The end goal of software is not to put everything in it, a flight simulator in your spreadsheet (fucking Excel!); a computer in your fridge for playing ads; a web server, email client, and text editor in your math program “notebook”; a fucking NTFS miner in your MS Paint clone.

The end goal of good software is to do ONE THING. To do it fast, efficiently, and correctly, in the least resources you can.

Mark Hughes, A Flotilla of Shit

Better The (Blogging) Devil You Know

I had a poke around this week with Hugo on my computer, and managed to get a site set up with my data from this blog plus a nice theme. However, it’s apparent to me now that I’d need to do a lot more reading plus some trial-and-error to get the site looking I would like it. And I’m not sure that it’s going to be worth the extra effort.

To be honest, this site is running just fine on self-hosted WordPress, with a few plugins to take care of various things. While there are a few things I’d like to change, it would probably be easier (and perhaps more constructive) to do those by creating a customised theme and adding some PHP code where necessary.

I don’t regret at least taking a look at Hugo, but it has brought home to me that going for a static site generator involves shifting a lot of work from the web hosting machine to your computer, including maintenance. WordPress isn’t perfect, but it is good enough for my needs, and I’m no longer looking for a ‘perfect’ system.

Monterey Thoughts

I did the upgrade on my iMac on Tuesday, and overall it’s okay. Not a huge difference visually from Big Sur, which is a relief. A few apps didn’t start up automatically after the upgrade was complete, which was mildly annoying but temporary.

However, there are some under-the-hood changes that I’ve bumped into:

  1. The ‘Automatically Add to Music’ folder has stopped doing its one and only job. I’ve fixed this using Hazel, no idea why that would have changed.
  2. Apple Music has been reinstated in the Music app, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to turn it off again. The old Restrictions tab in Music’s Preferences has been whisked away, and I was informed that I can now find those settings under Screen Time in System Preference… but Apple Music isn’t listed there. Not impressed, Apple.
  3. A couple of applications got a scary warning at first post-upgrade launch, telling me that they used features that are deprecated and may be removed in a future version of macOS. Unfortunately, both times when I clicked on ‘Learn More’ I got taken to a web page talking about the sunsetting of Python 2, which I’m pretty sure isn’t the deprecated feature Apple meant.

I have a feeling I’ll unearth a few more over the coming months.

The Black Dog

Last Sunday was probably the worst day for mental health I’ve had in quite a while. I struggled to get much done that day, and felt dead inside. Not even a visit to a local public garden could fully lift that feeling.

I’m not sure what triggered it, but I suspect a combination of poor sleep plus sliding on the exercise front. I’ve forced myself to go walking the last few days, and spent my indoors time listening to uplifting and/or relaxing music, and that has definitely helped.

I need to focus a lot more on the good things around me and my achievements, and less on what might happen in the future. And I definitely need to do more meditation and learn how to counteract depression and anxiety then they show up.

What Am I Thinking??

Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while will know that I’ve been happy running it on self-hosted WordPress, and have been wary of switching to a static site generator or other alternative.

However, lately I’ve been looking again at the options out there, and Hugo in particular. A couple of things have prompted this re-evaluation:

  • The Gutenberg editor, while fine for writing blog posts (for me at least), is still a work-in-progress when it comes to fulfilling the promise of ‘full-site editing’. That is mostly down to not all of the pieces being in place yet to make that a workable reality, but it’s a frustration nonetheless.
  • My workflow is moving increasingly towards Markdown text, and while the Gutenberg editor can translate that into the relevant code, it’s a one-way street currently: if I want to edit something I have to do it in the Gutenberg editor.
  • At some point in the future I’ll need to make a decision on what to do about web hosting. Using WordPress, even self-hosted, does mean more work to get my content out should I decide to move.
  • I’ve not done any proper web design in a long time, and I feel like scratching that itch.

I’m aware that a static site generator, by itself, won’t solve all of the above. A lot of the complexity behind this site would move from my web host to my computer. Additionally, there are some things, like finding broken links and archiving posts and pages to the Internet Archive, that are currently automated for me by WordPress plugins, and I’d need to work out how to replicate those functions.

