Baty.net

The personal weblog of Jack Baty

Cloudinary

Cloudinary is pretty impressive. I’ve only used it in small doses recently but so far it’s been a very nice image hosting/manipulation/delivery service. The free tier has been plenty for me.

I really like the “fetch” option which pulls images from a remote URL and then transforms and caches them automatically. That way I can leave the “master” images on my own server while utilizing Cloudinary for delivery.

Slack Is All Hose And No Bucket | Hapgood

Mike Caulfield:

No, my problem with Slack is that it is all hose and no bucket. You can search through conversations and find meaningful facts, but for us, at least, conversation is so easy that it can (and does) erode the impulse to do more end-to-end treatments of things. Community knowledge accretes but never quite pools.

“Community knowledge accretes but never quite pools”. This is exactly the problem I’ve been grappling with. I introduced Slack at Fusionary during the original beta and it’s been fantastic, but like all messaging tools, it sidesteps the need for collating corporate knowledge.

A time-based stream of quick messages offers no coherent whole–no summary derived from the experience.

A Tool like Pingpad is a step in the right direction but it has a long way to go. We need something though.

Discord in the Music Business

NYT:

But the release of the album last weekend, through an exclusive deal with Apple, has also roiled the industry, bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions that record companies have with streaming music services, and sometimes even with their own artists.

Streaming music is darn handy, but I prefer owning physical copies of albums that are important to me. I’d rather not rely upon the whims of a “service” in order to listen to my music.

Middleman

Middleman

I spent today learning how to create a static website with Middleman.

Middleman is a static site generator using all the shortcuts and tools in modern web development.

I’m a fan of static websites and excited to see that static site generators are proliferating like mad lately.

I’ve created static sites using Movable Type, Emacs (org mode), Hugo, Jekyll, and completely hand-coded HTML files. I wanted to try something new, and decided upon Middleman. Middleman uses Ruby and feels much like working with a Ruby on Rails app, which I’m familiar with.

The installation went pretty well. I did need to deal with some RubyGems issues, which is par for the course. Once installed, I had no further problems.

Middleman isn’t as easy out of the box as something like Jekyll, but it seems significantly more flexible. It’s mostly just Ruby in Erb templates.

For a simple blog, I’d go with something else. Most of the static generators lean toward creating blogs by default. Middleman requires extra configuration and setup in order to get rolling with a blog. Middleman should shine for building sites that are more complex than a basic blog.

As a test, I ported Fusionary’s site (currently built with CraftCMS). It took a few hours, and I don’t have the asset pipeline stuff worked out, but it was easy. I’ll try a few more, but so far so good with Middleman.

20 frames

I took a few days off and headed to Traverse City. I didn’t spend time deciding which camera to bring, I just grabbed the Nikon F3 and 28mm lens along with a dozen rolls of Tri-X and Portra 400. It felt good. I was ready.

I shot a total of 20 frames using the roll that was already in the camera.

It didn’t help that the weather wasn’t great and we spent a lot of time just driving around sight-seeing from the car. Still 20 frames while traveling for 3 days is disappointing. I can’t even post a photo from the trip yet because I still have 16 more frames to shoot on the roll. If I’d have taken 20 images with the Crown Graphic, that would have been something else. Nope, 20 frames with auto-exposure and a motor drive. Sad.

Maybe I was just having so much fun that stopping to take photos would’ve spoiled the mood. Maybe.

Love the F3

Nikon F3

I love this Nikon F3. Sometimes I get a new camera and the shine wears off quickly (like the Mamiya6 for example). The F3 I still like. I like how it feels in hand, I like how it looks, and I really like how it performs. I’ve never felt as confident with any camera as I do with the F3. Even the Leicas don’t inspire the same confidence. It’s a keeper.

Katie and Jess on Katie's last day (2016). Nikon F3. Tri-X

Gloating About the Climate

As has been pointed out everywhere, July 2016 was the warmest month we’ve seen, ever. As a sane person, I understand that climate change is real and remains a pressing issue.

A warm month and we're all like, 'Neener neener'

It’s always nice to see evidence of the things we believe, but can we stop gloating already? First, saying “hottest month” rather than “warmest month” seems a little excessive. Second, a few warm months on their own don’t mean much. If for some reason it would have been a little cooler last month, climate deniers would have been all over it and we’d have harumphed and cried “statistical anomaly!” all the way home.

