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.

Not at NYCC

Well, it’s Saturday, and I’m keeping an eye on NYCC, but I’m not feeling like it was a mistake to skip out on it. I’m feeling a bit better today, after just staying home and resting on Thursday and Friday. I’d probably be in pretty bad shape if I’d tried going to NYCC this week.

It sounds like mask compliance and enforcement at NYCC hasn’t been great. I’m not really surprised at that. But it’s another little indicator helping to convince me that staying home was the right decision.

There’s plenty of news coming out of NYCC. Popverse has a lot. (They’re owned by Reedpop, so they’re kind of the “official” place for NYCC news, I guess.) The Beat has a lot too. I’m so far behind on my reading and watching that there’s just not much point in me watching any of these panels. The Star Trek panels might be fun, but I still haven’t watched the second season of Picard or the fourth season of Discovery yet. The LoTR: The Rings of Power panel might be fun, but I still haven’t started watching season one yet. (If I were going, by the way, this article from space.com has a good list of interesting panels.)

Back on the subject of COVID, Dr Fauci seems to be doing a little interview tour through New York and New Jersey. He was on Colbert’s show on Thursday, and he actually went and got his bivalent booster shot as part of his appearance there. The segment was kind of corny, but if it convinces anyone to go and get boosted, then it was worth it, I guess.

Fauci also appeared on NJ PBS’ Chat Box with David Cruz this week. I was kind of surprised to see someone at his level show up there. I don’t know how many viewers Chat Box has, but I can’t imagine that it’s a lot. Anyway, it was a pretty good interview, though of course most of Fauci’s answers are fairly predictable at this point. Cruz, at one point asks him “Are you optimistic that we can avoid, just, destroying ourselves?” which is a pretty depressing question, but one I keep asking myself too. (Spoiler: Fauci’s answer isn’t that reassuring…)

A Busy Day

As previously mentioned, I got my COVID booster shot today. I also picked up my new iPhone 14 from CVS, though I had to make a separate trip for that, since it hadn’t arrived yet when I went for the booster. I guess the phone had gone back to the depot on Friday, then sat there all weekend, then got put on a truck this morning for delivery to CVS. Sigh. Well, I’ve got it now, so all is well.

This booster is my fifth shot, overall. The last shot was in April. I’m hoping I don’t get any side-effects from this one, since I’ve got a pretty busy week at work, and I don’t want to have to take a sick day. (But I will if I need to.)

The iPhone setup was relatively easy. I think the only major thing I still need to do is the MS Authenticator setup, which I’ve previously complained about. I’ll try to do that in the office tomorrow, where I’ll have access to my work desktop PC and my office phone, just in case any of my accounts still have the office phone number as a backup. I’m anticipating that’ll take about an hour.

Meanwhile, I had also ordered a new router this weekend, and that showed up today. I ordered this one, from Amazon. It was $80. I didn’t do a ton of research, bit it seems to be a successor to one that had been recommended by Wirecutter. I also found a good CNET review of it. I don’t have much to say about it yet, since it’s still in the box, and will likely remain there until this weekend.

I bought my current router in 2017, so it was time for a new one. The old one still works, but it doesn’t support some of the more modern features and standards. Honestly, I haven’t kept up with all that stuff, so I couldn’t even tell you which ones are which, at this point, but I know I was time for a new router. So I’ll try to get that set up over the weekend, probably, and I’ll have more to say about it then.

On another subject, there are a lot of changes going on at my job right now, and it looks like one of them may snowball into a pretty big change for me. (Or not. Hard to tell.) Either way, I think I need to learn a lot more about Dynamics 365 and Power Platform and stuff like that. I’ve made some efforts at learning that stuff in the past, but I never wind up actually working on anything real with it, so the knowledge doesn’t stick. And of course everything changes, so the stuff I picked up two or three years ago is different now anyway.

