TIL 31: Puppies   

Today I learned, officially, that I was a much, much younger man when we adopted our old dogs. This puppy is a lot to keep up with!

#tinychallenges

#

      ~

      #TIL 30: Dog People   

      Today I learned that if you’re a dog person, the house just doesn’t quite feel right without a dog. And, should you happen upon a dog, you are basically powerless. We we went to the hardware store for furnace air filters and they just happened to be having an adoption event with Second Chance, a local shelter.

      We we came home with furnace filters, of course, and also a little lady we are calling Gunnison. She is a border collie/Newfoundland mix. Oh my, what have we gotten ourselves into?

      #tinychallenges

      #

          ~

          #TIL 29: Analysis   

          Learned a lot about some specifics of a work process that makes up a big part of a project I’m working on.

          I don’t love having these obtuse TILs; it’s a consequence of my work not being so public, but that work nonetheless is a big part of what I do daily, so it’s natural that a lot of things I learn come from it. That makes it hard to reflect on them in this forum, sort of un-satisfying.

          #tinychallenges

          #

              ~

              #TIL 28: Jury Duty   

              Today I learned quite a few ins and outs of a grand jury, because I have been called to sit on one weekly for the next few months. This will be interesting.

              #tinychallenges

              #

                  ~

                  #TIL 27: My Job   

                  Some discussions the last few days but particularly today clarified part of my evolving job role. I’m used to being a doer, but lately a good chunk of my commitments are around facilitating: helping others do things well, helping build a strategy in which other projects will fit, and connect a lot of organizational dots. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of deliverableswith my name on them; I need to exercise some agency and planning to find the right balance, for me, between making things and supporting others in doing the same. That’s an interesting, exciting challenge.

                  #tinychallenges

                  #

                      ~

                      #TIL 26: Routines and Goodbyes   

                      So. Tonight I learned that a strong part of my routine brain will remind me to take the dog outside when returning home late in the evening, even when I am coming home from taking the old girl for her last trip to the vet, where we peacefully put her to sleep at the age of fifteen.

                      My wife was the same: she promptly refilled her water dish when we got home. Longtime habits don’t go easily I guess. For the first time in many years we don’t have dog footsteps tracking around the kitchen.

                      This makes two old girls we have said goodbye to in the past few months.

                      So. Dammit.

                      #tinychallenges

                      #

                          ~

                          #TIL 25: Learning and Doing   

                          Some of these daily things I learn are not so much new lessons as things I observe that I would like to take forward.

                          Today didn’t feel productive at work. It didn’t start as well as I like, and never got back on the right foot. I need to develop some better ways to come back from those unsatisfying and un-energizing starts. When I encounter this kind of day my best response is to start identifying and ticking off small, doable bits of work, but today I wasn’t quite organized enough to pull even that off. So I need to work on that, to notice when I’m not focused and be deliberate about getting myself back at it. Tomorrow is another day to do it.

                          #tinychallenges

                          #

                              ~

                              #TIL 24: Gluten Free Pizza   

                              Today I learned that when the recipe says to press the gluten free pizza dough out very thin, it means it. This recipe tasted good but I made the pizza a little thick so it came out a bit doughy in the middle. I’ll try it again!

                              #tinychallenges

                              #

                                  ~

                                  #TIL 23: Dating   

                                  It’s never too late to take your spouse out on a date. We had a nice time tonight at one of our favorite places in town, where they always make a pretty good Manhattan, and in an hour or so we can catch up with one another while our boy plays with the neighbors. Babysitting co-op is a pretty good idea, gang.

                                  #tinychallenges

                                  #

                                      ~

                                      #TIL 22: Allergies Suck   

                                      Today I read this study about emotional and mental health impacts of food allergies. It suggests that food allergies can result in depression and anxiety from youth through at least young adulthood. It’s one more difficult potential outcome of my son’s allergies that I will worry about.

                                      Bonus Friday TIL: watching my son un-self-consciously poke his tongue out while drawing at the kitchen counter after school, is so so great.

                                      #tinychallenges

                                      #

                                          ~

                                          #TIL 21: Progress & Cooperation   

                                          Today I got confirmation that a small part of a plan I put together at work … Is going to work. This nicely advances a broader project in a concrete way and I’m pleased with that. As usual it took a bunch of conversations to get to this point and will require many more; I’m happy that it feels like a good collaboration right now.

                                          #tinychallenges

                                          #

                                              ~

                                              #TIL 20: Copied   

                                              Today I learned about a nice and functional clipboard manager for iOS: Copied. I used it several times today, including in writing up this quick post. Among its best features: it has a share sheet extension, so using it is nearly as easy in iOS as the native copy function. Good stuff.

                                              #tinychallenges #

                                                  ~

                                                  #TIL 19: Life’s sometimes a journey   

                                                  I’m a hard person to travel with, I think, because once we’re on our way somewhere, it’s all destination for me: how quickly can we get there? That aphorism about how it’s not the destination but the journey? Mostly bogus.

                                                  Today I was conscientious about not rushing, and on the last day of our vacation we had a leisurely breakfast, a nice walk and an easy drive. So maybe I learned just a bit about relaxing today.

                                                  But dang I wish I was on vacation still.

