I noticed this morning, via the “On This Day” feature in both Day One and this blog, that I saw The Rise of Skywalker in Manville on this day last year. And it appears that that was the last time I actually saw a movie in a theater.

I think that, if I keep an eye on the “On This Day” stuff, I’ll probably be able to note a few more slightly depressing anniversaries of the “last time I did X” over the next couple of months. Though, now that I’m looking, I’m realizing that a few have already passed. The last time I went to MoMA was Oct 13, 2019, for their reopening preview. I’m glad I got to see the museum once after the remodel, but I would have liked to have seen it a few more times since then. The last time I got on a plane was May 2019, for a business trip to Redmond. The last time I stayed in a hotel was October 2019, for NYCC. So it’s already been well over a year since I’ve done a number of things. I could disappear down a hole thinking about this stuff, but there’s not much point in that. Better to look forward.

One more look back though: In the post I wrote on Rise of Skywalker, I made a joking reference to Sátántangó, which was then playing at Lincoln Center. I never got in to see that, though of course I was only joking about doing so. It’s a 7.5 hour movie. They had it running in their virtual cinema for a while too, after the pandemic started, and I kind of wanted to rent it there, and watch it at home, but I never got around to it. I did a little poking around just now, and I see that it’s finally due for a US Blu-ray release, next month. So I went ahead and pre-ordered it on Amazon. It’s only $25. That’s a bargain: only $3.33 per hour. Whether or not I ever actually watch the Blu-ray… we’ll see. Check back with me in another year.

A Weird Christmas

It’s been a weird year, so of course it was a weird Christmas. I did a Zoom dinner with my brother and his wife, and a couple of their friends. My brother made Beef Wellington. I made a veggie burger. I don’t really have a lot of holiday-related ambition this year. I didn’t try to do anything special for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I don’t think I’ll do anything special for New Year’s Eve or Day.

As mentioned previously, in general, I’ve watched a lot of movies this year. I just counted up the movies I’ve watched in December, and I’m up to 25, so that’s an average of a movie a day. A fair number of those were Christmas movies, or at least Christmas-adjacent movies. So I’ve tried to get myself into the right holiday mood. I’ve watched three different versions of A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version, the Muppet version, and the Mickey Mouse version). I watched It’s A Wonderful Life. I watched the Die Hard director’s commentary.

Yesterday morning, I watched Soul on Disney+. That was really my big event for the day. I thought it was a great movie, and a great way to escape reality for an hour and a half. Today, I finished watching season two of The Mandalorian. I wasn’t as enamored of the last couple of episodes as I was of some of the earlier ones. I may re-watch them, and see if I like them better a second time around. Theoretically, now that I’ve seen Soul and all of The Mandalorian, I could cancel my Disney+ subscription for a while. But there are a bunch of new Marvel and Star Wars shows coming up, so I guess I should just keep it going.

I did not talk myself into signing up for HBO Max to see Wonder Woman 1984. It sounds like a movie I’ll want to see eventually, but not a “sign up for a new $15/month streaming service” kind of movie. Likewise, I’m not choosing to pay for a copy of Tenet, either on Blu-ray or digital, but at some point, when it’s available to rent, or the price to buy it drops, I’ll give it a try.

so many movies

I saw a comic recently where the character is writing a “top 10 things I did this year” list, which gradually devolves into a “top 10 movies I’ve watched this year” list. I really identified with that. I’ve actually watched 61 movies so far this year, according to my Letterboxd stats. I know that’s a lot more than usual, though I didn’t really keep track of this stuff, prior to signing up for Letterboxd last year. I’ve watched 14 movies so far this month, and will likely watch several more before the end of the year. Part of the reason for watching so many movies is, of course, being home all the time now. Another reason is just that there hasn’t been as much new TV this year, so catching up on old movies seemed like a good idea. I’ve managed to watch four Kurosawa movies in the last few weeks, for instance.

I’m currently on a bit of a Christmas movie kick. Even though I won’t really be doing much (if anything) to celebrate Christmas this year, I’ve been hungry for a certain kind of Christmas spirit. It’s hard to spell out exactly what I’m looking for, but I’ve been watching movies like Netflix’s Klaus, and Arthur Christmas (which I bought on Blu-ray), and The Muppet Christmas Carol (on Disney+). And I’ve started watching It’s A Wonderful Life (on Amazon). I’m getting some inspiration from Letterboxd’s list of top 25 Christmas movies.