Still, it’s an interesting little side-project to consider. I won’t be switching over any time soon, and might decide it’s not worth the hassle in the long-term. But I won’t deny that the appeal of keeping my blog writing as Markdown does have a lot of appeal.

The attention economy is not native to human attention. It’s native to businesses that seek to grab and manipulate buyers’ attention. This includes the businesses themselves and their agents. Both see human attention as a “resource” as passive and ready for extraction as oil and coal. The primary actors in this economy—purveyors and customers of marketing and advertising services—typically talk about human beings not only as mere “users” and “consumers,” but as “targets” to “acquire,” “manage,” “control” and “lock in.” They are also oblivious to the irony that this is the same language used by those who own cattle and slaves.

Doc Searls, Where the Intention Economy Beats the Attention Economy

It’s only in the last day or so that I’ve realised just how big a weight my financial anxiety was on my mind. I still have worries, no mistake, but at least money is no longer one of them.

Thoughts on Analogue Journalling

It has been just over a week since I started writing down daily notes on paper instead of typing them into a Markdown text file in iA Writer. Overall, things are going well, particularly when it comes to keeping it updated. Here are a few observations I’m made from the experience so far:

  1. My handwriting is still bad, but starting to improve a bit. I have this weird thing where my brain tells my hand to mark out the next letter, or a completely different one, from the one I mean to write, resulting in a lot of corrections. I’m hoping that forcing myself to write by hand every day will start to iron out that particular kink from my brain.
  2. I’m less obsessive about my sleep pattern in my notes, preferring to make a general comment on whether I slept well the previous night. Similarly for meals, unless it’s something new we’re having.
  3. Writing down things that I should get done in the near future feels more like a commitment than doing so as a digital note.
  4. Having the journal pad and pen nearby is great for jotting down songs that I’ve heard from the radio, so I can look them up later online.
  5. I don’t feel such a compulsion to note down stuff to make it look like I’ve had an eventful day. If I only have a few things worth noting, that’s okay. Likewise, if there’s a lot of things I got through, that’s fine too, and if that means going over more than one page so be it.

I’m not planning on digitising any of these notes, at least not currently. Where I feel something is worth preserving for posterity online, I’ll transcribe it into a blog-post here.

I should add that I’ve no shortage of writing implements, as I have at least four pens just from my visits to the doctor’s surgery for vaccinations, plus a few freebies from other places.

You Need A Budget!

I have been terrible at managing my money ever since I got my first bank account in my teens. If it’s not coins and notes in my wallet, I’ve no clue how much I actually have and where and when I’ve spent it. It has only been in the last decade that I’ve finally started to get a handle on things, mainly because I no longer had a full-time job. I moved my money around to various bank accounts as the interest rates changed, to try and make sure what I have was working as hard for me as possible, but that is getting harder to do now. Moving debt onto 0% credit cards has helped too, though I don’t do a good enough job of tracking my spending.

I’ve tried a few solutions over the years, but they both suffered due to changes to how UK financial institutions controlled online access to account data, which meant they weren’t working a lot of the time. More to the point, I was still getting occasional nasty surprises, which caused me lots of anxiety.

This year, I knuckled down and made a plan to pay off all my remaining credit card debt by the end of 2021. That plan has worked and the end is in sight, so now I need to get ahead of the curve for once and start planning ahead so I know how my finances are doing.

I’m currently doing a trial with You Need A Budget (YNAB), which I’d heard about before but not really considered as it’s decidedly US-centric. However, it got positive reviews from folks over on Micro.blog, and Which? Magazine rates it highly too, so I decided to take the plunge. Ironically, the fact that it doesn’t support direct import of data from my accounts here in the UK is a plus, because it forces me to manually enter figures. And its use of categories is less automated and more hands-on, meaning I have to put thought into how much money I assign to each one for the month.

I now have an initial budget done, and for the first time in ages I don’t have any nagging worries about where money is going. I have some forward planning in place, mainly towards paying off the remaining credit card debt and putting money aside for some upcoming bills. YNAB isn’t a free service, but I don’t mind paying for it if it continues to help me stay on top of my finances. (I was pleased to see that they don’t load their site with trackers, which makes a pleasant change.)