I’m not great at weekends.

Today I did too many chores, then did way too little of anything, and ended up eating too much ice cream this evening.

I should give myself a break because our plans for today were canceled at the last minute. Still, I wish I could wake up on the weekend and just have fun, or at the very least take up the unstructured time I sometimes have on a Saturday or Sunday and do something productive with it. I have tons of writing projects on my hands, and did not work on any of it today.

I did bake bread and cook chicken noodle soup for my family, so the day wasn’t a total loss. Hopefully I use tomorrow in a more worthwhile way.

⌨️ An update on my Colemak-DH experiment

I have temporarily stopped practicing on, or changing to, the ColeMak-DH keyboard layout. I haven’t been using my new Planck-EZ keyboard at all. I am still too slow with that layout to use it for “real” writing, and I have been writing and writing and writing for the past couple weeks.

I think I am still very excited about moving to the Planck and to a non-QWERTY layout. But I am more excited about my writing projects right now.

I plan to pick up Colemak-DH and the Planck keyboard again in a couple weeks, which is around my birthday, because I believe that my need for fast typing will abate by then. The Planck keyboard was supposed to be a birthday present, anyway.

Yesterday at work I was asked to give a status update on my team’s status call, which is a Webex. I decided to create a slideshow and make a good presentation out of it. I have decided to take every opportunity, even the little ones, to improve my presentation skills.

I played too much Scott Pilgrim vs. the World this week, and have been rewarded with wrist pain in my left hand. I should have known I was overdoing it because my typing became more and more inaccurate as the week progressed.

The tree service my wife and I hired accidentally severed the internet connection cable outside my house. Did I mention that I work from home and my kid has Google Classroom-based homework?

🎮 “First you were ve-gone, but now you will be gone.”

On a whim this weekend I purchased the beat ‘em up game Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World for the Nintendo Switch. It was an impulse purchase of a game I had not heard of and didn’t know was any good. I have been wanting to play a brawler for a while, but it is a genre I have not played since I was a kid, so I was not sure I would still enjoy it. I have been eyeing, but have been reluctant to spend $30 of $25 on, River City Girls and Streets of Rage 4 for weeks now. I haven’t played a game in that genre since I was a kid, and as an adult I am terrible at a lot of the games I used to excel at (I’m looking at you, Mario!) so I was not sure if I could button-mash fast enough to play such games. $25 or more is too much to spend on a game that is too hard for me to play. While I dithered about a purchase, I spent some time playing NES versions of the Double Dragon games and River City Ransom, but found those games are too primitive to be much fun for me anymore.

The Scott Pilgrim game was on sale for a stupidly low price ($7.49 or something), so I picked it up. To my surprise and delight, it is awesome. It has a colorful pixel art style that mimics the Scott Pilgrim comics. Its level design, character design, and animations show a lot of humor and attention to the source material. The chiptune soundtrack is really catchy. Play controls are easy to pick up. It starts out really hard, but you can replay levels to level up your character (i.e., lean new moves), and earn money to upgrade your character’s stats (strength, defense, etc.), which makes the game easier. It is kind of grind-y, at least for a conservative, low-skilled player like me, but the grind is fun.

Basically, everything about the video game does justice to the source material. Playing it caused me to want to reread the graphic novels, which I started to do yesterday. Scott Pilgrim, in comics form, is weird, surreal, and a real mess—you know, a perfect reflection of the early twenties and late teens lives of its characters. The characters, plot, and themes of the book, are complex, messy, flawed, and not fully formed. Nobody is a role model. Nobody is mature. Reality itself is warped for them. It makes no sense that Scott goes into video game mode and kills his girlfriend’s exes. Is that a metaphor? Only kind of. You’re just not expected to take it seriously. It’s all problematic—like life, I guess. I don’t really think it is deep (maybe you would if you were much younger than me), but it is really good at stirring up complicated thoughts and emotions in me about how messy life is. During this re-read, I have thought about how I might judge people who haven’t figured their lives out yet, or overlook the good qualities in someone like that. My feelings about those things are different now than they were when I first read the series about ten years ago.

I also watched a couple clips of the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World movie on YouTube, too, and am trying to find a new respect for it. I saw the movie only once, after I had read all the graphic novels, and absolutelyhated it because my favorite parts of the graphic novels—the ones involving character growth—are mostly not depicted in the movie. It does have a stunning cast, though; it’s unbelievable that all those young actors who became so big later on are in the same movie.

Writing for other people

I have been busily writing a bunch of stuff for other people this week. First there were work papers for my day job. Yesterday and today I wrote three long product reviews for Amazon. Since late last week (and for hours last night) I have drafting a white paper that covers a topic at work that I am an expert in—that’s going to be a rather long project. I was just drafted into a presentation team on Friday, and I spent last evening brainstorming and I spent this evening writing an 800-word outline for it. I am teeming with ideas all of a sudden. It’s wild. But ironically I wonder what to write for myself, in my blog posts, as if I don’t have anything to say.

