Rambling and Links

I’ve been meaning to write a post here for awhile, but just haven’t gotten around to it. (And I feel like I’ve probably started more than one post with that sentence already, but hey, I’m going to repeat myself occasionally here. I’ve been doing this on and off for 20+ years…)

The plan for today is pretty simple: Watching the Wimbledon men’s final at 9, going over to the farmers market around 10, then checking out the Somerville street fair (now called the “Somerville Market” for some reason) at some point after lunch. It’s too hot to do much else.

I’m not exactly thriving in the heat wave we’ve been dealing with over the last few weeks. I guess it’s not technically all one big heat wave, but it feels like one. I guess it’s a new one kicking off today, really. Either way, I’m too old for this.

I just finished reading New Spring, the Wheel of Time prequel novel, and I want to start reading Knife of Dreams today. I think I’m on-track to finish WoT this year, maybe. I’m pretty sure the prologue for KoD is a typically long WoT prologue, so it may take me a while just to get through that. (The WoT podcast I listen to takes 3 episodes to cover the prologue, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a lot.)

There are a few things I’ve seen on the internet recently that I thought I should mention here, so in no particular order, and with no particular relation to each other:

  1. I’ve been reading Jonathan Clements’ Humble Dollar blog on and off for several years, though I haven’t looked at it recently. Apparently Clements has cancer and likely less than a year to live. He’s only a few years older than me, so that’s… sobering.
  2. Here’s a behind-the-scenes article about the folks who change the light bulbs at the Met. (OK, there’s more to it than just changing light bulbs, but it’s still mostly about light bulbs.) This is the kind of thing I really like getting some insight into. I haven’t been back to the Met in a long time. And, honestly, I may never make it back; I just get sick too easily these days, so it’s always a risk, dealing with public transit and the crowds in NYC.
  3. I’m pretty sure I had at least one other thing to mention here, but now I can’t remember what it was, and I’m too tired to figure it out. So never mind!

 

Heat Wave

We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in New Jersey. And I haven’t been doing well with it. I started feeling bad Wednesday night, then had to call in sick on Thursday. I already had Friday off for Juneteenth; if I didn’t, I would have had to take another sick day. It’s Saturday now, and I’m feeling a little better, but honestly, just doing my laundry has pretty much exhausted me.

I had my groceries delivered from Whole Foods today. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. (I think the last time was in March.) I definitely wouldn’t have had the energy to go over to ShopRite today. (Well, I probably could have managed it, if I had to, but I’m better off resting, I think.) I didn’t leave the apartment at all Thursday or Friday. I might try to venture out briefly today, maybe to get a croissant from the bakery or something like that.

I’ve been thinking about why I’m sick and whether or not I could have made any different choices on Wednesday that could have prevented this. We had an IT Town Hall meeting on Wednesday at work. It was a 90-minute in-person all-hands meeting. I wore a mask, but there were likely a lot of germs going around. Then, later, we had an “ice cream social.” That was outside; they got a couple of ice cream trucks to set up on the patio. I got in line for that, but it was so hot I gave up and went back in. Someone had left a birthday cake in the break room, so I had a slice of leftover cake instead. So now I’m wondering if I picked up the cold from the town hall meeting, the ice cream thing, of if the leftover birthday cake did it. And I’m wondering how much the heat had to do with it.

Honestly, I’m wondering if I can do large (or relatively large) in-person stuff at all anymore now. And/or if I should avoid any kind of shared/leftover food that might have germs on it. I guess it’s good that I gave up on NYCC this year. Garden State Comic Fest is happening today in Morristown. I’d been thinking about going to that. It’s much smaller than NYCC, so I was thinking that I could probably survive it. But I’m definitely too sick for it.

Meanwhile, at work next week, I’ve got continuing fallout from the big project that went into production a couple of weeks ago. I think I’m managing that well. We also have an “agile transformation” project going on. We had an in-person training class on that on Thursday that I missed. And we’ll have two more in-person classes next week. I’m hoping I can make it into the office, and get through those in one piece. But I’m worried about it. Of course, I probably know more about agile and scrum and all that stuff than the people who are running the classes. But I need to show up and engage and figure out whatever hoops the new management wants us to jump through.

