Post-Thanksgiving notes

It hasn’t been a great Thanksgiving weekend, but of course I know things are better for me than they are for… most people, I guess. I’m getting over a cold, which is pretty normal for me at this time of year, so that limits what I can do a bit.

I had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. I didn’t really do anything special. There was plenty of football on TV, including the Giants vs. Dallas game, so I spent most of my time watching football.

I took Black Friday off from work. I did a bunch of random stuff, including updating my MacBook to Ventura. That was pretty simple and painless. I haven’t had any problems with Ventura at all. I started reading The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross. It’s been quite a while since i read a Laundry Files novel.  I read the previous one in 2017. I’m enjoying this one so far. I watched My Father’s Dragon on Netflix, and finished watching Rings of Power on Amazon. The only big Black Friday purchase I made was Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy on Blu-ray.

Yesterday, I did all my usual Saturday chores, then spent the afternoon watching TV, first Enola Holmes 2 on Netflix, then DuckTales season 3 on Disney+. They started in with the Christmas music on Main St. yesterday too. That started around noon and ran until around 7 PM, I think. The main reason I was watching so much TV was because I needed to drown out the music. It seems to be louder this year than it has been in previous years. And it’s definitely setting me on edge, as it usually does. I’m really not capable of listening to Christmas music anymore without getting twitchy.

For today, I spent some time this morning just reading quietly. Now that it’s past noon, and the music has started up again, I guess I’ll spend the rest of the day watching football and/or DuckTales to drown it out.

Then back to work tomorrow. It occurs to me that, since I’m still working from home three days a week, I’ll have to put up with Christmas music on weekdays too now. I guess I did that last year, and lived through it, so I can do it again this year. (That’s assuming they’re playing the Christmas music on both weekdays and weekends. I’ll find out if that’s true tomorrow.)

Overall, I feel like it’s going to be a tricky holiday season for me. I need to make sure I have some reasonable and healthy coping mechanisms in place. (Football and cartoons count as “healthy coping mechanisms,” right? How about brownies?)

Butt Books

From How Book Bans Turned a Texas Town Upside Down:

By early August, two of the butt books and several more that had been called out by the group vanished from Llano Library’s shelves and online catalog listings, including Jane Bexley’s “Larry the Farting Leprechaun,” “Gary the Goose and His Gas on the Loose,” “Freddie the Farting Snowman” and “Harvey the Heart Had Too Many Farts,” along with “My Butt Is So Noisy!” and “I Broke My Butt!” Amber Milum, the Llano County Library System’s director, handles purchasing books for all three of the county’s public libraries. In early October, she wrote an email with the subject “Butt Books” to the commissioners explaining that the situation had been handled: “All of the books have been in my file cabinet in the office.”

It starts with the fart books, then winds up with bans on serious stuff like The Handmaid’s Tale, Separate is Never Equal, Between the World and Me, and Maus. (My local library has nearly all of these serious books, by the way, but none of the fart books, unfortunately. A general “fart” search, though, reveals that there are plenty of fart-related books in the library.)

Articles like this always send me into a spiral of anger and despair. Which I should probably mitigate by doing something useful, like donating a few bucks to the ACLU and/or the CBLDF.

Clean Code, Visual Studio, Windows 11, and a bit more on ebooks

I wanted to add some more notes about the whole Kindle, EPUB, MOBI, etc. thing that I’ve been blogging about in my last few posts. As I mentioned a few posts back, I’ve been working my way through the Clean Code learning path in O’Reilly. Since I’m probably going to lose access to O’Reilly before I’m done with that, I thought I’d buy a copy of the Clean Code book, so I could finish reading it at my leisure, and to have it for later reference. With tech books, I usually like buying a DRM-free ebook directly from the publisher, when possible. In this case, I initially had some trouble finding that, but eventually figured out that it’s purchasable through the InformIT site. I bought the Robert C. Martin Clean Code Collection ebook, which contains both Clean Code and The Clean Coder. I had a discount code, so it was about $40 total.