                                                  Also, I learned that I can freehand a pretty adequate Hawkman mask for a five-year old superhero.

                                                  #tinychallenges

                                                  #

                                                      ~

                                                      #TIL 18: Are you a vacationer or just a traveler?   

                                                      Learned a lot today about VACATION OWNERSHIP (in its substance as well as the deeply aspirational tools used to sell sell sell it), which learning was the price of our deeply discounted resort stay this week. Ninety minutes of my day? Sure. I’m still not ready to buy.

                                                      #tinychallenges

                                                      #

                                                          ~

                                                          #TIL 17: Music   

                                                          Tonight I drove to the town where I went to grad school, saw two dear friends and a Josh Ritter concert.

                                                          We made it home at 1am — home in this case being Phoenix, where we are spending a few vacation days — and I thought for a few minutes about what I learned today — okay, officially, yesterday, because I could barely see straight anymore at that point. This is what I wrote down for myself:

                                                          Endlessly supportive wife; I am a particular kind of music listener; I can still get lost in a performance; I am utterly transported by some. Few things meet my anticipation and excitement but today did.

                                                          What’s the thing I learned there? I don’t know, exactly. But something about the right experiences and futures being out there and I should overcome my reluctance to set my sights on them. Sure, a couple of days of vacation going well is different than a multi-yearlong project meeting a vision of success; but don’t they all start with starting? So I’m going to keep on trying to do that.

                                                          #tinychallenges

                                                          #

                                                              ~

                                                              #TIL 16 TIL is Hard   

                                                              I’m on the road for a short bit of vacation, and had a thoroughly nice day that started with a great workout in my home town and ended with a late stroll back to the hotel with my wife after dinner in cool weather (but not the wintry cold and snowy weather at home!). A day like today it’s hard to pause and reflect much, even though I had good conversations and listened to some podcasts I enjoy and appreciate. I suppose today’s TIL is that it’s hard to make this time, but it’s valuable… Even if the outcome is just a realization that I’m working at it and some days come with more challenge than others.

                                                              #tinychallenges

                                                              #

                                                                  ~

                                                                  #TIL 15: Bitcoin Fail   

                                                                  Today I read up on the state of Bitcoin via this article by Mike Hearn. My PhD work was on alternative physical local currencies, so I’ve always been interested in Bitcoin as another kind of effort to build a medium of exchange. The apparently now-unsolvable technical issues underpinning Bitcoin, combined with failure of its community to address them when it could, is a pretty strong lesson in the organization of collective action. Money is hard, gang.

                                                                  #tinychallenges

                                                                  #

                                                                      ~

                                                                      #TIL 14: Gymnastics   

                                                                      Today I saw just how proud and lit up my son’s face is when he comes back from the floor at his preschooler gymnastics class.

                                                                      #tinychallenges

                                                                      #

                                                                          ~

                                                                          #TIL 13: Learning at work   

                                                                          It’s tough to write here about things I learn at work; I’m intentionally oblique about my work so as to keep a clear distinction. But I spend a lot of time there, so many of the things I’m finding in this month of daily learning challenges naturally come at the office.

                                                                          Today’s TIL: I reached out to actively pursue some relationship building, and it felt successful. I need to do that more.

                                                                          #tinychallenges

                                                                          #

                                                                              ~

                                                                              #TIL 12: Bowie   

                                                                              It feels like I’m learning and thinking a lot about goodbyes lately. I spent a good chunk of yesterday in my headphones listening to David Bowie, sort of absorbing a lot of sound as well as the tributes and memories that were filling my Twitter stream.

                                                                              Thing is, I’m not a big David Bowie fan. I like him and much of his music quite a lot, but I don’t know it or feel like I know him the way I know my favorite artists. But listening and reading through the day was sort of profound. I don’t think I had appreciated his impact.

                                                                              I continued to process this all today, and listened to an impromptu episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour discussing him and the remarkable way he controlled his artistry, literally to his final hours. It’s striking and I will be learning from it for a long time.

                                                                              #tinychallenges

                                                                              #

                                                                                  ~

                                                                                  #TIL 11: New Tool   

                                                                                  Today I started learning the ins and outs of a new application at The Job. I’m part of the team driving the implemenation of this thing, and this is my first time digging in to the configuration enough to start getting a really good mental picture of how all its pieces work together.

                                                                                  #tinychallenges

                                                                                  #

                                                                                      ~

                                                                                      #TIL 10: Miles of Cables   

                                                                                      Today we disassembled all the components of our TV and media center, moved a new cabinet into place, and then put everything back together.

                                                                                      There are a lot of cables. Also, that reassembly will always take twice as long as I estimate it will take.

                                                                                      #tinychallenges

                                                                                      #

                                                                                          ~

                                                                                          #TIL 09: Goodbyes   

                                                                                          There’s a bagel shop in town, Biff’s, whose walls are covered with framed photos of dogs — pets who have passed on. We’ve gone there for years, and my routine on most Saturdays is to work out in the morning and go for breakfast afterwards.

