5K in underwear

Mom

My mom, Joan McNulty, died from colorectal cancer. It isn't on of those "glamorous" cancers that you hear so much about, mostly because I think people are more comfortable talking about breasts and lungs than they are colons and rectums.

50,000 people a year die from colorectal cancer, and it is very treatable if detected early!

In order to help lower that number I'm running the 2017 Philadelphia Indy 5K this September. All donations go to help the Colon Cancer Alliance to get the word out, fund research, and help someone else's mom not die from this type of cancer.

Donate!



Wait, that's a quote about Windows?

Dieter Bohn in his review of the Surface Laptop (which looks pretty neat):
One small note for potential Mac switchers: even though I find many of the third-party apps on Windows deficient compared to their Mac equivalents, the gap is closing. And Microsoft's own apps like Mail and Calendar are quite good.
We've come a long, long way when someone reviewing a Windows machine mentions that Mac users won't have too much trouble finding replacement apps on Windows. What a world!

Western Mass in books

📖 haul

Marisa and I often head up to Western Mass to visit our friends Becky and Eric over Memorial Day weekend, and we did just that this weekend. This was a special trip because we finally got to meet Reed (their son).

Overall, it was a successful and relaxing trip. However, I didn't get much reading done. Bummer.

We did, however, manage to visit three bookstores:

Where I purchased the books pictured above. Did I need any of these books? I don't understand the question.


You kinda get the feeling he doesn't want to be President

Donald Trump is being sworn in as president today. Some people are happy. Some people are not. Some people are just confused. I think Trump himself has realized that Presidents don't just appear on TV and lie about stuff, like oh... there never having been a concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial:

Later, he laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and attended his Lincoln Memorial inaugural concert, saying that one had never been held there before even though many similar events have taken place in front of the iconic seated statue of the 16th president.

In fact, you have to govern! And that means figuring out who is going to do what. I can't imagine the amount of work that goes into a Presidential Transition, and it seems neither can Mr. Trump:

Since his election on Nov. 8, Mr. Trump has had little interest in the minutiae of his transition, saying it was “bad karma” to get too involved, according to a person who spoke with him at the time. At one point, he wanted to halt the planning altogether, out of superstition, the person said.

His lack of understanding of the task at hand, and his clear lack of intellectual curiosity are the things that really worry me about a Trump presidency. I feel like he'll be governing from his seat of his pants and that's no good.

I will say, however, that while I disagree with the VAST majority of Trump's goals... I do like a few of his promises (which he won't do). I'm all for spending money to:

  • Modernize our nuclear arsenal - To make it safer, and with an eye towards reduction (though I think Trumps wants more nukes). I watched Command and Control the other day on PBS and it scared the pants off me. At least I'll rest easy with Rick Perry at the helm of the Department of Energy. Oh, wait, I won't. Sigh.
  • Infrastructure - We need to spend a lot of money to fix/replace bridges, highways, and roads across America (in both rural and urban places). And that'll even get people to work!

That's about all I agree with, though I wouldn't mind a better version of the ACA... I'm not sure the Republicans will deliver on that.


2016 in Books

I read 75 books in 2016 (I thought I had read 76 but Goodreads counted a book that I hadn't read in 2016, that sassy website).

I've already blogged about some of my favorites, but here's the whole list (this post is inspired by Justin Blanton's. He and I read very different kinds of books):

*****

The Sparrow by Mary Russel Doria

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2) by Becky   Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky   Chambers

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2) by Liu Cixin

Woman with a Blue Pencil: A Novel by Gordon McAlpine

Slade House by David Mitchell

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) by V.E. Schwab

Anatomy of Evil (Barker & Llewelyn, #7) by Will Thomas

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2) by Daniel O'Malley

Zero K: A Novel by Don DeLillo

Necessity (Thessaly, #3) by Jo Walton

The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #1) by Alex Grecian

The Devil's Workshop (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #3) by Alex Grecian

The Harvest Man (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #4) by Alex Grecian

Lost and Gone Forever (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #5) by Alex Grecian

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2) by Amy  Stewart

The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2) by Ellen Kushner

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

****

The Trials (The Red Trilogy Book 2) by Linda Nagata

Night Life (Michael Cassidy, #1) by David C.  Taylor

Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #8) by Kevin Hearne

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Strangler Vine (Avery & Blake, #1) by M.J. Carter

The Steel Remains  (A Land Fit for Heroes #1) by Richard K. Morgan

Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3) by Jeff VanderMeer

Updraft (Bone Universe, #1) by Fran Wilde

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

Linesman (Linesman, #1) by S.K. Dunstall

Alliance by S.K. Dunstall

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Singer from Memphis (The Athenian Mysteries #6) by Gary Corby

