The Ever-Expanding Backlog

After being somewhat industrious last weekend, I’m spending this weekend largely resting and reading comic books. I intended on putting a dent in my backlog of unread books, but it didn’t really work out that way.

Last summer, I picked up several of the books that Marvel put out under their Timely Comics banner, which were all $3 books reprinting the first three issues of one of their then-current ongoing titles. I wasn’t reading any Marvel books at the time, and I was just getting back into buying monthly books again, after an almost ten-year break, so it seemed like a good idea to pick some of those up and see if anything caught my fancy.

Well, long story short, they mostly went into my to-be-read box and have sat there ever since. (And I’m still not buying any Marvel books on a regular basis.) I did read the Doctor Strange one some time ago, which led to me picking up some of the Jason Aaron Doctor Strange run. (I liked what I’ve read of it, but I still haven’t read all of what I bought yet.)

Yesterday, I decided that I wanted to read something that was vaguely Halloween-related, so I picked the Scarlet Witch book out of the pile. Well, that was good enough that I decided to look into picking up more of it. The series lasted for 15 issues, and has been collected into 3 volumes, all of which are on sale at Amazon for $4.50 each (for the Kindle version). So picking those up was a pretty easy decision. I just finished the third volume. For what it’s worth, I thought it was a pretty good series. (I posted reviews on Goodreads.)

The point I’m trying to get to is that I’ve read a fair number of comics this weekend, but I’m really no further into my backlog. It seems that every time I read something, it leads me down a path where I buy even more stuff.

I had been thinking about maybe reading some Locke & Key this weekend, since that seems kind of Halloween-appropriate, and I have six volumes of that to read, from a Humble Bundle I bought back in 2015. But now it’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s too late to start into something new.

And I probably shouldn’t have bought the random DC Rebirth books that I picked up at last weekend’s comic book show, since now I’m probably going to want to add at least one of those titles to my regular pull list.

But hey, having too much stuff to read is a good problem to have. I just googled “too much to read” and found this interesting short article from Carve magazine on the subject. That guy is reading Shakespeare and Melville and I’m reading comic books, but the problem is similar. (Oh, and I also have way too many programming books to read, but that’s a subject for another post entirely.) By the way, Carve magazine looks like something I’d really be interested in subscribing to, if I didn’t already have way too much to read!

A nice apartment

From An Eye-Popping Mid-Century Apartment Filled With Pollocks, Klines, and de Koonings:

Ben Heller bought Jackson Pollock’s One, Number 31, 1950, when he lived in an apartment with lower ceilings. When he and Pollock installed the painting, it was too tall for the room; Pollock shrugged and stapled the top few inches of the canvas to the ceiling.

I have one Pollock print in my apartment. Imagine having three Pollock originals in your apartment.

Quicken switching to subscription model

I guess this was inevitable: Quicken has switched to a subscription model. They’re charging $45/year for Deluxe, which is the version I use. Here’s an article about it, from MacRumors. (Weirdly, I found several articles about the change on Mac web sites, but none on Windows sites. The change applies to both Mac & Windows, and the pricing is pretty much the same for both.) You can currently buy a 2-year subscription from Amazon for $90, which isn’t really saving you any money, but they include an additional three months, so I guess that helps.

Lately, I’ve been upgrading Quicken every year anyway, but I think I’ve usually only paid about $30 for it, getting it from Costco or Amazon. So this change looks like it would make it a bit more expensive for me. (And I’d lose the option of skipping a year, if I didn’t want to upgrade that year.) So that’s something to think about.

I’ve been using Quicken for a long time. The first version I used would have been under MS-DOS, back in the early nineties, I think. Switching to something else would be a big change for me. And there’s not much else out there that compares well to Quicken. Moneydance, maybe. That’s a one-time $50 purchase (though I could probably get a discount on that). I’m not sure how often they release new versions or what their upgrade pricing is, but it would probably work out to being a little cheaper than Quicken.

I’ll probably bite the bullet and buy that 2-year Quicken subscription from Amazon. I’ll wait a bit, though, until I get a chance to run out to Costco and see if they’ve got it cheaper. (I’ve been paying for Office 365 by getting it from Costco, and that’s saved me a few bucks over buying it directly from Microsoft, so maybe they’ll have something for Quicken too.)

