more odds and ends

I’m kind of exhausted now, and I kind of want 2020 to just be over. But it’s not. I’m doing my best to stay positive and keep working and exercising and eating right (and I am doing all that), but I’m getting a little frayed around the edges. Anyway, here’s another round-up of (mostly) bad news. Writing helps me process things and clear my head. I don’t necessarily expect anything here to be useful to anyone else, but writing it down helps me.

More #MeToo

Well, the #MeToo stuff in comics is really starting to snowball. After Cam Stewart, Warren Ellis, and Charles Brownstein, now it’s Scott Allie’s turn. Allie was an editor and writer at Dark Horse. He was the editor on all the Hellboy and Hellboy-related books for a long time. And he’s written a few also. I’ve been a Hellboy and BPRD fan since Hellboy #1 from back in the 90s. I didn’t really know anything about Allie, other than just knowing his name from the credits and letter columns. So I can’t say much about him. I don’t think there’s any indication that Mike Mignola knew anything about this, so that at least is something. I’d hate to have to lose my respect for Mignola. (And I do have a good bit of respect for him.)

And back to Brownstein: He was apparently involved in another incident, about ten years ago, involving a CBLDF employee, who was then essentially forced to sign an NDA. So things are looking worse for them. I’m not quite ready to burn my CBLDF t-shirts, but I’m not going to be wearing them in public anytime soon either.

New Toys

I don’t think I’ve even turned on my new laptop yet this week. I’ve been doing a bunch of React stuff on my MacBook, and all of my actual work on my work machines, of course. So I haven’t had time to do any setup on the Lenovo.

I have had time to mess around with my Echo Dot a bit though. I’ve discovered that it’s pretty good as a speaker (given it’s small size), but not if you’re using it via Bluetooth. So if you’re playing stuff over it via the usual Alexa route, it sounds pretty good. But it’s not really worth trying to use it as a Bluetooth speaker. So I’ll yell “Alexa, play WQXR” if I want to hear some classical music while I’m working and that works out fine.


Speaking of React, I’ve been reading the second edition of Learning React via my ACM O’Reilly subscription. It’s an “early release” version, so it’s a little rough, but it’s more up-to-date than any other book on React that I’ve seen. I’m at a point now where I’m not sure if I should keep working my way through books and videos or if I should stop reading/watching and start actually working on a project. I think I might need to finish the Learning React book at least. I’m still having trouble getting at the big picture with React. I’m learning little bits and pieces, but they don’t all fit together in my head yet.

Reopening NJ

Somerville is really hopping this week, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Mostly nervous, I guess. All the restaurants are doing outdoor dining, which means that they’ve annexed about 90% of the sidewalks. So a walk down Main St right now is kind of an obstacle course. And the obstacles are people sitting at outdoor tables, talking, eating, and not wearing masks. My early morning walks are still OK, since there are only one or two places open that early. But I’ve been avoiding Main St on my afternoon walks. Still, though, it’s kind of fun to see the outdoor dining. And it’s nice to hear people talking and laughing and all that. I just wish I could shake the idea that one of them is going to spray COVID-19 all over me.

Meanwhile, the Bridgewater Commons is going to reopen on Monday. I don’t think I’ll be going back there any time soon though. Maybe I’d risk a trip to the Apple Store if I really needed something, but only as a last resort. I just ordered two new pairs of shorts from the Macy’s web site, and I think that’s all the new clothes I’ll need between now and the end of the year. Macy’s and the Apple Store are really the only places at the mall that I frequent, so I don’t think I’ll be tempted to go over there.

And Yestercades is reopening too, on July 2. This seems like an even worse idea that reopening the mall. There’s no way they can keep all those arcade machines clean. And that place is really too cramped for social distancing. I don’t know, maybe they’ve figured out a way to make it work. I can definitely say that I’m not going back in there anytime soon either.