                                                                                          In October, our dog Uinta tripped and broke her leg. She was sixteen and a half years old, and I’ve had her since she was a puppy. She was very frail, and we made a hard decision to let her go rather than put her through a surgery and painful and confusing recovery. Last week I brought a framed picture of her to the bagel shop and offered it to the woman at the counter, after I had my breakfast.

                                                                                          Today her picture is up on the wall, surrounded by hundreds of other beloved and fondly remembered pets. Holding tears, I asked one of the owners for a moment to talk, thanked her for making a special place for these animals whose short lives sometimes inexplicably and surprisingly become a part of hearts. Then I went and cried in the car for a few minutes.

                                                                                          So today I learned a small bit of just how hard it is to really say goodbye.

                                                                                          #tinychallenges

                                                                                          #

                                                                                              ~

                                                                                              #TIL 08: Imagination   

                                                                                              Today I learned just a bit of the tremendous imagination bubbling in my son’s head. It’s wonderful to watch him play, listen to the stories he tells himself, and watch him draw pictures of what he imagines.

                                                                                              #tinychallenges

                                                                                              #

                                                                                                  ~

                                                                                                  #TIL 07: Snow Days   

                                                                                                  On snow days I can get a surprising amount of work done by getting up at 5am to power through some things before everybody else’s day really gets started. Of course it throws off my exercise schedule, but it’s not too bad. I’m also hugely fortunate that on weeks like this (third day in a row of school closures due to snow…) I can be flexible without fear of losing my job and pay. That’s another repeat lesson, really, and reminds me to take some deep breaths when the district closes schools again, anticipating six more inches of snow, and we get just a dusting.

                                                                                                  #tinychallenges

                                                                                                  #

                                                                                                      ~

                                                                                                      #TIL 06: Shrinkage   

                                                                                                      Today I learned just how much a wool hat will shrink when put through the dryer. Pro tip: it’s a lot.

                                                                                                      #tinychallenges

                                                                                                      #

                                                                                                          ~

                                                                                                          #TIL 05: Allies   

                                                                                                          Here’s something I learn periodically, then forget and occasionally re-learn: I have a lot of allies at work, but I need to remember to engage them. As a pretty introverted person who is also very much a processor who needs time to think through things before leaping into action, I don’t always look for the help that I sometimes need. But invariably, when I do reach out, I not only get the feedback that I’m looking for, but am invigorated by the interaction. That’s something to remember, perhaps so I don’t have to keep learning it.

                                                                                                          #tinychallenges

                                                                                                          #

                                                                                                              ~

                                                                                                              #TIL 04: Bedtime   

                                                                                                              Today I learned that a five year-old who got used to staying up a little later and sleeping in during his winter vacation is hard to rouse early on the first day back to school. But, when the time comes, he’s ready for bed that night!

                                                                                                              #tinychallenges

                                                                                                              #

                                                                                                                  ~

                                                                                                                  #TIL 03: Star Wars Smile   

                                                                                                                  The grin on my son’s face, watching Star Wars (IV) for his first time, that first time X-Wings take off, is pure magic.

                                                                                                                  #tinychallenges

                                                                                                                  #

                                                                                                                      ~

                                                                                                                      #TIL 02: Forza Teaches Numbers   

                                                                                                                      This isn’t a particularly profound TIL day. I did have a rather moving experience from which I’m taking some lessons, but I’m not quite ready to say I’ve learned it yet.

                                                                                                                      So today’s TIL is: I am secretly teaching my five year old son to count using Forza on the XBox. He’s watching me race, calling out my position, and telling me what position I’ll be in after I pass the car ahead of me. That’s pretty cool.

                                                                                                                      (Also, this is a fun and gorgeous game.)

                                                                                                                      #tinychallenges

                                                                                                                      #

                                                                                                                          ~

                                                                                                                          #TIL 01: Thirty-two Thousand Feet Elevation   

                                                                                                                          According to Strava, my mountain biking climb total in 2015 was 32,408 ft, and the largest single ride climb I made was 2600 feet, on Fathers Day. That sets a pretty good goal to beat in 2016, I think.

                                                                                                                          This is among the information from my years’ worth of exercise numbers. I wrote a year ago about how taking on a regular workout routine was one of the best things I started in 2014. Well, I continued in 2015, and added a lot of biking to the mix as well. It was invigorating to feel stronger and stronger as I went through the year.

                                                                                                                          Among the other numbers from my year in exercise: 36 spin sessions for an estimated 27,000 cals burned while trying my best to beat up the spin bike. I did 127 gym workouts, many of which I could never have done when my shoulders were hurt (also learned throughout the year that I can still way overdo it; so I focus on challenge by choice, or being very conscientious about how hard I’m working and making sure that’s the right level that I want to push — not surprising, this applies to lots of things beyond just exercise). It feels really, really good.

                                                                                                                          So let’s do it, 2016. #tinychallenges

                                                                                                                          #

                                                                                                                              ~

                                                                                                                              New Year’s Eve 2015

                                                                                                                              December 31, 2015

                                                                                                                              Yesterday, I made a big pot of pho to share with family and friends tonight. We have had a relaxing, easy almost-two weeks of winter holiday and going back to work and school will be something of a challenge.

                                                                                                                              We celebrate the winter solstice for the slow return of morning light that its passing promises, but secretly I love those long, dark mornings, where I can imagine, long after waking, that I am the only person moving in the world.