Flemington comic book show

I went to a small comic book show in Flemington today. I haven’t been to a really small local con in a while. This one was pretty cool. They had a few artists as guests, including Darren Auck, who I chatted with for a bit, and bought a sketch from.

I bought a handful of recent DC Rebirth back issues from a guy who was selling them for cover price, buy 2 get 1 free. And a few other older random comics, including an obscure Matt Howarth comic that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I actually spent more (on comics) at this show than I did at NYCC (though I still didn’t spend very much).

And they gave out a goodie back at the door with quite a few random items in it, including some X-Men back issues and other random comics. Overall, it was a nice little show. Everyone was cool and friendly. There weren’t too many people there when I arrived, but I went early, so maybe it got busier in the afternoon.

Not a bad way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday.

The Secrets of Sleep

I often bookmark articles on sleep, like this recent one from the New Yorker, which is a review of a book called The Mystery of Sleep. (Sometimes I actually read the articles, but mostly I just bookmark them…) I’ve been having some trouble sleeping again recently, though I’m not sure there’s much I can do about it, without making some pretty major life changes. (For instance, last night, there was somebody outside playing music at 3am. Not much I can do about that.)

I’m still using the Sleep Cycle app on my iPhone to track my sleep and act as an alarm clock. They added the ability to track snoring a while back, and that confirms that I do, in fact, snore. (And also that listening to recordings of yourself snoring is kind of horrifying.)

I’ve thought about buying a new mattress (though my current one is only a few years old). I was looking around at internet mattress companies, but after reading about all the shenanigans involved in that industry, I’m a little less interested in that. (Though maybe my takeaway from that should be that they’re all just selling slabs of foam, and they’re all pretty much the same, so I should just pick one and buy it and not worry too much about which one.)

Here’s another article, this one from NPR, with Terry Gross interviewing a scientist who wrote a book called Why We Sleep. In this case, I can skip the article and listen to the audio, so maybe I’ll do that. (Not that I’m likely to learn anything I haven’t already heard, but you never know.)

Trying to catch up with .NET

I’ve really fallen behind with recent developments in the .NET ecosystem. At work, I spend most of my time in Dynamics AX, so I don’t get to work on a lot of pure .NET stuff. I’ve been trying to get current, but it’s really an uphill battle. Stuff changes faster than I can keep up!

I just finished a book on ASP.NET Core, ASP.Net Core Application Development: Building an Application in Four Sprints. (Even just reading the title on that book is exhausting!) I posted a review on Goodreads, so I won’t repeat myself here.

I have a little extra respect for the book, because it includes a quote from Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts:

Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it.

I think this was in the chapter on refactoring code. So with respect to programming, I guess it means I can die happy if I’ve done my best to refactor poorly-written legacy code, renaming obscurely-named variables, reducing cyclomatic complexity, and all that good stuff.

Anyway, while I got a lot out of that book, I didn’t really come out with what I’d call an actual working understanding of ASP.NET MVC. I mean, I understand the basics, but I’ve got a long way to go. And there’s so much related stuff to learn too. One thing I’ll say is that this book had the first explanation of dependency injection that actually made sense to me. (I’d heard it described in podcasts before, and had probably read a few blog posts about it. But I don’t think I really got it until the explanation in this book.)

I’m also trying to read ASP.NET MVC 4 in Action right now. This one dates back to 2012, so it’s a little frustrating trying to reconcile stuff in this book vs. the way ASP.NET Core 2 works now. But it seems like a good book so far.

ASP.NET Core 2 is pretty recent of course. Here’s a What’s New in ASP.NET Core 2.0 post from July and an Announcing ASP.NET Core 2 post from August. (The new Razor Pages feature is pretty interesting, by the way. I listened to a podcast about it last week.)

The two ASP.NET books mentioned above are both available via my ACM Safari subscription, so that’s how I’ve been reading them. There’s a lot of good stuff there. I’m also getting a little bit of use out of my Pluralsight subscription, but probably not enough to justify the cost. It was really useful for the SharePoint stuff I watched on it a while back, but for general .NET stuff, there’s plenty of free video training out there, through Channel 9 and other sites.

