Terry Pratchett

From The Guardian:

The unfinished books of Sir Terry Pratchett have been destroyed by a steamroller, following the late fantasy novelist’s wishes. Pratchett’s hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the author’s life and work.

I just finished reading Equal Rites, one of the earlier Discworld novels. I was a bit of a latecomer to Pratchett, having read Mort back in the late nineties, and a couple of other books here and there, but not really getting organized about it until maybe last year. I’ve now read the first four books, and will likely be continuing through them in (something resembling) the order in which they were published. There are enough of them that it’ll be years before I run out of Discworld books.

Voyager Golden Record

I was just watching a documentary on PBS about Voyager, and the bit about the golden record that was placed on Voyager got me thinking. I wondered if the audio from that record was available online somewhere. Well, it turns out that someone just did a Kickstarter to produce a fancy new version of the record. I really don’t want the fancy $100 box set, but maybe I’ll pop for the $15 digital download via Bandcamp.

It’s Voyager’s fortieth anniversary, hence the new documentary and the record Kickstarter. Also, there’s an article in The New Yorker about the record that looks interesting (though I haven’t read it yet). And, now that I’m looking, I see that there’s a slideshow article about Voyager’s 40th anniversary at The Atlantic site, and a recent article from the NY Times too.

I need to set up my TiVo to record the next showing of the PBS documentary, since I came in to it late, and I’m not going to stay up until 11pm tonight to watch the rest of it. So maybe I can watch the whole thing over the weekend.

total solar eclipse

I didn’t do anything really special for yesterday’s total solar eclipse, but I did get outside and take a quick look at it (using a pair of glasses I got from a friend). NASA has a good website up about the eclipse. And they have a nice photo group on Flickr, with user-submitted photos and their own photos.

I also like the idea of listening to some eclipse-related music. Mogwai’s new album, Every Country’s Sun, seems to be vaguely eclipse-related, based on the cover art. (But the full album isn’t out yet.) And Motion Sickness of Time Travel have released a track called Totality, which is obviously eclipse-inspired.

And I watched about half of the NOVA episode on the eclipse last night. (I would have watched the whole thing, but it got pushed back due to Trump’s speech, so it ran past my bedtime.) (Yes, I’m old, and I go to bed at 10pm.)

I feel like I probably would have been a lot more into this thing if it happened ten or fifteen years ago, when I was younger and more energetic (and could stay awake past 10pm). Maybe I would even have traveled somewhere in the path of totality and really had some fun.

photos from NYC today

I went into NYC today and took a handful of random photos. I decided to do something I haven’t done in a while: upload them to Flickr and create an album.

I hit a number of snags with this. First, I discovered that, when you edit photos in iOS, the original photo rather than the edited one gets copied to the Photos app on the Mac when you sync. That’s apparently the expected behavior now, and is described in a support note from Apple. I’d taken and edited the photos with Camera+, but I was planning on uploading them to Flickr from my Mac. But I guess I can’t do that, since I don’t have the edited photos.

So I tried uploading them to Flickr from the phone. I first tried that from the photos app on the phone. I thought that didn’t work, so I tried again, from the Flickr app itself. Well, I guess it worked both times, since I would up with two copies of each photo in Flickr. I managed to delete the duplicates and create an album, back on my Mac, using the Flickr web site.

So, job done, eventually. Sigh. Technology is getting too complicated for me!

(The photos aren’t anything special, by the way. Just a handful of shots from the Met and MoMA, taken only to amuse myself.)


untangling 9000 cables

I’ve been spending some time recently working through a backlog of unread bookmarks on my Pinboard account. I don’t think I ever intended to use Pinboard as a place to stash a giant slush pile of “read it later” links, but at some point, it turned into that.