I’m not buying a lot of movies on Blu-ray right now, though I guess I have bought maybe a dozen or so this year. I think I may have dodged a bullet, since I only found out about this auction after it had already happened; I could easily see myself bidding on a box or two of random DVDs, in a moment of weakness. My own Blu-ray and DVD collection is too big, but not 30k+ big. For what I’m watching now, I’m trying to pick movies from the various streaming services I’m currently subscribed to, plus stuff that I already have in my collection.

It’s interesting to see what’s going on with new movies this year and into next year. I happened to stumble across this article, from late 2019, with a look forward at 2020’s movie releases. Of all the movies on the list, most were postponed and eventually released to home video (in one form or another). A few are still being held back, like No Time To Die and Black Widow.

I’m looking forward to watching Soul on Christmas day (or at least on the weekend right after Christmas). And I’m toying with the idea of signing up for HBO Max, so I can watch Wonder Woman 1984 too. I’d also like to watch Tenet, but maybe I’ll wait until I can rent that one (which will apparently be in early January). Or I could just spend the long Christmas weekend re-watching Doctor Who Christmas specials, most of which I have in my iTunes library. That’s always a fun way to escape from reality for a bit.



end of vacation, end of year

So it’s back to work tomorrow, after my week-long vacation. Looking at my “things to do on vacation” list, I didn’t do any of them. Which is fine. I did a few things, including updating my MacBook to Big Sur, sending out my Christmas cards, reading the entire Locke & Key comic book series, and, um… replacing the battery in my smoke detector. Yeah, I know those aren’t big accomplishments, but hey, it was supposed to be a vacation, right?

I’ve also been doing a lot of end-of-year thinking and planning. I got a few end-of-year things done this week, and there are a bunch more that I’m still working on. One thing, of course, is figuring out which services/subscriptions to keep and which to cancel, and whether or not I should be signing up for anything new right now. So the rest of this post is going to turn into yet another rumination about all that stuff.

For video, I added Disney+ recently, and also Hulu, via their $2/month Black Friday deal. So now I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu for video services. I’ve been thinking about canceling my traditional cable subscription, but I still haven’t done that. It’s looking like my cable bill might go up by $20/month in January, so that’s pushing me more in that direction. I’ve been experimenting with using my Apple TV more and my TiVo less, and figuring out how to get some of the stuff I like on regular TV without a cable subscription. I can get most (or all) of the PBS content I want from the PBS Apple TV app. And I can watch clips of the late-night shows on YouTube. So that’s probably fine.

For music, I’ll probably let my Apple Music free trial turn into a paid subscription when the trial is up. I’m actually using it a lot.

For comics, I do intend on dropping my Westfield subscriptions at some point, but I haven’t done it yet. For December, I would have had just three comics on my order, but I added a couple of graphic novels. That might be my last order, or I might hang in there for two more months. I have a couple of series I’d like to complete before giving up on print comics.

I’ve also been thinking about some financial stuff. Specifically, I’ve been assessing my credit card situation. I signed up for the Apple Card recently, as I’ve probably mentioned here before. I don’t like some things about that card, but the cash back for Apple Store purchases makes it worthwhile. Now that I’ve had it for awhile, I think I’m a little more OK with it than I initially was. Even though I can’t download transactions from it directly into Quicken, the process for saving a QFX file and importing it into Quicken isn’t that bad. And the Apple Card is better about privacy than most other cards, so maybe I should consider using it for more stuff.

Meanwhile, I switched my AmEx card from the Green card to the EveryDay card earlier this year. That was a good decision, since the Green card annual fee was going up to $150/year, and had mostly travel-related bonuses. The EveryDay card has no fee and has extra bonuses for everyday stuff like groceries. So it’s almost like I knew the pandemic was coming, when I switched back in February. I’ve certainly spent a lot more money on groceries this year than I have on travel.

