Andrew White

2021 week 14 wrap up

We spent the Easter break enjoying that things have opened up a bit. We had drinks on a friend’s driveway. We went to two new National Trust sites. We found a forest park with a neat adventure playground for Ada. We’re still keeping things low-risk, even as shops open up, but it’s really nice to be able to do a bit more. And while I’m still anxious about it, I don’t have the conviction that it’s too early like I did last summer.

Work has continued busy over the past few weeks. It’s been challenging with having my daughter home over the break. Luckily my wife had last week off, and was happy to take point on getting signed into things, and pouring snacks into the bottomless pit that is a growing child. My income is designated as “fun money,” and supplements our travel savings. Since we haven’t been able to travel we have a reasonable chunk saved up. So my wife recommended that I take some of whatever I make this month, and put it to a road bike. I used to go out riding with some of the dads from my daughter’s school, but I have a big up-right commuter bike, and they all had road bikes. Even making allowances for my lower level of fitness, that bike was a real drag on the speed of the rides. I’m looking at the Triban RC 120. I’m just dipping a toe, and it looks like they have pretty good resale value judging by completed EBay auctions.

I signed up for Apple One this week. We had the largest iCloud storage plan, and were also paying for Prime Music as a secondary music source. I need Office 365 for work, and Michelle doesn’t actually store much online these days, so I downgraded our storage, cancelled Prime Music, and we came out even. Plus we now get Apple Arcade, TV, and News. I’m really keen to try a few well-reviewed iOS games: Sayonara Wild Hearts, Grindstone, Bleak Sword, and the recently-released Cozy Grove.

2021 week 12 wrap up

I’ve mentioned in the past that my MacBook is pretty crapped-up with all kinds of project dependencies and bits of software I’ve had to install for work. I’m still working-slowly-toward wiping and building it anew. Before I do that, I wanted to have a strategy for keeping this kind of thing from happening again (as far as I can). I am now doing a lot of my work on a VPS I set up. It’s been solid, and more seamless than I expected. I am using VS Code’s remote connection to do the editing and source control, and I’m impressed! There are two issues that I can’t sort: for some reason live reload stopped working, and I don’t know how to deploy directly from the VPS. Neither of these are show stoppers, but I’d like to sort them.

I discovered Family Guy is now on Disney+. I watched the last season while in the kitchen over the last week. It’s fun, and I’m not embarrased to be a 45-year-old who watches gross-out cartoons. I’ve also been skipping around through the Simpsons (always loved their Hallowe’en episodes), and have been struck at how tame it is compared to a lot of modern stuff.

Dorf Romantik dropped in early access last week. It’s a beautiful puzzle game. It’s a remarkably chill experience. There are no timers, no conflict, and the systems are discoverable, but not spoonfed to you. If you’re looking for a pleasant gaming distraction, I can’t recommend it enough. Still playing Fallout 76, and I’m really resisting finishing the quest line that involves me launching a nuke.

2021 week 11 wrap up

We finally wrapped up the MCU with Endgame this weekend. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been current with something pop cultural. Feeling a bit smug.

A change in medication last week had me exhausted, and in bed most nights before 10p. So no gaming or much reading beyond a bit of Animal Crossing. I’m still only so-so on ACNH after the initial few months. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of new stuff showing up in the shops, and every island I go to has the same fruit as our starter (the much-loathed pear). I’m also in the same situation as a lot of parents who share islands with their young kids. The place is covered in random objects. If we both get back into it, we may need to figure out a system for sharing.

Work is picking up again. My client’s client has a new agency who are looking to make their mark on a site we’ve been maintaining for about five or six years. I’m going to need to compartmentalize some of my stylesheets. We’re using a static site generator, so I guess I’ll just make a new layout with some additional body styles I can hang things off of.

2021 week ten wrap up

Had another crazy week last week, in which I wasn’t able to post an update.

The kids are back to school (and will have been for a week when this gets posted.) I’ll leave aside any conversation about how I feel about that related to the pandemic. It’s incredible how much time this frees up. It’s similarly incredible that freeing up five hours during the day doesn’t equate to the same degree rise in productivity. When my daughter was home she was in a special online school that my wife’s work put on. I didn’t need to be actively monitor her, and wasn’t involved in the instruction. What there was, though, was a lot of context switching. Helping her find materials, do crafts, explain something she wasn’t getting. It derailed me. I fully expected my productivity to shoot up when that was gone. It has increased, but not by huge amounts.