I may be more stressed now than when I started writing this post, which is not how I wanted this to turn out. Maybe I should spend the next hour listening to this public domain recording of the Goldberg Variations. That’ll help me calm down.



I’ve been a supporter of the CBLDF for years. I haven’t kept my official membership up to date at all times, but I’ve signed up for membership on multiple occasions, in addition to some random donations, and have a collection of t-shirts, pins, and other bric-a-brac to prove it. I let my membership lapse again a few months back and have had renewing it on my to-do list since then, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Now I guess that might be a good thing. After last week’s #MeToo moments for Cam Stewart and Warren Ellis, it seems that now it’s Charles Brownstein’s turn. Brownstein was the executive director of the CBLDF for years. He resigned yesterday after some old sexual assault allegations against him from 2006 resurfaced.

I never really knew much about Brownstein. I was aware of his role at CBLDF, but didn’t really know anything at all about him personally. But I don’t recall ever having heard anything bad about him. Oh well. The statement from CBLDF on this is short and doesn’t come anywhere close to addressing the issue of how it took so long to get to this point, given that these allegations were apparently well-known among comics creators, several of whom had stopped supporting CBLDF over this some time ago.

While I didn’t know much about Brownstein, some of the folks on the CBLDF board (and advisory board) are people I have a lot of admiration for, including Paul Levitz and Neil Gaiman. I guess I’m a little disappointed in them, if they knew about this and didn’t push for Brownstein’s removal. I don’t really know what the situation was there, so I’m going to assume they either didn’t know or were convinced that Brownstein hadn’t done anything wrong.

Either way, I guess maybe I won’t be renewing my CBLDF membership this year. I can revisit it next year, and see how they’re doing. There are plenty of other worthy causes out there to support right now. A number of folks on Twitter mentioned Hero Initiative as a comics-related organization that’s worthy of support, so that’s something to consider.

odds and ends

OK, after this morning’s depressing Warren Ellis post, here’s some lighter stuff. Just a mix of stuff I’ve been meaning to mention, for one reason or another.

Google AdSense

I added Google AdSense to my blog back in 2010 and removed it in 2016. But I never closed out my account. So I did that this week. Now, I can finally get the $15 that Google owes me. (Normally, they don’t pay out until you hit $100, but if you close your account, they’ll pay out any balance, if it’s over $10.) I wonder how many small bloggers like me are still bothering with AdSense. For a while, a lot of people thought they could make good money by running a blog and putting AdSense on it. I’m wondering if any of them really did.

New Toys

I haven’t made much more progress in setting up my new laptop. I was too busy yesterday to even turn it on. Hopefully, I’ll have time to do some stuff with it this weekend. I did also just get a new Amazon Echo Dot (with clock). I don’t really have a good excuse for buying it. I had an old iHome alarm clock / iPhone dock on my nightstand that I couldn’t really use anymore, since it doesn’t fit the newer iPhones. And that was fine, really, since I don’t really need a clock on my nightstand. These days, I just plug my iPhone in, and use Sleep Cycle as my alarm clock. But, I don’t know, I guess I just wanted a small clock there that could play music or NPR or whatever. And it was only $35. I already have some experience with Alexa, since it’s supported on my Sonos speakers, but I turned off the mics on those, since it was getting accidentally triggered too often, and I didn’t really find it that useful. I’m going to play around with it some more on the Echo and see if there’s anything fun or useful that I can do with it.

Learning New Stuff

I finished the SharePoint Framework course that I was working through. That’s given me a good start, but there’s still a lot I need to figure out. I’m almost done with the React course on SharePoint that I’ve been watching and working through. Most of that course uses an online JavaScript environment, found at, so you don’t need to set up your own dev environment. But I’m now at the point where I really do need to set up a dev environment to get any further. I considered a lot of options, but settled on using Homebrew on my Mac to set up Node.js. And I’m using Visual Studio Code as my text editor. So that’s good enough for now.

