RIP Abe Vigoda

I’ll miss Abe Vigoda. Barney Miller was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid, and I remember being excited about the Fish spin-off show too. (And I was bummed that it only lasted one season.) I even remember buying a novel featuring Fish, though I can’t find any trace now that it ever existed, so maybe I’m mis-remembering that.

I also remember, when I was a kid, seeing a doctor about my (mild) kyphosis. He explained the effect of kyphosis to me by telling me that I’d be hunched over “like Abe Vigoda” when I was older. I remember thinking that I really didn’t want to be hunched over like that, but Abe Vigoda seemed like a pretty good guy, so I could probably deal with it.

more WordPress updates

After updating my 1&1 environment from PHP 5.4 to 5.6 this morning, I decided to check for WordPress plugin & theme updates tonight. I had a few plugin updates, plus a surprise theme update. The base theme for this site is Stargazer, from Justin Tadlock. There hasn’t been an update to it for a while. (Which is fine; it’s quite stable and I haven’t had any problems with it.) But I see he released version 2.0 recently, so I went ahead and updated it. As far as I can tell, nothing is broken. Theme updates can sometimes be tricky, especially if you’re updating the base theme for a child theme that you’ve hacked together yourself. But everything looks OK, so far.

I’m way too tired to look into what’s been changed in Stargazer 2.0, but hopefully I can check on that at some point. I haven’t done anything at all with this site’s theme lately, so maybe it’s time to mess around with it a bit!

PHP 5.6

I got an email from 1&1 this morning, telling me that if I didn’t switch from PHP 5.4 to PHP 5.6, I’d be subject to a $7.19 monthly “extended support” charge for using an old version of PHP. Fair enough, I suppose, though I didn’t even realize I was still on PHP 5.4.

I remember at some point in the past either updating it, or trying to update it and failing, but that was probably a long time ago. Maybe that was from 5.2 to 5.4 or something like that.

Either way, this site should now be on PHP 5.6. This post is basically just a test to see if the site still works. I don’t think I have any WordPress plugins that won’t work under 5.6, but I guess I’ll find out soon.

Snow photos

Here are a few photos I took, near the Somerville courthouse.

Main St is pretty well cleared, and traffic is moving. Some businesses are open, but many aren’t. Starbucks, ShopRite, and Central Pizza are all open, and that’s probably all I really need. My car and my parking spot are pretty well clear of snow now, after about two hours total work.

Chris Christie has gone back to New Hampshire, so I guess he thinks his job is done for the day. (And kudos to the Star-Ledger for the brutal headline and snarky article!)

I guess I’m going to have to drive in to work tomorrow, as usual. Hopefully the roads will be reasonably clear. And maybe we’ll at least have a delayed opening.



Blizzard 2016

Well, we got 27.4 inches of snow here in Somerville yesterday, according to the local news. It’s calmed down today, and everybody is digging out. I spent about 30 minutes digging my car out this morning, then another hour just before lunch. I’m actually kind of surprised I lasted that long. I’m still fighting a cold, and I’m still not sure I’d say I was 100% after my hernia surgery three months ago.

So now I’m trying to rest up a bit, watching TV and drinking coffee. (Starbucks is open!) I’m hopeful that I can work from home tomorrow, but we’ll see what they say about that.

Here’s an article on the storm from the NY Times that I’ll probably read later, after my head has stopped throbbing so much.

No More Ziegfeld

I’m really disappointed to hear (from this NY Times article) that the Ziegfeld Theater is closing. I haven’t been there in a while, but it’s a great theater and I’ve seen some great movies there, including Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm.

As this post on Cinema Treasures points out, this leaves only one single-screen movie theater left in Manhattan, the Paris. I’ve seen a few good films there too, including Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, which was quite an experience.

It’s sad to see so few big movie theaters left, since the experience of seeing a good film on a big screen is so much different from seeing it on a smaller screen in a multiplex, or on a TV screen at home.

As much as I appreciate venues like Film Forum or the theaters used by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, they just don’t compare to big old theaters like the Ziegfeld.

NY Times pricing

When I subscribed to the NY Times a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that they had recently dropped their prices. I had gone looking for any articles that might mention when and why they had done that, but didn’t find any. (For some reason, I’m interested in the economics of pricing on digital vs physical goods, like ebooks, music, and newspaper subscriptions. In addition to just wanting to get a good deal for myself.)

There’s an article on Mashable today noting the new pricing, as available in the iOS apps. The article says that it’s an “iOS only offer”, but I know that I saw pretty much the same rates on the web when I subscribed, with the addition of the extra 30% off for the first year. And it seems like the offer showed up in the app only within the last few days, but I know that I saw it in the app at least three weeks ago. And I just checked now, and if I open a new private browsing window in Firefox and look at the Times subscription page, it shows the old tiered rates ($3.75, $5, and $8.75 a week, for phone, tablet, and all-digital tiers).

So, basically, I think the Times is messing around with targeted pricing for different people on different platforms. They probably had data on me that showed me using the iPhone and iPad apps occasionally, and the web frequently, and saw that I’d been looking at the subscription page on and off but never actually subscribing. So they tossed different offers at me until I went ahead and subscribed. Even though I block a lot of tracking stuff with Privacy Badger, I had generally been leaving myself logged in to the NY Times site (and apps), even before I had a paid subscription. So I’m sure they have data on my usage of their site and apps.

