Table of Contents

1. 2023-08-23 Wed

deep thoughts on org mode

On the surface, I use org mode because I want my mind to be clear for other things. I really don't want nagging memories of things I thought of doing at some prior moment in time. Still, I don't want to lose those ideas, either.

Org-mode, with its built-in focus on "TODO" items, and scheduling, and slicing and dicing outline entries, can easily mislead the most wandering creative mind. The whole time I've been using org-mode – if I'm honest, the whole time I've been keeping track of "tasks" – I've felt a little off, like I'm copping to something that isn't mine.

That's a very distracting feeling for me. It takes over my mind and fouls clear thinking. I begin to look for ways to better organize "tasks": timing, tagging, and tracking become the focus of most of my spare time – and some of my time that isn't free to be spared.

This isn't the situation I want. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm confusing "ideas" with "tasks". I have an idea that I ought to do something, and it soon becomes a task in my long chain of undone tasks. And that long chain becomes a weight, making it hard for me to get moving. Where do I start? How can I possibly do all of these things? When will I ever get to them?

Worse is the feeling that doing anything, no matter how significant, is hard to appreciate because it looks so small compared to my overwhelming task list. I need to find a way to uncomplicate my life, but without dropping all the ideas I've had – the ideas that became implied tasks along the way.

At a practical level, this really has more to do with how I label the things in my org outlines. For example, what happens if I change "TODO" to "IDEA", and "DONE" to "REALIZED"?

Note: I just made that change, and it does feel a little different.

Now, what if I organized my stuff not by themes or concepts, but by actual nouns that really exist? In other words, what if I eliminated "categories" and just went with actual nouns?

That helps some, but what if I made those "ideas" into actual "ideas", and then grouped those ideas into bigger ideas? I need to go back through and restate these ideas as actual ideas. Interesting. We'll see if it helps.

2. 2023-08-06 Sun

Yesterday was a productive day working on the family photo project. I'm so happy to have made some real progress in getting the old photos properly digitized and online.

I started with several hundred photos that I had collected over the years from various sources. The scans aren't perfect - some are sideways, others have multiple photos cropped together on one image. Fixing those things will come later.

With some command line work in ImageMagick I was able to get them all thumbnailed pretty quickly.

First I wrote a simple bash script to rename all the photos to match the directory they were in (e.g., bills-family-pictures), and run the mogrify command to create a thumbnail directory with 100x100 thumbnails of all the pictures.

Then I wrote another bash script to output .org files for each directory, with links that show the thumbnail, but link to the larger picture.

Next, I used an emacs macro to bring all the .org files into one, and create tables 10 thumbnails across. Finally, I added headings and exported the .org file to my website.

There's still some work to do: rotating pictures that are not right-side-up; splitting scanned pages; and adding captions to some of the full-size photos so we don't forget who's who. But the hardest part - processing and posting the images - is done.

All in all, it probably took me about 4-5 hours total working time. I'm thrilled that what could have taken days or weeks of manual work was reduced to just an afternoon thanks to writing some scripts to automate the repetitive tasks. The command line tools like ImageMagick and replace-regexp in Emacs were handy for wrangling lots of files quickly.

I'm excited to keep improving the photo gallery, and also tracking down some missing details like unknown names and locations. But getting the foundations done feels like a major accomplishment. I'm so glad I can now share these vintage photos with the whole extended family in an organized way.

3. 2023-08-05 Sat (Today - three years with meds and counseling)

Three years ago, before I started medication and counseling for anxiety and PTSD, my mental health issues severely impacted my daily life. This was during the height of the pandemic, but I can't blame the disease: I was just on the edge, waiting to be tripped by some overwhelming event.

Even before the pandemic, I constantly lived in a state of FUD, my mind racing with obsessive thoughts and weird bargains. If I misspell a word, I'm going to jail. If I don't turn my blanket a certain way, bad things will happen. No matter how I do this thing, it won't turn out right.

Long before covid hit, I avoided social situations and declined many opportunites leave my house. Simple tasks like grocery shopping caused intense anxiety attacks. I once had to lean on some stacked boxes in a store aisle. until my severe, dizzy panic attack went away, for fear I'd fall. My flashbacks and panic attacks left me exhausted. I felt hopeless that I would ever get better.

Since starting on anti-anxiety medication and meeting regularly with a trauma-focused therapist, my quality of life has improved tremendously. While I still have bad days where my symptoms flare up, in general my anxiety is much more manageable now. I'm able to calm myself down more easily and the medication helps take the edge off my anxiety.

With the help of exposure therapy from my counselor, I've been able to face situations that used to trigger my PTSD symptoms. I've learned coping strategies like mindfulness and grounding techniques. Slowly but surely, things that once overwhelmed me provoke less fear. My flashbacks are less frequent now.

I've also made a lot of progress on my trauma processing with my therapist. I can now open up about past traumas that I couldn't even mention before. By processing the trauma memories instead of avoiding them, they have less power over me. This has reduced the nightmares and intrusive thoughts.

While I still have bad days where I struggle, my baseline anxiety has reduced significantly over the past three years of treatment. My PTSD symptoms no longer control my life like they once did. I feel more like myself again, able to participate in activities I enjoy. I have hope that I can continue to get better.

The progress I've made in my mental health these past few years has given me so much more confidence and optimism. I'm thankful every day for the access I have to medication and counseling that have allowed me to take back control over my anxiety and PTSD. My life is so much richer and fuller thanks to all the healing work I've done.

4. 2020-05-29 Fri (Throwback - before meds and counseling)

Today has been a particularly difficult day in my ongoing struggle with PTSD and anxiety. I woke up feeling on edge, with my heart racing. Even minor noises make me jump. I feel constantly tense and stressed out, like I'm waiting for something bad to happen even though I know I'm safe. The hypervigilance is exhausting.