To refresh my memory on Agile, I started reading Clean Agile by Robert Martin last week. It’s not bad, so far. I read Clean Code a couple of years ago, so I’m familiar with Uncle Bob’s writing style and his various quirks. His style probably isn’t for everyone, but I’m OK with it. I’m curious to see how far we really go with agile at work this time. There was a big push for scrum a few years back, and we never really did it right. It’s easy to be cynical about this stuff. I hope we “do it right” this time, or at least close enough to right to be useful rather than just an additional layer of meetings and paperwork, but we’ll see.

I also started reading a fairly random book by John Maxwell recently. There was a push at work a while back to learn and embrace the Maxwell leadership style. This was back when I was still a manager. I haven’t heard much about it lately, but then again, I’m not a manager anymore. I noticed this book in my Kindle library, and decided to give it a try. I acquired it in 2009. apparently. It must have been a freebie. I have no memory of buying it, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I would have spent money on. It’s a self-help book on achieving your dreams, which is definitely not something I’m worried about right now. I’m just hoping to make it through the day, one day at a time, at this point in my life. But the book is interesting enough, in the sense that it’s giving me some insight into a mindset that isn’t my own.

I guess I’m taking a break from the Wheel of Time right now. I finished Crossroads of Twilight about a week ago. I think I’m going to try to read New Spring next. It’s a prequel novel, and was published after Crossroads of Twilight, so it’s next up, if I’m reading in “publication order.” It’s also a lot shorter than most of the main WoT books, so that’s nice.

Well, I guess that’s enough rambling for now. It should get up to 97 later, so I should probably give up on getting anything else done today. Time for a nap, maybe.

priorities, part two

OK, a quick follow-up to this morning’s post:

  1. I watched nearly all of the Roland-Garros men’s final. It was fun! Spoiler: Alcaraz won.
  2. I took a break from tennis at 10 AM to walk over to the Somerville farmers market, and bought a bunch of stuff, so that was cool.
  3. And I got myself into the NYCC ticket queue at 10 AM too. When I came back from the farmers market, I was still in the queue. I didn’t get out of the queue until noon. At that point, all ticket types were still available. I briefly considered buying a four-day pass, but then I saw how much it would cost: $250. (And that’s before whatever taxes & fees they add on.) I could afford it, I guess, but since I was on the fence about going at all, the price kinda pushed me over the edge into “nope” territory.
  4. And, at some point, I realized that I also wanted to watch the Phillies/Mets game from London today. That was set to start at 10 AM, and I thought about maybe switching back & forth between tennis and baseball, but honestly the tennis was good enough to keep my attention, so I stuck with that. I thought about watching the baseball game later, from my DVR, but I’ve already seen the headline to this article, so I know the outcome, which makes me a little less enthusiastic about watching it.
  5. And I usually like to make some progress with the Wheel of Time on Sundays, so I should take some time this afternoon and do that. So that’s likely what I’ll be doing for the next hour or two.

So, for anybody, who wanted to know more than anyone needs to know about what I’m doing with my Sunday, you’re all set now.

Memorial Day

I have a habit of writing posts on Memorial Day. Here are some past posts: 2023, 2022, 2021, and 2020. This year, the Tour of Somerville prep started at 5 AM, with contractors setting up the metal fencing on Main Street, which of course woke me up. At some point between 5 and 5:30, we had a quick little storm, which dumped a bunch of rain outside. But it stopped by the time I got out of bed, at 5:40. Things are looking OK right now, around 9 AM, but there could be more thunderstorms in the afternoon, which would probably mean that the main race would have to be cancelled.

Coffee & Sleep

I had a lot of trouble sleeping this past week. I think that was mostly due to allergies and the change in weather. (It was very hot most of the week.) I’ve been compensating for that by drinking probably way too much coffee. So, for the weekend, I decided to go cold turkey.

