2017-01-16 Emacs News

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, Youtube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

Weekly review: Week ending January 13, 2017

I took A- to be fitted for another conformer, since we lost the previous one after two weeks of it popping out almost every day. Her current one appeared to fit fine while we were at the ocularist, but it’s been popping out a lot too. We have another appointment next week. Maybe we can get a better fit, or maybe we’ll have to consider the trade-offs of putting her under sedation so that a new impression can be taken.

A-‘s two bottom central incisors are both emerging, whee! She’s been having fun gnawing on chicken drumsticks and biscotti. Her sleep has been a little disrupted, but that’s fairly common when teething.

W- bought two lots of Duplo off Kijiji, and now A- has a pretty good Duplo collection. We all have lots of fun playing with the bricks.

We’ve resumed home visits from the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program. We’ve been working on stacking blocks, and A- finally got the hang of it! We also went to the JFRC and the OEYC for some socialization, since it’s good for A- to get used to seeing and interacting with other kids. She’s a little reserved, but that’s okay.

This week and last week had quite the spike in childcare hours, although part of that is probably sloppy tracking. I’ve been focusing on playing more with A- during daytime hours, sometimes away from my phone. Might try tracking other activities like meals and tidying up a bit better this week to get a clearer picture of my time. Also, A-‘s been waking up after an evening nap instead of staying in bed, so that’s been changing up our routine a little.

Lots of good stuff on my end. So much writing! My Google Tasks + org2blog workflow is working really well. I can write while nursing, which is much better than spending all that time going down into the rabbit holes of the Internet. I went from a somewhat monotonous rhythm of Emacs News and journal reviews to a full week of scheduled posts. Unexpected benefit: more blog comment conversations, too!

I’ve been working on my yearly review. I’ve looked at all the sketches, summarized my monthly reviews, and analyzed my expenses. I also want to look at time and write my overall reflections. It’s been a good year.

Going through all those sketches from 2016 reminded me that a little effort can make drawings more expressive and fun, so I’ve been playing with drawing again. I figure that picking one moment and drawing it in more detail in my daily index cards will let me exercise that skill, and it’ll also motivate me to pay attention to or cultivate at least one vivid moment a day.

I did a little bit of consulting, too – tweaked some code and answered a few questions. Also, I filed my corporation’s T4 and T5 tax slips, yay! Keener. Our personal tax returns are probably going to be a little more complicated this year because of W-‘s parental leave and my child benefit, but I’ll figure it out.

I signed up for the PC Plus program and associated it with my old PCFinancial points. We’ll see if it’s worth it, considering we shop at No Frills all the time.

Next week: another trip to the ocularist, more socialization, and maybe some writing and digital decluttering.

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (1.8h – 1%)
    • Earn (1.2h – 69% of Business)
      • ☑ Earn: E1: 1-2 hours of consulting
    • Build (0.5h – 25% of Business)
      • ☑ Issue T5
      • ☑ Issue T4
    • Connect (0.1h – 5% of Business)
  • Relationships (0.1h – 0%)
    • ☑ Try another conformer
  • Discretionary – Productive (5.5h – 3%)
    • Drawing (2.5h)
    • Emacs (0.9h)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
    • Writing (1.6h)
  • Discretionary – Play (3.2h – 1%)
  • Personal routines (15.3h – 9%)
  • Unpaid work (83.0h – 49%)
    • Childcare (75.1h – 44% of total)
  • Sleep (59.1h – 35% – average of 8.4 per day)

How can we prepare for W-‘s return to work?

The next shift in our household will be when W- returns to work in a little over a month. It’ll be just me and A- most of the day. What will change in our daily routines, and what do we want to do now to make that easier? I’ve been reading Reddit posts to get a sense of what to expect, what kinds of friction points might come up, and what helps. There are some things to watch out for, but I think it’ll be manageable.