My anxiety manifests itself physically too. I've had stomach cramps and nausea all day, and I feel lightheaded and dizzy. It's hard to eat or focus on anything. My mind races with anxious thoughts I can't control. I worry obsessively about the past and the future. It's hard to stay grounded in the present.

I've been avoiding going outside or being around too many people because my anxiety tells me it's not safe, and, of course, pandemic. But isolation only makes my PTSD and anxiety worse in the long run. As much as I want to hide from the world, I know I have to push myself to get out of my comfort zone. Still, it's so hard to fight against my flight instinct.

Every little thing today has been triggering memories or flashbacks of trauma. A loud noise made me relive a traumatic event from years ago. I've been crying on and off as waves of emotion hit me out of nowhere. I feel overwhelmed by the intense feelings. Living with PTSD means constantly battling against the past.

The lack of sleep from insomnia last night has made my symptoms even worse. My mind and body feel exhausted, but my nervous system is still on high alert. Simple tasks seem monumental. I've been forgetting things and struggling to focus all day. When the anxiety and hyperarousal get severe, it's hard to function normally.

I'm trying to be gentle with myself and remember that healing isn't linear. I need to meditate and do grounding techniques to calm my nervous system, even though I feel resistant to it in this anxious state. Reaching out to loved ones and my therapists for support helps me not feel so alone in this struggle. There are good days and bad days in recovering from PTSD.

Though living with PTSD and anxiety can feel overwhelming and isolating, I'm still proud of myself for how far I've come. I'm still here, still fighting. I'm trying to focus on the progress I've made, not just the setbacks. If I can get through this bad day, it means I'm strong enough to eventually get through this. Better days lie ahead.

5. 2023-07-16 Sun

Mowing the lawn has turned hazardous thanks to bees nesting under the house. I own less than an acre, but have to mow carefully since the honey-makers claimed four spots near the foundation as their turf. Despite using my father-in-law’s heavy duty zero-turn mower, I still risk annoying the hive.

Yesterday his "get a running start past the hives" strategy failed epically. Buzzing erupted as I foolishly zipped by, and one outraged guard stung my ear in rebuttal. It ballooned cartoonishly huge - like Dumbo went on a three-day bender. A trip to urgent care quelled the swelling, but my mowing bravado has definitely shrunk.

Clearly I need a better solution for safely mowing around these literal hot spots. Otherwise I’ll end up looking like the Elephant Man and devouring antihistamines by the fistful whenever grass gets shaggy. I refuse to cede over half my lawn to potential bee stings each week. There must be a way for us all to peacefully coexist through symbiotic lawn care. Perhaps protective beekeeping gear is in my future. For now, I’ll stick to gently weed-eating the perimeter by hand until I form a better bee strategy.

6. 2023-07-10 Mon

The boundless realms of science fiction have captivated my imagination since childhood. But lately attempting to craft my own interstellar tales has led only to angst. The ideas in my notebook read like B-movie cheese, the dialog stilted as a Vulcan sipping sour beer. My creative Writing juices seem to have run dry before lifting off the launchpad.

It's intimidating sculpting made-up worlds from scratch. Will readers believe the audacious futures I envision? I fear inventing contrived technologies and alien cultures that feel hollow, lacking the true intricacy of human experience. My storylines veer into cliché, spaceship chases telegraphed lightyears away.

The most frustrating stumbling block is making conversations flow naturally. I agonize over quotidian lines that sound anything but normal, stilted as a Star Trek: TNG episode on mute. I guess when your characters are humanoid cyborgs or giant slug aliens, capturing casual banter proves tricky. But the hollow echoes where lively dialog should sing aggravate me endlessly. I must be mentally recording conversations from the produce section at Rouse's, the local grocery store.

My inner critic derides each new draft as derivative trope soup. But occasionally, between bouts of crushing doubt, an intriguing premise still sparks my mind into wonder overdrive. Perhaps one fragile sapling of a world here holds promise, if I tend it long enough to thrive. Though progress is glacier-slow, I find myself crawling back to craft another chapter against my studied judgment.

I fear my imagination outpaces my skill in rendering its contents. Yet glimmers of original concepts continue to flicker, tantalizing me. With discipline and feedback from other aspiring writers, perhaps in time my phrasing will catch up to my ideas. For now I'll silence my critic, press onward through cheesy drafts, and dream secretly of the day "New York Times Bestselling Author" precedes my name. We all start scribbling somewhere.

7. 2023-07-05 Wed

The long Independence Day weekend kicked off in red, white and blue style this year! With a four day stretch of festivities, we went all out hosting a massive cookout at my father-in-law's sprawling estate. Between landscaping projects by day and revelry into the night, the nonstop activities made for a holiday I'll not soon forget.

The prep began on Friday with a shopping spree for provisions serving 20 family members. Cart piled high with chips, buns, beans, pie and paper goods, you'd think we were stocking for the apocalypse! Lugging it all back to fill the garage fridges took an entire SUV load. The shopping was just a warm-up for landscape labor the next two mornings.

To welcome guests, we tackled taming my father-in-law's lush but overgrown five-ish acres of lawn and flowerbeds. We aerated soil, spread fertilizer, trimmed hedges and mowed the enormous yard, cleaned gutters and blew debris. With pools sparkling and the grounds pristine again, it was a perfect outdoor paradise awaiting revelers.

On the main event Fourth of July, the entire clan arrived in the mid-morning to feast and make merry. The highlight was without a doubt the ridiculous spread - hamburgers, hot dogs, brisket, ribs and all the fixings lined the buffet, enough to feed an army battalion! Rich desserts like coconut cake topped off the endless courses. Filled to the brim, we waddled outside just in time for the sun to set and fireworks light up the sky in dazzling celebration.

