2017-01-30 Emacs News

I shuffled the sections around a bit to emphasize Emacs Lisp and Emacs development, based on John Wiegley’s suggestion. Enjoy!

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 20, 2017

The ocularist is trying a different style of conformer. It has a ridge and a curve to catch her lower eyelid. The new conformer has been coming out a little less frequently, but it’s still every day or so. I try to keep A-‘s hands away from her face, although sometimes she really insists on rubbing and scratching when she’s sleepy or just waking up. I also took A- to the eyeglasses store to try on pairs. She’s in between sizes in the Miraflex line, so we’ll try again in a few months.

I took A- to the JFRC and the OEYC for socialization. She’s back to being comfortable in those spaces, I think. I also took her to the breastfeeding clinic to check her weight. 7.84kg puts her comfortably over the 15th percentile curve, yay her!

Since A- has been so interested in our forks and spoons, we got her a fork, which she enthusiastically mashes into her saucer and manoeuvres into her mouth. Sometimes she even manages to pick up food with it. We also got her a toothbrush and a hairbrush. She seems to enjoy using the toothbrush after meals. We haven’t added any baby toothpaste yet – it’s more for getting her used to stuff in her mouth. I brush her hair after brushing mine. Sometimes she tries to imitate me, and sometimes she just plays with the brush when it’s her turn. She’ll get the hang of it eventually.

We’ve been encouraging more physical activity as a way of helping her build up her appetite and take in more nutrients. This usually takes the form of hide-and-seek, which gets her crawling after us at a decent clip. She’s also been working on fine motor control: stuffing Duplo into various containers (including sleepers and pant cuffs), emptying and filling the toy egg carton, and playing with books. She was a little interested in the crayons brought by the family home visitor, although she doesn’t seem to deliberately make marks yet. Anyway, since we want to model what to do with them, I’ve been able to sketch a little – mostly the back of her head while she plays with W-.

I’ve been drawing more on my tablet PC, too. This little experiment of drawing a memory in more detail and colour is helping me observe more carefully, and it’s fun. We’ll see if it’s worth the additional 10-15 minutes or so.

I did a little bit of consulting – a couple of SQL queries and a little Node script to analyze a thread. Thought about a bigger project, too, but I’m not sure I have the brainspace to build something custom for them.

I’ve been working on moving more things off Windows so that I can stay in Linux more often. After looking into alternatives to TurboTax for my corporate income tax returns, I decided to convert my QuickBooks records to Ledger. I’ve been using Ledger for my personal finances for more than a decade, and I like how manageable plain text is, especially with report command lines and commentary in Org Mode. I found a Perl script to convert QuickBooks data to Ledger format. After modifying it to deal with Canadian spelling, I converted my data and started reviewing it. So far, so good. My bank balances match up, at least. There are a bunch of other things I want to pay close attention to (year-end entries and so on), but overall, it looks promising.

I also cleared out the tablet I was using as a baby monitor, replacing it with W-‘s old phone. That works just as fine as a baby monitor, and it works out better than the tablet did as a backup device for when my phone’s battery runs out. The phone is easier to hold and type on, and it’s less glaring. More writing, yay!

While I’ve been taking care of A- and writing while nursing, W- has totally taken over cooking for dinner, which is awesome. Pad thai, pasta, shepherd’s pie (with ground lamb, even) – yum yum yum. Life is good.

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (3.9h – 2%)
    • Earn (1.9h – 48% of Business)
      • ☑ Thread analysis
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 hours of consulting
    • Build (1.2h – 30% of Business)
    • Connect (0.8h – 21% of Business)
  • Relationships (0.1h – 0%)
    • ☑ Print prescription for A-
    • ☑ Try another conformer
  • Discretionary – Productive (4.3h – 2%)
    • Drawing (3.5h)
    • Emacs (0.4h)
    • Writing (0.1h)
  • Discretionary – Play (1.8h – 1%)
  • Personal routines (21.6h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (73.2h – 43%)
    • Childcare (63.6h – 37% of total)
  • Sleep (63.1h – 37% – average of 9.0 per day)

2017-01-23 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

More thoughts on the timing of discretionary time

W- is thinking of shifting his discretionary time for side projects to early morning, before he heads out to work. That way, he can tackle it with more energy and enjoy making steady progress. I’ve been planning for my discretionary time in the evening, after A- goes to bed. It might be nice to experiment with setting an early alarm and staying in sync with W-. I’ve tried one-offs here and there and A- generally ended up waking along with me, so I didn’t get time for other things. If I do it consistently, though, she’ll probably shift her bedtime earlier.

The main thing that gets shifted around on my end is the journal, since that’s natural to do at the end of the day. The quick notes I take on my phone will probably be enough, though. Alternatively, I could split it up: sleep after my journal, and then wake up and so other things.

So, how can I ease into this? If I prioritize sleeping during her naps for a couple of days, that should make it easier to wake up early. A- will adjust her own naps based on her energy. This is a good time to try it, anyway – no major appointments coming up, so we can adjust as needed. I think W- wanted to start being up by 5 or even earlier. Bonus: electricity is cheaper.

We’ll see if A-‘s okay with my slipping away early in the morning. If not, maybe I’ll find my discretionary time somewhere else in the day. No worries! I’d like at least enough time for my journal and for Emacs News, so that’s about half an hour to an hour. Interruptible and can be deferred a day or two, so the time is pretty easy to find. Most of the other things can wait if need. The next big chunk is probably filing our personal taxes some time in March or April, but I should be able to find enough focused time in that period. Who knows, maybe A-‘s sleep patterns will have changed by then. We’ll see!

