Joseph Hallenbeck

Anno Domini 2016

August 07, 2016

Social Media Fast 2.2

Filed under: Journal

So we are going into the first week of the Social Media Fast. Said my goodbyes to Facebook and Twitter on Monday and hit the road for the wild open web. I get a weird sense of excitment about the project. Odd thoughts about all this new free time I will find in the next couple months. What exciting new web comics or blogs will I uncover trying to stem my boredom?

The first step for our great fast is to set up a /etc/hosts file to block out the most time consuming of the social networks:

Already added one new domain to the list, Disqus has become a kind of centeralized, outsourced commenting system that a lot of blogs and news sources have started to use. Even my site! So, I found myself reading an NPR article and skimming to the bottom to read the inflamatory comments. Well, that’s no better than just reading Reddit. So I nuked the domain which generally kills the plugin from working on most sites. Now, I don’t have a distraction from reading the original author’s article. Dumping comments altogether is hard.

But it is one thing I want to do on my own blog. Comments tend to be very low value and off the cuff. They devolve into nonsensical arguements that are attactive and easy to get caught up in but reveal very little value. If someone really wants to say something they should think it through, write it up, and publish it on their own website.

What is not on the list yet is Google. I really wanted to switch over to Duck Duck Go or Qwant for my search engine. But it appears that many of the more off-the-beaten-path search engines don’t really have integration into browsers. I would need to install a Qwant extension for my browser. So this will take a little more effort than just editing the hosts file.

Then there is the phone. Google search is majorly integrated into the OS.
Editing hosts on the phone appears to require rooting the phone, which I haven’t done nor really have plans to do. So instead, I realied on deleting my bookmarks to social media sites. Still, found myself on a couple of ocassions absent mindedly punching in Facebook. Even spent some time on Youtube when I got back from a trip and hadn’t quite gotten the hosts in to place.

The first positive results are a sudden feeling of spare computing time. A greater desire to read articles all the way through on the few posts that come up on my RSS feed. And a greater desire to read general news sources versus a concentration on computing news.

July 28, 2016

Wordpress to Jekyll

Filed under: Software Development

I am currently undergoing a process of slowly converting this and my other blogs from WordPress to Jekyll. One of the first items that I needed to account for was converting all of the posts from WordPress into Markdown for use by Jekyll.

Jekyll itself provides a process for importing, but I was intially displeased with the results. I want my posts exported into Markdown files so I can continue to retain them in a simple plaintext format that can be post-processed into a variety of typesettings be it online or perhaps a print format. The default setting only outputs html.

In all honesty, I’m not sure why I’m using Jekyll. The Ruby dependency ecosystem always seems like such a pain to me. Dependencies not automatically resolving.
Things breaking from one system to the next. But, I don’t really know of any other big-name static site generators in other languages. I’d do a Python one in a heartbeat.

So, for my own personal memory. This is the process that I went through to get my posts out of WordPress and into Markdown:

1. Export Content from WordPress

Wordpress has an export tool when you are logged in to the admin dashboard. By selecting “All content,” I can get everything from the site in a massive XML file. This gets us a little closer.

2. Ignore Jekyll-Import

Jekyll has a series of importers for popular sources. It even has two for WordPress! I tried both with little satisfaction. They take the exported XML file and spit out HTML copies of our articles. If I wanted to get back to MarkDown, this would require additional post-processing.

3. ExitWP

I stumpled upon a Python tool that does the trick so much better. ExitWP takes the exported XML file and converts all of our articles into *.markdown files.

Follow the instructions to install the dependencies. Dump the XML file into the wordpress-xml directory and then run python I found that there were some linting issues in my XML file that caused it to fail. Opening the file in VIM and tracking them down via it’s XML linting functionality made it pretty simple.

4. Copy Your Images Directory

Unfortunately, you are still left copying the images directory and manually updating the links to images to get things working. This isn’t a major problem for me as a migration does entail a lot of additional overhead if you want to do it right – 301 redirects, image updates, cleaning up posts.

July 16, 2016

Social Media Fast 2

Filed under: Journal

A year ago, I did a fast from Social Media. From July 2015 until the end of September I went without Facebook, Reddit, Slashdot, Twitter, and Hacker News.

I never really did much of a post mortem for the project.

There is a lot of very interesting writing going on these days about the topic of social media and information overload. We see bottomless bowls of information designed to operate like skinner boxes while providing little real value. The age of distraction. Which has a direct effect on our ability to concentrate. And a nagging feeling that the internet has gone from a wonderful, magical, freeing community, to another platform for solidifying traditional power and mainstream culture. Maybe this is why I find myself hanging out on freenode late at night these days argueing with other aging weirdos.

Others who have tried to cut themselves off from the internet reported finding a sudden abundance of free time. Yet, as they went along they simply found other ways to procrastinate. Eventually returning to their previous level of productivity. Maybe the new distraction was more meaningful. Or maybe it wasn’t.
But it does reveal that a great deal of your productive hours are really a measurement of your own willpower.