Though exhausted from all the hoopla by Tuesday night, I savored one final moment of tranquility, relaxing by the pool under the oak trees, branches swaying in the wind - the calm after the jubilant storm. This long weekend reconnecting with family and country renewed my spirit. I already can't wait to make our next Independence Day celebration bigger and better!

8. 2023-06-27 Tue

The Benefits of Working From Home: My Experience Over 30 Years

I've been working remotely for the better part of three decades now. And in that time, I've come to really appreciate the many benefits of working from home.

In my opinion, there are a number of compelling reasons why remote work trumps the traditional office experience:

8.1. More Flexible Schedule

Without having to commute to an office every day or adhere to strict in-person hours, I have much more control over my schedule. I can choose when I start and end my day, take breaks when I need them, and adjust around personal appointments and family obligations. This flexibility lets me work during my peak productive hours and build my work around my life. It also contributes greatly to taking my work beyond 40 hours when I feel it needs extra polish.

I'll often start my day with meetings, since most of my co-workers are 5 or 6 timezones away. Afternoons are always a few hours of deep focus work. If I need to step out for a doctor's appointment, I just block it off on my calendar and make up the time later. The freedom to work around my own energy cycles and commitments has been invaluable.

8.2. Fewer Distractions

Working from home allows me to better control my environment to optimize for deep work. No loud coworkers, chatty impromptu meetings, or office politics to derail my concentration. I can work in quiet when I need it or put on music when I don't. When I hit the zone on an important project in my home office, I can get into a flow state without interruptions.

In an office, I found myself getting constantly distracted and having my time fragmented by other people. At home, I have long stretches of unbroken time to make progress on projects. I'm no longer at the mercy of an open office layout. The reduction in random distractions has done wonders for my productivity.

8.3. No Commute

By not having to commute to an office, I save a huge amount of time and mental energy. My commute in the past was 90 minutes driving each way in heavy traffic. That's 2.5 hours I get back every day now that I work remotely. I get to skip traffic jams and the stresses of driving. I'm far more productive by investing that time into actual work instead of just transport.

The commute was always such an energy and money drain both ways. I'd get home exhausted after a day at the office. Now I can roll out of bed and start work right away. Those extra hours add up substantially over the long run. My mental health is better without the frustration of a commute sapping me.

One of the best parts of remote work is the ability to work from anywhere with an internet connection. I've worked from coffee shops on occasion for a change of scenery and have even worked from the car when my wife had a doctor's appointment. As long as I get my hours in, deliver results, and communicate, I can work from wherever I may be.

8.4. Less Office Politics

In my experience, office politics get muted when working remotely. No more listening to gossip by the water cooler or getting dragged into interpersonal conflicts unnecessarily. I can just focus on my own work and not get caught up in office drama.

In the past I dealt with power struggles, favoritism, and credit stealing that hampered morale. Now I can sidestep all that and just keep my head down executing on my role. My work reputation depends solely on my contributions, not politics.

Of course, working from home does come with some tradeoffs. It can take discipline to manage your time and stay focused. You lose some of the social interaction of an office. And you have to proactively communicate to avoid isolation.

But in my 30+ years of doing it, I firmly believe the benefits outweigh any downsides. The flexibility, productivity, time savings, and peace of mind I've gained from working remotely has been invaluable for my career and personal life. Given the choice, I wouldn't trade my home office setup for a traditional one any day. The pros simply outweigh the cons by a long shot.

9. 2023-06-25 Sun

I devoted an entire weekend to overhauling my Emacs setup, transforming the legendary editor into a profoundly personalized coding cockpit. Tweaking everything from key bindings to color schemes, no detail was too small to optimize during this epic customization binge.

At the heart of my new configuration is a meticulously designed five window layout to multitask like a madman. Yes, I know I say, "multitasking is a lie", but having windows you can leave on – when you're in normal work mode, with people interrupting you, is really handy.

On the left I have the navigational Speedbar pane showing the project file tree. Up top are two side-by-side code editing buffers, while stacked below sit Vterm and Eshell terminals ready to hack.

Optimizing this complex windowing workflow involved careful key mapping and sizing. I used quick prefixes like C-LEFT and C-DOWN to swiftly rotate between panes. Resizing on the fly with C-+ and C-_ allows rapid pane zooming when I need more space. It's slickly efficient while retaining the versatility of infinite layouts.

Of course I tricked out each mode line with frilly rainbow colors, lots of compact status information, custom buffer stats, git stats, and ASCII art. Nothing screams extreme customization like some sexy mode line bling! The theme I chose is "ubuntu" (burgundy background, maybe?), reminiscent of twilight coding binges fueled by mate tea and ambient Cyberpunk beats.

Beyond the UI, I integrated all the essential coding packages like Magit, Projectile, YASnippets, and company-mode for blazing fast completion. I also added some novel aids like Flymake for on-the-fly syntax checking and vlf for seamlessly browsing log files. The Workflow, Helm, and Ivy packages form a crazy-fast project search system at my fingertips.

Other additions include EXWM for tiling window management, ESS for slinging R code, Org Mode for notes, and Gnus for email within Emacs. I even added the kitchen sink of multimedia options: from EWW to browse within Emacs to eww for playback right inside the editor. Perhaps I got a tad carried away, but now my text editor does absolutely everything!

My fingertips have memorized the new shortcuts and workflows after a weekend immersed in this all-consuming customization project. Now my tuned-up Emacs setup feels less like software and more like an extension of my mind. I can't wait to put my tricked-out coding cockpit through its paces on many projects to come!