                                                                                                                                ~

                                                                                                                                My Weekend Rabbit Hole: I Made an App

                                                                                                                                September 30, 2015

                                                                                                                                I work out several times a week, and log those workouts to Runkeeper (because data!). Lately I discovered a small bug in the iOS client, in which a previously set equipment type (treadmill) was persistently being sent with my workouts, even though it doesn’t make sense for the workout type (that is, not running). Thing is, the Runkeeper client does not any longer offer the option to set that equipment type for the workouts I’m doing — this is a nice simplification of the interface, but I can’t get rid of the existing flag for treadmill.

                                                                                                                                This started to nag at me. I’ve long thought about building a workflow to quickly log my sessions rather than tapping through the app, but never got around to seriously looking into it until now. From working with Slogger, I already have an application registered with the Runkeeper API and am reasonably familiar with working with it, but until this weekend had only done so using scripted curl commands. Works great, but does not hook into iOS very well. I could build an ssh command to execute a curl command from a remote server, and kick it off from workflow or maybe a drafts action; this would have taken me ten minutes, but would have felt kludgy.

                                                                                                                                So on Saturday morning I downloaded Xcode and looked up iOS development tutorials on iTunes U. And there went my weekend.

                                                                                                                                Approximately one million browser tabs full of google searches, errors and compiles later, I have this: a tiny app preprogrammed with my two regular workout types (strength training and spinning), an array of scheduled session times, both of which I can cycle through via a pair of buttons (starting with my default of 6:15am). I also have a few extra fields to log additional data about the workout. The auth field is for my app’s token, and allows me to change it if necessary. This is a really basic replacement for a more full featured OAuth workflow, and I’m in the process of figuring out how to move this over to a settings screen so it’s out of the way most of the time; for now it’s also a convenient place to output the result of my http request to the API: if after a submission I get a 201 there, then I know the request was completed successfully.

                                                                                                                                Oh my gosh, Internet, I made an app1! I have to say, that first time it ran approximately like something I intended it to be, I was thrilled, like over the moon that I made something with buttons I could push and interact with on my phone.

                                                                                                                                So what have I learned?

                                                                                                                                I learned how to make https requests to an API using Just; how to make buttons and UI elements and hook them to actions in my code; how to use cocoapods (minimally, anyway); how to break my project using source control in Xcode sufficiently to require bringing the whole thing back from Time Machine (thanks, Synology); and how to redraw my content as the keyboard is revealed and hidden.

                                                                                                                                What get better at, among other things: I have not successfully triggered an activity spinner while my API request goes though. Fortunately it doesn’t take too long, but I want to read up on the asynchronous dispatch or whatever thing. I also really don’t know much about the schemes, targets, and so on that make up a project structure. Should also probably brush up on that little source control issue, and make more sense of the MVC thing. But hey, not bad for a weekend project.

                                                                                                                                This was fun. I have something I will use almost every day, which does lots more than scratch my original small itch about submitting the wrong equipment type. And I have a much fuller view than I did, of this world of applications that are such a big part of my life. Cool. Maybe next weekend I’ll come up with another itch.

                                                                                                                                  ~

                                                                                                                                  Dark Skies Star Party

                                                                                                                                  September 20, 2015

                                                                                                                                  Autumn is a good season for night skies, here. It’s starting to dry off, so there’s less monsoon weather to chase us back indoors, and our Dark Sky City designation means there’s an attempt to keep city light from flooding out the stars. I signed up for a night sky photography workshop with Stan Honda, who is opening an exhibit at a community art center.

                                                                                                                                  After a couple of hours of slideshow and demo of night sky techniques, we trooped outside and joined the nearby Dark Skies Star Party, an annual stargazing event aided by the likes of Lowell Observatory (Pluto, yo), the Naval Observatory and the university. We found a quiet stretch of paths and set up our tripods.

                                                                                                                                  I started shooting with my old Pentax for the wider field of view its lenses give, but its low-light sensitivity just can’t compare to the Fuji, so I traded out quickly and spent the rest of the night experimenting with composition, ISOs, and exposure times. When I finally retreated, cold — I had forgotten my jacket in the warmish evening — I hoped I had a few keepers. With some adjusting in Lightroom, this is what I came up with.

                                                                                                                                  lightbox2

                                                                                                                                  One of the things that resonated most from Stan’s slideshow were the descriptions of the event of some photos, particularly an expedition to the near-Arctic to shoot a solar eclipse. He showed some photos of the lineup of viewers to the eclipse and I liked the story that the photo told, so I experimented with a few of my own in the same theme. This is of one of the telescope stations at the star party, with viewers coming and going in the dark, with their red-lensed flashlights, beneath the stars.

                                                                                                                                  lightbox2

                                                                                                                                  Looking back toward the main path from my spot in the fields, moon shining over us.


                                                                                                                                  lightbox2 lightbox2


                                                                                                                                  Stars over the San Francisco Peaks are really something. One more reason I’m happy and lucky to get to live where I do.

