Productivity Status Early 2016

I broke one of my new rules today by tweeting out more than politics snark or sports and briefly outlined the direction I’m moving with my productivity this year. I’ve been toiling the past year or so trying to shoehorn my brain into Omnifocus to no avail, so at the beginning of the year I started exploring other methods. About 2 weeks ago, my brain just started to work in regard to using TaskPaper. If you aren’t familiar with TaskPaper, it is a plain text method of tracking todos that has tools built around it to filter by tags and projects. I’ve owned the app for awhile, but not until 3.0 was in beta did things begin to click within the app organizing projects. I always wanted (wrongly) to keep separate files for each project. Maybe that is one thing I learned using Omnifocus was structuring projects. Now everything personal is one single text file. I do have a separate one for the free lance work I’m doing because that’s a different mode. I don’t want to be distracted by anything when I’m trying to mow through items for work.

The other element of my productivity was how to keep and better use and Siri. I knew TaskPaper had Applescript support, so that was the first place I looked. Sure enough, I found a script that would import from Reminders to TaskPaper. Unfortunately, TP3 changed it’s scripting method to new JXA, so the old Applescripts were not compatible. Luckily, someone did the work before I fried synapses trying to learn more advanced methods of JXA. A thread in the support forums,
Using Siri covered exactly what I wanted.

From there, I devised the idea of having an “Inbox” for Siri and a corresponding list for TP. I also have a Grocery List and my main reminders is for timed items. I prefer Apple’s reminders because it’s nag is truly a nag. If something must be done on a certain day, it will sit on the lock screen of my phone. I can snooze it for an hour if it’s not time sensitive, and if it really can wait, I can put off until next day.

Now I can say, “Hey, Siri, add build a robot to my inbox” and she will. Later, I can run the script which will migrate (including deleting) the reminder to an Inbox in TaskPaper, which I can move to an appropriate project or create a new one if it is warranted. My next goal is to set up a cron job on the always-on iMac to run the script every night.

For iOS, I’ve tried a few different apps for TaskPaper, but it seems Editorial is going to stick. Also, I’ve not given up on Omnifocus for long term project tracking or potentially work related where contexts and due dates might be necessary, something OF excels at. An upcoming update to Omnifocus for iOS will vastly expand on the URL schemes, and there is already a demo using WorkFlow to build projects in OF from TaskPaper formatted lists in Editorial. Sounds snazzy.

All in all my new system isn’t that fancy or original, but again, that’s the trap of chasing productivity, apps and systems. They become complicated and burdensome to the point you abandon them for the next shiny object, never truly doing the stuff you really wanted to keep track of in the first place.

I hope when I visit this in the fall, I’ve not made many changes and can focus on what I’ve accomplished over the summer.

Performance is a Feature

I spent last evening making the necessary tweaks to this site to get a perfect 100% score on Google’s
Pagespeed Insights. I understand this is just a personal site, but at the root,understanding how to make this site fast will translate to helping bigger projects keep an eye out for potential bottle necks.

Which is why when Aaron Gustafson tweeted this posts headline, it caught my eye.

Either way, you could do much worse than to make your bit of the web fast.
Peter Chamberlin

The context was more broad and I believe directed towards larger sites, but it has to start somewhere.

Also, I plan on sharing how I implemented the changes to get to 100%, specifically the critical CSS.

Customizing Atom Editor

I doubt anyone who writes code for a living or tinkers for that matter hasn’t spent more hours than they’d care to admit tweaking their editor of choice. Suffice to say, I’m in that boat all to well.

My current editor of choice is Atom. It’s open source and more than fits the customization itch.

Aside from deciding on which packages to use (I’ve
starred the ones I use) the other element I’ve gone back and forth with is theme & syntax UI. I’ve long been a fan of both Solarized Light and Dark, but have finally settled on Atom Dark and Oceanic Next. I can also recommend Oliver Pattison’s Newbound syntax themes My dream font is Operator Mono, but until I can justify the purchase of that, I’m using Input.

