Weekly review: Week ending January 1, 2016

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)

2015 in photos

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).

Learning about patchwork and sewing

I’ve been looking into patchwork and quilting as a way to reuse scraps of fabric left over from sewing. That way, I don’t end up stashing stray odd-cuts forever, and I don’t feel guilty about trashing or donating material. (There are only so many zippered pouches I need in my life!) I can cut as many standard-size pieces as I can, and then store those in a more organized way.

I wanted to start pretty small: 4″x4″ squares (3.5″ after sewing with 1/4″ seam allowances), maybe 11×11 squares for a finished size of 38.5″ square. I still have lots of scraps to cut up, but I figured I’d give it a try first before committing the rest of my stash. Make a prototype, see what it’s like, maybe turn it into something for the cats or something to drape…

I counted the squares I cut from some fabric I had lying around, and assigned one-character labels for them. I stopped after I cut a little over 121 squares (11×11).

A red gingham 12
b black gingham 38
m marvel 6
D beige 11
B white crosses 56

Time to plan! I created a dot grid (in Emacs, naturally) and began filling it in with characters, like so:

B.B.B.B.B.B
...........
B.........B
...........
B.........B
...........
B.........B
...........
B.........B
...........
B.B.B.B.B.B

At first, I tried to keep track of the number of squares manually, but that got annoying to update as I tweaked the layout. By the time I got to something like this:

BbBbBbBbBbB
bBbBbBbBbBb
BbBABABABbB
bBABDBDBABb
BbBDmbmDBbB
bBABDmDBABb
BbBDmbmDBbB
bBABDBDBABb
BbBABABABbB
bBbBbBbBbBb
BbBbBbBbBbB

… I found this code to be really helpful for making sure I hadn’t put in more of one character than I had, and to show me which ones I still had left.

(let ((totals
       (mapcar (lambda (x) (cons (char-to-string (car x)) (length (cdr x))))
               (-group-by 'identity (string-to-list (replace-regexp-in-string "\n" "" data))))))
  (mapcar (lambda (x) (append (list (assoc-default (car x) totals)
                                    (- (elt x 2) (assoc-default (car x) totals)))
                              x)) squares))

The first column has the number of squares used in the design. The second column has the number of squares left. The remaining columns were copied from the original table.

12 0 A red gingham 12
38 0 b black gingham 38
5 1 m marvel 6
10 1 D beige 11
56 0 B white crosses 56

After lots of sewing and pressing, I ended up with something that looked reasonably like a patchwork quilt. It was actually pretty relaxing to sew once I got the hang of arranging things, since it just used straight lines. I unpicked two seams after stitching them incorrectly. The rest of the seams turned out okay.

2015-12-28 17.16.17

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have included two strong black-and-white prints. This one feels a little like an optical illusion, and it’s not that restful to look at it in full. I probably won’t be using it as a wall hanging, but it might be nice to use it to dress up one of the cat beds. I could skip the batting, buy a cotton or flannel sheet from the thrift store for use as backing, and then quilt it for practice. Skipping the batting this time around might let me get away without setting up a walking foot, too.

I still have tons to learn about dealing with colours and prints. Maybe I can learn faster with smaller blocks. I’ll probably cut more 4″ squares since that’s a convenient size for my grid ruler, and maybe 2.5″ or 2″ if there are leftover scraps that won’t fit. Then I’ll organize them by value and colour and see what I can make. I can turn them into shopping bags, since our current collection is starting to wear out. We’ll see how that goes!

2015-12-28 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 December 25, 2015

This week was more of a social one. My parents, sisters, and their families are in California for a vacation, so I called to say hi. We also hosted a houseguest I know from the Emacs community, and that worked out okay too. I ran into a few technical issues when hosting an Emacs Hangout, but fortunately we managed to get those sorted out.

A light week in terms of work – it was a little difficult to concentrate – but otherwise okay. More progress on various projects, yay! I’ve been taking advantage of small chunks of concentration time to automate or research various bits for my setup, so we’ll see if that pays off.

Looking forward to doing my year-end reviews this coming week. It’s been an odd year, but maybe it will make more sense when I look back. =)

2015-12-26a Week ending 2015-12-25 -- index card #journal #weekly

output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (13.1h – 7%)
    • Earn (4.7h – 36% of Business)
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • ☐ Prepare invoice
    • Build (7.0h – 53% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.1h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (1.4h – 10% of Business)
  • Relationships (17.5h – 10%)
    • ☑ Copy gear research to Evernote
  • Discretionary – Productive (13.6h – 8%)
    • Emacs (5.9h – 3% of all)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☑ Make a list of recent Reddit links
      • ☑ Update org-protocol patch based on feedback
      • ☑ 2015-12-21 Emacs Hangout
      • ☑ Correctly link to package based on source – yes, ELPA does actually add packages
      • ☑ Refile and jump
      • ☑ Add an insert-link protocol
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Preparation and automation
      • ☑ Anticipate a worst-case scenario and write down ways to mitigate it
      • ☑ Update script to renew library items
      • ☑ Write a user script for quickly displaying the status of library videos
      • ☑ Set up bitlbee
      • ☑ Fix gpg agent issue
      • ☑ Organize business tax information so that I have all my notes handy for next year
      • ☑ Explore fluxbox
      • ☑ Investigate kde baloo error with watches
      • ☑ Figure out if it’s the new Plasma or something else that’s jittering my X refresh
      • ☑ Find my Twiddler and set that up again
    • Sewing (2.1h)
    • Writing (3.9h)
      • ☑ Check out love languages thing
  • Discretionary – Play (14.0h – 8%)
  • Personal routines (34.5h – 20%)
  • Unpaid work (19.0h – 11%)
  • Sleep (56.3h – 33% – average of 8.0 per day)

What’s worth making?

