home/Weblog & site updates

This blog serves mostly as a sort of “meta log” to list updates I’ve made elsewhere on the site, with some interspersed thoughts. If you’re curious about what I’ve added since your last visit, this is the place to check.

Page published: books-read/A Prayer for Owen Meany

Getting stuck on an approach

Published 2020-10-09

Once I start trying to solve a problem in a particular way, I find it very difficult to give up and look for an alternative approach—even though the alternative approach often ends up being much simpler.

I have an html file containing the lyrics to Radiohead’s Fitter Happier:

Fitter, happier, more productive
Comfortable (not drinking too much)
Regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)
Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
At ease
Eating well (no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
A patient, better driver
A safer car (baby smiling in back seat)
Sleeping well (no bad dreams)

And I wanted to transform it such that each word/phrase is a link to a Google search for that same word/phrase, as such:

<a href="https://google.com/search?q=Fitter&btnI">Fitter</a>, <a href="https://google.com/search?q=happier&btnI">happier</a>, <a href="https://google.com/search?q=more productive&btnI">more productive</a>
<a href="https://google.com/search?q=Comfortable&btnI">Comfortable</a> (<a href="https://google.com/search?q=not drinking too much&btnI">not drinking too much</a>)
<a href="https://google.com/search?q=Regular exercise at the gym&btnI">Regular exercise at the gym</a> (<a href="https://google.com/search?q=3 days a week&btnI">3 days a week</a>)

…and so on (let’s not worry about why right now). Of course this would be a pain in the ass to do manually, but I knew Vim would help me out.

It was clear upfront that a one-size-fits-all RegEx wouldn’t do the trick here, since some of the links need to be a single word, while some are a phrase, and there’s no obvious pattern—I need to decide for each one what I want the link to consist of.

My first approach, and the one that I got stuck on, was trying to use a visual selection in a search & replace expression. I figured that I could select a word or phrase, and then run a search & replace within that visual selection, replacing the selection with the appropriate HTML for a link to the selection. In Regular Expression terms, I’d be looking for (.*) within the selection (in other words, the entire selection), and replacing it with <a href="https://google.com/search\?q=$1&btnI">$1</a>

I tried to make this work for almost two hours—the issue was that I couldn’t get Vim to save the entire visual selection to a single capture group, no matter what I tried. There’s probably a way to do it, but I don’t know it. Finally, it occured to me that macros would probably provide a solution. Macros allow you to record and reply a set of keystrokes. By this point I was frustrated and ready for a break, so I took Tawny for a walk, and while walking the (easy) solution came to me:

v2e " Make any visual selection---in this case, we're selecting the next two words
qa " Begin recording a macro to register A
"zc " Yank the selection to the Z register, delete it, and switch to Insert mode
<a href="https://google.com/search?q= " Start typing our replacement string
^rz " Paste the contents of the Z buffer without leaving Insert mode
&btnI"> " Continue typing our replacement string
^rz " Again paste the contents of the Z buffer
</a> " Finish typing our replacement string
<esc> " Leave Insert mode
q " Stop recording our buffer

Now that we have our macro built, all we have to do to make the rest of the changes is select a word or phrase we want to “linkify”, and execute our macro with @a

Here’s the magic in action:

Page updated: misc/Photos from walks
Page updated: misc/Favorite possessions
Page published: favorite-possessions/AirPods
Page published: favorite-possessions/Alpine Swiss wallet
Page published: favorite-possessions/Bamboo spatula
Page published: favorite-possessions/Chainmail scrubber
Page published: favorite-possessions/Hand-knit slipper socks
Page published: plant-tour/Aloe
Page published: plant-tour/Big Leaf Jade
Page published: plant-tour/My biggest jade
Page published: plant-tour/Chinese Money Plant
Page published: plant-tour/The Miracle Christmas Cactus
Page published: plant-tour/Cindy's Jade
Page published: plant-tour/Hen and Chicks
Page published: plant-tour/Luck Tree
Page published: plant-tour/Old Jade
Page published: plant-tour/Pothos
Page published: plant-tour/Snake Plants
Page published: plant-tour/Spider Plants
Page published: plant-tour/The Littlest Jade
Page published: misc/A tour of my houseplants
Published 2020-09-24

An interesting article outlining a theory about how primordial black holes created shortly after the big bang could account for the “missing matter” that we’ve been attributing to dark matter. Apparently this is a theory originally pioneered by Stephen Hawking, but fell out of favor when no one was able to observe all these black holes that should be floating around out there.