Well, that didn’t last long! I had decaf on Saturday morning, then felt crappy all day. Not all of that was due to caffeine withdrawal, but some of it certainly was. So I had a Coke Zero at some point in the afternoon. And for Sunday and Monday, I’ve decided to have about half my usual weekend morning coffee. I usually have a full Moka pot, which means two scoops of ground coffee and enough water for two mugs full. Which might not sound like a lot, but the Moka pot produces something like espresso strength coffee. So, basically, I’m cutting back from around six shots of espresso to three shots. That’s working out OK. I’ve also cut out afternoon coffee, so I haven’t gotten cold brew from either of my usual coffee spots at all this weekend. And I’m sleeping a little better.

Pain & Finance

I also had some pain in my right hand that had been building through the week. So, in addition to going cold turkey on caffeine, I was going to avoid computer keyboards and mice, to the extent that I could. I really didn’t touch a computer on Saturday. On Sunday, I spent a good bit of time on my PC going through some financial stuff, and today, I’m writing this blog post, but probably won’t do much more. The pain has been gradually going away.

On that financial stuff yesterday: I moved a bit more money over to my new Marcus account, and opened a couple of CDs. So now I have some money making 4.6% in the savings account, a 12-month CD making 5% and an 18-month CD making 4.6% APY. So that should allow me to hedge my bets a little, if rates go up or down over the next year or two. Of course, all of that is pending until the banks open up again tomorrow, so I’ll have to check it again tomorrow or later in the week and make sure everything went where it was supposed to.

TV & Sports

I just hit the three-month mark on my YouTube TV subscription, so I had to make a decision on whether or not I was going to keep it going, past the $10 off promo rate, and into the regular pricing. I almost decided to cancel it, but changed my mind at the last minute.

Right now, I’m watching some coverage of Roland Garros on T2. I’ve found that watching tennis is very relaxing for me. YouTube TV includes T2 in their base package, but not Tennis Channel. I hadn’t really looked into this before, but I guess T2 is basically the overflow channel for Tennis Channel. So the bigger matches are on the main channel, and a bunch of “lesser” matches are on T2. I can get Tennis Channel with the Sports Plus add-on for YouTube TV, which costs an extra $11 per month. But I’m not going to do that. I’m mostly watching tennis as background noise, so it doesn’t matter if I’m watching an “important” match or not. And there’s going to be some Roland-Garros coverage on NBC later today, so I can watch that too. (And if I still had Peacock, they’ve also got Roland-Garros coverage. TV has gotten so confusing and fragmented.)

Kobo & The Wheel of Time

I’m well into Crossroads of Twilight on my Kobo now. I’m finding it to be a little better than the Kindle for most things, but not substantially. So, I really didn’t need the Kobo, but I don’t regret buying it. I want to get back to it and read a couple more chapters today, if I can.

And, with that, I should probably stop writing. My hands are starting to hurt again. (Getting old sucks.)

Kobo, Pocket, Instapaper, and some Wheel of Time thoughts

I finished reading Winter’s Heart yesterday, the ninth Wheel of Time book. I do want to start the next one, Crossroads of Twilight, soon, but before I do, I want to catch up with the last couple of episodes of The Wheel Weaves podcast. A lot happens in the last few chapters of Winter’s Heart, and I feel like I need someone to walk me through it so I can understand it a bit better.

I haven’t been actively reading Sylas K Barrett’s “Reading The Wheel of Time” series over at reactor.com, but I noticed that I’m now further along in the series than him, since his latest article is on chapter 25 of Winter’s Heart. The Wheel Weaves, on the other hand, is currently on book 12, so I have a while to go before I catch up with them.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a break from book-reading today and experiment with reading some short fiction and newspaper/magazine articles on my Kobo, via Pocket. Overall, I think I’ve decided that I like the experience of using Pocket on Kobo, but there are a few caveats.

I started this process by taking a couple of New York Times articles, saving them to Pocket, then reading them on the Kobo. That worked out fine. Then, I thought I’d see if I could take a few things I’d saved in Instapaper and read those in Pocket. The first thing I discovered is that Pocket seems to have two modes of saving articles: for some articles, it saves a readable view of the article in Pocket, and for others, it just saves a bookmark. For the latter type, those don’t sync down to the Kobo. Pocket calls these two modes “article view” and “view original” apparently.

