What do I want from my Org Mode files?

What do I want from the notes I keep in Org Mode, how’s that working out, and how can I improve?

Remind me of important tasks, especially recurring ones or ones in the far future
This works pretty well, especially with my weekly review. I mostly trust it, although it might be nice to use the timeline view to review tasks over the next few years just to make sure the important ones are there. And backups!
Keep detailed checklists, instructions, and notes, so that I don’t miss any steps or have to figure things out again when I’m sleep-deprived
I’ve found this useful when dealing with my business paperwork, and I look forward to documenting more routines.
Capture quick thoughts and tasks so that they don’t clutter up my mind
org-capture is good when I’m at my computer, and Google Tasks is a decent inbox when I’m away. Not very good at reviewing and refiling the items, though, but I can do that when I have more discretionary time.
Break bigger projects down into manageable tasks
I don’t have the brainspace right now to work on projects, so most of these have been shelved. I need to tweak my Org refile targets to make organizing things easier. I might be running into a limit with too many targets. Sometimes I can’t use org-refile to select a task that I already know exists.
Help me untangle my thoughts or keep a trail of breadcrumbs as I solve problems
Pretty good at this. Limited by computer time at the moment.
Pull together information and help me summarize
The code I wrote for my weekly and monthly reviews is working well. The code for Emacs News is decent, too, although I can save a little more time if I fix my function for opening all links in a region.
Draft blog posts
This is working well. It could be a little better if I sorted out image uploading and resizing, but my current workflow is fine.
Help me make the most of my limited computer time by prioritizing small tasks that move me forward
This is probably the weakest area. Right now, I tend to prioritize drawing, then checking my agenda for urgent/quick tasks, and maybe writing if I can squeeze it in. I mostly save writing for my phone, though, because I can write on my phone and I can’t do the other tasks then. Coding might help me improve efficiency, but that might have to wait until I have more focused time. It’s okay, I’ll get back to that someday. I think getting better at writing and posting will pay off well enough in the short term. If I give myself permission to post short, possibly incomplete thoughts (like I tell people to! :) ), I’ll get more stuff out there, and then I can build up from there.
Keep notes on people
Little memories, triggers for thoughtfulness, etc. I’m definitely the bottleneck here, not Org.
Help me review my decisions
It’s good to write down goals, options considered, criteria, trade-offs, reasons, predicted results, and so on. My bottleneck is probably taking the time to do so. People are good at rationalization, so I’m not trying to judge whether something was a good decision or a bad decision, but it’s interesting to see what decisions and evaluations reveal about my preferences and values.
Remind me about tools, how to use them, why, and so on
This is partly why I have a literate configuration – so the outline can remind me about stuff I’ve already coded. It’s also handy to keep track of commands and scripts that help me with various tasks. I just need to remember to copy and paste stuff as I do things.

Overall, I’m okay with input and output. Processing is my bottleneck at the moment. If I either fix that org-refile issue I’ve been running into, or come up with an alternative flexible search that will help me find outline entries when I don’t quite remember the headline, that should make processing a bit easier. A bit of outline gardening would help, too – archiving things that are no longer relevant, refiling notes and improving their headlines/text for searchability, maybe prioritizing tasks based on costs and benefits… I’m not entirely sure I’d be comfortable doing that on my phone, so it will have to wait for computer time.

In the meantime, I’m glad I have a place to accumulate (and eventually organize) all those notes!

Planning for safety glasses

The pediatric ophthalmologist prescribed glasses for A- to help keep her right eye safe now that she’s more mobile, to protect the only vision she has. No grade, just polycarbonate lenses.

Many of the parents in the microphthalmia support group we’re in are fans of Miraflex glasses, which are flexible and pretty much toddler-proof. There are quite a few local shops that carry them. I’ll take A- in for a fitting when the weather warms up next week. It’s a bit pricey, but insurance will cover this one. We might need to pay for the next one out of pocket, but we can figure out how things are going then.