The Levitz Paradigm

I woke up early this morning, and I don’t have much to do today, so I’m going to do some pointless blogging. (You’ve been warned.) I stumbled across a reference to the “Levitz Grid” this morning, with respect to Warren Ellis’ writing on The Wild Storm. That led me down a somewhat interesting path. The Levitz Grid / Levitz Paradigm is a system Paul Levitz devised when he was writing Legion of Super-Heroes back in the 80s. Gene Ha wrote it about it on a Google+ post a few years back. The grid has apparently also been used by Jonathan Hickman, for his Fantastic Four run, and Alan Moore, for Big Numbers. There’s a little bit more about the Levitz Paradigm at the Forbidden Planet blog. And a short write-up from Paul Levitz himself at his site.

I was a big fan of the Legion in the 80s. Back when I was buying comics with the money I was making at my minimum wage McDonald’s job, it was one of only a few books I was buying every month. I spent some time last summer reading a big stack of Legion comics, and wrote about that here and here. I saw Paul Levitz last week at NYCC, at the Will Eisner panel, and he seems to be doing well. (Speaking of which, I should really read his book on Eisner.)

The kind of plotting described by the Levitz Paradigm is, in some ways, very popular today, though usually in a more compressed form than Levitz used on Legion. Writers rarely have the space to let plots play out over multiple years, the way they could in the 80s, when nobody thought about trade paperback collections or six-issue arcs. Now that I think of it, the reason I’m enjoying a few of the books I’m currently reading probably has a lot to do with the fact that the writers have been allowed to stretch out a bit. Ellis’ Wild Storm is planned out as a 24-issue series. Though he’s writing it in six-issue arcs, they’re not really stand-alone stories. I think you’ll need to read all 24 issues to get the whole story. A number of the DC Rebirth titles fit this mold too, helped along by the biweekly schedule. I’d put Batman, Detective, and most notably Deathstroke in the “extended Levitz Paradigm” category (for lack of a better name). These three titles have all lasted for more than 24 issues, all without switching writers. And, while they’ve all been structured with discrete named arcs (as is common today), they’ve also had undercurrents and subplots that have crossed arcs.

I haven’t been reading much from Marvel lately, but it seems like they’ve been sticking more with a paradigm based on big events like Civil War II, Inhumans vs X-Men, and Secret Empire. I am curious about what’s going to come out of Marvel Legacy, but I’m not too optimistic about that. It doesn’t seem like they’re leaving much room for subtlety or long-term character development. Maybe I’m wrong though. I’ll keep an eye on reviews, and if anything seems promising, maybe I’ll look into it.

Star Trek novels and random web comics

I love Ty Templeton. I keep forgetting about his Bun Toons webcomic. (I should really set up an organized collection of webcomics in an RSS reader of some sort so I can read them regularly.)

Here’s a link to a recent Bun Toons that is “relevant to my interests” as the kids say. In particular, my interest in Star Trek novels, walking for exercise, and the inevitable slow decline into old age and decrepitude. I wish I had a thrift store near me with a good supply of Star Trek paperbacks. There used to be multiple used book stores here in Somerville, but they’re all gone. I had a nice walk this morning, but I only got as far as the bakery, and I came home with a granola muffin, so I think that cancels out the walk.

I’m currently reading the second Rise of the Federation novel, which is quite fun if you’re a huge Star Trek nerd who liked the Enterprise series. (If you’re not, though, I wouldn’t recommend it.) Once I’m through that series, I may go back to Ty’s post and look into some of the books he mentioned. I don’t think I’ve previously read any of them, and they do all look good!

Bleeding Cool has a good roundup of NYCC news stories up today. (And that’s how I got to Bun Toons, by the way.) I don’t recommend visiting BC without your ad-blocker set to maximum, but they do have links to a lot of the major DC & Marvel news from the con. The Beat has a lot of con coverage up now too, including an account of the Jack Kirby panel that I missed in favor of the Eisner one. (I really wish I could have gone to both of those!)

Router Follies

In an act of unmitigated hubris, I decided to try upgrading the firmware on my router today. I’d read about a security issue that could affect DD-WRT last week, and checked my router. I saw that I was running a pretty old build, and that there was a newer one. I had installed DD-WRT on that router about a year ago, and haven’t had any trouble with it. So I figured upgrading it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Long story short, I guess I maybe bricked it. I think I might have been able to get it going again by doing a complicated restart and TFTP procedure, but I checked Best Buy, and I could get a new router for only $50, so I did that instead. The old router dates back to 2010, so I was due for a new one anyway.

The new one is a Netgear N600, pretty similar to old one. I have no immediate plans to try DD-WRT or any alternate firmware on it. I’ll probably do something like what I did with the last router: when it’s more than five years old, and Netgear isn’t updating the firmware anymore, then I’ll look around at open source alternative firmware. But for now, Netgear is likely to keep this one up to date.

