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How I use Google Chrome custom search engines for quick access

I move as much as I can of what I know to the Web so that other people can use what I share. Added benefit: I can find things quickly! I use custom search engine shortcuts to help me quickly look up stuff. For example, I frequently refer to blog posts. I can type “b search terms” into my Chrome address bar to search my blog. Neat, huh? Here are the search engines I’ve defined.

Blog b https://www.google.ca/search?q=site%3Asachachua.com+%s
Blog category bc http://sachachua.com/blog/category/%s
Blog tag bt http://sachachua.com/blog/tag/%s
Flickr – mine f http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=65214961@N00&q=%s
Flickr tag ft ~http://flickr.com/photos/sachac/tags/%25s
Google Drive d https://drive.google.com/a/sachachua.com/#search/%s
Google Calendar c https://www.google.com/calendar/render?q=TERM
GMail m https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?pli=1#search/%s
Google Contacts p https://www.google.com/contacts/?q=%s
Trello t https://trello.com/search?q=%s

Here’s how you can define your own search engines:

  1. Click on the menu button.
  2. Choose Settings > Manage Search Engines.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Other search engines list.
  4. Add your own, one at a time.

%s will be replaced by the search terms from the command line.

Super handy!

Try setting up search engines for yourself. It takes a few minutes to set up one, and it makes searching so much easier.

Emacs Chat: Jānis Mancēvičs

Chatting with Jānis Mancēvičs about literate programming, Unity game development, and code folding.

Want just the audio? Get it from archive.org: MP3

Check out Emacs Chat for more interviews like this. Got a story to tell about how you learned about or how you use Emacs? Get in touch!

Emacs ABCs: A is for Apropos

Sometimes one gets the strangest ideas. I’ve had this kicking around in my brain for a few weeks. Since you read and re-read books to kids endless times anyway, why not learn more yourself along the way? For example, Emacs is something that is worth repeated learning. You forget commands, you rediscover them, you dig into them more. I think it might be interesting to have kid’s books with technical subtext. While you’re saying the letters and helping kids learn to read, you can silently (or not-so-silently!) read the notes, and pick one command to try later. In this case: M-x apropos?

A is for apropos

A is for apropos

Here’s a list of interesting possibilities:

  • apropos
  • browse-kill-ring
  • customize / compile / calc
  • dired, debug-on-entry
  • edebug-defun, eshell
  • fastnav, ffap, fixup-whitespace
  • grep-find, gnus
  • help-with-help, helm
  • ielm
  • just-one-space
  • keyboard macros, kmacro-start-macro, kbd-macro-query
  • load-library, locate-library, list-packages
  • magit, make-indirect-buffer
  • name-last-kbd-macro
  • occur (and occur-edit-mode); org
  • package-list-packages, picture-mode
  • quick-url, query-replace-regexp-eval
  • regexp-builder, recursive-edit, recover-this-file,
  • savehist-mode, server-start, smartparens
  • tags-search, term, thumbs, tmm-menubar, type-break
  • undo-tree-visualize
  • vc-next-action, view-lossage, visual-line-mode
  • where-is, winner-mode, windmove, window-configuration-to-register
  • M-x (execute-extended-command)
  • yank-pop
  • zap-to-char

Crazy? Neat? =) What do you think?

Weekly review: Week ending April 18, 2014

More coding, yay! Next week, I’m going to focus on writing more tutorials for Emacs. Also, lots of Emacs conversations. Emacs Emacs Emacs Emacs… =)

Blog posts

Sketches

  1. 2014.04.13 Lion cut
  2. 2014.04.16 Book – Mastery – Robert Greene

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (24.6h – 14%)
    • Earn (14.7h – 59% of Business)
      • [ ] Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
      • [X] E1: Rename groups
      • [X] Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
      • [X] Earn – M: Revise sketch
    • Build (5.9h – 24% of Business)
      • [X] Make sure all of my blogs are updated to WordPress 3.9
      • [X] Upgrade Linode
      • Drawing (3.5h)
        • [X] Sketchnote a book – Mastery – Robert Greene
      • Delegation (0.6h)
        • [ ] Brainstorm more tasks
      • Packaging (0.1h)
      • Paperwork (0.6h)
      • Emacs
        • [ ] Add more sections to Emacs Lisp tutorial
        • [ ] Invite bbatsov for an Emacs Chat
        • [ ] Record session on learning keyboard shortcuts
        • [X] Emacs: Get beeminder code to support time-today
        • [X] Emacs: Figure out why todo list does not filter by statu
        • [X] Talk to JJW about Emacs and Org
        • [X] Set up project view
        • [X] List TODOs by project
        • [X] Hook Beeminder into Gnus to track sent messages
        • [X] Figure out Org publishing
        • [X] Figure out why column view is hard to read
        • [X] Fix keymap in beeminder.el
        • [X] Get beeminder code to prompt for value
        • [X] Emacs: Track the number of tasks I have and what states they’re in
        • [X] Chat with splintercdo (Janis) about literate programming
        • [X] Add colour coding to 2048 game for Emacs
    • Connect (4.0h – 16% of Business)
  • Relationships (6.1h – 3%)
    • [X] Go to RJ White’s semi-retirement party
    • [ ] Raspberry Pi: Extract blob pixels and try to classify cats
    • [ ] Raspberry Pi: Use bounding rectangle to guess litterbox use
  • Discretionary – Productive (27.6h – 16%)
    • [X] Ask neighbours if anyone wants to split a bulk order of compost with us
    • [X] Update my unscheduled tasks and add time estimates
    • [ ] Prepare litter box analysis presentation
    • Writing (11.7h)
  • Discretionary – Play (7.3h – 4%)
  • Personal routines (26.0h – 15%)
  • Unpaid work (12.8h – 7%)
  • Sleep (64.0h – 38% – average of 9.1 per day)

Started gardening – April 2014

The weather finally warmed up last weekend. W- and I raked the back yard, and I started planting seeds that would likely survive just in case we get another frost. Spinach, peas, lettuce… I don’t know how well the seeds will do, but I want to get things growing again. I can’t grow anything indoors because the cats love nibbling on greens, so I’ll just have to buy my tomato and basil starts from the garden centres. In the meantime, though, I can experiment with seeds.

