Ghost in the Shell

I was looking for something to watch yesterday afternoon, and decided the finally watch the Ghost in the Shell 4K Blu-ray that I bought in 2020. I enjoyed it a lot. I hadn’t seen the original Ghost in the Shell movie in quite some time. And there’s a nice audio commentary on there too, with four folks who had a lot of interesting things to say about the movie.

Sometimes, it seems like I can’t watch or read anything without it pushing me to either buy something else or at least add something to my wishlist. In this case, it motivated me to buy the Blu-ray set for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which was only $12 on Amazon. And to buy a digital copy of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence from Amazon, which was only $4.

I know I’ve seen Innocence before, but I can’t remember when or how. I dug around in my piles of DVDs and Blu-rays, and couldn’t find a copy of it. So maybe I saw it in a theater. I kinda remember liking it, so I wanted to watch it again.

And I really liked SAC when I first watched it, probably on Cartoon Network. I have a couple of DVDs of the second season of that show, and one volume of the first season, but I never bothered buying the box sets or the rest of the DVDs.

Speaking of SAC, I watched the first season of SAC_2045 on Netflix in 2021. The second season is out now, so I want to watch that too. (I had mixed feelings about the first season, but it was good enough that I want to watch the second.)

So overall, watching one movie yesterday has moved me to buy a new Blu-Ray set, a new digital movie, and add a season of a TV show to my Netflix watch list.

first week back

Well, it’s the end of my first week back in the office on the new schedule. Short version: I survived working in the office for three days in a row. Longer version: I don’t like the “everyone is in the office at the same time” deal. It’s too crowded and too loud. If you go back to before the pandemic, the norm was to have meetings in person, in meeting rooms. Now, they’re all on Teams. So everyone is at their desk all day, and a lot of people are in a lot of meetings. So it makes it hard for a programmer to concentrate when I’m hearing bits and pieces of other people’s meetings all day. My AirPods Pro are a necessary tool at this point. I’ve been listening to The Pretenders a lot this week.

Going back to the football part of my previous post: Ugh. The Giants lost to the Cowboys, 40-0. That’s about the worst start they’ve ever had, at least in my memory. The Jets won, but Aaron Rodgers is done for the season. The Eagles won last night, and are now 2-0, so maybe I switch my allegiance to Philly!

And some notes on some tech stuff I’ve been working on: I started trying to learn Jenkins this week. I haven’t gotten too far yet. I keep getting interrupted. Reading up on installing Jenkins send me down a side trip to also consider installing WSL 2 and maybe Docker Desktop for Windows. I got as far as installing WSL 2 on my work desktop, and on my personal Windows 10 desktop and Windows 11 laptop. (I’d been meaning to do that anyway.) But no further. I got caught up in a support issue this afternoon, and never got back to any of my other work.

Next week could be interesting. In addition to having to go into the office Tuesday through Thursday, I might have jury duty starting Friday. I won’t know for sure on that until Thursday night. I could actually use a break from work, so I wouldn’t mind it if I get put on a jury and can miss a few days of work…

Ten years of losing it

I was taking a break this morning and updating my WordPress install (as one does), and noticed a couple of posts in my “on this day” sidebar: Losing It and Five years of losing it. So, if my math is right, that means it’s been about ten years since I started trying to lose weight.

I started out (in 2013) at around 230 pounds. And, as of five years ago, I had hit 135. Somewhere during 2020, I started going back up again, and I’m now around 155. I’ve been trying to stop going up and maybe course-correct to get myself back down to 150. And then I want to see if I can stay there. I think that would be a nice healthy weight.

But I’ve been having some trouble with discipline. I’ve been snacking a lot, often on stuff that I know has more calories than I want to acknowledge. (For instance, the nice peanut butter cookies from the coffee shop across the street from my apartment…)

I may continue to have trouble with snacking, given that there’s a fancy French bakery opening up on just downstairs from my apartment soon. But maybe being back in the office three days a week will help me out. There’s no good coffee shop or bakery near enough to the office to tempt me, so my afternoon snack when I’m in the office is usually just an office coffee and a granola bar.

Well, either way, here’s my weight graph over the last ten years. If nothing else, I’ve stayed consistent about weighing myself every day and recording all of my meals and snacks.

a graph of my weight over the last ten years
a graph of my weight over the last ten years

back to the office (more often) and other autumn stuff

Next week, we go from two days a week in the office to three days. The old way was that half the employees came in on Mon/Wed and the other half on Tue/Thu. (I was in the Tue/Thu group.) The new plan is for everyone to come in Tue/Wed/Thu, with Monday and Friday being work from home days for everyone.

