My 2020 Retrospective

Howdy y’all, Jason here at 2020 year’s end for a look back at some personal highs and lows. The site is called, Jason Journals, ya know. So if you’re curious about a bit of my life beyond the blog, read on. I can’t promise a good read – it’s 2020 after all – but maybe you can relate.


January

Things started off well. I was preparing for my Kyokushin Karate belt test with extra physical conditioning. Tough, but I passed!

Also finally finished adding on a half-bath to the master bedroom, doing new plumbing work under the house for the new sink and custom counter. Nice!

Made a half-joking resolution: eat more Taco Casa. I can say I kept it all year long!

I finished the role-playing game Pokemon Sword on my Switch.

February

I played Octopath Traveler, another RPG, on my Switch. Great one! Still want to finish it…

Tremors about a viral outbreak infiltrating American shores began to shake things up.

March

This is when 2020 went off the rails. It wasn’t all bad though.

Covid-19 became a thing in America. Back then, I never thought it’d still be a thing in December! This, along with other factors, brought a first round of lay-offs, furloughs, and pay-cuts at my job. As of now, I’m still employed there. Thankfully!

Covid also shut down our YMCA and canceled my family’s karate class indefinitely. To this day, we have not been back to karate and are out of practice. Ugh. The Y is open, but at reduced hours; our class was never reinstated.

On the bright side, I finally bought a motorized sit/stand desk for my long cubicle work days. It’s great! Health matters.

Then we installed a new kitchen counter and cabinets in our old house. So much better.

Also, Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed on the Switch. And it’s totally still a thing to play today! The game never ends.

Speaking of animals, we had 5 baby male goats born at this time. Sold them at auction.

April

I worked remotely at home for 4 weeks. To “flatten the curve.” Because covid. I’ve worked in the office proper ever since, fine and dandy. Glad.

Bought a new Android phone, the Moto G Power, and switched away from my Apple iPhone 7. Because I’m a tech-nerd-geek-guy and had gone all-Google several months prior. This didn’t last long though…

May through August

The national news was full of bad stuff. I “socially distanced” from news media and social media: Facebook and Twitter. Since then, I’ve used them sparingly. Twitter is pretty good though since I just follow fun stuff.

I read a LOT of books and wrote several book reviews.

Re-finished playing Final Fantasy VII. Yes, an RPG. On the Switch.

My employer made a second round of lay-offs and other cost cutting measures. I got to keep my job while project work started to dwindle.

In August, our AC broke in one of the worst heat waves. It got up to 92 inside the house. The AC was out for a few days until it was fixed. And it wasn’t cheap!

Summer of 2020 was yuck. We had to mask up and lock down and re-open and wonder if life would ever return to “normal.”

September

I started, finally and for the first time, playing Final Fantasy X! The HD Remaster no less. Yes, on the Switch.

Fall arrived with at least some hope of cooler temps.

October

I took my wife on a 3 day vacay to a Bed & Breakfast for our 19th anniversary. It was time well spent.

My birthday pushed me further into my 40’s. This year, I feel my age more than ever. My body certainly needs more exercise.

I got to hike trails in Caprock Canyons State Park with family on my birthday. Nice!

Here in west Texas, we had a rare super early snow fall in October!

I finished Final Fantasy X and started Ni No Kuni. I love role-playing video games.

November

We had a national presidential election. It was in the news. A lot. I voted early for the first time!

I found a good deal on a like-new iPhone 8 Plus and switched away from Android. Also switched from Google to Apple, like the whole ecosystem. Although I still enjoy my Chromebook.

Thanksgiving arrived, and with it some hope of more joyful times. The holiday season started, which helps uplift the spirit, but it definitely felt more muted and truncated than in years past. Many typical festivities were canceled.

Work at my job continued to be very slow.

This month, my 3 middle kids started playing organized basketball at a local club. They enjoyed it. It helped to offset the lack of karate at the YMCA.

December

After resisting for years, I finally bought AirPods: love them! Also, I got my first Apple Watch (the SE) for Christmas. I don’t practice karate now, but I can at least “close my rings” and stay active. I’ve been jogging a lot more lately! Also hoping for an iPad in 2021.

Season 2 of the Mandalorian surprised and delighted me!

At our home, I finally fixed a broken circuit in the house! Two whole rooms, part of the living room, and our front porch lacked wired power. I had to supplement with extension cords for months.

The fix required I first create a new ceiling opening for attic access. Then as I troubleshot the wiring, I stumbled upon the fix: a loose wire connection in a light fixture/junction box, making the circuit open without tripping the breaker.

Once fixed, I then added new light switches and fixtures and wiring, improving what we had before. Lots of work, but tidy! Truly a bright side during long dark days.

Lastly, for this year’s annual reading challenge, I passed my goal of 12 books with 13 read. Over one book per month average along with many hours playing video games.