                                                                                                                                    ~

                                                                                                                                    Slow, Small Data   

                                                                                                                                    Via this writeup in Fast Company, Dear Data is such a cool project. Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec are spending a year exchanging a postcard per week, in which they each draw a representation of a specific behavior or facet of their lives. The front side of the postcard is the drawing itself, and the back side describes how to read the visualization.

                                                                                                                                    Both images by Giorgia Lupi from “Week 38: A Week of Negative Thoughts

                                                                                                                                    One of the things that really makes me love this is the intentionality and immediacy of it. I used Reporter for several months, but fell away from it; it started to feel like something that would add value someday, but in an undefined way that didn’t keep me with it. By contrast, Stefanie and Giorgia are deciding on something very particular, measuring it and then drawing it all within about a week. Unlike so much “big data” they aren’t looking for a long-term pattern or a huge number of observations. Their illustrations are colorful and capture sparks of their personality while describing whatever they chose to measure; and the differences between their drawings are a reminder of the many ways to tell a story with a common theme.

                                                                                                                                    #

                                                                                                                                        ~

                                                                                                                                        Restarting the iCloud Photos Sync   

                                                                                                                                        Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed that my iPhone photos weren’t syncing as expected to my MacBook, and therefore not being picked up by Photostream2Lightroom and pulled into my library.

                                                                                                                                        Well, thanks to google and this writeup by Igor I’ve found the answer: A quick restart of the sync process appears to have taken care of the issue.

                                                                                                                                        #

                                                                                                                                            ~

                                                                                                                                            Plerd, a Dropbox-hooked static blog builder   

                                                                                                                                            Via Karen Cravens’ tilde club site I came across Plerd (and then Jason McIntosh’s set of super cool projects). Plerd looks cool, and seeing a tool similar to the one I use makes me want to clean up my own system and share it.

                                                                                                                                            #

                                                                                                                                                ~

                                                                                                                                                How Invisible, Inc. Gets It Right   

                                                                                                                                                This analysis by Robert Yang hits so much of what makes Invisible, Inc. a great stealth game.

                                                                                                                                                You can always lose more. Unlike every other stealth game, slow and patient observation usually means slowly suffocating death here.

                                                                                                                                                Incapacitating many guards the first time is easy; but they wake up again! You have to carefully time using your stun guns because they recharge slowly over several turns. Likewise, taking enemies out for good is hard and expensive, because you may never again get more ammo for that gun (if you even have something that’s effective against their armor).

                                                                                                                                                Because guards are rarely actually out of the game, every turn puts you in more danger of being overwhelmed, caught without the resources to get to your goal. It’s a constant struggle between pushing just a bit further and getting in way, way over your head.

                                                                                                                                                Robert’s description of a perfectly-laid out plan foiled by one tiny unexpected detail is basically the game in a nutshell: Flashes of “I’m brilliant!” colliding with “OH NO!” and it’s a great, great time. #

                                                                                                                                                    ~

                                                                                                                                                    At Rock Paper Shotgun: The 50 Best PC RPGs   

                                                                                                                                                    I love the big game lists that Rock Paper Shotgun puts together, and this massive list of RPGs is a fine example of the form. Baldur’s Gate II, FTL, Dungeon Master I mean Legend of Grimrock, Eye of the Beholder, Ultima VII, Pool of Radiance … the list goes on, with references to good contemporaries to the classics.

                                                                                                                                                    #

                                                                                                                                                        ~

                                                                                                                                                        Apple Music, so Far   

                                                                                                                                                        Looks like my pre-release Apple Music thoughts are mostly bust: No API so far, no good last.fm connection, no clear way to migrate existing playlists from other services such as Rdio.

                                                                                                                                                        And there’s more it doesn’t have, like any kind of coherent cross-device connectivity: No way to listen on the iPhone, then pick up the same playlist or album when I get home and open up my MacBook. The ‘Recently Played’ smart playlist occurred to me to be one way to get to this information, but it’s unreliable, usually omitting about seventy-five percent of the tracks I have listened to. This is honestly really puzzling, and frustrating, especially given Apple’s emphasis on hand-off between devices. Perhaps the recently played list only shows those tracks that are in my own, actual catalog? If so, I’m even more confused about how to think about “my” music versus the service’s catalog. It’s supposed to make that distinction irrelevant, but it seems to emphasize it in unpredictable places.

                                                                                                                                                        There are also some interface issues. This is a clicky, clicky application. (Rdio, which has become somewhat inscrutable sometimes, is so much cleaner.)

                                                                                                                                                        So why keep using it, when Rdio continues to behave the way I much prefer? Well, a couple of things: First, the curated playlists are good. They are well-titled, have useful descriptions, and the ones that show up in my ๐Ÿ’“ “for you” section are a pretty good match for my tastes. This is in contrast to everything algorithmic that I’ve ever tried, which just never felt right to me. I have been enjoying listening to them a lot.

                                                                                                                                                        Capturing this discovery, on the other hand, is tricky: Whereas when I have a last.fm connection going, and can return to the day’s plays and easily flag something that I loved, with Apple Music, if I don’t capture that right in the moment, I’m much more likely to lose it.