One tweak I just discovered is for adjusting the font size in the panel, or the sidebar. I’d been able to easily make the font larger for code/markdown, but sometimes had to break the readers out to discern what file was what in a nested folder. To the rescue I found atom-panel.tool-panel for just that. I’m currently using 1.4em. Mind you this is on my old 11 inch Air. I’ve not had as much an issue on the iMac.

Another tweak I’ve added to my custom styles.less file is to italicize attributes. I’m also a fan of italicized comment blocks, which is included in the snippet.

     .entity.other.attribute-name {
         font-style: italic;

     .comment {
       font-style: italic;

I’m sure as I expand my development world, (I have a goal to learn python by Building a Twitterbot ) I’ll continue to tweak Atom, but for now, I’m as close to happy with an editor as I have ever been. Feel free to share with me on Twitter @miklb your tips and trick.

Interest in Tampa Homebrew Website Club?

Gauging interest in Tampa to see if anyone would be up for joining a
Homebrew Website Club. A lot of tech folks have vey neglected personal sites and this would give folks a chance to get together and talk tech and work on their personal site and pet proejcts. Platform agnostic (read, not another WordPress meetup) so open to anyone. If interested ping me on Twitter @miklb for now and I’ll sort out finding a location and setting up a time. Only looking for a couple of people to get off the ground.

Headings – What Was Old is New Again

Seems HTML WG has reversed course on a previous recommendation that allowed sections to have their own H1 tag, now recommending the previous norm of cascading H tags.

Given that this bug has been around, and not fixed in browsers, for many
years, we are proposing to remove the suggestion, and return to the model
where elements `h1..h6` have a defined level of their own.


Last night I switched over the theme for this site to a project I’ve been working on the last moth or so, Jekyll-IndieWeb. While I have different design ideas, until I find other users interested in using it, I knew I needed to work out any kinks. I also wanted to have better microformat support until the design changes. Thus

I will write more about the project once I have more documentation (and work out any more said kinks), but the gist is I wanted to provide someone new to Jekyll with a desire to be part of the
IndieWeb a solid starting point. I rely heavily on the _config.yml file for options a user can set – profile pic, social media links, choice to include display of webmentions – to quickly get a personal site up and running. The biggest hurdle for me was providing a minimal design that was unopinionated yet still aesthetically appealing. Anyone familiar with HTML & CSS can easily build upon or modify it, but if not, it shouldn’t look ugly.

This has been the first solo project I’ve embarked on that was meant for public consumption from the start, which in itself has been a learning process. Now I just hope others can find it useful in some way. If the project interests you I encourage you to try it out, open any issues in the repo, or reach out on #indiewebcamp IRC, I tend to hang around there most days.

Solving the Mysterious Relaunching iTunes

I had been plagued by an issue on my Macbook Air the last couple of months where iTunes would relaunch mysteriously. Not random relaunch mysteriously, more like, as soon as I quit, it would relaunch. I tried force quit and restarts. I trashed cache files and rebuilt the library to no avail. I filed bug reports and feedback to iTunes. Finally I reached out to @AppleSupport on Twitter. Right after (mind you, I DM’ed the account as they asked and so far no further reply) my internet friend @shep linked to a blog post of his from 4 years ago with his own saga of iTunes relaunching. I read through, and while I didn’t have headphones plugged in, I have dozed off a few times with my headphones in, and maybe, as he read about the microswitch in the jack, maybe, just maybe the headphones pulled out slightly & not depressing said microswitch. So I forcefully inserted some headphones and quickly pulled the plug out of the jack. I quit iTunes and so far, iTunes hasn’t relaunched.

Did I mention @AppleSupport hasn’t followed up yet?

Building a Twitterbot

I had an interest to learn the programming language python for quite some time. I’ve played around with it a little using Pythonista in iOS to build a fishing log, but otherwise have only done some cursory reading. Since I do best learning by doing, I needed an idea to use python. I’ve seen some interesting Twitterbots built with it, @pomological being my recent favorite, but wasn’t sure what to build. Ultimately, the idea came to me to build a bot that retrieves an image from Flickr and builds a color scheme from that and post the scheme and original image. I’ve done some basic research and found some libraries to connect (you didn’t think I was going to write the whole thing from scratch?).