I’m not looking forward to it. I think I get a lot more work done from home, and I’m a lot more comfortable. In the office, even with only half the folks there, it can get pretty noisy, since almost all of our meetings are on Teams now. I generally need to keep my AirPods in with some music playing to drown out everyone else’s Teams calls and concentrate on my own work. And I’m not a big fan of driving 20 minutes each way just to sit in a cubicle for eight hours. I’ve probably made these complaints on this blog already at some point, but it always makes me feel a little better to vent about it.

I’m also a little worried about my own stamina. I’ve been finding that my in-office days are kinda exhausting, sometimes. Maybe I have some kind of medical problem, or maybe I’m just getting too old for this stuff. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see if I can manage three days in a row or not.

NFL

On a different subject, today is the first Sunday of the NFL season. So that’s cool. The Giants are on the Sunday night game and the Jets are on Monday night, so there are no local afternoon games. I’m pretty sure I’ll turn on whatever games are on, and just let them play in the background today. It’s a rainy day and I don’t have much else to do.

I spent a little time this morning trying to figure out what NFL-related content I can watch on my streaming services this season. I can still watch NFL Matchup on ESPN+, it seems. And NFL Primetime too. Apparently, Inside the NFL has moved from Paramount+ to the CW, which is a bit weird. I guess I can watch that on my TiVo then, if I can figure out when it airs. And I guess I can watch PFT Live on Peacock, if I need more football news.

I’ve been getting into sports enough recently that I’ve been flirting with the idea of signing up for cable again, or one of the cable-like streaming services that includes ESPN. But any of those would cost me way too much money, and the prices are going up on some of them soon too. So I’m trying to stick with just what I have now. That means I can’t watch stuff like the US Open men’s final today, which is only on ESPN, but I guess I can live with that.

another position change

I don’t think I wrote a post specifically about my last position change at work, from back in October 2022, but I guess I hinted at it in this post. At that time, I went from being a “Senior Application Developer” to an “IT Solutions Manager,” with three direct reports. And those folks were CRM developers, so I had to start learning CRM.

That all went reasonably well, I think, but there have been a lot of changes recently, and one of those is that they don’t want managers with only a few direct reports. So they’re taking all the programmers reporting to me, and those reporting to a couple of other senior folks, and putting them all under one manager, who will now have about a dozen direct reports. So now I’m back to not being a manager, and I have a new title: “Sr. Advanced Applications Developer – Lead”. Kind of a weird title, but it’s fine, I guess.

I updated my LinkedIn profile. I’m wondering if the nine-month stint as a manager looks bad. The change was only done because of a desire to have fewer managers with more reports per person, not because I did anything wrong. But I could see a potential employer wondering why the position only lasted eight months. Oh well. I’m not looking for a new job right now, so there’s no need to worry about it yet.

Meanwhile, I see that back in that October post, I was talking about new stuff I was learning for work. I talked about Razor Pages a bit. I had planned on doing some other stuff with Razor Pages, but that didn’t get very far. I had a specific project I wanted to do that way, but it was decided that we should use Angular for it, since that’s our standard for front-end stuff, apparently. I started learning about it (and mentioned it here), but I haven’t gotten far, and the project I was going to need it for has been put on indefinite hold.

Today, I spent some time trying to learn about Sumo Logic, which is going to replace Splunk for us. I’m a little annoyed about that, since I’ve managed to learn a good bit about Splunk, and I have a bunch of saved queries in it and notes on how to extract stuff I need. So now I need to relearn all of that, in a new system. Sumo Logic looks like a pretty good system, honestly, but learning new stuff all the time gets tiring as I get older. Sometimes, I just want the world to slow down a bit and let me catch up.

And one more semi-related subject: I noticed today that, in Outlook, the old interface for managing tasks is gone, and the Microsoft To Do interface is the only way to access tasks now. I’m not fond of that interface, but I guess I’m stuck with it now. (It might be possible to turn the old tasks stuff back on, but I’m guessing that it’ll eventually go away completely, so I might as well get used to To Do.) I’ve blogged about my many troubles with task management at work several times, most recently here, I think. My current system is to use Planner for long-term reminders (since Outlook items get deleted after a year) and now, I guess, To Do for short term stuff. That’s not great, but it’s the best I can do in our environment.

I’m going end this post with a link to a comic strip I included back in that October post. Still true.

I’m a baseball person now, I guess.

