January 2016

2015 in photos

January 1, 2016 - Categories: life, review

Here are a few pictures from 2015. =)

2015-05-03-22.52.42.jpg

Replacing my wardrobe with things I made; also, laser-cutting! (Notes)

2015-07-11-17.52.49.jpg

New barbecue, yay!

2015-10-26-16.17.31.jpg

Experimented with computer-aided pattern making. (Notes)

2015-11-01-10.40.23.jpg

W- dried the corn from our neighbour’s Halloween display, and has been feeding happy squirrels and birds.

2015-11-06-11.37.18.jpg

Neko likes the radiator.

2015-11-15-18.43.01.jpg

Celebration dinner after winning the library hackathon (notes).

Weekly review: Week ending January 1, 2016

January 2, 2016 - Categories: review, weekly

We’re hosting a get-together for W-‘s family today, so last week was all about tidying up, preparing food ahead of time, and getting things ready. W- has been on a home improvement kick, painting some of the walls and ceilings that were recently patched, updating the track lights that go down the basement stairs, and installing a set of track lights in the living room. For my part, I’ve been getting rid of stuff, organizing and updating inventories, and helping out with whatever I could. All this decluttering and rearranging prompted us to learn more about interior design. We watched the six-part Design Rules series from BBC on YouTube, and will probably look up a few more resources as we gradually reshape our living areas.

I’ve been thinking about ways to repurpose my sewing scraps. Cutting them into 4″x4″ squares and using them for patchwork seems like a good, frugal way to keep things under control. My first patchwork piece is a little on the visually busy side, but mabe that’s not a bad thing. Over the next few weeks, I’ll process the rest of my scraps, and then we’ll see what I can do with the pieces.

The end of the year is a good time for an annual review, so I’ll probably be focusing on that this week. I’m looking forward to making sense of last year and picking a few ideas to follow up on this year. I suspect the year turned out better than I sometimes think it did; distance, data, and my archive will help me get a better sense of that. We’ll see what comes out!

2016-01-02a Week ending 2016-01-01 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (10.2h – 6%)
    • Earn (6.1h – 59% of Business)
      • ☐ Prepare invoice
      • ☐ Do monthly data dump
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (3.0h – 29% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
      • ☑ Index card visualization
      • ☑ Learn Coffeescript
    • Connect (1.1h – 11% of Business)
  • Relationships (7.9h – 4%)
    • ☑ Research good practices
    • ☑ Copy recordings to phone
    • ☑ Move the heated cat bed into our bedroom
    • ☑ Revisit seats
    • ☑ Plan party for Jan 3
      • ☑ Move stuff out of the way
      • ☑ Make pumpkin pie
      • ☑ Defrost korma
      • ☑ Make banchan
  • Discretionary – Productive (16.3h – 9%)
    • Emacs (2.1h – 1% of all)
      • ☑ Insert and categorize link
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☑ See Org linked files in a Dired buffer
      • ☑ Write Emacs Lisp to help with quilt planning
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Sewing (9.6h)
      • ☑ Lunch bag for J-
      • ☑ Sew quilt blocks
      • ☑ Cut 4×4 squares
    • Writing (3.0h)
    • ☑ Figure out other things I can read in my e-reader
    • ☑ Figure out other things I can read on my phone
    • ☑ Research NAS recommendations
    • ☑ Review the organization of my Org files
    • ☑ Organize old files
    • ☑ Review stuff in basement cabinets, update inventory, and get rid of more things
    • ☑ Type or copy song lyrics
  • Discretionary – Play (12.1h – 7%)
  • Personal routines (23.5h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (26.9h – 15%)
  • Sleep (71.1h – 42% – average of 10.2 per day)

Monthly review: December 2015

January 3, 2016 - Categories: monthly, review

I’m pretty comfortable with my Linux setup now. Krita has held up well in terms of drawing index cards on my tablet PC. I’ve set up a few brushes similar to the ones I used with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, and I have a script that makes it easier to import and scale a layer. Being on Linux has also allowed me to write a bunch of command-line tools that would’ve been more difficult to do under Windows, and I’ve been taking advantage of the automation possibilities.

It’s been a good month for Emacs-related things. I’ve been refining my workflow for collecting and organizing links for Emacs News. I also had a quickly-scheduled Emacs Chat with John Wiegley about life as the new maintainer of Emacs, and the Emacs Hangout went well despite the issues at the beginning.

The fabric I ordered from Fabric.com arrived in time for me to make gifts and send them off, and the package arrived in time for my family’s Christmas party during their vacation in California. I also sewed a few more clothes and accessories, organized my sewing materials, and turned some of my scraps into patchwork. I might actually be getting the hang of this.

Lots of cooking this month, whee! Baking season is in full swing. I’ve been making a pot of baked beans almost every weekend, and it’s become my standard breakfast.

I felt a little more tired than last month. I’ve been sleeping almost an hour more each day – almost ten hours a day, total. Ah well, such is life. It’s good to have the flexibility to sleep when I need to, and to be able to make the most of the other hours of the day when I can. I’ve been organizing my files, automating processes, and simplifying our life in preparation for even more fuzzy-brain times ahead, and I think this will pay off well.

2016-01-02b December 2015 -- index card #monthly #review output

Blog posts

Sketches

Time

Less energy and concentration this month, but I still managed to get a lot of things done. Lots of cooking and personal projects, less consulting.

