2022-08-15 Emacs news

| emacs, emacs-news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, r/orgmode, r/spacemacs, r/planetemacs, Hacker News, lobste.rs, planet.emacslife.com, YouTube, the Emacs NEWS file, Emacs Calendar, emacs-devel, and lemmy/c/emacs. Thanks to Andrés Ramírez for links!

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2022-08-08 Emacs news

| emacs, emacs-news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, r/orgmode, r/spacemacs, r/planetemacs, Hacker News, lobste.rs, planet.emacslife.com, YouTube, the Emacs NEWS file, Emacs Calendar, emacs-devel, and lemmy/c/emacs. Thanks to Andrés Ramírez for links!

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Visual Book Notes: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals - Oliver Burkeman (2021)

| visual-book-notes, parenting, experiment

I liked Oliver Burkeman's 2021 book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. It covered many of the things I've been working learning on for the past 10 years on this experiment with semi-retirement and parenting. Learning to sit with anxieties and uncertainties, accepting my limits and working with them, being here now… These are the lessons I find myself practising every day.

Some things have gotten easier. I've become comfortable with an ever-growing task list that I know I'll never clear. My default task status is SOMEDAY, and I treat the list like a buffet of ideas that I can choose from when I want to. Which is hardly ever, since I'm still living on kid time and have very little focused time for myself. Most days I'm okay with this, as childhood is fleeting and my main challenge is to really be here for it. This is tough. I've been learning that I'm very human. I turn into a hangry ogre if we're out too late. I grump at A- if I get too tired. I work on separating the shark music of my anxiety from what's really going on. We joke about my squirrel brain and find ways to deal with its limits. I've given up many of my illusions about control. Knowing that I still have lots to learn even though I'm almost 39 makes it much easier for me to appreciate A-'s being 6. My journal helps me see how the days build up into months and years. I'm still on the anxious side, but W- helps balance that, and developing resourcefulness and resilience will help too.

While the book is mostly about confronting and working with the limits of being mortal, it also had some interesting thoughts about the value of being in sync with other people. Tangling my life up with W- and A- has helped me learn about things I would never have stretched myself to do on my own. I can see how A- enjoys playing with her friends. We've decided to go with virtual school for Grade 1 to minimize COVID risks (and I've been keeping an eye on monkeypox news too, ugh). I wonder if we can get a full synchronous exemption again this year. It's been nice following A-'s interests. But we did kinda miss out on group experiences of music and dance, and I'm not sure I'll find outdoor classes for those within walking distance. Online classes exist, but then we'll need to sync up with someone else's schedule. Maybe someday, if A- wants it strongly enough. Here I remind myself not to worry too much about her future, not to try to orchestrate things too much. It is enough to observe, support, and join her in learning. Besides, we can still have fun with clapping games and tea parties.

Anyway. Mortality. Cosmic insignificance. I can attest that thinking about these things can be surprisingly reassuring. All we can do is what we can do, and that's enough. Tomorrow I will dress and eat and brush teeth and play and tidy and do other things that I do every day. Against this backdrop of mostly-sameness, A- grows. If I pay attention, I may even notice it–for just as unexpected lasts sneak up on you, unexpected firsts do as well. If I pay attention, I might notice I'm growing too.

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Turning 39; life as a 38-year-old

| yearly, review

This might be the earliest I've written an annual review in years. Now that A- is becoming more independent, I've been slowly reclaiming time for myself. We'll see how it goes!

I feel like we grew so much this year. We've shifted to spending a lot more time outside, trying to slow down the progression of A-'s nearsightedness. It's been easy to do that with fine weather and plenty of playdates. A- enjoyed playing with dolls and tea parties with her friends at the playground. I'm happy to keep them well-stocked with chalk and flower petals for colourful potions and soups. We had a lot of flexibility thanks to her virtual kindergarten teacher, who was all right with us pretty much spending the whole day playing outside. A- continued to have fun reading and doing math, diving into graphic novels such as the Wings of Fire series and the comic guides of Beast Academy Level 2. She also enjoyed using math to explore entrepreneurship, setting up her first lemonade stand. (CoVID-safe: she sold bottled water and powdered juice packets.) She's also starting to get interested in typing and in writing cursive. (So fancy!)

We finally gave her the go-ahead to watch movies on weekends and other special occasions. Cinderella, Tangled, and Frozen have been her favourites. She loved the floor-length gown I sewed her. We've been memorizing song lyrics, and doing a lot of pretending. It's all good.