And I guess they decided to throw the cheaper all-digital rate at all iOS app users and see what happens. I know that the Times has a lot more paid digital subscribers than most other papers, and they’ve been fairly successful at getting people to pay for their content. It will be interesting to see how this stuff plays out over the next few years.

random stuff

I noticed in my “On This Day” sidebar that I’ve written a lot of blog posts on January 20th. I’m not sure why, but I feel like I should keep up the trend and write one today too.

But I have nothing in particular to write about, so I’ll just dump some random stuff out of my head. Which will probably be helpful to me, but maybe not to anyone else.

First, I have a cold, I think. And, whatever it is, it’s been hanging in there since Christmas. I keep thinking it’s just about gone, then it comes back. I’m quite frequently sick at this time of the year, so I shouldn’t really be surprised. All this ridiculously cold weather this week isn’t helping either, and we’re getting ready for a possibly major snowstorm this weekend. I’d really like to take off for a week or three and go to Florida, or San Diego, or anyplace warm, really.

After several months of not touching any novels or non-fiction books, and reading only short form stuff and comics, I’m back on a long-form book kick. I’m currently reading Thunderer by Felix Gilman and First Things First by Stephen Covey. I’m enjoying the Gilman book enough that it’s putting me in the mood to read more stuff like it. Maybe some China Miéville or Paolo Bacigalupi. (I honestly don’t know enough about either of those guys to know if it actually makes sense to group them together with Gilman, but for some reason, I think it does.)

On an unrelated subject, I stumbled across a great article on MacDrifter today about Drafts. I’m using Drafts a lot now, much more than I used to, but I’m still not really using it to its full potential. Of course, I don’t really use my iPhone or iPad for writing much; I stick with a “real” computer for that. But Drafts is great for some stuff, including quickly dumping notes into Evernote. It’s just faster and easier than opening up the Evernote client itself, which is a great app, but kind of slow to start. Drafts opens quickly and lets you start typing right away.

I’ve also noticed that Things for Mac is on sale for $25 right now. I own the iOS version, which I bought a while back when it was on sale, and I tried the Mac version, but I couldn’t talk myself into using it regularly. I might go ahead and pay for the Mac version, and give it another try. I’m keeping track of stuff largely in Evernote these days, but it might be a good idea to use something more structured for some stuff.

Tomorrow will be my three-year anniversary at SHI. I don’t have too much to say about that, other than that it’s been a pretty stable job, without a lot of drama or stress, and I seem to be doing well there, based on my performance reviews. I’m occasionally tempted to shake things up and find something new and interesting, but for now, I’m content with what I’ve got.

David Bowie

I’m a little surprised at how much David Bowie’s death has affected me. I was always a fan of his, but I guess I took him for granted. The only CD of his that I own is Black Tie White Noise, which is kind of an oddball one. (I might have the first Tin Machine CD too, which is another oddball.)

I’m not going to try to write a eulogy for him; plenty of other people have done a really good job at that. But I’ve come across so many well-written and/or interesting pieces related to him that I thought I’d just post a list of links:

I picked up Nothing Has Changed on iTunes earlier this week, and I’ve been listening to it at work. There’s so much good stuff there. And I’ve been listening to Blackstar too, which is also really good.

Almost done setting up my new PC

I’m just about done with setting up my new PC. It’s close enough to done now that I’ve unplugged the old PC, and moved the new one to my computer desk. (So I can eat breakfast at my kitchen table tomorrow. Yay!)

Quicken 2016 is working (mostly) OK. It was slightly flaky at one point, but seems to have gotten better. At any rate, my checking and investment accounts are all up to date and all my bills are paid. I want to do some thinking about how I’m using Quicken, and what I might want to change, but I haven’t really thought it all through yet. I even thought about giving up on it and doing something entirely different, but I can’t quite bring myself to give up on Quicken yet.

I installed the software for my Canon PIXMA MX870 and that’s working fine. I’m actually pretty impressed with this printer. I bought it in 2010, when Windows 7 was the current OS, and Canon has maintained the software and drivers for it, so it continues to work in Windows 8 and 10. (And in Mac OS X El Capitan too.) And I’ve never had any mechanical issues with it.

I still don’t have Outlook working, so I’m going to want to fix that. But it’s not that big a deal, since I don’t really use Outlook. I have it set to access my GMail account, but I really just use it as a backup, in case something catastrophic happens and Google loses all my old mail, or they delete my account for some reason, or something like that.

And I spent some time cleaning up my drive, getting rid of the SD versions of some TV shows that I had in both HD & SD, in iTunes. So now I’ve got about 200 GB free on my 1 TB drive. (I think I could free up another 100 GB if I really had to, but I should be fine for now.)

Overall, I think the XPS 8900 was a good choice. It’s a pretty standard machine, so I can do some upgrades later if I want to. It’s got a few big fans in it, but it’s very quiet. And it’s faster than the old machine, of course.