Category Period 1 % Period 2 % Diff h/wk Diff h/wk
Business – Build 0.9 0.3 -0.6 0.5 -1.0
Discretionary – Play 8.9 6.9 -2.0 12.0 -3.3
Unpaid work 7.9 11.1 3.1 19.2 5.3
Discretionary – Social 0.6 0.7 0.1 1.3 0.2
Discretionary – Family 3.1 4.6 1.5 8.0 2.5
Sleep 37.8 41.4 3.6 71.7 6.0
Business – Connect 1.5 0.9 -0.6 1.6 -1.0
Business – Earn 10.7 4.6 -6.2 7.9 -10.4
Discretionary – Productive 12.1 13.7 1.6 23.7 2.7
Personal 16.2 15.9 -0.3 27.5 -0.6

2015 in review

January 3, 2016 - Categories: review, yearly

In 2014, I wrote that I was looking forward to:

  • Improving my technical skills:
    • Getting even more deeply into Emacs and taking advantage of the many useful packages that are available
      • 2015: Got a little more used to nifty packages such as Hydra. Also organized a number of Emacs Hangouts, and started publishing weekly Emacs News
    • Writing shorter, better-tested code in Javascript and Rails
      • 2015: Picked up Jasmine for Javascript testing, refactored lots of my code into smaller functions, and played around with more NodeJS. Haven’t done a lot with Rails.
  • Writing with even more resonance and helpfulness: digging deeper into the things I’m learning and sharing them with other people in ways that help and engage
    • 2015: Wrote a number of other-directed posts in the first half of the year, and then fell off a figurative cliff writing-wise. Mostly just focused on taking notes for myself these days.
  • Successfully taking on more uncertainty with even better safety nets and equanimity
    • 2015: Pretty much all about this!

2016-01-02c 2015 in review -- index card #yearly #review output

I remember being a lot sleepier and more fuzzy-brained this year than I’d ever been, and yet the year turned out pretty awesome. My long-term preparations have been paying off: the programming and data analysis skills I use for consulting, the paperwork-handling processes that support my business, the savings that cover expenses and reduce stress, the philosophical framework that supports equanimity, the 5-year experiment that gives me flexibility of time, space, and activity.

2015 was more challenging than 2014. Possibly as difficult as 2005/2006’s homesickness and transitions, although of a different kind – like the low of a cold, but longer and more severe. Even writing took a dive, as it was hard to concentrate and follow thoughts through. I’ve been getting better at weathering these times, I think. I have the space to take it easy. More video games this year, mostly ones that W- and I play together. More cooking, tidying, walking, and sleeping, too.

A lack of energy forced me to strip things down to their essentials and give myself permission to be selfish enough to minimize anything that drained me, even other people’s wants or needs. It was a little odd swinging from hanging out at Hacklab and having deep conversations with friends in the first half of the year to hermit mode (even from friends and family) in the second half of the year, but I’ve loved the quiet and freedom of this little world of ours. I might gradually reach out more someday, especially as I learn to push back when I need to, and as I slowly regain that appreciation for other people’s interestingness. In the meantime, W- has been wonderfully supportive, and it’s been great to have the slack from our earlier preparations.

Despite this pulling-inward, there was also plenty of expansion this year. In sewing, I broke past some kind of wall that frustrated me before. I think picking a simple pattern and repeating it has helped me turn sewing into a relaxing way to make things I like more than the things I could buy. I learned how to laser-cut fabric, which was a fun way of adding even more geekiness to our everyday life. I swapped out my wardrobe for home-made things, often from fabric from the thrift store.

In terms of technical skills, I’ve gotten deeper into Javascript, NodeJS, and Emacs Lisp. I participated in two hackathons. My team’s meeting visualization won third place at one hackathon, and my library search results visualization hack won at the other. I’ve also switched back to Linux as my main OS, keeping Windows around for Quickbooks and other business-related programs. It’s fun being able to script all sorts of stuff again. The Emacs conference in August was a lot of fun, and I’m glad people figured out an excellent way to support both in-person and virtual participation – not just attendees, but even impromptu presenters.

I’ve been doing 1 to 1.5 days a week of consulting, gradually moving more of my tasks to other people in the team. I think I’ve been able to let go of more of my anxiety about this 5-year experiment; things seem to be working out nicely, so I don’t feel as worried about working on some grand plan or getting externally-validated stuff done. Instead, I’ve been focusing on working my own things, getting things ready for the next stage with plenty of personal projects and DIY skills, taking it easy when I need to. (We tiled part of the basement floor ourselves!)

I figure that this fuzzy-brain state might be a new normal, so it makes sense to figure out how I can make the most of it instead of being frustrated by it. That’s why I’ve been working on simplifying life, streamlining routines, automating what I can, and making checklists or documenting processes for things I need to do by hand. On the plus side, my internal observer makes the fuzziness more manageable, and I’ve been making my peace with the idea of growing slowly outwards from a small life.

Speaking of small chunks, I developed the habit of drawing index cards almost every day. Well, I eventually switched over to digital equivalents of index cards, since that was a lot of paper. It turns out that an index card has roughly the information density I can deal with on my tablet PC’s screen without zooming in. In addition to drawing a daily journal, I occasionally explore thoughts and chunk them up into larger blog posts. Drawing-wise, I tend to settle into a very simple and spare style, although maybe I should pay more attention to colour and other niceties. Despite their simplicity, the index cards have been handy for remembering little things about each day and building up thoughts over time.

Here’s how the time worked out:

Category 2014 % 2015 % Diff h/wk Diff in h/wk
Discretionary – Play 4.9 9.4 4.5 15.8 7.5
Personal 14.6 16.6 2.0 27.9 3.3
Sleep 36.9 38.0 1.1 63.8 1.9
Discretionary – Productive 7.8 9.0 1.1 15.1 1.9
Unpaid work 7.0 7.7 0.7 12.9 1.2
Discretionary – Family 4.0 4.0 0.0 6.7 0.1
Discretionary – Social 1.2 0.8 -0.4 1.3 -0.6
Business – Build 7.0 5.7 -1.3 9.6 -2.2
Business – Connect 4.2 2.4 -1.8 4.0 -3.1
Business – Earn 12.4 6.5 -5.9 10.9 -9.9

A lot more video gaming, as I mentioned: getting through the fuzziest of times by playing on my own, and then settling down into a habit of 1-2 hours in the evening with W-. I’m a little surprised that sleep increased by only two hours a week. It felt like longer. Then again, an average of 9.1 hours a day is definitely up from the 8.3 hours of a few years back. More time on personal projects, more time on personal care, and a little more time on cooking and things like that.

