Diary

Welcome! :-)

This is both a wiki (a website editable by all) and a blog (an online diary about the stuff Alex Schroeder reads and does). If you’re a friend or relative, you might be interested in reading Life instead of this page. If you’ve come here from an RPG blog, you might want to head over to RPG. There are other similar categories to be found on the SiteMap.

Für Rollenspieler gibt es ebenfalls eine eigene RSP Kategorie.

2018-02-16 Coffee

How do you prepare coffee at home? I was recently talking to pet84rik on Mastodon and he mentioned that one should buy ground coffee in bags of 100g and I noted that here in Switzerland the smallest bags seem to be 250g. To this he said that ground coffee loses its taste quite rapidly so that you shouldn’t keep ground coffee around for more than a week. Is the alternative grinding your own coffee? And once you have ground your coffee, how do you prepare it?

pet84rik uses a French press. I use a Moka pot. A friend at the office said he uses a an AeroPress. Another friend at the office said he recently bought an espresso machine and a grinder for nearly CHF 2000.

What about you? And why did you end up doing it this way? Did you go to coffee tastings? Did you read coffee nerd blogs? Is this simply the way your parents prepared coffee? My mom likes coffee and she drinks filtered coffee. Here in Switzerland most people would claim that this is bad coffee, but one never knows whether they think this is so because they tried it, or because they think it’s a German invention and they don’t like Germans and they don’t want to like what Germans like or something silly like that.

I was recently at a Vietnamese restaurant here in Zürich where they served Vietnamese coffee (with condensed milk) and I liked it. Wikipedia says: “The coffee may be brewed into ice for cà phê đá, or when had with condensed milk for cà phê sữa đá.”

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Comments on 2018-02-16 Coffee

We buy ground coffee in the normal size (500g Dalmayr Prodomo) and keep it in a Mason jar. We brew it “Turkish style” (no idea if it’s really Turkish) - that means coffee goes into a cup and we put hot water on top of it. Stir, wait til the coffee sank to the ground and drink carefully leaving the grounds in the cup.

Andreas Gohr 2018-02-16 20:27 UTC


According to Wikipedia, Turkish coffee means that the coffee is boiled for a bit, and the coffee is “very finely ground,” whatever that means. No idea for how this happens, either. Perhaps the external links at the end have more information?

Then again, if you like it that way, there’s no reason to change.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-16 21:19 UTC


Long answer by kvothe on his phlog.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-18 16:27 UTC

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2018-02-12 Gay Halifax

Every now and then I’m surprised to learn that the Rainbow Community for Halifax, Nova Scotia uses Oddmuse for their site. Daniel MacKay runs the site and that makes him the biggest Oddmuse user other than me, I think.

Oddmuse is the wiki engine running this site. A wiki is a kind of light weight content management system with an emphasis on simplicity (ideally, hah!). Basically anybody is can edit pages. Originally there was not much more to it than that and projects like Smallest Wiki showed how you could get these going in just a few lines of code. Or this wiki I wrote in Go a few years ago: Oddµ.

If you want to come and talk to us, fire up your IRC clients and join us on Freenode, in the #oddmuse channel. The link takes you to a web chat thing so that you can get a feel for it without having to struggle with an IRC client.

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2018-02-12 Buttery Smooth Emacs

This is the best blog post about Emacs in a long time. I’m still laughing. Buttery Smooth Emacs, Friday, October 28, 2016.

«GNU Emacs is an old-school C program emulating a 1980s Symbolics Lisp Machine emulating an old-fashioned Motif-style Xt toolkit emulating a 1970s text terminal emulating a 1960s teletype.»

«Emacs organizes its view of the outside world into frames (what the rest of the world calls “windows”), windows (which the rest of the world calls “panes”), and buffers (which the rest of the world calls “documents”).»

«Did Emacs just adapt to whatever these non-Xt toolkits did? Did Emacs adopt modern best practices? GTK+ is a modern GUI library. Emacs supports GTK+. Is Emacs a well-behaved GTK+ program now?»

«What’s particularly hilarious is that SIGIO can happen in the middle of redisplay. The REPL loop (in the Emacs case, not Read Eval Print, but Read Eval WTF) can be recursive.»

No, really. This blog post just keeps on giving.

(I don’t get why people use Facebook as their blog but whatever, this blog post is great.)