I copied the EPUB, MOBI, and PDF files for the book to OneDrive. There are a number of ways I can read an ebook on my iPad, if it’s DRM-free and available in multiple formats. For this one, I wound up sending it from OneDrive into my Kindle app, as a MOBI file. That method still doesn’t support EPUBs. And it will copy the file up into my Kindle library, which is nice. I don’t think I’d ever copied anything into the Kindle library that way before, but it worked fine. I also copied the PDF into GoodReader. The code listings in the MOBI version look a little weird, which is a common problem with tech ebooks, so it’s nice to have the PDF handy as an alternative.

Clean Code has some example refactorings that are fairly interesting. They’re all in Java, but I thought it might be interesting to take the original Java code for one of the examples, convert it to C#, get it working, then work through some refactoring that’s similar to what Uncle Bob does in the book/videos. I found some of the code for the examples in GitHub under the Clean Code Kata user account. (I’m not sure if that’s an “official” account for Bob Martin or his organization, but either way, the code is there.)

This idea to convert some of the examples to C# and work through them was prompted in part by a desire to set up a .NET dev environment of some sort on one of my personal machines, and to maybe experiment a bit with some of the more recent .NET stuff, like .NET 6 and VS 2022. I realized that I don’t currently have any dev stuff at all set up on my desktop PC, my MacBook, or my Lenovo laptop. The MacBook is new, so I just haven’t set any dev stuff up yet. The Lenovo was bought in 2020, and I haven’t gotten much use out of it at all. And I’ve been trying to keep the desktop PC free of any heavyweight dev tools, since I just want to keep it clean for personal productivity stuff. After going back and forth on a few possible setups, I decided to install Visual Studio 2022 (Community edition) on my Lenovo laptop. I considered just installing the .NET 6 SDK and Visual Studio Code, which would have been much more lightweight, but I’m used to using the full VS product, and I can’t see a reason not to use it. And the Lenovo is the best place to install it, since I can wipe out that machine entirely and start fresh if things get too messed up. I’ve also recently upgraded that laptop to Windows 11, so this was also an opportunity to (finally) give that a try.

Of course, I’ve had other things to do this weekend too, so I’ve only gotten as far as installing Visual Studio and git, and tweaking some settings. Maybe I’ll actually do some programming next weekend. (Or maybe I’ll get distracted by something else, and the whole thing will fall by the wayside.)

more Kindle stuff

The last couple of Kindle-related posts, and the news about MOBI vs EPUB support, got me thinking a bit today. I remembered that I had a bunch of old DRM-free books from that I’d never gotten into my Kindle library. I had manually copied a bunch of them over to my old Kindle, via USB, but that doesn’t get them into the cloud library, and I hadn’t copied them over to my new Kindle. So I decided to waste some time today and copy some of them up to the cloud, and also add them to Goodreads.

I decided to try the Send to Kindle desktop app (for PC) this time. The app is a little clunky, but it works. Sadly, it only allows you to upload one book at a time. Also, it lets you edit the metadata for the book, but I think that metadata gets overwritten once the book is in the cloud. The files I uploaded were actually .PRC files, which I think is basically the same as .MOBI, though I’m not entirely clear on that.

I also considered copying these files into Calibre and then pushing them to the Kindle from there. I keep thinking that I should start actively using Calibre, but I keep not doing that. I’m a little worried that if I start pulling stuff into Calibre, organizing it, and editing metadata, I’ll never stop. Maybe one of these days, when I’m bored, I’ll give it a try.

The files I copied over today were all free Tor books from 2008 and 2009. I’ve been downloading free Tor books on and off since 2008. I’ve got a bunch from 2008-2009, then more from 2017-2020. Then I forgot about the whole free book thing in 2021, and didn’t download anything. Today, I downloaded a bundle of three books from Tor, for the first time since late in 2020. No clue when/if I’ll actually read those, but hey, I’ve got them.