2016-01-02f Life these days -- index card #life #routines

Financially, the stock markets have been pretty low, and my home country bias wasn’t particularly helpful. I’ve continued saving and investing, since that’s what you do when the stocks go on sale like this. My expenses were a smidge over my projected ones – mostly sewing, Hacklab, and a few miscellaneous expenses – but still manageable and well worth it. The experiment is on track and working well.

I have no idea what next year will be like, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the skills and processes we’ve been building up will pay off. I plan to do even less consulting, and to explore more DIY skills and more awesomeness around the house. I’d like to continue contributing to the Emacs community, and maybe keep my technical skills sharp with more automation and scripting too. I’d love to continue drawing those index cards and gradually get back into the swing of sharing more notes. We’ll see how things work out!

2015-12-28d Imagining 2016 -- index card #planning

Previous reviews:

Monthly reviews

What do I want from my review process?

January 4, 2016 - Categories: writing

I’ve just finished reviewing 2015. I reread my blog posts, reviewed my photos, analyzed my time, and wrapped it up in a summary that surprised my recency-biased brain. It turned out to have been a pretty good year, even though I had felt a little bit lost and frazzled at times.

It got me thinking about what I want from my daily/weekly/monthly/yearly review process. What would I like to tweak for next time?

2016-01-02e What do I want from my yearly review -- index card #writing #review

This year, my index cards turned out to be an convenient graphical way to roll up everyday notes into larger and larger chunks. I even have some code to make it easier to create montages of lower-level sketches (for example, the daily sketches when I’m doing a weekly review) and include them as a layer in my drawing program so that I can choose the highlights for redrawing. Some days, I didn’t have much to draw. Other days, I overflowed with things I wanted to remember. Being able to quickly jot a few keywords or make a quick card kept me rolling even when my mind was too fuzzy to write a blog post, so that worked out wonderfully.

I think next year will be pretty similar. With that in mind, I’d like to get better at using my reviews to:

  • See the connections that aren’t obvious: Sometimes a thought weaves its way in and out of my mind over a long period of time, or sometimes several ideas are fascinating when juxtaposed. My working memory tends to be more limited when I’m fuzzy-brained, so it’s hard to see those connections. If I reread a bunch of posts in quick succession or I shuffle my index cards somewhat randomly, though, that can help me see those links. This tends to kick in for the monthly and yearly reviews. It might be interesting to see if I can get this working longer-term, too.
  • Use data to adjust for biases: I notice I have a strong recency bias when I’m fuzzy-brained. Recent experiences colour my perception and make certain things easier or harder to remember. Both analyzing data and reviewing archives can help me counteract that bias and get a better view of what happened. In general, I’ve tended to underestimate progress and be pleasantly surprised during review. I wonder if that means I tend to pessimistically evaluate day-by-day progress, and if tweaking that would result in a positive effect on motivation and momentum.
  • Get a sense of progress and direction: This is good for celebrating progress and catching drift. I tend to not have fixed goals as much as general directions, so drift could be a little harder to notice. It’s still interesting to play spot-the-differences with my past selves, though.
  • Summarize chunks for easier review: I don’t need to remember all the details from each day. It’s nice to have memory hooks for the highlights, though. Reviewing and chunking periods of time helps me make sense of longer and longer periods. I wonder if it makes sense for me to do quarters or seasons as a step in between months and years…
  • Remember and follow up on ideas, decisions; consider what’s coming up: Sometimes the review reminds me of something I want to follow up on, a decision I want to revisit, or an idea I’d like to try. I could get better at this by explicitly calling out things to revisit and scheduling reminders for myself. That’s one of those tips for managing oneself, after all.
  • Revisit and archive memories: I’m not particularly sentimental, and there are few memories that I deliberately revisit outside the context of a conversational reference. That might be something worth playing with, though – maybe as a way to understand life more, maybe as a source of ideas for future experiments, and maybe something that can eventually become another source of happiness or satisfaction? Hmm.
  • Capture a snapshot of life at this moment: Related to archiving memories: sometimes it’s helpful to capture the everyday, ordinary things, since that can be unexpectedly interesting when looking back.
  • Place things in larger contexts: I don’t do nearly enough of this, I think: seeing things in a larger context, with a longer-term perspective. I occasionally check things against 5- or 10-year periods, and sometimes against expected lifespan, but there isn’t that sense of deep understanding yet, and it’s still mostly limited to my own scope. I do some wider reflections from time to time, borrowing the Stoic practice of remembering that things are transitory and insignificant. I think a larger perspective will probably develop over time; might be a wisdom thing.

Practically speaking, that probably translates to:

  • Continue drawing daily/weekly/monthly index cards, possibly with more details and observations.
  • Consider drawing a quarterly round-up too: maybe the previous quarter + three monthly cards.
  • Organize my notes on decisions for review, including predicted consequences and reasons for choosing, and schedule reminders for them.
  • Write or draw memories, maybe organizing them by person/trigger, and reflect on them from time to time.
  • See if I can get better at explicitly linking small day-to-day steps with my bigger picture, and celebrating those small steps instead of waiting for the monthly or yearly review to make sense of them.

Hmm….