I found a similar effect. The first month was filled with an abundance of free time. My day job became that much more productive. My evenings had much more time for reading. Then two things began to slowly fade in (1) I began to cheat on the fast. Slowly Reddit slipped in. A quick peak at Facebook. (2) I began to find that my productivity gains slowly faded, filled instead with just idle distraction. If I wasn’t distracted by Reddit, then I was at least distracted by a sudden urge to organize my pens or muddle through my day planner.

Here is the thing that I found most interesting. Facebook really wasn’t that bad of a culprate. It was easy to cut Facebook out. It was easy to start reading Facebook again. Facebook was, ultimately, still rather useful with regards to keeping up on the lives of friends and family. My major gripe with Facebook a year ago was the sheer amount of promoted content. The feed was full top to bottom with clickbait articles and random nonsenses being shared endlessly. It made me miss the endless parades of baby pictures. Yet, it seems someone at Facebook realized that this was bad for business and started to turn the ship around. There is still random promoted content on the feed. But I am happy to say that I am starting to see more and more content contributed by friends. Which leads me to being willing to keep Facebook around for yet another year.

News aggregators though? Sheer evil. Might as well be a slot machine for internet addicts. Every refresh of Reddit brings up new articles, memes, and comments. Hacker News and Slashdot are at least a little more professionally orientated but they too form a kind of bottomless bowl. Once you take a hit of Reddit, an hour or two is gone instantly.

Post fast, I realized that Reddit just had to go. Hacker News and Slashdot were managable. I’ve weened myself down to only reading Reddit on the phone when I truly, truly have nothing better to do. The common demoninator on Reddit today is the absolute bottom of the barrel. The shilling is through the roof. There isn’t a post that doesn’t have some viral web marketer squatting on it trying to hawk their wares. The last thread I read was some stupid joke about balding dominated by comments sounding eerily like ad copy, promoting this or that product to bring back your hair.

Which brings me to the amazingness that is the RSS feeder. RSS turns the relationship of the news aggregator upside down. Rather than the news aggregator pushing news to me. The mob, or more likely an army of marketers, deciding what news ought to be read. I can instead pull the news to me. I get to decide the writers who I will read. The topics to be read.

This breaks the addictive quality of the new aggregator, but also allows me to stop wasting time reading low-quality comments and low-quality posts. I can focus my attention on particular publishesr, such as NPR, BBC, or local newspapers like the Jackson Hole News & Guide and the Silver City Daily Press. I can pull in international feeds like L’actualite and Le Monde. I can also focus my attention on a particular author like Will Wheaton, Stephen Fry or Brad Warner. I can create huge collections of slowly updated blogs that post long form essays once or twice a year or faster blogs that publish once or twice a day. I can pull in writers on esoteric topics that interest me like Rust development, Zen, Asian History, Anime, or Roleplaying. I can even add Slashdot and Hacker News – get the article prepackaged without the temptation to waste time wallowing about in the comments.

Essentially, I very quickly found myself thinking more and more about the types of things that I read online, the topics that interested me, and seeking out a diverse selection of the best writers in those topics. I stopped browsing whatever popped up in front of me. It became a much more intentional relationship with the media.

Round #2 of the Social Media Fast

My thoughts are, to do this again. Make it an annual thing. No social media for three months! August. September. October. Which will be great. I’ll miss all of the election nonsense. Read the articles on my RSS feed. Make my own call on the whole business.

The sites that are verboten:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Slashdot
  • Hacker News
  • Youtube

And any other site that has characteristics that resemble any of these sites.
StackOverflow gets a pass. I can’t do my job without StackOverflow.

But let’s take this one step further this year. Google has gone evil. So let’s cut out as well and switch to Duck Duck Go or Qwant for my search engine. I’m still giving the various other google products a pass: e-mail, docs, drive. Those I, unfortunately need for work. But I can intentionally choose to try using a different search engine for three months.

In 2013, I was fresh on my switch from Windows to Linux as my full-time OS. I was reading books like David Allen’s Getting Things Done and looking for a good digital planning system. Enter Gina Trapani’s Todotxt script.

Todo.txt allowed for command line todo lists. Every was stored in a plaintext file, easily editable with any text editor or automated via the command line. I used it for roughly a year. At the time I both loved and hated using Todo.txt.

On the one hand, it was easily automated. I could set up daily and weekly tasks to be automatically populated to my list in the morning. I could easily bulk edit things in VIM.

But there was still some big pain points. My lists tended to get way too long – scrolled right off the top of my screen. There was no easy way for managing multiple todo files. There also wasn’t much for sorting. The result was that managing my lists and getting an overview of everything became increasingly difficult.

When my employer started using Trello for product management, I saw my solution. Trello does a great job of visualizing where all my tasks belong. Following GTD, I had a backlog column, next actions column, today column, in progress, and done. Moving cards between columns let me visually see the flow of work through the day. A big tickler board kept all my long-term ideas.

Now in 2016, I find myself re-installing Todo.txt and giving Trello the boot. Why if it was such an excellent system?