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Comments on 2018-02-12 Buttery Smooth Emacs

It’s a great write-up, but this isn’t right: “...a 1980s Symbolics Lisp Machine emulating an old-fashioned Motif-style Xt toolkit....” Symbolics certainly didn’t get its window system ideas from Xt.

Arthur A. Gleckler 2018-02-13 01:25 UTC


I’d be surprised if everything else is right! :)

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-13 07:08 UTC


More tales from redisplay.

AlokSingh 2018-02-14 06:39 UTC


The joy of CTRL S and CTRL Q! «It is also a great tragedy that you don’t get DSR/DTR lines on these “modern” serial ports, which means you have to use inline XON/XOFF flow control. Like an animal.»

Good stuff, thanks Alok!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-14 13:12 UTC

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2018-02-12 Being Confused

The days pass and my mind is not at rest. Sometimes I feel a cold hand clutching my entrails in the morning. Work? All the things I should do. A very light form of impostor syndrome and feelings of anxiety. I get these mostly when I don’t get enough sleep.

Sometimes, fragments of thoughts appear and as I try to grasp them, they disappear. Did I have a cool idea and can’t remember? Or was the thought but half done, the kind of thing that I hadn’t thought through? I’d like to remember and think it through. Like a manatee in space I flap my sadly inadequate mental flippers, but all I see are the stars turning around me. I can’t get a foothold. I can’t pin it down.

Should I write things down? Or is my life too full of things already? Perhaps I should think less. Focus more? When I need to focus, I often cannot. I want to read and play and talk. I can’t ever get anything done in the office when too many other people are around. Perhaps it is the noise that keeps distracting me. But later that day, around 15:00 or so, suddenly the horizon comes a lot closer. I don’t see people. I don’t hear people. It’s just the words on the screen. And then this. And then that. And it all falls into place.

But then I’m late for everything. I live in a permanent jet lag. I can’t play D&D at 22:00. I can’t have friends over for dinner. I can’t do my Aikido in the middle of the night. My wife has to get up early. I want to spend a few minutes in the morning and a few hours in the evening with her, in her company. We need to talk. We can’t just sleep in the same room. So I get up early and try to go to bed early.

Does journaling help focus, or does it prevent the mind from expanding? I think I’m writing this down in order to tie it down. Dear diary, sometimes I feel confused about the world and my purpose in life.

“Herr, lehre doch mich, daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß, und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, und ich davon muß.” Lord, help me understand my life will end, and that my life has meaning, and that I must go. The translation is mine and surely there are others. You can find the passages from the King James Bible on this page of the German Requiem.

This is something I fear indeed: to have wasted my time. To wake up one day and realize that life is short and that I spent what little time I had on the things I didn’t want.

I still do feel befuddled. Perhaps I should get more sleep.

Screenshot showing Emacs

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Today I’m going to try something else. It has worked often enough: get up with my wife, but then waste an hour or two at home, making and drinking coffee, checking social media, writing some code, writing a blog post. We’ll see how it goes.

– Alex, 8:04 the next morning


I totally feel you.

Andreas Gohr 2018-02-13 13:45 UTC


I’ve found the practice of keeping a paper diary worthwhile, at least thus far; having tried org-mode files for the same purpose, I didn’t stick, but with this I seem to be so doing.

I haven’t yet encountered a case where I felt that to do so prevented my mind from expanding. Quite the contrary! - in the course of an average day, far more thoughts and ideas and stories occur to me than I could ever possibly find the time to develop, and, as anyone, I almost always have something else going on in any case. Heretofore, most of these have simply been forgotten, which seems to me sufficient cause for regret. But I have found that, if I only take a moment or two aside to describe a thought that seems worth saving, and to briefly expand upon what about it makes it seem to have such worth, then when the necessities of life permit, I may review my book, find those notes, and develop their subject further. Not all such thoughts merit or receive such investment, of course! But those which do, I no longer lose between the time when they occur to me and the time when I have effort free to devote to them.