2016-01-04 Emacs News

January 4, 2016 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

Weekly review: Week ending January 8, 2016

January 9, 2016 - Categories: review, weekly

We hosted W-‘s family for dinner last Saturday, and we’ve been making great progress through the leftovers. Lots of vegetables this time around, yay!

Lots of reflection this week: my annual review, planning and other decisions, and things I’m learning about life. I’m looking forward to exploring those thoughts in a bit more detail.

More decluttering around the house, which is nice. A bit of sewing, too. Lots of napping, lots of reading… It’s nice to be able to take it easy. =)

2016-01-09b Week ending 2016-01-08 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Sketches

Blog posts

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (16.0h – 9%)
    • Earn (6.9h – 42% of Business)
      • ☑ Prepare invoice
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (6.4h – 39% of Business)
      • Drawing (5.3h)
      • Paperwork (0.5h)
    • Connect (2.8h – 17% of Business)
  • Relationships (22.6h – 13%)
    • ☑ Cook
    • ☑ Try window covering
    • ☐ Pick up clothes, give lasagna
  • Discretionary – Productive (16.8h – 9%)
    • Emacs (0.8h – 0% of all)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☐ Announce Hangout
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Sewing (7.6h)
    • Writing (6.6h)
    • ☐ Reconsider TFSA investments – move to bonds?
  • Discretionary – Play (10.9h – 6%)
  • Personal routines (25.4h – 15%)
  • Unpaid work (7.2h – 4%)
  • Sleep (68.9h – 41% – average of 9.8 per day)

2016-01-11 Emacs News

January 11, 2016 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

A reflection on leisure and discretionary time

January 12, 2016 - Categories: experiment, time

I’m coming up to the 4-year mark of this 5-year experiment with semi-retirement. The start of the final year might even neatly coincide with the next substantial change I’ve been planning. I’ve been very lucky to have had this opportunity to explore, and it’s a good opportunity to reflect on self-direction and leisure.

This past year has been a little like the openness of my final year of university, when my habit of taking summer courses freed up half the typical academic load for the schoolyear and I had plenty of time to explore open source development. This time, I had even more autonomy. No exams to study for, no projects to submit; just choices.

I’m learning that my physical state strongly influences my mental state, which then strongly influences how I use my time and how I feel about that use. If I’m tired or fuzzy-brained, I won’t get a lot done. I’ve learned to make better use of fuzzy-brained times by keeping a list of small tasks I can do, like housework. I invest some of my alert time in building the systems and processes to help me when I’m fuzzy-brained, too. Long-term, I’m probably well-served by investing more time in health. I’ll rest when I need to. Beyond that, if my mind’s not as active or as energetic as I’d like, there’s always working on my energy.

I feel particularly good when I use my discretionary time to:

  • contribute to the Emacs community by organizing resources, writing code or posts, answering questions, and experimenting with ideas
  • build tools for myself (interfaces, scripts, etc.), especially if I can learn more about libraries or frameworks
  • dig deeper into thoughts through a combination of drawing and writing
  • sew something, especially if I end up using it a lot
  • research, plan, and take notes
  • work on other skills
  • watch or read something informative/interesting/useful, particularly if it’s practical or skill-related

I feel good when I:

  • declutter, organize, document, and/or improve our routines, files, and other resources
  • cook something yummy (mostly focusing on familiar recipes at the moment, but I’m looking forward to exploring more)
  • play video games with W-, especially when we pick up new in-jokes or when we pull off neat tricks when beating the enemies
  • keep the household running
  • go for a long walk, especially with a useful destination and an interesting podcast to listen to or a question to think about
  • stretch a little or do whatever exercises I can
  • watch a good movie with W-, especially when it results in more in-jokes or an appreciation of how the movie is put together

On the other hand, I feel like time’s just passing when I:

  • write, but not end up posting my notes (although it’s a little bit better if I organize them for later review)
  • read casually, without a particular application or goal: books, e-books, the Internet
  • play games, especially if there’s not much sense of progress

I’ve come to enjoy a lot of different kinds of discretionary time. I think I don’t need a lot of pure leisure, at least not the vegging-out kind. I definitely like having a lot of discretionary time – to be able to choose what to do when – but even the things we do for day-to-day living can be enjoyable.

I will probably have less absolute time for leisure and less control of my time in general, but I think I’ll be okay. Because of this experiment, I’ve been learning that time probably isn’t my limiting factor when it comes to things like writing or learning or making things. It’s probably more about curiosity, observation, motivation, and experience, and those are things that I can develop through the years.

Related:

2016-01-16 Emacs Hangout

January 16, 2016 - Categories: emacs

Event page: https://plus.google.com/b/108840863190686221561/events/cqe6vjn5a3jbt8971n9ovljl78g

Timestamps:

  • 0:19 Posting to blog
  • 0:25 Cheat sheet
  • 0:31 Books
  • 0:36 Org Mode
  • 0:40 Emacs config
  • 0:42 Programming languages and modes
  • 0:51 Discovery of the week
  • 0:52 Kanban
  • 0:56 Bug trackers, Scrum
  • 1:04 Helm, input methods
  • 1:08 Mobile access
  • 1:18 Sharing

Text chat:

Neat links from Paul Harper, who couldn’t participate in the voice chat: I am writing in to share my ‘discovery of the week’ which was J. Alexander Branham’s Blog and his dotemacs on Github. He is a PhD Candidate at UT-Austin in the Department of Government. He has some very good posts on using Emacs for Markdown, LaTeX and R for academic types. It complements Kiern Healy’s one for Social Scientists, and Vikas Rawal’s Orgpaper.

me 8:49 PM Jira
Shakthi Kannan 8:58 PM https://github.com/ianxm/emacs-scrum
me 8:59 PM org-ascii-text-width
me 9:03 PM https://github.com/jtatarik/ical-event/blob/master/gnus-calendar.el
Puneeth Chaganti 9:03 PM Paul, there seemed to be a lot of noise on your end. I muted you. Unmute yourself when you want to speak. Thanks!
Bill Zimmerly 9:13 PM Great ssh client for Android –> https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.server.auditor.ssh.client
me 9:13 PM http://zot.github.io/Leisure/?load=http://zot.github.io/Leisure/elisp/README.org
me 9:18 PM tmate
Joe Heyming 9:21 PM gotta go, bye
me 9:22 PM Quick tmate demo: ssh [email protected]
Puneeth Chaganti 9:23 PM I can see the emacs tutorial. ~.

