yet more Pathfinder

I should probably be tired of blogging about Pathfinder by now, but apparently I’m not. I spent about an hour this morning (or maybe two) working on my character sheet. I’m still figuring things out, like skills and feats and whatnot. It’s kind of frustrating, trying to figure out all the rules, but I guess it’s fun.

I finished reading the Strategy Guide last night. I found it to be very useful. (I posted a short review on Goodreads here.) In my linear read-through of the Core Rulebook, I’m just starting the “feats” chapter, so that puts me about 100 pages in (out of almost 600). I’ll be skimming large parts of the rulebook, but I do want to try to get all the way through it.

My brother hasn’t posted anything to WhatsApp or Discord this week about when we might have our next session (which I guess will be our first actual gaming session), so I guess it’s not happening today. Maybe next Sunday.

I’m a little worried that I’m going to pour a bunch of time and a bit of money into this, and then the actual game is going to fizzle out, and it’ll all have been a waste. This ties into a general theme I’ve been noticing with myself over the last few years, where I spend a bunch of time learning something new (usually programming-related), then never actually put it into practice. It’s usually because I thought I was going to work on a project, then the project fizzles out. Or I just do a bit of setup work on it, then someone else takes it over. Or something like that. I guess there’s something to be said for “learning for learning’s sake,” but there’s a point where I’d like to actually get out there are start tossing fireball spells at orcs, or whatever.

I’ve also been seeking out various tools and resources associated with Pathfinder, as is my wont. (This is another theme: spending too much time making a list of resources, and not much time actually using them…) Here’s a few fun things I’ve stumbled across recently:

  • StartPlaying – This is a platform for bringing players together with “professional GMs.” Prior to finding this, I didn’t know that a “professional GM” was a thing, but I guess I’m not surprised. Putting together an RPG campaign can be a lot of work. And the work of actually GM’ing the sessions can be fun, but it’s generally less fun that being a player. So it’s cool that folks who are good at it can get paid for doing it. If my brother’s Pathfinder campaign fizzles out, maybe I’ll try this, and sink a few bucks into playing a campaign GM’ed by a pro.
  • Dyslexic Character Sheets – I’ve been looking at various alternate character sheets for Pathfinder, some of them web-based and some done as iOS apps. Some include a lot of helpful automation and some include very little. This site was recommended by a couple of folks on Mastodon. It spits out some nice-looking character sheets, but they’re just plain PDFs, not fillable forms. And they’re designed for A4 paper, so that’s also a problem. So I guess I’m still sticking with the official fillable PDFs from Paizo for now.
  • The Pathfinder Humble Bundle that I mentioned in a previous post has been extended by a week. Apparently, it’s been very successful. It’s all second edition stuff, so it doesn’t help me much right now, since my brother is playing first edition. I don’t regret paying for the $5 level though, since the 2E books may come in handy some day. (And I had made my peace with only getting the $5 level, but, now that it’s been extended, I’m thinking about getting the whole $25 bundle, even though I know I don’t need all that extra stuff, and will probably never use any of it…)

New Year’s Day 2023

It’s 8 AM on New Year’s Day, and here I am again writing my traditional New Year’s Day post. I have a bit of a headache today, not because I was up late partying, but because I had trouble sleeping. I went to bed at 9:30 last night, and slept reasonably well until around 11, when nasal congestion and random noise from outside woke me up and pretty much ruined my sleep until around 4 AM, when everything quieted down and my nose cleared up, and I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep. I got out of bed at 7. I guess I have enough coffee in me now that I can get through the day, but I think I’ll need at least one nap today, and I’ll probably need to go to bed early again.

I’ll start this post out with links to some previous posts:

  • Last year, I blogged on Jan 2.
  • And here’s 2021, 2020, and 2019.
  • And probably my earliest New Year’s Day overview post, from 2008.

And I’ll break this post down into sections, since it might get a bit lengthy.

Health, Weight, and Sleep

I started seeing a new doctor this year, and she wasn’t interested in seeing me more than once this year, so I only had a single doctor’s visit in 2022, in May. My blood work was fine, and I guess my general health is fine.

I got two COVID booster shots this year, in April and September. The second one was the bivalent booster. As far as I know, I still haven’t gotten COVID. I might have gotten a mild case once or twice; I’ve certainly been sick a few times. But never bad enough to see a doctor. (And I usually test myself for COVID if I’m sick, and I’ve never had a positive test.)

I do feel like I got sick more often than I’d like last year. I’ve noticed that doing pretty much anything that involves being out in a crowd for a nontrivial amount of time results in me getting sick the next day. I’ve always been like that, to some extent, but I think it’s getting worse.

My sleep has been good and bad this past year. In the last couple of weeks, it’s been more bad than good. but for a few weeks prior to that, I’d been sleeping quite well. So I’m not sure what’s going on there. I think that a lot of it is sinus problems.

My weight has gone up a bit this year. I started 2022 at 140 pounds, and I’m now at 150. I’d intended on drawing the line at 140, but I’ve just crept up to 150, and I haven’t really cared enough to commit to getting it back down. I’m not sure if I need to, really, if I can actually draw the line at 150. I think that’s a reasonably healthy weight for me. My problem over the last year is that I’ve been eating a lot of cookies, to be honest.

I’ve done well with exercise this year, I think. I’ve been pretty consistent about getting a lot of walking done. In fact, it’s nice enough out that I should probably take a break from this blog post and go out for a walk right now.

Work

…and now I’m back from my walk and it’s a little after 9 AM. So my next section is going to be about work. I’m still working for SHI, and I’ll hit my ten-year mark this month. My longest time at one job was NMS, where I worked for around 13 years. So SHI is in second place, and may surpass NMS, if I manage to stick around for a few more years.

