Wheel of Time and other distractions

Today is, for me, the last day of a three-day weekend. I took Friday off as a “well-being day,” which is a new category of PTO at work, started last year. We get two of them a year. The concept in general gets an eye-roll emoji from me, but I’m certainly not going to turn down two extra PTO days.

Anyway, Friday was the twentieth anniversary of my brother Patrick’s death, so I though I’d take the day and maybe do something in his honor. On the tenth anniversary, I’d made an attempt to visit the tree that was dedicated to him on the lawn of the Rutgers library, but that failed for a couple of reasons, one being a snowstorm that had left a ton of snow in the streets (hence no street parking) and my confusion over which Rutgers library it was. (Turns out there’s more than one library at Rutgers!)

So I thought maybe I’d take another shot at that, but it was kind of cold and rainy, and i couldn’t talk myself into it. The tree is probably gone by now anyway, or at least the tag with his name will be. In the end, I read several chapters of Lord of Chaos, watched four episodes of NCIS:Sydney, and took care of some bills and stuff.

All of which is preamble to what was going to be the main point of this post: I finished reading Lord of Chaos yesterday. And also finished watching season two of the Wheel of Time TV show. I’d started reading Lord of Chaos at the end of December, and finished at the start of February, so it took just over a month for me to read. That’s pretty fast for me, considering the length of the book. LoC is book six of fourteen, so I’m almost halfway done with the series. And if I can keep up that pace, I could finish the series this year. (But I probably won’t keep up that pace!)

I kinda needed this three-day weekend, as things had been getting pretty hectic at work, and I think I was getting close to… something. I don’t want to sound dramatic. Not a nervous breakdown or anything. I just needed a quiet day or three to hit reset and drown myself in dumb books and TV.

Fun with Kobo, Calibre, and Discworld

Following up on my previous post: I decided to fool around a bit again today with Calibre and the Discworld books from Kobo. This time, I installed Adobe Digital Editions, “downloaded” the books from the Kobo web site, brought them into ADE, then from there into Calibre. That actually worked. So I now have 39 Discworld books as DRM-free EPUB files that I can (hopefully) read on my Kindle. (I only loaded one of them to the Kindle, and it worked, so presumably the rest would too.)

I also decided to try loading some DRM’d books I’ve gotten from The University of Chicago Press into ADE and them Calibre. That worked too. Previously, for those, I’ve followed the instructions from UChicago, which was to download them directly to the Bluefire Reader app on my iPad. (That app is tied into Adobe’s DRM system.) I’ve discovered that I can take the files from Bluefire, save them to OneDrive, then strip the DRM with Calibre. So that’s cool, and it means I can finally read those books on my Kindle. (I have about a dozen unread books from them. Maybe this will actually get me to read some of them. Or not… I have over 600 books in my TBR pile on Goodreads right now.)

And, since this has gotten me thinking about e-readers and tablets and stuff, I decided to finally trade in my old 2015 Fire tablet. It only cost me $35 when I bought it, and it no longer powers on, but Amazon gave me $5 for it, plus 20% off a new Fire tablet. (That’s assuming they accept it. I guess they could reject it, but I already told them it doesn’t power on or hold a charge, so it should be fine.)

I don’t really intend on using that 20% off on a new Fire tablet, but I poked around a bit, just to see what they have. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is on sale right now for $75. So I’d get another $15 off, bringing it down to $60. That’s not bad. Of course, I have no particular need for a Fire tablet, so I need to remember that.

I’m still kind of curious about picking up a Kobo Libre 2 maybe, but of course I don’t need that either. Still, e-readers and small tablets are a lot cheaper than, say, the Apple Vision Pro, so if I’m going to get tempted into buying gadgets I don’t need, I’m better off with e-readers and cheap tablets, right?

Discworld bundle

A few days ago, I noticed that Humble has a Terry Pratchett Discworld bundle up right now. Thirty-nine books for $18. I love the Discworld books, but have only read 3 or 4 of them. So I was ready to jump on it, and get (nearly) all of them, but then I saw that the books aren’t DRM-free, as they usually are with Humble. Instead, they’re redeemable through Kobo.com. I don’t have a Kobo, and have never really delved into the Kobo ecosystem, so my first though was “oh well, not for me.” And I should have left it there, but I’m a weirdo nerd, so I started looking into what I could do with Kobo books.

It turns out that you can download them, strip the DRM, and pull them into your Kindle library, so that got me interested. I decided to play around a bit. I installed the DeDRM plugins into my Calibre install on my PC, registered a Kobo account, and started reading up on things. I decided that it was doable, and $18 wasn’t that much anyway, so I went ahead and bought the bundle.