Weekly review: Week ending January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 - Categories: review, weekly

This week was about preparation. I’ve been gradually winding up my consulting-related projects, and I’m delighted that the team’s well-prepared to do all sorts of awesomeness.

We’ve been thinking about our household routines and the organization of our things, too. More decluttering, more organizing… things are slowly becoming smoother. This is good.

I stocked the freezer with lots of lasagna and brainstormed other things that would be good to make in bulk. I thought about our backup plans for cooking, too. We like home-cooked meals a lot, and there are a number of recipes we’re comfortable throwing together with little time or energy. We’re not too keen on delivery or take-out, although they’ll do in a pinch.

More sewing, and more wrapping up of old projects or loose scraps. I’ve run into a small supply-chain problem: the snaps I ordered haven’t arrived yet. Might have been delayed due to the holidays, or might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I’ve contacted the eBay seller, and I’ll look into other sources too. Ah well! No big deal. Fortunately, I’ve been working on projects roughly in order of priority, and everything is optional anyway.

More fiddling with tech. I flipped through a few e-books on the tablet since I can check out books from the library on it. It’s okay, although my Kindle is a little easier to hold. I’ve tried out a few games, too, so we’ll see how that goes. Setting up FlickFolio to shuffle through my sketchbook has been a good way to nudge me to reflect on previous thoughts and draw updates.

Oh, and I’ve filed the business paperwork I needed for my personal tax return. (Keener!) Now all I have to do is wait for the tax slips from banks, which will probably come in March. At least my part is out of the way!

2016-01-17a Week ending 2016-01-15 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (27.0h – 16%)
    • Earn (17.0h – 62% of Business)
      • ☑ Check on work
      • ☑ Sort out scraping
      • ☑ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (8.1h – 29% of Business)
      • Drawing (6.9h)
      • Paperwork (0.9h)
    • Connect (2.0h – 7% of Business)
  • Relationships (9.0h – 5%)
    • ☑ Set up bathroom
    • ☑ Pick up clothes, give lasagna
    • ☑ Research lighting
    • ☑ Send a note to the Hattoris
  • Discretionary – Productive (13.8h – 8%)
    • Emacs (0.9h – 0% of all)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☑ Announce Hangout
      • ☑ Host 2016-01-16 Emacs Hangout
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Writing (6.2h)
    • Sewing (2.5h)
    • ☑ Check out Value Village sale
    • ☑ Explore Flickr apps for the Android tablet
  • Discretionary – Play (10.2h – 6%)
  • Personal routines (24.9h – 14%)
  • Unpaid work (15.2h – 9%)
  • Sleep (68.0h – 40% – average of 9.7 per day)

2016-01-18 Emacs News

January 18, 2016 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

Thinking about grocery stores and recipe variety

January 19, 2016 - Categories: cooking

The Asian grocery store near us has closed, so we’ll need to find a different source for things that our neighbourhood No Frills supermarket doesn’t carry: pork bellies for lechon liempo, bitter melons and salted black beans for stir-fries, tapioca pearls for bubble tea.

It’s mostly W-‘s thing, actually. I tend to make meals based on whatever I can easily get from No Frills instead of craving particular tastes enough to pick up special ingredients. I think it’s because I’m already satisfied with the variety we have. It’s a little easier that way, too, since I tend to pick up groceries on foot. If I want to make something that requires a trip to a different grocery store, that usually involves a sunk cost of $2.90 or $5.80, or some coordination with W-. I could probably benefit from doing a more detailed price comparison, possibly shifting some of our regular purchases instead of going to Chinatown or PAT Mart only for the kinds of things that No Frills doesn’t stock. I tend to make frequent, small trips to the grocery store as part of getting some exercise and in order to minimize wasted food. Even if soy milk and some vegetables are cheaper in Chinatown, in a small batch, the difference probably doesn’t warrant the transit fare, time, and the effort of lugging those groceries home. Maybe if I feel like long walks in better weather, or if I get one of those grocery carts again… Well, the additional cost of transit isn’t that much, but I guess I tend not to see much marginal value considering the extra time and effort.

Still, the lovely, crispy roast pork belly that W- makes (along the lines of this salt crust roast pork belly, I think) is a nice treat. He’s discerning about the particular cut of meat (even thickness = easier to roast), so he prefers to pick it out personally. We eat it in small quantities since it’s so rich. It’s a good excuse to have lots of vegetables on the side, too. It loses a bit of the crunchiness after microwaving, but it’s good to keep in the freezer or fridge.

There are lots of posts on Chowhound and other forums about where to get a slab of pork belly and comparisons among different sources and types. Hooray for the Internet! W- called around a bunch of places to check if they stocked pork bellies without pre-ordering, and what the prices are like. We checked out T&T Supermarket last weekend. T&T is large, well-stocked, and well-organized, and it’s nice to not deal with downtown traffic or parking. T&T’s prices are bit higher than the ones we’ve seen before (Chinatown or the Asian grocery store that has now closed), but their pork belly prices aren’t as high as the prices at specialty butchers. We might try pork bellies from a few other places before we settle on a new favourite source. Maybe a monthly pork belly roast? Yum.