But I don’t just want a any random image, so once I get the bot working, I want to be able to try and pull outdoor/landscape images. In a perfect world, I would post 3 images a day—morning, noon, and night. The morning image would be a sunrise, noon/daytime image a normal image and, you guessed it, the night/evening image would be a sunset.

I figured I needed a name for the Twitterbot, not only to make sure something would be available, but since I would need API keys, that has been my first tangible step to create the bot. Thus, @Flickolorbot has been officially conceived.

Stay tuned for more adventures.

A Few Thoughts About WordPress REST API and Core

There has been much written about the ~drama~ discussions surrounding the WordPress REST API and inclusion in core. Or exclusion, depending on who’s take you are reading. 1 Suffice to say, the gist I’ve gathered is that there are two competing perspectives, one side wants to incrementally add the API, the other wants a fully fleshed out, complete API before inclusion in core.

I guess my 2¢ on the matter is this—the core tenet of the WordPress Foundation is “to democratize publishing through Open Source, GPL software.” From what I’ve gathered reading on the subject, the REST API team have the publishing portion of the API covered and ready for inclusion in core. The parts that would come (much) later would be things like the customizer, file editing, more site management tools, less about actually publishing.

If democratized publishing is still the guiding principle for WordPress the project, then I don’t see how there is any debate. Opening up the methods to publish beyond what has been the only means available for basically the entire life of the project seems like a no brainer to this guy who’s been around it for 11 years this year. No one will truly know how much is opened up until it is in the hands of creative developers and then in the hands of content creators.

  1. I’m specifically not linking to any of the hot takes on the subject.

Text Expander snippet for Jekyll With Slug for Permalink

There are plenty of TextExpander snippets floating around for creating Jekyll Front Matter, however, I wanted to take it a step further, and auto-create a slugified permalink with no additional work. The other part of the equation was that I wanted it to be able to use it on TE touch, which meant it had to be done in javascript. After a little Googling, some trial and error, I came up with one that takes a text input for the post title, generates a slug from that, and includes the current date. I understand that the date in the file can be used, however I may not always publish when the file was initially created. Not to mention, when I imported all of my posts from Habari, I needed to be able to use the original post date, not the date the file was created, so I continue to use that. You can certainly modify the snippet for your needs.

Also note, I have a blank variable for summary. Since I’m using webmentions, I use the summary as the text for a tweet, which would be different than an excerpt. Some of this may change when I redo the site redesign, but for now, it’s how I roll.

I would love feedback on how to make the snippet better as it’s my first javascript snippet. Just leave a comment on the gist.

var title = '%filltext:name=Title%';
slug = title.replace(/[^\w\s]/gi, '');
var newslug = title.split(" ").join("-");

var dt = new Date();

TextExpander.appendOutput("layout: post \n");
TextExpander.appendOutput("title: " + '"' +title + '"'+ "\n");
TextExpander.appendOutput("tags: \n");
TextExpander.appendOutput("published: true \n");
TextExpander.appendOutput("permalink: ") +TextExpander.appendOutput(newslug.toLowerCase()); + TextExpander.appendOutput(" \n");
TextExpander.appendOutput("date: ") + TextExpander.appendOutput(dt.getFullYear() + "-" +(dt.getMonth() +1) + "-" + dt.getDate()) + TextExpander.appendOutput("\n");
TextExpander.appendOutput("summary: \n");
TextExpander.appendOutput("--- \n");

// %filltop%

First Listen: Luther Dickinson

Garden & Gun have a first listen of Luther Dickinson’s solo album Blues & Ballads. If you’re not familiar with Dickinson, he was a founding member of the band North Missippi All-Stars, a raucous blues band hailing from their name sake Mississippi. Founded with his brother, they played a modern version of the blues soaked southern rock, with an emphasis on the former. I had the pleasure of seeing them both in a smaller outdoor club setting as well as a larger festival type setting, both times blowing the doors off the crowd. Not sure his vocals will ever be considered above average, but the accompanying vocals from the likes of Mavis Staples balances it out. The lyrics and guitars more than make up for his singing, and its obvious the apple didn’t fall from the tree, as you can tell he knows his way around the studio.