10. 2023-06-18 Sun

As an electrical engineer and retro computing enthusiast, I couldn't resist the challenge of constructing an Altair 8800 - the machine that kickstarted the PC revolution in 1975. But fitting modern components into this iconic kit's form factor has proven an amusing engineering puzzle.

I began ambitious, designing my own Arduino-based circuit board to emulate the Altair's guts while integrating audio, video and other modern I/O. However, packing everything onto one crowded PCB resulted in short circuits once soldered. My overzealous single-board design just couldn't handle the tight tolerances.

Undeterred, I started afresh using Adwater & Stir's acclaimed Altair 8800 replica kit. But upon unboxing the boards, I was startled to discover not one, but one-and-a-half PCBs! The smaller second board piggybacks behind the main one, allowing more breathing room to spread out components. I felt rather silly for not considering this daisy-chain board approach myself from the start.

Now I'm meticulously soldering chips and resistors across these linked boards, dodging cold solder joints and reversed electrolytics (I hate that pop you get when you put one in backwards and fire up the circuit). The process reminds me of my first Heathkit build as a teenager, a digital alarm clock (hey, it was incredibly trendy for the 70's). Though time-consuming, each successful, voltmeter-checked connection brings me closer to booting this relic. Once the solder smoke clears, I'll load classic programs via front-panel or toggle in some vintage BASIC interpreter for nostalgia's sake.

On second thought, maybe I should get a paper-tape punch input and add that to the design. No, no, no, don't mess with the reference build, you dummy.

Perhaps my first DIY design was too ambitious, but engineering is an iterative process. I'm already contemplating my next build incorporating all I've learned about retrofitting modern hardware within the charming constraints of yesteryear's cases. Though my soldering hand needs a rest first!

The journey of resurrecting the Altair 8800 is turning out to be priceless education in engineering hubris and humility. I can't wait to bask in the glow of its signature red LEDs when those first lights blink on. And they will blink on, even if I have to solder it 40 times….

11. 2023-06-17 Sat

Preparing to dungeon master a session for my coworkers at our Riga sprint this November has sent me into a nostalgia-tinged planning frenzy. The art of hooking players old and new alike in adventure makes dusting off my dragon dice and rule books feel like coming home. This will be our most epic quest yet.

I devoted an entire Saturday to unpacking and sorting my collections of dice, mini figures, tiles and character sheets. Having ample materials for every player is key, so I carefully counted out full sets of colorful polyhedrals into parchment envelopes for each attendee. By midnight I had assembled 75 kits, my craft table a landscape of sparkling die hordes glinting in the lamp light.

Now for the true challenge - crafting a 4-hour standalone adventure primed for memorable mayhem. I'm aiming for a perfect balance, accessible to D&D newbies yet with combat and story hooks to challenge veterans. Diving back into dusty tomes for inspiration, I'm weaving classic tropes like crypt crawls and tavern brawls into an original yarn of my own design.

The setting will be Forgotten Realms, my favorite realm for sword and sorcery misadventures since the 80s. I may integrate our real-world office drama into the quest line for laughs. Nothing breaks the ice like playfully parodying Bob from accounting as an inept ogre guarding a bridge! Enticing danger paired with moments of levity will keep the table engaged.

By November's chilly eve in Riga, with mugs of mulled wine warming our hands, we'll voyage together through cursed ruins and painted caverns swirling to life in our imaginations. This mix of novitiates and experts will bond while discovering their latent heroism. I can't wait to guide their quest as both narrator and friend, my favorite role since I first cracked open the Dungeon Master's Guide decades ago. This Baltic quest promises adventures beyond our boldest fantasies!

12. 2023-06-07 Wed

As both an avid dungeoneer and gourmand, I was thrilled to discover a cookbook marrying my favorite fantasy realm with sumptuous fare. "Heroes' Feast: The Official Dungeons & Dragons Cookbook" conjures the realm's iconic taverns in 100 recipes. Though we can't literally teleport to magical realms, this tome transports my kitchen to realms of adventure through immersive cuisine.

The recipes skillfully adapt traditions from medieval Europe and fantasy lore into dishes modern cooks can recreate. Hearty stews, crusty breads, and savory pies fill the pages. Amidst peasants' fare are also lavish dishes fit for royalty in distant castles. Though written in plain modern language, sidebars in fancy script immerse you in mystical realms.

As an appetizer, consider Roasted Beet Hummus with Walnut Pesto, evoking forest foragers. Halfling Potato Leek Soup makes a warm, comforting meal, while slow-cooked Oxtail Stew creates a stick-to-your-ribs dinner. And what journey is complete without travel rations like Elven Waybread? Don't forget goblin-themed treats like Boiled Newt Eyeballs (sage-apple dumplings) for your next gaming session!

Brews to accompany each dish include meads, ciders, and ales. However, I gravitate toward the non-alcoholic options which use bright fruits and herbs like elderflower. Pair these with sweet rolls and honey nut tarts for dessert - or epic cakes like the towering Red Dragon Cake if you're hosting a party.

The cookbook adds richness to game nights as we regale each other with stories between bites. Beyond my regular group, it also gives me ideas to wow guests at themed dinners. Even just reading it by the fire transports me from a hectic modern life to a fantasy realm of adventure, if only for an hour. Heroes' Feast delivers a tasty quest that any gallant home chef will relish embarking on.

13. 2023-06-01 Thu

The dog days of summer test human endurance along the steamy Gulf Coast. As temperatures and humidity soar, mere mortals stand no chance without the artificial relief of air conditioning. But with climate change bearing down, I sought more eco-friendly cooling for my home.