Looking forward to 2021

What does the future hold? Don’t know; haven’t been there yet. I do know that worrying won’t make it any better; that’s for sure. And while it seems most people think 2021 will be better than 2020, and I hope along with them, the fact is that 2021 could be worse. But not too much worse, right?

Thinking positively, I’ve got several new RPGs yet to play on my Switch. Escapism! What else? Maybe Stranger Things season 4 and Mandalorian season 3. Fun times ahead. I’m thankful to have such pleasantries and luxuries amidst uncertain and unsteady times.

What are some positive things you are looking forward to next year?


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Apple Watch 30 First Impressions

Hey y’all, I got my first Apple Watch ever for Christmas this year! It’s the SE version, which debuted this past September, in 40mm (the smaller size), Space Gray Aluminum, Black Sport Band, GPS (not cellular). This post is simply a list of my first impressions of the watch during my very first day of using it. I tried to be brief!

For #mobilecomputing, I now have a wearable; it doesn’t get much more mobile than that, eh?


Fit/Feel

  1. The sport band is far more comfortable than I expected. Its smooth and soft, not stiff or sticky.
  2. Though the 40mm seems a bit small for my tastes, I have no problem using it. Bigger would just be nicer.
  3. The overall quality, fit/finish/feel is top notch.

Function/Features

  1. Using the watch – getting into, out of, and switching apps – works well and makes sense to me now that I’ve actually started using it.
  2. The crown as volume knob is as useful and nice as I expected.
  3. The Now Playing app, especially within the workout app, is very handy. Love it.
  4. The speaker is loud and clear.
  5. Text messages, glances, and quick replies are fun, convenient, and cool. Notifications in general are nice.
  6. The number of watch faces and complications is surprisingly robust and almost overwhelming at first. Love the many options. They’re both fun and functional. Love having multiple watch faces for distinct situations.
  7. Love the Reminders app on the watch.
  8. Love email triage.
  9. Voice Memo app sync with phone is great.
  10. Maps navigation is nice and handy.
  11. Love having Apple Music and Podcasts on the watch.
  12. Love doing a workout with Music and Airpods and not having my big iPhone stuffed in my pocket.
  13. Fitness tracking and workouts and activity rings and badges so far are super great and motivating, tons of useful metrics and very customizable.
  14. Month view in calendar app with list view is awesome.
  15. Remote shutter and camera viewfinder work well, not a gimmick!
  16. Raise to wake and tap to wake work very reliably.
  17. Watch performance is smooth, quick, fluid, nice, not choppy or sketchy.
  18. The plethora of apps and options in the Watch app on the iPhone is staggering.
  19. Battery level indicator of Watch and Airpods and Airpods case appear on both watch and iPhone – nice!
  20. Watch is like a remote control for iPhone or iPad.
  21. Love that activity rings from watch appear on iPhone in a widget!
  22. It’s much nicer, and super convenient, talking to my watch instead of my phone for Siri. It seems more natural or fitting. It’s also just way cooler to hear Siri talk back from the watch. I’m using this feature to capture quick reminders.
  23. First try with Apple Pay on watch at Best Buy worked perfectly.
  24. Charge dock with nightstand mode is nice.
  25. Theater mode is nice.
  26. Summary of watch in first 12 hours: nice, healthy, convenient, useful.
  27. Key apps/features I wanna see come to watch: Apple Notes app, FaceTime app with front camera, and video player despite small size.

What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Playing All The Roles

Hey blog buds and fellow web surfers, I hope your holiday season is cheerful. In my time off, I’ve been able to get more work done around the house (project backlog) and also play Nintendo! Fun times of escape going on here. So many good role-playing games! So allow me to explore, expound, and exclaim a bit.


Roles Played

A quick review of RPGs I finished this year. Winter started with Pokemon Sword. Next, Octopath Traveler (this is one I’ve yet to complete). Spring and early Summer were filled with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and reading a bunch of books – so no RPGs then.

But late Summer and Fall were fantastic. I re-finished Final Fantasy VII. Then I finally played and finished, for the first time, Final Fantasy X – HD Remaster.

That’s a lot of RPG goodness!

To see all the RPGs I’ve played to date, go to my Grouvee list.

Role Playing Now

The current RPG I’m playing, which I started this Fall, is none other than Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. In short, I’m around 20 hours into it, and it’s marvelous! I’m SO enjoying every bit of it! And there’s still much great stuff in the game to look forward to. This game deserves its own full blog post!

So that’s 5 RPGs I’ve played this year – lots to like – yet I can’t resist also looking forward to many other RPGs on my backlog – so many good ones, so little time!

Roles To Play

Next on my to-play list is Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. What will be my first Tales game ever, it’s an action-RPG like Ni No Kuni, also with an anime art style. It will be cool to compare the two once I’ve played them.

