History with Computers, redux

I stumbled across an old post of mine1 where I talked about my initial experiences with a computer.

Continuing this2, adding more detail, and bringing it up to the present day, should be both fun and illuminating.

I have since come across such reminiscences by others, listing out their “firsts”3, the computers (and calculators!)4 they’ve used, and sometimes going many decades back5 in time!


  1. over six years ago! ↩︎
  2. over time, perhaps as a “series” ↩︎
  3. I don’t think I remember my equivalents of these anymore ↩︎
  4. written fifteen years ago now, preserved thanks to the Wayback Machine ↩︎
  5. 1968, in this case ↩︎

Monthly Recap (Jul 2020)

Chalk painting in the driveway

Major updates

  • Tara “graduated” from pre-school
  • Bunch of day trips (Rockaway beach, Sanborn county park, Waddell beach, Seascape beach)
  • I became a year older 😐

Minor updates

  • Assembled a new standing desk and kitchen island
  • Tara got her first two-wheeled scooter (deprecated the toddler one)
  • Had a couple of dentist appointments! (All mask and gloves, layers of sanitization)
  • Brunch at Hobees after a long time

Watched/read/made

  • Finished reading (with Tara) all of the Ivy & Bean series, started reading the Magic Faraway Tree trilogy
  • Watched: Nutjob (1 & 2 !), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (btw, nearly 20 years old now!), Trip to Greece

Generally Interesting Links – July 2020

New Planet, Konstantin Yuon (1921)

#topublish

On the appealing strangeness of My Little Pony

I’ll confess I had no impression about “My little pony” (I’ll abbreviate as “MLP” to save keystrokes) until about a year ago, when I first sat down with my daughter and watched the first episode1 of “MLP: Friendship is Magic”.

My first observation was: “whew, this isn’t as dumb as the other toddler shows she watches; sure, this is approved”.

My second observation was: “wow, this is chock full of a whole cast of female characters” (blowing past the Bechdel test2)

My third observation was: “wait a minute, this is way smarter for any other show that she watches”

The first two were the reason MLP is a big thing right now at our home (figurines, the shows, the movies, even the books3), but it’s this third fact that’s most intriguing.

There are (especially as you get into the later seasons) all kinds of pop-culture references, sometimes really oblique or deep ones, and I sit and wonder, “who is this for?”.

Is it for adults who occasionally watch along? I buy that for a Pixar movie, where we’re essentially in the same seat together for a whole two hours, but … here? It’s a mystery to me.

Anyway, In the end … yes, I’m a total Lauren Faust4 fanboy now, which means “DC Super Hero Girls”5 is approved 6 too 🙂


  1. Imdb link ↩︎
  2. i.e. whether conversations between female characters involve male characters or not; here, male characters are mostly irrelevant to the plot ↩︎
  3. E.g. the Omnibus series, more on which later ↩︎
  4. Who basically created the entire MLP franchise from whole cloth ↩︎
  5. Imdb link ↩︎
  6. … another Lauren Faust creation, with similar dynamics (and many of the voice cast too) ↩︎

Cave generation

I came across this brief overview1 of generating ASCII representations of dungeons, and decided to take a stab at a Scala version of the same.

The basic idea is (1) generate some random walls, and then (2) apply some rules to transform this into a reasonable-looking closed cave over a few iterations.

I ended up tweaking a couple of parameters (wall-wall distance, number of iterations) a bit differently, here’s how it looks:

➜ sbt
[info] Loading project definition from /home/agam/code/caves/caves/project
[info] Loading settings for project caves from build.sbt ...
[info] Set current project to hello-world (in build file:/home/agam/code/caves/caves/)
[info] sbt server started at local:///home/agam/.sbt/1.0/server/4e9ac60073a7ab62e5f4/sock
sbt:hello-world> run

Iteration zero: random walls

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Iterations 1-4: Coalesce larger islands

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Iterations 5-7: Coalescing smaller islands

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Iteration 8: prune out isolated walls

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This was my first “procedural generation” of any kind, so … I’m quite pleased 🙂. The repository is here2 at Bitbucket.

