hollowed-out tree trunk curled inside

Short-form notes are all I can manage right now:

  • Mastodon
  • Work is stressful right now and I’m part-time just managing burnout symptoms. Looking forward to my upcoming vacation starting Dec 16th.
  • I’m a bit sad that the surf-skating and biking season is over. However, excited for winter running. Need to get new traction spikes for my running shoes as last season’s rusted.
  • Still on a Tegan And Sara binge. I’ve had Hell stuck in my head all day today.
  • Discovered the ADHD Nerds podcast. It’s helping normalize some of my behaviours and feelings.
  • Went for a hike in Ardaugh Bluffs with C yesterday. Muddy after the recent snow-melt, but great to get away from home for a while.
  • No video games in the past few weeks, but C and I are still enjoying Andor (working through it slowly), and I just started watching Meltdown.

Calm lake at sunset

I, and seemingly half the internet, have set up a Mastodon account this past week as Twitter’s future is looking increasingly grim. I’ve been vaguely aware of the Fediverse, but never bothered to learn much about it until this mass Twitter exodus presented the opportunity. My account has been active on the bird site since 2007, albeit mostly in lurker mode. If it disappears tomorrow I won’t lose much. Starting up on Mastodon is an opportunity to reset. This may change as the network grows, but for now it feels safer to share more of myself on there. There’s no algorithm to display what I post to anyone who wasn’t looking for it. It’s a much calmer experience.

Some resources I’ve found helpful as I’m learning both the technical and the cultural aspects of it:

I’m still sorting out how to:

  • Follow threads. It doesn’t seem to be a native function, and I don’t want to reply just to get notified.
  • Mute threads. I haven’t participated in any active discussions yet, so it hasn’t been much of a problem.
  • Use the keyboard shortcuts without having to first click on a post. They don’t seem to work at all in Firefox on the standard view, but fare better in the advanced one. Even then, the default focus is on the post text field and no matter how much I tab I can’t seem to get the shortcuts to “kick in” unless I click on something first.

Overall I like it! I’m currently @faevourite@mastodon.cloud , but plan to migrate to my domain soon. Using it as an opportunity to refresh my rusty terraform/ansible skills.

Railroad in the fall

The workweek after the trip was a mess. Half of it was playing catch-up, and the other thrashing about trying to juggle twenty things, significantly moving forward none. I realize now that I started the week without a clear intention. It was just about “catching up” and “seeing where the different projects are”, which put me in a reactive state, open to all sorts of interruptions. I mostly helped others with their work. By the time the weekend rolled around I was feeling used up. Refilling my cup took all the effort, so this post didn’t happen.

I felt pretty awful Sunday night going into this last week. I knew I needed a reset of some kind. The trigger was a one-on-one meeting I had with my manager who, after I asked if the way that I help my team works for them, wisely redirected the question to me: “does it work for you?” I’m constantly deprioritizing my own projects in favour of those that I think others expect me to support. I’m getting better, but still struggle to know when to jump in to help and when to let folks find their own way.

I made a couple of small adjustments to my home brew Trello-based todo system so it always shows:

  1. My top priorities. These are the big projects and fuzzy work that’s important but tempting to postpone.
  2. Snacks. These are small items that aren’t critical. Having them in a list lets me both avoid them when I’m trying pick the next most pressing thing to do and also pick one up when I just need a quick win.

I’ve found it easier to stay focused last week. Even just enumerating my top priorities has helped me settle. Like, “phew, I have enough important work on my plate. I don’t need to do more.”

Will Larson’s recent post on Reminiscing—retreating to areas where one’s had impact in the past— serendipitously popped up in my feed. I’m constantly feeling that pull, especially when I feel I’m not being effective in the work that I actually should be doing.


Speaking of reminiscing, C told me about High School, a TV show based on the namesake years of Tegan and Sara. Tegan and Sara! This Business of Art and If It Was You have been mainstays on my minidisc and later Zen Micro players in university. More recently, Heartthrob accompanied C and I on road trips to Montreal.