One idea that I had for saving Instapaper articles to Pocket was to just hit the Pocket button on the webpage for Instapaper’s readable version of the article. But that just triggered the bookmarking mode for Pocket, and didn’t save the readable version. So that was useless. And I found that, for a few things I’d saved in Instapaper, either the original article had disappeared from the web, or the original article could also not be saved to Pocket except as a bookmark. That was an interesting experiment, and I think it convinced me that Instapaper is still superior to Pocket as a general read-it-later service, since I don’t think I’ve ever found anything that Instapaper refused to save to its own database. Pocket definitely works for the New York Times and the New Yorker, but it’s only about 50/50 on other pages I’ve tried.

So, anyway, having saved a few things to Pocket, I did some reading on the Kobo. I found that the experience was pretty good, with a few caveats. The biggest issue is that I realized that you can’t highlight Pocket articles on the Kobo. That’s maybe not a big thing really, but it is something I’d like to be able to do.

It’s occurred to me that, for longer articles, I could save the Instapaper version to an .epub file, then transfer that over to the Kobo via Calibre (or Google Drive). There’s a point where I’m jumping through too many hoops just to read a short story though. I may spend some more time messing around, but not right now.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking about using the Kobo to read the next WoT book. I’ve already copied it from my Amazon account, into Calibre, then over to Kobo. (The WoT books are sold without DRM, so I don’t need Calibre to remove DRM, just to convert them to EPUB.) On Kobo, I’d lose the X-Ray feature that the Kindle has, which sometimes comes in useful with WoT, given the large cast of characters. But X-Ray is often useless, and I’ve taken to looking up characters in the WoT Compendium app on my phone instead.

I’m not sure if I spent more time today actually reading, vs. playing around with Instapaper, Pocket, Calibre, etc., but I did have a relatively pleasant morning, so I guess that’s good either way.

thoughts on the Kobo Libra Colour

I got my Kobo Libra Colour in the mail on Friday, and started setting it up and playing around with it over the weekend. I didn’t get to play with it as much as I would have liked though, since I was sick and didn’t have much energy. Still, I wanted to write up some initial thoughts.

Overall, I like the device. But I’m not sure if it’s good enough to pull me away from my Kindle and the Amazon Kindle ecosystem. I think I’ll probably keep using my Kindle as my primary E-Reader, and maybe use the Kobo as a secondary device for certain kinds of books and documents. I’m really not sure how it’ll settle out.

To get into the specifics, let’s start with the obvious stuff that makes it different from the Kindle. First, color: The color screen is nice, though obviously it doesn’t compare to, say, an iPad. It’s nice to see book covers in color, but it’s not necessary and it doesn’t add much value, really.

I thought the color screen might make the device usable for reading comics, but my experiments with that aren’t encouraging. The device is too small for normal-size American comics to look good on it. It’s about the right size for manga, but I didn’t have much luck with that. I had a couple of DRM-free manga volumes that I thought I’d try, but they didn’t work well. I might try that again with different files, but I’m not in a rush to do that.

The second main feature would be the stylus. You can use the stylus to take notes, with the built-in notebook app, or to highlight passages in books and mark them up. I tried the notebook app, and I don’t think I’m going to get much use out of it. I think I’ve gotten to the point where using a pen just isn’t that comfortable for me anymore, whether it’s a “real” pen and paper, or a stylus and tablet. And I think both the device size and the texture of the screen make using the stylus a bit harder than using a regular pen and paper, for me. I did get a little kick out of how much it reminded me of my old Newton though!

I haven’t tried a Kindle Scribe, so I can’t compare it to that. I’ve occasionally thought about getting a Scribe, and that’s still in the back of my mind as a possibility, but I’d say I’m a little less enthusiastic about trying it now.

The stylus cost $70, so I should probably return it, but I’m probably going to hang onto it. Maybe I’ll find a good use case for it at some point.

So I think I’ve figured out that the two main features that set it apart from my Kindle Paperwhite aren’t compelling enough to get me to switch away from the Kindle.

There are a bunch of other interesting features on the device that aren’t specific to the Libra Colour, but to Kobo in general, and I think some of those are quite interesting and maybe useful. I’ve had a chance to set up a few of those and try them out, so I’ll go through some of them here.

