Keep Calm and Mix On

I listen to music while I work. I listen without lyrics. I mostly just consume what the Apple algorithm feeds me.

So, I’m not going to pretend any ownership over this list. It’s really just a “best of Apple music, 2018/19.” For the record, the stock playlists I prefer are: Untitled, Loops, Headspace, Living in the Library and Vibes.

But: at least I’m listening mostly to music from the past decade, and finding rock and r&b tracks that I like. The flavour of this mix is very low key, suitable to my mood when I put it together in February. It doesn’t really fit with the “brief relief from a coronavirus” that we’re going through now, but whatever.

I’ll be honest: no one else listens to these mixes. I make them mostly for myself, as a way to sift through the best things I’ve heard, take note of the artists I liked best, and branch out to their full albums and other work. The raw material for this mix is a solid 200 tracks that caught my eye, and it was fun to cull them down to this highlights list.

  1. james blake feat. rosalía. barefoot in the park. pop, 2019.
  2. nicolas jaar. mi mujer. dub, 2010.
  3. maribou state. turnmills [edit]. downtempo, 2018.
  4. pantha du prince. bohemian forest. techno, 2010.
  5. chet faker. no diggity. r&b, 2012.
  6. calvin harris feat. frank ocean & migos. slide. r&b, 2017.
  7. allan rayman feat. jessie reyez. repeat. r&b, 2017.
  8. art school girlfriend. distance (blank). rock, 2018.
  9. alex lahey. am i doing it right? rock, 2019.
  10. cherry glazerr. daddi. rock, 2019.
  11. two people. something to talk about. trip hop, 2018.
  12. barr brothers. you would have to lose your mind. rock, 2017.
  13. ben howard. nica libres at dusk. rock, 2018.
  14. reuben bidez feat. molly parden. what you really wanted. folk, 2018.
  15. kimya dawson. tire swing. folk, 2006.
  16. wildes. illuminate. rock, 2016.
  17. dusted. all i am. rock, 2018.
  18. bearcubs. do you feel. electronic, 2018.
  19. velvet negroni. crybaby. electronic, 2018.
  20. manila killa & mansionair. wake up call. pop, 2018.
  21. bicep. vale. techno, 2017.
  22. major lazer feat. amber coffman. get free. dancehall, 2012.
  23. floating points. anasickmodular. acid jazz, 2019.
  24. martin nonstatic. innermost structure. ambient, 2017.
  25. orbital. tiny foldable cities [edit]. techno, 2018.
  26. dining rooms. you [quantic soul orchestra version]. acid jazz, 2004.
  27. alex lustig feat. akacia. in the end. pop, 2018.

A Year of Apple Watch

Last January, I bought an Apple Watch series 3. A week later, I bought a second watch.

In between, I’d learned a lesson about trying to buy used goods on Kijiji. I learned from Apple staff that the first one was stolen from an Apple Store… and Apple decides to put the watches that failed waterproofing tests in the store. I wore the watch for a swim within a few hours of buying it… and poof, it was gone.

But I’m quite pleased with the watch. I got it for three reasons: to track/improve my exercise, to reliably receive phone/text notifications, and to keep up with current technology / user interface trends. All of these have proven useful.

Let me talk about the last two first: I appreciate that the watch is less addictive than a phone, and helps you reduce phone use. I’ll go a step further: the watch’s best feature is that the screen is too small. It’s so small that I don’t want to use it for an extended period of time… so I don’t. No facebook, no twitter, no instagram, no addictions. I will happily pay extra to have a device that I don’t want to use much… which I guess is “win-win” for Apple, isn’t it?

I appreciate that it’s better adapted to human social interactions: you can turn your phone ringer off and just rely on vibrations, you can keep your phone in a bag and still get all notifications, and it’s much easier to quickly glance at a text during a meeting without looking like a jerk.

On exercise: I’m primarily a commuter cyclist and swimmer, and to a lesser extent a bit of an omnivore. Tracking all of the types of sports I do was very appealing. I was also attracted by a company that uses the addictive “gamification” approach that usually keeps us glued to our smartphones for good – to actually keep me healthier and happier.

