March 24, 2021

Some updates to my wiki - backlinks mostly

I’ve made a few changes to the way my wiki (RudimentaryLathe.wiki) does things.

I’ve gone back to only showing Daily Notes” on the home page (aka Story river”). This makes it feel a little more blog-like, which evidently is what I’m going for. On each Daily Note, I show a list of other content I added that day. To do this, I create a new tiddler, tag it with $:/tags/ViewTemplate and put the following as the content:

<$list filter="[all[current]tag[Daily Note]]" variable=ignore>

!!! Also on <$view field="created" format="date" template="DDth MMM YYYY"/>:

<<list-links filter:"[sameday:created{!!created}!is[system]!tag[Daily Note]]" emptyMessage:"Nothing yet.">
</$list>>

This finds all tiddlers with the same created day as the current one, and lists them (only if at least one is found).

The other significant change is that I’ve replaced the backlinks footer with one that does a little more. It started with a view template from bimlas, which was announced here: https://groups.google.com/g/tiddlywiki/c/XLpt1Uz_qAY. This is a bit more experimental, but interesting. The ViewTemplate does some text searching and finds two sets of results. The first is a list of tiddlers that contain the title of the current tiddler. The second searches for tiddlers whose content matches the title of the current tiddler and sorts by number of occurrences.

This is almost the same thing as showing backlinks, but combines mentions and explicit link based on occurrences. It shows the top 10.

The new footer on rudimentarylathe.wikiThe new footer on rudimentarylathe.wiki

And this one looks like this:

\define compare-by-number-of-matches() [list[!!text]regexp<currentTiddlerAsWords>count[]]
\define compare-by-length() [length[]]

<$list filter="[all[current]!tag[Daily Note]]" variable=ignore>
<$vars limit="10">
<$set name=currentTiddlerAsWords filter="[<currentTiddler>search-replace[ ],[|]addsuffix[(?i)]]">
<div style="display: flex">
<div style="padding-right: 1em">

  <u>Similar titles</u>

  <$list filter="[!is[system]!is[draft]search:title<currentTiddler>sortsub:number<compare-by-length>limit<limit>] -[<currentTiddler>]"/>

</div>
<div>

  <u>Mentions this</u>

  <$list filter="[!is[system]!is[draft]search<currentTiddler>!sortsub:number<compare-by-number-of-matches>limit<limit>] -[<currentTiddler>]"/>

</div>
</div>
</$set>
</$vars>
</$list>

This seems nice. Have I mentioned that TiddlyWiki is just wonderful for customizing like this. It’s nearly as introspective as Emacs. All of the above code” is just content in tiddlers same as any other content in the document.

Meta TiddlyWiki
March 10, 2021

Doom Emacs from scratch

NOTE: This post was first published on copingmechanism.com but I think it makes more sense here.

A week ago I decided to cancel Doom Emacs and go back to building Emacs from Scratch, and once again I was reminded what a terrible idea that is.

Seriously, stock Emacs, even with a leg up from Nano Emacs, gets so many things wrong” that I could spend the rest of my life fixing things and still wanting more. I thought building from scratch would help me avoid Configuration Fatigue. Wow, was I wrong.

So, back to Doom. I started from scratch with the usual…

git clone --depth 1 https://github.com/hlissner/doom-emacs ~/.emacs.d
~/.emacs.d/bin/doom install

Then I edited init.el and enabled just a few non-stock things. Zen” mode, org-journal, and pandoc-mode. Otherwise, it’s right out of the box.

I copied the gotta-haves from my original config.el. Most of these are around file paths, Org mode, and LaTeX. Plus a few of my favorite key bindings. Otherwise, I left it alone. So far.

Doom Emacs is simply too good to pass up. It handles all of the little behavioral and visual tweaks that would otherwise take forever to learn about and modify on my own. Half of the things it does for me I just expect to be part of Emacs, and am surprised when I find they’re not.

I’m still using the default Doom theme, which isn’t my favorite, but I’m trying to resist farting around with that for at least a couple of days while I get settled back in.