Anyway, I binged the entire season, pausing to do pharmacy and food runs for C who’s fighting off a virus. Our dishwasher going on strike meant picking up its slack while listening to Crybaby on repeat. Having no plans this weekend resulted in The Great Devouring of two months of their incredible Substack and watching probably too many YouTube interview videos. No regrets.


Miscellanea:

  • Enjoying Andor. Despite the annoying main character I like the (slightly) more mature take on the Star Wars universe. The lack of Jedi woo-woo and the spy-thriller doublespeak between rebels who’ve infiltrated the empire makes for a show much more intriguing than the rescue-and-escort missions that are Obiwan and The Mandalorian.
  • Reworked my backups setup a couple of weeks back. I had Duplicati running on my Unraid NAS in the past, but it kept corrupting or not being able to finish backups. Replaced with Kopia + Healthchecks.io for monitoring.
  • Spent a bit more time than usual practicing guitar this week. Learning movable chords on Yousician, where you have to barre three strings with the ring finger, such as C and D. This has been pretty challenging as my ring finger doesn’t actually bend at the distal knuckle. I’ve got a long way to go to make these chords sound good, but progress is being made!
  • The Stoke™ is still high post-Red Rocks, so climbing indoors has actually been more fun than usual. I find I have a bit more confidence and can push myself just a bit further before giving up. Flashed a couple of 11a’s last weekend, which hasn’t happened in years!
  • Running has decreased, on the other hand. I don’t have any more goals for the rest of the season after doing the half-marathon recently, and my knee’s been bothering me a bit since then, so now it’s just about maintenance until springtime.

An unremarkable week at work, made memorable only by its brevity. We get an extra day off for Canadian Thanksgiving, which makes for a nice four day weekend. What wasn’t nice is how I spent this extra day off on Friday—prostrated on the couch with flu symptoms and zero energy, courtesy of the Moderna booster I got the day prior. The same thing happened with my previous shot, so with that hindsight I at least knew not to plan anything for the day after.

I slacked off writing this post long enough that I can only muster point form from here:

  • 🌳 Rooted
    • I seem to have joined and reached out to the right people at just the right time to form a triad for working through My Grandmother’s Hands. The other folks in my group had just found each other and started looking for a third when I sent my message. I feel I’m going to learn a lot from them, and am grateful we found each other quickly.
    • I attended a session on Ancestral Belonging today. It’s my first direct exposure to ancestral healing, so much of it went over my head, but I was surprised how much actually resonated. I’m definitely more open to it now than I was two years ago when I first heard of it.
  • 🧠 Anki. I’ve spent a little bit of time setting up custom cards/fields for learning words in both English and Russian from the same notes. The lack of preexisting decks, add-ons, or even anecdotal workflows online worries me a bit—is this an anti-pattern of some kind? Another speed bump is the lack of a good Russian dictionary online. I found this one, and it claims to be the only free one out there, but it’s … just ok. The lack of APIs for these dictionary services or prebuilt Anki add-ons combined with the friction of card creation on mobile could make this entire deck building game too difficult. We’ll see.
  • 🎮 Speaking of games, I picked up No Man’s Sky on the Switch the day after it came out. While technically it was free due to some trade-ins I’ve been holding onto for too long, this is actually the third time I buy it. I got it on PC via Steam on release day (and was seemingly in the minority that liked it even then), and salvaged a used copy on Kijiji a few years back for the PlayStation. It always felt like the perfect game for a portable console, though. The mix of mining and chill space exploration lends itself well to couch- and bed-times. With the latest update—once it actually gets pushed to the store—the grinding aspect can thankfully be tuned down, and I should finally be able to get sentinels and those annoying bitey plants off my back, so I can pillage their planets’ natural resources with only my conscience’s sting.

Next week I’ll be off on a short maybe-climbing-maybe-just-eating-and-drinking trip.