And it’s worked: my calorie goal has risen from 400 active calories per day to 650 over the course of the year, despite a change in work situation removing my reliable cycle commute. The data’s also fascinating; while what’s captured by “Workouts” is only part of my total exercise, it’s neat to see:


Random trivia in these charts:

  • My worst month (March 2017) was the one where I spent two weeks on an urban Mexico vacation. With high heat, no bike, and two kids to manage, I got very, very little exercise. This is one reason why I like camping vacations!
  • The “seasonal” category is mostly skating and cross-country skiing, plus a little snowboarding and canoeing. Now that I live in Ottawa, I even skate to work regularly. I’m a little annoyed that Apple doesn’t track distance or provide maps for skating and skiing, though. And the icon for “skating” is a skateboard, so I’ve started classifying it as “hockey”.
  • In October, a new WatchOS version started autodetecting “walking” workouts for me.
  • The comparison of February 2018 (Toronto) and 2019 (Ottawa) is pretty striking. Winter cycling just wasn’t feasible. (And yes, I did cycle 155km in February in Toronto.) Even walking quickly enough to be classified as “exercise” was tricky on the icy sidewalks.

Return of the Mix

It’s been a while. My daytimes were 80% meetings until last September, when I returned to the coding world. At that point, my job is compatible with listening to (lyrically simple) music… but I’m basically 10 years out-of-date with the scene.

So I’m slowly trying out “music discovery” in the modern age. If you’ve got any good tricks, pass ’em on! Meanwhile, here’s an extended mix — 40 mins. longer than usual — of some of the best stuff I’ve dug up.

As you can see, I’ve made more headway in electronic genres than the others. Lyricless music is definitely the best for my line of work. The slowest tune of the bunch (Loscil) is not a “listen at work” artist, but a different place: we have a sauna in our basement now, and I find slow ambient music is amazing there. Albums I’d had for a while — like Loscil’s Endless Falls disc — suddenly clicked, with the slow drone fitting perfectly with calm breathing rhythms. That said, I can’t yet justify dropping such an introspective track into a mix… so the Loscil track here has a little more tension in it.

Download here, for a few weeks only, or stream from Mixcloud.

David Pritchard – Mix 2017.11 by Drpritch on Mixcloud

In this era of easy streaming music… I feel pretty bad for the artists. If you like these tracks, please buy them individually, or buy a few of the albums. Think of it like a tip jar. The Mixcloud widget will let you buy many tracks from Juno with very little effort, and iTunes or Bandcamp searches can find the rest for you.

  1. eight and a half. go ego. rock, from eight and a half, 2012.
  2. the weeknd. rolling stone. r&b, from thursday, 2011.
  3. robin thicke. everything i can’t have. r&b, from the evolution of robin thicke, 2006.
  4. hypnolove. midnight cruising [mickey moonlight dub]. acid jazz, from future sounds of jazz 12 compilation, 2010.
  5. the cinematic orchestra. everyday. acid jazz, from every day, 2002.
  6. baden powell & vinicius de moraes. canto de ossanha [m.rux edit]. acid jazz, from m.rux – edits & cuts, 2014.
  7. radiohead. identikit. rock, from a moon shaped pool, 2016.
  8. sufjan stevens. drawn to the blood. folk, from carrie & lowell, 2015.
  9. dope lemon. neon lights. rock, from houndstooth ep, 2017.
  10. caribou. your love will set you free. techno, from our love, 2014.
  11. headshotboyz. calypso. dubstep, from project mooncircle 10th anniversary compilation, 2012.
  12. com truise feat. joel ford. declination. synthwave, from wave 1, 2014.
  13. jamie xx. girl. electronic, from in colour, 2015.
  14. daft punk. contact. house, from random access memories, 2013.
  15. emperors new clothes. darklight [underdog version]. downtempo, from kid loco: dj-kicks, 1999.
  16. loscil. drained lake. ambient, from monument builders, 2016.
  17. lapalux. rotted arp. experimental, from ruinism, 2017.
  18. gorillaz. el mañana. downtempo, from demon days, 2005.
  19. yppah. never mess with sunday. downtempo, from ninja tunes xx compilation, 2010.
  20. plaid. scoobs. techno, from peel session ep, 1999.
  21. isolée. floripa. techno, from floripa ep, 2015.
  22. diplo. into the sun. downtempo, from florida, 2000.
  23. afrolicious. a dub for mali. downtempo, from st. germaine-des-prés café 15 compilation, 2013.
  24. the xx. on hold. rock, from i see you, 2017.