Goodbye Trello

There are a number of pain points that Trello simply cannot get over that Todo.txt solves easily:

Vendor Lock-in

A theme for a lot of my projects this first quarter of 2016 has been a move away from Vendor lock in. I got rid of my IDE and switched back to developing using VIM. This got me to thinking about how many other products I use that have vendor-lock-in. Evernote instead of just keeping plaintext files. Dropbox instead of using rsync. And Trello instead of Todo.txt.

With Trello, my done lists, my massive tickler list of project ideas, and my entire workflow is dependent upon the continued existence of Trello the company and it’s good graces to continue hosting all of this content for free.

Now Trello does have an export feature, but the result is a massive json blob. It might as well be binary for as much use as I will get out of it. I most certainly will be backing up all my trello boards. Yet, if I ever wanted to make use of this data, I will first need to write some kind of interpretor for it.

Todo.txt, as a plaintext file manager is to todo lists what Markdown is to Word Documents. It’s open, interchangeable, can be opened nearly any file system. It will follow me for year’s to come.

Difficult Automation

Switching back to VIM and working on the terminal all the time made me realize just how many computing tasks I have left un-automated.

In planning my daily todo tasks there are a number of recurring todos. A daily stand up starts my work day. A sprint planning meeting occurs every other week. Duolingo calls my daily French learning session. Monthly bills need to be paid.

On Trello entering these items into my board is a manual exercise. I keep a second board of “reoccurring” tasks that I copy over at the start of each sprint. It takes me thirty some minutes just to do this.

Now Trello does have an API, but I would need to learn it, probably create some kind of developer account, get API keys, compose some sizable application to interface with that API, make REST calls. It would take me probably a week’s worth of work to automate that entire process.

With Todo.txt, and a little BASH-fu and a cronjob, this all gets automated away. Every night my daily tasks get added to my todo, every sprint my per-sprint tasks get added to my todo. At the end of the month a note to pay my bills shows up on my todo. This gets offloaded so I no longer need to think about it.

Task Creation Friction

GUI’s add friction to any task.

Trello is no different in that regard. If I want to add a new task, I need to fire up a browser, navigate to Trello (assuming I even have an internet connection), create the card, name it, click a bunch of buttons to add a label. Sometimes, I just don’t want to do all of this, often times I find that I don’t sufficiently break a task down into small enough tasks purely out of a resistance to creating more cards., being on the command line means I need no internet connection, I can simply start typing to add my task, and there is little overhead in truly breaking any project down into atomic tasks that can be accomplished in a single Pomodoro.


After considering these options, I decided to revert to using After a week of being back, I find that I love it. I am still working out my system for using It truly is powerful. I’ve already discovered quite a few commands and options that I had no idea even existed before (I never realized there is a means of doing a logical or for terms or excluding terms via -TERM).

I could easily write up an entire second post about how to manage todos, how to install the script, get yourself running, useful aliases and methods for creating new add ons and automating things. Once I really get my daily system going, I could probably write a whole post on that as well.

Plaintext Planning

I would highly recommend a read through Michael Descy’s Plainttext Productivity website as the tips are quite above board. The biggest take away is priority management. Only use three or four priorities and use them to management where an task exists in the GTD workflow:

  • (A): Tasks that are in progress. Keep this below three tasks at a time
  • (B): Tasks that I will get to today
  • (C): Next actions that can be started now. Descy uses this for “Next Actions this week,” I use it for tasks to be done this sprint.
  • (D): Descy uses this for “Next Actions next week,” I use it for tasks that are currently blocked
  • (E): Tasks that are part of a project currently prioritized as an A, B or C task. For multi-part projects whose parts I don’t want cluttering the view when I query for the current day’s tasks, I create a project stub. When that stub is in progress and I need to know the next part to work on, I can query for all the E priorty tasks for that project.

Everything else is in the backlog which for me is items to be done this quarter. Anything further back goes on the tickler to be evaluated some day and added at my leisure.

Add-Ons & Set Up

A very brief overview of my current set up.

First, I have the todo.txt-cli script installed in my dotfiles repository which has it’s own script for installing all of my related configuration files on any system I touch. The todo lists themselves are in their own separate repository since I don’t manage todos on every system that I touch.

I follow the instructions for setting up auto completion. I also set up a number of aliases for different todo lists:

  • todo: for my daily, sprint, and quarterly task list
  • todot: for managing my tickler list
  • todos: for managing my shopping list

The aliases use the -a flag since I prefer to not auto archive by default.

Each alias has it’s own todo.cfg file which each sources a base.cfg file and only exports configurations that are unique to that command. As a base, I changed my priority colors to Blue, Green, Brown, and Red solarized values for the A-D priorities. Changed the project color to red and left the context a nice light gray.

As for the add ons, I added:

  • archive for archiving only selected items
  • edit for quickly opening the todo in VIM
  • sync and it’s requirements
  • commit,
  • pull and push for quick version control my todo lists.
  • projectview has some pretty formatting for project lists
  • recur for automating recuring tasks. I tried the ice_recur module but simply could not get it to work on my system.
  • xp another task visulation. This time for done tasks.
  • pri and rm (with a soft link for pri to p as a shortcut) for bulk editing priorities and deletions
  • lsgp/lsgc another project and context visualization.

