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  • Jan 20, 2023

    Annual Maintenance Again

    Last year I wrote Annual Maintenance about the differences in the one day in January of 2020, 2021, and 2022 I sat in a VW dealership. I made a guess about 2023:

    What’s my best guess for January, 2023? No masks. Finally hit 10,000 miles but still well under 20,000 and impossibly far from 30,000. I’ll still go to Trader Joe’s after. I’ll be smart enough to do this on a weekday so I don’t get stuck in the weekend crowd. Things change, but things stay the same.

    Was I right? I pulled in the service bay with 9992 miles. No one is wearing a mask. It’s a Friday. 50/50 I go to Trader Joe’s after — we’re good on groceries but I do have a mild trail mix addiction. Is everything normal now? Normal as any normal is, I guess.

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  • Jan 15, 2023

    Aptitude vs. Tenure

    Aptitude is the ability to perform a type of work. Tenure is the length of time in job. Their correlation degrades rapidly.

    From Professional Aptitude vs. Tenure

    Ilya includes a nice graphic here of the idea of aptitude versus tenure. In a past career life I worked with a manager who would frequently toss out the phrase “I have over twenty years experience!” when justifying decisions. We’d joke he’d been showing up for twenty years, whether he’d actually learned anything was up for debate.

    Most organizations have a “career resting level” for each job: a level everyone is expected to reach eventually that, once reached, carries no further level growth expectations except for sustained execution and honing of their craft. Unfortunately, it's rare to find well-developed tools and language that gives enough credit, praise, and recognition to this happy steady state. Resting levels are not "easy" levels, they are the personal goldilocks zone: challenging but not impossible, rewarding but not at the cost of all else.

    The idea of a resting level is a nice thought experiment now that I’m some-many years into my career as a software developer and I am not yet (and do not appear to be on track to reach) Google Fellow level.

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  • Jan 12, 2023

    Jeff Beck

    Jeff Beck passed away yesterday. I don’t recall how I first found out about him, it was either some Guitar World magazine list of “greatest guitar albums” or my dad recounting the history of rock n’ roll to me while driving me to school. He wasn’t popular or well known when I was a teenager, but I got a copy of Blow by Blow and listened to it a trillion times in a row. The solo in “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” remains one of my favorite guitar solos.

    Weirdly of all the songs of his that pops into my head on a regular basis it’s this song “Blackbird” from his 2001 album You Had It Coming, where he does call and response with a bird and, in Jeff Beck fashion, lets the bird get the last word.

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  • Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

    Jan 10, 2023
  • Jan 7, 2023

    Mistakes of the Past

    At some point when building out this blog I made the clever (but not smart) decision to match Next‘s page folder structure with my content. So when generating all the routes for this site, I’d get all the content from the blog folder, the parse out the year and month from the path of the item, and that’s the url of the post.

    For example, if I saved a file at: content/blog-posts/2023/01/mistakes-of-the-past

    It would show up at blog-posts/2023/01/mistakes-of-the-past. Which is ok, but over time I found these issues with it:

    • Automating generating new content is unnecessarily cumbersome (e.g. as a Shortcuts shortcut), as you can’t just throw it into /blog-posts and call it a day, you have to put it in year/month/post. Also every post already has the full date in the YAML frontmatter so it’s duplicating dates. More to the point, if you move the content it might disappear / break everything.
    • Content couldn’t be stored in a folder that was easily readable to me, the author of the content. I wanted a “drafts” folder for draft content I can view locally, but it was instead scattered around the year/month folders.
    • Generating the slug from the file name is also annoying, because it means the filenames had to be slug friendly. I’ve switched to slugify-ing the post titles now, although I’ll likely add a slug property to the YAML frontmatter to decouple it entirely.

    Other things left to fix:

    • The codebase is about half TypeScript files, half JavaScript files.
    • Other types of content are generated by folder path as well. So book notes have their own book-notes folder when they should just have a post-type property.

    Am I starting to wish I kept some of this in a database? No… nope. Not yet. Nope.