  1. Google Drive and Dropbox integration: I set up the Google Drive integration. (I assume the Dropbox support is similar.) This feature let’s you take books from your cloud storage account, and copy them down to the device from there. So it’s mostly just another way of getting books onto the device. It works well, though copying books over USB is more convenient for me, really.
  2. OverDrive integration: This is a really nice feature. OverDrive is integrated right into the device OS, so you can borrow library books directly from the device. Mind you, it’s not really difficult to borrow books via the OverDrive web site and send them to my Kindle, but this does make it a little easier. When I mentioned above that I might find myself using the Kobo as a secondary device for certain use cases, this it the one I’m most likely to use it for, I think: borrowing and reading library books.
  3. Pocket integration: This is interesting. I’d prefer Instapaper integration, since that’s my read-it-later service of choice, but I do have a free Pocket account, so maybe I’ll try it out and see how it works. The Kobo might be a better device than my iPad for reading, say, a long New Yorker article. (It is possible to send articles to the Kindle with Instapaper, but it’s a bit of a hack.)

So that’s it for the oddball features. The most important thing, of course, is how well it works as a reading device. I’ve only done a little bit of reading on it so far. I copied the Wheel of Time book that I’m currently reading over to it, and read part of a chapter. It worked well. I could increase the font size to something that worked for me. The display is bright enough, clear enough, and easy on the eyes. I’m not sure that it’s better than the Kindle, but it might be.

There are a couple of things that I have on the Kindle that I will probably miss (to some extent) on the Kobo. The first would be Goodreads integration. That’s not really a big deal, but it’s nice. The second would be the X-Ray feature on the Kindle. That’s really a hit-or-miss feature, but when it works, it’s nice. Especially on the Wheel of Time books, it’s nice to be able to use it to look up a character name. It is really hit-or-miss though. I often find myself going to an external reference. (I’ve been getting a lot of use out of the WoT Compendium iOS app lately.)

One more topic I should really cover is how it works with Calibre. I haven’t spent enough time on that yet though. I’ve made sure that Calibre recognizes it and lets me copy books down, but nothing more than that. I may come back to that in a later blog post.

So overall, this thing was an unnecessary expenditure, and I probably won’t get much use out of it. I don’t know, though. I get so much use out of the Kindle that it makes sense to try an alternative and see how it works for me. And my vision is so screwed up at this point that it’s worth experimenting to find the device that works best for me and my old broken eyes.

Going down a NY Times rabbit hole

I have an old friend who subscribes to the print edition of the NY Times. She saw an article in the Book Review last week that she thought I’d be interested in. Her initial impulse was to cut it out and “snail mail” it to me. She’s done this occasionally in the past, and it’s always nice to get an unexpected letter in the mail with an article clipped out of a newspaper. That’s not something people do much these days, but it’s kind of cool.

She’s gotten a little more familiar with modern technology over the last few years, though, so instead she texted me and asked if I still subscribed to the Times. I told her I had a digital subscription. So she then gave me the page number and title of the article, so I could look it up and read it. The article in question was this review of the new book from Gabriel García Márquez. I’d already heard about it, and that it was being published against his wishes, and that it probably wasn’t very good. The review was interesting, and basically confirmed my belief that I really don’t want to read it.

My friend also told me that there was a little sidebar article under the heading “From Our Archives” that I would find interesting. And here’s where I went down a rabbit hole. You can find most of the articles from the print version of the Times by going to the Today’s Paper link. From there, I got to the Book Review section from March 31. But I guess the “From Our Archives” thing was just a filler sidebar that they didn’t bother putting online. So them I remembered that there was a way of accessing a facsimile of the printed edition. That led me to the replica edition that’s available via PressReader. It seems that you need a print subscription to access that though; you can’t get to it with just a digital subscription. I remembered too that I can get some stuff from PressReader with my library card, but I logged in that way, and found that it doesn’t include NY Times access.