As first listens go, I’m enjoying it and will certainly be added to the rotation the next week.

Breaking Out of the Silo

In my never ending quest to make this site all things “miklb”, one of the goals of the IndieWeb is to POSSE, that is, Publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere. Breaking the habit of using Twitter without posting first on my site is going to be a hard one, but it’s a goal. While debates rage about extending character counts to 10,000 words, if we only were to use our blog for long form thoughts and link back to Twitter, this wouldn’t be an issue. Consider this an exercise in

Finally Webmentions with Jekyll

If you can’t tell by previous posts, I’ve been working on getting
Webmentions to work with my new Jekyll site. I think I’ve finally nailed. If you take a look at my initial post on moving to Jekyll, there’s a link for a tutorial on using Travis CI to build a branch and move the flat files into the mater branch to be served on GitHub. With the help of a Aaron Gustafson’s plugin I finally have it working. The trick was that the rakefile was firing in the build process too fast, so couldn’t find the post on my domain, thus not sending the mention. My probably not so elegant solution was to put a sleep 2m in my shell script to slow things down and let GitHub catchup before firing the rakefile and sending the mentions. This post will be my final test. If all goes well, I will try and write up a more detailed explanation of what I’ve done since there’s still a lot missing for doing this with a Jekyll site.

Focused Blogs

In my ever revolving attempt to reboot my blog, one thing that has always slowed me down was my concern with being too esoteric in my topics. I want to talk about food, technology and everything in between.

However, if I want to build any readership (isn’t that a part of blogging, sharing your thoughts with others?) I can’t be mixing in posts about forays into Python with posts about cooking vegetables sous-vide. Sure, there might be a readership that is interested in both topics as I am, but not enough to say “screw it.” So as I continue to work towards a true indieweb, I’m pivoting a bit in my approach and will use this as domain, now 11 years old, as my base identifier and central clearing house. I’ve acquired several domains, 2 of which will be good to split the topics. Those too will be static Jekyll built sites, with links from this site to new posts.

Certainly this is more me thinking out loud and putting it out there, as I intend for this domain to be, but my goal is to continue to do such here, rather than bottle up my thoughts in my head.

Making the Move to Jekyll

I’ve officially made the change from Habari to Jekyll. I will certainly have more to share on the move, both a post-mortem on Habari, as well as the process I’m using currently for using Jekyll.

My basic workflow currently is serving the page from GitHub pages, however I’m using Travis CI to build the site and publish to master branch1 , there by bypassing the restrictions of gh-pages (specifically, their need for using –safe mode and not up-to-date version of Jekyll). Currently my use case would probably work within their parameters, however I had already started using 3.x and at the time of writing GitHub is using 2.x.

More importantly to me, I want to be able to blog from my phone. It something that I feel has limited me in sharing interesting items I come across as well as stopping me from making time to put thoughts down as they come. I had originally wrote up some thoughts on using iOS and Jekyll, but later came across a better workflow2.

Finally, there are still some wonkiness around, I’m sure my Atom feed is broken and am not sure how to redirect that yet using GitHub. I doubt I had many subscribers, so if you stumble on this and previously read my random posts, you may need to update while I investigate options. Certainly there are some styling issues that I want to address as well as some under the hood improvements.

  1. This tutorial was an invaluable starting point. A follow up tutorial from the comments has great information as well.
  2. Since I already own Drafts, Workflow and Working Copy integrating all 3 makes sense.