After that, oh my, it’s hard to choose. I plan to go back at some point and enjoy finishing Octopath Traveler – it’s a great game!

But Square Enix is releasing a new turn-based RPG early next year: Bravely Default II. It looks like I MUST play it! If I don’t, it’ll be one that I wish I hadn’t passed up. So I’d like to grab whatever special edition may be released for it – a physical copy.

There’s also the much loved and lauded Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition action-RPG. It originally came out on the Wii; I’ve never played it! But I have played about 20 hours of Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, so I have an idea of what it’s like. It should be awesome, so I’ve got that on my wishlist too.

Lastly, I might also play one other biggun’ – Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. The title alone is grandiose! It would be my first ever DQ game. Slimes! Yeah, I’ve got to play this one too.

So I guesstimate I have about 330 hours of awesome roles to play in 2021:

  1. Ni No Kuni – 45 hours remaining
  2. Octopath Travler – 25 hours remaining
  3. Tales of Vesperia – 60 hours
  4. Bravely Default II – 60 hours
  5. Xenoblade Chronicles – 70 hours
  6. Dragonquest XI – 70 hours

Yeah, wow! And I’m not really in a hurry. I enjoy immersing in the gameworld, taking on the role of hero, growing characters, discovering secrets, solving puzzles, battling monsters, applying strategy, and usually saving the world from evil catastophe.

By the way, all these games are on Nintendo Switch. And besides the games above that I plan to play in the future, there are more RPG options! For example, I already own Final Fantasy X-2 and Legrand Legacy: Tales of the Fatebounds; I can give those a try. And I’m also interested in Trails of Cold Steel III and Star Renegades.

So anyways, 2021 is looking promising, at least in virtual reality.

What are some things you are looking forward to in the new year? Let me hear it in the comments below!


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Convenience Is AirPods Magic

Hey blogland, I hope you’re doing well. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on AirPods. I’ve been using them for two weeks now and I’m loving them. I had resisted buying them for a few years, but I’m so glad I finally got them – on sale of course.

So I have the gen 2 AirPods without a wireless charging case. Before I bought these, I was using the wired EarPods that came with my iPhone 8 Plus. So those are my immediate comparison. Otherwise, I had used a pair of MPOW wireless over-the-ear headphones for a long time.


The Fit And Feel

The AirPods fit my ears as near perfect as I can tell. Much to my delight, they don’t wiggle loose or fall out, not even when wearing a hoodie or changing my shirt. They’re so small and light! I can wear them for hours in comfort.

The Convenience

To me, the most stand-out trait of AirPods is how easy they are to use. I never have to turn them on or off. I never think about pausing or resuming playback. I just put them in or take them out and they just work. The auto-pause feature when you remove one or both – excellent. (There’s one caveat in my gripe section later on.)

Since they go in my ears instead of over, they do not interfere with glasses or wearing a hat. That’s convenient. Their tiny size in the case fits in my pants’ change pocket! So I take them with me pretty much everywhere I go and use them often. I love having them always at the ready.

AirPods battery life
AirPods battery level indicators for each bud and the case.

The AirPods’ battery-life lasts long enough to watch a feature-length movie with them, no problem. They recharge in the case fast, and the case also charges up quickly. In my heavy usage, I need to charge the case once every 2 days or so.

As for wireless range, they’re surprisingly far reaching. With Bluetooth 5.0 in both my iPhone and the AirPods, I find they go very far, even around walls and through floors. Connection is solid.

The Sound

For Apple Podcasts, they sound terrific. And for Apple Music, they sound very good. YouTubing audio is great. To my ears, they have a bit more bass than the EarPods, and a bit more instrumental separation and “soundstage.”

AirPods get louder than I can stand, exceeding the 80 decibel range. Some ambient noise does filter in since these buds just sit in your ears. But that’s also convenient at times. I’ve used them on a long car ride without any disappointment.

The Smarts

One of my favorite things about my AirPods is how flippin’ reliable and easy it is to talk to Siri. The microphones are so close to my mouth that saying, “Hey, Siri…” works practically 100% of the time. Siri’s voice in my ears sounds excellent, and her response time is immediate.

Siri is so easy to use that I’ve found myself trying out more and more requests. To my surprise and delight, Siri often responds helpfully, even knowing the context of my commands, making it easier to just talk to her. I’m a fan!

A highlight: Siri reads my texts to me, like while driving! My hands stay at 10 and 2, a charming sound plays, quietly pausing my podcast or song, then Siri announces who texted and what he/she said. Love it! This, too, fits in the convenient category.

AirPods Siri reads texts
Siri reads texts to you!

“Live Listen” is sort of an accesibility feature I think. It basically lets you use your iPhone as a remote microphone and the AirPods amplify the low sounds nearby. In testing it, I could hear my cat snoring from another room. It’s like using hearing aids.