#topublish

On note-taking, the meaning of notes, and what I use

Context

(FYI, this is the sort of thing that’s re-hashed over and over again …)

Some words mean many things — and while not quite as versatile as God or Fuck, Note is surely high on the list.

There are many takes on this, many apps, many opinions on what you should use, how you should use it, and so forth.

Noise

Some random articles. More random articles. Yet more random articles. We can go on. And on. And on.

I’ve found notes serve many different uses: notes can be tasks; notes can be memos; notes can be reminders; notes can be snippets of code; notes can be documents; notes can be links; notes can be transcripts; notes can be summaries; notes can extracts; notes can be snapshots.

You get the point, I hope: there will never be a final answer here; there are as many uses are there are people, maybe more. So all I’m going to do here is briefly mention what I either am using, or have used, or might use.

As it turns out, I have (1) tried out a lot of apps (occasionally falling into the “trap of the perfect” in the past too), but also (2) only use a small number of apps day-to-day.

What I no longer use

  • Evernote
  • OneNote
  • Wunderlist
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Notion1
  • Bear
  • (lots more that I don’t remember)

What I use

DevonThink: the one indispensable tool for me, for the past several years … this is where pretty much everything is indexed for me.

Omnifocus: This is where al my tasks live, also where all Reminders flow into. With folders, projects, tags, and more, it has all the customizability I’ll ever need.

Tinderbox: Currently my go-to place to diagram, contextualize, link together stuff. Minimalist, spare, yet fully-programmable, with a uniform structure, and open storage format, I think of it as “the Emacs of note-taking software”2

What I might use3

Curio: The most feature-fun of the lot! But I don’t really have a use for it right now.

TheBrain: AFAICT this is a visually appealing, cross-platform, opinionated mashup of Tinderbox, Devonthink and Roam (at the cost of being proprietary).

RoamResearch: Used it a year and half ago, I see the appeal, but (at least right now) I don’t want to use a cloud-only product.

Notion: widely used tool now, but I’m conservative with the number of apps I use, so I’ll need to see where it fits in for me.

Looking forward

If I remember, I’ll do this again in a year, and … it’ll be interesting to see what’s changed by then. I’m quite sure DevonThink and OmniFocus will continue to be the bedrock for me, but the rest is … up for debate 🙂


  1. I still have a bunch of notes for this one, and of this list, the one I liked the most … except, I felt it didn’t do anything I can’t already do with what I have ↩︎
  2. Here’s a brief overview; five years old but still accurate ↩︎
  3. FYI, if I don’t use something, it’s not because I don’t like it, but usually because … I’m already using something else, and am no longer wiling to do any unnecessary migrations ↩︎

Ennio Morricone

I remember it was about sixteen years ago now, that someone introduced1 me to the spaghetti western genre.

This is how I came across the “dynamic duo“ of Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone. I had watched fragments of them, but hadn’t quite seen them as movies that had anything in common, and I certainly never knew that these were Italian movies, not Hollywood ones (!)

Having seen one I had to see more, but what stuck with me more was their music, and since then, of these movies2, I’ve heard more soundtracks than seen the movies3.

It’s a distinctive sound, and I keep going back to a few favorites every few months. In his memory4, then, here are some of them:


  1. I’m usually the one introducing someone else to something new, so this doesn’t happen often, and I have a special respect for this person ↩︎
  2. Wikipedia ↩︎
  3. although, the slow takes are a good antidote to some of the fare on offer today ↩︎
  4. 1928-2020; he passed away a week ago ↩︎
  5. with the lead-in. Yes, I heard the Metallica version first. Yes, I like the original better ↩︎
  6. though, tbh, only the first half, with the epic whistling ↩︎