people who sold them the bad loans in the first place largely alone and free to carry on. They had help from cynical, power-seeking politicians who pandered to racial prejudice and told lies about a legally elected President, who placed party above country, and who told them that they would make everything wonderful again, and that their problems were not the fault of the massive corporations that rule their lives, but of the poor brown people who were coming here to find a better way of life, using the classic reactionary tactic of setting worker against worker.

With all of that, you can’t expect a 76-year-old, white, male, business-friendly neoliberal to present much of a compelling case to the people who voted for Trump. You also can’t expect him to be an attractive option to the base of the Democratic Party, which has shifted leftward to embrace far more progressive positions than Biden is comfortable with, such as Medicare For All and the Green New Deal. He’s yesterday’s man, and although yesterday’s world has its attractions, it’s not coming back.

Blog wish list

Since my blog provider had to do an emergency upgrade to the beta version (v5) of their software, there are numerous things that are still in the process of being restored or recreated. Overall I'm pretty happy with the upgrade, but it's definitely still in beta. This is just a handy list for me (and Jason, if he reads this) to keep track of what I'm hoping for.

  1. Archive/Contents page - This is done.
  2. Restore the "About" and other custom pages from v4.
  3. Ability to delete blog posts. - This is done as of 2019-04-19
  4. Preview function for blog posts.
  5. "Save as draft" functionality.
  6. Ability to click on post title and be taken to that post's page, with correct URL showing. - This is done as of 2019-05-06
  7. WYSIWYG editor for blog posts. Yes, Markdown is nice, but I always get something wrong.
  8. Post a link on Twitter when a new blog post is published. Right now I have IFTTT set up to do that, but it's a bit of a kludge and it would be nice to have something more reliable.

And down the road:
Additional themes. I'm happy enough with the default, but choice is always good. Consider this of secondary importance.

To be continued…

Five things I saw before they changed forever

  1. The Berlin Wall before it fell
  2. Yugoslavia before it split apart
  3. The Spruce Goose before it was cut apart and shipped to the PNW
  4. The world before the Internet
  5. Notre Dame avant l'incendie.

"Notre-Dame de Paris en proie aux flammes"

Such were the words of French President Emmanuel Macron today. Part of the shared cultural heritage of all mankind has been destroyed. If this does not make you weep, I do not know what to say to you.