FancyZones, Microsoft’s tiling window manager for Windows

Last week I started using FancyZones, one of Microsoft’s PowerToys for Windows, on my work computer. I think I love it.

FancyZones lets you create a tiled window layout and snap windows into pre-defined zones (or areas on your screen) via drag-and-drop. It makes it easy to divide your monitor into halves or thirds and arrange multiple windows neatly. Compared to manually sizing and placing multiple windows, it is much faster to snap them all into place by dragging them anywhere onto a zone or by typing a keyboard shortcut.

A tiled window layout is useful for arranging multiple apps for drag-and-drop, or for keeping multiple documents or apps visible at the same time. While it does limit where you can place windows on your screen, it is flexible and easy to adjust the layout. At any time you can call up a zone editor via a hotkey (Shift+Win+`). You can set presets for the different arrangements you like, and switch between them quickly.

FancyZones really clicked for me when I figured out that it can be configured to take over for the default window snapping feature’s keyboard shortcuts. Now I have windows shuffling between zones set up across my two screens using Win+Left and Win+Right key commands. I can still maximize with Win+Up whenever I need to, and then restore down with Win+Down as well.

Another neat feature of FanzyZones is that every zone represents a stack of windows. You can cycle through the windows in the currently-focused zone with keyboard shortcuts (Win+Up and Win+Down). These shortcuts are very useful because they operate on a smaller set of windows than the Alt+Tab or Win+Tab switchers do. It is much quicker to page through three or four windows within a zone than to go through all ten or twenty I have open system-wide.

If you are curious about tiled windows layouts, and you are a Windows user, I recommend checking out FancyZones. It is free, published by the platform vendor (Microsoft), and is even open source.

Converting my old school papers to Markdown

Last night I started converting the essays I wrote in high school from the old Microsoft Word .doc format to Markdown, so they will be readable as long as plain text files are readable. My process is simple:

  1. Open the Word .doc in LibreOffice.
  2. Copy the text and paste it into Ulysses
  3. Replace double-spaces after periods with single spaces.
  4. Fix all the paragraph breaks, using the version opened in LibreOffice as a guide.
  5. Fix all the italics that were dropped in the copy/paste operation, again using the version opened in LibreOffice as a guide.
  6. Create a title and a brief heading (with the document date and the subject I wrote it for, if they are in there) in Ulysses.
  7. Run a spell-check in Ulysses.
  8. Export the document from Ulysses to a Markdown file.
  9. Close and delete the Word .doc version.

Strangely, many of my essays have no titles. LibreOffice displays a blank page and some random junk at the top of every file. This leads me to believe that my paper headings—which were required, because I wrote them for school—have been lost in file format translation somewhere. I have been adding titles to my old papers, which is challenging sometimes because I have no idea why I wrote some of them.

I found some interesting files in my archive that are actually worth preserving: humorous essays from my freshman year; serious papers about nuclear power and Chernobyl; and brief biographies I wrote of my father and grandfather, which are now treasures to me because they died years ago. I also found a some topical essays full of ten-dollar words and purple prose that I no doubt learned how to write by reading syndicated newspaper columnists every day. The teachers who read them must have thought I was precocious and possibly insane.

Overall, converting these files has been a rewarding diversion from my normal computing tasks. Unfortunately, between high school and college essays, I have hundreds of these Word .docs to convert, so I will be at it for a long time.

Preserve your writing with open, simple file formats

Last night when I fished a high school essay out of my archives, I was dismayed to find that all my old word processor documents related to school are still saved in the antiquated Microsoft Word .doc format. The file format is now so old that none of the word processors I had installed—not even the online version of Microsoft Word—could open them. I was pretty sure for a moment that all my old work, which I have retained in my document folder for decades, had been lost.