Now all I need to do is reconnect all my wireless devices to the new wireless network. (I seem to have a lot of wireless devices, now that I’m making a list. MacBook, iPhone, iPad, TiVo, Apple TV, Volumio…)

NYCC day two

It’s Friday and I’m back in my hotel room. I have once again paid for the expensive hotel WiFi, so I might as well type up and post a little con report.

As an experiment, I’m typing this up in Drafts, using Markdown. I’ll paste it into WordPress when I’m done. Yesterday’s post was written via the normal WordPress post editor. I guess I’d never used that on the iPad before. It works, but it’s got some really annoying quirks, which might be related to the Bluetooth keyboard. So we’ll see how Drafts works out.

Getting into the con today was, again, not terribly hard. I got down a little earlier than yesterday. The line to get to the security checkpoint was actually a bit shorter than yesterday. But I got through that around 9:30, after which we all had to wait around outside until they opened the convention center doors, which they did around 9:45. After that, it was easy enough to get in and up to the show floor.

I once again wandered around the main show flow without buying anything. I then had a little lunch, which was overpriced (expected) but pretty good (unexpected).
I went to two panels after lunch. The first was hosted by Collider, which is apparently a pop-culture web site that has a few video podcasts going. I wasn’t really familiar with them. I went to the panel mostly because the description mentioned Robert Meyer Burnett and Chris Gore, both of whom I’m familiar with, but neither of whom made it to the panel. So it was a panel of four or five people I’ve never heard of. But they seemed cool, so now I guess I should check out their site and videos.

I then went to a panel called Why Will Eisner Still Matters at 100. They scheduled this panel at the same exact time as a Jack Kirby 100th birthday panel, so it was pretty hard deciding which one to go to. But the Eisner one looked like it would be less crowded, and possibly more interesting, and I guess that, if I have to pick between Eisner and Kirby, I’ll pick Eisner. (But please don’t make me pick!) It was a nice overview of Eisner’s career and influence, with some reminiscences from people who have worked with him, including Jules Feiffer (via a video clip), Denis Kitchen, Paul Levitz, Michael Uslan, and Danny Fingeroth. As a long-time Eisner fan, they were mostly covering stuff that I already know, but there were some good little anecdotes in there that I hadn’t heard before. And it’s always nice to see a little slideshow of cool Eisner splash pages.

After that, I went back for another pass on the show floor, with the idea that I should really buy at least a couple of comic books, since it seems wrong to go to a comic con and not buy any books. So I found a dealer with a bunch of 50% off trade paperbacks, and picked up a couple. I got Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse and New York: The Big City by Will Eisner.

I thought it would be nice to pick up an Eisner book right after the Eisner panel, so that worked out. I was pretty sure I didn’t already have this one, since the cover wasn’t familiar, but I think it may actually be a repackaged version of a book I do already have. In fact, now that I’m paging through it, I’m entirely sure that it is. Oh well. I guess it can’t hurt to have two copies of a good Eisner book. Maybe I can give one away, and introduce someone new to Eisner.

As to the Resident Alien book, I knew I didn’t have that one, since I don’t have any of them. This turns out to be volume three, now that I’m looking at it carefully, so I guess I should get volumes one and two also. I’m familiar with the character through the story that was serialized in Dark Horse Presents, and liked it enough that I’d made a note to pick up the trades or back issues at some point. So now I’ve made a start on that, but not from the beginning. So, overall, I guess I didn’t do a great job of picking out these trades. But I could have done worse.

I left the con around 3pm, I think. I would have liked to stay later, but there wasn’t much else I really wanted to do, and I was getting pretty tired. After resting up in my hotel for a bit, I made a quick trip to MoMA. I’d forgotten that Friday is the night when they let everyone in for free, so it was really crowded. I hung out in sculpture garden for a bit, but that’s all. I’d had enough of big crowds for the day!

So now it’s 7pm and I can’t decide if I want to go back out, or just give up and watch Netflix on my iPad for a few hours, then go to bed early. It seems like a waste to get a hotel room in New York on a Friday and not go out at night, but I’m pretty worn out. Getting old is a drag. As to whether or not this mini-vacation actually helped me work out any stress: I guess it did. We’ll see what kind of mood I’m in when I go back to work on Monday.