A few tips outwards: thanks to Hendrik for reminding that Radiohead is amazing, to Tyson for helping me notice that Sufjan Steven’s new one was back to his old form, to Dave B for an immersion in synthwave, to the Aussie staff at the Only Cafe for playing that Dope Lemon track, to Paul for getting me on to the XX, to Matt T’s friends for pointing me at M.Rux, to Eddy for putting Loscil more firmly on my radar, to Soundcloud for actually making a good “you might like” recommendation, and to David T for giving me a streaming membership.

Passive Portfolio 2016

I haven’t updated in a while; the story gets a little boring after a while. But, as I was asked for advice a few times this year, I think it’s finally time to do another update.

Past editions: 2009, 2010, 2011, 20122013

The last few years have been a little slower: +11% in 2014, +9.6% in 2015 and +6.3% in 2016. The difference is largely due to bonds: 2014 was a boom year and 2016 was a slow year. For me personally, the performance over this period was not a big deal; I bought a house in 2014 and now have a real estate-heavy portfolio.

Performance

Here’s the performance of my portfolio over the past several years, using the latest 2016 country weights. The table below shows the annual returns of each component of the portfolio, giving the “sequence of returns” for each piece.

weight 2007-
2011
annual
average
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Equities
   U.S.A. VTI 33.6% -2% 16% 43% 23% 19% 9%
   Europe / Pacific VEA 21.1% -7% 18% 30% 3% 19% -1%
   Emerging VWO 5.3% 0% 19% 2% 9% 0% 9%
   Canada XIC 15.0% 1% 7% 12% 11% -8% 20%
Subtotal 75% -2.3% 15.2% 28.5% 12.4% 11.8% 8.1%
Fixed income
   Mixed bonds VAB 20% 6% 3% -2% 9% 4% 1%
Subtotal 20% 5.8% 3.0% -1.8% 8.6% 3.6% 1.2%
Cash 5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Total 100% -0.3% 12.0% 21.1% 11.0% 9.6% 6.3%

Same assumptions as usual:

  • Expressed in Canadian dollar terms (i.e., including all currency shift effects and using no currency hedging)
  • Includes all distributions/dividends
  • Rebalanced annually

Cumulative returns:

  • From Jan. 2007 to Dec. 2016: 76.9% (5.9% annually over 10 years)
  • From Jan. 2008 to Dec. 2016: 75.0% (6.4% annually over 9 years)
  • From Jan. 2009 to Dec. 2016: 117.9% (10.2% annually over 8 years)
  • From Jan. 2012 to Dec. 2016: 75.4% (11.9% annually over 5 years)

It’s always good to look at the longer term. While the 5-year performance looks quite good at 11.9% growth per year, as soon as the time window includes a major negative event — like the 2008 crash — the 10-year performance shows a more modest 5.9% growth per year: a more realistic expectation for the long run. It’s also interesting to see the benefits of a mix of stocks and bonds: during the first five years, bonds outperformed stocks and delivered a +6% annual return (+30% over 5 years) while stocks lost value. It’s a little hard to remember now, when bonds have ben so underwhelming recently, but great to see a reminder why a mixed stocks/bonds portfolio is worth while.  (As it happens, I started investing in Jan. 2009, just after the crash, so I haven’t actually yet been through a period where bonds seriously paid off.)

Other Notes

  • Currency exchange: I’m earning income in US dollars this year, and no have a sudden interest in better ways to exchange money. I did my first few Norbert’s gambit recently, and was pleased by the results. I’ll be doing that going forward. For those not willing to make the jump, I did also learn that TD Waterhouse offers a significantly better exchange rate (~1%) when swapping US$25,000 in a single transaction; but that’s still a $250 charge while Norbert’s gambit is closer to $20.
  • I’m still curious to know better strategies for managing a portfolio that includes real estate. I feel vastly overexposed to interest rate risk, not to mention the vagaries of the real estate market these days, and it feels to me that bonds may be a bit redundant when holding real estate. Oddly, I haven’t found anything that treats real estate as part of a normal portfolio.