I was especially dismayed by this because I thought I had already solved this problem for myself years ago. Several times in my life I have converted all (or at least large amounts of) my writing from outdated formats, such as WordStar and WordPerfect 5, to more modern ones—just so I could continue to open them. All the .doc files I am complaining about were actually converted from WordStar to Word format by a Windows app called WordPort.

Eventually, I figured out that I could open the old Word doc on a PC using the desktop version of Microsoft Office 365. Of course, the document looked like trash when I opened it. The left margin was nonexistent and Word’s automatic hyphenation messed up the spelling of a bunch of the words. At least I could read it. (While writing this post, I realized that I could have installed LibreOffice Vanilla on my Mac, which still has support for opening Word .doc files, instead.)

When I first started converting my documents to current formats, open formats and plaintext markup languages like Markdown did not exist. The second time I converted some of my documents forward I used OpenOffice, and stored the new files in OpenOffice .odt format, which is an open standard. I am now considering doing a third and final conversion, and moving as much of my old writing as possible to the lowest common denominator file format: plain text. Markdown exists to preserve all the formatting I need for most of my school papers. OpenOffice’s .odt format will have to suffice for the long, complex, overly-formatted and paginated papers I wrote in college.

The Writing Life

When I find myself struggling to be creative or productive, I always think of a story I read in Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. It was about a rower who was pulled out to sea one evening by the ocean tide. He rowed and rowed all night and kept being pulled farther and father from land by the ebbing tide. In the morning, however, the direction of the tide reversed, and he was pushed back to the shore to safety.

I remember this story so vividly because I had to write a very short essay about the book in my A.P. English class. We had to answer three specific questions about the book in one paragraph each. The teacher stressed how important it was for this assignment to be brief; only one page and three paragraphs.

I chose to answer the last question by writing about the story of the rower. Unfortunately, my explanation of the rower’s story stretched to two whole paragraphs, making my essay far longer than the one-page limit. At that time in my life, I had no idea how to pare down my writing even if it meant cutting parts of it I liked. I agonized over how to cut it down, but decided, uneasily, to turn it in as it was, despite it exceeding the one-page limit.

Happily, my overlong essay was a big success. I may have I understood the story of the rower better than even the teacher did, because the day after I turned it in he began the class but projecting my essay—all two pages of it—onto the classroom’s pull-down screen, and asking the whole class to read it. He seemed genuinely touched by it, too.

This evening I pulled the essay out of my archives to reproduce below. The last two paragraphs are about the rower. I think about the ideas expressed in them on a weekly basis to this day.

An Approach to The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (20th century [1980s])

Michael Descy

AP English

10/26/95

A main theme of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life is the importance of overcoming all the difficulties faced in the fulfillment of one’s dreams. The life of a writer can be dark and lonely, demanding much introspection and many late nights alone with an unruly manuscript. The writing process itself is difficult beyond most people’s conceptions. It is so harrowing, so haphazard, and so time consuming that most people that have one burning idea for a particular novel or story are never able to actually follow through its capitalization. Most never really even start, and the few who do often form such an attachment to their work, because it was so hard for them to accomplish, they will not allow themselves to alter it in any way, even to tie up loose ends or discard the beginnings of dropped themes and plot turns. Thus, their piece is never perfected; their dream is left to waste. Despite all these trials, however, writing is a very rewarding activity. Writing is like a passion eating at you, an aching, a hunger that can kill if not satiated. Only persistence, slogging through the murk and endless toil of the process, will enable one to fulfill his dream.

A dominant tone of the work can be described as enthusiastic. Dillard is intense as she explains the writing process. She describes writing in exhilarating terms, comparing it to playing tennis, lion taming, and stunt flying. Her metaphors are powerful, zesty. She shows your work as a line of words pulsing through your bloodstream and shooting across the universe. She tells us committing a vision to paper is a futile fight with the jealous, tyrannical page, the forces of time and matter working against you. Her chapters are choppy, broken down into many vignettes and tiny observations. There is a break on almost every page. They are so frequent each seems to be a gasp of breath between her quickly blurted images.