Mount Nemo cliff face

🧗🏻‍♂️ Climbing at Mount Nemo

In a surprising alignment of schedules, I was able to get together with E+D+J on Friday and spend the day at Mount Nemo. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, but due to the cooler temperatures and the northeast facing cliff, keeping warm was a challenge, especially when climbing. My fingers definitely went numb a few times from the coldness of the rock. The last time I climbed outdoors was in 2017, and my indoors climbing has been infrequent in the past couple of years, so I stayed on very moderate routes.

Even though I’ve actually been to this crag before it’s the first time I climbed there. The approach is a bit tricky, as there is no direct path to the base. It requires a couple of downclimbs including a fun squeeze through a mini cave, narrow enough that you need to take off your backpack to fit. On my first visit it took me so long to find a way down that I ran out of time to actually climb. 😂

As I get older my relationship with climbing is changing. It’s less about getting a workout or pushing my limits and more about connecting with myself, with my friends, and with nature. Less ambition, more presence. It’s a true hobby in a sense that I get a lot out of it while allowing myself to be completely terrible.


P.S. D shared some Russian confectionery given to him by a friend. I forgot how good these are! It’s basically chocolate glazed cheesecake. This one’s flavoured with condensed milk.

Package of a russian confectionery B. U. Aleksandrov

The marketing is bizarre, though, as my best literal translation of the writing on the left is “glazed cottage cheese”. The other flavour was titled—and I am not making this up—”Potato”. There were no 🥔s in the ingredients list. I guess that’s how you make your products more appealing to a Russian audience.

🏃🏻‍♂️ First Half Marathon

Despite being quite tired from climbing the day before, I decided to try for a half marathon distance yesterday. My goal was to do it by end of season, so I wouldn’t have to worry about catching a cold in case I had to stop during the run. With the rapidly dropping temperatures and having only reached 17.5km after adding 500m-1km each week in the summer, I was starting to get worried. My knee has also been bothering me quite a bit, forcing me to turn back at the 5km mark on my last attempt. I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic, but figured I’d give it a shot, and if it didn’t work out I’d try again next year.

It was rough. I set a low pace from the start, but the knee pain kicked in around km 7. The difference this time was the pain remained low-grade instead of intensifying rapidly. I was waiting for a clear signal to turn back, but it never came. I wasn’t pushing for any target time, and having climbed the day before I knew I wasn’t in top shape, so I made many stops along the way to stretch. I think this helped.

At the end I ran 22km! This is a major milestone for me. For the longest time I didn’t believe I could run longer than 10k. The only race I ran (last year) reinforced my fears, as I crossed the finish line in pain so bad that I probably wouldn’t have made it if the distance was 11km.

At this point I don’t have a longer distance goal. I’ve gotta sort out my knee issues first. Still, I’m very happy that I was able to check this off my bucket list! 😄

💠 Misc

  • 🇷🇺 I’ve been enjoying listening to some Russian podcasts on psychology (1, 2, 3). I was apprehensive at first, because I think I was expecting a major difference from the Western approach, but that hasn’t been the case so far. Hearing the various terminology in Russian has been helpful, and has reminded me that I should probably pick up building an Anki deck again. I gave it a try at the start of the pandemic, but overwhelmed myself by importing multiple vocab decks with many words that I already knew and many that I’d never use, so the habit didn’t stick.
  • 💬 Read up a bit on Scuttlebutt today. A fully decentralized social network is an enticing idea! I dig the way you can build the network slowly, through people you know or communities you trust. I imagine that would allow me to share more private things than I currently do on here. The thing that keeps me from immediately jumping on board is it’s apparently not possible to maintain the same identity across multiple devices. I believe it’s being worked on, so I may revisit later.
  • 🎮 Playing: Disco Elysium. It’s in my top 10 games of all time. I had finished it recently on the Playstation, but a) liked it so much I immediately wanted to replay it, and b) wanted to play it in bed, so picked it up on the Switch as well. My first playthrough was Hi-Psy-Phy. This time it’s gonna be an agile artcop. 🤸‍♀️🖌️
  • 🎥 Watched: Rocketman (2019; Loved it!) and Rings of Power.