Still Some Rough Spots

There are still some rough spots in land. First, sorting is still not quite perfect. Ideally, if I type todo lsp, I would like to have all my tasks listed by priority, then line number grouped by project. The best that I can do right now is by priority and then line number. Project grouping only occurs if I group the project lines together in VIM.

Secondly, the one big item that Trello had going for it was it’s phone app. This made adding tasks on the go quite easy and made looking things up easy as well.

Perhaps some of the various todo apps will have the functionality that I need, or perhaps I will need to compose my own app to meet my needs. The joy of the matter is though, I’m not locked in. I can easily develop that app if I so choose.

February 17, 2016

2015 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

Time for the annual retrospective. We can look back on last year’s and reflect on the last year and my resolutions for this new year. This last year was truly a year of unexpected surprises from switching employers to totaling my precious Ford Explorer after eleven years of use, to a wild last minute wintery move from Jackson, WY to a small trailer in Greenlee County Arizona.

Professional Development

The new year brought with it a new employer, Research Square, where I joined a dedicated team of professionals working on both the website and internal tooling of a medium-sized, fast growing company out of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. The best part was that it was still telecommuting, so my old office was my new office: home.

The new team brought with it the opportunity to really dig into becoming intimate with a lot of the best-practices that I had, until now, only really read about: domain driven design, agile, code reviews, unit and integration testing. It also brought with it a new set of tools to learn: Silex Framework, Zend Framework, Doctrine ORM, Elastic Search and the variety of services provided by AWS. In total, I scored probably another two dozen buzzwords to add to my resume.

Throughout the year, I read a solid stack of business texts and DDD texts such as Domain Driven Design, Impelementing Domain Driven Design, Remote, The Lean Start Up, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Drive and Good to Great. At home, I attended a variety of tech related meet ups hosted by Spark, my co-working office and in North Carolina, I made it to my first conference, the All Things Open conference in October.

Unrelated to my day-time employer, I finally gave up on hosting my own e-mail server and shut it down. My e-mail provider is now G-mail. I also went through the process of forming Joseph Hallenbeck, LLC in my home state of South Dakota, formally establishing a separate business account for the odd gigs that I accept and began a very slow discussion of the idea of on-the-side consulting.

Personal Highlights


We had some delightful trips this last year. It started with a few nights in McMenamins in Oregon with Jess. A beautiful hotel grounds with hidden little pubs all over.

Come spring we embarked for our third trip to the Southwest. This time we explored south of Moab in what turned into a long car trip circling south into Arizona, New Mexico and up to Taos. We certainly planned too much for that event and are looking forward to revisiting many of the places we saw the year prior.

Nearer to home, we rented a cabin in Pinedale for a four day weekend of snow shoeing half-moon lake and the surrounding area. Latter in the season we would also rent a cabin on Slide Lake for a night and venture back to our old stomping grounds in Island Park to polish off a handful of trails. In early spring we also ventured into Beaverhead-Deerlodge to pick our way out to a campground.

Caver Classic came in the summer where I ventured back to Custer, SD with Clint Augustson for some exciting caving adventures. We finally tracked down Cave 41 and as a bonus hit Onyx cave. Classic-lead events included the Club Room in Wind Cave and a trip out to Japanese Gardens in Jewel.

An unexpected trip came after the All Things Open conference when I had to drive from North Carolina to back home in Wyoming after buying a new truck after the conference.

Nights of Relaxation

Having little success at finding companionship in Jackson, I turned to recruiting my friends to play through Borderlands 2. We ended up meeting up nearly once a fortnight through the entire year.

Alternatively, I took to taking quite long lavender baths, an old fashioned in one hand as I worked my way through such series as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Mushi-shi, Kids on the Slope, Gatchaman, and Parasyte.

I also enjoyed liberal use of the gym. Jess finally talked me into a membership and I found that I rather enjoyed hitting the gym for my lunch break. There I could sit back and watch some American animation: Rick & Morty, South Park, and Adventure Time all while burning through six to eight hundred calories.

Later in the year we discovered HIIT training which did wonders for preparing for Caver Classic.

Cooking, Figure Drawing, Fence Building, Fiddling & Jazz

One thing that I did not fail on was cooking. I canvassed the world this year with recipes from India and Italy. I cooked kraut, lamb leg, curry, turkey meatballs, duck, tapanade, Tuscan papa al pomodoro, paprikash and expensive saffron flavored fish soups. We roasted our own coffee beans on a wood stove and made cakes in dutch ovens.

In the Winter and Spring, I hit up figure drawing at the art center. I went fairly regularly until the weather was too nice to be spending the evening couped up in doors. But I did fill a whole book of newspaper print with drawings. I photographed them, but haven’t had the time to prepare them for a blog post.

Once the snow cleared, I took to building a fence around the property that we were renting so the dogs would have a proper yard to run about in. One weekend later we had a four-foot tall fence running from T-stakes around the yard. A fence the dogs never once found a way out.

Watching Kids on the Slope and attending the Teton Orchestra inspired me to dig back into my music days. I sorted through all of my old sheet music, broke out the fiddle and started playing away at all the old songs. I kept it up well for a couple of months. I even bought the Fake Book and started listening to a long list of Jazz greats hoping to work out their pieces on the fiddle. The madness that was Autumn took this away, and I hope to return to playing soon.