I’ve been spending a heck of a lot of money at Amazon this year too, so that’s got me thinking about signing up for the Amazon Prime credit card. That gives you 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, which would have gotten me as much as $100 this year, depending on which purchases are eligible. But if I get that card, then I’ll have a total of five cards (Citi MC, AmEx, Macy’s, Apple, and Amazon), which might be too many cards. Maybe I should drop the Macy’s card. I’ve ordered a few things from them online this year, but not nearly as much stuff as I’ve ordered from Amazon.

I’m a little worried about how opening multiple new credit cards in one year might affect my credit score. But, then again, I’m not planning on borrowing any money any time soon, so I probably shouldn’t care about that. I don’t know. I guess it’s good to have enough free time and enough money to mess around with all this stuff.

Vacation, I guess

I’m on “vacation” this week. I put that in quotes because I’m spending the week alone in my apartment, which is the same thing I’ve done every week since March. The only difference this week is that I’m reading comics and watching TV all day instead of just part of the day. I had a number of PTO days left this year that were in the “use it or lose it” category, so here I am, with a week off and nothing to do. I’m not complaining. I fully recognize that sitting around doing nothing for a week while getting paid my full salary and still having health insurance is something for which I should be really grateful.

The vacation got off to a rocky start, after I had a really bad night Saturday. I just couldn’t get any sleep, mostly due to a really stuffy nose. That left me feeling like a zombie on Sunday. I did a little better with sleep Sunday night, and I think I got back to something like normal last night, so, all things considered, I’m not doing too bad today. But the rough weekend has drained some of my ambition. (Not that I had much to start with.)

I started a note in Evernote a few weeks back for “things to do on my vacation,” but I’m looking at it now, and I don’t think I really want to do any of those things. A few of them seem risky, given the current COVID-19 situation. And a few of them just seem like more work than I want to do.

In the “too much work” category: I’d thought about attending GitHub Universe, which is running today through Thursday. Or the virtual DevIntersection event that’s running tomorrow and Thursday. As much as I think that it’d be a good idea to spend some time “sharpening the saw”, so to speak, I’m really more in the mood to just relax and do nothing this week. If, at some point, I feel like I’ve maxed out on TV and comics, maybe I’ll try to do some work on this year’s Advent of Code project. I’ve done the Advent of Code thing in previous years, though I’ve never gotten through the whole thing. Anyway, that might be a good compromise between stuff that looks too much like work and stuff that looks too much like being in a coma.

In the “too risky” category: I miss being able to go into NYC at this time of year. It’s cold, but it’s nice to go in and do some holiday shopping, and visit some museums, and maybe see some movies. I noticed a blog post in my “On This Day” widget about the Cartoon Musicals program at Lincoln Center from 2005. That was fun. All of the movie theaters in NYC are still closed. I could watch some stuff from the Lincoln Center virtual cinema, or the Film Forum one, but there’s nothing at either of those right now that I’m terribly interested in. If I’m going to stay home and watch movies on my couch, I’ll just stick with Netflix.

I’ve also been thinking that I should spend some time watching some of the video content that the Met and MoMA have posted this year. Maybe I could start with the exhibit tour for Making the Met. It bothers me a bit that I never got to see that exhibit in person. Technically, I could hop on a train today and go into the Met and see the exhibit, but it just seems like an unnecessary risk, and a bad idea. I feel bad that nearly all of the Met’s big plans around celebrating their 150th anniversary this year had to be scrapped or scaled way back. But I’m sure the Met is doing better than a lot of other cultural institutions right now, even if they’re not doing great.

I always feel a little guilty doing nothing, but apparently I shouldn’t. I just read this article about niksen, the “Dutch art of doing nothing”, and apparently doing nothing is good for me. (I could read a book about it too, but reading a book about doing nothing seems like failing at doing nothing.) So, anyway, it’s just past 9 AM, I’m done with breakfast, and I should really be done with blogging too. Time to read some comics. Or just stare into space. Whatever.

The Holiday Season

OK, I know I already wrote one pointless blog post today, and one per day should really be my quota, but, well, that one was spur of the moment, and I have some other stuff I’d been meaning to blog about today.

