2019-04-29 Emacs news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, /r/planetemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacslife.com, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Using some babysitting time for personal projects

After A- headed out the door with the babysitter, I resisted the urge to work on consulting projects and picked a few personal projects instead. I organized and published another Emacs News post, then settled in for some coding.

I made good progress on using Puppeteer to automate renewing my library books. I even packaged it up as a Docker image, pushed it to my Linode server, and successfully ran it there. Hooray! That means we’re one step closer to getting A- her own library card, since I’ll be able to renew items on both of our cards without the hassle of logging in and out of various accounts on my phone.

So far, so good. The ROI doesn’t make straightforward sense – I wouldn’t each up enough overdue fines to balance the opportunity cost from not consulting – but learning how to automate headless browsers will open up a lot more web automation possibilities, and extra practice wrapping it in a Docker container was a nice bonus. And yeah, turning three minutes of mild annoyance every few days or so into something more automated will probably be worthwhile. The next steps are for me to turn it into a cronjob so that my server can run it daily, and to test to make sure it works when a book can’t be renewed.

I also wanted to prepare for doing Emacs Hangouts again. It turns out that my Logitech H800 Bluetooth headset microphone doesn’t work properly on Ubuntu Bionic. Something about HFP and PulseAudio. At least audio output works, so that will reduce the feedback. I just finished apt-get dist-upgrade when A- returned with the babysitter, so I’ll work on this again next time.

Alternating consulting sessions with personal projects seems like a good plan. It feels a little indulgent, but so did my experiment with semi-retirement when I was just starting, and that worked out really well for us.

This babysitting setup seems to work well for us considering A-‘s late schedule and shifting interests. A 5-hour session gives me enough time to dig into a challenge or learn a new skill. A- seems to need more connection time after babysitting (probably letting off the tension from behaving so well with a new person all afternoon), but that’s perfectly okay.

I’ve liked spending all this time with A-, and I like the little stories I pick up from watching her learn every day. At the playground, she was so proud of being able to climb over the top of the climbing structure by herself. But these moments belong to her, not to me, so it’s okay for me to step back and have my own moments. Part of her journey as a child is separating herself from me, and part of my journey as a parent is separating myself from her.

Slowly, slowly, slowly making time for my own things again!

Update 12:39 AM: It looks like Bluetooth headset microphones are not really working on Linux these days, so I’ll just use the headset to listen in order to reduce feedback, and I’ll use my Yeti microphone if I set up for an Emacs Hangout or Emacs Chat session.

2019-04-22 Emacs news

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

How A- is helping me learn how to read better

A- loves books. They’re usually a good way to calm her down from a tantrum, enjoy a pleasant afternoon, and get her all snuggled in and sleepy at bedtime. I don’t mind reading them again and again, since each read gives me an opportunity to learn more about writing, illustration, and even layout. It’s so much fun hearing the words and ideas from books bubble up in our everyday conversations.

I’d like to learn more about best practices for reading with young kids, like dialogic reading. A- responds well to the comments I add pointing out feelings or relating things to her life, and she often asks about things when I leave plenty of space for her to jump in.

A- doesn’t like feeling quizzed, though. When I pause to let her fill in blanks or I ask her questions, she protests, “I’m the baby.” By that, she means, “You’re the adult. Read it properly.” She knows the books and will sometimes “read” the whole thing to herself from memory, but sometimes she probably just wants to relax and listen. Sometimes she’ll play along if I give her a special word and ask her to point to it whenever it comes up, but that’s hit-or-miss. If she wants to play the game of correcting me, she’ll ask me to read the book upside down.

I think I’ll focus on making space for her questions and letting her take the lead for now, instead of taking more of a teaching-ish approach. I can model questions by wondering out loud. We can just keep it really pleasant, and probably that will pave the way for phonics later on. It’s totally okay for her kindergarten teacher to do the heavy lifting of teaching her how to read. My job is to help her want to read.

It might be nice to be more intentional about the books we get. Our neighbourhood library has a good selection, but there are all sorts of gems out there that we might not find just by pulling books off the shelf.

I can thin the herd a bit by bringing some of our books to the Children’s Book Bank, so that her shelf isn’t so packed. Then it might be easier for her to find and pull out books she likes.

A little thing: if I update the script I wrote to renew my library loans so that it works with the redesigned site, that could save me a bit of clicking.

