July 18, 2020

I miss Ruby on Rails

Me wearing my T-shirt from the first (2006) RailsconfMe wearing my T-shirt from the first (2006) Railsconf

I shipped my first Ruby On Rails app—an ecommerce website—in 2007. I had been writing PHP apps for a few years and working with Rails was a revelation. In fact, I was half finished writing that ecommerce site using PHP when I discovered Rails. I was so sure about Rails that I convinced the CEO to let me trash the PHP version and start over in Rails. It was worth it.

A few years later I drifted from writing code into more of a project management role. Of course I still work with developers every day, and have watched them chase newer, better” technologies for years. They seem to have collectively decided that a full-on JavaScript stack (Node/React/Vue/Nuxt/etc) is where we should be. Is it though?

I’ve been itching to write some code lately and found my chance in a Rails app we’d been working on for years. I wanted a small change to the way something worked in the app, so I cracked my knuckles, ran docker-compose and friends, made the changes, submitted a PR and Bam! my work was in production. Rails worked much the same as it did when I was using it regularly. That was comforting, given the rapid change and deprecation I see everywhere else.

It felt really good. It also made me think about Rails again. It made me think about monoliths vs microservices. I wondered why I became infatuated with microservices along with everyone else a few years back. I think that maybe it’s because splitting apps into a bunch of services provides us the opportunity to play with something new without needing to toss the entire system. As fun as this can be, it probably isn’t the best approach for most teams.

I guess what I’m learning is that I kind of miss Rails. I lament that we were, collectively, so eager to find something new that we forgot how easy and productive it is to build stuff in Rails. I read about the HEY Emal app stack and was reminded how refreshing it would be to work with a stable, (relatively) simple stack like that.

Yes, I know there are a shitload of Rails apps still out there, and more being built all the time, but if you follow current development events, the mindshare has moved on. I wonder if it was a mistake.

This is just me wondering what I should do about my recent urge to build something. I could, as I mentioned recently, go with something crazy like Clojure. Or, I could do what everyone else is doing and dive into JavaScript. Or… I could put on my old, comfortable Ruby on Rails T-shirt and perhaps actually get something done.

RubyOnRails Programming
July 16, 2020

Thinking about learning Clojure

I don’t understand Clojure. After each brief attempt to learn it, I’ve quit in frustration because, honestly, I don’t get it at all. I can’t get my head around any of the Lisp-y variants, but add the requirement of navigating the JVM, words like homoiconic , and functional programming in general and I’m completely lost.

But, I remain fascinated by it. I can’t explain it, but when I read about Clojure, everything sounds right to me. It sounds like something that does things the way I’d want to do them if I were smart enough.

Also, I adore Rich Hickey. Watch any of his talks (such as this one), and you’ll see what I mean.

I haven’t written any real code in years, but would like to ease back into it. If I were smart, I’d dive head first into JavaScript/Node.js and be done with it. After all, that’s what everyone else is doing, right?

Except I want to do the opposite of what everyone” is doing. Sometimes the reason everyone does something is that it’s a low common denominator. It’s usually also boring. Don’t ask me to explain it, but JavaScript bores me.

I want to learn something different. Something unique and fun and interesting. My other choices would be Go, Elixir, or Rust. Those all look fine, but I’ve become inexplicably attracted to Clojure so I’m starting there.

I’ve been here before, and what happens is that it gets hard and I quit trying. This post is just me putting something out there to remind me that I’m serious about it…this time.

Clojure Programming
July 14, 2020

Moving the blog around again (and again)

A funny thing happened recently. I was sitting at my desk one afternoon playing with the new iA Writer updates, and I wanted to test iA Writer’s new style check features, so I opened my Blot folder.

Uh oh, I knew right away that this was a mistake, because it reminded me how nice it is to edit simple Markdown posts in iA Writer (or BBEdit, or Typora, or Ulysses, or Emacs, or…) and have things magically collected and posted to a blog.

WordPress can do anything. It works with all kinds of other tools, and its ecosystem is unmatched. It also bores me and I don’t like using it. Editing with blocks” can be handy, but more often than not they get in the way. To avoid this, I bought the Iceberg editor plugin so editing would feel more like living in text files.

I don’t like writing in Iceberg. It seemed like a great solution at first, but it feels like an editor pretending to be something it’s not. (Or more accurately, it’s pretending not to be something it is). You know what feels like editing a Markdown file? Editing a Markdown file!

My move to WordPress didn’t stick. I can never get comfortable in WordPress for any length of time. There are too many things about it I don’t like.