Embracing My Suckiness

Some know I used to cook for a living. I’d like to think I was pretty good at it too. I started before the Food Network and all the other cooking shows on TV (save for old Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin shows on PBS and the like), before the internet blew up. Cooking in Tampa was almost like being in a vacuum. You’d see what your peers were doing, maybe find a little time to travel to Miami or New Orleans, but otherwise, we were left to our own curiosity, a few books from some of the chefs on the cutting edge (Mark Miller and the staff at Coyote Cafe, Norma Van Aiken and his contemporaries like Allen Susser & Mark Militello) and the occasional Food & Wine article.

We explored other cuisines via ethnic dining, scoured Oceanic Market for Asian ingredients, the markets of West Tampa for authentic Latin/Caribbean staples, and the open air markets outside the commercial produce market. We were then left to our imagination, creativity, and abilities to marry flavors together.

That was kinda like how it was when I first started building websites. You’d look at someone’s source code. Someone might have written a blog post, or shared a tip in a forum somewhere. You bought Zeldman’s book on HTML standards, or Andy Budd’s CSS Mastery. It was a path of discovery and learning.

Now, in this “age of information”, we (I), am bombarded with all of the latest tricks and best practices, cutting edge designs and techniques. The external pressure to live up to these can be overwhelming. I’m no longer experimenting and discovering on my own, I’m drowning in information. It’s like having an elevator straight to the top of the mountain without experiencing the journey (I think that’s a paraphrase of something I read once about doing LSD, but I digress.)

So what I’m finding is that I’m a deer in the headlights, afraid that I’ll be judged for not using the latest markup techniques. That someone will see my code and think I suck. And rather than embrace my suckiness, learn from it, I freeze. I stare at blank pages in my text editor. Meanwhile, new and more information continues to bombard me from every angle, and the cycle perpetuates.

Today, when I cook at home, I’m not worried about having all the fancy ingredients or flashy sous vide machine. I’m confident in my skills and know the finished dish will look appetizing and taste better. Or, I might just miss the mark, but will recognize what I did wrong or forgot, storing it away in my memory bank or nowadays, jotted into a text file for the next time I make a similar dish. That’s not to say when time permits I don’t use those fancy ingredients or make my pasta from scratch but a good meal shouldn’t be passed up simply because I didn’t have artisanal cheese and didn’t make my pasta from scratch.

So while I struggle to reboot my personal site and convert it to Jekyll, I need to recognize that I don’t have to follow every new trend. So what if it wasn’t built in Sass. The work I put into making it responsive, and FAST is more important in the long run. There are plenty of sites/devs out there that have well structured Sass directories and all the right mixins, but load slow as hell. There is plenty of time in the future to revisit converting it. The end goal for this site isn’t about being a Sass master, but an outlet to share my thoughts and experiences on the web. Why create an artificial hurdle?

Which also means I need to document my failures, as well as successes. Whether that means publicly, or internally. Not only document them, but celebrate them. I need to reconnect with that ambitious kid who would spend every waking hour in the kitchen experimenting, enjoying the journey. Thus starts my journey of documenting this phase of my site.

The Web Ad Dilemma

I’ve been thinking about this subject quite a bit lately. While tools like Safari’s Reader View can help, the desire to support advertising on the web is impossible to square with the current implementation on most web sites.

Fortunately, Jim Ray breaks it down much more succinctly than I have been able to. Blocking ad-blockers with better ads

The problem may be murky, but the solution is a bit more clear, if not exactly novel: build a better product. Not a fancier iPad app, a better ad product. For all the haranguing about native ads, they have the advantage of being immune to filters and, when done right, a genuinely better experience, certainly better than green double-underlines or the “content marketing platform” ads at the bottom of far too many web pages.

Just give me a well designed, compelling advertisement. Hell, I’ll share my browsing history if that is what it takes to serve me something I’m genuinely interested in.

Tunesday: Bully

This band just rocks me. I can not wait for the whole record. God knows what bands they listen to.

Steve Albini, do your homework.

Pixies? Sure.

Nirvana? Had to.

Bands I missed out when I was doing stuff? I want to know them too.

Please, more music like this.

That bass line. Be still the 23 year old still in my heart.

