Azure and baseball and comics

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I did manage to watch a few of the Global Azure Bootcamp videos, yesterday and this morning. I didn’t really find any videos that directly applied to the projects that I’m currently working on, but I did pick up some good pointers and some useful background information. It was mentioned on Twitter that the videos are only staying up until Monday, so I guess that if I want to watch any more of them, I should do that today.

I also managed to get out and see a bit of the Somerset Patriots season-opening double-header yesterday too. I arrived about halfway through the first game, and went home just before the second game started, though. I intended on staying through at least the first few innings of the second game, but it was getting too cold. (The final score in the second game was 14-2, Patriots, so that would have been fun to watch.)

I did not get out to see Avengers: Endgame yesterday, and it looks like I’m not even going to try today. I checked a 9am showing this morning, and it wasn’t sold out, but there was only one seat available, and it wasn’t a good one. I assume the later showings are going to be sold out. I’m not sure I can sit through a three-hour superhero movie anyway. (I like Warren Ellis’ reference to the movie as “AVENGERS: SATANTANGO or whatever this bladder test is called.” I don’t think I could sit through the actual Sátántangó either.) This may be the kind of thing where I need to wait for it to come out on Blu-ray, so I can use a pause button as needed.

I did manage to finish up a Batman graphic novel this morning, and I may start on another after lunch, so I am getting some comic book reading done this weekend too.

Meanwhile, I should probably also be doing some prep work for my trip to Redmond at the end of the week for the Partner Center workshop. I think I have everything up-to-date on my laptop, and my laundry is done, so there’s not really much more to do, though.

Global Azure Bootcamp and Pragmatic Programming

I’ve been doing a bunch of work related to Azure recently. It’s mostly not around actually using Azure, but rather managing Azure and billing for Azure. I’m in the middle of something right now that’s honestly driving me to distraction and making me want to take a month or two off and maybe traipse around Europe or something. Anyway, today is Global Azure Bootcamp. There’s an event here in NJ, at Microsoft’s office in Iselin, but I was too late to register for it, and it’s full up now.

There’s also a lot of online stuff going on, though. It should all get posted to this YouTube channel. I can see a bunch of stuff up there already, and it’s only 8am Eastern time. (The Auckland event is already over. I guess because it’s midnight there right now, so today is already over. Funny how that works…)

Anyway, I really want to watch a bunch of this stuff, but it’s Saturday, and the weather should be pretty nice, and yesterday’s rained out Somerset Patriots game has been rescheduled to today, and I’ve got finish my laundry, and do my grocery shopping, and so on and so forth.

Looking at what’s already on YouTube, I’m kind of interested in two of the videos from the Perth/Beijing cycle:

  1. Understanding The New Azure Role-Based Certifications – I probably don’t have the spare time to study for and pass any Azure certification exams, but a guy can dream, right?
  2. Mission: Azure Kubernetes Service – Because some other folks I’m working with have been talking about Kubernetes, and I know almost nothing about it.

I’m going to the Microsoft offices in Redmond next week for a workshop related to the specific project I’m working on, so that should be useful. But sometimes I feel like I’m really falling behind with all this Azure and AWS stuff. I’ve been reading The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master in my spare time recently. It’s a classic, but it’s 20 years old, so there are a lot of dated references in it. It’s actually been kind of comforting to read it. I guess I’m more at home with references to 56k modems than references to Kubernetes clusters. There’s actually a 20th anniversary version of the book coming out soon, so maybe I should give up on the old version and wait for the new one.

more Amazon stuff

I didn’t really intend to write two posts about Amazon in a row (previous post here), but two things caught my attention today:

  1. Amazon is going to try to switch their Prime shipping “guarantee” from two days to one day. That’s interesting, and maybe some of the issues I had with my last order were related to the changes they’re trying to make to get to one-day shipping. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary. Two-day shipping is fine for me. (But I’m old. I grew up having to wait 4-6 weeks for anything I ordered through the mail. Two days is amazing!)
  2. I just tried to watch something on Prime video, only to see that it was “unavailable”. Then I poked around a bit, and everything on Prime video seems to be unavailable. So I went to my Amazon account to see if somehow I’d gotten dropped from Prime altogether. Right now, any attempt to navigate to the “your Prime account” section of Amazon’s site results in an error. I checked Twitter, and I’m not the only one getting errors on that right now. So that’s kind of interesting. My best guess would be that they’re rolling out some back-end changes related to Prime, and they screwed something up.