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen, #1) by Aliette de Bodard

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey

The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #2) by Alex Grecian

Four Roads Cross (Craft Sequence, #5) by Max Gladstone

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel  Gonzales

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2) by Naomi Novik

The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Cold Between (Central Corps, #1) by Elizabeth Bonesteel

A Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton

Look to Windward (Culture, #7) by Iain M. Banks

Blind Justice (Sir John Fielding, #1) by Bruce Alexander

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Daggerspell (Deverry, #1) by Katharine Kerr

In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages by Max    Adams

Swordspoint (Riverside, #1) by Ellen Kushner

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner

Hell Bay (Barker & Llewelyn, #8) by Will Thomas

***

Murder at the 42nd Street Library (Raymond Ambler #1) by Con Lehane

Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

Dr. DOA (Secret Histories, #10) by Simon R. Green

Hour of Judgment (Jurisdiction, #4) by Susan R. Matthews

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Wolf Star (Tour of the Merrimack, #2) by R.M. Meluch

Dead Man Walking (Ishmael Jones, #2) by Simon R. Green

All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

**

Manhattans & Murder (Murder, She Wrote, #2) by Jessica Fletcher

Raising Caine (Tales of the Terran Republic, #3) by Charles E. Gannon

Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr

The Myriad by R.M. Meluch


I read lots of books from a variety of publishers, but here's the top three:

Tor Books: 8

Del Rey: 4

G.P. Putnam's Sons:4

I got to wonder about the author gender breakdown of the books I read in 2016, and it is pretty good:

Gender2016books

I didn't make an effort to read any particular kind of author's work, and I don't plan to. I read whatever strikes my fancy, but I think these numbers are telling me that I'm hearing about more books written by women, which Im all for!


2016: A Year In Walking

2016 Steps

Thanks to my handy Fitbit I know that I walked over 10,000 steps each day in 2016.

My lowest step day was 11/18/16 (10,001 steps) and my highest was 10/18/16 (23,476 steps in Ireland!).

In total I walked:

Steps: 4,310,553
Miles: 2151.39

Not too shabby!

Oh, and you can click on the graph above to see it bigger, if you're interested in such things.


Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

2016 Year in Review: Scott's favorite Chrome extension - Library Extension

Libraryextension

I like me some books, and I usually end up at Amazon to find out more about a book or another.

Library Extension alerts you if any book you're looking at on Amazon.com or BN.com is available from the library (either physical or ebook, assuming your local library offers ebooks). This has saved me lots of money, since you can add a hold with a few clicks right from Amazon.

Go forth and borrow books!


Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

2016 Year in Review: Mulitport chargers

Scottchargers

I love gadgets, but I hate charging them. I contain multitudes.

This year marks a turning point in my charging life; I kicked individual chargers to the curb and picked up two multiport chargers. I'm never looking back (expect for this post).

On the left in the image above is the Anker PowerPort 4 which I keep plugged into a powerstrip next to my bed. I plug in my Apple Watch charger, an iPhone charger, and a microUSB cable for charging either my Kindle or Fire. It is fantastic. And when I travel I just unplug it, wrap the cables around it, and pop it into my backpack. This way I don't forget any charging cables or adapters.

On the right you see the PowerPort 5 USB-C I have affixed to my sidetable in the living room. I use it to charge my iPad Pro, iPhone, Kindle/Fire, and best of all: my MacBook. This allows me to keep a computer charger in my bag and not clutter up the living room.

Lest you think I tested a boatload of chargers before getting these, I didn't. I did, however, read this Wirecutter article.


Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.



2016 Year in Review: Scott's favorite movie theater

Alamo

This Christmas I spent a few days in Austin with Marisa's family celebrating Christmas. One of my father-in-law's presents was a night out to see Rogue One (with myself and Marisa, of course!).

Being in Austin I wanted to check out an Alamo Drafthouse since I've heard many good things about this, and I wasn't disappointed. It is clear that the folks who run this chain love movies.

Instead of a bunch of inane ads before the previews they played old Star Wars toy commercials and YouTube videos. The seats were comfy, and you could order booze/food (I had a pretzel).

Thumbs up, Alamo Drafthouse.

The one bad thing I can say about this particular movie watching experience is that the sound was turned up a little too much. It was super loud, which I didn't mind myself but Marisa had to cover her ears a couple of times.



Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.



2016 in Review: Scott's favorite cheap iPhone 7 Plus Case

Iphonecase

This year I got myself an iPhone 7 Plus, which meant I needed to retire my super cool iPhone 6 Plus Lego case (man, that case is awesome). I am holding out hope that a new iPhone 7 Plus Lego case will appear at some point, so I didn't want to spend too much money on a case.