When both W- and I can play with A-

Sometimes I try to get things done while W- plays with A-. I feel good about taking care of household chores or urgent and important tasks, but I feel weird about discretionary things like updating my journal or working on my computer. Even if I just hang out while they play in the same room, that feels more comfortable than taking advantage of the opportunity for focused time. I wonder why that’s the case, and if I need to tweak my perspective.

My priorities tend to go like this: if W- wants to spend time with A-, I’ll take care of household chores like cooking and cleaning. When that’s done, we’ll play together, unless there’s a big and important task taking up brainspace. If so, I’ll try to get that done before returning to play.

It’s useful to have some shared play time. I pick up ideas from the way W- and A- interact, and it’s a good time for us to reconnect. Sometimes we come up with new games when we’re all together. A- also sees us interact with each other, which is good.

It’s also useful for W- to have some one-on-one time with A-, and for me to have some discretionary time. I’d feel more comfortable about taking that discretionary time if I had a clear purpose for it, like an hour or two of consulting, or some business paperwork – especially things where I need to be focused and awake. If it’s something I can do just as well when A-‘s asleep, even with the interruptions, I often prefer to postpone it until then.

There aren’t a lot of tasks that I feel I need to do right away. Most things can be done when the opportunity arises, whether that’s when A- finally sleeps soundly enough for me to unlatch her and leave, or when she eventually goes to school. On the other hand, there’s a definite time bound on this shared playtime with W-, and even for solo playtime with A-. There are only so many hours I’ll get to enjoy like this. I think that might be one of the reasons why I prioritize spending time with them.

How can I make even better use of shared time with W- and A-? I want A- to focus on W-, so I support their play instead of competing for attention. Cameras distract her attention and disrupt the flow, so I’ll just have to settle for observing so that I can draw and tell stories later.

A- will eventually become more independent, especially when she reduces her nursing frequency. Then she and W- can establish father-daughter bonding time and their own rituals – maybe at least two hours a week, based on the guidelines I came across. I can save my daytime discretionary tasks for then. We’ll also have some shared family time, and a few chunks of discretionary time for W- so that he can explore hobbies such as woodworking.

This time is short, and it passes quickly. I’ve had plenty of practice examining that little urge to Get Things Done and deciding whether it actually makes sense. For now, I’ve got this rare opportunity to prioritize play.

What do I want to think through when writing on my phone?

My first priority is to get thoughts out of my head and into a form I can work with. This often becomes an explosion of lists and keywords, which can be handy for thinking and drawing, but not for my blog posts. It helps me clear my mind and be less distracted. It lets me make progress instead of covering the same ground. It also helps me make better decisions. I can see the costs and benefits more clearly when they’re written down. I can brainstorm options and compare them. I can review the decisions afterwards, too.

Prose makes things slower to capture and harder to read on my phone, but also a little easier to search or reflect on after a while, and possibly good for review or conversation when turned into a blog post.

And then there’s stuff I’d flesh out in writing anyway, like my weekly/monthly/yearly reviews. Those start off as sketches on my computer, then lists of keywords, and then paragraphs on my phone.

If my list is cluttered, it’s hard to pick one thought and follow it through. I end up adding little bits here and there, and I’m not sure how useful that is. Things below a couple of screens get ignored. It might be helpful to dedicate some time to processing. I can either flesh out the top idea on the stack, or move it to my inbox if it needs computer time.

I don’t have to worry too much about writing for other people’s benefit. That can come later, when I have more focused time. People can always choose what to read and what to skim or skip. What’s important is that I think things through and then capture them for later review.

So, how can I do this more effectively? Where are my gaps?

  • Motivating questions, not just a scratchpad of ideas: It’s useful to ask questions when I’m going to change something based on the answer. For example, I can describe the gaps and points of friction, then explore why those are so, and then come up with ideas and actions.
  • Reviews are less motivating, but I can get the ball rolling by focusing on tidbits rather than overviews. It’s hard to see context on a small screen.
  • I don’t have to spend a lot of time picking the best thing to write about. Practically everything will move me forward, even if the distances vary. I can write and write and write, and then reflect.
  • If I don’t feel like writing, I can always snuggle or sleep. No need to force it.

The best time to write is when I’m nursing A- and she’s drifting off to sleep, but is awake enough to root if I try to move away. Trade-offs / other things I could be doing during that time:

  • Sleeping: Good up to a certain point. It’s handy to use A-‘s first nap to catch up on sleep if needed, but I don’t want to sleep too much.
  • Browsing social media: Tempting time sink. Occasionally useful or interesting, but best in small doses.
  • Answering email: Nice thing to do, although expectations are low. Some things can only be answered when I’m at my computer.
  • Prioritizing my to-do list and adding items to it: Helps me hit the ground running during computer time.
  • Reading research and tech stuff: Gives me ideas to explore when I’m at my computer. Less efficient than reading when I’m on my laptop, but it’s okay to just index things for later exploration.
  • Reading e-books: sometimes useful, especially if I pick my questions and titles carefully.
  • Reading fiction: occasionally entertaining, although often bleh. Maybe I should try library recommendations.
  • Playing games: my interest comes and goes. Exercises problem-solving. Artificial sense of progress.

I think it makes sense to prioritize sleep, then writing, with maybe a notification-based pomodoro for social media during breaks. If I don’t feel like writing, I can use the time to learn more about tech or parenting. Let’s see if I can find a pomodoro app that’s compatible with a sleeping baby, or if I can make something using Tasker…