Literate Programming My Emacs Config

Inspired by Sacha Chua, I decided to move my Emacs configuration into an Org Mode file. This lets me organize things nicely and keep notes about my progress, as I’m still learning a lot.

I use Spacemacs and keep all of my customizations in ~/.spacemacs.d/ so that ~/.emacs.d/ can belong entirely to the Spacemacs installation. My init.el file had grown a bit unwieldy, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to tidy things up.

First, I created a new file named, and copied all of my customizations into it. Then I wrapped each section in a SRC block so I could “tangle” it using Babel. Then I added Org headings around each section and rearranged the sections so they made sense, at least to me.

Now, whenever I update something in I just press C-c C-v t and all of the SRC blocks are rendered out to a file named jack.el

Spacemacs’ init.el file contains things I don’t know how to move, so I kept that file in place and I simply load my customizations into the appropriate section, like this…

(defun dotspacemacs/user-config ()
  "Configuration function for user code.
This function is called at the very end of Spacemacs initialization after
layers configuration.
This is the place where most of your configurations should be done. Unless it is
explicitl specified that a variable should be set before a package is loaded,
you should place your code here."

  (load "~/Dropbox/Sync/dotfiles/spacemacs.d/jack.el")


I don’t know if that was the best way of doing things, but it worked. Having my entire configuration as an Org Mode file is pretty nice. I’m finding it to be much easier to manage and it’s made me less nervous about cluttering things up in the future.

I’ve uploaded a copy of my configuration for anyone interested.

Watercolor Exercise - Gift Tags

I’m still learning to paint with watercolors, so I decided to paint gift tags for Christmas. I made a handful of them, and found it to be pretty easy. Making small paintings takes the pressure off having to deal with detail. I have a long way to go, but I’m happy with how they turned out.

Farewell To My Apple Watch - Matt Gemmell

Matt Gemmell

Today, things have changed considerably, and I’m getting rid of my Apple Watch.

It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who overthinks the shit out of changing my mind all the time. I’ve gone through the same cycle and back again about my Apple Watch. I’m currently back in the “I dig it” phase.


Cecil (2016). Nikon F3. 105mm f/2.5. Tri-X in Diafine.

I get to watch Cecil for the next couple of days. He’s such a cute dog.

I’m trying Diafine again, because I like the idea of shooting Tri-X at 1250 and not worrying about temperature, accurate timing, etc. This roll ended up with some spotty areas, so I’m not sure what happened yet. I’ll try again.

Previewing Markdown Files with Marked and Vim

I’ve been tinkering with Vimwiki again. It happens.

While editing Markdown files, I often want to see a preview of the file as HTML. This is where Brett Terpstra’s Marked comes in handy.

I didn’t know the best way to start previewing a file directly from Vim to Marked. A quick search turned up this post by Rob Allen showing how to use Vim’s make command to open the current file in Marked.

It’s easy. In ~/.vim/ftplugin/markdown.vim, I added the following line…

set makeprg=open\ -a\ Marked\\\\ '%:p

Now, when editing any Markdown file I just type :make and that file opens in Marked. Neat.

Five Things You Notice When You Quit The News

David Cain:

Every minute spent watching news is a minute you are unavailable for learning about the world in other ways. Americans probably watch a hundred million hours of news coverage every day. That’s a lot of unread books, for one thing.

Read three books on a topic and you know more about it than 99% of the world. Watch news all day for years and you have a distant, water-cooler-level awareness of thousands of stories, at least for the few weeks each is popular.

I haven’t watched televised news in years. I’ve just recently reduced my news intake to the printed NYT and a couple of magazines and I’m very happy with my decision.

Apps I Installed On The 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Whenever I get a new device I set it up “from scratch”. In doing so, I figure I’ll be avoiding all of the cruft and nonsense that accumulates over time. I imagine installing a half-dozen or so non-Apple apps and THAT’S IT!

It never works out that way.

Here are the apps I installed within the first hour of owning the smaller iPad Pro, and the list has grown since then.