I may need to play with Node Version Manager at some point, but for now, I think that would be an unnecessary complication. And, on Windows, I want to look into setting something up under WSL2 at some point. Microsoft, helpfully, has a guide on how to do that. But, again, I’m probably not ready to dive into that just yet.

So that’s my “odds and ends” post for today. I could write up a bunch of other stuff, but it’s probably best if I stop for now and go eat some lunch. Then maybe take a nap.

Warren Ellis

I have a few things I want to blog about this weekend, but I guess I might as well get this one out of the way first: Warren Ellis has been accused of multiple instances of “sexual misconduct.” I started seeing stuff about this popping up in my Twitter feed earlier this week. It was all a bit confusing. He’s released a statement addressing the allegations, and The Beat has a write-up on that. There’s also an article on Bleeding Cool. And I see that a short story of his that was supposed to be in an upcoming Batman one-shot has been pulled. I am in no way qualified to evaluate and/or judge any of this mess. All I can say is that I’m really disappointed.

I’ve been a really big fan of Ellis for a while now. Searching for his name on my blog, I found 38 mentions, going back to 2005. I’ve been subscribing to his weekly newsletter since 2016, and I’ve really gotten a lot out of it. (He’s ended the newsletter now, of course.) Selfishly, I’m wondering if the rest of Batman’s Grave is going to be published. I haven’t started reading it yet, but the reviews have been good.

It’s weird to say that I looked up to him, but I guess I kind of did? He seemed to be a successful guy who’d figured out how to deal with things and get a lot of good work done despite a number of obstacles. He was always self-deprecating in his newsletter and recommended a lot of good work from other writers, artists, and musicians. And he had a lot of good general life advice in there too. I don’t really know where all of this is going to go. And I don’t really know how to feel about it. But I thought I should at least acknowledge it here.

Hey, and Fastmail, and the app store

Okay, here’s my second blog post for today, this time about email (mostly). The guys who make Basecamp introduced a new email product, called Hey, about a week ago. I was kind of curious about it, since I like the Basecamp guys, generally speaking, and have used their products before. (I was a big user of their Backpack product for several years.) Anyway, it’s interesting, but not for me. It’s $99 a year and really wouldn’t be as good for me as Fastmail is, and that only costs $50/year.

But then there was a big kerfuffle when they tried to release a new version of their iOS client to the app store. Apple rejected it, for reasons explained here. Basically, Apple wants them to add an in-app purchase for subscriptions, thereby giving Apple a cut of their subscription revenue. Which they don’t want to do. DHH went on a bit of a Twitter rant over this. I think that he’s mostly right, though it’s not as simple an issue as some people would make it out to be.

This whole thing got me worried that, if Apple is going to go after Hey for subscription revenue, they might go after Fastmail too. I haven’t seen any indication that they’ve done that yet, but I’m concerned that, if they do, Fastmail will have to increase prices to take Apple’s cut into account. Or they could just discontinue their iOS client. Either way, it wouldn’t be good for me.

So that got me to go over to Fastmail’s blog and see if they had weighed in on it. They haven’t, but I did notice a blog post announcing their support for labels. So that’s cool. I had used labels in Gmail, and having to switch to folders was kind of a bummer for me. So if you’ve been thinking about migrating from Gmail to Fastmail, that’s one less thing to worry about. I can’t decide if I want to switch back to labels now that I’ve got everything working with folders, but I’m considering it. Fastmail has also revamped their rules system recently, and I’m liking that too.

new Lenovo laptop

The new laptop that I ordered on Sunday showed up today. It’s a Lenovo Flex 5, from Costco. I don’t have much to say about it yet. It’s about what I expected. It seems to be pretty solid, but it’s definitely from Lenovo’s consumer side rather than their business side. It’s got a touchscreen, and it can be folded all the way back so it can be used as a tablet. It didn’t come with a pen, but it appears to support pen input. I don’t know much about Windows 10’s pen support, but I might look into it, just out of curiosity.