The soil feels better now than the sandy mix we started with, although there’s always room for improvement. We’ve added lots of compost to it over the years – mostly manure, but there was a year that our compost heap was active enough to steam. Toronto gives away leaf compost every Saturday, so we might check that out too. We’re thinking about ordering compost in bulk this year instead of getting bagged manure from the store. I’ll probably put in the compost around the time that we clear out the peas and get started with tomatoes, so I can get some sprouts going while waiting to sort all of that out.

What am I going to change this year? Here are my notes from October 2013:

Gardening notes

I changed my mind about irrigation. I think I’ll start by hand-watering the plants. It’s not that hard to do, and I’ve marked the rows a little more clearly now so I know what to expect. I probably won’t pay for a landscaping or gardening company. Maybe I can share more notes on our garden and ask folks for tips. I’m looking forward to growing more greens and herbs, and giving bitter melon yet another shot.

I planted the first batch of seeds this weekend, going through many of the leftover seeds from 1-2 years ago. After all, the seeds aren’t going to get any fresher, so I may as well plant them and see what sticks. Some of them germinate in a week, so let’s see if there’ll be any progress.

Yay growing things! (Well, eventually. =) )

Rethinking my time categories: the blurring of business and discretionary activities

I track my time with medium-level categories (not detailed enough that I’m tracking individual tasks, but not so high level that it’s hard to make sense of the data). From time to time, I notice categories drift, or they stop fitting. Consulting is definitely business, but does working on Emacs really belong there? Why is coding classified under business but writing is classified as discretionary time? Most of my categories still make sense a year or two later, but some of them could use more thinking about.

What is business, anyway? I suppose it can include anything related to the earning of money, including support such as paperwork or delegation. Packaging (by which I mean creating e-books and other resources) is part of business, since I earn a small income from that (and pay taxes on it, too!). So is responding to e-mail. Technically, Emacs is related to money, because people have actually booked and paid me for help sessions online (http://sachachua.com/help). I consider programming-related activities to be part of maintaining my technical skills and network. In that sense, coding, web development, system administration, and other geek things are business-related. I distinguish between sketchnoting for client engagements and drawing on my own. Many of my drawings are more along the lines of personal or business planning. Perhaps I should track more under those categories now that I’ve established drawing as a way of thinking, and shift to using “Business – Drawing” when I’m specifically working on illustrations or improving skills.

Discretionary time includes the stuff I do just for fun and the things I learn about just because (Latin and Morse, for example). Probably the only weird thing in here is that I classify writing as discretionary time. It’s fun. Coding is fun too. Coding is more obviously valued, though, so I guess that’s why I consider it business time. And also, if I classify writing as coding time, I’ll tip over way too often into the “working too many hours a week” zone, when I’m not really doing so.

Maybe a better approach is to classify coding, drawing, and other fun things as discretionary time instead, even if they occasionally result in money. Benefit: I get to celebrate having more discretionary time and a lighter workload. (Yeah, it’s all mental anyway…)

Or maybe I need to take a step back and ask myself what kinds of questions I want to be able to answer with my categorical data.

In general, I want to make sure I don’t spend too much time working, because I want to force myself to work on my own projects. That’s why I track the time spent consulting, doing paperwork, and connecting with people (including responding to e-mail). I usually keep a close eye on my Business – Earn subcategory, since that’s the one that can creep up on me unawares. That’s fine with my current categories.

I also want to look for patterns in time use. How does spending more time on one activity (and less time on other activities) influence what I do and how I feel? How bursty am I when it comes to different discretionary projects? As long as I’m tracking at the subcategory level, it doesn’t really matter what the root category is.

Hmm. Since I’m not actually using the distinction between discretionary and business for reports or visualizations that nudge my behaviour, I can probably leave my categories alone if I remind myself that those ones have fuzzy boundaries. It would matter more if I wanted to set goals for investing X hours a week on business things (or, conversely, spending Y hours on discretionary non-business related things, which is oddly harder). Since I don’t care about that at the moment, I’m fine. Also, it’s easy enough to reassign the parent categories, so I still leave the door open for analyses at a later date.

As long as I can keep things clear enough in my head so that I feel confident that I can explain to any auditors that yes, my  business expenses make sense, I should be fine. I feel a little weird about not having a proper business plan for lots of things I’m working on. I mean, I can write them (or draw business model canvasses, more likely), but I prefer this pay-what-you-want model. Oh, hey, there’s an assumption there that I can dig into. People can (and do!) build metrics around freemium or pay-what-you-want models. Maybe I can figure out how to approach this in a business-like-but-still-generous way.

What would a more business-y way look like? I would float an idea to see if it’s useful. Then I would make stuff (and sometimes I’d make it anyway, just because). I might actually track conversions, and try things out, and reach out to people and communities. I’d publish little guides and videos, and maybe add a tip jar for smaller pieces of content so that people can “vote” for things they like more.

All things to do in due course. In the meantime, knowing that the path is there means I can leave all of this stuff still filed under the Business category, because it is. Even if it’s fun. Writing still feels more discretionary than business-y (even posts like this, for example), so I’ll leave that where it is. So no change, but I understand things better.

Do you track your time and have fuzzy boundaries between categories? How do you deal with it?