Related to this feature, I love the Decibel Meter built into Control Center. It actively shows you the loudness of your audio while listening. You see if it’s too loud or not. This is great! I have Tinnitus and minor hearing loss, so this is a meaningful ability.

AirPods sound meter
I love this decibel meter while listening to audio!

Another great detail: if you lose an AirPod, you can ping it with the Find My app. A beeping sound will play from the AirPod and it will appear on a map to help you locate it.

The Gripes

Besides simply removing an AirPod to auto-pause what’s playing, you can double-tap either earbud to pause. My small gripe is that the force needed is a bit more than I’d like. I’ve had a few times when I didn’t tap hard enough, but I’ve also never had an accidental pause.

The AirPods are small and light so they’re easy to drop. I dropped one in the car while driving and couldn’t retrieve it until I stopped as it slipped below the seat. They’re a bit fiddly to pluck from the case or return them, so you must be careful.

Although sound quality is good across the range, they’re a bit bright for my ears and I’d like more bass. But given their tiny size, I think they sound as good as physics allows.


To wrap it up, all I can say is AirPods are excellent overall. Apple sells a lot of them; they’re very popular for a reason. They’re the real deal.

I gave away my big wireless headphones and quit using any others. AirPods can’t be beat. Unless, of course, they’re AirPods Pro. I just might upgrade to the Pros next year!


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Time For A Watch Upgrade

After years of iterative updates and advancements, Apple’s smartwatch – finally – has won me over. It’s about time! (Pun intended.) Apple Watch seems better than ever now. So my plan is to wrest the Timex Ironman’s grip from my wrist and strap on a wearable computer from Apple. Dumbwatch, “Bye.” Smartwatch, “Hi.”


In the past, I sometimes thought of Apple Watch as superfluous and not ancillary. Sure, it was neat, maybe even nice, but not necessary. Yet Apple has evolved the watch over time, improving features in two main areas: fitness and smartness. So now I see the watch as helpful enough to use in my daily life.

Along with all the advancements, the introduction of the Apple Watch SE at a lower price point in particular compels me to buy further into Apple’s ecosystem. Plus, the adage, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is apt here. The Apple Watch will be an excellent addition to my iPhone and AirPods. The synergy is smart.


For example, the idea that I can simply dial in the volume on my AirPods by rotating the Digital Crown on Apple Watch – it’s a physical volume knob! Love it!

Or, I’m driving down the road with my hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 and can respond to texts hands free with Siri.

Working all day at my sit/stand desk, Apple Watch will remind me – with a tap on my wrist – to get up off my butt and will track my progress away from being sedentary.

Apple Pay, which I like on my iPhone, can be more easily used via Apple Watch. No need to pull the wallet or the phone out at the register.

The Camera Remote feature will let me use the back camera on the iPhone (the better one) to take selfies or group shots using the watch as a viewfinder and as a shutter button!

These examples are small but solid aids to my modern daily life that Apple Watch can bring. And they represent much more.


Being a tech nerd, the smart stuff of Apple Watch is easy for me to gush over. Yet it’s the health and fitness part of the watch that will be truly valuable.

I’ve posted about this before, saying that if Apple Watch grew stronger with overwhelming wellness advancements, then I’d buy the watch. Well it’s smart enough and strong enough now.

Since I have persistent tinnitus and mild hearing loss, the Noise app sounds great to me. It debuted in WatchOS 6. And it gained improvements in WatchOS 7.

The Activty app is now the Fitness app. And Fitness+ launched this week. Close those rings!

The Heart Rate app tracks real-time cardio rhythm and alerts to irregularity. Since I’m over 4 decades old and heart disease runs in my family, this is important.

Reaching my early 40’s, my body is slowly succumbing to years of sedentary office work and natural aging. Slower metabolism, longer recovery times, reduced energy, etc. I think Apple’s fitness tracking will give me vital stats and motivation to stay in good shape.

Okay, I need to burn calories to shed fat off my belly. #thestruggleisreal

Of all that the watch is designed to do, I think the fact that it’s wearable – small, convenient, always with you – is its greatest strength and the epitome of mobile computing, which Apple excels at.

So at long last, the Apple Watch has won me over. My dumb-watch is about to get a serious upgrade. That’s smart.


What About You?

Since I’ll be late to the Apple Watch game, let me ask you about it.

  • What do you like most about your Apple Watch?
  • Is it more about the smart computery stuff, like iMessage notifications, or is it more about the fitness tracking for you?
  • Do you wear a FitBit instead of an Apple Watch? Would you recommend a FitBit with an iPhone for someone looking for health and wellness features?
  • Is Sleep Tracking important to you?
  • Is your wrist sporting a “dumb” watch?
  • Are your wrists…naked!?

Thanks for your feedback below!


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!