I’ve been concentrating on reading older books this year, getting through some stuff from old Humble bundles mostly. Looking at my Goodreads “want to read” list, I see that it’s currently at 493 books. Sigh. I keep needing to remind myself that having a lot of books to read is good. It’s not a list of work I have to do, it’s a list of fun I can choose to have…

fun with file formats

I’ve been reading some random old stuff from an old Neil Gaiman Humble bundle recently, and I’ve hit a couple of snags with files. I thought writing up some notes on that might be useful.

First, I was trying to read two old comics from the bundle. I’d loaded both, in CBZ format, to my iPad in the Panels app. Both were black & white comics, originally published by Knockabout Comics. I think they were probably published in a larger format than typical American comics. And it seems that they didn’t do a good job of scanning them in and digitizing them. So they were a little too blurry for me to read. I first tried copying the PDF versions into Panels, to see if they were better. They were, but not by much, and zooming them didn’t work well. Then I got the idea to try the same PDFs in GoodReader. I bought GoodReader a long time ago, and don’t really use it that often. But it turns out that it’s a much better PDF reader than Panels is. So the lesson here is: stick with GoodReader for PDFs.

Second, I decided to copy a couple of the ebooks from the bundle to my Kindle Paperwhite. The easiest way to do that is to email them to the Kindle Personal Documents Service. This service has changed a bit over the years, but, in general, it allows you to email DRM-free ebooks to a special address, and they’ll get converted to Kindle format and pushed down to your Kindle. I had some problems with it this time.

The service is supposed to support both EPUB and MOBI files right now. I’m fairly sure that it didn’t support EPUB until fairly recently. And the support page for it right now says that it’ll stop supporting MOBI files later this year. I’ve always thought of MOBI as the Amazon/Kindle format, and EPUB as the “everybody else” ebook format. The MOBI format was created by Mobipocket in 2000. The company was bought by Amazon in 2005. The original AZW format used for DRM’d Kindle books is a variant on MOBI.

Anyway, I tried sending both MOBI and EPUB versions of the books to my Kindle and they all failed. That led me down a bunch of paths that didn’t lead anywhere interesting. Finally, I got the bright idea to email the files from my PC instead of my Mac. These days, I don’t think there’s any reason the files would be different on the Mac vs the PC, but it seemed like it was worth a try. And indeed it worked when I emailed the files from my PC. On both platforms, I used the web-based Fastmail interface, running in Firefox, so it can’t be a browser thing or an email client thing. So I’m pretty confused about that. I guess the lesson from this one is to always email docs from my PC instead of my Mac when using the Send to Kindle service.

Overall, I think I’ve now spent more time today screwing around with files than I have actually reading anything. But that happens sometimes. And that’s OK. I’m one of those weirdos who can have fun with this kind of troubleshooting.

Scrum and tech learning follow-up

This post is a follow-up to my previous post on scrum and tech learning. Since then, I’ve finished reading The Elements of Scrum, via my (work) Percipio account. I’ve also downloaded the audiobook version of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, from my (ACM) Skillsoft account. I normally wouldn’t think about consuming tech books in audio format, and most of them wouldn’t work that way. But maybe a scrum book would be comprehensible as audio, so I’ll give it a try.

There’s another scrum book I was considering, Scrum: A Pocket Guide, which I’ve found is also available in audio format, via the author’s YouTube channel. So, in this case, you can actually watch the author sitting at his desk, reading his own book. I don’t think I actually want to do that, in this case, but it was nice of him to do that and put it out there for free.