close up of grass

🐢 Slowing Down

I’ve spent most of the week recovering from burnout symptoms of the week prior. I’m still figuring out how to do this effectively, but one thing that always helps is slowing down. Waaay down. For me it can look like:

  • Clearing my calendar of as many commitments as I can
  • Breaking the routine in some way
  • If that’s too difficult, giving myself permission to coast on an existing routine
  • Adding some kind of self-care activity before bed (listening to music, colouring, reading)
  • Getting outside, if even just for a walk
  • Going to bed earlier
  • Doing fewer things per day in general, and taking time with those

I found “Rest Isn’t the Opposite of Work” helpful. A few other apropos links:

  • The Efficiency Delusion: increased efficiency doesn’t actually free up time for leisure activities.
  • Talk less when interviewing to give yourself more time to take notes and (my addition) the candidate more time to think and clarify.
  • Take the time to build consensus. “In a hierarchical process, often a decision is made quickly, and then days or weeks or months are spent getting buy-in after the fact[…]. In a consensus decision-making process, the decision and the buy-in land at the same time.”
  • Tending to my garden. Repost from last week, but it’s just so relevant.
  • Waste Not. “The point of composting is not simply that it produces a useful end result; it also forces one to slow down and participate in a cycle of transformation that is not driven by the capitalistic drive for efficiency and economic growth presently consuming the planet. Its pace is set by the organic process of decay, not the demands of profit.”

🏘 Rooted Global Village

I joined Rooted. I have many intentions going into it: add a somatic element to my ongoing education about race and abolition, unlearn harmful behaviours, grow my race comfort zone, break an inter-generational trauma cycle, try connecting with my ancestors. Moreover, I want to do all this in contact with other White folks. This is new and unclear and scary, but it’s also slow work, which I feel more comfortable with. While I was aware of this community for a couple of years I finally feel ready to engage. I’ll be (re)starting reading My Grandmother’s Hands to support my learning.

🇷🇺 Russian

My affinity towards my first culture ebbs and flows. On one hand, I despise the actions of the current regime and many before it, which pushes me away. On the other, I still feel like I have a deep connection to the culture itself, and I don’t want to lose that. It’s slipping though. I want to approach my learning here carefully, as it’s easy to stumble on state-controlled or state-influenced media. I’m trying out some podcasts for now on specific topics I’m interested in outside of politics.

💠 Misc

  • I’ve been working 8-4 for a few weeks now. The first week was tough, as I was definitely suffering from FOMO and feeling helpless with how little I felt I was getting done. But it’s improved and I feel like it’s been helpful in staving off the worst of burnout symptoms last week. I’ve gotten outside or to my local climbing gym more frequently than before, and waking up earlier hasn’t been a problem.
  • I liked Maya’s defence of ebikes (and the linked “lyrical paean” 😃). “I don’t want to show up to things sweaty. I don’t want to have to dress for exercise for my commute.” THIS! This is the reason why I’ve been thinking of supplementing my regular bike with one of ’em e-scooters. I like the simplicity and lightness of a regular bike for workouts or casual rides around the neighbourhood, but hate arriving sweaty and having to pack and change clothes.
  • John Cutler’s newsletter is high signal as usual. His post on goal cascades resonated. I’d love for the industry to move to this approach to planning, but suspect the “three pillar” cascade is just too alluringly simple to abandon. Especially since planning in many places is a show with departments getting away working towards outputs first, and then aligning them to goals later.