Doom EmacsDoom Emacs

March 6, 2021

Book logging in plain text

Of all the ways I’ve logged books, I’m thinking that plain text remains the best. I’ve been adding books to a text (Markdown) file for while now and it’s not pretty, but it works. And it will always work.

I publish a copy at https://www.baty.net/books.

Like I said, it ain’t pretty. On the other hand, I use it regularly by simply running little searches. If I want to know how many books are read in 2020, it’s just grep 2020- books.md | wc -l and I get 14. To see the actual books, it’s even easier: grep 2020- books.md which gives me this:

  1. A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes (2020-01-05) | ★★★★
  2. How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell (2020-02-05) | ★★
  3. The Instructions by Adam Levin (2020-02-15) | ★★★★
  4. The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts (2020-03-06) | ★★
  5. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (2020-03-09) | ★
  6. Recursion by Black Crouch (2020-04-05) | ★★★
  7. Devoted by Dean Koontz (2020-04-23) | ★★★
  8. The Soul of an Entrepreneur by David Sax (2020-05-04) | ★★★
  9. Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore (2020-06-09) | ★★★
  10. Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5) by Martha Wells (2020-06-24) | ★★★★
  11. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (2020-07-19) | ★★★★
  12. The Permanent Portfolio by Craig Rowland (2020-07-22) | ★★★
  13. More Effective Agile by Steve McConnell (2020-10-10) | ★★★
  14. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits (Zoey Ashe, #1) by David Wong (2020-12-27) | ★★★★

Or, how many books have I read by Christopher Moore? grep 'Christopher Moore' books.md:

  1. Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore (1999-01-01)
  2. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore (1999-01-01)
  3. The Griff: A Graphic Novel by Christopher Moore (1999-01-01)
  4. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (2008-12-24)
  5. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore (2009-03-12)
  6. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (2010-12-28)
  7. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore (2010-12-28)
  8. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore (2011-01-01)
  9. Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore (2015-11-12)
  10. Noir by Christopher Moore (2018-05-15)
  11. Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore (2020-06-09) | ★★★

It’s not perfect, and leaves out any kind of social discovery, so I also enter books in both GoodReads and StoryGraph, which honestly only takes a few minutes per book so it’s hardly a burden.

I love that my plain text book log is so lightweight and simple.

Books Plaintext
March 5, 2021

How simple can it get?

I’m so tempted to make another attempt at living in a Web Browser, Emacs, and the Filesystem. I’ve failed before, but I keep thinking about this quote from Thomas Paine…

…the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered; and the easier repaired when disordered

What I’m unsure of is whether anything involving Emacs can ever be simple”.

Workflow Emacs
March 5, 2021

No one to replace the fish

There’s a scene in Lexicon by Max Barry in which Emily is sitting in a waiting room watching a single fish swimming in the upper half of a tank shaped like a large hourglass. The water drips slowly into the bottom half. Emily assumes that the whole mechanism will automatically pivot at some point and then the fish will be swimming in the bottom half. And so on, indefinitely. She figures it’s some sort of art piece. Looking more closely, she realizes that there is no mechanism for allowing the tank to pivot and that someone must just come in and replace the dead fish each day.

I can’t get this out of my head. The tank is not so much an artistic statement as a metaphor for life. It doesn’t pivot when the water runs out. And there’s no one to replace the fish.

Life
March 2, 2021

Emacs from Scratch…again

Occasionally, maybe two or three times a year, I become determined to move away from Emacs. I swear that I’m sick of Configuration Fatigue and I’m done for good this time!

It never sticks. I don’t enjoy editing anything without proper Vim bindings and I’m not interested in going back to Vim. I don’t enjoy writing in VS Code. I also love Org Mode so much it hurts. So, Emacs with Evil Mode it is!

When I want a complete, wildly complex, kitchen-sink-included Emacs setup that’s managed for me, I rely on Doom Emacs. Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m fighting with Doom as much as relying on it. It’s always being updated, which is great, but it means that things are always changing. I feel like I don’t understand it and that I’m not in control. Isn’t Emacs all about being in control?

