Thoughts on Apple Card

I got the Apple Card about a week ago, and just started using it this weekend. Here are some initial thoughts:

  1. I very much like the security and privacy features Apple Pay and the Apple Card. I try to use Apple Pay whenever I can to take advantage of most of these features, no matter what card I was using.
  2. I very much like the enhancements to the Wallet app on my iPhone to review transactions and spending.
  3. 2% cash back on all Apple Pay purchases seems like a pretty good benefit to me.
  4. 3% back on Apple transactions seems a little stingy, considering that Amazon and Target offer 5% back when you use their branded cards. I would get a much better cash-back rate buying an Apple product on Amazon, using my Amazon.com Visa.
  5. The interest rate offered to me was the lowest that they offer, and it is a between two and three percentage points lower than the other cards I have. I never carry a balance, so it doesn’t mean much to me.
  6. I had a false-alarm fraud alert shortly after I set it up. I made it my default on my Apple account, and a $30 annual subscription fee trigged a fraud alert. I contacted Apple Card support via iMessage, and cleared up the problem.
  7. Buying different things changes the color of the card in the Wallet app, which is amusing. The colors correspond to the spending charts.
  8. I had a lot of trouble adding the card to my Apple Watch. It took lots of fiddling with settings, but, fortunately, I did not have to unpair and repair the Apple Watch to my iPhone.
  9. The titanium card is boring and heavy. I expect to never use it. Its best feature is that my card number is not printed on it.
  10. Some common features are missing: a website, integration with personal finance applications, and joint accounts (or authorized users).

We got back from vacation last night after midnight. Today has been a busy day of unpacking and getting the house, and ourselves, ready for normal life again.

My vacation ends tomorrow. My family had a lot of fun and some relaxing days in the mountains, but boy do I miss WiFi!

Another Baseball Mystery: Why Do Players Seem to Live Longer?

I think the answer to the mystery is found the final paragraph of Nicholas Bakalar’s story:

Over all, there may be another factor contributing to the long lives of players: Major League Baseball has a robust retirement program, regarded as among the most generous in professional sports. Players get substantial pensions even after spending just a few months in the big leagues, and all players qualify for full medical benefits beginning on the first day they join a team.

I am a sucker for any article about baseball that isn’t about trades or the pennant race.

Can Britain’s Top Bookseller Save Barnes & Noble?

David Segal’s article poses the question. I hope the answer is yes.

Barnes & Noble has been sliding toward oblivion for years. Nearly 400 stores have closed since 1997 — there are 627 now operating — and $1 billion in market value has evaporated in the last five years. This week, Elliott Advisors, the private equity firm that owns Waterstones, closed its deal to buy Barnes & Noble for $683 million. Mr. Daunt will move to New York City this month and serve as the new chief executive.

I have lots of fond memories of Barnes & Noble over the years—despite the fact that I liked Borders even better. My wife and kids still like it, so we go to the one closest to us pretty often. It is, in many ways, a sad, pale shadow of its former self. The Nook section is large and empty. It is easier to find toys in there than books. I don’t really understand why they still sell so many DVDs and CDs in the back.

“Frankly, at the moment you want to love Barnes & Noble, but when you leave the store you feel mildly betrayed,” Mr. Daunt said over lunch at a Japanese restaurant near his office in Piccadilly Circus. “Not massively, but mildly. It’s a bit ugly — there’s piles of crap around the place. It all feels a bit unloved, the booksellers look a bit miserable, it’s all a bit run down.

I keep wondering when our local store will shut its doors, though I don’t want it to. I am eager for a turnaround.

Nicolas Cage on his legacy, his philosophy of acting and his metaphorical — and literal — search for the Holy Grail.

I really enjoyed this profile of Nicholas Cage, by David Marchese.

I wanted to know why Cage, Hollywood’s greatest surrealist, whose personal and creative unpredictability has led him to attain near-mythological status in certain corners of the internet, acts in so many movies — 20 in the last two years — and why so few of them make mainstream ripples. (His most recent release: the straightforwardly titled thriller “A Score to Settle.”) But mostly I wanted to know the method behind the seeming madness that informs so many of his performances.

It is a pretty fascinating read, even if, like me, you only have a casual familiarity with Nick Cage’s work.

The best part of vacation packing this year is not having to find a place for a massive stroller in the trunk of our car.

Facebook to Add Its Name to Instagram, WhatsApp

From Alex Health in The Information:

In a big shift, Facebook plans to signal its control of Instagram and WhatsApp by adding its name to both apps, according to three people familiar with the matter. The social network will rebrand the apps to “Instagram from Facebook” and “WhatsApp from Facebook,” the people said.

This is bound to end badly for Facebook. I can think of no one who thinks Facebook is a strong brand, let alone stronger than Instagram or WhatsApp.

iPhone Home Screen

I am trying something new with Apple organization: Three apps in the home row instead of four, and only productivity related apps (and audio apps, which I use all the time) on the first screen. It is no longer organized based solely on what I use most, but what I need to get to the most quickly, when I need it.

Peanut allergies

My wife and I learned today that my two-year-old son has severe peanut allergies. My daughter does too, so at least we know what to do, but it is very unfortunate news. It is a deadly serious condition. There are so many foods that peanut allergy suffers can’t eat—most of which don’t even have peanuts in them, but are processed on equipment that also processes peanuts—that most packaged foods are disallowed. Most candy is unsafe. Hard ice cream, at restaurants and ice cream places, isn’t safe either, because it or the scoops used to scoop it get cross-contaminated with peanuts. Fortunately, we have found some peanut-free sources for foods like chocolate, and can bake our own treats at home. With two peanut-allergy-having kids, I think I’m going to be baking a lot of cakes at home from now on (for every birthday party, ever), and learning how to make things like chocolate candy and maybe even homemade ice cream.

After Decades of Music, Tanglewood Talks

Seeing this article, by Michael Cooper, today, a couple days before I leave on vacation, made me really miss visiting the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts:

For more than 80 years, Tanglewood, the bucolic summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has made the Berkshires a vital destination for classical music.

Now it is getting into the talk business, too.

Listening to classical music, at and after sunset, on Tanglewood’s great lawn is one of my fondest memories. Going to see a lecture there would be fun, too, I guess.

Sleater-Kinney Asked St. Vincent for a Creative Spark. The Trio Blew Up.

From what I have heard of Sleater-Kinney’s new album, “The Center Won’t Hold”, it certainly sounds different than their older stuff. This arcticle, by Melena Rezwik, in the New York Times, provides some context why:

Since its self-titled 1995 debut, Sleater-Kinney has been revered as one of indie rock’s most musically fierce and lyrically sharp bands, cutting a path for passionate musicians who refuse to check their politics or their emotions at the club door. The band’s signature sound — Brownstein and Tucker’s guitars and vocals winding around each other in stinging counterpoint, anchored by Weiss’s deft, thundering drumming — always relied on its precise chemistry. On the eve of its ninth studio album, Sleater-Kinney is now skimmed down to its founding duo, Tucker, 46, and Brownstein, 44.

Sleater-Kinney was a big part of the soundtrack to my 20s and early 30s. They were magnificent, and I am happy they are still making music, even if they are now down a member. I can’t wait for their entire new album to drop on August 16.