House rooftops with a moon crescent in the clear sky

It happened sooner than I expected, but this is the week that I just don’t have the spoons to write this post. It was a tough one at work. Nothing terrible happened, but the grind had me manifesting burnout symptoms, which required tending to on the weekend. I’m going to leave here a few links that I appreciated this week:

  • Winnie Lim‘s entire site. I love how vulnerable and honest she gets with the audience. It’s something I’m still figuring out for myself, and it’s nice to have a site that models the opposite of the “detached” mainstream. I’ve been thinking about “slowness” lately, so tending to my garden resonated.
  • Official myths by Mandy Brown. I appreciate the nuance in Mandy’s writing on remote work and the centering of local communities in her advocacy.
  • I stumbled upon DevOps Topologies and it got me thinking about the kind that my own workplace implements. I’m grateful that this resource is on the web for free.
  • On the tooling side, I’m thankful for the authors who put the work into making Goaccess. It’s a lovely tool that analyzes access logs locally and outputs reports. It focuses on one thing and does it really well.

View from the Strachan bridge towards CN Tower

This post comes a day late due to a valuable lesson: editing a reusable WordPress block after inserting it into a post will cause it to be completely reset and lose everything upon page reload, autosave be damned! 🙃


It’s a strange kind of season. As if on cue, the leaves started to turn yellow-red on Sept 1, yet it’s still bloody hot during the day (for me). The cooler mornings and nights are very welcome, though. I forgot how oppressive the summer heat can be. It’s kinda taken me by surprise this year. The lack of shade around our new neighbourhood has kept me indoors through most of July and August. I’m starting to prepare myself for next year, where I intend to spend more time outdoors despite the uncomfortable heat.


🏠 Remote work

My workplace is pretty chill about “working hours”, so I’ve decided to take advantage of it and make a slight change to start and end an hour early. I’ve become more of an early riser over the years, so I’m hoping it’ll help me get some focused work done in the morning. More crucially, I’m hoping that ending at 4pm will give me a bit more time to run any personal errands before the mad rush hits at 5. It’s a struggle to stop work, though. The momentum is strong, and I’ve always found it hard to transition from the certainty of work-related tasks to the big mess that is the rest of my life. My strategy right now is to add a reminder first thing in the morning for a simple personal task to complete exactly at 4pm, like “do dishes” or “take out organics”. Anything that can be done quickly and won’t be so overwhelming that I’m tempted to keep working. It’s been helpful for the few days I’ve been doing it!

📚 Readwise Reader

I got an invite to the beta of Readwise Reader, and I love it. It’ll definitely replace Pocket for me. Maybe if feed management gets better, and if it gains the ability to pull in full articles from excerpted RSS feeds, I may ditch Inoreader too. The workflow Reader aims for is perfect for me. Intake everything quickly (via their extension or mobile apps), then either process immediately, highlighting for future spaced recall as needed, or send to “later” or “archive”. There’re keyboard shortcuts for everything important. Cross-device sync, including reading position, just works. It’s great! One tiny feature that I didn’t know I needed is the ability to navigate an article paragraph by paragraph using up/down keys. Maybe it’s just the novelty of it, but it feels good to progress through a long article.

🌊🛹 Surfskating the Bentway

Got out with C+A on Sunday to surfskate The Bentway. I can’t believe I’ve never been there despite living a walking distance away for years. It’s a lovely little public skating spot for beginners. No rails or bowls here. Just a flat, evenly paved figure eight of a track, with plenty of seating, and an indoor bathroom (important!). It wasn’t nearly as crowded as I expected, and the vibe was chill. Will definitely be coming back in the future.

The Bentway skating park

💠 Misc

  • Totally stealing the idea from Winnie Lim, I started keeping a changelog for the site itself. Will probably link to it from the footer next.
  • Reading
  • Watched
    • Rings of Power / House of Dragon. These are feel-good / feel-bad, respectively. I’m not particularly invested in either, but they’re good entertainment to share with my partner.
  • Played
    • Still enjoying Death Stranding. Haven’t been able to play it very much lately, but whenever I do I always have a great time. I kinda want to savour it!
    • On the other hand, I’m probably going to play Horizon: Forbidden West on Story difficulty. I want to fast-forward through the frequent and repetitive combat, which I find kind of cruel, possibly due to my tendency to anthropomorphize the mechanical creatures. Like, really, you want me to shoot off the wings and talons off this majestic bird before looting its short-circuiting, glitching, smoking corpse? 🤮
    • Surprisingly, I found a Zelda game that I like: Link’s Awakening! 🛡️ The tilt-shift camera and glossy, rounded character models make it appropriately cute for the story and setting.
    • Also enjoying Luigi’s Mansion 3. I’ve only played an hour, but all I want to do is hoover up all the things!