  • I won’t be able to pass A- to him during the day. That means we should have leftovers or a quick meal ready for lunch, so I don’t have to try to cook something with A- underfoot. If there’s laundry to fold, we should probably take it upstairs the night before. A- will become more independent over time, so I’ll be able to do more and more things.
  • W- will need work lunches,too. We’ll free up some space in our chest freezer and go back to preparing individual portions. It might be good to prepare most of the week’s food as well, so that dinner is easier.
  • I might have to take A- to her medical appointments by myself. We can meet the cardiologist at North York instead of Scarborough. Going to the Sick Kids Hospital is a bit harder by myself (bringing gear, going to the bathroom, comforting A- when she needs to be sedated for an exam), so we might save W-‘s days off for that, or I can tough it out. We survived long-haul flights, and we can deal with this too.
  • W- can’t easily rescue us if we get sick or need a lift when we’re out and about, but that’s why I have a transportation budget. If necessary, I can call a cab. It probably needs to be a public taxi so that I can carry A- without a car seat – I’m not sure Uber qualifies for that exception.
  • We’ll keep nights flexible so that W- can work if he wants to or hang out with A- if he wants to. He can play with her while I do the evening routines. I’ll let W- decompress from work and settle in before passing her over.
  • I’ll try to get groceries and do other errands in the afternoon so that we can free up evening time. It’ll also be good to take A- to centres for socialization.
  • Weekends will be mostly the same as now, I think: laundry, cooking, cleanup, errands, play, and a bit of hobby time.
  • Many people find it difficult and isolating to go without adult conversation or external validation for long stretches. Based on my experience with hermit mode and with my 5-year experiment, I’ll probably be okay. Writing is a good opportunity to string words together and think about stuff, and I can do that during A-‘s nursing sessions and naps. My blog, my journal, consulting, and the Emacs community help with validation and a sense of accomplishment.
  • I have my own savings and I contribute to the household, so I don’t feel financially dependent. I can even invest for the long term.
  • It’s also good to make sure W- and I stay in sync even if we’re moving in different worlds. Cooking is an obvious touchpoint. Keeping up with tech helps me relate to his stories and interests, and observing A- will probably give me plenty of stories to share. I can use some of my late-night discretionary time to play video games with him, and I can read about woodworking and other DIY pursuits. Duplo would be good to explore, too – we can have fun with the build of the day. If I pay close attention, the minutiae of everyday life is actually quite fascinating, and I can share what I learn.

The next shift after this will probably be when A- starts walking around. I might need to keep a closer eye on her to make sure she doesn’t get into too much trouble, and we might also modify our routines so that she gets lots of practice. As she learns how to ask questions, we’ll add more field trips, too.

Okay. Let’s do this!

Feeling better about developmental milestones

We’ve been tracking A-‘s progress using the Nipissing developmental milestones and assistance from a nurse and a home visitor through the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program.

Toronto Public Health had referred us to the program when we were concerned about how A- might be affected by multiple congenital abnormalities and their implications – in particular, monocular vision, and multiple exposures to general anesthesia because of all the diagnostics (which some research flagged as associated with a higher risk of learning difficulties).

In some areas in the US, monocular vision automatically qualifies children for early intervention services with therapists who can help with vision exercises or orientation and mobility training. Some parents have found them very helpful, and some have found their kids do fine without therapy. Here, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind assessed A-‘s vision and decided she does not require any services for now. It’s good news, although I feel that I might have to be vigilant so that I can catch potential issues even without having a specialist track her progress.

The Nipissing developmental screens cover general capabilities. I’m not sure what to watch out for in terms of vision, and the caseworkers at CNIB didn’t have any specific resources or tips for monocular vision aside from checking if she’s cutting corners or banging into things.

A- seems to be on track with most of her physical milestones, which is a relief. A- enjoys putting things into containers and taking them out again. If I give her a block, she’ll pass it from her left hand to her right hand, and then she’ll put it in the bin. (We can tidy up quite a lot of Duplo with this process!) And this week, she actually stacked blocks on top of other blocks with a bit of guidance and turn-taking – hooray! She’s still a little quiet and reserved in company, which is totally okay. Now that the holidays are over, I’ll take her to neighbourhood drop-in programs more often so that she can see other kids.

Our home visitor suggested working on language by labeling whatever she’s interested in with single words: “Book!” “Ball!” “Cat!” She also recommended helping A- slowly get used to independent play by letting her take the lead and sitting close by. We’ll try those tips over the next week or so.

Before having A-, I hadn’t spent a lot of time around small kids, so I find the tips and interaction modeling quite helpful. I imagine other people find parenting more intuitive, but I appreciate all the help I can get. I’m glad the City of Toronto has this program with all sorts of pamphlets and activities!

How do I want consulting to fit into my life?

I do a tiny bit of consulting to help a long-standing client with prototyping and data analysis. It lets them take advantage of the experience I’d built up with their tools and platform, and I get to keep my technical skills and professional network going.

