Andrew White

Back to imapfilter again

All this discussion of hey.com got me thinking about email filtering again. So I have reinstalled imapfilter. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a command line program that uses a lua script for a config, and lets you run complex rules against your mail. I’ve run it previously, and had a pretty complex filter set which you can see in my github dot files repository. Right now all I’m doing is filtering VIPs and newsletters. I may share more about my approach later. If you find you mail clients rules to be a bit limiting, and you’re not averse to some scripting, imapfilter is a great tool. It is in all package managers.

A kitchen gadget recommendation

Kitchen gadget recommendation: Lavazza Milk Easy. We got one when the frothing wand on our ancient, handed down Nespresso machine stopped working. It’s fantastic. Does hot and cold frothing, or heats milk up. Toss some instant espresso in there with your milk, and run it cold for a nice summer drink. Stick some turmeric and sugar in to do a dirty golden latte. Oatly Barista oat milk works perfectly in it.

(Sorry, I wrote this yesterday, but just published today. Does it still count for posting every day?)

Cal Newport on finding purpose

I’ve been listening to Deep Questions with Cal Newport. While I think I prefer his written works, he addresses some really great questions. One was on finding a purpose in life. Newport mentioned something that I really agree with: that the whole idea of “passion” being your way to meaning is recent, unhelpful, and pretty wrong-headed in all but a very few circumstances. Instead he puts forward the myth of Odysseus as a better model. In short: overcome the adversity you are facing, then get your house in order, then get down to the hard work in front of you. This combines nicely with another point he makes in the same episode about a craftsman mindset. This mindset is about doing the work in front of you well, whatever it is. Both of these discussions occured in the very first episode; go have a listen.

(Apologies for the links to the iTunes listing. I can’t find any other page for the podcast.)

Went into town for the first time since things really started to reopen. While the sense of normalcy was pleasant, it also felt unfounded. We’re not out of the woods yet. And the lack of masks or interest in following one direction rules does not fill me with confidence.

Down the `gemini` rabbit hole

Project Gemini has been around–and I’ve been aware of it–for most of a year. It’s really picked up momentum lately, as evidenced by the number of servers and regularly updated content out there. If you’re not familiar with gemini, it’s a lot like gopher. Textual information, organised primarily hierarchically. The big differences between gemini and gopher is that gemini mixes indexes and text, and offers more fluid text. Overall the feel is very early–web, right down to how the few gui clients out there sort of reminding me of Cello. It’s also very much of a type with the tildeverse.

If you have the time, and a fond memory of the early “web surfing” days, I recommend getting into gemini. There’s some great writing, and neat toys on there. It’s also a chance to see a new protocol being fleshed out in the open, and the implementation is simple enough that most people even slightly techie can get what’s going on.

If you’re on a Mac, and have brew installed, bombadillo is a great tui client. I’m sure it’s in other package managers as well. There are also two great proxies for viewing gemini content in the browser:

  • https://proxy.vulpes.one/ - very app–like, but a bit hard to read for font choice and contrast
  • https://portal.mozz.us/ - a bit uglier, but probably closer to what the Project Gemini folks envisioned (for example, it uses browser default colours and fonts, which you can change yourself in settings).

100 days of microblogging

I haven’t been writing enough. We’re coming out the other end of a historic event (the novel coronavirus, and COVID-19, if someone is reading from the future), and I haven’t written a blog post anywhere. I’ve managed maybe two journal entries a day. So: I’m pledging to write something–_anything_–on here every day until the 14th of October. 100 days. Today I’m just getting this out here, and spending a bit of time getting familiarized with micro.blog and tools as they stand now. I make absolutely no promises as to what you’re going to get; only that you’re getting 100 days of it.

See you tomorrow!

So how’s everyone doing? You all okay? We’re doing alright over here.

Why _should_ cyberpunk move on?

I’ve been reading all kinds of “why can’t cyberpunk move on” articles lately, most famous of which is likely this Slate article. The general complaint is that cyberpunk foretold our present to some extent: dramatic wealth inequality, rule by corporations, and the pervasiveness of technology and connectivity to the detriment of community and personal interactions. What cyberpunk isn’t offering is some kind of solution to this problem. Most cyberpunk fiction is classic noir fiction; big heists and hardboiled detective work. At the end of the piece of fiction the crook gets away with it, or the crime is solved. Even in works that deal with potentially world-changing events like Metrophage, the narrative focuses on the impact on the main character.

This is true, but I don’t beleive that it’s a valid complaint. Or at least, it’s not a real indictment of the genre. We have psychological thrillers, police procedurals, romcoms, space operas. Are they required to fix sociopaths, end crime, ensure we all have fulfilling relationships, or are headed for post-scarcity tech utopias? Genre fiction doesn’t need to focus on fixing things. It is perfectly fine for it to be fun to read.

I will say one thing in cyberpunk’s defence: A long time ago I read a book that took place in a future where no one owned anything, and had to essentially rent everything they owned from the company store. It meant that anyone middle class or below was unable to change jobs, quit, retire, or vacation. They worked themselves to death, or they became destitute. Even as a kid, that future seemed plausible to me. It changed the way I think about material goods, and what we can give up for a life of luxury. Cyberpunk has the potential to wake us up to some of the worst excesses of our current society.