Two of my wife’s students went home today because they came to school with COVID. We’re doing great. 😅

“He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.“—Swedish proverb.

The conservative mindset

I characterize the mindset of American conservatives—specifically the ones who are blasé or antipathetic toward anti-COVID measures such as vaccines and face-masks—thusly:

Bad things happen to other people. That is, until they happen to me.

Oddly enough, that is also my progressive-but-not-lunatic-fringe-liberal mindset. I figure that it is more healthy to assume I will probably be all right, given the precautions I take, rather than to expect the worst and be anxious about it all the time. (I’ve already done that about COVID for a solid year or more.) I prepare for the worst, so that I can protect myself and my family as best I can, but I assume the worst won’t happen to me.

I admit that new information, such as learning that breakthrough infections are a thing and that the are new COVID cases in my daughter’s school and my wife’s school every day or so, shakes this mindset quite a bit sometimes. COVID is like a specter that is constantly moving closer.

Based on the COVID-related stress I am still dealing with on a daily basis, this healthy-when-I-apply-it attitude is all I have to keep me going. I know I am whistling past the graveyard. I know the Angel of Death will not pass over my house forever. I know I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. But for now, the thought that “bad things happen to other people” is getting me from mini-crisis to mini-crisis without completely losing my mind.

Parenting is indeed a verb

I have been emotionally exhausted from all the deep conversations I’ve been having with my daughter this weekend—mostly on account of dealing with bad behavior rather than with her wanting to sit and learn at her father’s knee.

I am not upset about these talks—I think I am good at this stuff, and firmly believe that it is my responsibility as a parent to shape my children into good, well-adjusted people—but it does take a lot of energy out of me by the end of the day. Whoever claims parenting shouldn’t be a verb is either not a parent, a lousy one, or a damn liar.

I do this every day

On Thursday I embarked on an ambitious project related to my job. I am writing a white paper based on the presentation I wrote earlier this year, with the goal to publish it—or articles based on it—in an industry journal. It’s about how to do a certain type of project that I specialize in at work. That’s a topic I know a lot about, but have lacked the confidence to understand that it really is something valuable. By communicating my ideas to others in my presentation, I have realized that I really am knowledgeable about the area I work in, and that I have valuable ideas that I can share.

I am writing and editing somewhat furiously now (for me—I’m not an author) on my Mac and on my iPhone (thanks, Ulysses). I can’t stop. It is great to feel excited about and energized by a writing project again. I credit my daily writing habit on my blog for giving me the confidence to tackle a bigger writing project again. Writing something like this is no sweat for me. After all, I write for publication every day.

📺 I, for one, thought that yesterday’s divisive Coach Beard dark-night-of-the-soul episode of Ted Lasso was great. It wasn’t perfect, but I admired its ambition and loved every minute of it.

The importance of a classical education

Viewing this wonderful lecture on the importance of a classical education made me wonder if I had, or did not have, a classical education. I read a lot of great works, struggled a lot with deep reading, philosophy, and trying to understand the human condition, but I have many, many gaps in my reading and education, too. Reading Ulysses for the first time lately has truly impressed these shortcomings on me. I miss many allusions to classic and Christian thought, not to mention Irish history and geography.

For much of my life, my cynical mind has been more interested in the lies that make the world than in the truths that make the world. I am trying to reverse that balance now. Earlier this year, I made a decision to return to reading classic literature almost exclusively—even at a snail’s pace, and even if I struggle to understand it—to improve both my education and my outlook on life. I think it has been a worthwhile journey thus far, but I have far, far to go. It is a journey that ends only when I do.

Move slow and fix things.

Grace is accepting others’ limitations. Humility is accepting your own.

Incremental improvement

I think all the products Apple announced this week are great. I am tired of hearing that some people are disappointed that they are only incremental improvements on the previous models, or that Apple isn’t exciting anymore. That’s true of every product that isn’t a new invention. And how exciting could the umpteenth smartphone be?

The steady ratchet of incremental improvement is one of humankind’s greatest achievements. The entire modern world is built on it. It’s how you get from good to great. Complaining about it is nonsensical.

I have been working at a more measured pace to increase accuracy at work. Hope no one notices in a bad way that I am spending more time on some tasks, because I am double-checking more thoroughly than before.

Wisdom is neither quickness nor intellect. It is seeing the world how it really is.

I learned yet another horrible thing today that I wished weren’t true

According to the superintendent of schools, some parents in my town are sending their children to school wearing “fake” masks that superficially satisfy mask wearing requirements while being completely ineffectual. These masks do not protect the wearer or anybody else from COVID or any other type of disease. They are specifically designed to be as flimsy as possible; some are even see-through. It’s a product for people who want to be assholes, pretend that COVID is not real, and thumb their noses at responsible people. Apparently it is also a product for parents who wish to teach their kids to be assholes, too.