W- has taken over most of the cooking because we're usually out playing in the afternoon. A-'s interested in helping in the kitchen, so we do some of that together. She also enthusiastically helps with W-'s house projects. We're all picking up practical life skills. She's growing so much. I need to remember to keep challenging her!

While supporting this whirlwind of learning, I've been able to squeeze in a bit of consulting. I learned more about automating things with Python, and I also enjoyed being able to hand over my Javascript prototypes to other team members who could deal with things like meetings or fiddly CSS.

I also really appreciated working with a larger team of volunteers for last year's EmacsConf. We managed to get most of the videos captioned in time for broadcast, which was neat! I'd like to try that again this year. I see all sorts of inspiring posts in the process of compiling Emacs News each week, so I'm sure there'll be plenty to talk about at EmacsConf this year.

I've been working on few other tech improvements here and there. I upgraded my Lenovo ThinkPad X220T to 16GB of memory, so it feels a little snappier. I got a SuperNote A5X mostly for drawing on, and I love it. (In fact, I wrote this on the A5X.) I included A-'s interests in the typing website I made for her. It's nice to be able to make these little improvements.

For fun, we picked up cubing last October–even A-, who can often solve a 3x3 cube faster than I can. It's a compact way to exercise memory, spatial thinking, and fine motor skills, so I'm all for it. I average about a minute for a solve. If I practise, maybe I'll get to sub-45 seconds.

Drawing is lots of fun too. I've been really enjoying exploring thoughts and doodling stuff around me. Maybe I'll end up blogging more as well!

So yeah, all in all, a pretty good year.

Last year, I wrote that I wanted to:

  • support and document A-'s learning: This worked out really well. I reused the spreadsheet I made for junior kindergarten so that I could organize my journal observations according to the four frames used in Ontario's kindergarten program. Grade 1 will be more subject-oriented, and I look forward to figuring out how to keep following A-'s interests while organizing the observations in a way that would be helpful for the teachers.
  • plant more flowers: A- has loved being able to pick flowers pretty much every day for giving to us or making pretend soups. Dahlias, dianthus, marigolds, mums, poppies, alyssum, bachelor's buttons… so many to choose from!
  • read and draw: I've been able to draw during some of A-'s playdates and while waiting for her to wake up. Progress is being made.
  • keep my priorities straight: having a bit more me time makes it easier for me to focus on A- when she wants it to be her time.

Next year will probably be all about adapting to grade 1 and A-'s developing capabilities. We'll continue to focus on spending time outside, and we'll see how that goes.

Blog posts

Aside from emacs-news and weekly reviews:

Sketches

Time

Category 2020-2021 % 2021-2022 % Diff % h/wk Diff h/wk
Sleep 31.9 35.7 3.8 59.9 6.4
Personal 5.6 7.3 1.7 12.3 2.9
Discretionary - Play 0.3 1.0 0.7 1.8 1.2
Business 1.8 2.2 0.4 3.7 0.7
Unpaid work 4.5 4.6 0.1 7.7 0.1
Discretionary - Family 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.8 0.1
Discretionary - Social 0.1 0.1 -0.0 0.1 -0.0
A- 45.1 42.3 -2.8 71.0 -4.8
Discretionary - Productive 10.3 6.4 -3.9 10.8 -6.6

Huh, that's interesting. We shifted to being outside more often, so I haven't been bribing A- with screentime in order to have some coding time (Discretionary - Productive time down). She's happy to read more independently now (A- time down), so I've been able to set a bedtime for myself and start settling down for sleep at a reasonable time (Sleep up), and I sometimes have breakfast by myself while waiting for her to finish reading (Personal - Routines up). From time to time, I can even do a bit of reading myself (Discretionary - Play up). W-'s handling almost all the cooking since we're out on playdates, but I've shifted more chore time towards picking up, cooking, and doing errands, so the time I spend on household stuff (Unpaid work) is still about the same. This year has felt pretty good.

It would be nice to have more time for working on personal projects, but I don't know how that would fit into our current rhythms. I don't want to stay up late, and A- doesn't want me to be on my laptop while waiting for her to wake up. So I'll probably focus on writing and drawing for a little while, since I can do that early in the morning. I just have to pick coding projects that pique her interest, like when I made a typing practice website based on her favourite books. Other things can wait.

Let's see what the next year brings!

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Writing my blog posts by hand

| blogging, supernote

A- complains if I get screentime when she doesn't get screentime, so it's hard to find time to write on my laptop or on my phone. I've experimented with dictation before, since Google Recorder can make a half-decent transcript. I'm not used to talking things out, though. I keep correcting false starts, stutters, and mis-recognized words.