Now that the Thanksgiving weekend is winding down, I’ve been thinking about holiday stuff and end of year stuff. I don’t really have an important point to make or anything, rather just some random items to note.

Black Friday

I didn’t do much in the way of Black Friday shopping this year. I certainly didn’t do any in-person shopping, of course. I did take advantage of a few Black Friday deals though:

  • I renewed my Pluralsight subscription, at their Black Friday rate of $179/year. I’ve been doing that every year for the last few years. I think I get enough use out of Pluralsight to justify the cost, but I never feel quite sure of that. Either way, I’m set for another year.
  • I signed up for Hulu, via their Black Friday deal, which is $1.99/month for their ad-supported tier, for one year. (So, after a year, it goes to the normal $5.99/month rate.) I guess I can justify $2/month for Animaniacs and Dicktown and maybe a few other things. I’m not sure how annoying the ads are going to be. And I’m not sure I’ll keep it going after the promotional rate expires.
  • I also signed up for one year of Letterboxd Pro for $12. (I guess that’s half their normal rate.) I mentioned Letterboxd about a year ago. I’ve been logging all the movies I’ve watched this year with Letterboxd. And I’ve been keeping track of my DVD/Blu-ray collection with I’m not quite as fanatical about either of these sites as I am about tracking my books in Goodreads. But they’re useful, and kind of fun.
  • I’ve almost talked myself into getting a 4K Apple TV via Apple’s Black Friday sale. That would get me a $50 gift card, bringing the $200 Apple TV down to $150, effectively. And I’d get a free year of Apple TV+. (I don’t really need Apple TV+, but there are a few interesting shows on it.)

Giving Tuesday

I’ve been overwhelmed with e-mail and snail mail related to charities this year, and of course it gets even more intense around the holidays. I generally like to put together a list of charities to give to at the end of the year, and make some donations. I probably won’t be doing that on Giving Tuesday, but I’ll get around to it at some point before New Year’s Day. I probably gave more to political causes earlier in the year (for obvious reasons). Now, at the end, I should look at more traditional charities, like food banks and stuff like that. has a good article listing some worthy NJ charities to support right now.

Cable TV

I’ve been going back and forth on the idea of discontinuing my cable TV service for quite a while. My latest cable bill included a notice saying that my promotional discount would be reduced next month, so my cable bill will go up by about $20/month. That’s just about enough to get me over the fence on that. Of course, their customer service department is closed on Sunday, so I’ll have to call them at some point during the week. If I call, and they offer to keep my current discount, I’ll probably stick with cable. But if they don’t, I’ll probably go ahead and discontinue it. I think I’ve just about made my peace with the idea of no longer having access to live TV.


I often send out my Christmas cards over the Thanksgiving weekend. Or at least I start working on them. I don’t send out a lot, but I always send out more than I get back. And I seem to get fewer and fewer every year. It’s really tempting to just give up on it this year. I really haven’t been in anything like a Christmas mood, and I think it’s going to be hard to get too enthusiastic about it this year, for a variety of reasons.

But, on a lark, I picked up my dumb little fake Christmas tree from my storage unit today and set it up. So I’m hoping that maybe that’ll start getting me in the right mood. Maybe I can bring myself to do the cards next weekend. I don’t know. Maybe I can talk myself into watching It’s A Wonderful Life at some point soon. Or if not that, maybe Die Hard. Small steps… (Speaking of Christmas movies, Letterboxd’s list of 25 top rated Christmas movies has some good ones.)

Blogging vs. blog setups

I saw this comic on Twitter this morning, and immediately started thinking about where I fit on it. The comic is from, and I hope he doesn’t mind me pasting it in here. (His blog is worth a look, by the way.)

This site started out under Blogger in 2001, so it kind of fits the “old-ass site” description, but I moved it to WordPress in 2014, so it kind of almost fits the “WordPress setup from 2004” description too, though a decade later. (And before Blogger, I was doing some proto-blogging on my old GeoCities site, which would definitely have fit the “weird dude who writes raw HTML” category. I’d like to have some claim to the “cool MIT professor” data point, but I’m nowhere near that one.)