Meanwhile, I logged in to my ACM O’Reilly account today, to see if there was anything I really wanted to watch or read before the account gets shut down. I decided to take a look at Bob Martin’s Clean Code video series. I watched the first hour-long video. There’s about fifty hours of video in the series, all told. In O’Reilly, it’s organized as a “Learning Path” with the videos interspersed with chapters from his Clean Code book. I’ve been meaning to read that book for a while. It was published in 2008, so it’s probably a bit out of date at this point, at least in terms of some of the specifics. For the videos, you can also find them for sale at the Clean Coders web site. (They’re not cheap.) You can find a few on YouTube. Here’s a link to the first one, which is the one I watched today. (I think the one I watched on O’Reilly is actually a revised version of that.) He definitely tries to keep it interesting, with a bunch of different costumes and backdrops, including several Star Trek ones. It comes off as pretty corny, but I guess it’s better than just watching him read through the material at his desk.

With the changes we’re going through at work, I’ve decided that now is a good time to back up a bit and think about what new stuff I need to learn, or old stuff I need to reinforce and/or brush up on. I’ve probably read enough on scrum by now, though I may branch out and read up on some related topics. And the Clean Code stuff is the kind of thing I like to check out occasionally, to remind myself of some of the fundamentals of good coding, and maybe learn a few new things that I hadn’t stumbled across before.

I’ve also been listening to some of the recent podcast episodes from .NET Rocks around the twentieth anniversary of .NET, which happened back in February. (I stopped subscribing to .NET Rocks a while back, so I don’t listen to it every week, but I go in and cherry pick interesting or relevant episodes once in a while.) Listening to folks like Anders Hejlsberg, Scott Guthrie, and Miguel de Icaza reminisce about .NET was fun. And it got me thinking about what new stuff is going on with .NET that I should learn. Maybe Blazor? Or I should figure out what’s new and interesting with .NET 6? Or I should try to get back into F# again? I don’t know. Maybe I should pick up this Apress Microsoft book bundle from Humble. That would keep me out of trouble for a while, right?

Scrum at work, and tech learning subscriptions

My team at work is going through some changes right now. We’re getting shuffled to a different spot in the IT department hierarchy and getting a new boss. And we’re supposed to start doing scrum.

Actually, we were supposed to start doing scrum almost a year ago, and we kinda started doing it, but we didn’t really go all the way with it. So now, I guess, we’re supposed to go all-in. Or almost all-in. Or something like that.

Anyway, I watched some training videos for scrum last year when we were supposed to start using it, so I already have some understanding of it. But now that we’re going to be going further with it, I decided to do some more reading on it and try to learn more about it.

I wanted to read a book on scrum, and since we’re using Azure DevOps, I decided to try this one: Professional Scrum Development with Azure DevOps, from Microsoft Press. I started reading it in March, and finished it a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a bad book, and it does cover the Azure DevOps scrum process pretty well, but it was also pretty dry, and I’m not sure that a lot of it is really going to be relevant to me.

I’ve also considered reading Zombie Scrum Survival Guide. It might be a little cynical to assume that our implementation of scrum is going to fit the definition of “zombie scrum,” but I suspect it might, and I’m not sure what the best way would be to engage with that.

And A Scrum Book: The Spirit of the Game might also be a good general scrum book to read. Honestly, it looks a bit daunting though.

On the related general subject of tech books, I’ve recently learned that ACM is going to lose access to O’Reilly Learning (previously known as Safari) in July. That’s quite a disappointment, but not entirely surprising. ACM got access to the full Safari library in 2017. That always seemed a bit weird to me, since an ACM membership costs about $100/year, and a regular individual O’Reilly membership costs $500/year, raising the question of why anybody would buy one through O’Reilly rather than just signing up for ACM. I guess that logic finally caught up with them, so now they’re cutting it off.

O’Reilly has offered ACM members a $100 discount, so that would bring it down to $400/year, but that’s still a lot of money, and the discount is only good for the first year. I generally only read a few tech books each year, and I can generally buy them for $40 or $50 each, so I guess it’s not going to be worth it to sign up for a paid O’Reilly account.