One of the articles I read today is this one, about CERN’s effort to identify and disconnect 9000 obsolete cables. That seemed somewhat apropos, though I’m not sure if I have quite that many unread links in Pinboard (though it kind of feels that way). I also read an article about Marie Kondo, which also seemed apropos. I feel like she would want me to discard any links in my Pinboard account that don’t bring me joy. (And the Kondo article I read isn’t the NY Times one I linked here, but now I can’t find the one I read…)

I did indeed discard a few links, but not that many. I’ve been thinking about what I can do to clean things up some more and maybe get some good workflows figured out, between Pinboard, Instapaper, and Evernote. I found this article from Diana Kimball interesting:

The Bookmark represents what we wish for. It’s the earliest indicator of intention, and the most vulnerable; by definition, the act of saving something for later means that whatever we hope for hasn’t happened yet. Bookmarks are placeholders for the future. By thumbing through them, we can start to see what might happen next.

That quote above is quite right. Today, I came across bookmarks about learning a new language (Portuguese or Latin?), 52 places to go in 2017 (Botswana!), and a whole bunch of bookmarks on interesting programming languages and libraries (very few of which I’ve actually followed up on). So it’s definitely an indication of intention, though often it’s purely aspirational intention.

She does a pretty good job of figuring out what differentiates services like Pinboard, Instapaper, and Evernote. And here’s another key observation:

But the most important feature of Read Later tools has never been the resulting queue; it’s the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, once you’ve saved the thing you stopped scrolling for, you’re free to move on.

I guess there is some peace of mind, though then there’s always that nagging feeling that I need to get back to the things I’ve “saved for later.” Oh well.

Getting back to the practical stuff, I’m currently using Pushpin on iOS to save bookmarks to Pinboard. It works pretty well, but the app has been neglected for a while. The developer seems to be interested in picking it up again though. A lot of people like Pinner on iOS. I’ve never tried it, but I might give it a spin one of these days. On my Mac, I just use the Pinboard web site, but I’ve been thinking about trying Spillo. It looks like it might help me get those bookmarks a bit more organized.

I’ve also been playing with LaunchBar a bit lately, trying to learn how to use some of its more esoteric features. I think that figuring out Pinboard integration might be worthwhile. There’s no built-in support for Pinboard, but there are some extensions available that add it in.

And now getting back to the more general topic, I’m starting to figure out some general workflows that I’m trying to stick with. One of them is to cut down on the number of places in which I bookmark stuff. For a while, I was bookmarking NY Times articles with the “save for later” capability built into the NY Times website and apps. But now I’m trying to stick with saving them directly to Pinboard or Instapaper. And, for stuff in Pinboard, if it’s simply a link to a book I might want to read, I usually try to find it in Amazon and add it to my Amazon wishlist, then delete the Pinboard entry. That does cause me to lose some context as to where I first stumbled across the book, and maybe why I was interested in it, but I can generally get that back if I need to.

My Amazon wishlist, of course, is also a gigantic graveyard of intentions. But I’ve found that there’s a lot of power in adding something to it. It really does clear my mind of the thing, and frees me to go on to the next thing. And any time I want to find something new to read, I can just browse though my wishlist and find something. And it’s much better than just buying a bunch of books that I’m not going to get around to reading. (I’ve got more than enough of those already.)

I also frequently do something similar with music, converting Pinboard bookmarks into Amazon wishlist entries for CDs, but I’m hitting a bit of trouble with that now, since I’ve been finding a whole lot of stuff on Bandcamp that I’m interested in, and that’s not on Amazon. So I might need to find some way to lasso a bunch of those Bandcamp bookmarks and do something with them, to get them out of the way. (Convert them into a list in Evernote maybe?) Really, if I were to purchase all the music I’ve bookmarked in Bandcamp over the last couple of years, I’d be spending hundreds of dollars and downloading more music than I could ever listen to.