As for the other things we used to get on a fairly regular basis: PAT Mart and other Asian grocery stores usually have bitter melons. We stock up on cans of salted black beans and packages of tapioca pearls when the opportunity comes up, since they’re shelf-stable. I can make tapioca pearls in a pinch, since the Bulk Barn sells tapioca starch.

It’s nice to live in an international city where I can get these ingredients. If I tweak my grocery shopping or I get better at taking advantage of the times when I’m out, I might enjoy a wider variety of recipes. On the other hand, it might be okay to be generally satisfied with a smaller set of recipes, and focus instead on adding more vegetables. Hmm…

Oops, forgot my library card

January 21, 2016 - Categories: kaizen

One of the nice things about minor oopses is that they let you see all sorts of little experiments to try. =)

It took me a little over 4,400 steps to reach the Jane/Dundas library, where I found two of the new videos I’d been looking forward to borrowing (too new to request through the system, so you have to catch them at your library branch). As I went to check them out, I realized I had left my belt bag at home. I’d been using my belt bag as a purse organizer, actually, tucking the bag into whichever tote I was going to use for a walk. This time, however, I’d remembered to add two folded-up tote bags, a water bottle, my e-reader, and my keys to my main bag, but I forgot the belt bag on the kitchen table. I’d forgotten to do my usual pre-flight verbal checklist, so I hadn’t caught the error as I headed out the door. So there I was at the library: no library card, no other forms of identification, nothing. No point in going to the grocery store without cash or a credit card, either. Oh well!

Still, it turns out that a walk passes by pretty quickly when there’s something I can read. The e-reader works out well for this because I can page through it with gloves on. Better than my smartphone, which is finicky even with touchscreen gloves. Better than a paper book, even, since the pages can be hard to turn with gloves on. Four winters after I bought my Kindle, I’ve finally found its niche, so there’s that.

I rarely forget my cards like this. It’s been more than a year since the last time, I think. Maybe even two or three. No big deal. =) There’s always another walk, another opportunity to get some exercise. In the meantime, there are lots of small changes I can play with if I think this situation might come up more often. I could:

  • Keep an extra copy of the barcode on my library card: I could photocopy a set of cards and keep that copy in my winter hat (along with a little bit of cash), since I usually wear that when I go for a day-time walk.
  • Keep the belt bag in my favourite canvas bag.
  • Switch to my vest of many pockets, since leaving that behind is slightly more obvious than leaving behind a small belt bag. The extra layer might be more comfortable in winter, too.
  • Strengthen the practice of doing a verbal pre-flight checklist as I head out the door.

There and back was an hour and a half of walking at the leisurely pace of about 3.5km/h. Although there were some points when I might have liked to have thicker gloves, it was pleasant enough without strong winds and with only a slight scattering of snow. I might go for another long walk tomorrow, perhaps to a different library. The walk fits my life nicely, and it feels good to move a bit.

It’s nice to have the buffer of time so that I don’t have to worry about little mistakes, and it’s nice to live in such a walkable neighbourhood that oopses like these still give me the benefit of exercise. =)

Building a simple sketch navigator for myself

January 22, 2016 - Categories: drawing, geek, organization

In 2015, I built the habit of drawing daily index-card-sized thoughts. Some days, I reached (or blew past!) my target of five index cards a day. Other days, I backfilled my daily journal entries based on fuzzy memories and my time logs. In February 2015, I started using a yyyy-mm-dd<letter> naming convention so that I could easily refer to individual cards. For a while, I tried to be fairly disciplined about organizing sketches into outlines and building up chunks into blog posts. That fell by the wayside when I found it difficult to concentrate, but I kept drawing anyway. I saved the images to my hard drive, started tagging them with keywords in the filenames, and uploaded my sketches to Flickr as a way to back up and share my files.

I’ve recently been exploring ways to take advantage of the Samsung tablet that W- bought some time ago. It works wonderfully as a second screen that I can use to review an old sketch while I draw another one. The FlickFolio app lets me do a random slideshow of the past 2000 images in my photostream or in an album. This turns out to be an excellent way to jog my memory and prompt me to revisit questions or decisions.

2016-01-22d What do I want from my idea pipeline -- index card #zettelkasten #ideas #thinking #questions #index-cards

2016-01-22d What do I want from my idea pipeline – index card #zettelkasten #ideas #thinking #questions #index-cards.png

Now those fragmented thoughts are starting to pay off. Many of my old index cards are on topics I haven’t thought about in a while. It’s fun to see what I’ve learned in the meantime, or to follow up on things I’ve forgotten. It’s like I’d been filling an idea pipeline or seeding an idea garden. I get this steady stream of questions, decisions, observations, memories, ideas, and notes, and I can build on those prompts instead of having to start from scratch.

2016-01-18g How do I want my sketches to help me think -- index card #drawing #sketches #zettelkasten #notes ref 2015-11-18a

2016-01-18g How do I want my sketches to help me think – index card #drawing #sketches #zettelkasten #notes ref 2015-11-18a.png

I want these index cards to help me shuffle ideas and possibly see serendipitous combinations. They’re small, so capturing thoughts on them doesn’t require as much effort as, say, writing a blog post. They’re a good way to smooth out and organize thoughts, and I can chunk up those thoughts into longer posts. The sketches are easy to review, too, so they work well as digital footprints. I re-read the year’s blog posts as part of my annual review and sometimes I reread my posts on a monthly basis as well, but it’s not as immediate or as wide-ranging as flipping through a random selection of images.

A random slideshow is a good start, but I’ve been meaning to make a sketch browser that’s a little more tuned to what I want.