Fortunately, I can write on my A5X while waiting for A-. I get more space than I do when writing on my phone, so it's easier for me to think. I can export pages as PNGs, Dropbox, share each page, sync with with Google Photos, and then use Lens to copy the text. I can then paste it into Orgzly, which automatically syncs with Syncthing so that I can edit it on my laptop with Emacs. It needs a little cleanup (capitalization, stray punctuation, missed words, things in the wrong order), but editing it feels easier than dealing with the output of speech recognition, so it seems to be worth the extra time and effort. Besides, it feels less embarrassing to write at the sandbox than it is to talk to myself.

I can edit the text directly on my phone, but I still need my laptop to publish my blog because I haven't set up my static site generator on my server. Some day! In the meantime, this might be a good workflow for getting thoughts out there.

What if I want to refer to sketches while I write? Flipping between pages on the A5X can be challenging if they're not next to each other, but I can keep my current writing page next to my sketch. I could also view the sketch on my phone and balance it on the A5X, or use layers to keep a small version of the sketch as a handy reference. Lots of ideas to play around with…

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2022-08-01 Emacs news

| emacs, emacs-news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, r/orgmode, r/spacemacs, r/planetemacs, Hacker News, lobste.rs, planet.emacslife.com, YouTube, the Emacs NEWS file, Emacs Calendar, emacs-devel, and lemmy/c/emacs. Thanks to Andrés Ramírez for links!

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Trying out the SuperNote A5X

| geek, drawing, supernote

W- was happy with his SuperNote A5X, so I ordered one for myself on July 18. The company was still doing pre-orders because of the lockdowns in China, but it shipped out on July 20 and arrived on July 25, which was pretty fast.

I noticed that the org-epub export makes verse blocks look double-spaced on the SuperNote, probably because <br> tags are getting extra spacing. I couldn't figure out how to fix it with CSS, so I've been hacking around it by exporting it as a different class without the <br> tags and just using { white-space: pre }. I also ended up redoing the templates I made in Inkscape, since the gray I used was too light to see on the SuperNote.

It was very tempting to dive into the rabbithole of interesting layouts on /r/supernote and various journaling resources, but I still don't have much time, so there's no point in getting all fancy about to-do lists or trackers at the moment. I wanted to focus on just a couple of things: untangling my thoughts and sketching. Sketchnoting books would be a nice bonus (and I actually managed to do one on paper during a recent playdate), but that can also wait until I have more focused time.

I've had the A5X for five days and I really like it. Writing with the Lamy pen feels like less work than writing with a pencil or regular pen. It's smooth but not rubbery. I've still been drawing in landscape form because that feels a little handier for reviewing on my tablet or writing about on my blog, but I should probably experiment with portrait form at some point.

So far, I've:

sketched out my thoughts
I used to use folded-over 8x14" to sketch out two thoughts, but scanning them was a bit of a pain. Sometimes I used the backs of our writing practice sheets in order to reduce paper waste, but then scanning wasn't always as clean. I really like using the SuperNote to sketch out thoughts like this one. It's neat, and I can get the note into my archive pretty easily.
sketched stuff from life
This is easier if I take a quick reference picture on my phone. I could probably even figure out some kind of workflow for making that available as a template for tracing.
received many kiddo drawings
A- loves being able to use the eraser and lasso to modify her drawings. Novelty's probably another key attraction, too. She's made quite a few drawings for me, even experimenting with drawing faces from the side like the way she's been seeing me practice doing.
received many kiddo requests
A- likes to ask me to draw things. She enjoys tracing over them in another layer. More drawing practice for both of us!
used it to help A- practise coding, etc.
A- wanted to do some coding puzzles with her favourite characters. I enjoyed being able to quickly sketch it up, drawing large versions and then scaling down as needed.
played a game of chess
I drew chess pieces just to see if I could, and we ended up using those to play chess. I should share these and maybe add other games as well.
referred to EPUBs and PDFs
I put our favourite songs and poems on it. I've also started using org-chef to keep a cookbook.
doodled sketch elements
boxes, borders, little icons, people… Probably should organize these and share them too.

I've figured out how to publish sketches by using my phone to rotate them and sync them with my online sketches. Now I'm playing around with my writing workflow to see if I can easily post them to my blog. At some point, I think I'll experiment with using my phone to record and automatically transcribe some commentary, which I can pull into the blog post via some other Emacs Lisp code I've written. Whee!

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