A lot of the changes we made in April are getting, well, changed. I wouldn’t say “rolled back,” but I am back under the boss I had before the big changes in April. But she’s under a different boss. And we seem to be backing off on our enthusiasm for scrum a bit. And, as mentioned above, I guess I’m going to need to learn more about the Dynamics 365 side of things. Which is good, I guess, but right now, my head is spinning.

COVID boosters, iPhones, and NYCC

After dithering back and forth on whether or not I should get another COVID booster shot, I decided today that I should. I read this article in the NY Times this morning, and I guess that’s what convinced me. That, plus reading the replies to this tweet from Tom Tomorrow, where he asked about people’s recent experiences with COVID. Yikes, yeah, I don’t want that. I made an appointment for Monday, at the CVS in Bridgewater.

Meanwhile, my iPhone should have shown up today. The UPS guy came and went and just left a sticky note. I’m pretty sure he didn’t ring the doorbell, though my doorbell is a little iffy so maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. The sticky note says that I can pick it up at… the CVS in Bridgewater! So maybe I can pick up the iPhone and get my booster shot at the same time!

Honestly, if the iPhone is available there tomorrow, I’ll make a special trip and go get it. But I know it might not be available until “next business day,” so that would be Monday.

Monday is about two and a half weeks before NYCC, so that should be a reasonable amount of time for the shot to take effect. So if I decide to go to NYCC, I will at least be as vaxxed as possible.

COVID, and NYCC, and iPhones, and other stuff

It’s been about a month since I’ve last posted here, and I have a backlog of stuff in my head that I’ve been meaning to post about. And a number of things came up today that seem like they might be worth mentioning.

Also, I might be a little jumpy from my afternoon cappuccino, so this post might go all over the place…

NYCC announced their mask policy for this year today. In short, they’re requiring masks, but not vaccination. The con is happening in about a month (October 6-9) and I still haven’t decided if I’m going or not. I’ve been keeping an eye on the news, with regard to whether or not there will be a fall surge, and how bad it might be. I just don’t know… I know they mailed out badges this week, so I’ll have those soon. If I decide not to use them, then that’s OK.

I listened to a bit of Andy Ihnatko’s Material podcast today, and he started it out with a bit of a “sermon” on masking and COVID. He mentioned something in there about his own decision-making regarding an upcoming comic con in his area (Boston?), and his thinking seems to be pretty much the same as mine.

I was sick all of Labor Day weekend. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t COVID, and I’m not sure where I picked up… whatever it was. At work, I’m one of a very few people who are still wearing a mask around the office. I did go to a couple of large in-person meetings recently, so maybe I picked something up in one of those. But I also went out for a beer and a burger with an old friend Friday night, so maybe that’s where it came from. (Though we were sitting outside for that, so there should have been less chance of picking up anything airborne, vs. being indoors.)

I honestly think I’m getting sick more often lately. The prevailing wisdom on that seems to be that spending too much time alone, indoors, has left my immune system unprepared for normal levels of airborne… stuff. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I need to spend more time with other people?

On another matter entirely, I paid some attention to Apple’s iPhone event today, though I was too busy at work to catch everything. My iPhone XR is now over three years old, so it’s probably time to replace it. The iPhone 14 looks… fine. If I stick with the standard iPhone 14, then I don’t think it’ll be that much different from my XR. It’s the same form factor (I think) and still has the notch. It seems to have a much better camera though, which is nice, I guess. The iPhone 14 Pro has some snazzy features, though I don’t think I really need them enough to spend $200 more than for the regular 14. (Yeah, that “Dynamic Island” thing is cute, but I don’t need it.)

I also have a bunch of work stuff I want to blog about, but I really need to organize that all first. So I guess this will just be an NYCC / COVID / iPhone post.

COVID exposure

I got a notification from the NJ COVID app that I was exposed to COVID recently. I’ve had the app on my phone since October 2020, and this is the first time it’s actually notified me of anything. The exposure was more than a week ago. Not sure why it took so long to get to me.