The keyboard is okay, but not great. And the layout is sensible, but of course it’s at least slightly different from my other two current laptops (my personal MacBook Air and my work HP laptop), so I’m going to be stumbling on key locations, but that’s life. The camera works, but apparently can’t be used with Windows Hello. (That’s fine. I don’t really need that.) It’s also got a fingerprint reader that I haven’t tried to set up yet.

The laptop didn’t have too much bloatware on it. During setup, Lenovo gives you the option to install a few things that you really don’t need, so I appreciated the opportunity to decline those. I did have to uninstall two separate McAfee products though. I got a few essentials installed on it today (Evernote, 1Password, Firefox, Notepad++, and a few other things). And I got it updated to Windows 10 Pro (from Home). I’ll probably install some dev tools on it tomorrow and/or over the weekend. And maybe Steam too, so I can play some games.

I have a couple of other topics I wanted to blog about too, but they’re totally unrelated to this, so I may write them up separately later or over the weekend.

SharePoint, React, Laptops, and so on

I mentioned a while back that I’m trying to learn about the (relatively) new SharePoint Framework (SPFx), for a project at work. I’ve made some progress with that, but I still have a way to go. I’ve done 5 of the 8 modules in this course from Microsoft. And I’ve watched a couple of Pluralsight videos, one from Sahil Malik and one from Danny Jessee. I’ve been doing that mostly on work time, since it’s specific to a work project.

SPFx relies on a number of related technologies, some of which I know and some of which I don’t. (And the ones I know, I don’t necessarily know that well.) So I decided to start digging into some related stuff, on my own time. I know pretty much nothing about React, and it looked interesting, so I decided to start learning that. I’ve watched one short Pluralsight video, that just gives an overview without getting into specifics. And now I’m working through a four-hour video course that goes into a little more detail. There’s a whole skill path for React on Pluralsight that would take about 40 hours to watch, if you went through it all. (And of course it would be much longer than that, if you actually followed along and worked through projects on your own.)

I got side-tracked off of React at one point when I was watching one of the Pluralsight videos on my old ThinkPad, and the battery suddenly died. I’ve had that laptop since 2011, and it’s starting to show its age. I’d only been watching the video for about 30 minutes, and the battery should have had a full charge when I started. So I started thinking about either replacing the battery on it, or just getting a new laptop. Replacing the battery on that particular model is really easy. And there were a bunch of options for a replacement battery on Amazon (though most of them looked kind of sketchy). But I started thinking about how old the laptop was, and how iffy off-brand replacement batteries can be. And I also started wondering if that laptop was going to be able to handle some the stuff I’m going to want to try out soon, like WSL 2. I’ve been hearing about that for a while, and it’s now been released as part of the Windows 10 2004 update. The old ThinkPad, surprisingly, has been able to keep current with Windows 10 updates so far, up to version 1909. But I have my doubts about whether or not it’s going to be able to deal with 2004. So, reluctantly, I started shopping for a new laptop.

This is a pretty common thing with me: I start trying to learn a new technology, and I get side-tracked shopping for a new laptop, or some new piece of software, or something. Anyway, I spent way too much time on that yesterday. This morning, I finally settled on the Lenovo Flex from Costco, for $750. It’s a bit of a compromise, since I’ll need to upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro, but I can still do that for $40 with my Microsoft company store access, which should still be good for the next week or two. Also, it’s a 2-in-1, which I don’t really need or want, but most Windows laptops seem to be touchscreen 2-in-1 models now, so I’ll give it a try. On the positive side, it’s got 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and an AMD Ryzen 7 CPU. (I haven’t really been keeping up with CPU news lately, but it looks like the AMD Ryzen 7 4700U is pretty good.) So I think it should be able to handle my fairly modest needs. I always feel a little guilty when I spend money on new hardware, but I’m trying to remember that, this year, I’ve spent nothing at all on travel, and I’m not likely to. If I’d gone to WonderCon this year, that would have cost me well over $1000, for hotel and airfare alone.