On the “number of posts about elaborate blog setups” axis, I like to think I don’t spend too much time blogging about blogging, though of course that’s what I’m doing right now. Looking at my stats, I have 62 posts tagged “Blogger”, 52 posts tagged “WordPress”, and 2,442 posts total here. So, yeah, not too much meta-blogging.

Of course, for me, initially, part of the point of blogging was to learn about HTML, web hosting, the UNIX command line, and stuff like that. And when I switched to WordPress, part of the point there was just to learn more about WordPress, for professional reasons. But my work now doesn’t really involve any of that stuff, so now the blog is just a blog and I don’t fiddle with the setup that much. I’ve even thought of moving it to, so I don’t have to worry about the setup at all.

Content-wise, I wish my blog was more interesting/useful and less navel-gazing, but I’m kind of okay with navel-gazing right now, since it’s been a rough year and the blog is one of my only outlets for getting stuff out of my head now. I could go see a therapist, I guess, but my blog hosting is only $14/month, and I’m pretty sure therapy would cost a lot more.

audiobooks, comics, and iOS apps

It looks like we’re right in the middle of our second wave here in NJ. There are a few bright spots, but I think, overall, it’ll get worse before it gets better. So… happy Thanksgiving, I guess?

I spent my Thanksgiving alone in my apartment, but I probably would have done that this year, even if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. I also spent Black Friday alone in my apartment, and will likely be spending today and tomorrow home alone too. If the pandemic was over, I’d probably have gone into NYC at some point this weekend, but that’s out of the question now. So I’m definitely feeling a bit of cabin fever. But I’ll get through it.

I managed to get the Audible app on my iPhone working, somehow. After last week’s trouble, I’d pretty much given up on it, but I decided to take another shot. I don’t really know what I did to get it to work, but, well, it’s working now. Though I should say that I haven’t actually tried to listen to anything yet, so I don’t really know if that’ll work. But at least I can launch the app and poke around in it without having it crash.

And I still haven’t decided what I want to listen to next. I started listening to a BBC adaptation of War and Peace some time ago, and I should probably get back to that and finish it, but I haven’t been in the mood for anything like that. I should probably listen to one of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas instead. (Neither of those requires Audible, though, and I’d like to find out if the Audible app is really fixed or not, so I may try something from my Audible library instead.)

Meanwhile, on my iPad, I wanted to read a comic last night and tried to launch Comic Zeal, which is the iOS app i use for reading DRM-free comics. It crashed as soon as I opened it, and I couldn’t find any way to get it to work. I didn’t want to delete and reinstall it, since that would also remove the 4 GB worth of comics that I had loaded in to it. Comic Zeal hasn’t been updated in about four years, so I’ve been expecting that it would eventually stop working. I assumed that iOS 14 had finally killed it. But, then, after deleting it and reinstalling it, it does seem to work again. Of course, that killed all the comics I had in there, so I decided that maybe I should just try another app.

I’d picked up iComics at some point, when it was on sale or something, maybe last year, but hadn’t tried it out at all. I looked at the app store, and I saw that it was updated to work with iOS 14 a couple of months ago, so that seemed like a good bet. So I’m going to try to switch over to that. Dealing with situations like this always reminds me of how annoyed I am about the file system on iOS. On a normal computer, I would have been able to just drag and drop the files from Comic Zeal over to iComics. But, with iOS, if you can’t launch an app, then there’s really no way to get to that app’s files. So I had to go through the work of figuring out where the CBZ files were for the comics I wanted to load, pull them down from OneDrive to my Mac, then copy them over to the iPad. That took quite a while.

One nice thing about iComics over Comic Zeal is that it exposes its files via the Files app, so I think that means that I could access them even if I couldn’t launch the app. I’ve played around with iComics a bit now, and I think it’s good enough for me, but it definitely doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Comic Zeal had. It’s a shame that the developer on that one seems to have given up on it.

I see that the developer for iComics started working on a new version in January of this year. But, of course the pandemic (and other stuff) got in the way, per this blog post from mid-year. He just posted a personal update a few days ago, coincidentally. He’s only written three blog posts this year, but they’re pretty lengthy and interesting. I, on the other hand, have written 93 posts so far this year, according to my stats. And most of them are probably dumb and boring. But that’s OK.