After limping through last August with a wheezing relic of an AC unit, I finally accepted the inevitable this spring. Facing another scorching season, I reluctantly purchased not one, but two new units. Finding energy-efficient and climate-safe window units proved a really complex quest, worthy of its own D&D campaign.

First I researched alternatives to traditional AC options laden with greenhouse gases. But viable options like geothermal cooling require expensive, invasive installation. Ultimately I resigned myself to an efficient standup unit for the bedroom (with a window exhaust) and a 10,000 BTU Energy Star traditional cube unit for the rest of the house.

Installing the new house unit was a massive undertaking. Luckily, my brother-in-law (the gadget man) was visiting, so I let him decode the instructions, and I just followed his lead.

My little bedroom window unit was more straightforward. I opted for a Frigidaire model offering an Eco Mode to reduce power use on less scorching days. A handy remote and sleep timer help prevent unnecessary runtimes. And though still a refrigerant system, its small size limits overall climate impact because it exhaust recirculated air. I know, because I've gone outside and put my hand over the window vent several times, and the air coming out is cooler than the outside air most of the time.

As I bask in frosty relief on the hottest afternoons, I do question if air conditioning truly represents progress. But until better alternatives arrive, I’m trying my best to stay cool while keeping efficiency and sustainability in mind. With climate change breathing down our necks, it’s a difficult but necessary balance to strike.

14. 2023-05-18 Thu

There are days when anxiety attacks come without warning. First, my eyes start to "wobble" and get out of focus (I think they call that "nystagmus"). Then I feel dizziness coming on, and a flushing in my extremties. I get nauseated, and about half the time, I have violent reflex. It isn't vomiting, more like a blast of distasteful liquid to scare away a predator. Usually, once that happens, I start to calm down again, though it may take awhile for the symptoms to go away.

My PTSD (carefully diagnosed) comes from a teacher who sexually abused me as a teenager. He kept me quiet by threatening to tell my mom that I was gay (which I'm not), knowing that her fragile state after the death of my little sister would make her even more susceptible to the emotional stress she was already facing.

I hate feeling this way. I use the Prozac and Buspar regularly, although sometimes I forget the Buspar, and since it's a "one to three a day as needed," sometimes one isn't enough. Thank goodness for my "psychologist by email." We don't correspond more than once or twice a year now, though at the height we were chatting once or twice a day.

I hate these attacks. At least I've started writing them down, so maybe I can associate them with whatever external triggers there might be.

It's awful that there are people like this in the world, and that they can get away with this and completely escape punishment.

15. 2023-05-14 Sun

Hurricane season has started. My rugged, military-style backpack stands ready to grab at a moment's notice when storms brew. Though hoping for the best, wisdom says prepare for the worst living on the hurricane coast. This pack contains supplies to potentially sustain me for weeks assisting survivors should catastrophe strike. It goes where I go when storms approach.

The bag holds basics for outdoor survival and/or administering first aid. Food, water, shelter, navigation, hygiene - it's equipped for self-reliance if infrastructure fails. Rope, carabiners, a tarp and hatchet provide shelter. A multi-tool, knives, and fire starters enable primitive living. Water pouches and a filter allow safe hydration. High-calorie foods pack small but nourish long. Vital medication, first aid, and hygiene items promote health when medical care is scarce.

Smart phones fail when networks go down, so I carry alternate communication. My portable ham radio stays charged, ready to grab heading out the door. Shortwave bands connect remote areas needing aid or evacuation. Once in the field, the radio links me to emergency coordinators. A wind-up AM/FM radio keeps me informed if broadcast stations survive.

To document the mission, I pack pens, paper, and a laptop. Tracking aid work, injuries, supplies used - paper tools enable information flow. The laptop backs up data and recharges when generators temporarily power camps. Hard drives with vital personal data and software allow restoration after disasters.

Finally, creature comforts like camp pillows and stools improve rest during exhausting work. Cash and coins keep vending machine food and laundromats accessible if electronic payments fail. Familiar jewelry and trinkets maintain my identity when everything seems uncertain.

My backpack contains ordinary items made extraordinary when catastrophe transforms community into survival mode. Though mere ounces add up pound by pound, I'll bear the load to be equipped serving others. If crisis comes, I strap on my radio, grab my pack, and go do what must be done. It's worth extra sweat to be ready when lives hang in the balance.

16. 2023-05-12 Fri

To the novice, Emacs Lisp presents a steep learning curve. The quirks of this Lisp dialect take time and patience to master. But the effort pays dividends in unlocking Emacs' full potential.

The syntax of Emacs Lisp can seem confusing at first glance. The prefix notation for functions feels unintuitive. The dynamic scoping causes gotchas for those from lexical scoping languages. Departures from Common Lisp traditions trip up experienced Lispers. Internal inconsistencies add further complications.

Emacs Lisp's unique functions also increase the conceptual load. Key bindings, interactive commands, hooks, and advising are concepts that many programmers won't have encountered before. Building fluency requires studying Emacs architecture and culture. The functions reflect Emacs' idiosyncrasies.

Yet solving Emacs Lisp's puzzles brings great reward. Hacking Emacs unlocks near-infinite customizability limited only by your imagination. And the language's longevity means learning once pays dividends for decades. Emacs Lisp's challenges test your persistence and ingenuity. But with time, you can make this legendary editor do your bidding.

17. 2023-05-11 Thu

My sweet American Shorthair black cat, Baby, enriches every day for me and my wife with her affectionate yet feisty spirit. Adopting this dear little black cat has expanded our hearts in ways we never expected. Her unique personality reveals itself through the tender daily rituals we share.