I was going to remark that I’d made it through a whole post without referencing COVID-19, but the travel comment above kind of does reference our current situation, so I guess that’s not true. COVID-19 definitely did affect my laptop shopping. In normal times, I probably would have gone out to Costco yesterday to see what laptop models they had on display. And I might have taken a trip to Best Buy too. Costco is still open, but I don’t really want to go there unless I have to. And Best Buy of course is still closed. So I settled on a mail-order laptop from Costco. They have a good return policy, if I need it.

a day off

I took today as a PTO day. I had a dentist’s appointment in the morning. Normally, I would just start work late after that, but I realized that the year is almost half over and I’d only taken one PTO day so far. And (again) normally, when I take a Friday off during the summer, I generally go into Manhattan and spend the day checking out museums and walking around parks and stuff like that. That’s all off the table now, obviously. I really had no plans today beyond the dentist’s appointment.

After going for a walk and killing some time poking around at stuff on my laptop, I decided to try giving blood. I haven’t given in a while, and I know the blood supply is low right now, since they can’t really do blood drives as usual. So I made an appointment and drove over to the New Brunswick donor center. I’d never been there before. It’s just a nondescript building on a side-street downtown. They were following reasonable precautions, checking temperature before entering and stuff like that. Before you can donate, you need to fill out a questionnaire on a laptop. I’m hoping that they were wiping those down between uses, though I didn’t actually see anybody doing that. Anyway, I got through the first step but got turned away because my blood pressure was too low. So that was kind of a waste of time, but it got me out of the apartment for a while at least.

Between the dentist’s appointment and the blood center, I had more human contact today that I’ve had since the lockdown started. A lot more really, since the main room of the blood center is basically one big open room, and there were about a dozen people in it. Most were wearing masks, but the three or four people who had finished donating and were at the snack tables had their masks off so they could eat and drink.

I’m seeing some posts on Facebook from local restaurants that are going to start doing outdoor dining on Monday the 15th. And “personal care” businesses are set to start reopening next Monday, the 22nd. Murphy’s stay-at-home order was lifted earlier this week too. (That was largely symbolic, but still worth noting.) I’m not sure how good an idea any of this is, but nobody’s asking my opinion.

I have a bunch of other stuff I want to blog about, but maybe I should stop for now. I also have a bunch of stuff I wanted to get done today, and it’s now 2 PM and I haven’t really done much of it.

protests in Somerville

There were a few Black Lives Matter protests here in Somerville over the weekend. I didn’t go out much at all myself this weekend, so I was mostly aware of them only from the perspective of seeing them from my apartment window. I was sick on Saturday, so going out then seemed like a bad idea. On Sunday, I was feeling better, and did go out for a couple of walks, but going outside during the protests still seemed like a bad idea, just from the perspective of the possible COVID-19 exposure. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’m an old man with some health issues, so… maybe I’m not paranoid.

Anyway, judging purely from what I could see from my window, it seemed like there were just a handful of kids, mostly white, protesting on Saturday. I think that might have been just a group of well-meaning local high school students or something. That was a little amusing, but still nice to see.

Early afternoon on Sunday, there was a much larger group, still mostly young, but much more mixed, that marched up and down Main St several times. This group stuck to the sidewalks. I’d estimate 100 to 200 people total. They were probably marching for an hour or so, and I’m guessing they were going back and forth from the courthouse to town hall, based on the timing of when they were passing by outside.

A couple of hours later, a much larger group came by, this time marching right down the middle of the road, stopping traffic. There must have been hundreds of people, but I can’t say how many. They were quite loud and there were a lot of them. The group was definitely mixed: young and old, adults and children, white and black. Everything I saw was entirely peaceful, and I didn’t see any police presence at all.

This article from MyCentralJersey seems to be covering the earlier Sunday protest. It mentions “hundreds” of protestors, and has a bunch of photos, but they only show people on the sidewalks. This one from TapInto seems to be covering both the earlier and later protests. It mentions “1000+” protestors, and has some photos of people marching in the street. And here’s an article from Patch briefly covering protests in Somerville, Manville, and Franklin.

