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week notes

Last year I set out to rekindle my reading habit. That went well. This year’s reading has been enjoyable, but I’m not cozy with the ratio of non-fiction to fiction I’ve read this year…non-fiction (especially of the computing persuasion) far out balances the fiction I’ve read. I think this is mostly because I’ve been mired amidst a fiction book that I’ve found to be a slog…but enjoyable, too. I’d have abandoned it and moved on, elsewise. Onward!

Spring is quickly making way to summer here in Maine. The school year is fully geared up to end at any moment, and summer adventures are aching to start.

We don’t have anything huge planned this year — but we have more than we’ve had on deck for the past 5 years or so. I’m honestly a little anxious.

In an attempt to be more social, and not fake social-ness by occasionally posting these missives here, this weekend I was slated to attend an in-person game jam. Fate conspired against me, though, in the guise of an ill kid, and I was unable to attend. I was hoping to cobble together a game of some sort to help me think through what a simple game engine might be like implemented in apl, or another array language.

Here is a fun article on early computer art from Amy Goodchild.

Like so many other folks of late, my family has been deep into Zelda — but not the new Tears of the Kingdom game. We haven’t cracked that one, yet! We’ve been enjoying Links Awakening and Breath of the Wild.

…I joked about the Zelda games and pastoral art in another post a while back, I think, but can’t stop thinking about it in earnest now, especially Breath of the Wild, which literally features a flavor of pastoral art in cut scenes, all while relishing in an in-game art style that inches oh so close to romantic landscapes. Lots of juicy visuals to love.

Something left out of the original draft of this post:

I’ve started a fork of ngn-apl! My plan is to leave the core functionality in place, but to layer on some accessibility and mobile-friendly improvements to the web interface.

of array programming, lightsabers and some thoughts on permacomputing

A bit of this and that, some kind of mishmosh.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about array programming systems like J, K, Q, APL, and BQN. I’ve been intending to add a page to the wiki about them, but haven’t gotten to that yet. Consider this a little promise that I’ll do that sometime soon. I’m interested in array programming less because I think it’s particularly useful for me (it’s not) and more because I am captivated by the poetics it invites.

If I had a personal theory of programming (I don’t) it would be something like

programming is writing poetry that acts on input and data to cause a known effect.

Array programming systems invite a different sort of metre and verse to that poetry. They force ya towards something like haiku whereas most other languages want you to stick to a yawn inducing iambic pentameter.

Beyond that reading, I re-watched the original Star Wars movies — IV, V, VI — this past week with my older kid. Their reaction to them was skepticism, and being convinced that the Ewoks ate the dead Imperials after the Battle of Endor…which could be true?

A blog post I wrote a few months back at work got published. It is my attempt at sneaking in some thoughts on permacomputing into a more normal” setting. The timing of the post was oddly synchronous with a few things, one of which is my thinking a lot more about permacomputing:

A lot of the dialogue around permacomputing that I’ve seen seems intertwined with a certain aesthetic sensibility that is entangled with the demo scene and retro computing communities. While I think both these spaces are kinda rad, I think they’re specifically prone to a certain flavor of navel gazing…a flavor focused on specific tech stacks, and tooling, and apparent minimalism. It’s a flavor that leaves a gap in the conversation around what I’d call the why” of permacomputing.

Most of the conversations I see are hyper focused on the how” and what” of permacomputing. How” and what” cover the skeleton, we use X system running on Y reclaimed hardware.” The discussions that gesture at why” that I see tend to be like because it’s the more harmonious way to do computation given that we’re living amidst climate collapse.” And, while that is a great reason for choosing lower impact tools, I think the community generally misses what I see as the most important bit of permacomputing:

Let permacomputing be an invitation to question why and how much computation ought to be involved with a thing, and, if that computation is being used to increase or decrease the anomie between folks…and with what impact to the world?

My take on permacomputing is that it’s a way of approaching computation that’s further distanced from the goals of capitalism. It is an effort to re-imagine our tech landscape, and in so doing enchant it with values that support, for lack of a better word, balance.”

week notes

Some things of note, links mostly:

First and foremost, I found a suitable pinboard replacement in link hut! Shout outs to my buddy Bruno for the tip.