  • 1Password
  • GoodNotes
  • Procreate
  • Tweetbot
  • Outlook
  • Ulysses
  • Day One
  • Google Photos
  • DEVONthink To Go
  • Dropbox
  • PDF Expert
  • Quip
  • TextExpander
  • Slack
  • 2Do
  • Drafts
  • Plex
  • Netflix
  • NYTimes

Going Smaller With a New 9.7-inch iPad Pro

When the original iPad Pro was released I bought one right away and I loved it. It was so big and fast that I thought it might replace my laptop for meetings and quick outings.

That didn’t happen. In fact, it fell out of regular use because it was so big. I recently started using the new 13” MacBook Pro, and here they are side-by-side.

It felt like I was using two laptops. Why grab the iPad when the MBP is the same size and way more capable?

Long story short, today I bought the smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro and I already think it makes much more sense. It augments the MBP instead of competing with it. It’s easier to use with the Pencil because it’s possible to hold in one hand while writing with the other. The big iPad needed a dedicated work surface.

I might even be able to watch movies in bed with it. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro was awesome for watching movies, but it was difficult to hold for extended periods, so I rarely used it for that.

I guess if I really wanted to go all-in with iOS I’d stick with the big iPad, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so I’m better off with the MBP for “real” work, and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro for tangential tasks like reading, watching movies, games, drawing, and so on.

My recent switch from an iPhone 6 to a 5 SE suggested that smaller can be better. Going to a smaller iPad Pro confirms it.

Bear is a Very Nice Note-taking App

Recent versions of Apple’s Notes app have been pretty good. Still, I frequently wish for more.

Enter, Bear.

Bear has many features that I found useful immediately. The big ones are…

  • Markdown support
  • Linking directly to individual notes
  • Inter-note links
  • Decent export options

It’s only been a few days, but so far I don’t see any reason Bear shouldn’t replace Apple Notes for me.

Leonard Cohen - The Future

Leonard Cohen - “The Future”:

Things are going to slide (slide) in all directions Won’t be nothing (won’t be) Nothing you can measure anymore The blizzard, the blizzard of the world Has crossed the threshold And it has overturned The order of the soul

When they said (they said) repent (repent), repent (repent) I wonder what they meant

“The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold,” indeed.



I’m Mira Modi. I’m a seventh grader in New York City, and I sell strong, secure passwords. It sounds a little crazy to buy a password. But using a terrible password, such as 12345 or password, is even crazier.

Genius. Of course I ordered one

I Painted a Tree

I’ve been experimenting with watercolor painting. It’s not going well, but I refuse to give up quite yet. Yesterday I painted a tree, for practice. It’s not a good tree, but I’m happy that I can tell it’s a tree.

Permanent vs Useful

The ideal website is static and hosted on a simple service like Amazon S3 or a cheap VPS. As long as someone keeps paying the bill, a static website will be around forever. There’s no need to worry about software upgrades or CMS vulnerabilities. A static website is fast and permanent.

But for the editor(s), a static site isn’t very useful.

This blog has run on just about every platform every created. I love when I switch to a completely static build. It’s just raw HTML files in a folder, what could be better? Lot’s could be better.

I want to post from Ulysses or MarsEdit or whatever other tool comes along to make the process more pleasant. I want to automatically post book reviews from GoodReads. I want better integration with other services. I want to play with a wider range of templates and widgets. I want to easily post from my iPad.

What I don’t want is to deal with keeping Wordpress updated and running smoothly. I don’t want to worry about security issues. I don’t want to worry about making sure everything is backed up safely. I don’t want to worry about cache invalidation. I don’t want to worry about keeping a VPS updated and secure.

I love playing with my site. Wordpress may not be simple or permanent, but it makes everything else easier. For permanence, I can run httrack a few times a year and mirror everything.

Leica: To M-D or not to M-D? - Adam Singer

Adam Singer - 35mmc:

The new Leica M-A puts you squarely at the cutting edge of 60-year-old technology, as to all intents it’s the same camera as the 1954 Leica M3, but 60 years of constant technical development, has given the M-A a slightly more cluttered viewfinder and a marginally less precise rangefinder.

It’s completely irrational to want an M-A, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I mean just look at it. How could you not want one?

