Daily Notes for 2023-05-14

ยท 1758 words ยท 9 minute read

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 ๐Ÿ”—

This weekend Al and I went down to Eugene to see Ben and have a small getaway, with a trip to the movies, too. We saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and walked out of it feeling like we’d seen a good conclusion to the trilogy. I always appreciate a good trailer fakeout, and the one they did for this one was sort of a double head-fake, making you think you’d seen the high-stakes thing, then pulling that rug out from under in the first five minutes, then making the stakes high again.

It was a darker, more violent movie than the previous Guardians installments, maybe to raise the stakes high enough to make it all feel like a good sendoff. Parts of it are heart-rending. There’s a little Wizard of Oz stuff going on at the end I choose to give a pass, because James Gunn appears to be decamping from the MCU to go do DC stuff and I get the need to provide a little closure I’m not sure anyone was asking for.

I was a pretty big Howard the Duck fan as a grade schooler, so I’ve always appreciated the way Cosmic Marvel balances the, er, cosmic stakes with a little silliness. Guardians Vol. 3 keeps the silliness, pulls the stakes in a little, and manages more darkness than usual. It was an interesting balacing act that seemed to work.

We couldn’t go to a normal showing so we had to do a 3D show, and that didn’t do much for my opinion of 3D. Always seems like the screen is a little more dim and some detail is lost for not a ton of benefit. I’ll be happy to see it at home when it starts streaming.

Also, Portland movie-going audiences are, on balance, better than the Eugene one we dealt with. Lots more people in their phones, more chatter in the audience. The glare of the phones is worse than the chatter, which was at least sort of participatory and topical vs., like, random couple behind you is processing their relationship for 140 minutes (my Magnolia experience years ago). OTOH, it was Saturday night of the second week of the run. We tend to do the movies that matter to us at quiet matinees and don’t go to many weekend evening shows anymore, so maybe the crowds we’re used to are not going because it’s a social event.

Dug out my old org-mode config ๐Ÿ”—

Maybe seven or eight years ago I was working in a group that had an intense progeress reporting culture. I was entrenched in org-mode and had things set up such that I could make a status report out of my work.org file with a quick export. It was not a bad way to live: If I was just keeping track of the things my team was doing, my status report was pre-written on Friday morning.

I went digging around in the config I had set up from that period and it’s interesting how much weight I was putting on tags for my organization. I’ve got a ton of custom agenda views set up for people, teams, and contexts. Now that I look at it again, I guess I was still trying to do gtd in some form or another, because I can also see custom agenda views for NEXT items.

The emphasis on tags was also about the benefit of emergent organization. My custom agenda commands were really simple affairs, organized around a top-level “people, teams, contexts” scheme. So if I was walking into a 1:1 with, say, “Isaac,” I could invoke the agenda dispatcher and tap p i (“people” “isaac”) to get all our topics. In the context of my weekly status reports, which were director-level things, you could scan down all the work in flight in my group and see the people tags if you wanted to know who was on what.

Anyhow, by making simple configs, like this:

("g" .  "Groups")
  ("gd" "Docs" tags-todo "docs")
  ("gD" "DIO" tags-todo "DIO")
  ("gs" "Staff" tags-todo "staff")

… I could easily add new tags to the agenda dispatch as they came into prominence, or retire old ones.

This time around, I’ve got a lot more up-front organization. I guess I didn’t really know about categories back then, because I see no evidence I ever used them. Now, every file has a category, and most of the top-level headings in any of my files have a :CATEGORY: property. It makes the agenda view cleaner (category names, not file names) and it’s easy to quick-filter by category (tap s c to “filter on category at point”).

Part of what makes that work is also a growing hierarchy of org-capture templates. I was wondering why I didn’t do more with that back then until I found a bunch of config around org-remember. That was still the “get this thing out of your head” option when I first started using org-mode. I can see some generic org-capture stuff I pasted in, but it’s rudimentary and I am pretty sure I never really used it. Now, I have a variety of org-capture templates that target specific headings in my org-mode files. I tend to work in transient capture buffers, not within files.

