Wiksten Haori jacket

sewing

It seems that I’m not alone in the sewing world in having slightly lost my sewing mojo (or ‘sewjo’) recently. It’s not that I have completely stopped sewing: I made a birthday shirt, another pair of Persephone sailor trousers, and an (un-blogged) pair of Lycra workout leggings, as well as many masks and my keyboard mat, though the latter barely counts as sewing. Those items are obviously not nothing, but the output is less than I would normally have sewn in a comparable period. I certainly don’t have more spare time than I would normally have. Even though I have been working from home, my home office is my sewing room and vice-versa, and unfortunately not big enough to be set up for both functions simultaneously, otherwise I might have been able to take a short breaks to do 20 minutes or so of sewing in my day and get away from the screen. Mostly, I think the problem has been that while I enjoy the sewing process itself enormously, my main impetus to sew is to produce clothes to wear in the presence of other people, and those opportunities have been severely lacking since March. Recently, I wanted to make something cosy and comforting, but which would also look fairly smart on work calls, and so I decided to make a Wiksten Haori jacket.

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Obsidian

geekery productivity

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Emacs and have been using it for most of my writing, coding and task-related activity for quite a while now. Emacs is famously able to handle just about any kind of function, many of which can be handled within a single mode: Org mode. However, just because you can do it in Emacs, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. For example, I tried out managing my personal email in Emacs using mu4e, and while I really enjoyed writing and managing email in Emacs, I found having to constantly open HTML emails in some form of browser (inside Emacs or outside) a chore. So now I have reverted back to Mailmate for my email needs and am very happy with it.

I had also been using org-roam and the related ecosystem of tools (org-roam-bibtex and org-roam-server) to handle my work notes on journal articles, books, and ideas arising from them. I absolutely loved the ease of linking between ideas, and the graph view which helped me to see what kinds of broader topics were emerging organically from my research. However, I found myself having frequent problems with the database needing to be cleared and rebuilt, and org-roam-bibtex-mode needing to be reloaded. This — I am certain — is some quirk of my own setup and configuration. I was syncing the note files via Dropbox and it is likely that this was causing issues. Whatever the cause, I couldn’t seem to fix it properly, and so I started to look around for alternatives outside of Emacs. Eventually, I settled on Obsidian.

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Keeping track of the day

mumblings

It can be difficult to keep a grip on time passing, particularly when you are working and living in the same place with little opportunity to travel to other places, and little variation in the pattern of your days and weeks. A few weeks ago, I discovered the ‘Solar Dial’ watch face on Apple Watch. I don’t know if it is new for WatchOS 7, or if it was there all the time and I hadn’t found it, but I really like it.

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A shelf and keyboard mat for my desk

sewing geekery

I was thinking the other day that I am incredibly grateful that past me (back in September last year, which seems about a decade ago) decided to take the plunge and buy a proper sit-stand desk. Like many people, I’ve been basically living at this desk for six months (though I’m very lucky to be able to work from home), so it has been fantastic to have a good, ergonomic setup which allows me to change position throughout the day. It doesn’t make endless Zoom meetings any more bearable, but my body does thank me at the end of the day.

I’ve made a couple more tweaks recently to improve things further: I’ve added a home-made desk shelf and a felt/cork keyboard mat.

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Back to evil key bindings in Emacs

geekery

Apparently — to quote The Byrds — ‘to everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn’. Despite what I have written, I’ve gone back to Doom’s evil (i.e. vim) bindings. As I thought about it more I realised that it made more sense to go with the grain in Doom. Doom works perfectly fine with plain Emacs bindings (if you tweak a little), but it is designed around evil-bindings, so you are missing out on some well thought-out aspects of the configuration. You can, of course, still use plain Emacs bindings in insert mode (which is often quite useful), and you can switch to Emacs mode temporarily by using the binding C-z. The two systems co-exist quite peacefully, so it is easy to use whatever seems best in context. I have, for example, continued to use isearch rather than vim-style search because I have found that I prefer it for simple searches. However, for search and replace, I prefer the vim :%s/foo/bar/ command. That’s no problem in Doom, and you can use either whenever you want.

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Using Tailwind CSS

geekery

A while ago I came across a link to a new CSS framework called Tailwind CSS. What I read intrigued me. I’ve used a number of different frameworks to style this site, including (most recently) Skeleton and also the Bourbon Sass toolset. The tools certainly made styling the site how I wanted and also making it behave nicely on different screen sizes easier than plain old CSS, but I still came up against frustrating problems that I found hard to fix because I don’t understand CSS in enough depth. Tailwind looked interesting, so I decided to give it a whirl. When I redesigned my photography site, I used another framework (Tachyons) with a similar rationale to Tailwind, but I like Tailwind much better.

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Reverting to qwerty

geekery

Remember when I wrote about switching to the BEAKL15 layout, and an anonymous commenter said that it would wreck my ability to type on a QWERTY layout keyboard when I needed to do that? Well, it happened. The better I got at the new layout, the worse I got at QWERTY. It got to the point where — if I needed to just hop on my laptop keyboard for a moment — I was single-finger typing, and having to hunt around for every letter. I’ve reluctantly reverted back to QWERTY.

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Comfort re-watching

review life

In these times, I think we all tend to find comfort where we can. We certainly haven’t run out of new things to watch, but Mr Bsag and I have both taken comfort in re-watching some high quality series again. I don’t know whether it is significant that both happen to be set in earlier periods (late 1950s to 1970s) — perhaps that distance in time helps to immerse us in the fiction and disconnect us temporarily from the present, I don’t know.

The two series we are working our way through again are Endeavour (the prequel to Inspector Morse), and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which is a comedy-drama about a Jewish-American housewife who gets into stand-up comedy. Technically, Mr Bsag is watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (or TMMM as I’ll call it for brevity) for the first time as he only saw bits when I watched it the first time, but got drawn into it. Both series are superb, and are a rewarding re-watch for different reasons. I’ve also found myself newly drawn to some of the peripheral characters in both series.

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Advising Emacs

geekery emacs

One of the delightful and surprising things about Emacs, as you get to know it better, is the depth of customisation which is available. Emacs can be a completely different editor for different people and for different purposes. Being able to tweak things on the fly and try them out before you commit to them, or even as a temporary fix to solve the particular problem you have right now, is empowering. The more you delve into it and try things out, the better you understand what is possible and the more comfortable you get with writing elisp. Recently I discovered the ‘advice’ system in Emacs, and now every problem looks like a situation for some well-placed advice!

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Confessions of a reluctant exerciser

life mumblings

I’ve never been an enthusiastic exerciser, at least not exercising for the sake of it. I’ve always enjoyed walking and cycling, but as a beneficial by-product of going somewhere interesting and enjoying the outdoors. Apart from a brief period of running while I was at Oxford, and practising Tae Kwon Do in my teens, I have never really done an organised exercise program. That wasn’t too much of a problem while I could be active as part of my normal day, but during lockdown, that outlet mostly disappeared. In truth, I had already started to realise that as I was getting older, I needed to get serious about doing more weight-bearing exercises to prevent my muscles from wasting away. Predictably, my plans to do something about that always started tomorrow.

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