After being in pretty much the same position, with the same manager, for most of my time at SHI, there were a lot of changes in 2022. In April, there was a bit of a shake-up, and my group got moved under a different manager, in a different group. Then, in July, we had the data breach. And in August, there was another management shake-up, and I got moved back under my old manager. And in November, I was promoted to “IT Solutions Manager” and am now responsible for managing three programmers. Additionally, these programmers work on our CRM system, so I’m (gradually) moving from working primarily on AX to working on CRM.

And that’s a simplified timeline. There’s a lot more going on than what I described there. I guess it’s mostly good, and we’re on a good path for growth in 2023? I’m not really high-level enough to have a good picture of the company’s overall health, and whether or not we’re on the right path. I guess I’ll stick with “cautious optimism.” I’ve updated my resume, but I’m hopeful that I won’t need it in 2023.

In terms of professional development, it’s good that I’ve been promoted into management, I guess. I’m still basically a hands-on programmer, and my three reports are doing their own thing, for the most part. I may take more of an active hand in 2023, but that’ll depend on how things shake out.

Looking at the books I’ve read and courses I’ve taken in 2022, I put a fair bit of effort into learning scrum earlier in 2022. There was a big push for scrum that went along with the April management changes. That kind of fizzled out after the data breach and the August management changes, but we’re still (kinda) doing scrum. I also put some effort into working on programming fundamentals, reading a few books related to “Clean Code” and refactoring. And, for specific technologies, I’ve been trying to learn a bunch of random stuff that’s all directly related to projects I’m working on. I could get into all that, but then this post would get way too long.

The New Normal

…for lack of a better title. COVID is still a thing, regardless of whether or not people want it to be. SHI has us working in the office two days a week now. For me, that’s Tuesday and Thursday. It’s not too bad, I guess. I wear a mask when I’m not at my desk. There aren’t too many other people who still do, but there are a few.

They might let us keep to the two day schedule through 2023, but they also might try to get us to come back full-time, or maybe four days a week. I’m not sure. I’m really hoping they stick with the two day per week plan. I’m not ready to go back to the office full-time.

I don’t go out nearly as often as I used to. My only trip to NYC this year was in March, when I took the train to Albany for a funeral. (I switched from NJ Transit to Amtrak in NYC, so it was just a brief visit.) And that trip was really my only trip out of NJ. I almost had my E-ZPass canceled this year, because I haven’t used it since 2019. I got them to keep it active for another year, but I should probably give it up. Similarly, I should probably give up on my memberships to the Met and MoMA. I haven’t used either this year.

I had bought a badge for NYCC in October, but I decided to skip it and got a refund. I’m pretty sure that was a good idea, and that I would have gotten horribly sick if I’d gone. I may be done with comic conventions entirely now. I’m really not sure.

Books, Movies, TV, Music, Etc.

So this is the fun part of the post. (Maybe.) I’ll start with a link to my Goodreads Year In Books for 2022. I read 76 books this year. A lot of them weren’t really books, per se. I started the year with a bunch of Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas, for instance. Looking at the list, I think I read around 20 actual novels in 2022.

I gave up on trying to read any classics in 2022. Instead, I put some effort into putting a dent in my backlog of random Kindle books, reading stuff that I got from old Humble bundles and stuff like that. There was some good stuff in there, but also some stuff that was OK but forgettable. I also got back into a couple of my favorite book series, The Dresden Files and The Laundry Files. I’d last read a Dresden book in 2015, and a Laundry book in 2017. I didn’t read a lot of comics in 2022. Probably my favorites were the two Hilda books I read.

For movies: I still haven’t been back to a theater, since 2019. So I only watched movies at home. From my Letterboxd stats page, I can see that I watched 84 films in 2022. That’s less than 2021, when I watched more than 100 films. My highest-rated films from 2022 were My Father’s Dragon, Turning Red, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. My highest-rated re-watches were Howl’s Moving Castle and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, both of which I bought on Blu-ray in 2022.

For music: I mostly listened to music via Apple Music this year, so (in theory) my Apple Music Replay ’22 page should be pretty accurate. In practice, it’s a little weird. My top track for the year is the first track on Max Richter’s Sleep, which is probably because I put it on sometimes when I’m taking a nap on my sofa. My second most-listened track is Heavy Heart, by Bartees Strange, which makes sense, I guess. I do like that song.

Beyond that, I’ve listened to a lot of Bombay Bicycle Club, Bibio, and a few others. If I was going to pick my favorite album from 2022, it would probably be Bibio’s BIB10. Replay doesn’t tell you how many albums you’ve added to your library during the year, but I keep a list of those in Evernote, and I see I added over 50 albums in 2022. So I’m definitely listening to a lot of new stuff. (And old stuff too.) I guess I’m getting my money’s worth out of Apple Music.

For TV: I don’t keep track of the stuff I watch on TV the way I do with books and movies. I’ve definitely watched a lot of TV in 2022, but I can’t think of anything in particular that stands out. I’m still subscribing to Netflix, Disney+, and Paramount+. I switched to the Disney Bundle in 2022, so I get Hulu and ESPN+ too now. I’m not particularly proud of the amount of TV I watch these days, but there are times when I’m just too tired to do much else.

Summary

I feel like there’s more I wanted to write about here, but it’s almost 11 AM now, and I’m running out of steam. I should wrap this up, and maybe go out for another walk. I’m not making any resolutions for 2023. I’m planning on just playing it by ear. If I can manage to lose a few pounds, that’d be nice. If I can move forward on some professional stuff, that’d be good too.

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 Tor.com 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 tor.com.

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.