Daily notes for 2023-03-29

ยท 1634 words ยท 8 minute read

Breaking: I just discovered Doom’s rotate text module in the process of thinking “why can I not just flip this post’s draft metadata from true to false with a keystroke? Did I see something about that in init.el?” I did see something about that in init.el, so I uncommented the line, did a doom sync, and it’s there: just put a word under the point and ] r to go through the candidates.

Anyhow … as I was about to post:

I am in one of those liminal places people find themselves in from time to time. I suppose the best thing you can say about them is that it’s better when you know you’re there than when you don’t, because you at least have a fighting chance of arresting the worst of your bad habits.

Good Sudoku is real Sudoku, I guess ๐Ÿ”—

For instance, sometimes it’s good to stop moving around so much and just wait the thing out. Sudoku has always been good at that for me, but so much of my conception of Sudoku involved mandatory tedium. Like, I didn’t even fully embrace the “logic” parts of the game because some of what made it soothing was the dull repetition of pre-filling all the gimmes, and you don’t need hard puzzles to waste a bunch of time on that while you fight with a virtual copy of your office nemesis.

Good Sudoku for iOS/iPadOS is several years old, now. I saw it come out, downloaded it, and honestly thought there was some sort of catch to it. It has a few provisions for automating or at least bringing focus to the early stages of a puzzle, and I found that with those affordances I can reliably complete puzzles at the “advanced” level without getting out of my comfort zone in terms of logical patterns. I can finish some “Expert” ones without a hint, and maybe half of them with just a single hint. It was so jarring to me that I even went looking for evidence that there might be people who hate it for spoiling a tedious and frustrating but essential element of the game. Like, maybe there are people out there who like that you have to do all the paperwork. If there are, I didn’t see them in the first few pages of a DuckDuckGo query asking if Good Sudoku can even be considered real Sudoku.

So the revelation, I guess, is that Sudoku remains fun with those affordances in place. You still have to, like, use logic and stuff … you just have to learn more advanced things more quickly because the quality of life enhancements get you there faster. But there’s still plenty of challenge left. For the first time, though, Sudoku is a question of “how good do I care to become?” instead of “how much tedium can I take?”

Maybe more importantly than being “fun,” Sudoku remains absorbing. When my brain spins up too far, and I find myself stuck in those things I do when I’m in a liminal space, it’s a way to background the things that feel like distractions, soak up some excess cognitive capacity, and process the thing that is eating me at a level I can deal with while I give over some spare cycles to spotting a new pattern I’m still trying to internalize.

org-journal ๐Ÿ”—

I’ve had a daily journal practice going for a little while now, partially cribbed from a pre-made paper daily journal I tried out a few years ago. In its most recent form, the day starts with three prompts:

  • What’s today’s biggest challenge?
  • What are you happiest about?
  • What are you most nervous about?

… and it ends with three prompts:

  • What happened today?
  • What went well today?
  • What could you improve?

I include my morning and evening entries in my habit trackers so I can get a reminder, and I set up a template in DayOne to pre-fill the entry for the day.

I’ve been pretty good about sticking to it, but I noticed recently that it was not working on a few levels:

First, it has become perfunctory – a task to accomplish. When I tap back through past entries I didn’t have much of a sense of “me” in there because the entries were brief and suggestive of me just being very much in my own head and not doing much written thinking or processing.

Second, the questions have some issues. In particular, I noticed “what are you most nervous about” was putting me in a mindset where I had to cast about to think about something to be nervous about. That’s … that’s something to do when maybe you don’t have an amygdala. It took me some time to get around to understanding how much that question was infusing my thinking with the idea that I was “anxious.” Glad I did.

So I did the thing I do when something I do isn’t working for me and I made it a set of documents. It was a good excuse to try out org roam as a Zettelkasten replacement for Obsidian. The three nodes I made were:

  • Journaling: tools
  • Journaling: practices
  • Journaling: experiments

All of them link back to a “Purpose: Writing” node.

Then I put down some time on the schedule to write some notes about each, asking what I want to get out of the practice, what tools I have under consideration for continuing it (e.g. Obsidian, DayOne, assorted Emacs stuff), and which experiments I mean to run for how long to see what works.

I’ve just started a “use org-journal” experiment. I use the vanilla config from Doom, and I added a morning and evening entry template using yasnippet to keep the investment in automation light for now. The one minor disappointment I’m experiencing is how org-crypt works, which is entry-by-entry, and manually. Maybe there’s a different way to protect the content anyhow, but org-crypt seems to be the Doom-blessed approach, and I was hoping for something a bit more transparent. I’m also guessing there’s a way to make it more transparent at the cost of eating someone else’s elisp off the sidewalk.

Playing with tools is just sort of the fun part of it. It was immensely useful, once again, to sit down and write about why I even cared and wanted to do this, and when I sat down this morning to write my first entry of the day the renewed sense of purpose did as much as anything to make the entry more rich. I can imagine “me in ten years” getting something out of that entry, which is a vast improvement over the bulk of the past quarter’s worth of entries.

Migrating content from micro.blog ๐Ÿ”—

I downloaded the smaller set of archives from micro.blog this week and started seeing what it would take to move the content into place and start chipping away at a few generations of thinking about image hosting and markup. It’s all Hugo files, so that’s good, and the assorted idiosyncracies are all distinct enough from each other that there’s not a lot of “this regexp is going to wipe out something completely unrelated.”

A few useful tools in this process:

  • A Better Finder Rename is wonderful for traversing a directory and … renaming things. Being able to rename files three levels deep in a hierarchy based on their parent folders is pretty handy. I had a license years ago. It was worth the reup.
  • EasyFind is great for fast searches of files in a way that works better for me than how Spotlight operates, then makes them available for bulk operation. In this case, it helped in quickly segregating files by certain metadata and moving them off into subdirectories. Great value for no cost.
  • BBEdit is such a champ at bulk file processing. Having a visual regexp tool to pre-flight operations across a collection of files is great. Saving those operations is great. It’s fast, stable, and doesn’t blink when you toss thousands of text files at it.

I wanted to go at some of the migration challenges with scripting, but there seems to be a single Python lib that groks YAML frontmatter in Markdown, and that’s not one of my good languages, so I’d be hand-rolling something that I’d rather not. The three tools I listed above are all pretty capable and have the advantage of offering some sort of pre-flight feedback, sometimes with syntax highlighting, etc. I’ll take those shortcuts.

And wow is this all so much better than the stuff I used to make money dealing with: Legacy blogging systems with a database backend and a bizarre blend of “yes, there’s the body of the article right there in the body field, but where on earth is the title? I can see it on the front end but it does not exist in this db dump.” (A: The title was in a separate table from the content table – which was specific to the site – and that titles table covered every site under management by that CMS, and no they wouldn’t export that for my client when they left the service. I got super creative with the Bing API to reunite all the articles with their titles for that gig.)

Anyhow, that’s plenty for today and I need to get a run in. Ben’s home this week and we’re taking him out tonight. It is still sometimes strange to have become a person who lives in a home that a 19-year-old man comes home to now and then, and it was also strange to realize two hours into a conversation with him yesterday that he is just this person it is great to have a conversation with. But it’s strange in the most wonderful way.