Then, later, I remembered TimesMachine. That does work for digital subscribers, but it only goes as far as 2002. In the end, I decided to stop by the library today and browse their print copy of last week’s Sunday paper. In it, I found that the sidebar in question was basically a summary of the 1988 Thomas Pynchon review of Love in the Time of Cholera. I can find that review a few ways. A web search led me to this archived page. A slightly different search led me to this page, which includes a link to the TimesMachine version. (And now I realize that I can print out that archive version and snail mail it to my friend, so she can see it too! Back to the old ways…)

And all that searching also led me to The Essential Gabriel García Márquez, an article from almost exactly a year ago, which serves as a summary of his life and a guide to his books. I should make a point of coming back to that, at some point. I’ve only read One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.

So that’s my NY Times rabbit hole for today. This also got me reminiscing about my college years and early post-college years, which are, now, more than 25 years ago! I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude for a contemporary literature class, and Love in the Time of Cholera on my own, probably over the summer between my junior and senior years. (It was published in April 1988, apparently, and I remember buying it as a “new release” in hardcover, so that makes sense.)

And I’m pretty sure this friend is familiar with Márquez because I gave her a copy of one or the other of those books, or at least had a conversation with her about them. Which is why she thought of me when she saw the review last weekend. So that was all fun and a nice reminder of old friends and old books.

Meanwhile, in our current timeline, I’m still shamelessly hip-deep in The Path of Daggers, the eighth Wheel of Time book. All this Times browsing got me wondering if the Times ever reviewed Path of Daggers. A little searching reveals that it did! Here’s the article on TimesMachine, and here’s the full text.  It’s interesting to see a mainstream review of this book from back when it was published, in 1998. It’s less snarky than I would have expected from the Times. I liked the summary of the internet fandom around the series at the time: “There is an Internet Usenet group devoted to speculations about its plot lines and its puzzles…” Usenet! I hadn’t thought about Usenet in years! There are, of course, Tolkien comparisons. That’s inevitable. And there are some observations about the book (and the series as a whole) that are pretty interesting. (And no spoilers, which I appreciate.)

Some follow-up, on a nice Sunday

I haven’t blogged in almost a month, and I have a few things I want to write about, so this is going to be a multi-topic catch-up post. And hopefully it won’t be too long, or take me too long to write. But we’ll see how that goes.

Taxes

I filed my taxes today. I used the H&R Block software that I’ve been using (on and off) since (at least) 1997. (I just poked around on my hard drive to try to find the earliest docs from TaxCut, and I found an installer for the 1997 version. At some point, they dropped the “TaxCut” name, and now it’s just H&R Block.) I owed less than I usually have, in recent years. I’m not sure why. And I seem to have reached the point in my life where I’m not obsessing too much about the tax rules and whether or not I’m fully in compliance with them. There were a few things on both the Federal and NJ returns that I wasn’t 100% sure about, but I didn’t spend a lot of time researching them and double-checking them. Maybe I overpaid a little, or maybe I underpaid a little. Life is too short to worry about it too much.

The Wheel of Time

I finished reading A Crown of Swords on Friday. And I’m likely to start The Path of Daggers today. A Crown of Swords was book 7, and there are 14 books in the series, so I’m now halfway done! (Unless you count New Spring, the prequel novel, which I’m sure I’ll slot in somewhere, so maybe I’m not quite halfway through the whole thing, but I’m halfway through the main series.)

I’ve been listening to The Wheel Weaves podcast as I’ve been reading ACoS, and I’ve enjoyed it enough that I signed up for their Patreon (though only at the $3/month level). It’s a fun podcast to listen to, and it’s nice when they point out stuff that I missed, or have an interpretation of something that’s different from my own.

I finished ACoS in just over a month, so it’s starting to look like I might be able to finish the whole series by the end of this year, if I can keep up this pace. I know that’s not likely, and that life will probably get in the way at some point, or I’ll get tired of the series and switch to something else for a while. But right now, I’m perfectly happy just reading the books back to back.

Streaming Services

I signed up for YouTube TV about a week ago. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with it, but I’m starting to get more comfortable with the idea of giving up on my TiVo Bolt and what’s left of my cable TV service. (Which is just the broadcast channels, for $50/month, per my previous post.)

There are good and bad points to YouTube TV, vs cable/TiVo. On the bad side, the DVR interface isn’t nearly as nice as TiVo’s. Nor is the program guide. I guess I’ve been spoiled by TiVo’s great user interface (even though I’ve complained about it at times).