So my plan to kill the rest of the day watching an episode or two of Bosch on Amazon Prime Video has been torpedoed. I guess I’ll have to watch Netflix instead. (To be clear, I’m not complaining about any of this. Any time I start getting cranky because of something like this, I re-watch Weird Al’s First World Problems video.)

Amazon delivery shenanigans

I’ve been getting curious lately about some of the stuff that Amazon seems to be doing around package delivery. Like many people, I’m an Amazon Prime customer and I order a bunch of stuff from them. Generally, they’ve been using the US Postal Service for Prime deliveries (at least for me), which has always worked out fine. But lately, they seem to be doing more deliveries themselves. They seem to be setting up an interesting system for that, but they clearly haven’t worked out all the kinks yet.

I ordered a few small items on Friday of last week, and would have been fine with the usual two-day shipping, or even longer. I didn’t have an immediate need for any of the stuff I ordered. But they said the stuff would be delivered on Saturday. So, hey, one-day shipping. Cool.

The package didn’t show up with my normal mail on Saturday, but at some point Saturday evening, I got a notification on my phone that the package was “nine stops away” (or something like that), and gave me an estimated delivery time, and even the ability to see where the delivery driver was on a map. That last part was a little creepy, but OK. Anyway, about an hour later, I got a notification that the package had been delivered. So I went downstairs and looked for it, but it wasn’t there. Kind of weird to have such specific information about the driver’s route and the delivery time, but no actual package.

I checked to see what I was supposed to do to report a missing package, and they ask you to wait 36 hours before doing so. That kind of makes sense, if they’ve handed the package off to USPS, but if they’re delivering it themselves, and they’re apparently tracking the driver in real-time, that doesn’t make much sense. But I waited, and reported it missing on Monday night. They were cool about it, and refunded one of the items and sent me a replacement delivery for the other two.

So, guess what? Now it’s Tuesday, and the original package from Saturday shows up. Again, with the excessive level of tracking detail, where I can follow the driver around and all that. And this time, when the package is delivered, I also get a photo of it, sitting in the foyer of my apartment building.

And, of course, I also get the replacement package today too. Also from an Amazon delivery driver, with a photo of the package in the foyer. Though this one seems to be from a different driver, since it arrived a few hours after the first one. I guess this is good for me, since I now have extra stuff that I didn’t pay for. All things considered though, I’d rather have just gotten the original package in with my mail on Monday, without all this extra nonsense.

So it seems like they’re tracking their drivers all over the place, making them take photos of delivered packages, and also making them take photos of themselves now. Yet somehow, a package can still disappear into a black hole for three days. I don’t know, I can’t decide if this is a utopia or a dystopia we’re headed towards. (Maybe a little of both.)

Here’s an article from Vox, talking about the economics of Amazon’s two-day shipping. It’s pretty interesting. It’s also interesting to think about Amazon’s carbon footprint. They’re so big now, they can probably have a meaningful affect on that just by making small changes. (Though it can’t possibly be efficient for them to have two different drivers deliver something to my apartment building on the same day, just a few hours apart, can it?) I’m also kind of curious about the new Amazon Day thing, where you can choose to get all your packages on a specific day of the week. That could help cut down on excess packaging and multiple deliveries, so that’s a good thing.

Easter walk and Flickr problems

It’s Easter, it’s nice out, and I’ve got nothing much to do today. So I went out for a walk and took some pictures. I uploaded them to Flickr here, if you’re curious.