Completing the Day List in Jackson

One of the first things that I did when we moved to Jackson was to draw up a big list of everything that we wanted to do. The list included every campground to camp at, every day hike to hike, every backpacking trip, every outdoor activity that I could imagine. While we moved out leaving a lot of the multi-day hikes still on the list, we pretty much cleared the day hikes.

In the winter we hit on snow-shoes half-moon lake and the trails in Snake River Canyon. Once the snow melted we hit Mosquito Creek and Red Top Meadows were we explored Munger Mountain. Closer to home we cleared out Hagen’s Trail, Woods Canyon to Crystal Butte loop, Goodwin Lake and Wilson Canyon.

The regular bicycling to Spark slowly sparked a reemergence of my interest in bicycle touring. I found myself in reminiscence and slowly drawing up plans for yet larger, bigger trips. In the end, I decided to start doing S24O, that is sub-twenty-four-hour-outings by bike, but by then the winter snows had already set in and I had to wait until the spring thaw.


One odd item was a highlight of my summer. Volunteering for the Lion’s club in Jackson. We helped with a hot-dog feed for kids at Kid’s Fishing Day and latter they hit us up to help with a breakfast feed at the County Faire which we helped out with great zest.

A Feast of Films & Books

We feasted regularly on manga, non-fiction, anime, and a pile of films. But this deserves it’s own separate entry.

Zen & Simplification

Jackson is a very restless community. A place that truly inspires you to constantly be going, always amping up the stress. To combat that, I bought some zafus and zabutons, read a long list of articles online on how to sit zazen and gave it a try. In the meantime, I read through The Three Pillars of Zen and skimmed through half a dozen other texts related to the practice. I am not quite sure if it has helped or not yet. For a time, it certainly encouraged me to take some time in my crazy day to just sit.

A second thought also began to bug me. That I was simply drowning in stuff. I had boxes and boxes of notes from college, books that would never get read again, cloths I would probably never wear, broken computer parts and duplicate tool sets. I started trying to organize everything and most importantly started gathering more and more stuff to dump into the grand box of donations. By the time we moved, I unloaded one entire pickup truck load of stuff. The result is a feeling of being so much more mobile, so much more free. When we moved, everything we owned fit into a single U-Haul and we did it all on just a little over two grand. That is a sense of freedom I am just not willing to trade.

The Wild & Unexpected

Two big unexpected events happened to me this year.

First, the Beast hit a deer outside of Boise. As a sixteen year old vehicle, it was totaled. I took my insurance pay out of three grand and walked. It was a really sad event for me. I had that explorer since my second year of college. My first car and one that I practically lived out of for some time. I immediately started looking for a new vehicle and came upon a craigslist add for a 2014 Toyota Tacoma in North Carolina. It fit everything that I wanted: manual, V6, tow package, low miles. I flew out for my conference and called up the owner to schedule a test ride that night. Bought it and drove it all the way home to Wyoming.

Second, after a great deal of discussion we decided that Jackson simply was not the place for us and we wanted to move on. Particularly, Jess really needed to advance in her career just as I was doing in mine. So she started the job hunt, and unlike past job hunts, found immediate success. In no time at all our Christmas plans went from simple, to packing up and moving. We landed in Greenlee County Arizona in a little trailer in an unincorporated community along the New Mexico border. What surprises life throws us.

Abandoned Projects

Unfortunately, I got to very few of my projects that I enthusiastically proposed last year. In my wake, I left a constant growth of crazy ideas and half-implemented works. This is pretty much becoming my annual tradition.

Announce a bunch of fun projects. Put them on my to do list for a few months.

Then scratch them off and go read a book.

The Searchable Lovecraft

An elastic-search powered searcahable index of Lovecraft’s works. Type a query get back the stories and lines that query was found on. I intended this to be a meet up demonstration for a talk that I never gave.

The Menu

A cookbook containing all my favorite recipes and a complete collection of what I consider my “repertoire” of cooking delights.

The Photography Review

I started the process of going through all of 2015s photographs in Lightroom.

However, after a month of digging through files, I really started to lose a lot of interest in photography overall. There is just so many photographs being taken these days and other than tagging them and forgetting about them, I really was not in the mood for post production at any point in time through the year.

The 30 Year Review

My shelves hold hand written journals going all the way back to grade school.

One crazy idea that I had was to type up the last eighteen years of journals in to a giant document then typeset and print it out in hardcover. I got through my first year of college and then lost interest in the pain of data entry.

Magic Cards

Sometime in the summer I realized that there was a game store in Rexburg, a short two hour drive away and lost myself in the daydream of getting back into playing magic. I picked up my old boxes of cards from home, bought a couple hundred dollars of the cards from the current sets, went to one Friday-night magic and lost interest.

Rusty Centipede

Rust went 1.0 this year and yet I haven’t touched Rust since it’s beta. Last time I tried to compile the Rusty Centipede it broke in maddening ways and I never was able to get the build to work.