Last year I had been given a number of classes as gifts. Those classes didn’t happen. So I used the money to buy gifts in related areas. One of the things I got is an instant pot. I rarely cook in it. I haven’t found the killer recipe. What I have found, though, is that I’m making a lot more brown rice, since it’s dead easy, and always comes out great-to-perfect. I’m also using way more dried beans, since I don’t need to soak them overnight. I can buy brown rice in huge bags, and I buy my beans bulk, so I honestly think this thing will pay for itself in a couple of years. Yes, we eat that much rice and beans. (And I bought it 40% on Prime Day.)

We continue to work our way through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We are up to End Game. It’s long, so we’re going to do it in a Friday and Saturday evening. We just finished Wandavision, and it was excellent. If you’re starting it, and thinking of abandoning it at around episode two, push on. If you’re at about episode four, and you haven’t watched Captain Marvel yet, do so. Definitely, definitely do it before you finish the series.

I finished Ready, Player Two. It was fine. It felt like it was written with a mind to the movie (which is apparently happening). There were also some interesting characters and ideas that were introduced, and then barely mentioned again, if at all. The pacing is inconsistent. It’s a light read, but it is a fun one.

On the game front, still plodding away at Fallout 76. Ditched the main questline for an ally quest, which was more fun for a while. I may hang up the power armour until next month’s quality of life updates drop.

Stay safe out there as things open up, folks!

2021 week eight wrap up

Sorry, no update last week. A surprise flurry of activity in all aspects of my life took me a bit by surprise.

On the media front last week, things continued much the same as before. Fallout 76, Wandavision, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Ready Player Two. I signed up for Nintendo Online this week, which I’m hoping will breathe a little more life into Animal Crossing for my daughter and I. I’m also hoping to get her connected up with some of her friends who have Switches. I also got Valheim, since it seems like for once the hype game aligns with my interests. Haven’t played yet. Might tonight.

I’m really frustrated with my Mac right now. It’s slow, unstable, and burns battery like mad. Granted half the time that’s because I forget to shut down a development server, but I feel like I shouldn’t have to be so careful about that. I also hate how the Mac OS really doesn’t work like a multiuser OS. No modern operating systems do. They always expect there’s one account that’s the one that will be installing all the software, running all the updates, etc. It’s nuts to think that much of my university computing was done on a minicomputer that handled the whole of the student body, but I can’t successfully run three different log ins without having issues.

My daughter’s school is in full-on senioritis mode. It’s all quizes, videos, and dancing this week. That’s fine by me. They’ve been working hard. It’s going to be nice having her back in school, but I’m also really going to miss her. She did a little drawing today of Homer Simpson (apparently it’s doughnut day), and it came out great!

Tried a Voi scooter today. A friend who gets free time because he works for the NHS let me give it a spin. I liked it more than I wanted to.

2021 week six wrap up

We continued our excursion through the MCU this week with Ant Man and the Wasp. It was pretty good, but it felt like there was a gap in the narrative. The amount of handwaving over what happened between Civil War and the beginning of this film seemed excessive. Only three movies left, and we’re caught up. I heard an interview on BBC Radio 2 a little while ago in which the interviewee mentioned she and her partner also set about getting up-to-date with the Marvel movies, and another family from my daughter’s school are doing the same. Seems to be the thing to do for us olds with youngs. I would also just like to say: Randal Park is great at playing Woo. Obviously competent, but totally socially awkward. An honestly stand-up guy (the character; I know nothing about Park). I feel just the right amount of cringe watching him do his thing.

Running has been a flop. Totally petered out. I have a hard time getting up in the morning since I’m also having a hard time getting to sleep. So I made a compromise with myself. I get up just a bit before my daughter does, and I go for a walk. I’ve also cut my step goal in half, but I have to meet it. If it’s 10pm and raining, but I haven’t hit my goal, doesn’t matter. Out I go.