From other parents’ experiences, I expect that we’ll need to help A- get accustomed to wearing them. Some kids really don’t like wearing glasses, and other kids eventually get so used to them that they want to wear them all the time. A- will be influenced by the way we approach things, so it helps to think things through.

Because her lenses won’t have prescriptions in them, there’s no built-in benefit for her in terms of clearer vision. If we’re lucky, she’ll think of them as a way to imitate us, since W- and I both wear glasses. If I develop a matter-of-fact approach to cleaning and putting her glasses back on, she may accept it as just a thing we do, like how we hope to treat wearing her ocular prosthesis. And then of course, there’s letting her pick out her own frames when she gets a little older (plus maybe a few inexpensive ones as backups, depending on how things go). If we invest the time and energy to get her used to them now, she might accept them as part of her life before the boundary-testing of the toddler years.

One more thing to keep track of, plan for, and take care of, but that’s okay. We signed up for all of it. :)

2017-01-02 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 December 30, 2016

We lost A-‘s ocular prosthesis again, this time somewhere at home. It had been slipping out once or twice a day, sometimes even when she wasn’t touching it. People in the online support group said that’s often a sign that it’s too small. We’re going to see if the ocularist can step up his game and make one that’s a better fit, or if it’s time to shop around. 75% government funding and additional help from W-‘s health benefits soften the blow a little, but if a replacement isn’t eligible for coverage, it’s a lot to pay for something that might not fit well. We’ll just have to see. I don’t think it would be practical to patch her eye 24/7 to help keep it in, so we’ll just have to work on finding it whenever it comes out – at least until she becomes responsible enough to keep track of it herself, which could take several years. Anyway, that’s life.

On the plus side, we’ve been enjoying the Junior Engineer set that my sister and her husband gave us. It’s a collection of beams, plates, axles, pins, nuts, bolts, cubes, triangles, and wheels – a bit like LEGO Technic, but for the younger crowd. A- likes pulling things out of the basket and offering them to W-, who then figures out how to incorporate those things into whatever he’s building. I’m methodically working my way through the models in the instruction manual. 3 down, 85 to go.

A-‘s play area in the living room is shaping up nicely. The Junior Engineer set is there, as well as the toys W-‘s family gave her at the Christmas get-together. W- installed a ledge for displaying a few books. We have a bin for rotating toys so that we don’t have too many out at once. This also makes clean-up easier. It’s become a nice place to hang out with A-, and we’re developing a good rhythm of playing, doing chores, and going for walks.

We were out for a walk almost every day, except for that time there was a lot of freezing rain. We’ve been skipping the snow suit for walks in the neighbourhood – the blankets and scarves I wrap around us seem to be enough to keep her warm in 0-degree-ish weather. This means it’s easier to get out of the house, and to come back in after. Yay walking!

The Junction Family Resource Centre turned out to be open, so we dropped by for snack time and circle time. A- was a little quiet – once again getting used to the stimulation of having all those kids around, I guess – but she seemed to have fun taking all the rattles out of one of the bins, and putting them back in again. She ate two apple slices and three slices of cheddar all by herself. Such progress since the last time I had taken her to the JFRC!

We chatted with my mom on Christmas and she gave us a few updates on the health issues that she and my dad are dealing with. Ah, life.

Lots of cooking. We made a number of banchan to accompany roast beef in bibimbap bowls: spinach, mushrooms, carrots… Congee made with mushroom soaking water picked up a deliciously earthy flavour. The roast vegetable techniques from the science of cooking book – cutting the vegetables into batons, steaming them in the roasting pan under a tight cover of foil before uncovering and browning them – resulted in tender, sweet roasted veg. The meat-stuffed vegetable recipe from the visual cookbook J- gave me didn’t turn out as appetizing, but maybe I just need to double the filling and add more salt. Hmm… I want to get better at capturing and building on our cooking notes, too, so I might write more about cooking here.

Capturing ideas and fleshing them out on my phone is working well. I’ve been using Tasks Free to jot down ideas for sketches, and that makes my limited computer time more efficient. I like its drag and drop capabilities and synchronization more than I like Orgzly. There’s a script to synchronize Google Tasks with Org Mode, anyway. As a result, I drew quite a few non-journal sketches this week.