So, for maybe the 6th time, I’m going to build my configuration from scratch.

OK, not exactly from scratch. I’m bringing in the best bits from Nano Emacs, a nice-looking basic configuration that isn’t looking to be a framework”. For the moment I’m including the desired individual nano emacs files as-is. I’ll probably live with it for a while and move the theming bits over by hand and basically fork it for myself.

The other change I’m making is letting Emacs be Emacs by installing packages using package-install and also using the built in Customizer UI when I can. Maybe if I stay away from fancy it’ll stick this time.

Here’s what this post looks like in Emacs…

Nano Emacs screenshotNano Emacs screenshot

I started a brand new repo to keep track of it all, too.

emacs
February 26, 2021

Onivim 2 - a new (to me) modal editor

I’m pretty sure I’ve tried every text editor that exists in the world. Whenever I learn about a new one, I can’t not try it. Today, that means Onivim.

Onivim 2 is a retro-futuristic modal editor - the next iteration of the Onivim project - combining Vim-style modal editing with the aesthetics and language features of modern editors.

Color me intrigued! All I want in this world is a modal editor that is pretty, easy to use, and comes with sane defaults. Oh, and I’d like it to be meant for prose rather than code. Onivim hits two or three of those.

Onivim screenshotOnivim screenshot

The deal-breaker for me may be that I’m not looking for a code editor, and Onivim is very definitely a code editor. Still, it’s good to see projects like this. Anything that can keep me out of VS Code is worth a look.

Editor
February 23, 2021

Configuration Fatigue

Why am I so tired? I think it’s from spending so much time and energy configuring things.

I spent 2 hours yesterday trying some new visual config changes to Emacs for no good reason. Because micro-managing font faces is important! I’m not even supposed to be using Emacs, for crying out loud.

Then I farted with my TiddlyWiki for a while because I couldn’t decide if I wanted a sidebar visible or not and how should backlinks look, anyway?

After spending a week committing to using Lightroom Classic for everything related to my photography workflow, I ditched it entirely and have been setting up Capture One Pro and Photo Mechanic, which is what I used for a long time and had the whole workflow basically nailed. Now I’ve gotta start over. Again.

I have external hard drives, a Synology, and Backblaze for storage. You think I can come up with a decent, stable storage and backup setup? I can! But then I decide to configure it differently the next day because what if?

My Hugo-based blog at baty.net was breaking during builds for no reason I could find. I thought I’d try updating the theme but I’d forgotten how because I had recently reconfigured things to use Hugo modules instead of Git submodules. I just want to write and post something. Is that too much to ask?

I recently replaced my MacBook Pro and iMac with M1 versions of the MacBook Air and Mac Mini. I started from scratch with both, and it’s been weeks of configuration and I’m still not done.

Sometimes I think of all this configuration as just having fun tinkering with computer stuff. I’ve loved tinkering for as long as I can remember. Lately, though, spending time configuring things feels too much like work; like a crippling distraction rather than a fun diversion.

You’ll note that I’m posting this to my Blot.im blog. Why? Because it’s easier and there’s really nothing to configure and right now that is a welcome change. And I still haven’t fixed Hugo.

Maybe it’s actually Decision Fatigue”.

life
February 21, 2021

A Remarkable Tablet

You’ll find a paper notebook near me most of the time. Writing on paper helps me remember things better than typing notes into an app on a computer. Because I’m a visual thinker, writing on paper helps me find things later. I tend to remember, spacially, where I write things; as in, It’s in the lower left corner toward the front.”

I thought Apple’s iPad and Pencil would be ideal for taking notes. They aren’t. The combination of iPad and Pencil is an amazing bit of technology, but using an iPad as a notebook sucks. Writing on an iPad feels like using a somewhat clumsy input device through glass onto a computer. I tried the screen covers that are supposed to make writing on an iPad feel more like paper. They don’t. And worse, the rest of the iPad’s features (along with the entire internet) are always right there, lurking behind the glass, waiting to distract me.