Still playing Fallout: 76. Still feeling like the main quest lines are getting repetitive. Especially the Brotherhood of Steel stuff that has me schlepping back and forth from their base to Crater. Fortunately I built my camp not far from the Brotherhood base even before the Brotherhood showed up, so at least I could fast travel. I also played a bit of A Short Hike last night. It’s a simple puzzler/3D platformer that seems to be a lot more about the journey than the story or the challenge. It’s absolutely charming, and I had a really hard time staying on task. It was a lot more fun just to wander and glide.

I began Ready Player Two this week (again). Not deep enough to render a verdict, but it kind of reads like fan fic of the first book. There’s just enough of a compelling sense of impending doom to keep me interested.

Lent is ccoming up. We’re giving up bread on fast days. Doesn’t sound like much, but that’s our “can’t be bothered” meal. Toast and beans or sandwiches. It will require us to think about our meals, which has obvious spiritual benefits.

Lockdown sucks (but it’s necessary.) That’s all for now.

2021 week five wrap up

Motivated by a promotion in Red Dead Online, I finally installed it and did the tutorial missions. It’s an incredible game, and I’m definitely going to spend more time on it (although probably just on the single player campaign). The scenery and weather effects are beautiful, even on my less-than-beefy PC. I’m still playing Fallout 76, but getting more and more frustrated by the back-and-forthing. I also somehow got myself into the Raider story arc without even intending to. I had planned to go Settler, but at least the raiders of FO76 aren’t yet the mindless killers of latter Fallout games.

We finished the end of the first season of Wandavision last night. Having not got caught up in the MCU we experienced some spoilers. But it’s a fantastic, kind of creepy show that’s a bit different from a lot of the other stuff Marvel have put out. I am happy to admit that every guess I’ve made about what’s going to happen has been wrong. We also watched Infinity War, and it was really good. Thanos is a pretty unique villain. He is, in his own mind, actually doing good. So much so that his torturing of Nebula both in the past and in this film seem out-of-character. The film had an emotional punch.

I discovered that a bunch of the Lone Wolf game books have been released for free. They work with a program the company provides that can track your character stats and has a random number generator. They can also be read on their own. If you haven’t played a game book, it’s a single-player pen and paper roleplaying game. Like a choose your own adventure, but with combat and dice checks.

We have a few National Trust sites near our house, and they’re remaining open during the lockdown. We hadn’t gone, but we finally decided to go yesterday. We figured the wintery weather would keep the place from being too busy, and we were right. We had a nice long tramp through the countryside, and a picnic in the car which my daughter thought was the best thing ever. It was great to get out. I miss “out”.

2021 week four wrap up

I’ve been spending more time with Tap Forms. It’s a nice, simple database app that reminds me of the cardfile-type applications that were such a key part of early home computing. I was looking for a simple app to track something, and realized literally all I needed was input masking and CRUD. And I further realized that really, that’s all most apps provide. If you get one solid, easy-to-use personal database tool, you probably won’t need to go anywhere else for many things.

I’ve decided to quit fighting my lockdown sleep nonsense, and just try and gently mold it. So I’m going to quit setting an alarm for early in the morning, and just accept I’m not getting up until 7-7:30a, since I’m not actually getting to sleep until around midnight most nights. Maybe once I get that under control, I can work on moving my wake-up time.

2021 Week 3 wrap up

Got on a bit of a movie kick this week. Watched Suicide Squad, Black Panther, and the Maze Runner. I quite enjoyed them all. I do not have sophisticated tastes. Black Panther

My daughter is back in online schooling provided by my wife’s employer. It makes such a huge difference. Honestly, kids can’t learn from a five minute video and a Google Forms quiz. I feel for the schools and the teachers, but tthey still weren’t ready for this lockdown.

I’m still having fun in Fallout 76, but it’s tapering off a bit. Life is getting better now that I have an ammo converter, but I still spend way too much time fighting with my inventory. I think if I sign in tonight I’m going to just spend some time building out my camp, tidy it up a bit, and do some serious inventory management. I have my survival tent left near Watoga, which has two vendors who usually have their full allotment of caps, so I can sell lots of stuff. Feels odd to be planning MMO chores.

2021 Week 2 wrap up

Finished Take Control of Managing your Files. My initial impression was correct: there weren’t a lot of new ideas to me, and it lacked a lot of actionable information. I felt like the authore spent a lot of time hawking other Take Control books. Still, it got me thinking about my organization. Might be time for a blog post on my strategy.

