more on Microsoft certification

Since this post from earlier this month, I asked my boss about whether or not the company would pay for a cert exam for me, and I got back not just a “yes” but an exam voucher code, and a code for a free MeasureUp practice exam! Which is great, but now I guess I have to take the exam.

I just noticed this post in my “on this day” sidebar, with a nice photo of the three giant books I bought to study for the three cert exams I was going to take for ASP.NET certification, back in 2010. I only ever took the first exam, then I got too busy with work to study for and take the other two.

I feel like I’m in a similar situation now, except that I’m not even going to find time to study for and take the first exam. I used the MeasureUp code, and got access to the practice test for PL-900. It seems to be identical to the MeasureUp test that I previously got for free through ESI. I took it again, and got less than 60% on it, which is definitely not a passing grade. If I want to pass, I think I need to study up on some areas I didn’t do well in, which are basically the areas that I’m not interested in and that aren’t relevant to my job right now. But if I want to pass the test, I guess I need to learn them. Sigh.

Get Back to Work

From Tom Tomorrow, via The Nib: Meet the Old Boss. This is from 2021, but I stumbled across it again today, and thought I’d link to it here, just for yuks. I guess the deluge of “work from home” vs. “return to office” articles that I saw in the news back in 2021 and 2022 has mostly died out. I don’t recall seeing much about it lately, but I’ve been thinking about it, since we just hit the three-year mark on the start of the pandemic WFH period.

I’m still on a hybrid schedule, two days in the office and three days from home, and I hope I get to stay that way. Today was a work from home day, and I had no meetings today and no tech support emergencies, so I actually got a lot done! And I can stop working and go straight into cooking dinner right at 5 PM!

See also: work from wherever, from 2022.


well-being day

I’ve had a few things on my mind this week that I wanted to blog about, but I just haven’t had the time and/or energy. I think I’ve finally gotten to a point now where I can sit down and ruminate a bit. It’s Saturday, and my chores are all done, and I’m not so tired that I need a nap yet.

Last Sunday was the Somerville St. Patrick’s Day parade. A lot of people came out for it. I watched parts of it out of my window, but I didn’t really pay too much attention. I spent most of the day reading comics and watching TV.

And Monday was my birthday. It was definitely a low-key birthday. I got a lot of “happy birthday” messages on Facebook, as usual, but I didn’t do anything to celebrate. It was a normal work day. I’ve realized that I’m now closer to 60 than 50, which is a bit alarming, but I guess it’s OK.

Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, and I took that day off as a “well-being” day. That’s a new thing we have at work this year. We can take two days off as well-being days. There’s a whole different workflow for requesting a well-being day, vs a regular vacation or sick day, for some reason. We’re supposed to use these days for “mental health” or charity/volunteering work. And we have to select which one we’re using it for. I put down “mental health.” I had some ideas about stuff I could do with the day, but most of those got tossed out the window. I got up late. I walked to the mall, ordered a new pair of glasses at LensCrafters, and walked back. That pretty much killed the morning. All I did in the afternoon was watch TV and take a nap. I guess that qualifies as useful to my mental health.

Ordering new glasses turned out to be surprisingly difficult. For the frames, I just asked LensCrafters to get me the same ones I have now. I’m not sure if we found the exact same frames, but they’re close enough. But the salesperson couldn’t figure out how to order my prescription in those frames. It kept coming back as impossible. Now, my new prescription isn’t that different from my previous one. But I guess it was different enough to cause a problem. So, after nearly an hour of futzing around, involving both the salesperson and an optician, we settled on plastic lenses that are cheaper than the ones we were trying to order, which were the same material as I have now. I’m honestly not sure if they’ll be better or worse than my current glasses, but there’s a 30-day guarantee, so I guess I can return them if they’re no good.

I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with my vision lately. I guess I’m still not anywhere near the “legally blind” stage, but I’m definitely having some problems. The next thing to tackle is my hearing. I’m overdue for another visit to the audiologist. I last went in March 2021, and should have gone again in March 2022, but never got around to it. So now it’s two years, and I should really get back there, and see about maybe finally getting a hearing aid.

Another topic I wanted to mention in passing is the third anniversary of the start of the pandemic. My company is still letting us work from home three days a week, which is good, but there’s some talk that they might want to get people to come back into the office more often. I’m honestly having some trouble with the current schedule, mostly because I don’t always have enough energy to deal with commuting and working in a cubicle anymore. By the time I get home after a day in the office, I’m often quite exhausted. I’m not sure how I used to commute into the office five days a week. And I’m not sure if something is wrong with me, or if this is just how I’m supposed to feel at 56 years old.