One more wrinkle in all of this that I’m thinking about pursuing: maybe using IFTTT to tie some of my bookmarking into Day One somehow. Or at least find some way to get a bit more insight into my bookmarks, from a chronological standpoint. I’m not sure how much value there is in that, but I think it might be interesting to know stuff like “a year ago on this day, you bookmarked three articles on JavaScript via Pinboard and read an interview with Neil Gaiman on Instapaper.” Or maybe that would be pointless noise. I don’t know. I’m getting exhausted thinking about all this stuff now. I wrote this post to try to get some of this stuff out of my head, but it’s still all rattling around up there!

1Password subscription thoughts

I seem to be blogging about subscription software a lot lately. Recently, I’ve been considering switching over to 1Password’s subscription service. I paid for their apps (macOS, iOS, and Windows) some time ago, and I’m not really having any trouble with them, but I’ve been somewhat dissatisfied with the Windows app, and the new version of that (version 6) has only been available for people using their subscription service.

The subscription service has a few differences from the old model (where you keep your vault files in Dropbox and sync them that way). For one, the old system supports both tags and folders, while the new only supports tags for some reason. I asked, on their forums, for some detail on that, and got a friendly, but fairly disappointing, answer. I’m using both folders and tags. And it looks like folder information isn’t migrated at all; I’d have to manually fix that before migration. And they no longer support “smart folders” at all anymore. Smart folders are basically just saved searches. (They mention that you can still run advanced searches, but don’t say anything about being able to save them.)

So that kind of puts a damper on things. I don’t know why I’d want to move to a paid subscription when I have more functionality in the old software.

They have also just announced that the next major version of their Windows software (version 7) will support “standalone vaults,” meaning that it will work for non-subscription customers. (And it will be a paid upgrade for non-subscription customers.) Of course, they haven’t said anything about a release date for that, and it seems like they’re still not done with version 6 yet, so that could be a way off.

So, the situation is kind of muddy. There are a few things I like about the subscription model, including the nicer Windows software, and the elimination of my current reliance on Dropbox for syncing. But I’ll be able to get the nicer Windows software eventually, apparently, and Dropbox isn’t really a problem, just an inconvenience.

TidBITS has had some good coverage of the back and forth on 1Password subscriptions. And, in other subscription software news, Ulysses has moved to subscription pricing recently. I don’t use Ulysses, but I will mention that their blog post on the move trots out the old cliché, comparing their price to a cup of coffee: “The monthly subscription comes at only $4.99 – that’s pretty much a coffee to go.” No, it’s not, unless you’re buying really expensive coffee!

Ulysses is also available as a part of Setapp, a $10/month subscription service that gets you access to a bunch of Mac apps, and that one also uses the coffee comparison: “Setapp is only $9.99 per month: about as much as you spend on coffee per day.” Really? How much are you people spending on coffee per day? For me, that would be five tall dark roasts from Starbucks. And if I was going to drink that much coffee, I’d buy beans in bulk and brew it myself. (I’m not saying that $10/month isn’t a reasonable cost for Setapp, only that it’s not a reasonable daily cost for coffee consumption.)

One more bit of subscription news: the Pushpin app for iOS, which has languished without any updates for awhile, is probably going to a new model: “ads + subscription to remove.” That seems fair, especially since he’s talking about $1/year. I use Pushpin enough that I’d pay that.

Happy Birthday Dad and Gloria

My father and our friend Gloria shared the same birthday, August 9. Dad’s been gone a while now, but this is the first birthday since Gloria passed away. Here’s a nice picture of the two of them together. Seems weird not to have anyone to call and wish a happy birthday to today.

There’s a timestamp in the bottom of this photo that says “02 8 9”, so this was probably taken on August 9, 2002. I’m guessing my Mom took this photo with my Dad’s camera. And I’m sure my Dad and Gloria had a little drink together that day, and had some fun joking around with each other.

Dad and Gloria


My bookshelves are a mess

Scott Hanselman posted a tweet yesterday with a photo of a bookshelf, asking people to reply with photos of their bookshelves. I was bored last night, so I took a few photos. This morning, I posted them to Twitter. A lot of other people replied to him too, with some cool photos.