I don’t like any of WordPress themes I’ve found. They look like they were designed by recent graduates of some SEO-self-branding-professional-development course conducted by a YouTuber coach” fresh out of a real job. If I cared about an audience” or subscriptions I might feel differently, but I don’t, so I don’t.

I don’t like updating plugins and themes on a daily basis, even though it’s easy to do. I don’t like having to host yet another app/stack.

Long story short, while I pretend to have valid reasons” for doing this, they’re really only cover for the fact that I do it because it’s fun.

So yeah, this blog is back to being managed by Blot. Blot is an occasionally fragile but glorious tool made and supported by one person (Is it still just David?) and remains a pleasure to use.

Fun, huh?

Meta Blogging WordPress Blot
July 12, 2020

Lathe Updates: Week Ending July 12, 2020

After moving my daily notes back to the wiki, a couple people mentioned that they missed having the posts available via RSS. Trouble is, one reason I prefer posting those notes on the wiki is because there’s no RSS feed.

So, as a compromise, I thought I’d try posting a weekly summary here and see how that feels.

All 7 days transcluded into a single tiddler: Journals: Week ending July 12, 2020

Or, each day individally.

Monday, July 6, 2020 — About daily notes, Roam, Safari, wiki notes

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 — Buddha Board, Readwise.io, iPhone SE, Roam, Keyboards

Wednesday, July 8, 2020 — Hassles with Fish shell, Keychron K2 update, iPhone SE, Blot, don’t use silly words

Thursday, July 9 2020 — Browser tabs, moral superiority, cameras, wear a mask, Notion.so, window managers

Friday, July 10, 2020 — Driving in the rain

Saturday, July 11, 2020 — Needing Twitter, painting a bedroom

Sunday, July 12, 2020 — Docker, my 1-year anniversary, Safari, free speech thread, nice emails, laptop stickers, Blot, what I should be doing.

July 12, 2020

Reading Long-Form Web Articles By Printing Them First

This tweet by Mike Lee Williams started something:

I look at a lot of articles on the web. And by look at” I mean skim distractedly without actually reading”. What happens is that I click a link and sort of scan the article until becoming distracted or interrupted by something else on the screen. I waste a lot of time this way, with little gain.

Mike’s approach to reading articles makes sense to me, so I’ve adopted a similar process and it’s working well.

I no longer try to read longer-form articles right away. I instead send them to Instapaper and, after a day or two, review the inbox, delete the ones I no longer care about, and print the ones I do. For printing, I use Mike’s user stylesheet for Firefox reader mode. The print layout is compact and readable and I can mark them up with a pencil and highlighter while away from the distractions of a screen.

A few recent articles waiting for reviewA few recent articles waiting for review

I keep recent articles scattered around my desk until I feel I’ve gotten what I need out of them. I then scan the marked up versions into DEVONthink and manually enter the highlights from the most important articles into Roam.

This print-first process is a good way for me to actually learn from things I find on the web.

July 6, 2020

Daily Posts Are Moving Back To The Lathe”

I tried, I really did. The pull of having nearly everything I write all in one place is hard to resist, so I succumbed and stopped writing on my wiki, thinking I’d consolidate everything here on my blog. I made it two weeks, but now I think I’ll be moving my Daily Notes” posts back to the wiki.

Why? Honestly, it’s because creating random silly posts is more fun with TiddlyWiki. It’s easy and flexible. It feels playful and almost like it’s a secret. Know what I mean? And having fun is more important than having proper RSS feeds or consistency, or whatever other excuses I make up to convince myself to consolidate.

I apologize to the few of you who preferred the updates here. As a compromise, I’m thinking about writing regular (weekly?) summary posts here as a reminder that there’s stuff going on over there.

In the meantime, I’ll see you at The Lathe.

Blogging Meta TiddlyWiki
July 5, 2020

iPhone SE OG

iPhone SE. Isn’t it adorable?iPhone SE. Isn’t it adorable?

Look what I found in a drawer! It’s my favorite iPhone, the original SE. I preferred the flat sides, smaller size, power button at the top, and Touch ID. Oh, and a real headphone jack. It’s such a great phone.

In the above photo, the home screen is arranged for using the phone in a way I aspire to, meaning hardly at all.

iPhone SE and iPhone XiPhone SE and iPhone X

The thing about using a minimally-configured SE is that it feels liberating right up until it becomes frustrating. Using Maps, for example, is much less useful on the SEs tiny screen. The camera is pretty bad (although I don’t use my phone’s camera often).

It would be unnecessarily limiting for me to swap the sim card from the iPhone X into the SE. On the other hand, it feels so good in hand and using it would be fun, right?

I’m going to try it.