I’ve been thinking about what’s worth making and what’s worth buying. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy finished products used (or even new) than to buy the raw materials to make my own, especially in terms of common clothes and accessories. On the other hand, there are benefits to using and developing my DIY skills, such as cooking and sewing (and maybe eventually woodworking again).

Thinking about my considerations for that make vs. buy decision can help me improve those decisions. If I can make that “make” decision better, I can benefit from improved skills, more satisfaction, and possible savings. If I can make that “buy” decision better, I can take advantage of the capabilities of industries. Here are some factors that nudge me towards making things instead of buying them.

When something is much more expensive to buy than to make: Considering the quantities I use, the characteristics I want, and the cost of raw materials and time, it can be much cheaper to make things than to buy them. Cooking generally falls into this category. Sometimes sewing does too, especially if I can use fabric from sales or the thrift store.

When I want to adjust for personal fit, taste, or needs: It’s been nice to enjoy our favourite meals without being limited to what’s offered in restaurants. I also like being able to make several copies of simple blouses that fit me well in colours and fabrics that appeal to me, instead of trawling through stores to find the intersections of fit, style, fabric, colour/pattern, and price.

For that extra bit of satisfaction: I feel a little more satisfied when I enjoy something I’ve made compared to something I’ve simply bought. I’ve noticed this with the clothes I wear and the meals I make, and I’m looking forward to enjoying this even more as I learn how to make accessories.

When something is difficult to find: It’s often hard to find the things I want in store. Sometimes even online searching can be a hassle, especially with international shipping.

Independence from market trends and frustrating shopping experiences: Along those lines, it’s nice to be able to skip noisy malls and arbitrary trends.

Conversation starters and identity signallers: There’s a less of this because I don’t usually pay extra for novelty prints (well, aside from that Marvel comics one! =) ). I don’t feel the need to wear my geekiness on my sleeve – it usually comes out pretty quickly in conversation anyway. Still, it’s fun to infuse a little bit of personality into the things I make, like adding a cat-shaped pocket to a peasant blouse or making things that match each other. Who knows, maybe it will lead to interesting conversations with other crafters.

Convenience, not having to search: A well-stocked pantry lets us make something we like without having to look for a restaurant that’s open with the kind of food we might want to eat at the moment. Likewise, I want to eventually develop an organized stash of flexible, easy-to-coordinate fabric so that I can make things as needed (ex: apparel cotton, flannel, lining, knit, PUL). I haven’t quite sorted out my system yet, and I tend to do things in single colours/patterns because I’m not confident about coordinating. Someday, though!

Gifts: I’m pretty meh about giving and receiving gifts. It’s better when things are consumable or home-made, or preferably both. =)

Developing skills and appreciation: The more I make things, the more I learn about how things are constructed. This helps me appreciate the things around me, and it might even help me make those buying decisions more effectively.

Fuel for thinking/writing/sharing: Experiments in making things can often be turned into blog posts and ideas.

Ethical considerations: Although manufacturing can be good for the economic growth of developing countries, I’m not too comfortable with ethical issues in factories for clothing or other consumer goods. Besides, I like the waste reduction of repurposing things that might otherwise be trashed or turned into rags.

The intrinsic enjoyment of the activity: Cooking is fun, especially when W- and I cook together. Sewing is starting to be pretty fun too. It has its frustrating moments, but I’m starting to build up a good stash of “Look! This actually works!” memories.

In terms of decisions to buy instead of make:

  • There are things I definitely don’t have the skills or materials to make, so that’s an easy “buy” decision.
  • If I could make it, but it’s much cheaper and easier to buy things, then I might put off making them.
  • I tend to put off buying things if I know I can buy them inexpensively on short notice. I’ll wait until I have a clear need for them, since it’s often better to make do than to have more than we need.
  • I’ll buy in advance if I have a clear idea of our usage, or if there’s a good enough sale that I’m comfortable with the trade-offs.

Sometimes I also consider the question: “What else could I be doing with this energy, time, and money?” My life is pretty flexible at the moment, so it’s usually a choice of:

  • doing more consulting: good for building up skills and savings, but can be too tempting compared to the long-term value of other activities
  • doing something else in the real world: other DIY things, taking care of chores/errands/exercise
  • coding or learning something intangible: automating parts of my life, developing skills
  • thinking/drawing/writing about stuff: good for understanding, remembering, and connecting

There’s time enough for a little bit of everything, so I don’t worry too much about the decisions moment by moment. Still, it’s nice to be clear about the factors to consider so that I can recognize them more easily when they come up. =)

Based on our enjoyment of DIY videos on YouTube, I think I’ll enjoy a life that’s tilted even more towards making things. It would be awesome to be able to think spatially and draft my own patterns, and maybe get more into laser cutting, 3D-printing, and woodworking too.

We’ll see how things go!