Here’s a bookmarklet I wrote to make it a bit more ergonomic for how I like to roll,

javascript:(function () {
  const tags = prompt('A space separated list of tags.');

That will snag any selected text and pop it into the bookmark’s description after it prompts you to enter some tags.

Next, a confession: those who know me know that I’m cynical about all tech. So, it should come as no surprise that I’m deeply cynical about the current bloom of AI, a la ChatGPT.

…well, curiosity got the best of me and I tried ChatGPT out.

And, honestly, I’m still pretty cynical about the whole vibe — I started to write some discombobulated thoughts about all that on my wiki but haven’t gotten anywhere with that line of thought yet — BUT, the thing I have found ChatGPT incredible for is that it has totally replaced my least favorite weekly chore! Menu planning.

I loathe menu planning. It is weirdly stressful and we have a handful of interconnected constraints on our menus and it was exhausting for me for some reason. I always dreaded menu planning. Well, ChatGPT has solved menu planning for me, and I guess that is cool?

I said unto it: please suggest 4 week’s worth of dinners for a gluten free, vegetarian family of 4 including recipes and shopping lists.”

…and it worked.

Insane with power, I submitted the same request with some minor tweaks 6 more times. I used the responses to build an archive of recipes paired with shopping lists. I’ve added a few items, and I’ve made myself a little tool to randomize a menu and shopping list.

Now ya’ll know my shame.

My birthday happened this month, for it I got 2 lovely gifts:

  • Sandra fulfilled my birthday wish by making me a bespoke emoji of the 😬 face backing into a bush
  • a whole pile of video games

Among the games are two standouts:

  • Tunic
  • Eastward

Eastward is specifically amazing because it hits every button right for me — I’m a sucker for the type of story telling it engages, as well as for Vermeer-level pixel-art. The graphical story telling, and world building are all kinds of good.

Speaking of pixel-art, I continue to work on a little Game Boy game. To empower my doodling around with that while on work meetings I pulled together a little pixel-art editor.

Spring has been teasing us here in Maine. Hints of its arrival abound, yet it remains sloppy and gray outside…sock weather purists.

week notes

I’ve been experimenting. I’ve been concocting a recipe for vegan kugel, and rediscovering little features and edges of my website I’d forgotten I baked in. Like chocolate chips hidden in an oatmeal raisin cookie.

One chip most recently re-discovered: support for per-page custom styles?! All I gotta do is include an optional bit of meta data, bespoke-css, that points to a style sheet. I may play with this feature more. I do love myself some css. I can tell exactly when in my life I added this feature because these days I’d never call such a thing bespoke-css” — it would get a much more boring, terse label, like css” or styles.”

The kids have been home on school break this week. We’ve been having a lot of fun reading The Wind in the Willows aloud, and playing a bit of No Man’s Sky on creative mode. You wouldn’t think it, but each carry a really similar vibe. Cosmic-pastoral-localism?

In the last week notes I made mention of potty training; at first that was harrowing and seemed like it would never happen. Then, all at once, it did!

I continue to expand the newly formed wiki. My plan isn’t to catalogue everything and anything — outboard brain style — but to really only document stuff I find useful and that I want to keep track of for myself…that maybe will be useful for other folks, too? The acme page is probably most inline with what I’m going for.

For good times, check out ratfactors rad presentation on forth!

I’ve also been playing with babashka, reading it’s excellent companion book, babooka. Babashka is a wicked fast way to use clojure when you’d normally reach for bash.

week notes

It got a wee bit cold here in Maine this weekend. It was thankfully uneventful for us. We hung around inside and watched it get real cold outside. Our home faired pretty well, too. Honestly pleasantly surprised about that!

We picked this weekend to go all in on potty training — pantsless days, treats, rousing bouts of encouragement sung, and a lot of spot cleaning. Fueled by hubris, I thought we had this potty training thing down pat. In reality, it was that our first go round with it was supremely uneventful. We will perceiver.

I’ve been thinking many thoughts about how to fix this website. While I love its design and general vibe, I know it’s not all that accessible, and has some usability issues (so many tags!?). I don’t have a real idea what to do, yet, but maybe take this as warning? Changes are afoot…albeit a pair of slow, uncertain feet. Things I hope to figure out include

  • an equally quirky, but significantly more accessible design
  • a better way of revisiting past posts
  • and if I even wanna stick with this blog-ish format, or if I wanna move to something more like a wiki, or something altogether weirder!?