More recently, the LIGO should be detecting far more black hole colisions if space is full of these primordial black holes.

However, this new theory postulates that the black holes would have formed in clusters of up to a thousand black holes crammed together, with huge black holes at the center, and tiny asteroid-sized black holes around the edge. The clusters explain why we haven’t observed these primordial black holes yet, and their orbits keep them from colliding often and explain the low collision rates seen my LIGO.

Apparently if we’re able to observe one of these asteroid-sized black holes it would be a huge step forward for this primordial black hole theory, as black holes that small can’t be formed by collapsing stars.

It’s an interesting, easy to read article, plus it has these absolutely gorgeous illustrations:

black holes

I also found this related discussion on Hacker News about what might happen (or not happen) if one of these asteroid-sized black holes colided with earth very interesting.

An asteroid-mass black hole would be too small to interact much. It would go straight through the planet, and couldn’t possibly capture enough mass to be e.g. captured, but it would register as something like a very high energy cosmic ray.


Published 2020-09-13

I was walking Tawny just a couple blocks from home when we discovered a network of trails through a wooded area that I previously had no idea about. The wooded area is only about a block and a half wide by maybe three blocks long, but it’s a secret little wilderness. This is the sort of thing only discovered on meandering walks.

Page published: misc/Books I've read

Site update log

Published 2020-09-12

Added a feature to automatically include records of new pages and updated pages in the blog. Now the blog can really function as a log of site updates, which is cool.


Page published: books-read/The Terror
Page updated: home/Things I want to do on this site

Testing webmentions

Published 2020-09-11

Testing webmentions!

Unexpected behavior

Published 2020-09-11

First I added my pixel art avatar to the top of this site. Then I decided it would be fun if the eyes moved, so I created three new versions of the image, with the eyes looking left, right, and down, and wrote some Javascript to swap the images depending on the cursor location. Then I thought I’d give it some more personality by having it blink randomly, so I created another version of the image with the eyes closed, and wrote a function that, every 0 - 15 seconds, swaps the image with the eyes-closed version, waits 150 miliseconds, and swaps it back.

It works really nicely. Sometimes it will go along time between blinks and you can have a staring contest. Sometimes it blinks twice in quick succession.

But through some quirk in the code that I don’t understand, if you don’t interact with the site for a while it defaults to the eyes-closed state, and the eyes stay closed until you interact again. It sleeps. I don’t understand how this happens—the function is written so after 150 miliseconds, the eyes should reopen. I don’t understand it, and I love it.

Sort pages by date updated

Published 2020-09-10

It’s been bothering me for a while that the pages on this site were sorted by the date created rather than the date updated (if there was one), so that the first created pages are always at the bottom of the list regardless of how recently they were updated. I want fresh stuff at the top! The only date that Eleventy provides out of the box is the date created—there is no concept of date modified by default. I had created a “modified” value in the YAML frontmatter for each page for display purposes, but there wasn’t a way to sort by those dates…until now!

It required creating a custom Eleventy filter that takes the supplied array of pages and sorts them by my “date modified” value, and I’m super proud of myself for getting there. It’s pretty basic stuff, but it felt good to figure it out.

Here’s the commit.

It’s cool how easy it was to make this happen (my lack of Javascript chops notwithstanding). I feel like a superhero every time I add a filter to introduce new functionality to my site. Eleventy rocks!

Page published: food/Granola recipe
Page updated: misc/GIFs
Added some new GIFs!
Page published: food/The ultimate fruit fly trap
Page published: tech/How To Deploy an Eleventy Site to Github Pages with a Custom Domain

Migrated site to Github Pages

Published 2020-09-03

Wheeee! I migrated the site from Netlify to Github Pages. More info coming on the /how page soon.