A strong scene that feels as though it will provide a good doorway for thoughtful attention to an important aspect of the work is the story of Ferrar Burn, which her painter friend, Paul Glenn, told her. One evening, years ago, Ferrar Burn caught sight of an eight-foot log of Alaska cedar floating out in the channel by his house. It was high tide, the water slack, so he rowed out, tied the log to his little eight-foot pram, and proceeded to tow it in. The tide turned, however, catching him, pulling him farther and farther out to sea. But Burn kept rowing against the tide, stubbornly, obstinately towards his house. He strained against it all night to little avail. When the tide finally changed the next morning, it finally pushed the still-rowing Ferrar Burn back home.

This scene connects very well to the aforementioned theme. Through persistence against terrible odds, the rower Burn was finally able to succeed. Had he given up, stopped rowing, he would have drifted so far out to sea that the tide change which eventually pulled him back in would not have helped him. A writer too must pull against opposing forces to accomplish his or her goal. There is much about the process that pushes people away. Most would just assume go along with the tide, take the easy route, and be led far away from their dream. But the few with the dogged insistence to stick with their craft, pull through their troubles, and never lose sight of their objectives are able to ride out the tough times and sail swiftly and smoothly through the good times. These few are steeply rewarded in the end. Their prize: accomplishment of a dream.

On having nothing to say

I have been having trouble lately coming up with something to say each day on my blog. I am feeling somewhat uninspired. This lack of spark probably stems from spending many hours this past week (far more than usual) writing software. The many hours spent programming have taxed my brain so much that the acts of writing, doing chores, or doing my other day-job work have felt exhausting and unrewarding for the past few days.

The reason I have a blog is that I want to write every day, even when it feels impossible to put anything down, even when I feel I have nothing to say, and even if nobody else reads it. My goal is to practice explaining my ideas and opinions, developing ideas, and telling stories. Doing it every day is important to me because I have given up my creative endeavors too easily in the past. Stories seem impossible to end. A good song seems impossible to write. A buggy app seems impossible to fix. No one really cares about the things I create anyway, so why bother finishing them?

I have a different mindset now. A blog is never “finished” so I can’t fail at completing it. Conversely, a blog post is very short, so it is easy to finish. More importantly, it no longer matters to me if anyone else reads it. If someone does read one of my posts and leaves me a comment on Micro.blog, I am very flattered, but it doesn’t really matter. The blog is a kata. Practicing the forms is key. Nothing matters more.

My son can play a reasonable game of chess for a four-year-old. I have to explain to him how to get out of check sometimes, but he is getting a knack for the game. I am proud of him and more than a bit amazed.

I got a raise today. It’s off-schedule—a total surprise. I feel it is uncouth to take a victory lap, but I did promise myself last year to celebrate my wins. Right now I feel happy, and think my hard work and change of attitude last year paid off.

🎮 Steamworld Dig

Earlier this week I played through Steamworld Dig on the Nintendo Switch. I bought it for a song during Nintendo’s New Years sale, and I found it well worth it. It is a high-quality game with a fun—and brief—game loop. First you explore the mine and collect treasure, then you return to town to sell the treasure and purchase upgrades. There isn’t any more to it, unfortunately, but the gameplay is fun nonetheless.

A while ago I played through the sequel, Steamworld Dig 2, which bests the first game in every way imaginable, including turning it into a full-fledged Metroidvania. If can pick up only one of the two, Steamworld Dig 2 is the one to get.

How Old is Your Brain?

Back in 2006, I bought a Nintendo DS and was fanatical about the game Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. It was a game that promised to make you mentally sharper, as long as you did solved simple cognitive training puzzles every day.