Anyway, at least I appear to have gotten through the last three years without contracting COVID at any point. (Or, if I did, it was post-vaccination and mild enough that I assumed it was a cold.) I’m still masking up at the grocery store. And I still wear a mask at work, but only when I’m moving around the office. I’m one of only a few folks who still do that. I’ve slacked off a lot with regard to masking when I’m going out to pick up take-out food or coffee. I used to wear a mask all the time for that, but now I’ll skip it sometimes, if I know I’m going into a place that won’t be crowded, and where I know I’ll be in and out quickly. I actually haven’t gotten sick in a while, at least by my standards, so that’s good. (I was a bit sick on Presidents Day, so it’s been almost a month. And I wasn’t that sick, then.)

Reading this post back, it sounds a bit bleak. But I didn’t intend it to sound that way, and I’m actually doing pretty good, all things considered. Maybe I should write another post later, talking about all the cool stuff I’ve been reading, listening to, and watching. Oh, and I have another post to write about Microsoft certification, and probably some other tech stuff, so that’ll be more fun than this one.

Microsoft certification

I’ve been trying to learn a lot of new stuff lately, including Power Platform, which I’ve mentioned a few times recently. And I’ve been thinking about taking the certification exam for that, PL-900. My company has access to something called ESI from Microsoft, which used to allow us to take MS exams for free. Well, I guess I waited too long on the PL-900 exam, since they changed ESI so it now only provides a 50% discount. And the ESI site used to allow us to take MeasureUp practice exams, but now it just shows us simpler Microsoft-provided practice tests. I’ve seen some talk about both of these changes on reddit, here and here.

Well, at 50% off, the test is only $50, which I can, of course, afford. Thirty days of access to the MeasureUp practice exam is $99, though they’ve got a 30% off sale going on right now. That might be worth it, but maybe not. I haven’t tried the new Microsoft practice test yet, though it seems to be less full-featured than the MeasureUp one.

Anyway, my last Microsoft cert exam was in 2010. It’s so hard to keep up with all this stuff. I’ve been busy enough this week that I haven’t gotten back to any of my “spare time” learning work. If I really want to take (and pass) that PL-900 exam, I need to brush up on a few things first.

PDF software and related rabbit holes

The Pathfinder stuff that I’ve been blogging about so much lately sent me down a couple of rabbit holes related to PDF software, so I thought I’d write that up here, for my own reference, if for no other reason.

First rabbit hole: form-fillable PDFs. The Pathfinder character sheet is a PDF file with fields you can fill in. Then you can save it and/or print it out. My initial attempt to fill it out was on my PC, using the software I’ve been using as my default PDF reader for the last few years, Sumatra PDF. Sumatra is a great lightweight PDF reader, but it doesn’t handle PDF forms. To make a long story short, I gave in and installed Acrobat Reader. I’ve been using it as my default PDF reader on my PC for a few weeks now, and I’m still not a fan. After installing it, I figured out that the PDF reader built into Firefox handles PDF forms reasonably well, so I could have skipped Acrobat Reader and just used Firefox, but I guess I’ll keep Reader installed for now.

I also found out that Reader won’t let me fill in a couple of the fields on the character sheet, but Firefox has no problem with them, so that’s weird, and another reason to give up on Reader, maybe.

On the Mac side, I’ve been using PDF Expert as my default PDF reader for several years. I bought a license for it some years back. But it’s now subscription-based, so my license doesn’t let me use the full feature set of the current version. Specifically, it apparently won’t let me edit the character sheet.

Preview on macOS is actually a pretty full-featured PDF viewer, and includes the ability to fill out forms. So I’m thinking about giving up on PDF Expert, since Preview seems to do everything I need.

On the iOS / iPadOS side of things, I’ve been using GoodReader as my PDF viewer for years, and I’m still sticking with it. I paid for it a long time ago, and it still works fine for me. I’ve experimented with some other options, but GoodReader always seems better.

On a related rabbit hole, I bought an Elfquest Humble Bundle today. I’ve been a fan of Elfquest since the original series was published, back in the 80s. I stopped following it at some point in the 90s, when they were publishing a bunch of stuff that wasn’t actually written/drawn by the original creators, Wendy and Richard Pini. I’m aware that, at some point, Dark Horse got the rights to reprint the older stuff, and that they were printing some new stuff too, but I didn’t pick up any of it. So this Humble Bundle was a chance to get DRM-free copies of all the older stuff, and get the newer stuff too. As with all this Humble stuff, I’m not sure when/if I’ll get around to reading any of it. But I have all the PDFs on my hard drive, for whenever I’m ready.

Humble is sometimes weird about the quality and size of the files they distribute. All of the Elfquest files are PDFs. Some of them are reasonably-sized, but there’s one 4 GB file and one 5 GB file. I’m pretty sure that both could be much smaller, so that sent me off down another rabbit hole, trying to figure out a good way to shrink them. Acrobat Reader won’t let you shrink PDFs without subscribing to Acrobat Pro for $20/month, so I’m not doing that. Ditto for PDF Expert on the Mac side. I’d need a subscription to compress a PDF.