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  • Jan 2, 2023

    Obsidian for 2023

    I wrote last year that I’d love one app that sticks the best features of iA Writer, Bear and Obsidian together. It’s 2023 and it still hasn’t happened, but I want to more consistently use one tool for notes and writing this year, so I’m deciding to stick with Obsidian and not think about it for the next year. The main reasons for this:

    • I use Obsidian for notes at work, because I can’t / won’t use the Apple App Store there, so consistency between home and work is nice.
    • iA Writer and Obsidian both have a quick open feature (⌘ + SHIFT + O and ⌘ + O respectively). Bear... has search, which doesn’t work half as well. I’ve worked around that by using an Alfred plugin to quick open in Bear but it’s not as nice as having this work as a native function of the app.
    • Most of the UI quirks I’ve been annoyed by in Obsidian were smoothed out in the 1.0 release, or at least made tolerable.
    • I realized that I can keep all of my blog posts/content in the same working folder as my personal notes by simply symlinking the content folder in the git repo for this blog in my notes folder, which means I can now keep stuff like my notes on monorepos in sync on this site and locally.

    The one mark against Obsidian compared to Bear is the mobile app support. Obsidian has a mobile app and sync service that is paid, but I rarely edit on mobile, so I’m going to use my Things inbox for capture instead, and iA Writer if I need to really modify some text.

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  • Dec 31, 2022

    A New Guitar for a New Year

    I wrote in 2020 about fixing up my first guitar, a black Squire Stratocaster. It is (I think) from 1995. My other guitar is a nicer Stratocaster from 1999. When I got that guitar I was torn between it and something more “shreddy”. If I remember correctly I was comparing it to an Ibanez JS1000, but in the end I wanted the bridge and middle single coils, so I went with the Strat.

    Well, 20-odd years later, I finally have a “shreddy” guitar, a the amazingly named Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1 HH FR M. I picked it up from Matt’s Music Center in Weymouth, worth a trip if you’re in the Boston area looking for guitars. The color is Chameleon and I wanted to get it from a physical store, not online, because the color… photographs as a lot of different colors!

    Like, it’s black, right?

    Or purple?

    Or kind of gold?

    It’s fun and I’ve aggressively abused the whammy bar many times already. Now for next year finally following up on something I meant to this year, recording myself while playing.

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  • The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

    Dec 26, 2022
  • Dec 18, 2022

    Smarter Than You Think

    I finished Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson1 today. I started it many months ago, it was a book I read in fits and starts. I thought it approached the subject of “what is technology doing to how we think” well enough, with lots of references to historical precedence (people thinking writing would ruin the mind hundreds of years ago) and non-technical studies of similar topics like shared knowledge and the overhead of organizing large and wide knowledge networks.

    One of the more interesting parts, at least to me, was about solving puzzles collectively. He talks at length about video games, and wiki pages for games contributed to by large sets of people, which means every facet of a game can be documented in depth and at speed. He references Skyrim a lot but I found this playing through Elden Ring recently. The game does not present a deep story unless you know what to look for, and many of the puzzles are fair if you know what you’re looking for, but… you might honestly have no idea what you’re looking for. You can search online for the smallest part of the game and find everything you could ever want to know about it. There’s deep backstory on Reddit that you’d think was fan-fiction except it comes with references!

    And it’s true of almost everything. I’ve been playing guitar more this Winter, and I like to search for “how did player X get their tone”. The information is out there, and you begin to realize that a lot of good electric guitar players from the 60s and 70s were ok guitar players who had access to the equipment and information that allowed them to get great tone. Today you can Google it and get the same tone in a digital modeler (more technology!) in five minutes. The ease is obvious when you start to search for instrumental electric guitarists in your favorite streaming music platform: there’s thousands of them, and the music skews heavily towards the last ten years or so, when not only did digital recording get easier, sharing information on how to play and inspiration for playing did too. Heck, some of the best known guitarists now don’t even record often, they post on Instagram and play live. Hard to say that’s a bad thing for humanity.

    There was one salient bit later in the book about Twitter:

    One study homed in on Twitter users who displayed “clear political preference,” as with right-wing Twitter users following Fox News, or left-wing Twitter users following The New York Times. It turns out these users inadvertently got a more diverse set of news delivered via other people they followed, because their friends would tweet tidbits from the other side of the political spectrum. Indeed, 17.8 percent of the left-wing Twitter users were seeing right-wing media via retweets from people they followed, and the right-wing Twitter users saw even more—57.2 percent of them were seeing left-wing media.

    So someone right leaning goes and buys Twitter and now how do you think that skews? And what impact does that skewing (and the algorithm behind the skewing) have on us as a society? That’s a question the book can’t answer, we’re learning that one in real time.


    1. His blog is sadly and oddly dead. Oddly because it’s mentioned in the book more than once.
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  • Smarter Than You Think

    Dec 18, 2022
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