Too, no longer losing them, I need no longer fear such loss. I believe this is why I have found the practice so greatly to improve my ability to focus: I no longer need fear that all the time I will ever have with an idea, I will have in the moment that the idea occurs to me. That’s a very distracting fear! Under its influence, to disregard whatever activity engaged one when an idea arose, and instead spend whatever time one may with the idea before it is gone, makes perfect sense. The diary is a tool against this fear, which I have found to be very effective; in the absence of the fear, there remains no impetus to shift focus beyond the minute or two spent writing down the essentials for later recovery, and I find I may return to my work, or whatever other task initially occupied me, with a clear mind.

I’m not sure why it should be so important in my experience that the medium be paper and ink, rather than keyboard and screen. But I strongly suspect that it has to do with the change of mental perspective that occurs in shifting from one to the other. There is also this about writing words on paper with a pen: the level of incremental effort is much higher than that required to type into a file. Odd as it seems, I think that has value, in that it lends a degree of concentration on the essential, and in its own way that too improves focus: if I start typing to myself into a file about an idea, I’m just likely to wander far off course into inconsequentialities because thoughts flow so easily through my hands into a keyboard that there seems no need to filter sense from nonsense, whereas the effort of shaping words with a pen on paper is such that, unless I am confident the words have merit enough that I’ll be glad of them later, I simply will not write them. With a keyboard at my fingertips, I may well waste time. With a pen in my hand, I find I do not waste effort.

And there is one other thing about keeping one’s diary in a paper book: it has the heft and feel of a made thing. It feels real, in a way that no digital equivalent I’ve ever created has felt. And I find that that means a great deal more to me than I would’ve imagined it could, before I began this practice.

Whether any of this generalizes beyond my own rather strange self, I have no idea in the world. But I hope there’s something here which you may find of use, or at least of passing interest.

Aaron 2018-02-16 16:22 UTC


...certainly, reviewing my prior comment, I can also say that writing on paper has done wonders for my concision. Now just to find a way to transfer that skill to the digital realm.

Aaron 2018-02-16 16:59 UTC


Thank you both. Perhaps I need to carry a paper notebook along with me, and a pen, and use it. Strangely enough, I already use and love to use paper notebooks for my RPG campaigns, for the languages I learn, for some journal entries I leave for my wife – I guess you could say I write love letters into a notebook for her, haha. But it never occurred to me to carry a generic notebook for myself. I need to give it a try.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-16 21:13 UTC

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2018-02-08 Write Bots Carefully

Today was one of those days. Load climbing up to 40 because of some idiot writing a bot following every single link on Emacs Wiki. Don’t do that! Be mindful all the pitfalls out there:

  1. robots.txt for disallowed URLs, crawl delay, and more
  2. meta tags for robots in the HTML you’re getting in order to decide whether to follow any links or not
  3. using common sense
  4. keeping an eye on the logs

Don’t be an idiot.

Munin graph showing load

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2018-02-08 VF-1 on Windows

On Windows with Cygwin, image viewers do not work without X11. So what was I to do for VF-1? If I used a native Winows application, it was unable to deal with the Cygwin file name. Argh! I needed a middle man that handles this for me.

I created ~/.config/vf1/vf1rc and added the following:

handler image/* paint %s

I have added ~/bin to my $PATH and created ~/bin/paint as follows:

#!/bin/bash
IMG=$(echo $1 | sed -e "s/\/cygdrive\/c/C:/")
if (file $IMG | grep -q "PNG image data"); then
   mv "$IMG" "$IMG.png"
   IMG=$IMG.png
elif (file $IMG | grep -q "JPEG image data"); then
   mv "$IMG" "$IMG.jpg"
   IMG=$IMG.jpg
fi
echo Opening $IMG
exec "C:/Program Files/Paint.NET/PaintDotNet.exe" "$IMG"

And now images open in Paint.NET. :)

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Comments on 2018-02-08 VF-1 on Windows

cygpath might also be helpful here!

Aaron 2018-02-16 16:25 UTC


Oh! I was unaware of this utility. This is exactly what I need, thanks!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-16 21:00 UTC

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2018-02-08 Use Old Tech to Fight Information Overload

Here I am, using newsboat as my newsreader instead of visiting Feedly or using Reeder on my iOS devices. It’s an application that runs in the terminal. It doesn’t hide empty feeds. It doesn’t sort feeds. It doesn’t group feeds. I imported a gazillion feeds via OPML file and slowly I’m finding that this or that feed is dead, or that I don’t really enjoy reading a feed, and I simply edit my subscriptions and remove the feeds. It’s as if the slight discomfort of using the tool makes me realize that this or that isn’t actually worth the effort.