I recently asked a question on fedi:

Once upon a time I was an art history person. I thought for a long while I was gonna be a professor of it or something adjacent to it.

There’s a certain sort of art history writing that spends a lot of time establishing an ontology around what’s beautiful, and what moves make something beautiful.

These days, a lot of the nonfiction I read is about programming or computer science. It’s not unusual for a programming book to talk about beauty in code, or data, but the rules” for what makes something beautiful seem a lot more ephemeral, but usually related to elegance.”

For the code inclined among ye, when do you see code as beautiful? Do you?

This had a number of really interesting responses that I’ve been noodling on. If I was so bold as to condense them down, I’d say a connecting line between all the responses is utility.” In hindsight this makes total and complete sense — code ought to work. When I asked the question, though, I was in a really aesthetic frame of mind, so, was sorta surprised with how focused folks were on the code actually functioning over some aesthetic quality of the rendering of the code itself.

…but this may also be sign that my code is mostly garbage?

In my mind, regardless of what or how it works, C is less beautiful” than a lisp. There is an aesthetic to lisps that I find beautiful.

One respondent said,

I find code beautiful when it has an internal grain, a style of its own, whatever that style may be.

That struck me. I’ve read about the idea of code having grain” before, and find that an interesting way to describe the tactile nature of programming systems when compared to one another…C to lisp, forth to pascal.

Since the new year I’ve finished a few books. I’m trying to read more fiction than nonfiction this year. I re-read The Hobbit with the family, and an unremarkable, but enjoyable book, the second in a series, Eyes of the Void, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I liked the first in the series better than this second one, but it was fun, and I’ll most likely end up reading the third installment soon enough.

715 Creeks by Cristin Milioti is a song that has been in heavy rotation while I work lately. It is a cover from Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.

week notes

Am I allowed to call them week notes” if I don’t do them weekly?

I went in for what was supposed to be my final brain scan, a diagnostic angiogram (don’t look that up). The good news is that the repair has officially cured my brain bleed! The bad news is that they saw another vessel that looks primed to bleed; I’m due for another repair procedure sometime in October. I’m pretty bummed to not be done with this ordeal, but trying to remain optimistic that this new one was caught before it bled and because the surgeon says this one seems easier to repair than the first.

I’m still struggling to focus long enough to pick up major programming tasks at hobby time (I desperately wanna make this game that I’ve been noodling over and over for months now). Sorry if I’ve promised you something, or a fix, or anything, and haven’t made that happen yet.

That said, I’ve enjoyed re-building my VPS. This time an OpenBSD box. I’ve got a few personal utilities running on it, but am also using it as a programming language playground.

Looking back over my link logging from the last few weeks, there isn’t much of note that isn’t boring computer-stuff. The stand-out item is a recent find: Mycorrhizae, A songbook of fungal myths, a gorgeous zine.

Miscellaneous this and that

Since my brain injury (which I’ve since learned can be called an ABI or acquired brain injury”) I’ve noticed that I have trouble focusing on programming tasks; I’m able to do what I need to do for work and family but, when it comes time for hobby projects I’m just gloop. Totally oozy.

Because of that I’ve been drawn to do more reading and game playing, but also still wanna code…I’ve found that it is easier to use more batteries included” kinda languages, namely scheme, over what I’d normally gravitate towards, like Forth.

This has lead me to some interesting thoughts of the accessibility” of programming languages.

I’ve been reading a lot. As of today, I’m 34 books deep into this year. I’m really pleased with my choice to revive my reading habit. I’ve read a smattering of fiction, new-to-me, and re-reads, as well as a number of nonfiction books — mostly programming books.

Maybe I’ll do a round up post at the end of the year? In the meantime some standouts include:

  • The entire Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers, especially Record of a Spaceborn Few
  • This is how you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • Circe by Madeline Miller (the audiobook for this is phenomenal! One of the best I’ve ever listened to)

My VPS suffered a wonderfully catastrophic failure during an upgrade, you may notice some of my web presence is currently down while I re-configure some things over the next few…weeks?

…probably months.

Blog will keep trucking, though!

Some recent discoveries