So, anyway, I guess I’ve got my audiobook and comic book situations figured out for now, so if I’m in the mood to listen/read this weekend, I’ll actually be able to do that. I have no clue what I really want to do for the rest of the weekend, though. I was pretty restless yesterday, for a while, and couldn’t decide what to do with myself, and started to get a bit annoyed with myself. Then, I didn’t sleep well last night. I guess I’ll get something for lunch soon. After that, maybe I’ll try to settle down and read something. Or take a walk. Or a nap. I guess it’s good that I have options.

audiobook management madness

Since I recently finished listening to Invisible Man, I thought I’d look into starting a new audiobook. I blogged about my issues with Invisible Man here. In a nutshell: it’s an Audible book, but I couldn’t get the Audible iOS app to work. I wound up listening to it through the Kindle iOS app, which was workable, but not great.

I have a pretty random collection of audiobooks. Some are from Audible, some are from Apple, and some are DRM-free books that I’ve gotten from Humble Bundles, or ripped from CD, or whatever. In trying to organize things a bit today, I wound up stumbling across a number of different issues, so I thought I’d write up some notes.

I started out by trying to get a handle on which audiobooks I have, which I’ve already read, and where they are. I have some notes about that in Evernote, but they were a little out of date. So I pulled up the Books app on my Mac to see what was in there.

I already vaguely knew that, in Catalina, books and audiobooks had been moved out of iTunes (obviously, since iTunes is no more), and into Books, but I guess I hadn’t looked at it too closely and realized how clunky that was and how much functionality has gone missing. First of all, the books are now stored in “~/Library/Containers/”. And there’s no right-click “Show in Finder” option like there used to be in iTunes. So finding the actual book files isn’t easy. And the folder doesn’t retain user-friendly names for the books; it just uses numbered folders. So that’s all a bit annoying. And, beyond that, there’s no ability to edit metadata for your books in the Books app the way there was in iTunes. So, overall, I guess Books is OK if you’re only using it to manage books/audiobooks bought from Apple. But if you’re trying to use it to manage random DRM-free files, it’s not optimal. So I spent some time puzzling through that, and realizing that there really isn’t a better alternative for managing audiobooks on the Mac.

I was also wondering if, now that I’m in Apple Music, there was a way to sync my audiobooks up to the cloud the way it works with Music. If I could do that, I’d be pretty close to having no further need to sync my iPhone to my Mac. But there’s really no way to do that. You still need to sync books to your iPhone the old-fashioned way. (That doesn’t really bother me too much, but if you’re going to push everybody to the cloud, maybe add that functionality to the Books app too?)

So, overall, Books on macOS was a bit of a disappointment, but I cleaned things up a little, updated my Evernote notes, and removed a few completed books from my iPhone.

Then, I went over to my PC to see what my iTunes audiobook library looked like over there. Apple hasn’t done much with iTunes on the PC lately, so the audiobook stuff still works fine. I did find one book that somehow accidentally migrated into my music collection, but I got it back into the audiobook section, and everything else seems fine.

Next, I decided to try installing the Audible app on my iPhone again, and see if the issue I was having back in July had sorted itself out yet. And the answer is: nope. I can get as far as launching the app and signing in, but then it just spins for a few seconds and crashes. It’s actually even worse that it was back in July. I tried a few hints and tips I saw online, like trying to launch it with wi-fi turned off, but nothing helped. The app just crashes, no matter what I do. The whole thing is kind of puzzling. There have been a bunch of updates to the Audible app between July and now, so if it was a common bug, they’d have fixed it. And I’ve updated from iOS 13 to iOS 14 since then, so if it was an iOS bug, you’d think that would have been fixed too.

I’ve got some stuff bookmarked related to the idea of keeping audiobooks in Plex and listening to them with an app called Prologue. It sounds promising, but I’m not ready to start messing with Plex again. It would only be useful for the DRM-free stuff, and not for stuff bought through Apple or Audible (unless I stripped the DRM, which is yet another step to go through).

So, around two hours after I started, I still haven’t picked out a new audiobook to start, and I’m more annoyed and depressed about the state of audiobook management and playback on the Mac and iOS that I was to begin with. Oh well.