The reMarkable tablet is billed as the only tablet that feels like paper,” so I was of course intrigued. Skeptical, but curious. I wondered if it could really replace my paper notebooks even after the iPad failed.

Turns out that, yes, it can.

I love the reMarkable tablet, and here’s why.

It really does feel a lot like paper. The first time I wrote on it I was like, Woah, that’s nice!” It’s enough like paper that I’m not distracted by how it feels.

I love the hardware. The device looks and feels great. Solid. It’s as thin as a half-used legal pad. The pen is light but not too light. And speaking of the pen, I bought the fancy one with an eraser”. The eraser takes a minute to get used to, but is exactly the right thing. The pen doesn’t use a battery, so there’s never that fear of not being able to write because I forgot to charge it.

I love the look of the screen. It looks like paper. There’s no backlight, which many consider a missing feature. I don’t. It’s very easy on the eyes. It’s cool that I can choose the type of paper”. No more fretting about which type of notebook to buy. Should I choose lined paper or do I go with a dot grid pattern? Doesn’t matter, now I can have all of them any time I want.

Battery life is great. The battery lasts long enough so that I’m not always thinking about the battery. I charged mine a couple days ago and it’s now at 87%.

It’s always ready. Using an iPad for writing is acceptable if I’m specifically sitting down to write for a while, but it’s less useful for general note taking. The reMarkable is always ready. I have mine set to sleep after 20 minutes. If it does happen to fall asleep while I’m thinking or doing something else, I just tap the button at the top left and it’s ready to go in less than a second. The iPad, on the other hand, needs to sleep much sooner if I want the battery to last through a couple of meetings. And when the iPad does fall asleep (as it always does) I have to tap to wake, then swipe up, then lean over so FaceID works (and it often doesn’t, so then I must also enter my pass code). This makes the iPad an unacceptable replacement for paper. The always-ready feeling of the reMarkable might be the most meaningful difference between it and the iPad. It’s not as ready as paper, but it’s close.

I love the lack of features. What I love most about the reMarkable tablet is what it doesn’t do, which is just about everything. There’s nothing else there1. I can write and organize notes and sketches. That’s it. There’s nothing lurking behind a swipe or a notification. If I want, I can see all my notes on the companion apps on my Mac and iOS devices. I can convert my handwriting to text and email it to myself. That’s how I wrote this post, in fact. It worked great.

reMarkable 2 TabletreMarkable 2 Tablet

Many of the reviews I’ve read have focused on all the features that the reMarkable 2 doesn’t have. They miss the fact that those missing features are the greatest feature of the reMarkable. The reMarkable tablet is not much more than a stack of flexible notebooks, and that’s all I wanted.


  1. Well, I can read and write on PDFs but that is likely something I will only occasionally do.↩︎

Gear Writing
February 2, 2021

Analogging

It only takes a few seconds to write something down in a notebook, and look what it gets you. It gets you an immutable, permanent record of something in a cool, personally unique format. It produces a physical artifact that will last for generations.

For a few years, I recorded each movie I watched and each book I read in a large notebook…just one line for each entry. But, as often happens, I was sucked into doing it digitally instead because convenience or search or whatever. This is a shame because what do I get for having a text file or Roam graph with a bunch of movies listed? I get a boring, digital, ephemeral text file that doesn’t really exist anywhere as a thing.

I really want to have that thing. But I kind of also want a searchable, sharable record at the same time. So, I did some math.

Let’s say that it takes 2 whole minutes to go get the notebook, record a book or movie in it, and put the notebook back on the shelf. And let’s estimate that I read two books each month and watch 4 movies each week. That’s what, 18 entries per month. Assuming I enter each one as it happens, that’s 36 minutes per month. In reality, I probably enter everything all at once each week rather than one thing at a time. This knocks it down to maybe 10 or 15 minutes per month.

I think I can find an extra 15 minutes per month for such a lovely permanent record. And if I can find another 15 minutes I can record everything digitally as well, for when I want something to search.

Notetaking