Ease up a bit, is what I’m saying. Gloating about suggestive evidence is poor form.

Leaning toward static again

I hate myself sometimes.

I swore I would never change the blog engine (currently Wordpress) used for baty.net but I’m enjoying the benefits of Hugo and thus a totally static site at notes.baty.net so much that I’m teetering on trying the conversion again. Maybe I’ll just see how it feels and only publish if everything goes perfectly.

Yeah right.

Here’s the thing, I only want one blog. I keep making more of them simply as a way to try some new toy, but I only want content on one. Need to make the call.

Update: See? I did it again.

Plain Text Accounting with Ledger

I dropped out of accounting in college. I hated every minute of it and could not make two columns balance under any circumstances.

I have always had trouble budgeting. For me, the balance in my checking account represented how much I could blow on whatever impulse purchase suited me that day. Prior to my daughter’s wedding, I looked for help. I found it in YNAB. YNAB uses a sort of “envelope” system for tracking where money needs to be. It worked very well, the proof being was that I was actually able to afford to pay for the wedding.

Then YNAB went to an online-only subscription plan and I started looking elsewhere. Their online version works fine, but no longer feels right. Plus, I don’t need yet another service with access to my financial accounts.

What I found was Ledger. Ledger is a command-line double-entry accounting tool that uses a plain-text format for entries. Ledger was created in 2003 by John Wiegley, the current maintainer of Emacs. I love plain-text for most things, most of the time, so I dove in.

One of the things I’ve learned while struggling with spending is that it’s beneficial to enter every transaction by hand. That’s right every transaction should be entered by hand. This forces me to feel everything I spend. It’s also why I still prefer to hand-write checks. I’m reminded that it’s real money. Also, small monthly subscriptions that I may have missed become visible. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars simply by forcing myself to pay attention.

Here’s an example of an entry in my Ledger file:

2016-08-08 * Betterment Transfer
    Assets:Betterment:Roth IRA                         $250.00
    Assets:Checking

2016/08/09 * Blue Apron
    Expenses:Food:Groceries                             $59.94
    Assets:Checking

Since Ledger forces double entry, each transaction must contain both the target and source accounts. These accounts need not be set up ahead of time, they just become accounts the first time they are used. They are hierarchical and can be nested as deeply as I like. I try to keep things at just a few levels deep. I’m learning accounting as I go!

To mimic the “bucket” functionality of YNAB, I use Ledger’s “virtual” accounts. These are separate accounts that can be either shown or hidden when generating balances or other reports. Here’s an example in which I move $100 from Checking into my “Vacation” bucket.

2016-08-14 * Vacation Fund
    [Bucket:Vacation]   $100
    [Assets:Checking]

Notice the brackets around each entry. This indicates that those are virtual, but should balance. If I look at my balance with Ledger after that it will show my Checking account has $100 less than before, even though it really still has the $100. To see the balances without virtual transactions, I use the --real switch. With --real, Ledger shows what I actually have in the account. Without using --real I see what is left after moving the $100 to “Vacation”. I’m still getting the hang of it, but this is all easier to do than to explain.

Emacs comes with ledger-mode, making data entry easy using auto-completion for accounts and automatically copying accounts from similar entries. It all sounds like a lot of work, but I find that it’s easier for me than using Quicken or YNAB. Plus, it’s all mine, and it’s all free.

Ledger does lots more, including handling multiple currencies, commodities and pricing, automatic transactions, etc. I’m trying to start simple, but this all feels very good. Being in complete control of my data using an open, simple format makes me feel more in control of my finances.

You can find lots of good resources at plaintextaccounting.org

Re-Pairing

The only thing worse than untangling wired headphones is constantly having to charge and (re)pair wireless headphones.

I hate headphone wires. After I lay them out carefully on my counter, I turn my back for five minutes and when I look again they have become an impossibly-knotty puzzle of wires and ear buds.

And so, I bought fancy Bluetooth headphones in order to free myself of the recurring nightmare of tangled wires.

This would be awesome, except that the wireless headphones always seem to need a charge at random intervals, usually shortly after beginning a long walk. What’s even more frustrating is that they, even more randomly, fail to pair with my iPhone. This drives me nuts. I too-frequently end up standing half-way out the door screaming at the phone because “I just want to listen to some music while I walk, god damn you!”

Honestly, I’d rather deal with the wires.