I’d pretty much forgotten that the app even existed. When I first installed it, I was “checking in” on the app on a semi-regular basis. These apps were a pretty big deal when they first came out. But they’ve really faded to the point where it doesn’t seem like anyone bothers using them anymore. But I guess some people still do, otherwise I’d never had gotten that notification.

At this point, I guess it’s a pretty useless notification though. If I was exposed more than a week ago, I’ve had plenty of time to spread it around. I went out to dinner with a friend Saturday, and to lunch on Sunday. That’s unusual for me, and I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I might have COVID.

The date shown is May 16, which was a Monday. Looking at my Day One entry for that day, I barely left the apartment, so I’m not sure how I could have been exposed on that day. It does say that it’s “estimated” though, so maybe it happened the next day, at work, in the office? (I work from home Mon, Wed, and Fri, and in the office Tue and Thu.)

Oh well. I did an at-home COVID test this morning, just in case. It came back negative. At this point, I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to report a “near miss” to work or not.

second thoughts, and other distractions

So after spending $300 on NYCC tickets yesterday, today I stumble across this article: Coronavirus wave this fall and winter could potentially infect 100 million, White House warns. So, yeah, that October con in New York is sounding like less of a good idea.

I found that article while going down a slight rabbit hole at work. I took a quick break to look at Hacker News, which led me to this notice on Jason Kottke’s blog that he’s taking a sabbatical. That led me to follow a couple of links at the end of his post, to Dave Pell’s and Craig Mod’s sites. And something at one or the other of those led me to the aforementioned CNN article.

I say all that to illustrate the fact that I’m easily distracted, and I’m trying to get better about that. I’m finding a little guidance on that in some of the stuff I’m reading right now, and in some of the guided meditations I’ve been doing recently. But I’m still really distractable. I think maybe I need to get back to using a pomodoro timer. I blogged about distraction about a year ago, and did the pomodoro thing for a while, but didn’t stick with it.

Oh, and to follow up on the financial stuff in yesterday’s post: that’s getting even worse too. See here: Wall Street, dragged down by tech stocks, racks up more heavy losses. So, yeah, maybe I should just live in the moment?

fourth shot

On Monday of this week, I got my second COVID vaccine booster shot. So my vaccine card is full now. The first shot was in April 2021, the second in May 2021, and the first booster was in December 2021. I should be used to the vaccine side-effects by now, but I was a little surprised about how bad it was this time. I was fine Monday and Tuesday, but then it hit me on Wednesday, and I had to take a half-day Wednesday and a full sick day Thursday. I’m pretty much back to normal today (Friday).

I assume this was the vaccine side-effects, but it could have just been a cold that I got, coincidentally, right after the vaccine shot. I did go out to dinner on Tuesday, so maybe I picked up some germs there. It was a small restaurant, and it wasn’t crowded, so I figured I was relatively safe.

We’re going through a lot of changes at work right now, and I’m pretty busy, so this wasn’t a great week to lose a day and a half, but hopefully I can catch up next week.

I have a bunch of other stuff that I want to blog about, but I don’t really have my thoughts organized. For now, I just wanted to post something about the vaccine booster, for possible future reference. I’m assuming that I’ll probably need one or two more boosters this year, given the way things are going. Maybe in August and December? It’ll be interesting to come back to this at the end of the year and see how things are going with COVID. Will things get better? Worse? Both? Neither?

Back home and sick

My trip up to Albany earlier this week was a success, in that I got there and back in one piece, went to my friend’s wife’s funeral service, and generally had a pleasant time, catching up with old friends. I have gotten sick now, though, as I expected/feared.

I took a COVID self-test yesterday, and it came back negative, so it’s probably just a cold. I might take another test today or tomorrow, just to be sure. (The tests come in two-packs, so I might as well use both, now that I’ve opened the pack.)