With a more robust org-capture hierarchy, categorization of headings, more active use of the agenda, and increasing use of org-roam, I don’t spend much less time in my org-mode files this time around.

Once a week, given my current employment circumstances, I have to go through and read some log entries I capture. When I work on a daily post, I have a capture template to instantiate the entry, but I quickly move it to an indirect buffer. I’m writing this subheading in an indirect buffer that started from a “blog idea” capture template with an IDEA type, to make sure I can see all my blogging ideas in the agenda. When an idea doesn’t pan out to my liking but I invested time in it, I atomize it into org-roam with org-roam-extract-subtree and tag it. I need to rewrite some of my PRM functions to operate from the agenda, but I’d otherwise never actually touch my contacts.org file, either.

I guess what I’m getting at is that the trend feels more and more like atomization and abstraction toward the construction of a plaintext database, and less like “working on individual text files.”

Which I’m really happy about. You can do a ton to make org-mode files look nice and do some auto-formatting, but it’s easy to get hung up on everything lining up nicely instead of remembering it’s all just data that tends to be readable in its own context, even if it isn’t perfectly tidy in a wider context.

It’s the smarts I was talking about when I wrote about linking stuff in Things that org-mode running in Emacs gives you that doesn’t exist in the org syntax highlighters you get in other editors, and that apps like Ulysses get close to but can’t quite manage.

Fixing Doom’s busted leader key in mu4e ๐Ÿ”—

I am not using mu4e (much), and one of the reasons it was easy to set aside was some brokenness in the way its keybindings interact with Doom Emacs: The space key stopped being the normal Doom leader key and started being the scroll key. I tried to remap it using what I understood of Doom keymapping, but nothing doing. About three weeks ago I posted a question in the Doom Emacs subreddit and on the Doom Discourse, but the best I got was “yeah, upstream’s broken.”

Yesterday someone on the subreddit finally replied with a recipe:

(after! mu4e
  (evil-define-key* '(emacs) mu4e-main-mode-map (kbd "SPC") 'doom/leader)
  (evil-define-key* '(emacs) mu4e-headers-mode-map (kbd "SPC") 'doom/leader))

That syntax is … impossible … to me. But it works.

Picture taking. I’m not doing it much. ๐Ÿ”—

After months of constant photography, I just stopped taking pictures. I know my Fujifilm has a few dozen pictures sitting on the card, and I haven’t even taken pictures on the phone except to do things like grab a picture of a receipt or remember which floor of a parking garage I’m on.

I remember the morning Al and I were going to head out the door for a coffee walk and I grabbed the camera, then thought about the photos I hadn’t even processed still sitting on the card, and just put it down. I also remember taking it with me to Astoria and just not wanting to shoot anything: I left it in the hotel and maybe took a phone picture or two that I promptly forgot.

I go through periodic no-pictures phases. This one has lasted a while. Looking in Lightroom, this is the last picture I took that really mattered much to me, from February:

Monochrome. Two people cross a street at night during a snowstorm.

Late February snow storm

And in that picture is probably what passes for “the issue.” That was an interesting evening I was excited to get out into and shoot. The camera ended up being caked in snow and ice and it was a miserable experience to be out walking around in it.

Since then and up until the past week or so, it has mostly been “normal Portland late winter and early spring,” so, flat and kinda gray. We haven’t traveled at all.

But the other part of it is that I’ve been happy to let things be that way. The last time I went on a long hiatus from regular shooting I felt sort of weird and guilty about it. Like I was not being Mr. Picture Guy, and that meant something was wrong with me because I’m supposed to be Mr. Picture Guy.

This time around I thought about it after a few weeks of feeling weird about it and remembered something a writing professor once suggested to me about the times I wasn’t being Mr. Writing Guy, which is that it’s fine to go through periods where that sense of drive and need isn’t there, and that it’s even good to let a sense of pressure and drive build up a little before giving it voice.

This weekend I saw some things in Eugene that left me wishing I had a camera besides my phone handy. I paused and watched those scenes and thought about what I was missing … what I could be capturing … and felt a twinge of regret that I hadn’t grabbed a camera on the way out the door.

Nice to have that feeling.