ACM still has SkillSoft, and I think I still have access to Percipio through work, but neither of those has the broad selection of tech books and videos that O’Reilly has. (And I think SkillSoft and Percipio are actually the same thing, under different names, possibly with slightly different libraries?) I also have access to LinkedIn Learning, both through work, and (last time I checked) through the local public library. LinkedIn Learning really just has videos though, no books. And their video courses generally aren’t as in-depth as the stuff I could get through O’Reilly. I discontinued my Pluralsight subscription this year, so I don’t have that anymore, either.

For now, I guess I’ll take a look at Skillsoft/Percipio when I’m looking to read up on a new tech subject, and see what they’ve got. When I really want a specific book that they don’t have, I’ll probably just buy it from Amazon or directly from the publisher. I’ve been trying not to buy physical tech books anymore, and O’Reilly has certainly helped with that. A lot of the tech publishers still offer direct sales of DRM-free ebooks, so I’ll probably go that route when I can, rather than getting the DRM’d versions from Amazon.

Dresden Files

Last night, I finished listening to the fourth Dresden Files audiobook, so now I’m done with the four-book set that I started back in January. I’ve been debating whether or not I want to keep working my way through the series in audio format. This is a reread for me, since I’ve read the first eleven Dresden books already, though that was in paperback, so the audio format at least is new for me. And it was long enough ago that I don’t recall all the details, so there’s some suspense to it.

I started reading the Dresden novels in 2007 and last read one in 2015. So it’s been a while. I had those first eleven books in paperback. I think I donated them to a library sale at some point, though I don’t seem to have any record of that. (I usually note donated books in Evernote and with a “donated” tag on Goodreads, so I can remember that they’re gone, and not go looking for them…) In 2018, I noted that I had considered donating them, but decided to hang onto them. But I can’t find them now. So either I donated them at some later point, or I stuck them in a box and squirreled it away somewhere non-obvious.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that both the audio version of the fifth book, Death Masks, and the Kindle version of the twelfth book, Changes, are available from my local library, so I can read both for free. I’ve just started Changes, and we’ll see if I remember enough of the stuff that happened in books 5 through 11 to understand what’s going on. If I need a refresher, I can look at this Dresden Files reread on

Looking at the my history with the Dresden series is interesting to me. I started reading it at a time when I was mostly buying books one at a time, in paperback, from mall stores or Borders, or Barnes & Noble. And my method for keeping track of what I’d read or not was mostly just looking at my bookshelf and seeing if the book was there. If it was, then I’d read it. Now, things are more complicated. Sometimes I still buy physical books. Sometimes, I buy Kindle books. Other times, I borrow a book from the library (either physical or on Kindle). When I buy physical books, I generally donate them after reading them. So I really have to rely on Goodreads and Evernote to keep track of stuff.

I bought my Kindle in 2008, so I actually had the Kindle through most of the time that I was reading Dresden novels. I’m not sure why I never switched from paperbacks to Kindle versions, but maybe it was because I’d started in paperback, and just decided to stay with that format. Or maybe I was getting the paperbacks for less than I would have had to pay for the Kindle versions.

I feel a little guilty for sticking mostly with familiar, safe, low-brow reading material this year so far, but not that guilty. I’ve been stretching myself over the last few years, reading some classics like War and Peace, and other stuff that’s outside my comfort zone. I think it’s time to take a break and catch up on some silly genre stuff.

ComiXology changes and weekend reading

My weekend reading has mostly been random single issues of comics in my ComiXology library, all of which I got for free, mostly in 2014. With the coming changes to ComiXology, I’ve been spending some time organizing my lists of digital comics and finding some old ones that I’d never read.

I mentioned the ComiXology changes in this blog post from November. The changes were initially meant to happen last year, but they were delayed. It looks like the full switch-over will be happening very soon now, though they haven’t given a specific date. This Twitter thread has a number of details. It sounds like it’ll be this week. The ComiXology subreddit has had a lot of talk about it recently, most of it negative. I’m not enthusiastic about it myself, but I’m not as annoyed as a lot of people. (That’s the way Reddit often works, of course. The loudest voices bubble to the top.)