At the same time, I find that when I use VF-1 to visit Gopher sites, or when I use newsboat to read blog posts, and I do this from my laptop, then I with purpose, when I have some time. I don’t skim articles. I take the time to think about what I have just read. And I can’t just quickly comment or +1 or start what I have read and move on. Should I write a comment, an actual email, or a post on my blog? Again, an action that requires enough effort to give me pause, to evaluate whether what I was about to do is actually worth doing. And I am starting to find that in the past few years I might done things very efficiently that aren’t actually worth doing in the first place.

I think I’ll start reducing my toolset even further. Perhaps I’ll start browsing the web using w3m again.

I’d lover to view images in my terminal instead of opening new windows. I need to look at the solutions proposed in this thread about displaying pictures in a terminal. So many exciting ideas.

And really, most of the time I just use Emacs, a terminal emulator, and a browser. I think I’ll remain an Emacs user until the very end. But everything else is up for grabs.

Right now I am exploring what Gnome has to offer. That’s why I use Tilix as my terminal emulator. It does tiling and I love that.

alias right="tilix --action=session-add-right"
alias down="tilix --action=session-add-down"

Use Ctrl~Tab to switch between sessions. I think this is good enough for me right now.

And I’m using Tilingnome, an extension to the Gnome shell which does window tiling automatically, without me needing to switch to a tiling window manager. For now, this is very slick. I can open new windows without ever thinking about placement and really, I rarely have more than two or three windows open (specially since my terminal emulator and my editor do tiling). I guess the only key combos I might need eventually is sending a window to the other workspace. I’ll look for it when I have a need for it.

Screenshot showing Emacs and Tilix

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Perhaps this is also the reason I’m starting to prefer blogs, Mastodon and Gopherholes over visiting Google+. It’s just a bit less slick, takes a bit more effort, sometimes it requires my laptop at home, and in the end these little barriers move me away from some social media. I guess that’s very similar to how I moved away from Facebook. I simply uninstalled the app and changed the password. Sure, at home, on my laptop, the password is still around. But it isn’t available in the office. It isn’t available on my phone.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-08 18:10 UTC


Now that I’m using newsboat to read my news, I’m discovering a lot of dead blogs. As I’m discovering these, and dropping them (using a slightly convoluted keybome: E to edit, / to search, dd to delete, :wq to save), I’m feeling increasingly frustrated and rushed and I’m starting to think that maybe I should just delete most of them. Right now I still treat them like a treasure trove. But maybe I should treat them like the detritus of times gone by and just clean the house (or boat).

– Alex 2018-02-10 11:37 UTC


I defined a custom link for Tilix:

Regex Command
\bgopher://\S+ tilix -a session-add-down -e /home/alex/.local/bin/vf1 "$0"

– Alex 2018-02-11


Now that I can only read news from my laptop, I find that I no longer feel like I should be reading news on my phone. A relief?

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-13 14:21 UTC


Reading news using newsboat I find that it doesn’t refresh the feeds unless I tell it to. How refreshing! Those feeds don’t just keep on racking up numbers. Once you’ve read a feed it stays read until you decide to hit r and reload it. Just don’t ever hit R and reload all of the feeds if you’re like me. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-15 09:17


I’m still going by my new motto: make computer use hard again. Specifically, I shall try to do everything I want to do without one of the big browsers. So, it’s either in Emacs, or newsboat, or w3m, or lynx, or VF-1, or IRC (and that means Emacs), or Mastodon (since that happens via IRC and thus within Emacs). Whenever I find myself starting Firefox or one if its friends, I stop myself. 1/2

Can I do the thing without a browser? If I can, do I still want to do it? If that’s too much trouble, I saved myself from wasting time. Good! If I definitely need a browser because of Javascript or whatever, and I realize that this is the reason, I’m feeling the anger rise and that is often enough for me to close the window again. Good! No time wasted. 😤 (← remember: this is the face of triumph according to Unicode)

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-18 18:00


I second the recommendation by @wrenpile to read The Tyranny of Convenience by Tim Wu about convenience and struggle and how we must realise that making everything convenient robs us of life experience. We run, not because it is easy but because it is hard. We went to the moon, not because it was easy but because it was hard. Let’s recognise that «hobbies» and «passions» are just inconvenient things we like doing anyway.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-18 23:04