That's when Lex tweeted about the AmazonBasics Slim Case for iPhone. For $10 it seemed worth a try. I'm still using the blue one I bought, and it is perfect. Even better? It costs $2 less now.

This case isn't going to garner any compliments from anyone, frankly, but it is a cheap, well made case.

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's favorite way to pay for the trolley

We're Getting There

SEPTA is a word that triggers strong reactions from Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians in general. People outside of Philly are annoyed that they have to help pay for public transportation for folks in a city they don't live in (Thanks, PA!). Philadelphians aren't thrilled with SEPTA's general lack of... being good.

I don't envy SEPTA though. The system is pretty large and has a puzzling array of options including:

  • Trollies
  • Buses
  • Commuter Rail (which we call the Regional Rail)
  • Subway

I, as it happen, am a nearly daily trolley rider. I've been on the trolley almost every weekday for the last decade. And for the last decade nothing about the experience has really changed. Sometimes you get on the Christmas Trolley, but that's about it.

I've been buying, and using, tokens to get on the trolley for ages. I even have a cup on my desk full of tokens, just so I don't forget to grab 'em on my way out (though I do often forget to reorder them when my supply dwindles).

SEPTA has slowly been rolling out a card based payment system called SEPTA Key. When I heard that there was a brief beta period where one could get a SEPTA Key with Travel Wallet (i.e. load up a card with money and use it instead of tokens) I got me to the SEPTA retail location and bought one.

SeptaKEY

This thing is both great and not so great, but I still really like it. The Key card is contactless, so you just hold it up to the fare reader, it beeps, and you get on the trolley. Simple? Yes. Fast? No. The readers on the trolley seem to be pretty slow... so I always hold up the line a little bit as I wait for the approval bing.

I do like that I can just pop the card in my wallet and I don't need a pocket full of tokens. Plus, when I reload the card I just tap it at a pay station, select how much I want to put on it, and pay with my Apple Watch. Very nice.

At the moment you can only pay for one ride with a Key card, so if you are looking to pay for multiple people on one ride you'll still need dumb old tokens.

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


2016 in Review: Scott's top 5 Star Trek episodes viewed this year

RandomtrekiconHere's a fun fact about me: I have a podcast that's all about Star Trek. It is called Random Trek, and I think it is pretty fun. iTunes reviews say, "Great concept that doesn't really pay off!"

Thanks to the podcast I get to talk to lots of people about Star Trek AND watch a bunch of Star Trek. In honor of my podcast I'm going to list my 5 favorite episodes of Star Trek that I watched for Random Trek. Now, this doesn't mean that these are my favorite episodes of Random Trek: I love all Random Trek episodes equally.

Here's the list, in no particular order:

  • “The Wire” (DS9) - Garak is the best. And this season 2 episode is a great Garak story.
  • “Parallels” (TNG) - So many Worfs, so much cake! Also, the kookiest TNG opening ever.
  • “Future Imperfect” (TNG) - A lonely alien just wants Riker to be his friend. Don't we all?
  • “The City on the Edge of Forever” (TOS) - Let's face it, this is the best episode of Star Trek no matter what the series. Edith Keeler must die!
  • “The Inner Light” (TNG) - Picard lives an entire life in 40 minutes... and it pretty much has no impact on him as a person, other than he learns how to play the flute.

That's a lot of great Star Trek!

Now, I know I said I didn't have favorite episodes of Random Trek, but if I did I think I would have to pick Episode 100. That was a special episode in which I had listeners submit questions. It was great to hear from people who enjoy the podcast.



Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.


I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


The wire is part of the design

AirpodsnarkMy buddy Jason Snell has written a great review of the Apple AirPods. You know, the Bluetooth earbuds that are totally wireless, not even a wire to connect the two to one another.

He likes them, and says:

Fundamentally, earbuds deserved to be treated as individual objects, not tethered together. That’s the premise of the AirPods as well as several other wireless earbuds of this type. Each earbud is its own separate entity, so you can stick one or both in your ears and truly say goodbye to dangling wires.

I haven't used the AirPods, but based on my usage of my current set of Bluetooth earbuds (a pair of discontinued Jaybirds)this fundamental idea behind the product means I won't ever be buying a pair for myself.


Jaybird

That wire between the two buds allows me to rip them out of my ears and just drop them. They dangle from my neck without me having to worry about putting them somewhere.

"But, Scott, how often do you actually do that?"

Everytime I use the darned things! Generally, I'm rocking the JayBirds when I'm working out. I get super sweaty and at the end of the workout I just want the damned earbuds out of my ears where they are acting like tiny dams for the sweat that has dripped all over my ears (gross, right? But it is the truth!).