2016-01-18d What do I want in a sketch browser -- index card #drawing #coding #plan

2016-01-18d What do I want in a sketch browser – index card #drawing #coding #plan.png

I wrote a simple NodeJS server that I can run on my laptop and access from the tablet (or other devices) while I’m on my home network. At first, I was trying to figure out an interface that would let me navigate by month/week/day, but then I realized that something simpler might be a more useful way to begin.

I started off by making it display random sketches:

Screenshot_2016-01-22_17-16-34

Then I extended it to let me browse by tag:

Screenshot_2016-01-22_17-19-33

And then to see a list of tags by frequency:

Screenshot_2016-01-22_17-17-12

Or by alphabetic order, since that might be handier if I’m trying to look for something specific on a mobile device

Screenshot_2016-01-22_17-17-23

I like distinguishing between daily/weekly/monthly/yearly reviews and non-journal sketches, too:

Screenshot_2016-01-22_17-16-43

Screenshot_2016-01-22_17-18-04

Screenshot_2016-01-22_17-17-34

It’s nice to be able to build custom little tools like that. =)

Here’s the script on Github, in case you’re curious or you want to build on the idea.

Weekly review: Week ending January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 - Categories: review, weekly

It’s been a good week of transitions and following up. The new members of the team at my main consulting client are doing an awesome job at the things I used to do, yay!

The Asian grocery store near us has closed, so we’ve been looking for a different source for pork belly. There are a few promising candidates. More freezer preparation, too. This week: tonkatsu!

Minor panic over something I ordered not being the right size, but fortunately we were able to swap it for something that was. Yay return policies!

I’ve been going for more walks. I’ve loaded up my Kindle with fiction and developer references, and that seems to be a good fit for the cold. Lots of drawing, too, now that I’ve gotten my old-sketch review process sorted out. =)

Next week: more prep work, maybe some sewing…

2016-01-23a Week ending 2016-01-22 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (25.2h – 15%)
    • Earn (9.4h – 37% of Business)
      • ☑ Document scraping
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (15.3h – 60% of Business)
      • Drawing (12.7h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
        • ☑ Issue T4
    • Connect (0.5h – 2% of Business)
  • Relationships (8.4h – 4%)
    • ☑ Clear out old medications
    • ☑ Greet my dad happy birthday
    • ☑ Coordinate lasagna drop-off for Ewan and Jen
    • ☑ Look for a new source for pork belly
  • Discretionary – Productive (13.4h – 7%)
    • Emacs (3.6h – 2% of all)
      • ☑ Host 2016-01-16 Emacs Hangout
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Sewing (1.1h)
      • ☑ Check on snaps
    • Writing (6.3h)
    • ☑ Work on sketch browser
    • ☑ Call TD to change dividends to cash
    • ☑ Rebalance RRSP
    • ☑ Clear out bonds in locked RRSP
    • ☑ Figure out how to get the Org Mode Manual onto my Kindle
  • Discretionary – Play (11.5h – 6%)
  • Personal routines (30.9h – 18%)
  • Unpaid work (13.8h – 8%)
  • Sleep (64.8h – 38% – average of 9.3 per day)

2016-01-25 Emacs News

January 25, 2016 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

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

Past Emacs News round-ups

Calibre and Qt 5.5

January 26, 2016 - Categories: geek, linux

A recent apt-get dist-upgrade resulted in the removal of calibre and calibre-bin from my system. I’ve been using Calibre to convert e-books from HTML and EPUB (some developer references, some fanfiction =) ) and copy them onto my Kindle.

It turned out that the Calibre packaged in Ubuntu required qtbase-abi-5-4-2 and my recent dist-upgrade installed Qt 5.5. I needed to upgrade to Calibre 2.49, which wasn’t available on any of the PPAs I checked (despite instructions to the contrary).

Installing Calibre from the Calibre website made it work, though. In fact, the Calibre website says:

Please do not use your distribution provided calibre package, as those are often buggy/outdated. Instead use the Binary install described below.

I wasn’t too keen on piping the output of a wget command to sudo , but a quick scan of the script didn’t turn up anything suspicious. Anyway, now I can convert EPUBs to MOBIs and easily copy them onto my Kindle, yay!

Helping with physics

January 26, 2016 - Categories: family

J-‘s grade 12 physics exam is tomorrow. She’s been working through the exam review sheets that her teacher gave the class: forces, friction, gravity, relativity. The review sheets give the expected answers, so she can check her work. She asks for help when she can’t figure out how to solve the problems, or when her solution doesn’t match up with the provided answer.

I’m usually the one to help with homework, since I can speed-read tutorials to refresh my memory or dig into a new topic. Sometimes it’s just a matter of nudging her towards one equation or another, or pointing out where she forgot to square a number or change a sign.

Sometimes we’re both stumped, when my calculations show her math looks reasonable and I don’t see why the answer should be different. This has happened a number of times in Physics. We’ve asked her to talk to her teacher and ask him to help her step-by-step, but she hasn’t gone yet. Maybe she feels a little intimidated, or maybe lunch break is too crowded, or maybe he’s hard to track down?

Fortunately, her physics teacher seems to be in the habit of reusing material posted online. When I search for the text of the question, I can sometimes find other people who have asked for help with the same problem, or a review sheet from a different school.

For example, we were getting stuck on a problem that started with “A fuzzy Velcro ball of mass 200 g strikes and sticks to a Velcro block (100 g)…” We solved it in a way that made sense to us, but our answer didn’t agree with the one provided by her physics teacher. The only search result on Google was this sheet of practice questions. It didn’t contain any solutions, though, so I nearly gave up there.