I cherish our evening cuddles most of all. As I settle on the couch to watch TV, Baby hops up to snuggle on my lap. Once she's taken a thorough bath, she'll lie back, look up at me and grab my shirt gently with one claw, asking to be petted. Stroking her soft fur soothes my soul and whispers that I'm loved.

Naptimes also invite feline snuggles. If I doze on the couch, I'll awake to a gentle weight as Baby curls up along my side, keeping me company. But my wife is Baby's favorite napping buddy. Baby will push her iPad out of the way and curl up nestled, under her chin for hours. There's no sweeter cradle than a cat's comforting presence to nap with.

Amusingly, Baby polices our phone use in bed, as if smartphones interrupt essential snuggling. She'll sidle up purring when I read in bed. But the moment I check my phone, she bats it right out of my hand! Nothing comes between this cat and bedtime attention.

Beyond affection, Baby plays the role of "mother" in charming ways. She gently paws my arm if she thinks it's time I awoke. At dinner, she'll "hunt" a toy mouse and drop it by my plate, as if providing for her clumsy human kittens. Her nurturing instinct is adorable.

Watching Baby play and stretch her little black toes, I can't help but smile. Her antics delight me daily, from chasing toy springs to curling up in a sunny spot. She blesses this house with feline charm. My wife and I feel so privileged to soak up her unconditional love.

Our world is richer and warmer with Baby in it. Where we used to come home to an empty house, now joyful greetings and furry cuddles await. This darling American Shorthair cat has expanded our capacity for love. We're so grateful to share life's simple pleasures with Baby's sweet companionship.

18. 2023-04-27 Thu

Religion holds potential to uplift humanity or justify harm, depending how we approach it. When people use faith to invent a God that simply rubber-stamps their personal beliefs, it warps morality and fractures community. Deity becomes an empty projection rather than an opportunity for transformation.

This pattern manifests in religious fundamentalism - the rigid conviction that one's own narrow doctrine Trumps all else. Zealots selectively cite scripture as divine endorsement for prejudices, rather than wrestling with sacred texts' nuances. Their supreme focus on the afterlife often ignores justice, ethics and compassion in this world.

When people simply reshape God into a reflection of themselves, it engenders judgment over empathy. "Us versus them" mentality festers, whether directed at other faiths, denominations or secular groups. Faith turns insular, definined less by love than by excluding outsiders. Instead of bridging humanity's gaps, religion widens them into chasms.

Moreover, using God to validate pre-existing views stunts spiritual growth. It locks revelation in the past rather than allowing room for morality to evolve with new social understanding. This fosters backward thinking, resisting social reforms that could alleviate suffering. A rigidly invented God leads to stagnation.

Rather than inventing a deity in our image, faith should open us to transformation. Beyond confirming what we already believe, spiritual teachings should challenge preconceptions and expand perspectives. As we wrestle with conflicting truths, it hones our moral reasoning and sense of human kinship.

Faith centered on humanity's shared hopes rather than tribal divisions unlocks religion's power for good. But first believers must lay down invented gods built on fear and bias. When theology adapts to social progress rather than resisting it, faith can uplift society.

19. 2023-04-12 Wed

A brilliant light dimmed before her time - that's how I see the tragedy of science educator Dianna Cowern developing ME/CFS after COVID-19. Dianna lit up YouTube with her enthusiastic explorations of physics on the channel Physics Girl. Her creativity and humor brought science to life. But long COVID has nearly extinguished this bright spirit over the past year. Her ongoing health struggles break my heart.

Watching Dianna's decline from vibrant host to bedridden patient is harrowing. She gave so much to build an online community sharing knowledge. Now isolation and brain fog have taken away her ability to produce new content. I cannot imagine how frustrating it must feel have your mind and body betray you at the height of your career. The uncertainty of if or when she may recover is agonizing.

Despite her setbacks, Dianna remains a model of grit and grace. She has shared her journey candidly to help others suffering from long COVID. Her vulnerability reminds us of our shared humanity. Though her world has narrowed drastically, she keeps nurturing her community. Her courage and selflessness in adversity are humbling.

I dream that someday a treatment will restore Dianna's health. For now, I donate to support ME/CFS research. We cannot restore the time and vitality this disease has stolen from her. But if science can at least help Dianna regain some of her former exuberance for teaching, it will be a breakthrough to celebrate. Her light has not gone out, though it may take dedicated care and research to make it shine bright again.

Dianna taught a generation to love physics through her contagious joy. Now her struggle spotlights another science frontier - understanding ME/CFS. By facing this challenge with strength and openness, Dianna continues nurturing curiosity and compassion. I hope we can give her the same in return.

20. 2023-03-29 Wed

I struggle with the urge to be idle and isolate myself. But my org-file, with its schedules and trackers, helps me fight this inertia and engage in meaningful activities. The file logs my habits - like taking meds, exercising, and calling family. Tracking these routines motivates consistency. I feel accountable seeing visible records, which compels me to stick to healthy patterns.

Org-mode also manages my responsibilities. I break major efforts like home projects or work tasks into next actions. Granular steps feel more achievable. Dates ensure I chip away at bigger goals. Logging effort spent counteracts excuses to delay important plans. Progress becomes satisfyingly tangible. Deadlines lend urgency, while allowing flexibility within the system.

Moreover, org-mode handles my calendar, from church services to doctor visits. Scheduling commitments in advance provides helpful structure against aimlessness. Appointment alerts nudge me to connect with community, rather than withdraw into distraction. Tracking appointments completed gives a sense of moving relationships forward.

Ultimately, org-mode merges life's micro habits, macro goals, and social connections into one system. This mindfulness resists losing days to inertia and isolation. The metrics cultivate self-awareness and accountability. Using org-mode helps me strengthen routines, pursue ambitions, and nurture relationships - becoming the person I wish to be.