… and NaNoWriMo, The Weird Tale, my blog in general, the Renaissance Man project, blog re-write, interactive travel-map, link-posting website, and updating my campaign setting.

2016 In Resolution

Once I really start to look over the year, go from thinking that I really got nothing done to wow, I really took care of a lot. My only regrets would be that I abandoned a lot of larger projects and spent very little time knocking out more of my multi-day hiking trips that I had previously planned out.

So what would I want out of this next year? I would want to settle into Arizona and truly explore the new countryside. I would want to find some social connections, find a group to roleplay with, look into the local grotto and make professional contacts in the local community and in Tuscon. I would want to keep up the reading, gaming, and film watching.

Cultural Goals

I already have a reading list prepared and would add on to it a desire to watch one film a fortnight, two seasons of shows a quarter, and set aside some serious gaming time in the new house.

  • Watch more films (try for once a fortnight)
  • Watch more shows (try for two seasons a quarter)
  • Complete the reading list
  • Play more video games

Get Out More

One of my regrets in Jackson is that I let the community make me very claustrophobic. The rush of tourists. The brisk attitudes of the locals.

Eventually, I just didn’t want to go out anymore. This time around, I want to really take advantage of my telecommuting opportunities. Take time to work from Starbucks or a local restaurant. Maybe commute from camp or a nice picnic ground. Take a few more times to go out alone and really contemplate the world.

Spend more time out on the trail. Spend more time going to the movies and exploring nearby communities. Start actually working towards that big out-of-the-country trip.

  • Work away from home more often
  • Quarterly writer’s retreat
  • Get out to the theater be it film or stage
  • Get out of town once a month
  • Attend tech, roleplaying, and caving meet ups in Tuscon
  • S24O Bike Tours
  • Some trip ideas:
  • Alaska
  • Puerto Rico
  • Mexico
  • Train Ride to Durham

Write More

Last year, I said I would do 12 blog articles and set out to do that right away.

In the end, I just stopped writing altogether through the spring and most of the summer. When I returned, I found how much I had missed it! Yet, I never did do that weird story, write for NaNoWriMo or shuffle through my campaign setting the way I had said that I would. Somehow, I forgot all about it. This year, I want to write more. I want to write more blog articles. I want to write more short stories.

Create More

Besides just writing. I want to create more. I want to spend more time working on my drawings. More time playing the fiddle. More time just creating new things be it cooking, carpentry, or programming. I already have some crazy ideas like building a camper for the truck and updating my blog.

  • Play my fiddle
  • Spend more time drawing
  • Build a truck camper
  • Rewrite TimeKeeper
  • Rewrite back end in Rust, Go, and Python
  • Rewrite the front end with React
  • Add Google account authentication
  • Build up my consulting business
  • Rewrite my blog as a static website

Waste Less Time

Waste less time, or better put waste time better. One thing that I realized in Jackson was that I tend to deffer to spending time poorly. Instead of hammering through work I wander about the house cleaning things that already clean. I waste hours procrastinating on projects that I don’t have any interest in really doing and would be better off simply scratching off the list altogether and moving on to something better. I spend too much time organize the altogether too much stuff that I own. I spend not early enough time watching the sunrise, sitting zazen, and really listening to music.

  • Less procrastinating on my day job. Less twelve hour days with four hours of intermitent, unneccessary chores
  • Try to see the big picture more at work
  • Cut back on caffeine and try to get more energy in the day
  • Make the social media fast an annual thing
  • Sit zazen and exercise daily
  • Simplify all the “stuff” in my life
  • Waste less time procrastinating on projects I don’t want to do and more time working on the projects that I’m passionate about.
  • Figure out what the above means.
February 16, 2016

2016 Reading List

Filed under: Literary Criticism part of Annual Reviews

To match up with the list of books and films read or watched in 2015 is a list of books that I hope to get to this year. There are a lot of re-reads in here. I am finding that as I get older I am much more inclined to step back and re-read a good book then I am to always be searching for the next great thing. I’ve also grown a lot more choosy on what it is I do start up reading. There just isn’t enough time in a year to rush though a paperback a week like I did way back in High School. I also suspect the list will evolve substantially as the year goes on based upon my seasonal whimsy and discovery of new authors.



(Total: 22)


Graphic Novels


There is no way I will be getting to all of these volumes. For a lot of them, like Pic Iyer’s Falling Off the Map, The Open Road, and The Art of Stillness – I inclined to only read one. Likewise, a lot of the philosophy texts, I doubt I will be getting to all of them. And my employer also gives me a reading list of sorts which I haven’t added to the pile of computing volumes.

(Total: 27)

General Non-Fiction


Philosphy, Zen & Theology

Roleplaying Game Rulebooks

February 15, 2016

2015 Reading & Media Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

So folks seem to be doing this: jotting down a list of the books, graphic novels, and films read or watched in 2015 with a short review of each. A few surprises hit me in looking through the list. First, I read a lot of non-fiction. Much more then typical in any given year. Second, I read very few novels: only three. While I read a great deal of graphic novels. What is not shown here is the vast number of short stories that I’ve been reading. I remember a teen being bored with short stories. How were we supposed to really connect with a character over twenty or thirty pages? These days it seems like even the novella is just too long. Who has time to read through twenty thousand words of prose? Hopefully next year will see a return of the novel to my reading.