I’ve been watching some MLB baseball this year, off and on. Not much, though, until fairly recently. I think that a combination of the writers/actors strikes killing the late night shows, plus just a need to watch something kinda slow and calm and with (for me) low stakes has led me to watching more and more baseball. Until a couple of weeks ago, I could only watch what was on ESPN+ or one of the other streaming services I subscribe to. But I’ve now gone all-in and subscribed to MLB.TV.

Since the season is half-over, the price was half-off, around $50. For that, I can watch basically every MLB game except for Mets and Yankees games, which are blacked out. I think that, for a normal fan in NJ, not getting the Mets and Yankees games might be a pain, but I don’t really care. I’ll watch whichever game has the most calming announcers.

I’ve been watching a lot of Phillies games, since they’re almost local, and at least in the same time zone as me. I also like to watch San Diego Padres games, but since they’re on the west coast, a lot of their games are on after my bedtime. (And of course my reason for liking the Padres is mostly about their proximity to the San Diego convention center, and hence to SDCC.)

In theory, I can watch Somerset Patriots games with the subscription too, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I haven’t been to a Patriots game since before the pandemic. I’d like to start going to them again, but it never seems to work out. Either it’s too hot, or it’s raining, or I’m not feeling up to it, or whatever.

I’ve also been enjoying tennis, which is even better than baseball for calming my nerves, but there’s not much of it on TV. I enjoyed watching a lot of Wimbledon on ESPN+, and I’m looking forward to the US Open, which should start at the end of this month.

In the past, I think I would have been embarrassed to admit any of this, but I’m an old man now, and if I want to sit in front of the TV watching baseball until I nod off, that’s a perfectly respectable thing to do, right?

still dithering on Obsidian and Evernote

Well, I’m still dithering back and forth on whether or not to give up on Evernote. I guess that’s a solid month of dithering now. I’m fairly certain, at least, that if I do give up on Evernote, I’m most likely to migrate to Obsidian.

I’ve been doing a lot of experimentation with Obsidian. And I’ve done a lot of exports from Evernote with Yarle, trying to find the right settings for the smoothest migration. I think now might be a good time to write up some notes on all that.

I’ve got a few issues with the simple fact that Obsidian’s files are plain-text Markdown, while Evernote’s are rich text. Yarle does a good job of converting most of the rich-text stuff to equivalent Markdown, assuming the formatting isn’t too fancy. But I’ve hit on a couple of gotchas. The biggest is that I frequently use pound signs (#) is my notes for things like comic book issue runs, like “Spider-Man #1-6”. That’s fine in Evernote, but Obsidian interprets the “#1-6” as a tag named “1-6”. So I’d have to¬† clean a bunch of that up, either before or after the export. I’d either have to remove the pound signs, or escape them with a backslash.

I’ve also found that Yarle doesn’t always get cross-notebook links right. So I’d have a bunch of those to clean up (unless I can figure out why Yarle is doing that, and fix it at the source). And Obsidian doesn’t see a link that doesn’t go anywhere as an error; it’s really more of a feature. When you click a link that doesn’t point to an exiting file, Obsidian goes ahead and creates the file. So there’s no way to get a good list of all the broken links.

On the plus side, I think I’ve figured out a workable way to include my note reminders in the export as Dataview inline fields, which I can then summarize with a Dataview query. I’m not sure if that’s what I’d want to do long-term, but it would at least allow me to have a list of the notes with reminders on them, so I can go from there.

Searching for text in images isn’t a built-in feature with Obsidian, but you can get it with the Omnisearch plugin, paired with the Text Extractor plugin. In my experiments, it’s not nearly as good as Evernote’s OCR and image search, but it’s something.

Overall, I’m now at a point where I feel like Obsidian would be workable for me, but there would be some trade-offs, compared to Evernote. If Evernote truly seemed to be circling the drain, I’d go ahead and jump ship. But, while there’s been a lot of negative talk about Evernote recently, they honestly seem to be doing fine, as far as I can see. I haven’t had any hiccups with the client software recently, on Mac, Windows, or iOS. And I haven’t had any sync problems either. So it’s hard to talk myself into dropping something that’s working reasonably well for me.

wellness day

I’m taking today off from work, as a “wellness day.” (Insert eye roll here.) Wellness days are a new thing at work. We get two of them each year. They’re just like regular PTO days, except there’s a whole separate workflow to request them, and you’re supposed to use them to work on… your mental health, or something like that. I don’t understand these things. But I’m grateful for the two extra vacation days, I guess.

San Diego Comic Con is this weekend, and once again, I’m not there. I thought I’d maybe spend some time today looking at the news coming out of the con, and I have, but there’s not much of interest to me. Due to the writers and actors strikes, a number of panels and appearances have been cancelled. I guess that actually means that there’s more room for actual comics stuff at the con, so that’s cool, but honestly I’m not really following comics news right now either.