First Thoughts: Holy Grail of Blogging from iOS with Jekyll

I have been researching and thinking seriously about moving away from database driven blog engines to static file blogging for quite awhile. My extensive research has me convinced for my ideal workflow, Jekyll will be the answer—except for my goal to somewhat easily blog from my phone. All of the front matter could be handled by TextExpander snippets or custom keyboard shortcuts in Drafts or Editorial. The issue has been that with an iOS device, you are basically confined to using Dropbox or iCloud for the text/markdown files. Wanting to keep everything in a Git repo under version control, I hadn’t found a way to automagically push a Dropbox file to a Git repo without having an always on machine at home using some listening app like Hazel to do this. While that isn’t out of the question, I want something straight from the device.

Extensive Googling finally led me to Zappier. Similar to IFTTT, they have a Github/Dropbox workflow that allows you to send a pull request to Github when a new file is added to a directory in Dropbox. And while if I was simply using Github pages to host a Jekyll site, that would be the end to a simple solution.

However, I still want to host my own data on my own VPS (more on that later). Enter Jekyll Hook, which, while not seemingly for the faint of heart, allows one to run their own “Github Pages” on their own server.

So, while all untested at this point, on paper it seems I can have a dedicated Dropbox folder synced with an iOS editor that when a markdown file is saved to it, Zapier will attempt to send a pull request and merge it to a Github hosted repo of my blog [footnote, possibly need to have iOS app to approve pull request but option is in the recipe for the workflow. I assume it will work save for any previous files by same name causing a merge conflict]. From that, the Jekyll Hook script/solution will fire and rebuild the the site, all without leaving the convenience of my iOS device.

Potential magic I tell you.

Email is so 2015

tl;dr Wouldn’t it be nice if in the newfound popularity of email newsletters, the signup form had an option “I regularly consume your content via another means, but would love to win your cool thing”

Back in the dark days of the internet, websites would have simple sign up forms for users to get updates about the site. Unless you used RSS (or Atom) to read the sites. Even then, online marketers and brands would offer specials not advertised on their site to build the engagement via email. The size of your mailing list was a badge of honor for those marketers.

Then came along social media, and email lists were pushed aside for the shiny new thing. In the beginning, there was a glut of social media options, and it was almost impossible for a brand to engage on every outlet. Facebook likes and Twitter followers became the new badge of honor. And while social media is still a great way to engage users, brands and marketers soon discovered they couldn’t always control the message, especially with Facebook. So what did they do? They realized the most common form of communication available to the web is the venerable method of email. Cyber Monday was a perfect example. I couldn’t count the number of comments I read on Twitter about people weeding their email of offers from long ago forgotten sites. But I mostly follow web professionals who know the ins-and-outs of online marketing and get their information from, (well, probably Twitter, but they are an anomalous subset of the Twittersphere.) The point being, millions of people woke to an inbox of offers. Many people clicked those links, some bought stuff. It works.

Sign up form for The WirecutterRSS/Atom syndication in its purest form is not a common method of reading websites today (unless you are part of the aforementioned anomalous subset of Twitter users), but still provides the backbone of many ways content is consumed. But this isn’t about syndication. It is about the rebirth of mailing lists, and more specifically, the forms that sites now deploy to get you in. Those lists sign-ups are generally there year round, but right about the holiday season, sites/brands begin offering “free stuff.” Be it a book, a song or a full suite of electronics, sign up for their mailing list, enter a chance to win. I’m not an expert on this subject, didn’t even play an email marketer on TV. Sign up form for The WirecutterBut my understanding is you can’t force people into subscribing, just like contests have the small disclaimer, “no purchase necessary.” Generally what these forms do is pre-populate the subscribe checkbox, which is still a slippery slope in my opinion of conforming to the spirit of opting in. But hey, a free TV is a free TV?

More to the point, there is never an option (at least one I’ve encountered) that says, “I love your content and regularly read it so I don’t need an email reminder. However, I’d love to win your cool stuff.” Hell, provide a short text box to allow the user to optionally add how they consume it. It very well might be a great insight into your audience and their online consumption habits. Because at some point, inundating your readers/consumers will call into play the law of diminishing returns.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid the new badge of honor is the hydra of social media followers guarding the treasure chest of email subscribers.