Apparently, there were some organized speeches and activity on the courthouse lawn prior to the marches on Sunday. It would have been cool to have been able to go down and check some of that out. But I didn’t know about any of this prior to seeing it pass by my window. And, if I did, I still would not have felt safe mixing with such a large crowd.

I don’t have anything really useful to add to any of the discussion on these issues, other than to say that it’s inspiring to see how many people seem to be engaged and concerned about this stuff now. I don’t know how many of these folks are going to vote in November. I don’t know how many of them are going to remain engaged, once this stuff fades from the news. I remember the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999. We all hoped things would change after that, and, well, that was twenty years ago. But I don’t remember anybody protesting in Somerville in 1999. So maybe there’s finally enough momentum now to change things. We’ll see.

Yet another week

I should probably stop blogging about pointless mundane stuff, but… I’m not going to. It makes me feel better. And nobody really has to read any of this, so I might as well.

I’ve mentioned previously my experiment with home grocery delivery from Whole Foods. Last week, I’d pretty much decided not to do it again. But I started feeling a little sick last night, and didn’t feel any better this morning. So I went ahead and put in a Whole Foods order for delivery, figuring it would be safer for everyone if I didn’t go to the grocery store this week. Things seemed to be going well with it. They made a few reasonable substitutions. And there was only one item they were out of and didn’t have a substitute for. The delivery guy showed up at 8 AM, no problem. But he only dropped off one bag, when there should have been three. So I didn’t get most of my order. To make a long story short, I got a credit from Amazon for the missing items, then went out to ShopRite and bought all the other stuff I needed, since it didn’t look like the missing bags were going to show up. So that was kind of a failure. Then, at 10:30 AM, someone randomly showed up with the other two bags. So now I have a bunch of extra stuff, and a very full refrigerator and freezer. I probably still have the credit from Amazon too, so I guess it all worked out? Either way, it was all more trouble than it was worth. (And as to feeling sick: I’m still not quite right, but I think it’s just an upset stomach.)

On a completely different topic: I’m a little worried about the comic book industry. DC just announced that they’re withdrawing their business from Diamond entirely, and using two new distributors. There’s a round-up of reaction and some analysis here. I wouldn’t want to own a comic book store right now. I’m not sure how this is all going to play out. Maybe everything will be fine? But probably not. I’m still ordering comics from Westfield, but it’s getting harder for me to justify the expense. They skipped shipping anything in April (for obvious reasons). My May shipment showed up last week, and it only had two comics in it. So the shipping cost was higher than the cost of the actual comics. I just placed my order for this month (for stuff that should ship in August) and I only had four regular books on my order. I added a couple of one-shots, so hopefully I’ll get at least six books. With delays and cancellations, I think I’ll probably be averaging 4-6 comics per month, for the rest of the year, which isn’t really enough to justify the shipping cost. So it would make sense for me to just switch to digital. But I feel like now would be a bad time to cut and run on Westfield. Their service has been great, and supporting a (relatively) small company seems like a good idea right now.

On a bright note, the 2020 Eisner Award nominees have been announced. I haven’t heard anything about how they’re going to actually hand out the awards, since SDCC is of course canceled. Maybe they’ll do a virtual awards gala, or maybe they’ll just issue a press release with the winners, and then do something to celebrate them at the 2021 con (assuming there is a 2021 con). There’s a lot of stuff on the list that I haven’t read. Some of it is stuff I’ve been wanting to read but haven’t gotten around to (like Immortal Hulk), and a lot of it is stuff I’ve never heard of. Looking at stuff I’ve actually read, there’s Death Wins a Goldfish, by Brian Rea, which I read just recently. And The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, which I read a few months ago. And I think that’s about it. So there’s still definitely some quality comics work getting published, and there’s still a ton of it that I haven’t read.