                                                                                                                                                        Also, Siri integration is slick. I mean, really cool. Driving in the car, I can just tell my phone to play me an album or a song, or a playlist. This has made impulse listening so easy and fun. And when my son requests his current favorite song from the backseat, I can just tell Siri to play it, no fumbling through playlists and menus to get to it. (On the other hand, he will quickly understand that I can no longer use “Dad’s driving, son, I can’t find ‘Fireproof’ for you right now.”)

                                                                                                                                                        Finally, I really like the unification of my own library with the Apple Music catalog. While I continue to share the feeling that it’s often unclear what the status of my own music is 2, it’s great to be able to can mix something from my home catalog with a playlist from Apple Music when I’m out with my iPhone. Another benefit of this integration is that I’m listening to my own old playlists from iTunes once again. There are tracks there that I haven’t listened to in years, and my only excuse is that iTunes became such a bloated and byzantine mess that I tried as much as possible to avoid it. Now that they show up in Apple Music, I am really, truly enjoying them.

                                                                                                                                                        I think Apple has done something very smart with the long free trial of the service. If they iterate quickly on some of the interface details and expand on the cross-device support, during this time when they service is still free, I think they’ll have something competitive and compelling. I hope that they do, because there’s a lot here to like, but I’m not turning over my keys to Rdio just yet.

                                                                                                                                                        Oh, one more thing: I didn’t like the “play blah blah in Apple Music” cruft that the app adds to a URL that you share from it, so I made a quick and dirty Workflow share extension that copies a track, playlist, or album URL to the clipboard. Here it is.

                                                                                                                                                        #

                                                                                                                                                            ~

                                                                                                                                                            Adventures   

                                                                                                                                                            I don’t remember how I came across Zen on Dirt, but I love reading these travelogue adventure accounts. Don’t miss the Continental Divide Trail epic.

                                                                                                                                                            Wanderlust. #

                                                                                                                                                                ~

                                                                                                                                                                A couple more Apple Music notes   

                                                                                                                                                                Last year I made a few totally uninformed notes about Apple’s purchase of Beats, which we now know is resulting in the upcoming Apple Music – a curated, streaming radio and music streaming service that looks functionally (so far) a lot like Rdio and Spotify.

                                                                                                                                                                I use Rdio a lot, and I was thinking while I was driving around this morning about a couple of things that I hope Apple Music eventually will offer. The first is a hook to last.fm to scrobble the songs I listen to. Last.fm has continued to be one of those services that I just keep using. I like being able to gets its view of my musical history, and I’ve also connected it to slogger, so I have an ongoing log in my Day One journal. I would miss not having that ongoing record.

                                                                                                                                                                Here’s the important one, though: Apple needs to realize, especially with their intent to launch an Android app, that their target customers are already using a streaming service, and they have to help them cross the river. They need to carefully consider the maturity of services that they’re competing with: If a Spotify friend posts a playlist, I can use re/spin to build the same playlist in Rdio. And if I’m to migrate outright from Rdio, how will Apple help me move my playlists, favorites, and collections? I hope for an API, because that will also help me get my last.fm hook. I guess we’ll have some idea in a few days. Fingers crossed.

                                                                                                                                                                #

                                                                                                                                                                    ~

                                                                                                                                                                    What to wear for the apocalypse   

                                                                                                                                                                    I love this Metafoundry piece about the effect of supply chain and manufacturing loss on post-apocalytic clothing:

                                                                                                                                                                    No supply chain means that, at least in the short term, the local clothing stocks will be a major determinant of what people wear. Where I live (the northeast US), that means cheap and ubiquitous t-shirts patchworked into everything, for a start–making quilts out of a hundred thousand unneeded t-shirts. Notions (zippers, hooks, buttons etc.) will be cannibalized from worn-out clothes–even cheap zippers bring together out-of-reach precision metallurgy and polymers, and reliable YKK zippers will be sought and prized. Speaking of polymers: Patagonia and North Face and Gore-Tex outerwear will be prized heirlooms, the most valuable garments made of durable, functional and irreplaceable technical synthetics (especially needful in New England winters). No supply chains means no polymers, nor much by way of dyes (most of which are derived from petroleum), which means returning to fibres that can be grown (and grown locally, initially). Plants or animal products like wool, as well as leather (probably not black, though) and fur. This was nicely captured in Mad Max: Fury Road: the Vuvalini of Many Mothers, who gardened, wore handwoven-looking scarves and fabrics in colours consistent with vegetable dyes.

                                                                                                                                                                    #

                                                                                                                                                                        ~

                                                                                                                                                                        Can’t Talk Now, Playing Splatoon   

                                                                                                                                                                        This is the most fun I’ve had on the Internet in some time.

                                                                                                                                                                        Seriously, lots of fun. #

                                                                                                                                                                            ~

                                                                                                                                                                            Invisible, Inc., and Roguelikes   

                                                                                                                                                                            Three Moves Ahead has had a couple of shows lately that I’ve really enjoyed. First up was their interview with some of the crew from Klei, makers of Invisible, Inc. and previously of Mark of the Ninja. I really loved Mark of the Ninja, and when I heard this interview I couldn’t resist picking up Invisible, Inc., too.

                                                                                                                                                                            It’s so great: Turn-based stealth that combines the isometric X-COM perspective and some of its combat elements with bits of the turn-by-turn dynamics of Frozen Synapse and the push your luck action of FTL. Which isn’t to say it feels derivative; it just uses some familiar elements in such a great, fun way.