The simpler method of stripping the DRM didn’t work for me. That involves using a plugin called Obok, which should be able to pull the files from the Kobo desktop software, strip the DRM, and import them into Calibre.

There’s a more complicated method that involves transferring the books from Kobo into Adobe Digital Editions, and then stripping the DRM from there. I haven’t tried that yet. It would definitely be time-consuming to do it for all 39 books in the bundle. Maybe I’ll try it on just one and see how it goes.

Meanwhile, this has gotten me curious about the Kobo e-ink devices. The Kobo Libra 2 is interesting. There’s no particular reason why I can’t buy one and have both a Kindle and a Kobo. Except that I don’t really need yet another software platform/ecosystem in my life.

Sigh. For now, I’m just going to leave the Discworld books in my Kobo library. I’m plenty busy with the Wheel of Time books right now anyway. I’m not sure when I thought I’d have time to read 39 Discworld books…

New Year’s Day 2024

Well, here it is: my traditional New Year’s Day blog post. I first wrote one of these in 2008, and have been writing them on and off since then. Here’s a link to last year’s post, and just for fun, here’s a link to the post from ten years ago (2014).

I don’t have a lot of energy today, so this may be less organized and comprehensive than some of my previous posts. When I think back on the last year, I really feel like I’ve barely stumbled through it. I took no real vacation last year. And I didn’t go into NYC at all. I did get out to see a couple of movies in a theater (Across the Spider-Verse and Elemental). Both were reasonably good, but I got sick after both of them. If there’s a theme for 2023, for me, it’s “every time I go out, I get sick.” And, of course, this was the year I finally actually got COVID. And, to complicate things further, at work, we switched from 2 days in-office per week to three days, in September. I’ve been having a little trouble with that.

Health

In terms of all this health stuff, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do in 2024. I guess I’m just going to continue being careful about going out, and stumbling through as best as I can.

In terms of other general health stuff: my weight right now is just under 160. I started the year at 150, so I’ve once again put on almost 10 pounds in a year. I’m still not too worried about that, since a few people have told me recently that I look healthier than I did when I was in the 130’s, so maybe the 150’s are where I need to be. Regardless, I really do want to draw the line at 160. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do that or not, but I’m going to try.

I’ve been doing pretty good with exercise. I’m still using my Apple Watch to track everything, and I’m still getting a lot of walking done. (In fact, I just ordered new shoes and insoles, since the ones I’m wearing are getting a bit worn out.) My move goal is currently at 540, and I generally meet that goal, if I’m not feeling sick.

Work

There have been a lot of changes at work over the past year, and I think there will be a lot more in 2024. My long-time boss retired at the end of 2023, and I’m now under a new guy. He’s new to the company, so I don’t have any previous relationship with him at all or really know anything about him. So that’s a big unknown for 2024. (Most of IT management right now is new guys, brought in from outside, so there’s a lot of uncertainty there for the folks like me who have been around a long time.)

And I got moved back out of management myself in 2023. I’d had three CRM programmers under me for a fairly short period of time, from Nov 2022 to July 2023. But they decided to consolidate things, so there would be fewer managers with more direct reports. So I didn’t do anything wrong, or get demoted. It was just a reshuffle, and I’m fine with it.

In theory, we should start working on our migration from on-prem Dynamics AX to the cloud-based Dynamics 365 this year. That’s anticipated to be a three-year project. And I’m not sure how involved we’ll be with that (vs. how much is going to be outsourced). So all I can do at work is do my best with what I’m assigned, try to build up a good reputation with the new guy, and see where it takes me.

Finance

There’s a lot I could say about finance right now, but I’m going to hold off on that. I did fine in 2023. I’m starting to look ahead to retirement, in around 10 years. I may write up another post, later, about subscription services, and other stuff I’m spending money on, but I don’t want to do that now.

Fun

I often put a section in these posts with links to my Goodreads and Letterboxd “year in review” pages, and stuff like that. I don’t really want to do that now, since it’s getting a little late, and I don’t have the energy. I will say that my big reading accomplishment in 2023 was starting the Wheel of Time series, and getting through the first five books. I blogged about that a few days ago.

For the rest of the day today, I want to read a couple of chapters in Lord of Chaos, and maybe watch a movie or two. And I may need a nap at some point. Then back to work tomorrow.

Lord of Chaos – getting back into the Wheel of Time books

I took a break from reading Wheel of Time books after finishing The Fires of Heaven in November. But I’m ready to dive back in now, I think. I made it through the first five books last year. I figure I can make it through the next five in 2024. Or maybe even finish out the series, though that may be a little too ambitious.