I picked up a few interesting bits from browsing the #SDCC tag at Mastodon, including learning that Phil Foglio broke his foot. (Which reminds me: I have a bunch of Girl Genius comics in PDF format I bought in 2020 that I still need to read…)

I started the day with a mental list of things I might like to do today, and of course I’ve done almost none of them. I did do a few semi-responsible things, like finally make an appointment for an overdue oil change, and clean up some stuff in Evernote, and stuff like that.

I also read a few chapters in The Shadow Rising, the fourth Wheel of Time book. I seem to be reading this one more slowly than I did the first three. I’m still really enjoying it, but I’ve been choosing to do other stuff on weekends more often, so I’m usually only getting through one or two chapters at a time, rather than reading 10 or 20 over the weekends. According to Wikipedia, it’s the longest book in the series, so I guess I’m going to be working on it for a while, maybe the rest of the summer.

 

WordPress backlinks, self-pings, and more

My WordPress install has mostly been on auto-pilot lately. But a few things have cropped up recently that have got me looking at it again.

First is a minor issue that I’ve been meaning to look at for a while. My site used to do “self pingbacks” but those stopped working a while back. A self pingback is essentially a backlink within the blog, so if you write a new post (A) and link to an old post (B), then that old post (B) shows the pingback from post (A).

I’ve been thinking about these recently, since both Evernote and Obsidian support backlinks within your notes. Evernote added the functionality earlier this year. In Obsidian, I’m not sure when it was added, but it’s available in a core plugin. I find it useful, both in note-taking and on the blog. So I put a little effort into trying to get it working again today.

It’s not easy to track down information on this subject. If you search for “WordPress self pingbacks,” you’ll mostly get info on how to stop them rather than how to fix them. I guess a lot of people don’t like them. And if you search for “WordPress backlinks,” that mostly gets you SEO stuff about how to get other people to link to your blog and drive traffic to it. In blog terms, “backlinks” usually refer to links to your blog from other blogs, not from your own blog. So that’s mostly useless. My best guess at this point is that either my host (IONOS) is blocking them, or my current theme doesn’t support them. It seems like most people aren’t too enthusiastic about them.

So looking for alternatives, I thought about turning on the related posts functionality in Jetpack. That might not always surface back-linked posts, but it would be a good start. Well, long story short, I can turn that on in Jetpack, but then it doesn’t stick. Not sure if that’s something simple, or some bigger issue. (There are other plugins that can do related posts, but I haven’t tried playing around with any of them yet.)

That all led me down the path of thinking about what I’m doing with Jetpack, vs. what I’m doing with my install on IONOS, and whether or not it was time to switch to a managed site. Every time in the past that I’d looked at managed sites, they were more expensive than just doing my own thing on IONOS. And, in some cases, offered less flexibility.

In theory, I could switch over to my host’s official WordPress hosting, rather than my current generic hosting, and maybe that would get me something. I’m not sure though. Or, I could give up and switch to WordPress.com, which would certainly simplify things, but I’d be giving up some stuff too. Sigh. I guess I’ll stick with what I’ve got for a while longer. It’s mostly working the way I want it to.

Outwitted by The New Yorker

In a moment of weakness, I signed up for a one year subscription to The New Yorker, just about a year ago. I really don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve read maybe the first two issues of the subscription, and the rest are piled up on a chair. I guess I’ve used the subscription to read some online articles too, but I don’t think I’ve read that many, to be honest.

I expected the subscription to end on its own, since I used a virtual credit card number for it. But I’ve been outwitted. Apparently, the automatic updater service that’s used by companies to keep your normal credit card details up to date also works on virtual card numbers now. So my old trick of creating a virtual card number that expires in a month doesn’t work anymore. It just kind of rolls over to my regular card when the virtual one expires, apparently. I guess I need to go back to paying for subscriptions by hard-copy check. (Though maybe they have a way around that too.)

I probably would have caught this anyway, if I’d seen the renewal notice they sent me back in April. But all of my New Yorker emails are automatically routed to my “read/review” folder, and I’m just about two years behind in reading those emails. (Which is another reason why I probably don’t need a subscription to The New Yorker right now…)

Well, anyway, I’ve now paid $130 for another year, and I have a reminder set up in Evernote to ping me in April of 2024, so hopefully I can remember to double-check it then. I’ve already gone into my account screen and set it to not auto-renew, but they might try some shenanigans when it gets closer to the renewal date.