The DVR lets you add a series, but has no configuration beyond that. So I added NCIS, so I could get the new episodes, but now it’s also recording every other single episode of NCIS that airs on any channel, at any time. And since NCIS has been on for 21 seasons and almost 500 episodes, that’s a lot. But DVR space is unlimited, and in the cloud, so I don’t really have to worry about that. And I just pulled up the DVR interface, to see if it could tell me how many episodes of NCIS it’s recorded in the last week, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to see that. So that’s another annoyance with the DVR.

And for the program guide and the live channel interface, you can mark certain channels as favorites, so they’ll show at the top of the list, so that’s nice. But that’s about the only good thing about the interface. It’s hard to jump forward in time, compared to TiVo. You can go forward a page at a time, but it’s slow, and there’s no way to jump ahead a full day, like there is on TiVo. In fact, I think you can only go forward by 24 hours, total.

Also, fast-forwarding to skip commercials on DVR recordings is a lot less convenient than on TiVo. Of course, there’s no auto-skip, like there is on TiVo, but that doesn’t always work on TiVo anyway, so I’m OK with that. And there’s no full-screen fast-forward either; you can only see a thumbnail of the content as you’re fast-forwarding through it.

In terms of the actual channel line-up, it’s interesting to have the usual basic cable channels back again, after having dropped them a couple of years ago. My first impression is that cable has gotten even worse since then. About the only channel that seems to be sticking to it’s original mission is TCM. They still seem to be showing classic movies, and just classic movies. And I assume they’re still commercial-free, though I haven’t checked that yet.

Looking at some other channels, IFC is currently showing an Ace Ventura movie. (Definitely not fitting into their original prestige “independent film” category.) And Sundance TV, which should also be showing quality independent films, is running Andy Griffith and NCIS reruns. So it seems like a lot of the channels on cable are just showing miscellaneous reruns of random old TV shows.

In terms of interesting stuff that I wasn’t getting from Optimum, there’s The Daily Show on Comedy Central, where Jon Stewart has recently returned to hosting, though only one day a week. And I could watch that on Paramount+ anyway. And I can catch up on Rick & Morty now, but, now that I’m checking, I guess I can watch that on Hulu. So I’m not sure there’s anything that I really need the cable channels for.

I still kind of want access to broadcast channels, though, for news and sports. I should mention that there’s a lot of sports available on YouTube TV, mostly basketball and hockey right now. I have no particular interest in either of those sports though. I might find access to sports stuff handy once baseball season starts up. (Though for that, I did just let my MLB.TV subscription renew. And the only regular games I can’t watch through that are Mets and Yankees, and YouTube TV doesn’t have either the Mets’ SportsNet NY channel or the Yankees YES channel for the Yankees, so there might not be much baseball to watch on YouTube TV, really.)

There are two channels I’m currently getting through Optimum that I don’t get from YouTube TV: News 12 and MeTV. I don’t watch a lot of MeTV, but I do like Svengoolie, so I’ll miss that, but it’s not a deal-breaker. And I like having a 24/7 local NJ news network, but I can probably live without it.

So, overall, I’m not super-satisfied with the value I’m getting out of YouTube TV, but it’s probably better than the value I’m getting out of my $50/month Optimum basic service. Optimum bills on the calendar month, so I’ve already paid for March. So I might call to cancel at some point before the end of this month, and give it up then.

After that, I’m not sure if I’ll stick with YouTube TV, or eventually wean myself off of the whole idea of live broadcast TV. I’ve spent some time thinking about it, and I can really follow everything I need without it. I can get the local NJ PBS news through the PBS app and/or on YouTube. And I can still get local NY news through various other means. (I’m pretty sure I can watch the local ABC news on Hulu and the local CBS news on Paramount+.)

So, wow, that was a lot of rambling on about TV. I didn’t really intend to write so much. (Sorry.) It’s a nice day out, and I’ve gone out for two walks already, and I even have a window open for the first time in a while. It’s getting close to lunch time, so I should start thinking about that, and maybe another walk, this time with a light coat! (It’s 60° out!)

 

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?