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Why I'm writing again

I used to feel that a wiki-like structure was a better way to organize my thoughts. Articles like this influenced my thinking back then. Carefully gardened and cross-referenced wiki-style pages seemed like a better organizational structure than chronological blog posts that wouldn’t be relevant a few months or years later.

So for a year, I used a nice static site powered by mkdocs. Pages were maintained in git and written in markdown. Github actions would push the updated site on every commit. And the site itself was hosted in NearlyFreeSpeech and cost almost nothing. The site is still present here. But now I’m back to good old hosted wordpress and back to writing chronological blog posts rather than carefully grown pages. Here’s why.

The first reason is pure nostalgia. This blog has posts going back to 2006. Very few things I’ve done in my life go back 14 years and are maintained in the same place.

The second is the nudge given by this lovely little article on why one should maintain a blog. The critical realization was that it’s okay to not be original. That unoriginal writing can still be useful to the right audience (if one hasn’t heard the idea before), and to the writer (to help them compose their thoughts better).

Finally, I always take notes and obsess over improving the way I do so. The latest book I’m reading in that area is “How to take smart notes” by Sonke Ahrens. That and a few other improvements I’ve made in the last few months have helped me understand that hoarding links is a fairly useless obsession. A better way to absorb information is to write it in your own words and compile it into a coherent narrative. I’ve restructured my notes to follow this approach and it has helped me organize things a lot better. The last few book reviews I’ve posted were also due to a better note taking approach while reading.

Here’s a quote I’ll end with that essentially summarizes why I’m writing again, from the same book:

“.. writing is not only for proclaiming opinions, but the main tool to achieve insight worth sharing.”

Sonke Ahrens, “How to take smart notes”
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Great books for little kids (and their parents)

I read a couple of stories to my 4 year old daughter every night before she sleeps. Writing a book for a kid is not an easy task. Most take the easy way out and write straightforward stories that try to teach ‘good habits’ to kids: don’t litter, share your toys, be kind and so on. I suppose this sort of book serves a useful purpose and I’ve read several of these to my daughter too.

But there are other truly great ones that are special for both parents and kids. Pixar knows how to make movies like this. I still have fond memories of reading the original Winnie the Pooh books, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and so on. But my kid isn’t ready for those yet. Here are some targeted at younger audiences that she and I adore:

Everything Eric Carle. This should go without saying. He has a knack for teasing the next page and building on a theme throughout the book.

His art style is distinctive and immediately recognizable. This page here is from Do you want to be my friend, but any of his books is guaranteed to be good.

Next up is the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel. They consist of a set of short stories of two adorable friends, a frog and a toad. The themes these books cover go far beyond what you’d expect from a kid’s book.

There are tales of solitude, bravery and temptation. Poor Toad is not always up to these challenges but he tries his best. And sometimes there are some sweet silly stories with no deeper lessons.

These are the books I’m reading most with my daughter nowadays. She has a lot of the plot memorized pretty well and is now making attempts to read some of the words.

Next up is A kiss for little bear by Else Minarik, with art by Maurice Sendak. I’ll admit I like this a lot more than my daughter does. It’s a short and sweet tale of a kiss passed from Grandma Bear to Little Bear through a series of animals.

The best reason to have this book is to give your little one a peck for every one that happens in the book. And it happens a lot!
Finally, a random pick at a book shop led to this delightful book about a girl’s lazy cat that just sleeps all day. I love this for the artwork and the cute little twist at the end. This one is called My Cat Just Sleeps and is by Joanna Partis.
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Ten gigs of worthless PDFs

So, about a year back I covered my bookmarking workflow. In short, I was using Evernote and Google Drive to store PDF versions of links that interested me. One, it prevented link rot in case the site went down at a later point. Two, I wanted full text search over the content of the pages, not just the title and tags.

I eventually stopped using Evernote because its web interface is rubbish. I used a tool I wrote to download PDFs for around 2000 bookmarks and dumped them in Google Drive. That folder is now reaching 10GB in size.

I’ve now come to the depressing realization that none of this effort was of any use. When I need to dig through this archive and recollect something, there is so much noise that I don’t immediately get what I’m looking for. Or, as it often turns out, I hadn’t archived that page at all because I didn’t think I’d need it later.

The few PDFs that are actually useful to my reading style are the weekly LWN editions and other magazine-style PDFs like CACM, because I can save them to an ‘Incoming’ folder and read them at my leisure in my commute. But general web bookmarking doesn’t seem to be useful here.

So I’m changing tools again, to another old favourite: Diigo. It has a decent interface, supports full text search, and has a nice outliner tool to organize links and take notes. No idea if this plan will stick for long, as nothing in this area ever does, but let’s see.

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Ys VIII Gallery

Played and thoroughly loved this game on my Vita. There aren’t too many games I’ve invested more than two dozen hours, and this one took more than forty hours. There also aren’t too many games where I stopped pushing the story forward and instead finished every single side quest. In this one, I explored pretty much 100% of the island, and was the part I liked most.

Here are some screenshots I took from the game. Spoiler definitely abound.