After making some headway on other problems, though, I thought I’d come back to that one and see if we could turn up additional resources. You can sometimes get to interesting places when you start playing around with URLs. The file’s top-level domain https://rosedalephysics.wikispaces.com/ is a public wiki for Rosedale Heights School of the Arts. The exam review on the sidebar didn’t match the exam practice document we were looking at, but a search through the Pages and Files section for June 2014 (which I picked up from the practice questions filename) turned up worked-out solutions. It confirmed that our answers and our methods were correct, and that the answer provided by J-‘s teacher was wrong. Maybe it was a typo, maybe he made a mistake, whatever. I can sympathize; I’ve made my share of mistakes as a teacher! Anyway, I’m glad J- asked for help and that we could clear up that mystery.

2016-01-25d Helping with physics exam review -- index card #studying #tutoring #family #school

We should probably bring it to the attention of J-‘s teacher at some point. Incorrect review answers can lead to lots of frustration, second-guessing, and a lack of confidence. Maybe W- can mention it at the next parent-teacher interview, or J- can talk to her teacher after the exam. Anyway, I guess it’s a good lesson in dealing with fallability, being resourceful, double-checking, and sometimes just trusting yourself anyway.

Weekly review: Week ending January 29, 2016

January 30, 2016 - Categories: review, weekly

Another week of preparation. I’ve been gradually turning over more and more of my consulting work to the team, and they’re doing a wonderful job. =) So excited! I hope I’ll be able to check back in with them afterwards to see where they take all of this.

This week’s freezer-filling frenzy was all about lumpia. There are 130 spring rolls in the freezer at the moment. I still have some filling and a package of 50 wrappers in the fridge, so I’ll see how many of those I can fit. Not much freezer space left, though!

Helped J- review for her physics final exam. It was a little frustrating when some of our answers didn’t line up with the answers provided on the review sheet. This is the last physics course she needs to take with this teacher, though, so we’re not stressing out too much about it.

More long walks this week, since I’ve been making that a priority – an average of almost 8k steps a day, with slightly over an hour a day of walking at about 2.6mph (according to the pedometer app I have on my phone). I usually go to the library to drop off and pick up items, and then the supermarket to pick up whatever supplies we need. Nice to get out, and layers keep me warm despite winter.

Next week: more walking, maybe some sewing… We’ll see! =)

2016-01-30a Week ending 2016-01-29 -- index card #journal #weekly

output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (15.8h – 9%)
    • Earn (8.1h – 51% of Business)
      • ☐ [#A] Do monthly data dump
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (7.1h – 44% of Business)
      • Drawing (7.1h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (0.6h – 4% of Business)
  • Relationships (11.0h – 6%)
    • ☑ Coordinate lasagna drop-off for Ewan and Jen
  • Discretionary – Productive (6.6h – 3%)
    • Emacs (2.4h – 1% of all)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Sewing (1.1h)
    • Writing (0.7h)
    • ☑ Buy toner for printer
  • Discretionary – Play (12.0h – 7%)
  • Personal routines (24.6h – 14%)
  • Unpaid work (27.9h – 16%)
  • Sleep (70.2h – 41% – average of 10.0 per day)

On routines and depth

January 31, 2016 - Categories: life, reflection

A few threads of thought coming together:

  • coming across the Atlantic article Why I Am Not a Maker again, and reflecting on the differences between creating a product and providing a service (particularly a service with results that are hard to measure, or that are repeated)
  • noticing the gradual shift in my 5-year experiment towards becoming more comfortable with routines and not just getting tangible stuff done
  • preparing my mindset for the next phase of the experiment

2016-01-27b Products, services, and routines -- index card #making #services #products

2016-01-27b Products, services, and routines – index card #making #services #products.png

2016-01-25f Do I devalue the other things I'm learning about -- index card #life #learning

2016-01-25f Do I devalue the other things I’m learning about – index card #life #learning.png

I wonder: do I unfairly devalue the other things I do, the other opportunities I learn, because they don’t resemble the things that I’m used to thinking of as opportunities for growth and learning?

2016-01-29b Routines and depth -- index card #learning #perspective #routines

2016-01-29b Routines and depth – index card #learning #perspective #routines

Routines such as vacuuming the house or cleaning the kitchen don’t yet tickle my brain the way coding or sewing do. There’s a sense of satisfaction in clearing the sink, sure, but it’s not something that feels like progress during my weekly reviews, and it doesn’t feel like growth in terms of capabilities.

But maybe that’s a perspective thing, and perspectives can be tweaked.

For example, let’s take vacuuming. It takes me about 30-40 minutes to do a quick vacuum of the house. It doesn’t seem like there’s much more to it. You don’t really have 10x vacuuming the way people talk about 10x programming. On the other hand, vacuuming can be an opportunity to practise concentrating on thoughts and questions despite background noise. It could also be an opportunity to look closely at my surroundings and come up with ideas for decluttering stuff or streamlining routines. I could generate questions for further research. If I do a bit of reading before hand, I could mull over those thoughts while vacuuming.

What about cleaning the kitchen? That’s fairly static. I do it in one place, instead of going through the rest of the house. Most items can go into the dishwasher, but there are a number of things that need to be washed by hand. I could use that time to pay close attention to sensation and anatomy, learning more about the muscles and bones in my hands. I can also learn more about and reflect on the manufacturing technologies and supply chains that made this kitchen possible. Then there’s thinking about the meal we’ve just enjoyed, practising the sense-memory of the tastes and thinking about what to tweak next.

I wonder what else I can do to stack the deck so that these maintenance tasks feel as valuable to me as my more discretionary tasks. I think there might be surprising depth in these activities, like the way monks turn sweeping or walking into moving meditations. It’ll get even awesomer as I get better at seeing the possibilities.

(In case you’re wondering, W- does household chores too. He often brings home groceries, cooks, cleans the kitchen, folds laundry, and works on projects. He handles all the heavy stuff, too. I feel good about our current household workload. Besides, chores took up less than 8% of my total time over the past year, anyway – less than two hours a day, compared to >= 23% discretionary time. =) Plenty of time for other things!)