I also managed to do a little coding. I finally got around to adding a date filter to my theme. While testing it, I realized that my blog had been quietly dropping paragraph breaks – how embarrassing! I discovered that just as A- woke up crying from a nap, so I was rather frazzled, but W- stepped in and took care of her. Fortunately, I managed to quickly narrow down the problem and fix it by upgrading a plugin. Got two blog posts out of that, too.

And I even got to play video games with W-! A- had been going to sleep at 9 or so, which gave me some time to join W- on a new playthrough of Borderlands 2. Whenever A- woke up, I put down the controller and dashed upstairs to spend time with her. It usually took a short time to settle her back down. Sometimes W- dropped my character out so that he could keep playing, and sometimes he filled in the time with other activities. He’s a couple of levels ahead of me, but it all balances out with the way Borderlands 2 handles experience. Anyway, spending time with him is on my priority list too – video gaming time is cheaper than therapy. :) It’s fun to be able to team up again.

Next week: more writing and playing, perhaps!

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (0.5h – 0%)
    • Earn (0.0h – 0% of Business)
    • Build (0.0h – 0% of Business)
    • Connect (0.5h – 100% of Business)
  • Relationships (3.1h – 1%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (6.4h – 3%)
    • Drawing (2.8h)
      • ☑ Braindump a bunch of sketches
    • Emacs (0.6h)
    • Coding (1.3h)
      • ☑ Investigate WordPress date filter, add to theme
      • ☑ Fixed paragraph breaks in WordPress, no more wall of text
      • ☑ Set up inbox
    • Sewing (0.0h)
    • Writing (1.8h)
  • Discretionary – Play (10.7h – 6%)
    • ☑ Play Borderlands
  • Personal routines (15.3h – 9%)
  • Unpaid work (74.3h – 44%)
    • Childcare (61.9h – 36% of total)
  • Sleep (57.6h – 34% – average of 8.2 per day)

Filtering WordPress posts after a certain date

I wanted to make it easy to link people to a chronological view of my weekly reviews after becoming a parent, so I added this code to the functions.php in my custom WordPress theme.

function sacha_tweak_query() {
    if ($_REQUEST['after'] && preg_match('/^[-0-9]+$/', $_REQUEST['after']))  { 
        set_query_var('date_query', array('column' => 'post_date', 'after' => $_REQUEST['after'], 'inclusive' => true));
    }
    if ($_REQUEST['bulk']) {
        set_query_var('posts_per_page', -1);
    }
}

add_action('pre_get_posts', 'sacha_tweak_query');

It checks for HTTP query variables of the form after=2016-02-22 and bulk=1. If it sees an “after” filter, it updates the query to show only posts after that date. Bulk gets you all the entries on one page. (… Please use this wisely. =) )

Using the pre_get_posts action lets me make the functionality available across all the archive pages (tag, category, date) without adding special code to each of them. Neat!

Fixed paragraph breaks in WordPress, no more wall of text

While trying out the “after” filter I just added to my blog, I noticed that my paragraph breaks were missing. I hadn’t noticed it for a while because I’ve been building up my weekly and monthly reviews from sketches instead of blog posts. How embarrassing!

(Then A- woke up and it was time for lunch, so I was a bit frazzled. But W- stepped in and took care of her, hooray!)

I saw the paragraph breaks in WordPress’ visual editor, but not the exported HTML, which just kept whitespace in between the paragraphs instead of breaking them up with tags. It happened even when I created a new post through the web interface, so it wasn’t org2blog’s fault.

I checked if the paragraph issue happened on a new install. It didn’t.

I checked if the paragraph issue happened with all the plugins deactivated. It didn’t. Aha! (Note to self: I really should set up a dev environment again…)

I turned the plugins on one by one, and I narrowed it down to the NextGen Gallery plugin. It worked after I updated that.

Anyway, things should be readable again. Hooray!