I thought I’d post my photos here too. Of course, a large portion of my reading these days gets done via Kindle, iPad, and laptop, so my physical bookshelves aren’t necessarily reflective of what I’m reading these days.

It would be nice to have organized bookshelves, but what I have is really just piles of stuff, sometimes on bookshelves and sometimes on the floor or on various horizontal surfaces. It seems like the piles just grow, until they become structurally unsound, at which point I need to toss some books and/or reorganize. That’s one of the many reasons why ebooks are so great. I can buy as many as I want, and they never become a fire hazard.

I feel a little like I need to justify and explain these photos a bit, but maybe it’s better if I just let them speak for themselves. Or maybe not. The first one is a pile of random computer books, most of which I’ve read, but a few of which I never really got around to. The second is a pile of paperbacks, mostly Vonnegut, that I got from one of my brothers. (I can’t remember which brother.) I haven’t actually read most of them. (Oh, and there’s a couple of Ghost in the Shell DVDs on top of the paperbacks.) The third is some random SF paperbacks, all of which I have read. Mostly Gibson and Zelazny. The fourth is one of several “to be read” piles of graphic novels. There’s some stuff in there that I’m really looking forward to, including Grant Morrison’s X-Men run, a few volumes of Bill Winningham’s Fables, and some Usagi Yojimbo. (I’m a little embarrassed by the Vampirella book in that pile, but I’ll own up to liking Vampirella. It’s goofy cheesecake, but it’s fun.)



MoMA renovation

MoMA is in the midst of a fairly major renovation project. The last couple of times I went, things were pretty confusing. A lot of stuff was under construction. Here’s an article from the NY Times, from June, with some detail. I know that the entire project won’t be done until 2019, but I’m hoping that, the next time I go, things will be a little more stable.

I have a few complaints about the current status of the museum, but they’re mostly minor complaints about services and not about art. For instance, I think there’s still supposed to be a members coat check, but I have no idea where it is. And I don’t like the way they’re running the cafe now. It used to be run like a regular sit-down restaurant, but now (at least as of the last time I went), they’re running it like a hybrid cafeteria/restaurant. You order and pay for your food first, at a counter, then sit down, and they bring it to you. Not a big deal, but it makes it just a little less relaxing, and a little harder to deal with, if you decide you want an espresso and tiramisu after you’re finished with your meal. (Yeah, I know, first world problems.)

I do like the fact that the extra space will help them show more art from minority and female artists. At the same time, I hope they don’t relegate some of my favorite “white guy” art to the basement or something. I know that Starry Night isn’t going anywhere, but I am a little worried about OOF. (Yeah, I know it’s weird, but I like looking at it. In fact, I’m using it for the wallpaper on my Mac right now.)

more TypeScript and SharePoint

I got a chance to work on another TypeScript / SharePoint project at work recently. I’m finding these projects to be a nice change of pace from my usual Dynamics AX work.

I’m not doing anything that’s much more complicated than I did on the last one, but I got a little more ambitious on this one. I’m still using Q for promises and Papa Parse for parsing an input CSV file. I think I’m getting a little better with promises, but I still occasionally have problems with them.

On my last project, I put all my TypeScript code in one file. For this one, I’ve broken things up into several classes and files. I’ve even gone as far as having an abstract base class with two child classes inheriting from it.

And, for the last project, I just deployed the generated JavaScript as-is. For this one, I’m using Web Essentials to combine and minify the JavaScript. That’s working better than I thought it would.

I’ve also given up on the idea of deploying this thing as a regular SharePoint sandbox project, though I’ve set it up that way in Visual Studio. Instead, I’m simply copying the HTML and JS files to the SharePoint server with SharePoint Designer. Maybe that’s not the best way to do it, but it’s the easiest, and the least disruptive to the server. (I should look into whether or not it’s possible for me to do that with PowerShell.)