For several months I played it daily, for five minutes or so, before I watched TV or played a more conventional video game. I told everybody about it. My best friend was a fan, too. After several weeks, I became blazingly fast at most of its puzzles, which included performing simple arithmetic, memorization, and doing a Stroop Color and Word Test. (The Stroop test was the hardest for me, due in no small part to my red/green color-blindness.) At the time, I thought that the daily training was making me smarter. Aside from being able to calculate restaurant tips more quickly, however, I noticed no other intellectual gains.

After some time, I stopped playing *Brain Age*—at least the brain training part. I had read that it didn’t really improve your cognitive abilities, and had come to the same conclusion myself by that point. Despite that conclusion, I still believe that playing games can make you smarter. That’s why I picked up Sudoku (which was included in Brain Age), the New York Times crossword puzzle, and, more recently, chess. I also do computer programming as a hobby, which is a little like playing a game against the compiler sometimes.

I play all these games to stave off what I fear is inevitable in my old age: mental decline. It think it is inevitable because I watched it happen to my father. At the tail end of his career (he worked until age 75), his mind started slipping away, little by little. I thought it was because he no longer had challenging work to do. Eventually, he developed dementia, and it became clear that the cause was medical in nature.

I realize now that I played Brain Age at the very start of his decline. Perhaps it was the trigger. I also realize that I still want there to be something I can do—mentally, that is—so that I don’t end up with the same fate.

My son plays chess now, too

I taught my four-year-old son how to play chess a couple days ago. It was his idea. He was curious about it because I have been talking about chess with my wife, and because our chess board is on the underside of the Chinese checkers set we have been playing with as a family.

He and I played a few games over the holiday weekend. This afternoon, he played with his grandmother and grandfather, which was his idea. This evening, when I suggested we play checkers, he cried because he wanted to play chess. (Of course we could play chess instead of checkers.) He learned how all the pieces moved (except for castling and en passant) in one quick lesson. I am trying to teach him about checkmate now. It is great fun to have something new to do with him. I look forward to teaching my daughter now to play, too.

I am grateful that I have meaningful work to do today. I hope I can get it all done.

VBA will never die

I spent all day coding in VBA for work. I’m creating Excel templates for data submissions. These templates need (at least I think they need) data validation routines that the people filling them out can run. Those routines will help prevent some data quality problems down the line.

The only tool for the job to code those routines is VBA, which is bar far the oldest language I code in on a regular basis. It is creaky, feature-limited, and its runtime is rather unstable. But if it works well enough for federal agencies (I have seen some data input forms in my time), it will work for me.

I used to think VBA was a trash language, and only trash code could be made from it. Once I learned I was stuck with it for certain tasks, though, I tried to make the most of it. Now I treat VBA like the proper object-oriented language it is. The result is that I have a lot more fun writing it, and I think that the code is easier to debug and modify in the future, too.

I keep my code clean. I keep methods as short as possible. I use long, descriptive names for methods, classes, and variables. I structure the code into classes extensively. I create classes for intermediate data structures to make other parts of my VBA code easier to understand. I refactor my code into numerous smaller classes when I find I am writing too many, or overly complex, private methods. I create and use factories to create and set up objects. I apply the principle of least privilege everywhere. I am pedantic about whether arguments are passed by reference or by value. I even use interfaces sometimes, too.

The result is code that is rigorously structured—perhaps hilariously so to the next person who will look at it. It is unlike any VBA code I have ever seen before, but it is probably a lot like many VB6 applications written in the early 2000s.

Chess against humans

Correspondence chess

Several days ago, @canion challenged me to a game of chess—basically correspondence chess—on chess.com. I’m pretty sure he is beating me right now, but we are just in the middle of the game, so we will have to play it out to be sure.

Simultaneous online play

Tonight I played a real-time game against someone else on chess.com for the first time. I won! Except for the one, slow game with @canion, I haven’t played against a real person in chess for about 20 years. Humans are less predictable than bots, which makes things interesting.

I also found the post-game statistics on the chess.com website to be very interesting. Apparently in my game tonight I made 4 mistakes and 8 blunders, and had 3 missed wins. That means I’m pretty bad at chess! That makes sense to me, considering I just re-started playing about a week ago. To get better, I should probably play more games and then analyze what went wrong in them to figure out what my weaknesses are.

In person play…someday soon

Today I ordered a chess set today—a nice, wooden set with weighted pieces that completely outclasses what we have know and the chess set I grew up with. The board has labeled ranks (1-8) and files (a-g), which will be great for teaching my family how to play. It folds in half and has internal storage for the pieces. It also has two extra queens. No chess set that I’ve ever seen had extra pieces to account for pawn promotion, so this set feels luxurious to me. I promised my wife I will use it to teach her how to play. My kids may be interested, too; I don’t look forward to losing to a four-year-old and a nine-year-old, though!

Long division

I’m pretty sure I re-learned long division tonight as I helped my daughter through her homework assignment.

That was a skill that bedeviled me when I took the GMAT twenty years ago. The GMAT, at that time at least, did not allow for the use of a calculator. To make it worse, none of the figures on the math problems divided evenly. Many of the math problems were painful to get through, not because I didn’t know the math, but because I could not remember how to calculate the final answers with long division. At the time, I was a recent college graduate, and I hadn’t done long division since the seventh grade. I’m pretty sure I got a bunch of questions wrong because I had forgotten how to perform long division. In the end, my math score paled in comparison to my language score, all due to me not remembering, or at least reviewing, long division.

I got A’s and A+’s all throughout business school. I concentrated in finance. Never once did I have to perform calculations without a calculator. Sometimes life—or at least the typical qualification exam—is not fair.

⌨️ Having trouble adapting to the Planck keyboard

I have been thinking that my goal to replace my work keyboard with the Planck EZ Glow—a 40-key ortholinear keyboard—has been a bust.

I tried to learn the Colemak-DH layout and customize the heck out of the board. I was fairly successful at both of those things, but not successful enough to feel comfortable typing in Colemak-DH all day long. I stumble on some of the letters, like B and K, and otherwise make a lot of mistakes. I also find the

Today I decided to change the layout back to the Planck EZ default, which is a QWERTY layout, and then tweak the “adjust” layer into a navigation layer. What I discovered is that my mind defaults to Colemak-DH when I use it, which means I can’t type in QWERTY on it anymore, and I can’t type on it well enough in Colemak-DH, either!

I am not ready to throw in the towel yet. I’m going to try to soldier on with QWERTY this week and see how it goes.

We lost power for the second night in a week. I’m not sure what’s going on. My kids do not think it is as fun as I did when I was young.

Another office setup revision

Late tonight I reconfigured my desk setup for the umpteenth time. The main reason is that my last setup revision, which moved my monitor forward and my keyboard and mouse to a pull-out drawer under the desk, left my headphone and stereo amps in a no-mans-land behind my monitor, completely out of reach.

My desk is strange, and I wish I had one or two normal, five-foot-wide rectangular desks in its place. I have a corner desk that is not nearly as wide as I would like, though it does connect to desktop areas of varying utility along each side. (Imagine a V-shaped desk, where the main seating area is at the apex of the V, with a secondary desk area on the left, and a cabinet on the right, all connected together.)

I am planning to add a second monitor to the main area that I use for work. Unfortunately, it is unclear how exactly it would fit comfortably there, but I went ahead and ordered a new monitor anyway. (Both monitors are/will be 4K 27-inch displays.) My plan is to orient it vertically (with a downward tilt so I can read it) to the right of my current monitor. It may look a little weird, and be less useful for me to use on that side, but I don’t have anywhere else to put it.

Oddly, for this setup I moved my work laptop onto the floor. It’s actually on a little five-inch-high shelf I made right that sits on on the floor under my desk, far enough from my chair that I cannot kick it. Fortunately, you can’t see it or the multitude of wires connecting to every side of it, unless you crawl under the desk. I’m sure I will have to do that occasionally to reboot the laptop, but that won’t be too often, and has always been a pain for me to do anyway.

I moved my headphone dac/amp stack right next to my Mac mini, which has its own setup to the left of my work computer’s monitor-and-keyboard setup. Because the path for headphone cords no longer crosses over my keyboard or mouse at either computer, I will be able use it again. (I haven’t been able to use it since the last revision to my desk setup.) I really look forward to that.

My two laptops (one a very old MacBook Pro, the other a relatively new Dell running Windows 11) are now in a drawer. I removed their chargers from their power strip, and they now reside neatly in labeled bags next to the laptops. I just don’t use them that much since I got my Mac mini, and I never plug them into a monitor. It just makes sense for me now to consider them as portable, and to pull them out when I need them and hide them the rest of the time.

Also as part of this revision, I put my high-speed Epson scanner away in a cabinet because I never use it. It’s s shame, because it is very fast. Unfortunately, it isn’t that useful for my scanning needs because I don’t have stacks of letter-size papers to scan. Instead, I usually have a bunch of irregularly sized papers that require a flatbed banner (which I have as part of my multifunction printer).

Now that I am done, I am happy again with it. Everything looks tidy and functional. Adding the second monitor to the work setup will be a challenge for another night.

I am grateful to the Micro.blog team and community for the (relatively) new plugins system. The stats and search plugins are blowing my mind right now. They are exactly what I have wanted from “day 1” and did not know how to create myself. Thanks @amit and @manton and to others who contributed.

A miracle

Digital media is a miracle. It is infinitely reproducible with no loss of quality. The internet and all the devices we have make sharing digital media less expensive, on a marginal basis, than was possible via any other technology that came before it. We have invented a way to make some resources—like art and entertainment—effectively unlimited and nearly free.

We take it for granted now, and moneyed interests are busy trying to dismantle it with blockchains as I write this, but I think we should all step back sometime and consider how incredible and wonderful it is. The miracle of digital media isn’t that it can be made finite; it is that it is infinite. We should embrace that miracle rather than try to replace it with something mundane.

Chess

Thanks to all the checkers games I have been playing with my kids, my mind has turned to the other, better game you can play with the same board: chess. I have been enjoying playing lots of games on Chess.com’s iPhone and iPad app, which is part of Apple Arcade. The chess app has an assortment of bots with various skill levels to play against. I quickly plowed through the beginner bots and the first three intermediates. I think that my chess, as someone who has not played chess in 20 years, is probably around 1,000 right now. (That’s the beginning of the “intermediate” level.) I would have to play some real opponents online to find out for sure, and I am not ready to do that yet. I still make too many mistakes, and win too many of my games by clearing the board almost entirely, which doesn’t seem right. I must need more study and practice.

Chess is the only board game I find addicting. It is so addictive to me that, when I first got really into it, I had to quit after a few months. When I was 21, I started playing chess via the ChessMaster game on my PC, which had an excellent teaching mode. I then started playing real people on a chess website that was popular back then. I played many, many games each day. I was pretty good. I would win most of the games I played, presumably against beginners and intermediate players like me, but sometimes I would get beaten soundly. Soon, I couldn’t stop thinking about chess and was playing chess games in my mind all the time. I was losing sleep and couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I had to stop cold turkey, and I never picked it up again until now.

I’m finding myself becoming addicted again. I’m playing games on my iPhone and my iPad whenever I have a few minutes to myself. I am watching YouTube videos for chess instruction. I am thinking of doing daily chess puzzles on my phone, too. So far chess has not taken invaded my thoughts or disturbed my sleep. Then again, I did play a couple games on my iPad instead of reading in bed last night. At any rate, it is fun, and I wish my wife knew how to play or was eager to lean.

web3

I advised a colleague today to research web3, because I think it may be the most interesting InsurTech technology of the year. I don’t think that glomming cryptocurrency and smart contracts onto the web is a good use of technology at all. The idea is especially dubious, and that is the reason it is interesting to me. I honestly think that web3, along with the cryptocurrencies that make it possible, are based on a long con.

Web3 appears to be something to make cryptocurrencies, which are useless—except as a speculative asset or a way to pay the criminals who ransomware-attacked you—useful. Web3 will require you to have a digital wallet to pay for and log into any website with a web3-type paywall. The rest of web3 is just another name for smart contracts, which—as far as I can tell—are an interesting idea that has not caught on very well in real-world applications.

Perhaps the scope of both my research and my imagination is too narrow, but I don’t think web3 is going anywhere outside the venture capital community, at least not for a very long time.

Double Commander

I am on a mission to replace Far Manager, which is a Windows file manager that I really love, and have used for over a year. Far Manager is a text mode file manager that has been in development since the 1990s. It is a lot like Norton Commander, which I used briefly in my DOS days. I like how fast the UI is, how easy it is to navigate the filesystem, and also how easy it is to read the file and folder names in text mode.

Unfortunately, it has a few drawbacks that have been driving me crazy. First, opening Visual Studio Code from it, which I have to do all the time, will often mess up the UI and require a restart. Second, the keyboard shortcuts—many of which I have memorized—are bonkers. The left and right shift keys act as completely different modifiers, and the left and right control keys act the same way. This is not a problem for my standard ANSI keyboard, but I am trying to move to an ortholinear keyboard which doesn’t have two shift keys or two control keys, so some of the functionality I rely on is inaccessible.

Today I found another orthodox (two-panel) file manager that runs on Windows, has a full graphical UI, and is very, very customizable. It’s called Double Commander. Life Far Manager, it is free, and it has the two-pane interface I love. Unlike Far Manager, you can customize nearly every part of the user interface, including all the keyboard shortcuts. I was able to pare down the default toolbars to a minimum, color the interface to have white text on a navy blue background, and learn the few keyboard shortcuts I need to know without any trouble. Prior to learning about it today, I thought I had tried all the orthodox file managers for Windows. Double Commander is my favorite of the bunch.

Since I started intermittent fasting a few days ago, hunger feels less like a had headache and more like disappointment. So far I am doing pretty well with no breakfast, a cheese omelet and coffee for lunch, and a low-carb (but certainly not no-carb) dinner.

🎬 Nobody

Nobody is a surprisingly good action movie. It nails everything there is to nail about the action genre. Specifically, the writing and editing are top notch. The story is set up with great efficiency, and every set-up is paired with a call-back later in the film, which is very satisfying to see. Also, Bob Odenkirk’s acting in it is fantastic.

I will admit that it does play a little like a mashup of The Accountant and John Wick, but I liked it better than either of those two movies that share its genre.

Checkers

My kids are really into playing checkers since winter break. I have played a lot of games with my son and daughter in the past week or so. To get a better handle on the rules and strategies, I also played some games alone on my iPhone (there is an Apple Arcade Checkers game).

Checkers is a game that, until last week, I had not played more than once or twice since I was five. I’m pretty sure I read the rules the first time about a week ago on my son’s checkers set. I never knew that you are forced to capture the opponent’s piece (or pieces) if the opportunity to capture them arises. I don’t think my father or grandfather knew that. I mostly remember card games becoming far more interesting to me soon after I learned how to play (or, actually, not how to play) checkers.

I have realized that the game is deeply flawed. Many games reach an endgame state with a few pieces left (mostly kings) and a wide open board. At that point, unless your opponent makes a mistake, it is impossible to win. Of course, kids and inexperienced players make mistakes, which makes the game more fun. I am teaching my son and daughter checkers strategy when I play with them, and intentionally making mistakes and showing them how the opportunities to jump multiple pieces occur.

I have starting hinting at my kids to play together, too, because they would be on more or less equal footing with each other. The idea hasn’t sunk in yet. Of course I will still play with them, but they have more time available to play.