Preview on macOS does allow you to compress PDFs, and I ran it on the 4 GB one and that got it down to 400 MB. But the image qualify went down noticeably. So I’ve been looking around at other options. ACBR Comic Book Reader for Windows lets you convert PDFs to CBR/CBZ files and (probably) compress them. But it choked on the 4 GB PDF and wouldn’t open it.

I thought maybe I’d look at PDFpen for Mac. That’s now owned by Nitro. You can buy it for $130, as a one-time purchase, no subscription. That’s not bad, I guess, but I don’t really know if I need it, or if it would do better at compressing the PDF than Preview did. Maybe I’ll download a trial, if I get bored/curious.

Nitro is also included in SetApp, which is a multi-app subscription for the Mac, for $10/month. I’ve thought about getting SetApp before, but there was never enough in it to entice me. I might be tempted, if there was something in there that could replace Evernote for me. And it looks like there might be, though neither option (NotePlan or Ulysses) has a Windows client. I’ve been thinking about getting off Evernote, since I’m not sure how much I trust their new owner. They just laid off more than 100 people. Anyway, the Evernote thing is yet another rabbit hole, and I probably shouldn’t go too far down that one yet. My Evernote subscription renewed in January, so I don’t need to worry about it again this year, really.

Back to the PDF thing: I still haven’t found a good way to compress those giant Elfquest PDFs, but I’m probably not going to try to read them any time soon, so I don’t necessarily have to worry about it right now. (And the need to compress them at all is based on a guess that GoodReader on my iPad would choke on a 4 GB PDF, but maybe it wouldn’t.)

making fun of Dilbert

All the nonsense with Scott Adams (mentioned in my last post) has resulted in a bunch of anti-Dilbert editorial cartoons, of varying funniness. I thought I’d link to a few good ones here.

And The Daily Cartoonist site has a post titled Dancing on Dilbert’s Grave, which includes a few more examples, and some random thoughts about the issue.

I guess I’ve got this all out of my system now, so this should be my last Dilbert-related post.


Every once in a while, I think I need to write a post, commenting on some random internet horribleness. Usually I resist the urge. But sometimes I give in. And there have been a few semi-linked bits of horribleness I tripped over recently, so I’m just going to point a few out.

First, Scott Adams has (finally?) gone a bit too far, apparently. I stopped reading Dilbert a long time ago, and I pretty much gave up on Adams in 2016, when he was supporting you-know-who for president. GoComics still, technically, carries Dilbert, but they posted a tweet today that makes it look like maybe they’ll finally drop it. (Or not. It’s a pretty weak statement.) Maybe it’s time for me to throw out my Dilbert books and toys. I know I have a few of them around here somwhere.

And of course there’s an Elon Musk angle to the Dilbert story. I’d already made my mind up about Musk too, so that doesn’t surprise me. I haven’t totally dropped off of Twitter, but I don’t check it too often these days. Mastodon has mostly replaced Twitter for me, but there are a lot of folks and organizations that are still only on Twitter.

Speaking of Mastodon and Twitter, I stumbled across a reference to the Pinboard guy on Mastodon yesterday. He had dropped off Twitter in 2022, and I hadn’t noticed that he came back this year. I guess that’s mostly because I’m using Twitter less. Anyway, one of his recent tweets is problematic. I really don’t want to wade into that stuff, but, for now, I’m going to keep using Pinboard (and continue being a Harry Potter fan), but I’m not sure how I feel about any of it.

Along those lines, I followed the news about the open letter to the NY Times last week too. I’d really like the Times to course-correct on this stuff, but I haven’t gone as far as cancelling my subscription. Overall, I don’t feel qualified to express too much of an opinion about some of this stuff, but I do feel like some folks are likely on the wrong side of things, even if their intentions are good.

Anyway, all of this horribleness is probably why I’m spending so much of my spare time reading Pathfinder manuals these days. (And, for what it’s worth, Pathfinder seems to have a reputation as a very inclusive RPG. So that’s good…)

yet more Pathfinder

I should probably be tired of blogging about Pathfinder by now, but apparently I’m not. I spent about an hour this morning (or maybe two) working on my character sheet. I’m still figuring things out, like skills and feats and whatnot. It’s kind of frustrating, trying to figure out all the rules, but I guess it’s fun.

I finished reading the Strategy Guide last night. I found it to be very useful. (I posted a short review on Goodreads here.) In my linear read-through of the Core Rulebook, I’m just starting the “feats” chapter, so that puts me about 100 pages in (out of almost 600). I’ll be skimming large parts of the rulebook, but I do want to try to get all the way through it.