Engaging Users Vs. Advertising

I’ve seen the headline bandied about in social media all week, but over on Unapologetic Alex Guyot discusses his disagreement with Facebook making it harder (again) for brands to advertise for free.. His basic argument is that brands most likely already bought the likes and shouldn’t have to pay to advertise again to those same customers. He also uses the argument that small businesses likely can’t afford to advertise.

I couldn’t disagree more with his take. From the Re/code article of the same name 1, the author quotes the Facebook release

The company announced today it will begin limiting the number of “promotional Page posts” in the News Feed starting in January. That means you’ll see fewer posts from brands asking you to buy products or “enter promotions and sweepstakes,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.

I see no issue with that statement. While we all know we are the product on Facebook 2, I still use it to keep up with family and friends, as well as local goings on. I have “liked” very few brands, mostly local businesses. Truthfully, those local businesses don’t use what I would consider “promotions or sweepstakes” or obvious ad-like updates. They are genuinely engaging their followers. Sharing pics of a new dish. Updating on what band or artist is appearing soon. They respond to questions and comments. As you should in social media. So if cutting down on the noise from million plus “fan” businesses in timelines so that the news feed is a truly a “news” feed with targeted ads, and people don’t miss the latest update from the mom & pop shop down the street, I’m all for it. It is well documented that brands and businesses that truly engage their users/followers are the most successful. Perhaps this will push those brands to up their game. Otherwise, it can be a great equalizer for brands and companies looking to gain market share.

Technology Fatigue

A piece at A List Apart today struck a nerve with a lot of developers today, myself included (if I can really call myself a developer these days.) Overwhelmed by Code touches on the constant bombardment to developers from new technologies popping up seemingly daily. The author discusses

It used to be that knowing CSS and HTML was enough, then jQuery came along, then responsive techniques, then Node.js and then Angular, Ember, etc., etc., etc. That list, right there, it tires me out.

To that I can completely relate. When I stumbled into making websites, they were still teaching how to use Photoshop and tables to build sites at my local community college, not pure CSS. The big revelation at A List Apart was Faux Columns. So fast forward 10 years, take a sabbatical for 2 of those, and you can imagine how overwhelming stepping back into grunt, gulp, coffee script, node and Luce1 is.

What do I want to focus on, what do I love about the web? What do I actually want to learn, versus what I think I should learn.

So if I am to do more than dip my toes back into the world of building websites, I too need to focus on what I I think will best benefit me professionally, not try and keep up with kids.

How to Really Install a New Thermostat

Going through my RSS reader this morning, I came across this article at the Art of Manliness, How to Install a New Thermostat. I couldn’t disagree more with 80% of what that article instructs.

First, while they are on the right track on turning off power, but mentioning “flipping power switch off” is inaccurate. Also, it is obvious that this was written by someone from the north in only referencing “furnace”. Generally speaking, the breaker panel will have both an “AC” and either “heat” or “air handler” when it is not a furnace. These need to be off, as the 24 volt current is constant and if the heat/air handler isn’t off, then you can at the minimum blow a fuse, the worst, fry a transformer. By code, both items should have a disconnect for service, and pulling that is equally effective in making sure the power is off.

Second, while they mention taking a photo of the wiring on your thermostat, they ignore it and simply (and wrongly) state the colors on the new thermostat match the wire color. WRONG. The terminals relate to specific functionality, and I’ve seen every color under the sun wired to a terminal. Blue to the Y terminal isn’t uncommon. The O and B terminal? Those are used in heat pumps for the reversing valve and depending on the manufacturer, either one can be used. The B can be brown, or the orange wire can be used for either one. See where this is going? Also note that the C terminal is for common, and most new “smart” thermostats require this, so make sure you have a C wire before even making the purchase. And even if there is a wire (often blue if yellow is used for the Y terminal) that doesn’t mean that it is wired to the furnace/air handler. So while it’s not beyond DIY, there’s a lot more to it than just “matching colors”. And don’t get me started about what color wires may be wired into the furnace/air handler from the outdoor condensing unit. I haven’t touched on what happens if you have a two stage compressor or heat pump with backup emergency heat.