Before we went on our trip, I was averaging about two hours a week, after A-‘s in bed. A- tends to nurse frequently at night, probably to make up for distractions during the day, and we’re okay with this. Sometimes I might be able to do an hour or two of uninterrupted work, and sometimes I clock in and out as I get interrupted by nursing. Fortunately, I built a pretty handy time tracking interface, so it takes only a few taps on my phone.

Because of my limited availability, I try to pick tasks that don’t require a lot of coordination with other people, that can bear with interruptions, and that aren’t risky when done with a fuzzy brain. So, no meetings, no big chunks of new things to learn, and no messing with write access to production data if I can help it. Despite this limited availability, I was able to prototype a few add-ons they wanted, yay!

IA- has been a bit more clingy lately (might be because of teething) so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have in the next little while. I’d like to have the brainspace to learn and build new things so that I can help out my main client, since he has moved up in terms of his role, but that can probably wait. In the meantime, we get decent ROI if I focus on quick answers and prototypes.

t’s important to me to manage expectations well and to turn over as much as I can. This means not committing to more than I can work on, and keeping people up to date on timelines and risks; making sure the team has access to my code and can take things over if they need to; and building in small steps so that I can deliver something of value as soon as possible. It’s fun to break an idea down into the minimum viable product, the intermediate steps to get there, and the incremental enhancements that would make it even better.

I’ve thought about expanding my available work time, but I chose not to. This is the last month and a half of W-‘s parental leave, but I’d rather spend the time enjoying parenting A- with him than squeezing in more computer things. He’s awesome with A- – better than I am. I’ve sometimes asked him to take care of her while I handled high-priority things that needed focused time (such as doing my business tax paperwork!), but I don’t want to commit more of that time than I need to.

At the moment, I’m not particularly keen on getting a babysitter after W- returns to work. I know the math could work out and that the socialization might even be an awesome thing for A-, but I’m curious about the things I might learn from going through this experience myself. I like the fun of problem-solving and the validation of helping a great team, but I can get that later, too. I also don’t quite trust my ability to pick a good person and build the kind of long-term relationship that would be good for A-, so there’s that too. In the meantime, I can learn from A- as she learns, and I can try to shape her world. We’ve got a rare opportunity to do this in a flexible way, and I want to take advantage of that.

So, how do I want consulting to fit into my life? I think the current arrangement is pretty good. I prioritize my self-care, A-, W-, and the general upkeep of the household; then my journal and Emacs News, since both are time-based; then more discretionary things, like consulting or personal coding. The clients seem happy. They’re not slowed down by me or kept hanging, and they get good value considering the time and money involved. I might be able to do more work if A-‘s sleep solidifies, but I’m in no rush. It might be that I’ll have limited work availability until she’s old enough for playdates or school, and that’s fine too.

I’ll think about this again after we settle into new routines, when W-‘s back at work. It’ll be interesting to see how things change.

What do I want from an annual review?

I’ve got most of the pieces for an annual review: monthly reviews in visual and text form, my time records, and a recent flip-through of all of my sketches. I’d like to bring my ledger of income and expenses up to date, finish reading all of my blog posts, and draw a couple of yearly summaries (monthly events, differences between 2015 and 2016, analyses). I want to make the most of my computer time, so I should think about what I want from my annual review and how I can get that more efficiently.

Highlights of the year
A month-by-month list of highlights is good for reminding me of events and getting around the fogginess of memory. There’s so much to celebrate and appreciate. This also simplifies longer-term reviews, like the 10-year review I did when I turned 30.
Differences
What did I learn? What did I forget? It can be easier to see the differences when you compare across a longer time period. This can help me solidify growth, revisit things I’ve left behind, watch out for drifting, and choose what to focus on next year.
Patterns and trends
Taking a look at the data can sometimes turn up things I wouldn’t have guessed. Time, finances, and A-‘s data too – so much to explore! This might take a little longer, since it involves code.
Decision review
This is probably better broken up into separate posts, maybe even decoupled from my annual review.
What worked well? Why? How can we make things even better?
Good for continuous improvement. Might not go into as much depth as the decision reviews.

My overall goals are to:

  • remember and celebrate the journey
  • keep improving; remember what I’ve learned and revisit what I might have shelved
  • make it easier for my future self (or other people reading my archive) to get an overview of the year
  • maybe have conversations that grow out of the updates (notes on things I’ve tried, ideas for stuff that might help)

I’ll probably end up doing my annual review in chunks instead of waiting until it’s all done, since otherwise it might take me a few months.