I’ve been playing lots of (too much) Fallout: 76. It’s fun, and it’s got a pretty good player community. Higher level players frequently help out lower level with equiment and cash. I like to keep a few nice, crafted level five weapons and armour pieces on me when I’m near the starting area. The game is generally really good, but the main quests tend to be a bit too drawn out, and require a lot of traipsing back and forth across large bits of the map. The bit of the Brotherhood of Steel questline that has you visit the DMV (American vehicle licensing authority) is a joke that goes on way past when it stops being amusing. If you play, I’d love to hear from you!

When Panic’s IDE Nova came out, I was keen to give it a shot. At the time, though, I didn’t have a tonne of web development work, so I decided to wait until things picked up. By the time I got it they’d released a few major updates. I like it, it’s fast, and it’s a lot easier to tweak than VS Code. I did end up licensing it. But I’m not sure if it’s worth the additional cost to me. I have some work coming up this week, and I’ll make a point of doing it all in Nova (including the minor edits I usually just do in vim).

Made some good food this week. This crispy tofu was a hit with the family, and I’m probably going to make it again tonight. Made a huge batch of Lentil Bolognese soup. And we ordered from a new restaurant this week, Pakeel. The food was fantastic. The veggies tasted really fresh. Be forwarned: when they say hot, they mean it.

2021 Week 1 wrap up

I turned 45. The theme for this year is: a little bit better. A bit less junk food and booze. A bit more sleep. A bit more exercise. More reading, less time spent browsing internet nonsense. More time spent with hobbies, and family. A bit less time spent with low-quality entertainment.

Every year I grab the contents of my sent mail, and my three main inboxes, and my archive folder, and I stuff them into a dated folder in something I call “Cold Storage”. I then start the year with an empty inbox. It feels great. So far I hit Inbox Zero every day.

My computer has started to really act up. I’ve been bringing the same install along for maybe close to a decade between OS upgrades and a couple of hardware changes. I know people for whom this kind of thing works, but it looks like I’ve hit the cruft limit. Once I get my current batch of volunteer and freelance work done, and my taxes in, it’s time for a wipe.

Related, I’ve been reading Take Control of Managing your Files. It hasn’t been particularly ground-breaking so far, but it is helping me to figure out what’s working, and what isn’t, in my filing system. I’m taking a bit of time each day to move things around, and I’m already noticing an improvement.

My daughter and I are getting back into Animal Crossing. For her it was all the fall and winter events she’d heard about somehow (probably commercials). For me it was finally getting an espresso machine, because I really want to turn my main room into an outdoor café.

Currently reading: Take Control of Managing your Files by Jeff Carlson 📚

January 1st is not magic

I want to make some changes in my life. I’ve hinted at them in past posts, and I’ve made some progress, but this past year has made me realize I need to get real. I was thinking about upcoming New Years and my big-in-that-it’s-a-multiple-of-five birthday, and thinking about starting things off then. But honestly? There’s nothing really that special about either of those days. It makes a lot more sense to just start. And then, when I inevitably fall off the wagon, start again.

The thing that really pisses me off about Google ending free storage for photos is that there used to be a tonne of great products in that space, but they were all paid. Then Google came in, crushed them with “free”. Now we have less choice, and Google start charging.

…I can’t shake the feeling today that I’m living in a society in collapse.

Edited to add: Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse

I had a conversation today in which we figured out that on a daily basis I use Apple hardware built in:

  • 2010 (an old 15” MacBook Pro that my daughter uses for homework)
  • 2012 (an iPad Mini that I use for recipes and videos while cooking)
  • 2016 (an iPhone SE that’s primarily my daughter’s, but we also use for feeding the Chromecast)

I also have a BlackBook that I’ve mentioned before that’s still in occasional use. The only other hardware I have that’s around that old and in regular use is my Synology DS213j that dates back to 2014. My phone is three years old, and I’m not in a rush to replace it.

I have a few take-aways. Apple stuff lasts, and I believe it’s worth the premium. We don’t need to upgrade as often as we do. And it’s imperative that we support right-to-repair laws. Computers should be able to last this long.

I redid my Raspberry Pi 4 (1GB) with a full desktop today to see what the experience was like. It was really good. I could definitely see the 8GB version working for a lot of people as a full-time computing device. Sticking VNC and xrdp on it, I was able to use the desktop reasonably well remotely as well, which opens up some interesting possibilities.

