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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Linen Persephone sailor trousers

sewing

I haven’t sewn as much as I thought I might during lockdown — partly because I’ve been busier with work than I expected — but what I have sewn has been a joy and something to be savoured. This weekend I finished making a second pair of Persephone Sailor Pants, this time using some lovely linen mix fabric from Clothspot.

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire

mumblings

I look at you and see
My life that might have been
Your face just ghostly in the smoke
They’re setting fire to the cornfields
As you’re taking me home
The smell of burning fields
Will now mean you and here

[…]

Ooh, the thrill and the hurting
The thrill and the hurting
I know that this will never be mine

[…]

I want you as the dream
Not the reality

— ‘Never Be Mine’ by Kate Bush

Great works of art (of all kinds) have a tendency to make you think, and to encourage your mind to make connections which you might not have thought about before. Yesterday I watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire and absolutely loved it. I can’t stop thinking about it and it has made all sorts of interesting links in my mind.

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Re-mapping my keyboard and re-wiring my brain

geekery

I don’t really know what I was thinking. It’s just that sometimes I get an idea in my head and I run with it. I’m pretty sure that it is going to be a good thing (or a very good thing) in the long run, but it has challenged my poor old brain a good deal, I can tell you.

It started when I got one of the regular newsletters from ErgoDox, the makers of my keyboard. They were featuring a ‘layout of the month’ produced by Graeme Geldenhuys which used the BEAKL15 keyboard layout. I was intrigued. Typing has felt much more comfortable since I got the ErgoDox, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement as QWERTY still involves awkward reaches and an unbalanced workload between the hands. Since I could just download and tweak Graeme’s layout to try it, there was no reason not to, and so it began.

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