The next book up is Lord of Chaos, which is either the longest book in the series, or the second longest, depending on who you believe. This page seems to show LoC as slightly longer than The Shadow Rising, which other articles say is the longest. I may have gone down a “pointless analysis of WoT books” rabbit hole just now… Here’s a reddit post with some discussion of word counts, and a reddit page with links to a bunch of other weird little bits of analysis. Do you want a stacked bar chart analyzing Nynaeve’s braid tugging habit? It’s out there!

Anyway, what was I really going to talk about here? Oh yeah, so I have the book downloaded to my Kindle and ready to read. And I checked the audiobook out from my local library, and have that on my iPhone. I don’t know if I’m really going to listen to it at all, but maybe I can make it through the book faster if I switch back and forth between the ebook and audiobook. (Of course, that would be easier to do if I just paid the $7.50 for the Audible narration option from Amazon, but I’ll see how far I get with the library copy before shelling out for that.)

I also downloaded a handful of the Tor articles about the book to Instapaper. I had been reading all of those recap articles, for the first few books, but I gave up on it at some point, since I didn’t feel like I really needed to, and I didn’t want to slow myself down. But I want to try getting back into them again, at least at the start of this book.

(I mentioned in another post recently that the price of Instapaper Premium is doubling soon, so I spent a little time looking at alternatives. But I think I’m going to stick with Instapaper for now. I may be writing a blog post about that, and some related topics soon. Or not, depending on time.)

no more Comixology app

It was announced recently that the Comixology app is going away, and the Kindle app will be the only way to read comics purchased from Amazon. I kinda knew this was coming, of course. But it still seems worth making note of it and blogging about it a bit.

Earlier this year, the layoffs at Comixology were big news, and in early 2022, the revamped Comixology app (based on the Kinde app) was also big news. Amazon has been slowly absorbing Comixology, like a gelatinous cube, oozing slowly down a dungeon corridor. (I tried to get ChatGPT to give me a few funny sentences comparing Amazon to a gelatinous cube, but it didn’t give me anything worth including here.)

I haven’t been reading a lot of comics lately. I’ve been spending most of my leisure reading time working on the Wheel of Time books. I just finished the fifth book, The Fires of Heaven. I started reading the series in March, so it’s taken me about eight months to get through five books. Not bad, really, considering their length and my limited reading time.

But it’s really killed my Goodreads reading goal for the year, which was 75 books. (I’ve only read 28.) I’m thinking about devoting the rest of the year to reading comics. I read two interesting graphic novels this weekend: one from Harvey Pekar and one from Alex Ross. Very different viewpoints in those two, but I noticed that they both briefly mention Sacco and Vanzetti, which makes me think that my next read should be Rick Geary’s book about them, which I bought from him at a con around ten years ago.

I own all three of the aforementioned graphic novels in hardcover, so I haven’t had a reason to open up the Comixology or Kindle app this weekend, but I should do that soon, before they shut down the old app for good, just to make sure I understand what’s going on, and don’t lose track of anything.

A rambling Sunday post

OK, so having gotten the previous Grammarly post out of my system, and having gone for a walk, I’m now watching the early-morning Frankfurt game on NFL+, and ready to write the long, rambling post I mentioned in the Grammarly post. (Side note: I like this short ESPN article about Belichick’s experience in Germany. I almost feel bad for Belichick this season, but not really. I mean, well, he’s still Belichick.)

Ever since I got COVID, things have been a little shaky for me. I keep getting a little sick, then a little better, then a little sick. I don’t think I’ve gotten COVID again (since that first rebound), so that’s good. I was fighting these low-level cold symptoms this past week, culminating with enough nasal congestion on Friday that I risked taking pseudoephedrine. I say “risked” because I often get some side effects from that. It definitely helped me get through the day Friday, but then I had some trouble sleeping. I was OK on Saturday morning, and got through my usual Saturday morning tasks: laundry and grocery shopping. But, after that was done, I sat down at my computer to pay some bills, and started getting a migraine aura.

I haven’t had serious migraine problems since 2016, but I’ve gotten a couple of mild ones this year. Looking at my notes in Day One, I see that I had one on June 1, and might have had one in May too.  (Day One is great for logging this kind of stuff so you can identify patterns.) This one was bad enough that I had to give up on the computer and lie down. I had planned to spend some time Saturday finishing up a LinkedIn course on more AI stuff, and to maybe finish watching season five of Dragon Prince, but that all went out the window. Instead, I listened to some podcasts and audiobooks. I listened to a bit more of the Locke & Key audio drama that I’ve been listening to on & off for about a year now. (I can never get myself to stick with it and finish it. Maybe I’ll get it done before the end of this year…) And I started listening to Neil Gaiman’s Warning: Contains Language, which I got as part of a Humble Bundle about ten years ago.