My brother hasn’t posted anything to WhatsApp or Discord this week about when we might have our next session (which I guess will be our first actual gaming session), so I guess it’s not happening today. Maybe next Sunday.

I’m a little worried that I’m going to pour a bunch of time and a bit of money into this, and then the actual game is going to fizzle out, and it’ll all have been a waste. This ties into a general theme I’ve been noticing with myself over the last few years, where I spend a bunch of time learning something new (usually programming-related), then never actually put it into practice. It’s usually because I thought I was going to work on a project, then the project fizzles out. Or I just do a bit of setup work on it, then someone else takes it over. Or something like that. I guess there’s something to be said for “learning for learning’s sake,” but there’s a point where I’d like to actually get out there are start tossing fireball spells at orcs, or whatever.

I’ve also been seeking out various tools and resources associated with Pathfinder, as is my wont. (This is another theme: spending too much time making a list of resources, and not much time actually using them…) Here’s a few fun things I’ve stumbled across recently:

  • StartPlaying – This is a platform for bringing players together with “professional GMs.” Prior to finding this, I didn’t know that a “professional GM” was a thing, but I guess I’m not surprised. Putting together an RPG campaign can be a lot of work. And the work of actually GM’ing the sessions can be fun, but it’s generally less fun that being a player. So it’s cool that folks who are good at it can get paid for doing it. If my brother’s Pathfinder campaign fizzles out, maybe I’ll try this, and sink a few bucks into playing a campaign GM’ed by a pro.
  • Dyslexic Character Sheets – I’ve been looking at various alternate character sheets for Pathfinder, some of them web-based and some done as iOS apps. Some include a lot of helpful automation and some include very little. This site was recommended by a couple of folks on Mastodon. It spits out some nice-looking character sheets, but they’re just plain PDFs, not fillable forms. And they’re designed for A4 paper, so that’s also a problem. So I guess I’m still sticking with the official fillable PDFs from Paizo for now.
  • The Pathfinder Humble Bundle that I mentioned in a previous post has been extended by a week. Apparently, it’s been very successful. It’s all second edition stuff, so it doesn’t help me much right now, since my brother is playing first edition. I don’t regret paying for the $5 level though, since the 2E books may come in handy some day. (And I had made my peace with only getting the $5 level, but, now that it’s been extended, I’m thinking about getting the whole $25 bundle, even though I know I don’t need all that extra stuff, and will probably never use any of it…)

Power Platform and Pathfinder

My head is spinning a lot lately, from all the new stuff I’m trying to get up to speed on. I did a full-day App in a Day workshop last Friday, to refresh my memory on how to build canvas apps and model-driven apps for Microsoft Power Platform. I’ve also been working through a lot of the stuff at Microsoft’s Low-Code February site, including the Cloud Skills Challenge, which I completed.

Meanwhile, I also need to try to learn about Dynamics 365 F&O (which isn’t called F&O anymore, but I’m not sure what else to call it). And I started trying to learn Angular a while back, but I keep putting that to the side. My last post about “being overwhelmed by the amount of random stuff I need to learn” was this one from October. Things still haven’t settled down.

And, on the personal side of things, I’m continuing to try to figure out Pathfinder. At this point, I’ve managed to create a character (a half-elf wizard), but really don’t have him fully fleshed out yet. I’ve been reading both the Core Rulebook and the Strategy Guide. And, for some reason, I decided to pick up a hard copy of the Core Rulebook. It’s the “pocket edition,” and the print is too small for me to read comfortably, so it’s mostly useless for me, but I like picking it up and feeling how heavy it is. (Is that weird?) We still haven’t played yet, but we’ve had one organizing session over Zoom (mentioned here), and a second brief session over Discord. I guess we’re going to use a combination of Discord and Roll2o to run the game.

Comixology updates

Comixology has been in the news lately. There was a lengthy article at The Beat a couple of weeks ago, and one at Popverse a couple of days ago. It looks like a bunch of folks there got laid off, and Amazon is probably looking to finish integrating all the Comixology stuff into their Kindle books ecosystem.

I wrote a few blog posts about Comixology about a year ago, when they shut down the separate site, and replaced the old Comixology app with the new one. I was going to say here that I haven’t bought much from Comixology since they made that change, but I checked, and I bought about 30 books in 2022, so I guess that’s not quite true. And I still have more than 200 unread books in my account.

I don’t think that Amazon is going to get out of the digital comics business entirely, so I’m assuming that my current Comixology library is safe. But I am a little worried about whether or not Amazon is really going to continue to support digital comics the way they did when they had a real staff at Comixology, and it was at least semi-independent.

Well, I guess this is the kind of thing that’s not worth worrying too much about, since there’s really nothing I can do to affect it. It’ll be interesting to see what Amazon does with Comixology over the next year, and what else happens in the digital comics market.