July 19, 2020 Update: I used the SE for about 10 days and loved it. However, I tired of running into times where I didn’t have some app I needed like a parking app or the Orbi app so I went back to the iPhone X. That lasted two days. I hated how big it felt and FaceID is useless with a mask on and, really, the small one-handed operation enabled by the SE made me go back. Now what? I’m stuck with a phone with no future? Guess so.

Apple Hardware
June 29, 2020

I should just sell the big iPad

My big, beautiful 12.9″ iPad Pro with the fancy new Magic Keyboard sits on a shelf, almost all the time. I should probably sell it.

I don’t sell it, because I occasionally get a wild hair and decide to do more with the iPad”. This seldom lasts more than a week. I know there are many people who adore their iPad-centric lives (I know this because they never shut up about it 😍), but I find it difficult to do anything substantial on iOS. This could be because I’m an Old, but there it is.

I buy apps that I hope will encourage me to use the Pencil more, but I hardly ever use the pencil. Taking notes on the iPad is nothing like using paper. And it offers nothing for me that improves upon writing on paper and, optionally, scanning. Drawing on the iPad feels like cheating, so that doesn’t happen often either.

One would think that I’d use the iPad more just farting around at home, given the giant dimensions of the 16″ MacBook Pro that I choose to lug around instead. I don’t. I always grab the big MBP. Because it has and does everything and it’s easier to use in most settings.

Last year I gave away my iPad Mini and I miss that little guy. I used the Mini as a pseudo Kindle all the time and loved it. It was the same size as my A5 notebook so carrying both was easy.

It sounds silly, but I might rather have an iPad Mini and a MacBook Air as the portable version of the 16″ MBP.

It’s unlikely that I’ll actually sell the iPad. It has so much potential and someday I might figure out how to realize more of it.

Apple Hardware
June 27, 2020

Using HEY for Email

Last week I posted my First impressions of HEY email. Today, I paid the $99 for the next year, so I guess the pros beat the cons.

Sometimes it’s best to just let things go. For example, the idea of Inbox Zero”. I’ve come to think of Inbox Zero as yet another thing to punish myself about when I fail to achieve it. I don’t need more ways to feel bad about myself. HEY does a good job of making me not care. No unread icons, no notifications by default. Just a list of new emails that fall down into a list of previously seen” messages once I’ve read them. No rush.

That previously seen” list represents something else I need to let go of… archiving. It’s taken a few days, but I’m learning to not worry about archiving messages. They just drop out of sight. If I don’t want to lose track of a particular message, I just set it aside” and it sticks. Or I can put it into the Reply Later” collection.

Email clients are really just fancy file managers.

I’ve seen many reactions to HEY that claim HEY is just a bunch of fancy filters, I can easily recreate the experience in Gmail.” While that’s true, sort of, HEY is more than a few clever filters. It’s the less obvious features of HEY, and, along with the general workflow, that are worth such a disruptive change for me. A few examples…

Renaming threads. The ability to change the subject of incoming emails is terrific. Message lists now read like a collection of notes I’ve taken rather than a list of whatever every individual sender blurted out. I now rename half of the messages I receive. I hadn’t realized how many emails I get with hard-to-parse subjects. Now I can fix them, and everyone else still sees the original subject, so this doesn’t confuse anyone.

Merging threads. This is great. I no longer need to manage multiple related threads. I merge them so replies to any of the messages in any thread end up in my merged thread. Everything behaves normally for everyone else, though. Handy.

Bundling senders. There are some senders from which I receive lots of messages. Things like Gitlab, Basecamp, etc. Now I bundle” those senders and no matter how many messages I get, they only take up one one line in my Imbox (still don’t like Imbox” but ¯_(ツ)_/¯).

Sticky Notes and Notes to Self. This is huge for me. I often want to add a quick note about an email, so what I used to do was link or copy the message into whatever note-taking tool I’m using and write the notes there. Now, I do it right in the email thread. Before HEY, I only did this with emails that really needed notes, but now I do it all the time because it’s so easy. This is also much better than creating a bunch of draft replies around for keeping notes.

I don’t like that HEY is its own thing and not a real” email service. And it remains to be seen how well this works once I get a lot of history in there; I’m used to the fancy searching features in Mu4e or MailMate. I can export an mbox file any time and have all my messages local for searching with whatever, so that might work if needed.

I may not be able to fly through my inbox like I used to; tagging and filing and flagging and building new smart mailboxes. On the other hand, HEY makes it so I don’t have to.

June 21, 2020

My iPod Shuffles Off This Mortal Coil

My 3rd Generation iPod Shuffle no longer holds a charge. It’s not like I’ve used it much lately, but still. It’s so tiny!

3rd generation from 20093rd generation from 2009

Apple Hardware