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2018-02-08 Bitlbee on Windows with Cygwin

Installing Bitlbee on Windows with Cygwin... I had to install the development packages of libglib2, gnutls and libgcrpyt using Cygwin:

$ ./configure --msn=0 --jabber=0 --oscar=0 --twitter=0
BitlBee configure
Architecture: CYGWIN_NT-6.1

Configuration done:
  Debugging disabled.
  AddressSanitizer (ASAN) disabled.
  Building non-PIE executable
  Binary stripping disabled.
  Off-the-Record (OTR) Messaging disabled.
  systemd disabled.
  Using event handler: glib
  Using SSL library: gnutls
  Building without IM-protocol support. We wish you a lot of fun...

I like how there is an extra comment if you disable all the protocols. All I want is the Mastodon plugin!

make
make install
make install-dev

No problems, so far.

For the Mastodon plugin, some more stuff was required. I already had autoconf installed but libtool and automake was missing. Notice how I had to set the environment variable. PKG_CONFIG_PATH. When I made install-dev above, I saw the output install -p -m 0644 bitlbee.pc /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig so I assumed everything had been installed correctly. I don’t know why this is considered to be a non-standard location but here we are.

./autogen.sh
PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/local/lib/pkgconfig/ ./configure

Sadly, linking still fails.

libtool:   error: can't build x86_64-unknown-cygwin shared library unless -no-undefined is specified

The solution to that is to add a line in src/Makefile. In this fragment, the line with $(BITLBEE_LIBS) is new.

mastodon_la_LDFLAGS = \
	-module \
	-avoid-version \
	$(BITLBEE_LIBS) \
	$(GLIB_LIBS)

Now you should be able to build it:

make
make install
libtool --finish /usr/local/lib/bitlbee/

And you can start it:

mkdir /usr/local/etc/bitlbee
touch /usr/local/etc/bitlbee/bitlbee.conf
mkdir /var/lib/bitlbee
/usr/local/sbin/bitlbee -nD

But notice the warning:

Warning: Can't find function `init_plugin_info' in `/usr/local/lib/bitlbee/mastodon.dll'

This does not bode well.

But you can connect using your favorite IRC client!

Help works!

help mastodon

And thus:

register *secret*
account add mastodon @kensanata
account mastodon set base_url https://octodon.social/api/v1
account mastodon on

I’m getting a message with the URL from mastodon_oauth, get the token from the website, and I’m online!

Don’t forget to save your bitlbee account and your Mastodon account:

save

Wohoo!

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2018-02-07 Moku Pona Updates

I’m now hosting my moku pona subscriptions via Gopher:

Supposedly it will update twice a day. Let’s see how this goes.

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2018-02-05 New Monsters

I think I need a list of new monsters. I liked how Avatar: The Last Airbender used two animal names, smashed together, to generate new monsters. Perhaps that’s the way forward. It would also make sure that I get idiosyncratic monsters for a world that’s entirely mine and doesn’t immediately look like Ancient Greece as we all know it (I’m sure it was far more variable back then), and it doesn’t look like D&D, either.

I guess I just love looking at art galleries like these:

I could repurpose some of the pictures I drew and add more. I noticed that without such a project, I just don’t sit down to draw anymore.

My monster gallery from 2015 to 2017. Good times!

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That gallery makes me think of Hellboy for some reason. Great style.

I think that one huge advantage for using cliche monsters is that they are so well known, that they kinda stay in the background and don’t detract from the plot. You don’t have to spend too much time describing them, and the players are not tempted to spend time researching their behavior, origin, life cycle, etc. — as I would be with original monsters. Of course it’s nice to have that for a boss or some other important monster in the game, but not all the time.

On the other hand, I can see how such a world-building exercise, coming up with new creatures, inventing the dependencies between them, shaping the whole ecology of a fake world could be very interesting.

RadomirDopieralski 2018-02-05 16:37 UTC


Cool, I was right! http://hiziri-pro.tumblr.com/post/162744714643/is-mike-mignola-hellboy-creator-an-inspiration

RadomirDopieralski 2018-02-05 16:39 UTC


I never looked at Hellboy, but I definitely like the style!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-05 21:46 UTC

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