Bottom line, if you are going to spend hundreds of dollars for a smart thermostat, spend the extra money to hire a professional or at the minimum, do your homework regarding your specific unit and be damned sure that it will handle that $250 investment before attempting a DIY

Apple Pay, CurrentC and Profits

Earlier today over on Pencil Note there was a post about Apple Pay and the author spoke to their opinion on how the CurrentC plan from retailers like CVS and Walmart would actually benefit consumers. Upon reading the post in my RSS reader, I quickly tweeted a question asking if he really though the retailers would pass the savings onto customers. Their response was

Yes. Less credit cards means lower prices.

Pencil Note

And then, in an old fashioned blogging style, they posted a more-than-140-character reply – Why fewer credit cards mean lower prices. While my formal education on economics is limited to 101 level micro & macro economics courses, I’ve been an informed consumer for long enough to follow the train of thought in that post. While it makes sense that the retailers are fueled by growth, and there is already a race to the bottom for pricing, the end result is still more profit for the owners/shareholders. If the price drops a few cents here or there, it is my opinion that is purely a by-product of profit growth and not the intention.

Classic American Chefs Honored on US Postage Stamps

Celebrity Chef Stamp

Stumbling around the web this evening, came across this limited edition set of 5 American chefs celebrated on US Postage stamps. The one chef that stood out to me was Edna Lewis. I suppose there isn’t another American who personified Southern, low-country cooking more than Ms Lewis, but was still surprised to see her along side Julia Child, James Beard and others. Not surprised as though she doesn’t belong, just that she’s not as much a household name.

When I first started cooking, I stumbled onto her book, In Pursuit of Flavor(note, it doesn’t appear to be still in print, but a Kindle version is available). Its less a book of recipes—though they are in the book—rather more a look into how she cooked. It would be an understatement to say her words in that book shaped the way I approach food even to this day.

I think the names Childs and Beard speak for themselves. I’m not familiar with Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, and am only slightly familiar with Joyce Chen, but if they were deemed to be contemporaries of of Lewis and Child for their cuisines, I will look to learn about their contributions to the American plate.

Tunesday (THIS is my Jam): Jason Molina

I used to do these posts, and well, I got lost in social media and life…this evening though listening to music on my back porch (Airplay is awesome!) I went down a rabbit hole of my music library and found myself listening to Jason Molina.

I’m not sure when/how I discovered him; might have been after seeing My Morning Jacket at the New World Brewery in Tampa and finding his band Songs: Ohio did a split EP with MMJ. However it went, I was a fan. Pretty sure I saw him with Songs: Ohio, but I know I saw him solo. At least twice.

I was sad to read that he lost a battle. Think I read there’s a tribute album out there, but too lazy to link to it. Suffice to say, if you didn’t experience him when he walked this Earth, you might want to put him in your queue.

I have no idea if this was a “sanctioned” video or not, but it’s quite well done. I almost want to make my own with the epic Florida summer storm clouds I see daily while driving in west central Florida.

More About Using My Blog

My work life has prevented me from doing anything much related to online life, or writing much in general. That however doesn’t mean that during the hundreds of miles a day I’ve been driving that I don’t think about it. While catching up on my RSS feeds, this post from the Pastry Box, You don’t have time for perfection sums up a lot of why I didn’t use it more when I actually did web development.

I’ve had enough of maybe-later, of I’m too busy right now, of after I’m done with this. I’ll be publishing anything I think others will benefit from. Ten non-perfect pieces are better than zero wannabe-perfect ones.

Perhaps from where I’m sitting, it won’t always be what I think others might benefit from, rather a benefit to me. Be it saving a snippet of code for posterity (which could benefit others), reflecting on a moment or just sharing thoughts about a band. Anything to have it centralized and outside the walls of Facebook, Twitter and the like.