Page published: tech/Editing Pixel Art in Photoshop
Page published: tech/SDR: Digital Adventures in Shortwave Radio
Page updated: misc/Can-Knocky-Over: A Driveway Drinking Game
Page published: craft/Sewing the Merchant & Mills Right-to-Roam rucksack kit
Page published: tech/'Open With' Vim from MacOS Finder
Page updated: misc/Wisdom
Published 2020-04-17

This is an amazing multiplayer virtual museum, complete with different interactive exhibits in the form of rooms. There’s a rhyme room where you can only say things that rhyme with what’s already been said. There’s a mirror room. There’s a censorship room where each word can only be said once. I did manage to say my name in the censorship room though.


Page published: tech/Eleventy static-site generator: Making Liquid play nice with dates
Page published: tech/How to ditch Gmail

Published 2020-04-09

Every year passed without a house with a terrace in the sun is another year of my life wasted.

Page published: misc/Awful Affirmations
Page updated: misc/Marika and Biagio's new house
Published 2020-03-04

Fittingly brief piece on our decreasing attention spans in this tweetable era. Krish’s thesis is that the problem can’t be solved from a capitalist perspective because companies sell what people want, so instead of trying to solve it we should adapt to it, be prepared for it, and think about how our thinking and communication will be changed in the long term.

Krish suggests that while our intra-personal communication will become decreasingly verbose, it may also become increasingly efficient, until we no longer need to use words and can communicate sensations directly, and that this could have beneficial implications for equality and education, as communication/language barriers will cease to be barriers to understanding.

There’s a cameo from Kanye in the article, who has an interesting take. Awesome:

I don’t think people are going to talk in the future…They’re going to communicate through eye contact, body language, emojis, signs. Imagine that. If everyone was forced to learn sign language. Source

It’s an interesting take, but I feel it’s rather optimistic about the outcome of decreasing attention spans. I think if we lose our ability to focus for longer than the length of a tweet we won’t possibly be capable of implementing the required drastic changes to adapt to what we’re talking about.

I’m also less pessimistic, in a way: I don’t think this is an inevitability. While it’s true that attention spans are surely decreasing, I think people recognize it as a problem in themselves and will strive to overcome.

Reply to: Kicks Condor

Published 2020-03-04

Hey, wow, I’m honored! And I hope you appreciate that on my Links page I literally just have the word “Kickscondor” because I was too lazy to turn it into a link. Heck, I was even too lazy to just type a space. And today I told a friend about your site, but I just scribbled “Kicks Condor” on a scap of paper and handed it to him. That’s gotta be worth something, right?

Hey, maybe that’s the answer. Maybe we need to take the h out of href. Maybe we need to take the hyper out of hyperlink. If someone really cares, they’ll have to manually type the words into their search engine. That’ll stop those link cowboys!

Incidentally, I’m pretty sure I can handle at least 20 links before certain destruction—so feel free to keep on linking.

Around town

Published 2020-02-24

Yesterday was just a gorgeous day—sunny, temps above freezing, everything melting and flowing. I didn’t get to spend much time outside, but I walked down to the liquour store to meet Caroline on her way into town (quotes for wedding booze), and I savored the walk down.
around town

Page published: home/links & other things I like
Page updated: food/Care of cast iron pans

Published 2020-02-11

I’m spending a lot of time and having a lot of fun building this site, but I’m a little bit concerned about whether I’ll actually make content to populate it. But maybe the more excited about the site I am, the more likely I’ll be to make content for it?

Edit: Or maybe half of the value is just in the building of it anyway.


Published 2020-02-11

this content has moved to misc/gifs

Page published: home/


Published 2020-02-06

I was thinking about how personal assistants—Siri, et al.—have almost exlusively female voices by default. I’m sure it’s because in general people tend to be less threatened by women and so are more likely to be comfortable with a woman’s voice living in their pocket. Isn’t that a little sexist though? Anyway, I changed my Siri’s voice to a male’s a few weeks ago, and my life is still fine.

Page published: craft/Speedy Stitcher saved my shoulder bag
Page published: craft/Tent stake bag
Page published: home/How does this site work?
Page published: home/Why does this website exist?
Page published: writings/I fell in love with the cashier at Kohl's