                                                                                                                                                                            Also, it’s a tiny bit forgiving, at least while you learn the ropes, unlike FTL or Frozen Synapse: On the beginning difficulty level, you have five “rewinds” that you can use to back up to the beginning of the previous turn, and they come in so handy when you misplan, lose two agents in one round, and need to back up and think about What You’ve Learned.

                                                                                                                                                                            #

                                                                                                                                                                                ~

                                                                                                                                                                                Snow in May   

                                                                                                                                                                                After a very dry winter, we’ve had cold weather and repeated rounds of snow and rain this month, enough that this May looks to go on record as the 10th wettest in Flagstaff weather history. I complain a little, because I want to ride my bike and sit on the porch, but we do need the moisture. It makes for a spectacular scene, too. Also, I love the view from my twelve-minute commute. (This is when I don’t ride my bike to work.)

                                                                                                                                                                                #

                                                                                                                                                                                    ~

                                                                                                                                                                                    Wunderlist API + Alfred = Cool   

                                                                                                                                                                                    Wunderlist is a super application and my wife and I use it for almost everything list-like. But I don’t love adding items to lists using the web app’s interface: I want something non-clicky that I can capture items to from anywhere. So I was quite happy to find that they offer a developer API!

                                                                                                                                                                                    Getting a developer account and openauth key for your own sample application is easy, and with a little tinkering I put together a pair of Alfred workflows for adding items to my inbox and grocery lists.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Add to Wunderlist in Alfred - screenshot

                                                                                                                                                                                    I’d like to improve on the workflow so that it can call an external config file or shell variable instead of having the auth key hardcoded in the workflow as it is now; that will let me share the thing as a package, too. Meanwhile, if you want to try this out, you’ll need your own developer account and sample application with authorization key from Wunderlist. Then you can make an Alfred workflow that runs the following in bash (insert your own CLIENTKEY, ACCESSTOKEN, and LISTID):

                                                                                                                                                                                    curl -s -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -H 'X-Client-ID: CLIENTKEY' -H 'X-Access-Token: ACCESSTOKEN' -d '{"title":"{query}","list_id":LISTID}' -X POST 'https://a.wunderlist.com/api/v1/tasks'

                                                                                                                                                                                    Pretty sweet.

                                                                                                                                                                                    #

                                                                                                                                                                                        ~

                                                                                                                                                                                        Jess Zimmerman stole a pen from Douglas Adams’ grave   

                                                                                                                                                                                        She writes about Adams on the 14th anniversary of his death:

                                                                                                                                                                                        I was honest about one thing, at least: I don’t use that pen for anything besides fiction. I’m not the type of person who collects memorabilia: I lent my signed Mostly Harmless to a friend in high school and never got it back and never really minded. My copies of most of his books are in shambles, read to shreds. But I’m precious about that pen. It won’t be used to write a shopping list while I’m alive. The artifacts of reading are comfortable, disposable; the artifacts of writing are amulets and alchemist’s tools.

                                                                                                                                                                                        #

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~

                                                                                                                                                                                            Being a Man in Tech

                                                                                                                                                                                            May 9, 2015

                                                                                                                                                                                            Or, trying to be a better man in tech

                                                                                                                                                                                            Notes prompted in part by the scale of inequality offline and abuse online, most specifically against women in technology. I have no illusion that my writing at this personal site has impact, influence, but it’s important to me to write some of this down and toss a small rock in an already-swirling rapid.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Better voices

                                                                                                                                                                                            In addition to the links noted above, here are a few starting points for more, from people who are better at this than I, and a couple of recent points of research and culture war intersections that are illustrative of what’s going on.

                                                                                                                                                                                              ~

                                                                                                                                                                                              Keeping the Web   

                                                                                                                                                                                              I really like the thinking that Joel Dueck is spinning up around privacy and facilitating payments to make building stuff online economically viable without ads. He proposes some legal and architectural tools, but notes that:

                                                                                                                                                                                              Focusing on the nuts and bolts of the web itself, looking for technical solutions, is not going to be enough to counteract these broader trends. And as I’ve said before, simply appealing to people to change their personal habits of internet usage is insufficient and ineffective. What is needed is a principled re-adjustment of the entire playing field — a political solution to a political problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Elsewhere, he remarks that if the economics of blogging do collapse4, he will “feel as though we lost something valuable — a truly democratic chance for people to sustain their lives through the pursuit of literacy and self-expression.” I thought about this same thing this morning, and I contemplated the worth of continuing to write and post here. The “community”, such as it was, of bloggers and readers, is much changed from when I started posting to my old home blog, way back in the pre-social media days. But here I am, all the same, tapping away. For those of us who were into this before services ate everything, it’s kind of a hard habit to break.

