Re-visiting poetry

mumblings

It’s interesting how your perspective on things shifts as you get older.

A little while after Valentine’s Day this year, I remembered an experience (many years ago) when I came across a poem while browsing in a bookshop, just after Valentine’s Day. I had just endured a very painful and messy break-up of a relationship, and my bookshop meandering was an attempt to distract myself for a while. I picked up a book of poetry at random (Michèle Roberts’ collection ‘All the selves I was’), and opened a page at random. Bam.

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Using the tab-bar in Emacs

emacs geekery

When I’m working in Emacs, I like to have some visual separation between different workspaces (which roughly equate to different projects). Previously, I was using Doom Emacs’ workspaces feature, which uses persp-mode. My initial reason for disabling workspaces was because I found that projectile-switch-project didn’t work properly with it enabled, but I also thought it would be interesting to see what I could set up using built-in Emacs functions. What I ended up using was Emacs’ built-in tab-bar.

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Cutting my own hair

life

I finally gave in and gave myself a haircut today. Surprisingly, the results were not terrible. Along the way, I have learned a little bit about the process of cutting hair, and realised that very few parts of this process are in any way possible to do well when cutting your own hair.

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Flannel Carolyn pyjamas

sewing

I like to have a sewing project to tackle when I’m on holiday, so this has been a chance for me to tackle a long-planned project: making a pair of Carolyn pyjamas from cotton flannel.

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Switching to Selectrum for incremental narrowing in Emacs

geekery emacs

My Emacs tweaking tends to go in waves. I keep an eye on the Emacs subreddit and the Doom Discord channel on a fairly regular basis, but I try not to jump on every cool new package I see discussed there. Every now and again though, I see something interesting which coincides with an itch to tinker with Emacs, and away I go… This time, it was reading discussions about a constellation of relatively new packages concerned with incrementally narrowing lists (and other related functions) that caught my eye. This sounds very niche, but for many people (me included) being presented with a list of things and being able to type to incrementally narrow the list and then select something is a core part of the Emacs UI. Since I use Doom, and it offers you an easy way to choose either Ivy or Helm, I had been using Ivy, for the sake of easy configuration. Both are fine packages, but having tried both, I preferred Ivy’s more minimal interface, and the fact that it used the minibuffer rather than a buffer for completions. However, it — and the related packages, Counsel and Swiper — are somewhat complex and difficult to get to grips with. I was also not using all the features that they provided, so was curious if I would enjoy using something even simpler. That’s why I tried out Selectrum.

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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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