I’m probably most annoyed that all of the old books I’ve moved into my “archive” in ComiXology are going to wind up back in my main library. I’ve generally used the archive to move random old freebies out of my main library, but I guess I won’t be able to do that anymore. That’s also a problem with my Kindle library in general: too many random free books making it hard to find the ones I’ve actually paid for. If I look at my Kindle library right now, I have 1656 items in there. That’s now a combination of my Kindle books and ComiXology books. That’s really too much stuff to manage without at least slightly better tools. Oh well. Hopefully, the new ComiXology iOS app will be good, at least.

Content-wise, I’m enjoying reading a bunch of random first issues of Image and small press series. On one hand, given the number of books currently on my “want to read” list, reading a bunch of first issues is liable to just increase that list. On the other hand, I like reading these little samples of longer stories without feeling like I necessarily need to finish them, or figure out what’s going on, or really get invested in them. And I’m finding it interesting to see where some of these series have gone. Cross Bronx got just one four-issue series. Ultra was an eight-issue series, and didn’t return. Velvet lasted for 15 issues and got collected into three books. Mind The Gap got collected into three volumes, but has disappeared from ComiXology for some reason. Black Science lasted for nine volumes. Those are all examples of Image books that I enjoyed. I probably won’t pick up and read all of them, but I’ll get a few. (I already have all three volumes of Velvet in the Ed Brubaker Humble Bundle that I bought recently. That looks like it should be fun.)


I’ve been following the news around the school board in Tennessee that banned the teaching of Art Spiegelman’s Maus. I first read Maus back when it was being serialized in Raw in the early 80s. So I guess I read it when I was in high school, a little older than those eighth-graders in Tennessee. I don’t remember much about how it affected me at that age, but I do know that it was the most concrete and specific material I read on the Holocaust to that point. I’m sure I knew something about it, but I don’t remember it being covered much in history class. I think most of my knowledge of WW2 came from Hogan’s Heroes reruns and G.I. Combat comics.

Something like Maus would never have been assigned as school reading when I was growing up. Comics just weren’t taken seriously at that time. I’m fairly certain that there were no graphic novels at all in our school library. But now, we live in a world where assigning Maus as school reading probably seems reasonable to a lot of fairly mainstream people. But still not to the kind of people who find themselves on a school board in Tennessee, unfortunately. It’s actually kind of heartening that this thing is national news, and has stirred up some debate and gotten Art Spiegelman some new mainstream media attention.

Speaking of which, I saw Whoopi Goldberg’s appearance on Colbert from Monday night, but hadn’t heard about her comments on her TV show earlier on Monday, so I didn’t quite have the context on what she was apologizing for. But I could tell she wasn’t doing a very good job of it. I’ve generally thought of Goldberg as being mostly harmless and mildly amusing. She probably shouldn’t be talking about the Holocaust though. She clearly didn’t mean any harm. I’m not going to criticize her, other than to say that maybe this is an example of why more people should be reading Maus.

Getting back to Maus, I followed some links and found myself reading about Spiegelman’s MetaMaus book that came out in 2011. I remember reading about it when it came out, but I didn’t buy it. I really should have; it was $35 when it came out, and it’s going for more than $1000 now. In addition to the original Raw issues, I have the first Maus book in paperback, and the second volume in hardcover. (The hardcover version of Maus II goes for $300 on Amazon right now, so I guess that’s out of print.)

It might be a good time to reread Maus, but of course it’s not a casual read. If The Complete Maus were available digitally, I’d probably buy a copy, just to have one, but no version of Maus is (legally) available digitally, as far as I can tell. All the attention of course has made Maus a bestseller on Amazon, which is nice, but it also means you can’t easily buy a new copy right now.