Depth year cont’d

Finances

The problem

Moving to England, and keeping our house in Toronto, we knew things were going to be a bit challenging. We researched the cost of living in Cambridge hard. I’m pleased with how close we came to what our actual ended up being. A few things we were low on (travel), and one pretty significant expense we missed entirely: activities for our daughter during school breaks. But those aren’t the things I’m worried about. What bugs me is the steady drip-drip of money from our accounts.

The solution

  • Make plans: purchase plans, meal plans, plans for larger and irregular purchases. This gives me some upfront control over spending
  • Track expenses. I was writing down all our expenses when we first moved, but the costs were so chaotic and atypical that couldn’t see the point. Now I’m going to enter all expenses into Banktivity at the end of every day. Canadian housing income and expenses will continue to go into a spreadsheet that I update weekly

Health

The problem

I have a health issue that requires some ongoing attention. There are also lots of things I can do personally to improve my situation. Thing is, my health problem doesn’t really have an impact on my day to day, so it’s easy to ignore. While I broadly follow healthy practices, I could absolutely do better. Mostly I need to lose weight and exercise more. My health focus is really about accepting that I’m middle-aged, now, and should be thinking about ways to get older better.

The solution

  • Track my weight, and what I eat in LoseIt
  • Get back into running, and add some basic strength training
  • During the week no eating between 7pm and 10am
  • No alcohol, treats, or snack food during the week

I’m actually already doing these things, and I’m seeing a benefit. I’m on track to be under 190lbs by the time we go visit family in Canada for Christmas, which will represent a 15lbs loss over the year.

Focus

The problem

Issues with focus seems to be a dominating part of the “modern condition”. We (I) feel it on two levels. There is the micro level, which is also situational, where we find it easy to get pulled out of what we’re doing. There is a fear we’re training our brains to be more distractible. And there is the macro level, at which there is so much to do, and we have an historically unprecedented range of things we can do, that it becomes difficult to pick just one thing. In my case I have bookshelves with unread how-to books, a Projects folder littered with partly completed apps or websites, bursting drafts folders, and aspirational purchases like Arduinos, a used MIDI controller, and shelves of barely-touched board and roleplaying games.

The solution

  • Limit inputs: unsubscribe from things that aren’t adding value. Stop making impulse purchases. I’ve already mentioned these, but: set up Freedom for site blocking; unfollowing blogs, people on social media, and newsletters
  • Stop saving things to read later (just in case). Someone described a system for using Pocket in which they had a planned chunk of time during the day or the week in which they read through their reading list. If it didn’t get read in that time, it was deleted. I’m going to look into implementing a system like that. I’m also going to see if I can get my Pocket stuff on an ebook reader
  • Read books, not blogs or articles
  • Pick a thing to do each month, and focus on that one project. September’s project is setting up the infrastructure for this depth year. In October, I’m going to get back into fantasy computer programming like PICO-8, TIC-80, PixelVision 8, and the various Zachtronics machines

A depth (school) year

I have recently become frustrated with a lot of things: the internet, how I spend my downtime, clutter, finances, a lackadaisical approach to my health, a lack of focus. I’ve decided that I need to do a bit of a reset. In part, this will amount to a depth year (or depth academic year, in my case, as I’ve started it along with my daughter’s school year). I’m also looking to start some new, positive habits. I thought I’d break things down here; you can see my professional intentions over on my other site.

Downtime

The problem

Basically I fritter it away. I spend too much time on skimming tech news, political hate clicks, vapid and repetitive self-help articles (hello, Medium!), puttering around the house, and other things that feel like doing something of value. They are of little-to-no value. I truly believe that time might be better spent reading light fiction, playing a game, or watching movies. These things are not stressful, as the web so often is, and can be restorative.

The solution

  • I thought about blocking stuff online with a hosts file or proxy like pi-hole, but these are too fiddly, and not great for phones. So I got a year of Freedom
  • I am always going to have a book or a comic on the go, and I am always going to have them on me. I was just loaned an old Kindle, and I have a Kobo, so this should make things simple. I’m also going to start gaming on my phone again. Always have a good alternative to the noise
  • I am unsubscribing from stuff like crazy, although I’m tracking what I’m unsubscribing in case I really miss. I am also unfollowing people on Twitter, because there’s actually value on that site if you ruthlessly edit

Clutter

The problem

We made a big transit-Atlantic move at the beginning of the year. We sold or got rid of a tonne of stuff, and left quite a few things behind (because we totally did not understand how much we actually could have fit in our shipping container). We had to do a bit of rebuying to fill in some blanks. Once you get into the acquisitive headspace, it becomes self-perpetuating, and the solution to any problem becomes “find a thing on Amazon that does it. Digital clutter is also an issue. I have more books, games, apps, comics, albums, subscriptions, domain names, than I can make use of in the next decade.

The solution

  • Unsubscribing helps, here. If I don’t see the ads, then I won’t be tempted. This is mostly about software and game bundles
  • Anything physical I need to buy goes into a spreadsheet, and I revisit it after two weeks to see if I still need it
  • I’m going to keep working on moving stuff out of the house (in addition to not bringing things we need, we brought stuff we didn’t. Oxfam and the Sally Ann have received many a box/bag)

I’ll address more stuff in a forthcoming post.







Detail from the projection.

Camera obscura on my bedroom wall this morning!

They should make this into a t-shirt.






Beautiful light/kinetic sculpture inside the bike lock up (of all places) near Cambridge station.