Landscape from Death Stranding

🌐 General

A somewhat slow week on personal projects and learning as more of my time has been dedicated to my full-time job, which is a frequent-enough occurrence that I probably won’t mention it here again.

📦 Death Stranding

Maybe it’s the cool overcast couple of days we’ve had here, which mirrors the game’s mood, but I’ve been really enjoying playing Death Stranding this week. I was initially repulsed by its nonsensical premise, convoluted plot, and terrible on-the-nose naming for everything and everyone. I’m really glad I gave it a shot after all, because this game’s got soul.

Walking across its lonely, grey landscapes gives me that same “wistful explorer” feeling that I got from the original Mass Effect UNC missions. It’s just you and the environment for extended periods of time—a meditative experience. It’s balanced really well with its tightly integrated multiplayer component, which brings other players’ creations into my world. It’s easy and free to provide positive acknowledgement of their contributions and to help each other complete missions or build structures. All this supports the theme of connection and cooperation, which despite the dystopian backdrop puts this game squarely into “optimistic scifi” category for me. It feels good to play it.

The game also has a lot of what I consider respect for the player:

  • Apart from the Save function being a bit buried, menus are quick to load and navigate. Everything you need to use quickly has shortcuts. Surprisingly many games get this wrong. I remember being annoyed with Witcher 3’s menu system, which was slow to load but had to be opened frequently even during combat.
  • Avoiding repetitive encounters. Since the main game loop is ferrying packages back and forth between points on the map, it could be frustrating to constantly be running into the same enemy encounters, but Death Stranding avoids this trap. Passing through a field of BTs seems to happen only on the initial approach to a mission waypoint. I remember completing a mission like that, then getting another mission to navigate back through the same area and bracing for the inevitable repeat of the same encounter, but feeling pleasantly surprised at its absence.
  • Inventory management can be fun for some, but there’s a button to just “do it for me”, which I appreciate.
  • Same with balancing while moving on foot. It’s a neat mechanic that could be rewarding to master, but sometimes I just don’t want to worry about it, and the game provides an easy way to do that (hold L2+R2).
  • Saving defaults for deliveries and photo mode settings.

… and many others. All these little touches make what could be a boring walking simulator an experience that stays interesting and rewarding. I’ve had a hard time putting this game down!

Death Stranding screenshot of a woodsy area.
Approaching Wind Farm in Death Stranding

✨ Server-Driven UIs

Did a little bit of reading about these, trying to understand why as an industry we’re seemingly reinventing HTML+CSS+JavaScript. Some resources I found useful:

There’re many SDUI frameworks out there already:

I suspect the big tech companies that built their in-house SDUIs will open source them eventually, or another open source framework will be released separately, and there will be a convergence of sorts. It seems like a generic-enough problem.

Overall, I feel that Apple and Google are at least partially responsible for the thin->thick->thin client swings. They had an opportunity early on to take existing Web formats and make them work for their mobile OSs, but they chose to build custom platforms instead. The trifurcation of UIs was unnecessary. My hope is that someone figures out how to take HTML+CSS+JS and convert that into native components on mobile, so we could converge again on technologies that aren’t owned by big corps.

💠 Misc

  • 🏃🏻‍♂️ Ran 17k this week. It’s my longest distance yet. Proud of myself for slowly working up to this number while staying injury-free (*knocks on wood*).
  • 📸 Found another use case for Syncthing: using the PS App on my phone to synchronize screenshots with my laptop for easy uploading into posts like this one.
  • ✉️ Messing around with WordPress plugins for sending these posts as emails. I haven’t really shared this site or these posts too broadly yet, but I suspect any family/friends interested in reading them won’t be familiar with RSS/Atom.