I hadn’t uploaded anything to Flickr in quite a while. My last uploaded photos were from September 2018. I had a lot of trouble getting these ones uploaded. First, I tried to see if I could upload them from the Photos app on my Mac. That used to be supported, and pretty easy to do, but Apple removed that functionality at some point. So then I tried just using Flickr’s upload page. Long story there, but that doesn’t work at all reliably on the Mac right now. This may just be a temporary problem, since there’s a thread complaining about it on the forums from today with a bunch of responses. After a bunch of frustration on my Mac, I gave up and did it on my PC (after copying the photos to OneDrive to get them from Mac to PC). That worked, but still timed out a bunch of times. I just kept hitting “retry” until all the photos were up. So I probably wasted an hour of a perfectly good Easter Sunday just trying to get past that. Anyway, that’s all soured me on Flickr a bit. But if it’s just a temporary problem that’s not getting fixed today because it’s Easter and nobody’s available to fix it, then that’s fine I guess.

I only just recently let my Flickr Pro account renew for another two years, for $100. (It used to be only $45 if you renewed for 2 years, but I guess not anymore.) Now i’m wondering if that was a mistake. I had high hopes for the service after it was acquired by SmugMug, but they haven’t done much with it. They did finally start the process of moving off of Yahoo’s login system, so that’s a relief. Maybe I can finally nuke my old Yahoo account now.

Back to today’s photos: there are couple of photos in there of the Seward Johnson sculptures that are currently scattered throughout downtown Somerville. I’m not sure how I feel about these things. I’m all for art, in general, but these seem a little creepy.

Anyway, now it’s 1 PM and I feel like I’ve wasted too much of the day. I’ve walked three miles today, so that’s good. And I’ve read a few Batman comics. But I feel like I could have done more with today. Well, there’s still plenty of time left. I should get back to my Batman comics…

new iPad first impressions

I got my new iPad Air yesterday, so I thought I’d post some initial impressions.

The main issue with my old iPad was just that it was getting too slow. This new one definitely fixes that problem. Some of the apps on the old iPad had gotten ludicrously slow, including Twitterrific, which was taking several minutes to refresh my Twitter feed. That’s now back to normal, taking only a second or two. So the new iPad fixes the one big thing I needed fixed; everything else is gravy.

The old iPad was old enough that it didn’t have Touch ID, so having that on my iPad is new for me. There’s nothing unexpected there. I had Touch ID on my last iPhone (the SE), and, now that I think about it, the one before that (the 5s), so I’ve had it for a long time. (My new iPhone, of course, has Face ID instead.) I guess it’s nice having Touch ID on the iPad, so I don’t have to type in my passcode every time I use it.

The screen is 10.5″, so it’s a little bigger than the old one, which was 9.7″. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference unless I hold them up next to each other. The slightly larger screen doesn’t seem to make a noticeable difference in everyday use. I’m also assuming that the screen/display is technically better than the one on the old iPad. I haven’t really checked to see what’s changed on that, but I assume a bunch of stuff has. Nevertheless, I don’t really notice a difference in everyday use. I haven’t tried reading any comics on it yet though. I’m wondering if either the larger size or the “better” display results in a noticeably nicer comic reading experience.

This iPad supports the Pencil and the Smart Keyboard, but I didn’t pick up either of those. I don’t really have a good use case for the Pencil, though I’m curious about it. And I’d like to switch from my old Logitech Bluetooth keyboard to the Smart Keyboard, but I don’t really think it’s worth the money. (I only use a keyboard with my iPad occasionally.)

So, overall… meh. It does what I need it to do, lots faster than my old iPad. There aren’t really any mind-blowing new features or amazing improvements.

That’s probably the last big Apple purchase I’ll make this year (and hopefully there won’t be any next year). I replaced my MacBook about a year ago; I’m hoping that lasts another two years. (At minimum, I’d like to see it outlast Apple’s stubborn insistence on sticking with their butterfly keyboards. If it doesn’t, I may have to give up on macOS, at least as a laptop OS.) I replaced my iPhone and Apple Watch in December 2018. I’d like to see them both last at least until January 2021, and maybe well into 2021. I may pick up a pair of AirPods at some point, but I’m still on the fence about those.

new iPad Air

After dithering back and forth over the last few months about whether or not to get a new iPad, and which one to get, I finally broke down and ordered a new 10.5″ iPad Air yesterday. I got the basic 64 GB model, which is twice the storage of my old iPad Air, and should be enough for me, for now.