The other thing I find interesting. I also seem to be paring down my need for novelty in my reading. I am going back and rereading good books that I had read as a teenager. In fact, the three novels I did read? I have already read each of them at least three times already.

So let’s kick this off.

  • Re-read

Fiction Read

Total: 3

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

After watching the film, I immediately felt the need to revisit the novel. Now The Hobbit was one of my favorites as a child and one that I read several times more then I ever read The Lord of the Rings.

On The Road by Jack Kerouaca

My third pass through Kerouac’s masterpiece. This is one of those novels where each read leaves me thinking differently. My first read had me completely caught up in the sense of wanderlust. My latest read really seemed to put me into thinking about just how disgusting Moriarty is as a human being and yet just how easy it must have been to want to get caught up in his self destruction.a

Dune by Frank Herbert

A revisit to Dune, an annual read of my teenage years. Upon revisiting this novel, I’m amazed at just how much my political ideology was shaped by Herbert. Particularly the message that when you ask others to do for you which you could do for yourself, you are inviting them in to have power over you.a

Non-Fiction Read

Total: 10

Remote by Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson

A text that Research Square gave me upon joining. This is a rather light read, one that you could probably finish in a single reading. I don’t think it really said anything that isn’t rather obvious to anyone who has teleworked before.

The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries

Another text that Research Square asked me to read before starting. This is a rather great read, particularly in the sense of how big of an impact the thinking from this text has hit the tech sector over the last decade.

Beyond the Wall by Edward Abbey

A collection of Abbey’s essays. Some good. Some bad. It’s rather a mixed bag as I am one of those rare breeds who prefers Abbey’s novels over his non-fiction.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Really got me thinking about what is teamwork? How we approaching working in groups is a notion that has started to slowly interest me the last few years.

Domain Driven Design by Eric Evans

A huge solid read. This gave me so much insight into how many larger applications are structured.

Implementing Domain Driven Design by Vaughn Vernon

A more hands-on look then Domain Driven Design. Although, I felt like it was starting to get padded out by the end.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

An examination in the obvious. I’m seriously amazed that it took this long for business’s to realize that people are motivated by things other then just gathering up pretty pieces of cotton paper.

The Philosophy of History by Hegel

It’s Hegal in all of his racist glory.

The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau Roshi

If you were to go into a used book store and look at the new age section you will find a copy of this book. Buy it. I always thought it would be a bunch of rubbish but it’s actually a very solid read and perhaps the best introduction to Zen that I have found at this point.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

A not particularly interesting examination at the steps taken by businesses to move from being middling to great businesses. Yawn.

Manga Read & Graphic Novels

Total: 10 (If Counting Volumes)

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Third pass through this wonderful autobiography by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I randomly read a handful of his shorter comics as well during the same time. I am always impressed by his struggles and the wonderful depiction of post-war Japan.

Galaxy Express 999 Vol. 1-2 by Leiji Matsumoto (French Translation)

One of my most exciting feats this year was to read the first two volumes of Galaxy Express 999 in French. I have waited over a decade for Viz to get around to translating this work into English. It’s been out in French for years! Well, I figured French is easier than Japanese, so I bought the whole series from Amazon France and learned French! These comics are just as wonderful as the Anime.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Vol. 7-9 by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Continuing to keep up on The Origin as volumes are released. This year, I finally caught up with with the publisher’s release cycle and had to start waiting.

A Bride’s Story Vol. 5 by Kaoru Mori

This is an odd one. I find the story to be extremely dry and slow. The character’s plod along through very routine life events. Yet it’s drawn so beautifully that I just have to pick up each new volume.

Star Power by Michael Terracciano and Garth Graham

It’s been years since Dominic Deegan ended. I tried to start reading Star Power when it first started but found the release too slow to grab my interest. I gave it a year for the archive to fill up and then plowed through it with great enjoyment.

Johnny Wander by Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya

I have a folder where I stick comics to read. Johnny Wander was randomly selected from that folder. The comic is great, although lately published at a rather random or slow pacing so I have already lost track of it.

Insufficient Direction by Moyoco Anno

Dumped into the donation bin. It took two tried to read through Anno’s book. The inside humor probably works for anyone who is really, really into classic anime, but it just doesn’t work for me.


Total: 14 (*6 in Theaters)

The Hobbit

Since I prefer The Hobbit novel to The Lord of the Rings, I found that I just could not get into this film. The Hobbit novel is a light hearted children’s adventure. The film, is a serious action-adventure flick. Pass.

The Imitation Game

A solid biopic on Alan Turing that did a rather good job of portraying the man in all of his facets.

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam can do no wrong in my book. The Zero Theorem was just a solid watch and a great summarization of the ideas presented in his other works with all the same quirkiness that I would expect.

The Cabin in the Woods

This was on my list of films that I watched, but for the life of me I don’t recall actually having watched it this year. Ah well, a solid film. I think satire of the typical horror film really didn’t get in the way of the film being good in it’s own right.

