I just traded in my 15-year old car, bought a new one, and drive it home. Of course, it is so dark out now that no one can get a good luck at it. I am happy the trade-in and purchase are complete.

I just finished packing the car for our Christmas trip. Now…to find my children! 😀

Tonight’s cookie bake was sugar cookies. My daughter helped roll out and cut them. She chose the heart shape, which makes for oversized cookies. (I forgot to photograph Wednesday night’s brown sugar cookie bake.)

Coding again, after a couple days of uncertainty

I spent the past few nights on hold with my Todo.txt app rewrite because I thought the changes I coded to the filter system were wrong. Well, after thinking and not thinking about it for a couple days, I came back to discover everything is working as intended. Phew! I will revisit the logic once I code the rest of the app.

I am thinking about whether I should merge my WordPress blog into my (hosted) micro.blog. I’m posting a lot more to my micro blog, and have not posted to my “big” blog in about four months (😕).

I am not optimistic about Elon Musk’s latest boring publicity stunt

If Elon Musk’s Boring Company can somehow bring down the costs of digging tunnels, that would be fantastic. However, I am skeptical (emphasis is mine):

On Tuesday, Musk put the total price tag for the finished segment at about $10 million, including the cost of excavation, internal infrastructure, lighting, ventilation, safety systems, communications and a track.

By comparison, he said, digging a mile of tunnel by “traditional” engineering methods costs up to $1 billion and takes three to six months to complete. Musk boasted of several cost-cutting innovations, including higher-power boring machines, digging narrower tunnels, speeding up dirt removal, and simultaneous excavation and reinforcement.

However, the process he describes is how modern tunnel boring machines work. And he rented his Canadian-built boring machine from a Wisconsin tunneling company. He’s using the Wisconsin company, Super Excavators, as consultants.

Is Musk just selling a wish and a dream here? I really hope not. I share his dream of solving traffic problems with underground mass-transit and personal-transit systems. We need more tunnels to route traffic away from (or at least beneath) city centers, and to open additional arteries into cities like New York City that are largely surrounded by, or bordered by, water.

I lived through all the cost overruns in The Big Dig in Boston. There were major deficiencies in planning, lots of cutting corners in terms of materials, design, and engineering that came back to bite them, and simple graft and stupidity at play. I am not sure that The Boring Company can really put a huge dent into all those things. A lot of them are not technical problems that engineers can solve.

The Big Dig was a huge mess that was on our minds in Boston for years. The end result of that mess of a project, though, was a much nicer and more cohesive downtown Boston. This came about mostly by reclaiming land that had been used for highway overpasses, not because traffic and commute times were substantially reduced.

I think that if Elon Musk and his Boring Company could somehow decrease the costs of building tunnels, it would be far more important than building a new, sci-fi method of transportation. I just don’t think that he is actually doing it, even though he is telling everyone he is.

I got a new toy this week: a large, Marshall Bluetooth speaker. I’m evaluating as best I can, between my kids’ naps and bedtimes. It can play much, much louder than I could ever turn it up to.

I do not understand why the repair brush in Apple Photos is available only on the Mac and not on the iPad Pro. It is infuriating sometimes. My iPad Pro is faster and more capable than my old MacBook Pro, and even has an even-more-precise pointing device in the Apple Pencil.

My kids seem not to notice that Mozart is playing in the house. I consider that a win.

I really enjoyed this profile of Donald Knuth, a towering figure in computer science whose name was in, or on the cover, of almost all my programming books in high school and college.

I am already baking cookies for Christmas. Tonight: chocolate chip.

I have been coding, rather than microblogging, furiously over the past few days. I have started to rewrite my Mac app. I’m not coding UI stuff just yet, but have started to think that Marzipan (which of course isn’t even out yet) will not be optimal for Mac UI development.

My daughter has been complimenting my cooking profusely this week, which is as mystifying as it is gratifying.

I upgraded my home server to FreeNAS 11.2. I simply deleted my old, highly customized jail, and created a brand new jail after I performed the upgrade. I did not bother adding my custom build of OpenVPN to the jail. Everything is working fine, and I am pleased with the upgrade.

S-Town Redux

I started listening to “S-Town” again this evening.

JOHN DESPISES HIS ALABAMA TOWN AND DECIDES TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. HE ASKS a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.

I listened to it first the day it came out, and actually listened to the entire thing in one stretch. Listening to it the first time felt like two, almost contradictory experiences: (1) reading a Victorian novel with a rollicking, unpredictable plot, and (2) listening to a carefully constructed classical piece, in which every element has purpose, and was purposely placed exactly where it is in the piece, so that it call comes together in the end to take you to new places.

I can’t remember the last time I used BitTorrent. Probably a few years back to download a Linux distro (seriously!) or LibreOffice.

🎵 I’m re-listening to Adrian Legg’s “Guitars and Other Cathedrals” today. It’s a 1990 album that I “borrowed” from a friend in high school and never returned. Legg is an astonishing acoustic guitar player. This album is warm and laid back.

Just once, I want to write release notes that simply state: “all your wildest dreams came true”.

Who knew? A female computer scientist invented the word processor!

I never knew that Evelyn Berezin, who died on Saturday, invented the word processor, but I am certainly in her debt and grateful that she did.

In an age when computers were in their infancy and few women were involved in their development, Ms. Berezin (pronounced BEAR-a-zen) not only designed the first true word processor; in 1969, she was also a founder and the president of the Redactron Corporation, a tech start-up on Long Island that was the first company exclusively engaged in manufacturing and selling the revolutionary machines.

I suspect that sexism is the primary reason that her name was largely forgotten.

Although Ms. Berezin was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in Los Angeles in 2011, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum noted in “Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing” (2016), “she remains a relatively unknown and underappreciated figure, with nowhere near the stature of other women who played significant roles in computer science and the computer industry and have since been recognized by historians.”

It probably did not help that her company’s primary product was called the Data Secretary, which sounds incredibly antiquated now. (When was the last time we used the term secretary in the office to denote an “administrative assistant”?)

If my daughter gets interested in computer science when she is older, I will definitely tell her about Evelyn Berezin in addition to the far more famous Ada Lovelace.

Mulling over the FreeNAS 11.2 Upgrade

I have been debating updating or not updating my home server to FreeNAS 11.2. It is a big update for me because of this one change:

The Plugins and Jails backend has switched from warden to iocage and warden will no longer receive bug fixes. The new UI will automatically use iocage to create and manage Plugins and Jails. Users are encouraged to recreate any existing Plugins and Jails using the new UI to ensure that they are running the latest supported application versions.

I have one FreeBSD jail on my server with lots of customized software on it (most notably, a custom build of OpenVPN and two standard FreeNAS plugins. It has run rock solid for 2-3 years, but I can’t update it for various technical reasons, the underlying OS software is out of date, and rebuilding it will be a pain in the neck. I should probably wait until I can set aside a few hours, completely uninterrupted, to work on an upgrade—which probably won’t happen until sometime in January. Part of my wants to just let it run, updated, until the server dies—even if the software is very out of date—because it is behind a firewall and is largely shielded from cyberattack. I just never have been able to live like that before.

Why You Start Things You’ll Never Finish

One solution: Start fewer things:

There’s a “predisposition of humans to underestimate the time it takes to complete a thing” called the planning fallacy, which leads us to overcommit to opportunities at the expense of actually completing them, said Greg McKeown, author of “Essentialism” (one of my favorite books).

“It’s so deep in us,” he said, “you can know about it and even understand the principle, and you’ll still do it.”

I needed to read an article like this today. I wish I had read such an article many years ago when I was in college.

My favorite technique to deal with being overwhelmed when I have overextended myself is to break down all the big tasks into tiny, tiny microtasks, and knock them off one by one. I use todo.txt to help keep track of it all.

Celebrities should stop posting things to Twitter. (Except for Lin-Manuel Miranda.)

I just did my first ECG on the Apple Watch Series 4. (The update enabling it just came out yesterday.) It worked just like in Apple’s demo—pretty cool! I wonder how useful it is for me, or if I should set a reminder to do one periodically. My guess is that it is merely “for entertainment purposes only” for me at least (I don’t have A-fib), but I will ask my cardiologist to make sure.

🎵 The Grammy Awards are really, really stupid. Still, you should listen to some Brandi Carlile, who was nominated for a bunch of them today.

Cool. The new heart monitoring and ECG features are hitting the Apple Watch Series 4 today.