Leica M-A

Exporting my Tinderbox Daybook to Org Mode

Every month I export my Tinderbox “Daybook” entries so that I can print and bind them (a whole other story). I have a pretty good Org Mode setup for creating PDFs so I wanted the output to be Org Mode files.

Previously, I used the built-in OPML templates and then converted the output to Org Mode using Pandoc. This was all a bit cumbersome, so I created simple Org Mode export templates, based on the default OPML templates.

Template: Org Mode

#+TITLE: Daybook ^value(attributeEncode($Name))^ 2016
#+OPTIONS: toc:nil num:nil >:nil ^:nil <:nil H:2
#+STARTUP: overview


^children(/Templates/Org Mode/Org Mode Item item)^

The front matter sets up my preferred options and LaTeX settings.

Template: Org Mode Item

^if(ChildCount)^*^indent("*",^value($OutlineDepth(parent)-1))^ ^value($Name)^ - ^value(format($StartDate,"M0-D w"))^

^children(/Templates/Org Mode/Org Mode item)^*^indent("*",^value($OutlineDepth(parent)-1))^
^else^*^indent("*",^value($OutlineDepth(parent)-1))^ ^value($Name)^  - ^value(format($StartDate,"M0-D w"))^


This just loops over the notes and outputs org-formatted text.

So, to process my monthly Tinderbox Daybook I do this…

  1. Select the month in Tinderbox
  2. Choose “Export Selected Note”
  3. Open the exported file in Emacs
  4. Hit “CTRL-x CTRL-e l o” to export a PDF
  5. Print.

It looks like this:


Much better!

Things installed on 2016 MacBook Pro

I get a new laptop every few years. I always start fresh and install everything from scratch. It’s interesting to see what changes and what doesn’t. Most of the things I installed this time are the same as last time. Maybe I really am settling down.

Anyway, here’s what I installed on my new MacBook Pro, in no particular order.


  • BBEdit
  • iTerm
  • Emacs
  • TextExpander
  • Keyboard Maestro
  • 1Password
  • Dropbox
  • Droplr
  • Skitch
  • Moom
  • Day One
  • Slack
  • Dropzone
  • Reeder
  • Google Chrome
  • Acorn
  • Soulver
  • Alfred
  • TheBrain
  • Tinderbox
  • DEVONthink Pro Office
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Microsoft Office
  • Resilio Sync

Command line apps/utilities

  • Oh-My-ZSH
  • MacTex
  • mbsync
  • Git
  • Vim
  • Hugo
  • remind
  • Wyrd
  • Mu/Mu4e
  • gnupg2
  • pass
  • pandoc
  • xapian

The new MacBook Pro is kind of great for hackers

Adam Geitgey:

I/O-wise, the new MacBook Pro is possibly the most open device Apple has ever built. There is literally not a single proprietary port on it. You get four universal high-speed ports that can each draw or supply power, send and receive data and transfer video and audio. It’s really pretty neat.

I agree. Even though the transition will be a little painful, the result is an improvement in nearly every way.

Cross-posting to Medium

This post is mostly to test whether or not my new IFTTT recipe is working.

I like Medium, but I don’t want to live there. The best compromise might be to cross-post things from I hesitate to automate the process because I post a lot of useless stuff, much of which is useless to everyone but me. On the other hand, there are people I’m interested in and I wish they’d post more nonsense.

Cross-posting everything automatically is a good way to make sure that the nonsense is distributed as widely as possible.

The Revenge of Analog (Book)

The Revenge of Analog

If ever a book was meant for me, “The Revenge of Analog“ is it.

David Sax dives into the ongoing resurgence of analog: film photography, paper notebooks, vinyl records, even education. I believe all of these things matter, and that their continued (and growing) use is for the better.

Sax perhaps sprinkles everything with a bit of unnecessary hyperbole, but he’s obviously excited about the same things I am, so I’ll forgive the excess.

“The Revenge of Analog” is a fun and informative read for anyone even remotely interested in the life or “real things”

People of Earth (TV)

People of Earth

People of Earth is a surprisingly good TV show. I watched the first episode because I was bored and nothing else looked interesting. After two episodes, I was hooked. It’s very, well, human.