Humble Bundle have released a bundle of games in which you can pet the dog.

Bullet-list musings on our cyberpunk dystopia

  • We’re all masked up
  • We are in the midst of a pandemic, and an accelerating climate catastrophe
  • People are setting video of our world to the soundtracks of Blade Runner movies, and it really works
  • Corporations are approaching governments in power and influence
  • Corporations are also becoming more concentrated through M&A, and it’s getting harder for new entrants to the market to challenge them. This is particularly true in technology
  • We all walk around with portable computing devices that have more oomph than all the computers that existed in the world together until very recently
  • Heck, that’s also true of many of our watches
  • Inequality is accelerating, and all of the gains we have made in productivity lately are more and more concentrated
  • The super-rich are getting ready to bail on us, and ride this whole thing out in mega resorts, or maybe even orbit
  • Yesterday my bank stored my conversation with them in order to create a voice print for security reasons

In my continuing and totally unnecessary quest to find some new notetaking system to which to move, I’ve been playing a bit with encoding images in markdown files using data URIs. I don’t think that’s going to work. Even though in theory HTML is valid within a markdown document a surprising number of markdown parsers don’t seem to like it. And just providing a data URI in the usual markdown image link hasn’t worked for me yet.

Love it.

The quantified self, but not really

I’m not a big quantified self type. Some of the things I’ve seen people track have exhausted me just reading about it. But I do track a few things using really simple systems, and I’ve had some genuinely life-changing insights from it. The big ones have been:

  • I am significantly happier on days where I have a balance of getting things done and quality down-time
  • I am similarly happier on days where I have a good balance of family time and personal time. Time with friends moves the needle as well, but not as much
  • Drinking alcohol
    • makes me irritable the next day after drinking it once I’m over a couple of drinks
    • really dramatically increases my anxiety. Even small amounts have some impact
  • I run and walk slower when I listen to podcast and audiobooks than I do when listening to music or nothing
  • When I switch from one type of generic drug to another (the NHS doesn’t always provide the same manufacturer’s drug) I have mild symptoms like the ones I experience starting the drug
  • I used to take walks through a local nature reserve along the river to a nearby pub. I’d sit, have a pint or tea, read a book, and then walk back. Weeks when I included that activity I was much happier and had more energy at the end of the week
  • My blood pressure and resting heart rate are more variable than I expected, and are affected by exercise (and I believe time outdoors), caffeine, alcohol, and preprepared food
  • I can avoid that desperate need to use a washroom that many runners have by getting up about 20 minutes before my run and letting nature take its course in advance
  • On vacation
    • I enjoy myself more when I continue to exercise as I would at home
    • I sleep on average one-and-three-quarters-hours longer than “normal” for a total of around eight hours
    • I lose weight despite eating more restaurant food because
    • I am very active
    • I don’t snack out of boredom, stress, or other negative states of mind

All I use for my tracking are my Withings watch, a Wahoo heart-rate monitor, a Eufy scale, and forms I put together first on Google Docs, and then in Tap Forms, the nearest equivalent to Access for Mac users. I generally start with a hypothesis, and then design a form to track and test. It’s all much simpler than it sounds, and it’s really improved my quality of life.

Edit: Forgot about Moodnotes and Day One.

It’s surprising to me how little friction is required to get me to change behaviour. In order to play a game in my gaming PC, I need to swap two cables. This, combined with the expectation of having to deal with some update, is often enough to get me to say “oh, I can’t be bothered” when I know I’ll only have half-an-hour of game time. Takeaway: I need to learn to use that friction to push me in good directions!

Alright! Back in the land of reliable wifi, post-vacation insanity is over. I’m going to get back on to daily postings. Haven’t decided how I’m going to handle the days I’ve missed. The options are: just saying “I blew it, but I’m going to post every day until the original 100 days are up,” or extending the project by the roughly two weeks I was unable. I’m leaning towards the later.

So that this post has some actual value: Black Panther comics are free right now on Comixology.

Having a very hard time meeting my post-a-day goals. Unfortunately I have very limited connectivity where I am. Having a lovely vacation, though, so it’s hard to be too fussed!