What I am dealing with now that school is back in session

My daughter has been in school three days so far this school year. Every school day, our entire community has received an email from the superintendent of schools stating that there are new COVID cases affecting students and staff at all, or almost all, of the schools in the district.

This is from today’s email:

As stated previously, I realize that our school community has varying viewpoints on COVID-19 and specifically on mask protocols. We are going to continue to make decisions in the best interest of safety for our students and staff. In only three days of school, we already have had 21 positive student cases and 10 positive staff cases. It is essential that we stay vigilant and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

I live in a mid-sized town, and each school is pretty small, and most of the elementary schools have no air conditioning. The kids are being allowed to take off masks for “excessive heat” reasons, due to a loophole in our governor’s COVID masking mandate and due to incredible pressure by a vocal faction of parents. My wife and I believe this attitude about masks is cavalier and dangerous. We hate the idea of sending our daughter into this environment with a vaccine, and also hate the idea of pulling her out of more school because being away so long already has not been good for her mental health. All of us are frustrated and exhausted by all of this, and there does not seem to be an end to the pandemic in sight.

I need laundry folding TV

I can’t clean my office because I’m too busy to do anything with it all day, even though I am working in there, and at the end of the day I don’t want to be in there anymore. I have been thinking that I should break up the mess into chunks, box part of it each day, and organize the box while I watch TV. The problem is, I don’t really watch TV much anymore. When I do, it’s usually “good” TV that I have to pay attention to. I no longer have mindless TV shows that are good to kind-of pay attention to while folding laundry. When I was younger and lived alone, I always had sitcoms and sports on that I didn’t really care about, but were good distractions while I was puttering with something or doing light choses. That took up a huge part of my evenings. Now that I have a family, all of that is gone—mostly for the better—but I think I need a little of it back in my life sometimes.

Pasta party

On Saturday, my nine-year-old daughter hosted a pasta party for the family that she had been planning for weeks. She created invitations that listed a schedule full of activities. She also created a menu of four different types of pasta (spaghetti, ziti, farfalle, and elbows), homemade meatballs, homemade bread, and for dessert, chocolate pudding and homemade shortbread. My wife, my mother-in-law, and I cooked. During the party, my daughter led us through telescope painting and decorating (the telescopes were paper towel rolls) and a pasta parade (we walked around the block while my kids held toy pots). After dinner, she gave each of us a goodie bag containing a thank you note and a ten-page short story that she wrote about making a new friend. She worked so hard on everything, it brought tears to my eyes. I am very proud of her.

A good skill to know in case society collapses

I got my first job when I was sixteen. I was a dishwasher at a restaurant for about half of summer. Soon after I started, my mom wanted me to tell my grandfather about my new job. She was proud of me for getting a job, even though it was a job with low status and poor pay. My grandfather had worked as a short order cook and a baker for most of his life, so he was well-versed in working in a kitchen.

When I told him about the dishwashing job, what he said back to me was really strange. He said, “That’s great. Washing dishes is a good skill to know in case society collapses and machines won’t work anymore.” It was out of character for him to say something so cynical, and it pretty much stopped the conversation in its tracks.

Now it is over 25 years later, and I wonder, as I listen to podcasts dissecting news, technology, and podcasts as I wash dishes in my house four times a day: Is society going to collapse? Is climate change the thing that does us all in? Are we, as a species, extinguishing all of the natural resources we need to survive? How long is it going to take for things to start falling apart because of it? Maybe not as long as I would like it to be.

If that is how society collapses, perhaps machines will be the only things left that will be able to wash dishes. In that case, my dishwashing skills will not be useful after all.

⌨️ Chording

I have just started to use my new Planck keyboard for work for a short, short time each day. It has been rough going so far. I expected to have trouble typing in Colemak-DH because I just started learning that layout. I did not expect to have as much trouble with chording keyboard shortcuts. The problems I am facing are making me doubt whether I really can use a 40% keyboard for work, where it would give me the most benefit.

On my Mac, this is almost never an issue. In general, Mac keyboard shortcuts are easier to enter, and are friendlier to laptop-style keyboards that lack certain control keys.

Conversely, Windows apps like Excel make heavy use of function keys (F1-F12) and operator keys (-, +, *), which, on the Planck, live on a secondary layer that requires a key held down to access. When a Windows shortcut requires a function or operator key plus a modifier key (typically Shift, Alt, or Control, or a combination of them), I find it very challenging to enter it. There are just too many keys to hold down and it gets very awkward.

In Excel, I especially miss a key I never even used until last year: the menu key. I must find a suitable mapping for it, because I have come to rely on it for all sorts of things, primarily special forms of pasting. Furthermore, my Windows file manager of choice, FAR Manager, assigns important functions to keys my keyboard does not even have, like Insert, Right Shift, and Right Control, and makes extensive use of Shift+Function keys for common operations such as renaming a file.

I am slowly figuring out how to map some of the complex key command chords I use to single keys on another layer. That may be the answer for some things, but it doesn’t scale well. I may have to adjust what software I use and how I do certain things.