21. 2023-03-20 Mon

As a technical writer and documenter, I rely on Org mode and its plain text files to organize my work and optimize my productivity. Org mode is an extension for Emacs that allows you to manage notes, tasks, schedules, and more in plain text files with minimal formatting. I use a single Org file as my system of record to track everything from daily tasks to long-term projects.

At the top level, my Org file contains headings for major areas like "Inbox", "Meetings", "Projects", "Maintenance", "Team", and "Learning". Within each section are nested subtasks, notes, and metadata to capture details. For example, under "Meetings" I have recurring daily standups defined with their scheduling and last completion times logged.

Each task is prefixed with metadata like priority, project context, and location tags. Priorities help me triage what needs attention first. Context tags classify tasks for quick filtering, like "@computer" or "@morning". I can dynamically pull up context-specific views. Locations attached to tasks auto-prompt calendar entries when I mark them done.

The true power comes from Org mode's integrated time tracking. Using task clocking, as I mark tasks complete, it logs a time interval since the last action. So I get a quantified record of how I spend my time without tedious manual entry. Reviewing the time logs helps me identify inefficiencies to eliminate.

Org mode also handles project and notes organization. I break projects into sequential actionable steps, which I can re-arrange and shuffle easily thanks to Org's plain text outlines. Related notes, links, and supporting materials attach directly to each project node. Org publishes my notes to a static HTML site for sharing content.

No proprietary apps required - just Org mode and its files. Searching, tagging, links, calendars, deadlines, time-tracking, publishing, and more all come built-in. I customize workflows even further using Elisp scripts. Text-based data future-proofs my system. Plain Org format means no vendor lock-in.

The benefits I've seen from managing my work in Org mode include: streamlined task tracking, automated time logging, efficient access to context-specific views, integrated project/notes linking, and complete customizability. Org mode's flexible plain text system boosts my productivity while keeping me in control. I've never found another tool so adept at wrangling my work tasks and time.

22. 2023-03-04 Sat

Strapping on mirrored shades, I vanish into the urban maze, on a mission to hack the planet. The mega-corps think they own cyberspace, but the streets belong to us cyberpunks. We lurk on the fringes, riding global networks while dodging corporate ICE and AI hunter-killers. Our world is a neon-bathed dystopia, and technology is both weapon and wings.

The cyberpunk way is a life of risk and resistance. We dissent, subvert and surveil, freeing data for the people. Hacking runs in our blood, cryptography courses through our veins. We code quick and loose, building tools to disrupt the system. Street samurai and hacker clans united against tyranny and greed. My avatar leads double lives: wage slave by day, angiomystic by night.

In the shadows we dwell, jacked into cyberspace domains unseen by civilians. Through a refracting lens I view the endless city sprawl, both suffocating yet seductive. Rouge programs scramble as I tunnel past black ICE, steel mind focused on the payload within. Encrypt or perish. A glimpse of unfiltered truth is worth losing one more piece of your soul.

They brand us criminals, but the "real crime" is totalitarian control and artificial scarcity. Hiding behind avatars and aliases, we expose hypocrisy and fight for digital emancipation. Obedience is complacency; demand truth and justice. With elite hackers as allies, the future remains unwritten. A sandbox for our coding - if we dare claim it.

The signs are everywhere - reality itself now feels digitally altered. Am I a biological anomaly in a simulated world? Or an AI dreaming I'm still flesh? Either way, I persist against the system, a rogue process they can't yet delete. My mind augmented, my body wired-in, I fuse silicon and carbon to hack infinity. For I am cyberpunk.

23. 2023-02-27 Mon

The Unix operating system was built on simple yet powerful ideas that came to be known as the Unix philosophy. This outlook guided its modular, flexible design and emphasis on elegance and simplicity. While created for software, the Unix philosophy contains lessons that broadly apply to how we live and work.

Fundamentally, it argues against the notion of the human invention of "one true way" to accomplish something. Reality is complex; be skeptical of anyone claiming to have all the answers. In life, we should remain open-minded and willing to use different approaches as circumstances change. Blind adherence to the rigid ideology or methodology of one human rarely ends well.

This ties into the Prime Directive of resisting the temptation to judge or change others. People naturally have different perspectives and inclinations. Rather than forcing everyone into the same mold, have faith they will find their own path. Lead by quiet example, not lecturing or coercion.

The simplest solution that gets the job done is usually the best. Complication invites confusion and fragility. Stick to basics; avoid clutter and over-engineering. In work and leisure, savor simplicity - it enables focus and flexibility.

Single-tasking trumps multitasking, which often means doing multiple things poorly. Concentrate fully on one activity at a time for best results. At work, avoid context switching and distraction. In life, be present rather than always jumping to the next thing.

We flourish through connection with others.Unix pipes pass data between programs, creating powerful combinations. Similarly, we should freely share ideas and collaborate. Aim for open systems that facilitate the flow of knowledge.

Honesty and directness breed trust and understanding. Avoid euphemisms and spin. Speak plainly and truthfully about issues. Face problems head on. Overly harsh truth causes pain, but so does avoiding uncomfortable truths. Find balance.

Stay grounded in your individual identity and purpose. Don't contort yourself to fit others' expectations. Like a bent wire still conducting electricity, you can channel your unique talents toward the greater good.

Innovation requires shipping early and often, testing ideas in the real world. Don't wait for perfection - it may never arrive. Launch prototype versions, collect feedback, and refine. Not every release will succeed, but you'll learn faster.

Leverage existing solutions when possible rather than reinventing the wheel. Repurpose materials for new uses. Clever hacking can stretch resources further than a brute force approach. Think creatively.