                                                                                                                                                                                              #

                                                                                                                                                                                                  ~

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Three Moves Ahead on 4X Games   

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I really like this episode of Three Moves Ahead on the 4X Genre. I haven’t played a ton of 4X games myself (my most recent experience being a whole bunch of Endless Legend a few months ago), so I’m only passingly familiar with most of the games they chat about (even Civ! I know, I know!), but this is still a really accessible conversation that touches on a lot of interesting elements of these games: Balance between the different phases of the game, the rare expertise required to build 4X mechanics, and the difficulty of innovating in storytelling within these games. They also talk about the often uncomfortable assumptions made in most 4X games, of an unspoiled world ready for exploitation and civilizing in the service of a conqueror (reflecting on the problematic “explore, exploit, expand, exterminate” label, too), and imagine a game in this style that could really explore things like postcolonial conflict.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  It’s a fun and wide-ranging discussion and I’m looking forward to listening to more from Three Moves Ahead and Idle Thumbs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  #

                                                                                                                                                                                                      ~

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Browser Tab Roundup

                                                                                                                                                                                                      April 13, 2015

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The One-Minute Test

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Via Jeremy Keith, a method of wrapping up a meeting by asking for concrete reactions in just a minute:

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. What was the big idea? (What was the most important thing you heard at the meeting?)
                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. What was your big surprise? (What was the thing you saw or heard that surprised you the most?)
                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. What’s your big question? (What’s the biggest unanswered question you have at this time?)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I’ve been in meetings that ended in a similar way and found it to be a really positive way to conclude. One spin on that final question that I have liked is to ask “who will you share this question with” or “where do you go next with this idea” — It’s very satisfying to generate a specific kind of next step that’s social and/or active, and it encourages a much more engaged conclusion that might not otherwise come out of some meetings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Spark File

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Steven Johnson on keeping a bin of ideas, “hunches” and snippets of writing:

                                                                                                                                                                                                      But this kind of inventory doesn’t quite convey the most interesting part of the experience, which is the feeling of reading through your own words describing new ideas as they are occurring to you for the first time. In a funny way, it feels a bit like you are brainstorming with past versions of yourself. You see your past self groping for an idea that now seems completely obvious five years later.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I get the same experience from occasionally going back to the scattered output of my years of blogging and notes-file-keeping: at various times using web sites, planner-mode, org-mode, Moleskines, Field Notes, and now here. What Steven has probably done more smartly is keep most of that in one place. In that time I’ve been a number of things, or at least two, having moved out of academics into the work I’m doing now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Learning Vim in 2014

                                                                                                                                                                                                      God help me, I’m learning another text editor. I’m not sure why; seemed like it could be interesting or engaging, which it is. I think it all started when vim was the available default over at tilde.club when I was heavily involved there. Maybe it’s a way to make up for having ditched emacs at work for now?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ben McCormick’s excellent series is an introduction to the nuts and bolts as well as the philosophy – see his Vim as Art in particular on that score. I’m exploring the whole thing repeatedly as I make my way. I idly trolled on Twitter how learning Vim was like turning your text editor into an RTS. Now I think I really like that idea and the way it makes me think systematically about what I want to do with my editor. It’s cool.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        ~

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Tuning up my Backups

                                                                                                                                                                                                        April 5, 2015

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Some instability with my web host the past week or so prompted me to think about the state of the backups of my online spaces. I spent some time today getting backup scripts working on the host, and found that, based on the file dates, the last time I worked on this was about a year ago. Yay, me. After troubleshooting them for a little while I now have some functional backup scripts to tar up my web directories and my databases. Then I set about burning most of the morning getting my Synology to grab the backup from the host.5

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Because I’ll forget and no doubt have to do this again, I took a few notes:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        With passwordless login to the Synology, and from the Synology to my host and backup server working, finally, I could test executing my backup scripts from the shell on the Synology. Lo and behold, it works! In the “Scheduled Tasks” section of the Synology control panel, I set up these scripts to execute the remote backup and periodically download the resulting files:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Runs twice weekly:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        /usr/bin/ssh kaizen 'cd ~/backup-scripts; ./backup-mysql-databases; ./backup-files'
                                                                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Runs weekly:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        /usr/syno/bin/rsync -av --progress strongspace:arlington-backup/ /volume1/Archive/backup/kaizengarden
                                                                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Why not run these daily? Because these sites don’t actually change all that much. Downloading the full backup weekly is plenty, if not outright overkill, since the most frequently-changed part of the site is all markdown files stored in dropbox and synced when I re-publish. Why not schedule the backup to run via cron on my host? Because this works, and I was already in the Synology shell experimenting, so it was easy to not have to log in to the web server. (And last time I worked on the backup scripts at the host, I remember some kind of problem with running them via cron; some kind path or environment thing interacting with tar, I think. So this got around that, too.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I did the same for my stuff over at tilde.club, too. This didn’t require any backup script, since I just have a single directory there; I just rsync the whole relatively small thing into a backup folder on the synology here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          ~

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Recent changes in the Apple Developer Program allow for deploying an app to a local device without going through the App Store and its processes and costs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Is it in the cloud? Is it ‘matched’ or purchased, will I lose my canonical copy somehow? Is something happening with my metadata while I’m not looking?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. Hell, I still struggle with this, but I’m mature enough to know I’m not the only one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          4. see e.g., Kottke on Dooce retiring

                                                                                                                                                                                                          5. It’s not actually directly from the host. My scripts pack up the tar archives and rsync them to my backup location at Strongspace.