Ars Technica recently posted a fairly lengthy review of the new Air and Mini, and it’s largely positive. Most of the negative stuff either applies only to the Mini or isn’t something that I care about.

I bought my first iPad in 2010, my second in 2012, and my third (and most recent) in 2014. So I’ve waited a lot longer than usual to replace it this time. (And, heck, I bought that last one used, off eBay, so it’s really from 2013, I think.) The old iPad has held together for quite a while, but it’s really showing its age now. The battery life is pretty bad, and a lot of stuff on it is pretty slow. (I’m actually kind of surprised at how much stuff isn’t slow. But the stuff that is slow is getting to be a real pain.)

I’m using Apple’s trade-in program to get rid of the old iPad. They’re giving me $70 for it, which is just enough to pay for the AppleCare on the new iPad.

I’ll probably post some thoughts on it after I’ve received it and had a chance to use it for a few days.

Notre-Dame follow-up

Just some links to more information about the Notre-Dame fire, from the NY Times:

I need to find the photos from my high school class trip to France, and see if I have any good ones of Notre-Dame that I can post here.

And one link from MIT Technology Review: This digital scan of Notre Dame offers hope for its restoration after the fire. I haven’t had time to read the longer article that’s linked in the MIT one, but it looks interesting.


Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris Catches Fire

This is breaking my heart. I have fond memories of visiting Notre-Dame back in high school, when my French class took a trip to Paris. And, in college, I took a class in medieval art and architecture, which got me interested in the subject, and set me on a path of learning more about it, in other classes and on my own.

I know that so many worse things have happened in the world over the last few years, but this one is just hitting me hard.

I see that, in the most recent updates, it looks like most of the structure has been saved, but a lot of damage has been done to the roof. So I’m hopeful.


Richard McGuire’s “Here”

Often, I start my Sunday by reading some stuff out of the “Read/Review” folder in my email, generally including one of Warren Ellis’ email newsletters. I’m pretty far behind in my reading. This morning, I was reading stuff from October 2018, including this newsletter from Ellis, with the second half of a speech he gave at a festival called Thought Bubble.

Ellis’ newsletters make for good Sunday morning reading. They often include links that send me off on little explorations that eat up more time that I intended to spend. But that’s fine, since it’s Sunday morning. In this case, he briefly mentioned Richard McGuire’s six-page comic story Here, which originally appeared in Raw, in 1989. I have that issue of Raw, and would have read it back in 1989, but probably haven’t reread it at any point in the last twenty years. Anyway, I didn’t remember the story or Richard McGuire, so I did some internet searching, and found a bunch of references to it. It’s such a well-regarded story that it has a Wikipedia page devoted to it. From there, I found that McGuire turned the concept from the story into a whole book, in 2014. I saw that I’d already added the book to my Amazon wishlist, in 2015, so I must have read about it at some point after it came out, but I don’t remember that at all.

McGuire is from New Jersey, and the story takes place in Perth Amboy, according to this article. And there was an exhibition at the Morgan Library relating to the book in 2014. And here’s a good review of the book from the comics blog Broken Frontier. So it must have popped up briefly in my consciousness back then, from one of these references, which would have led me to adding the book to my Amazon wishlist, then promptly forgetting about it until now.

It was also available as an enhanced ebook, which might have been interesting, but it no longer seems to be available. There’s a bit about the ebook (and the Morgan exhibit) in this Atlantic article. (Weirdly, I can find an Italian language version in the Apple ebook store, but no English version.) I could go off on a tangent here about the transient nature of enhanced ebooks, vs. good old-fashioned dead-tree books, but I probably shouldn’t.

Anyway, having gone back and reread the original story, I remember it now, and I understand a bit about why it was so well-regarded. I haven’t gone and pushed the “buy now” button on the hardcover book, though. I went on a bit of a comics buying spree yesterday, so I don’t want to get started on another one today. But it was fun to follow all these little threads through the internet and think about the old days of Raw and how one six-page story created in 1989 by a guy from New Jersey can be referenced in a speech given in 2018 by a British writer, at a festival in Leeds.