I can look for ways to perk myself up if I’m falling asleep reading during the afternoon slump. A- usually accepts it if I tell her that I need to move or do something different, and maybe a dance session could help us get our blood flowing. I can also drink water and eat a quick snack. I can invite her to read a book outside or explore the garden, especially as the weather warms up.

This is great! I’m learning how to read, too. :)

2019-04-15 Emacs news

Update: Added Paris meetup, Apr 18

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, /r/planetemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacslife.com, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Resuming our babysitter experiment

We experimented with babysitting last year. A- generally got along well with babysitters from the agency, although she eventually told me, “Stop babysitting experiment. Mama play with A-.” So we stopped. I relegated my consulting to the occasional late night, and sometimes went a month or two without logging in.

Once in a while, A- liked to pretend that I was a babysitter ringing the doorbell and coming to play with her. She also asked me to read books about babysitting, including the one I made for her.

A- started asking me to get a babysitter recently. I figured we could give it a try again. She immediately got along with the sitter from the agency, and didn’t look for me at all. From my hideout in the basement, I could hear peals of laughter, loud conversation, and even the occasional made-up song.

I spent most of the session writing documentation and updating reports. Focused time! Awake focused time! It was nice to make real progress.

I asked A- if she wanted to have the same sitter the following week, and she did. She even picked having a sitter over going to “school” or playing with me. The second time the babysitter came, she had just as much fun playing with her, and I had just as much fun coding and listening. I asked A- again if she wanted to have the same sitter the following week, and she said yes. After the sitter left, I asked her if she thought her playtime with the sitter was too short, too long, or just right. “Too short,” she said, so we’ll book the next one for five hours.

A- was extra clingy after the first session, but a bit more relaxed after the second one. She fell asleep on the walk to the library, which gave me a little time to write.

My goals for babysitting are:

  • Support A- as she practises independence: It’s good for her to practise asking other people for help, figuring out fun games together, and learning from other people’s styles. It also helps her learn she can do lots of things without me and be away from me for longer periods of time. I might even be pleasantly surprised by what she can do based on other people’s expectations.
  • Be inspired by other people’s interactions with A-: the kind of energy they bring to childcare, the interesting things they share or bring out in her, the games they come up with…
  • Create space for making things better or capturing and organizing my notes. Consulting increases my budget for experiments and resources. Reflection helps me remember things I’ve learned and decide what to do next.

So now that babysitting is back on the table, what does that change? How can I build on this?

  • I can schedule babysitting sessions once a week for as long as A- is up to it. I can fill that time with consulting or other tasks, so it’s worth it on my end. Although consulting is fun and easy to justify, I could also dedicate some time to continuous improvement, writing, drawing, organization, and personal projects.
  • Knowing that I’ll have some scheduled focused time should make it easier to get proper sleep at night, which should make it easier to focus on her during the day. Also, it’s really nice to just be able to sleep when we’re sleepy, instead of trying to stay awake while she’s falling asleep.
  • It would be good to gradually stretch it to six hours, to prepare her for being away from us for that long when she’s at kindergarten. It’s still good for her to have an afternoon nap, so we’ll probably move the starting time earlier.
  • The weather is warming up, so it might be good to figure out the logistics of going to other places like the playground or the drop-in centre.
  • In summer, the pool of available babysitters expands quite a bit. It might be interesting to experiment with independent sitters, especially ones with teaching experience. On the other hand, the agency is pretty convenient too.
  • A- hasn’t yet had a big meltdown that required comfort from a babysitter, so I’m not sure if she’s ready for that yet. We can work on emotional regulation when we’re together, since she’s not quite ready to do that on her own or with strangers yet.
  • Eventually, I can check how she does in a group situation. Parenting workshops with childminding and drop-in centres with parent relief programs might be good ways to test it out, or I can explore coworking spaces with childcare. The city also runs a few recreation programs for her age range, although most of those are too early in the morning for her current sleep rhythms. Kindergarten readiness programs can also help her get used to school routines and group interaction.

With that in mind, next week, I plan to:

  • Line up non-consulting tasks so that I can use my time well once I’m done with the SQL debugging I’ve scheduled,
  • Pay closer attention to the differences in the way we interact, and see what I can learn,
  • Experiment with 5 hours, with the option to cut it shorter if she’s tired or cranky, and
  • Ask the babysitter what she would need to be comfortable taking A- out to the backyard or to “school,” and offer it to A- as an option.

I’m glad A-‘s curious about this again!