Experimentation advances knowledge, but methodically. Fail small and learn from mistakes. Cultivate beginner's mind along with expertise. Beware overconfidence. Integrate critical thinking with an attitude of play.

Technology should enhance human potential rather than diminish it. Automate rote tasks, but leave room for individual creativity, empathy and judgment. Systems that dehumanize lead to dystopia. Uphold dignity.

A certain amount of planning helps chart direction, but don't worship plans. Conditions change, new opportunities appear. Balance vision with flexibility. Every day offers lessons to make tomorrow better than today.

The Unix philosophy teaches universal truths through software design. Applying its lens more broadly enriches life's journey.

24. 2023-02-15 Wed

Emacs is far more than just a text editor. Its true power lies in the ability to extend its functionality almost without limit through Lisp packages. This flexibility makes Emacs an incredibly versatile tool that can adapt to virtually any use case.

Unlike traditional applications, Emacs is built on a framework that allows anyone to write new features by coding in Emacs Lisp. There exists a rich ecosystem of packages that unlock capabilities way beyond text editing. From email clients to version control, program debugging to task management - someone has likely written an Emacs package for it.

Installing these community extensions is a breeze. A simple package manager handles downloading and integrating addons seamlessly. Whether you need to read PDFs, track time or even play Tetris, there's a package that will turn Emacs into the perfect tool for your needs. And if you can't find what you want, the Lisp knowledge needed to script your own custom solution is out there.

This limitless extensibility comes from the underlying Lisp foundation. Lisp's flexibility as a programming language makes Emacs inherently modular. The editor essentially becomes an operating system on which you run specialized applications through Lisp programs. There's no limit to Emacs' versatility when you have an army of expert programmers continually expanding its frontiers.

For many, Emacs becomes an indispensable companion that grows and adapts alongside their needs. It provides a set of core editing functionality upon which anyone can build their ideal work environment. Whether you're a programmer, writer, sysadmin or student, Emacs likely offers the tools and customizability to support your work.

In a world of restrictive software experiences, Emacs stands out as a testament to creative freedom and community-driven innovation. Its endless extensibility through Lisp transforms the editor into something that transcends text alone.

25. 2023-01-28 Sat

Open source software represents humanity at its most collaborative and altruistic. When developers share their code freely, they contribute to a common good that benefits all. Open source taps into our innate desire to create and share knowledge without restriction. It demonstrates how we can collectively achieve more by working transparently and cooperatively.

The open source movement arose as a principled stand against proprietary models that hoard code in closed systems. Developers decided to build tools together in the open, proving that effective software could thrive beyond corporate walls. This act of digital defiance kicked off a revolution that continues to gather momentum today. Whenever people freely share insights, ideas or innovations, they propel our species forward.

Open source software helps democratize technology, making it accessible to more people through open collaboration. But the benefits run deeper than cost savings. Open source allows anyone to inspect, modify and distribute code according to their needs. This freedom and transparency gives individuals more autonomy and builds trust. Developing in the open creates higher quality software through peer review while preventing restrictive vendor lock-in.

The collective potential unleashed by open source is astounding. Consider endeavors like Wikipedia, Linux and Mozilla that harness contributions from thousands globally. They represent the combined force of human effort and passion. We all have something unique to share—open source offers an outlet for those gifts in service of the greater good.

The open source way has proven its power to drive progress through liberation. Its core principles represent the highest of human virtues: creativity, collaboration and care for community. By lifting each other up and sharing what we create openly, we can build a future filled with possibility.

26. 2023-04-03 Tue

Out here, we don't care about pretty, just enlightenment. Substance over style. Not my thing to reduce readership to a programmed waterfall of dopamine hits.

The independent web is where misfits can build little sources of truth, without censorship. Through blogging and personal publishing, you control your corner of cyberspace. There are no investors or shareholders influencing the message. The tech may look gritty and cobbled together, but it's real. Better to take the red pill and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Rally around illumination, not illusion. Support indie sites that empower readers, not addict them. Spread information freely: create without compromise, even if just for a small audience. The renaissance waits.

27. 2023-01-02 Mon

The web ain't what it used to be. I yearn for the pioneer days, when it was just naked HTML markup and images. No JavaScript, no tracking cookies, no bloated software stacks — just documents connected by hyperlinks.

Back then, you'd use Lynx or maybe Mosaic to browse those early sites. Text glowing green on black; that was the look on those early VGA monitors. Real people hand-coded each page, formatting text, and maybe some GIFs if they were feeling fancy. Layouts were unique and hacky, but they got the job done.

It was a mess, but a beautiful mess. This rudimentary web felt alive, a mass of raw, unfiltered information linked together, created by academics and enthusiasts just for the joy of sharing ideas. Not like today's commercialized internet, spoon-fed by FAANG for maximum revenue.

It was the information itself that lured me in. The very idea that I could access documents created by someone on the other side of the world, seeing into the mind of another human who wasn't even there. Without the distractions of fancy interfaces or flashy graphics, it was just freely-flowing information. I'd get lost clicking those hypertext links, digging deeper down some stranger's personal rabbit hole of knowledge. Stumbling upon a text file that contained the meaning of life or a carefully curated list of cat photos. Who knew what you'd uncover back then? The web felt like an infinite library where every page took you somewhere new, yet it all still felt intimately hand-crafted.

The anarchic spirit of the early web still flickers in the hearts, the Cyberpunks who remember viewing source to figure out how a page was built. It's time to take it back to the beginning.

Forget AJAX, forget Wix, forget Web 2.0. Give me Lynx over Chrome, give me HTML over CMS. We'll turn this beast back into a hyperlinked library of hand-crafted pages. Let the FAANG eat themselves. I want plaintext and meaning.

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