I tried to be careful about things on this trip, of course. I wore my mask most of the time, while out in public. Mask compliance was pretty good on both NJ Transit and Amtrak. Once in Albany, I used Uber to get around, and mask compliance wasn’t 100%, but most drivers were still wearing masks. In Troy & Albany, most people in public weren’t wearing masks. At my hotel in Albany, most workers and guests weren’t bothering with masks. At the funeral service, everyone was wearing masks. Afterwards, though, they had a get-together at a local bakery, and most folks (including me) dropped the masks. It’s hard to drink coffee and eat muffins with a mask on. That get-together was quite nice, but it’s probably where I picked up whatever germs are making me miserable right now. Or maybe it was in the train station in Newark or New York. I guess it doesn’t matter. The end result is that I haven’t been real productive at work the last few days, and had to take a half-day yesterday. Hopefully, I can get better over the weekend and have a good week next week.

I think the lesson I’m taking away from this is that I’m still not ready to get back out into the world in a big way. I need to stick close to home, for the most part, and carefully consider any trips that bring me into crowded public spaces, or on public transportation.

Two Years

I’ve been meaning to write a “two year COVID anniversary” post for the last couple of weeks. I thought about it on the anniversary of the first COVID case in NJ, which was March 4. NJ Spotlight News has a good article looking back on the last two years of COVID in NJ. It’s one of those fancy interactive things, with a timeline that you can move around in. (Those things usually annoy me, but it’s not too bad.)

I didn’t get around to it last weekend though. But today is a good day for it too, since March 12 is the last day I was in the office before everything shut down the following week. I was posting a lot around this time in 2020. Here’s a link to the posts from March 12, March 13 and March 14.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re getting close to one million deaths from COVID here in the US, and how to process that information. There’s a good article at The Atlantic on that subject. Honestly, the whole thing is bothering me a bit more than it seems to be bothering most people.

Here in Somerville, it looks like the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow is still on. It was canceled in 2020, of course, and also 2021. I noticed that a few towns that had their parades scheduled for today, Saturday, were canceled due to the storm. I guess that’ll all be over tomorrow, so our parade can go ahead, but it might be cold and windy Sunday, so maybe not the best weather for a parade. Still, I imagine the parade will attract a pretty big crowd. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I may spend the day holed up in my apartment and watch the parade from my window.

At work, we’re still at two days per week in the office. But we’ve dropped most of the COVID precautions. We’re not required to wear masks anymore, nor are we required to do the Sonde health check before coming in. And we never actually had a vaccine mandate, though it was looking like we might at one point. We’re scheduled to have an IT department “town hall” meeting in a couple of weeks. It’ll be an in-person thing, with an option to watch it remotely. I might talk myself into going in-person, but I’ll probably go with the remote option. I’m feeling mostly comfortable with the two-days-per week thing, but I’m still not enthusiastic about large gatherings, especially if not everyone is guaranteed to be vaccinated and/or masked.

In addition to the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow, it’s also my birthday. I’d kind of like to do something to celebrate it this weekend, but I’m not too enthusiastic about any of the usual options. I’d consider going into NYC, but the snow and rain today makes that less attractive. And tomorrow might be clear, but a little too cold. We’ll see.

I’m a little more nervous about going into NYC now since they’ve lifted a lot of their COVID restrictions, including their indoor vaccine mandate. Looking at the web sites for the Met and MoMA, it looks like the Met has dropped their vaccination requirement, but MoMA still has one. (Or maybe MoMA just hasn’t updated their site yet.) Both still require masks, at least.

Given the weather outside today, it might be a good day to watch the last few films from the Criterion Godzilla box set that I bought about a year ago. (I also just bought their box set of Once Upon a Time in China films.) So maybe it’s a good movie weekend. Last night, I watched Turning Red on Disney+, the third Pixar movie to skip a theatrical release and go straight to Disney+. I know that bothered some people, since movie theaters are almost back to “normal” now, but I’m glad I could watch it at home.

I’m still waiting for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which should finally be out on home video next week, a little earlier than expected. I already pre-ordered the 4K Blu-ray, which won’t be out until mid-April, so I may find myself paying for this movie twice, once on digital, next week, and then again for the 4K Blu-ray. Unless I can talk myself into just waiting for the Blu-ray.