That wire is a feature, not a bug. Oh, and the little control lozenge on the wire allows for me to change the volume of my iPhone even when I don't have a network connection (the AirPods rely on Siri to do this, and if you don't have a network connection Siri doesn't work). Magic!

So I won't be buying AirPods, because they don't meet my needs. And that's ok, not every product is designed for my use cases (if they were a lot more things would be available with orange as a color option).


Newgrange - News about a 5,000 year old structure

I write about Newgrange being my favorite stop on our trip and suddenly everyone is talking about it! First Jane Smiley visits and now some archeologists are saying that the most distinctive feature of Newgrange (the whole light/solstice thing) might only be 50 years old (i.e. it was created during the reconstruction of the site).

Here's a link to the full academic paper, which I plan to read at some point. Also, how cool is it that there's a journal devoted to Ireland's Celtic past?

As a bonus I've embedded a 3D model of the passage/tomb of Newgrange so you can pretend that you've visited.


2016 in Review: Scott's favorite wifi router - Orbi

Orbi

When it became clear that my Airport Extreme was on the way out (RIP, Airport Extreme) I had to decide if I should just get another one or opt for a different WiFi router. Being the clever consumer that I am I sensed Apple's lack of commitment to their AirPort (and I was right!) so I went for something new and exciting.

I did what I always do and went to the Wirecutter and bought the WiFi router they recommended for most people. For whatever reason, when I set that router up half of my devices stopped working. So I returned it and bought the router the they recommended if you wanted all the bells and whistles (assuming that it was the lack of bells and/or whistles that was the stumbling block). Sadly, that router also ended up creating a network that some devices wouldn't connect to (though different devices this time). I should point out that I don't think the Wirecutter is wrong to recommend these routers; I have my network configured in a slightly odd way which I am sure is the real culprit.

After I returned the second router, and set the AirPort Extreme back up, I decided to go with Netgear's Orbi. At this point I had read a lot about it, but it wasn't actually available for purchase.

As soon as it became available I bought an Orbi (well, two Orbis in one package) and I am very very happy with it. I plugged it in, rebooted my Comcast router and everything worked right off the bat.

Sure, it is a little expensive but this router is easy to set up, it is super fast, and best of all both Orbis sport ethernet ports.

Now, this isn't a highly technical review or anything like that. I just like the Orbi and it is doing a great job!

I suppose I should explain what the heck the Orbi is. It is one of a new generation of WiFi routers that use a mesh network to create one wifi network using a few routers that you place throughout your house. The mesh network allows the routers to talk to one another, and make sure that your entire house is bathed in sweet, sweet WiFi.

The main reason I went with the Orbi is not only does the main Orbi (the one you connect to your internet connection like a traditional router) sport 4 ethernet ports (a WAN port for plugging in your internet and 3 LAN ports for ethernet cables to your stuff) but the satellite Orbi (the one you place in a different room to extend the network further) also has 4 ethernet ports. This allowed me to simplify my home network by getting rid of an ethernet cable I had running into the den and a few dumb switches to boot.

At this point I should say that Netgear did have an issue where some of their routers had a serious vulnerability. They've released an update, but the Orbi didn't have this vulnerability. And best of all the Orbi automatically updates its firmware, so you don't have to try and remember to do it manually (as if anyone does that!).

Orbiports

The web admin interface is pretty nice too:

Orbiadmin

It seems I have 23 devices on my network at this moment:

Orbidevices

But is it fast? I ran a couple of speed tests from my MacBook and it is pretty darned fast.

Speedtest by Ookla says:


Ookla

The Xfinity speedtest reports:

Xfinityspeedtest

And Fast.com (Netflix's speed test) agrees:


Fasttest

There are other mesh WiFi routers that offer more software features, but I'm glad I went with the Orbi because all I wanted was a network that was easy to setup and fast enough for all our streaming needs. The Orbi covers that easily.

And just to close the loop, The Wirecutter agrees with me! What a nice little coda, huh?

Bb2016This year has sucked, but it hasn't been all bad.

I'm writing a post per day for the rest of 2016 talking about some of my favorite things this year. Find the rest of the posts in this series here.


Jane Smiley on Newgrange

It seems as though I'm not the only writer who visited Newgrange this year. Jane Smiley, a better and more successful writer, did as well and wrote about it for the New York Times (I just wrote about it for my blog):


Newgrange is a popular destination, and tickets are first come first served. It is called a “passage mound” or “passage tomb,” but what is it really? If we are lucky, what we get when we visit an ancient site is a sense of the intelligence that designed and built the structure even if we might not understand what belief system they were acting under. Indeed, perhaps Newgrange is a giant calendar, a giant clock, a giant belief system, built without mortar, lost and present at the same time.


IMG_0389