Eventually, I got to the point where I could sit up and watch TV. But I didn’t feel like I could deal with anything too challenging, so I settled on college football, which I haven’t watched at all in the last several years. I watched most of the Florida State vs Miami U game. That was the kind of game that could have been a blowout, but was actually a pretty close game and kind of fun to watch. (I’m still a little iffy on the whole Seminoles thing, but apparently the actual Seminole tribe is OK with it, so who am I to argue?) I don’t know that I’m going to get back into watching a lot of college football now, but maybe it’s an option for Saturdays when my brain isn’t working well enough for anything else.

Anyway, I managed to get a good night’s sleep last night, and feel like I could handle something more challenging than football today if I had to. But I’ve gotten used to spending Sundays watching NFL football this year, and I’m enjoying that, so I think that’s what I’m going to be doing today. I probably won’t be paying a lot of attention though. The Giants are playing at 4, and the Jets are on the Sunday night game. The Giants are terrible right now and they’re playing Dallas, so that game should be a blowout. The Jets are playing the Raiders, and both of those teams are mediocre, so that game might be competitive, but not that interesting. So I’ll probably go with having football on in the background all day while I do other things that don’t require too much concentration. So: writing rambling blog posts, catching up on email newsletters, and that kind of stuff. Maybe I’ll mute one of the games and finish that LinkedIn course I mentioned above.

Learning

I renewed my ACM membership over the weekend, and I noticed that they now have an add-on called the Skills Bundle. I’ve blogged before about ACM learning options. I was a little annoyed when they dropped O’Reilly some time ago. Now, you can pay $75 extra and get limited access to O’Reilly, Skillsoft Percipio, and Pluralsight. It’s not all of O’Reilly, but it seems to be a good subset. So I paid the $75 and got that.

I still get Pluralsight through work, but I, stupidly, decided to try logging in through ACM, just to see what I’d get from ACM. Well, that was a bad idea, since it linked my account to ACM and un-linked it from work, so now I only have access to the ACM subset of the Pluralsight library. I may try to straighten that out tomorrow.

I’m still doing a little bit of learning around ChatGPT and other AI stuff. OpenAI had their “DevDay” conference today. You can watch the keynote here and read about it on their blog here. And here’s a news wrap-up from The Verge. There’s some interesting stuff going on, though I don’t know if I’ll have the time or inclination to dig into it too deeply.

I’d meant to do some ChatGPT learning over the weekend, but I started feeling a little sick again, so I spent a bunch of time in front of the TV binge-watching The Dragon Prince season 4 on Netflix.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking about trying to get back into learning Angular, which I started reading about a year ago, but put aside at some point for various reasons. I see that there was some kind of Angular event today too. I guess I should watch that video, and/or read this blog post.

And I may try learning MongoDB soon too, though maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew again.

Sometimes, I wish I’d picked a career that didn’t require me to learn a bunch of new stuff every year. But I probably wouldn’t be happy with that. I just get tired sometimes.

wellness day

I’m taking today off from work, as a “wellness day.” (Insert eye roll here.) Wellness days are a new thing at work. We get two of them each year. They’re just like regular PTO days, except there’s a whole separate workflow to request them, and you’re supposed to use them to work on… your mental health, or something like that. I don’t understand these things. But I’m grateful for the two extra vacation days, I guess.

San Diego Comic Con is this weekend, and once again, I’m not there. I thought I’d maybe spend some time today looking at the news coming out of the con, and I have, but there’s not much of interest to me. Due to the writers and actors strikes, a number of panels and appearances have been cancelled. I guess that actually means that there’s more room for actual comics stuff at the con, so that’s cool, but honestly I’m not really following comics news right now either.

I picked up a few interesting bits from browsing the #SDCC tag at Mastodon, including learning that Phil Foglio broke his foot. (Which reminds me: I have a bunch of Girl Genius comics in PDF format I bought in 2020 that I still need to read…)

I started the day with a mental list of things I might like to do today, and of course I’ve done almost none of them. I did do a few semi-responsible things, like finally make an appointment for an overdue oil change, and clean up some stuff in Evernote, and stuff like that.

I also read a few chapters in The Shadow Rising, the fourth Wheel of Time book. I seem to be reading this one more slowly than I did the first three. I’m still really enjoying it, but I’ve been choosing to do other stuff on weekends more often, so I’m usually only getting through one or two chapters at a time, rather than reading 10 or 20 over the weekends. According to Wikipedia, it’s the longest book in the series, so I guess I’m going to be working on it for a while, maybe the rest of the summer.