Mr. Holmes

Saw this showing in the local theater and just had to take Jess. A rather touching mystery worth a watch as Ian McKellan does a great job at portraying an aging Mr. Holmes.

Mad Max

The blockbuster of the season. Easily the best film that I saw this year. Completely lived up to the hype.

They Live!

Starting off our movie classics for the year was They Live which I just had to watch after listening to a piece by Zizek where he used the film as a starting point to launch into a discussion on Western politics.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Saw it twice before it moved on from the theater. The first time, I just couldn’t get over my critical nostalgia. By the second watching I could just sit back and enjoy it for what it was worth. The last act had some massive plot issues, but the characters were interesting and I feel Kylo Ren is going to end up being just as interesting of a villain Vader.

James Bond: Spectre

The first Daniel Craig Bond film that I caught. Made me want to go back and watch the rest of his Bond films, or even further back to watch them all. Nothing really new here. Bond is Bond is Bond.

Fall of the House of Usher

On Halloween we got into a bit of a Vincent Price kick. House of Usher was definitely an interesting watch. Particularly if you put on your feminism goggles. It’s amazing how much society has changed.

House of Wax

Part two of our Vincent Price kick. I don’t really find Price frightening. I find him kind of lovable.

Les Yeux Sans Visage

Now this was a good creepy film. Beautifully shot. It was interesting that the week after watching this film it was announced that someone had succeeded at performing the horrifying procedure depicted in this film – transplanting a human face.

The Martian

The good reviews reached my ears regarding The Martian so we ventured out to the theater and bought our popcorn. A really solid science fiction film that will probably end up being this decade’s greatest contribution to the “hard” category of science fiction.

Blood Sport

I got to love my grandfather’s love of bad films. I am amazed at just how many martial arts films came out in the eighties. No wonder kids of that decade grew up to watch Anime.

Anime / Animation

Total: 11 (Counting Seasons)

Mush-shi Season 2

Mush-shi is just as beautiful in the second season as the first. The only sad thing is that it should come to an end. Each atmospheric episode was a wander and highlight of my week.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 1

Could never quite get into nor drop this series. The fact that Yes is their soundtrack just made everything awesome.

Death Parade and Death Billards

Caught this series while on a trip to Ohio. Death Billards was a great stand alone and most of Death Parade was easily on par. The only thing that ruined Death Parade was a misplaced need by it’s creators to escape from just being an episodic examination of people’s lives and to try to give it a running plot. Had it just gone the way of Mush-shi, it would have easily been a perfect ten.

Gatchaman Crowds Season 1

Bobduh over at Wrong Every Time seems to love Gatchaman Crowds so I gave it a whirl. While I sympathized with it’s message, I thought it was completely lost in the show’s over-the-top camp. After the first season, I dropped it.

Kids on the Slope

If you want to get people to listen to Jazz, show them this show. This is perhaps Watanabe’s second greatest series (after Cowboy Bebop). The characters just feel so very real.


Bakamonogatari was a visual splendor that I devoured. Since then each subsequent series seems to end up less and less enticing and yet I feel as though I will probably end up watching them all.


A good show, not a great show, but a very solid good show.

Adventure Time Season 1

This show is just plain non-serious fun. Rapidly became my go-to show to watch while exercising or just needing some low-commitment time to burn.

Rick & Morty Seasons 1-2

I saw a few clips from Rick & Morty when season 1 came out and thought it funny buy never looked it up. Man, I haven’t binge watched a show this hard since college. The nihilistic ennui. Woo.

South Park Season 19

South Park was hitting all of the right spot’s this year. Particularly living in Jackson, WY where the whole gentrification and yuppie take over is in full swing. This could have been a documentary about my life.

February 09, 2016

A Brief Note on Moving

Filed under: Journal

Mount Clifton

There have been some requests for more information about my recent move. We found out that Jess had an offer for a new position in the Forest Service in Arizona near the end of the year. So we packed up our trailers and hit the road making our way south on 191 to our new home in York valley – roughly the middle of Greenlee County, one of the least populated counties in Arizona.

New Home for Two Months

Unfortunately, we had no housing immediately lined up. So we ended up living in a FEMA trailer behind the Forest Service. It’s a nice little place with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. All of our stuff went into storage, and for the last month I’ve tried my best to work remotely off a tethered cell phone. Surprisingly it works. Stands ups on google hang outs consume roughly 0.1MB of data a day, and my work route averages around 0.5MB per day. So taking off from computing on the weekends gives us roughly 23-1/3 work days per month or 11-2/3GB of data usage. Strategy use of the local library and Starbucks means I can pretty much do all of my work on a 12GB ($80/mo) Verizon plan.

Spectacular views from Three Way in York

After some time exploring the countryside, we found a nice house for rent. $600/mo for 900 square feet on roughly six acres of land. The wash it sits on gives us an easy walk to Jess’s work if we go up it, and a nice put in for fishing an canoeing on the Gila if we go down. We just need to put in a new floor and tidy it up a bit on the inside. Moving in the first week of March.

The New House

Oh, and the best part of all? It has a saguaro cactus in the front yard: