I started watching Long Way Up this weekend. What a fantastic show and fascinating journey see – from the tip of Argentina up to L.A. on electric motorcycles.

As a fan of electric vehicles the first few episodes are bittersweet as they figure out how the bikes and charging work. Cold weather shortens the lifespan of any battery, so starting the journey at the end of winter and traveling through remote areas without a solid grid increases the challenge to a new level.

Seeing the beauty of these towns makes me want to visit Argentina and Chile so I can see it with my own eyes. The flight from Japan would be brutal as most flights to South America from Japan transit in Houston or L.A. – so a 10 – 14 hour flight to make it halfway.

Harris County released a new ballot tracking website. It looks clean but is broken because it won’t send your request if you’re using uBlock Origin or Firefox Focus on iOS.

On mobile I get a helpful error message about I don’t allow third party cookies. On desktop it fails silently. I know that devs behind it are doing their best. It must be quite difficult to build this simple-on-the-surface-but-regulatory-compliant-complex service on what is likely had a short deadline.

Technical nits aside, it does work as advertised. It took over a week after delivery but my ballot has been marked as received. Progress.

2020 ballot received

  • A few months ago when we took Sophie to the vet, one of her numbers was really high – usual is 200 – 230 and she was scoring 1700. Since then she’s been taking medicine twice a day and eating a new food. We took her to the vet for another checkup and she was down to just slightly elevated levels!
  • I voted in the 2020 election. Or at least sent my ballot. I really hope they don’t find some reason to invalidate it.
  • The St. Marc Cafe near our house lost to covid at the end of last month and went out of business. It’s a chain, so I can always get their chocolate croissants at another location, but our St. Marc Cafe was in a newly remodeled in a family restaurant building, so it was more spacious than a regular cafe.
  • We had our a neighborhood association meeting for the first time in 3 months. I had to attend as I’m head of the block this year. They take proper precautions so it can be safe (check temperatures at the door, open windows, masks required, staggered meetings to reduce people in the building). I always forget how mentally taxing concentrating on listening to Japanese for an hour.
  • I’ve been trying to build my RSS habit again using NetNewsWire. I’ve been using it on iOS for months, but not so much on my Mac. The main stumbling block in syncing and habit building. Syncing only works (as of this writing) via Feedly and Feedbin, both paid services with a bunch of extras. Looking closer, Feedly does seem to have a free account for up to 100 sources, which is more than enough for me. The next hurdle will be remembering to open the app, instead of Firefox.

One of the tasks left for me to improve the sustainability of my website is to reduce the size/transfer of the images on my site. This is actually two tasks: optimize the images themselves, two lazy load images so they only load when scrolled into view.

I’m not too interested in lazy-loading images as it would require adding more Javascript and client-side execution. So I plan to focus on optimizing images in place for now.

My blog is powered by WordPress, so it should be as simple as installing one of the many “image optimizer” plugins. However, for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to image optimizing happens on their servers, or they want to use their CDN to delivery my images, or the plugin just kinda looks spammy, I haven’t taken the next time.

My designed image processing shouldn’t be too difficult – just call pngcrush and imagemagick depending on if I upload a png or jpeg file.

I’ve asked myself how do I address image optimization on my website: do I write my own image optimization plugin? Or do I do something else?

I haven’t written PHP in a very long time I don’t partially fancy developing a new WordPress plugin. But it could be nice to make a nice, clean, no fuss plugin available for others to use.

However, I’m leaning towards “something else” and think a more generic solution might be better. i.e. What if I had a small daemon (probably Python, maybe Rust as an excuse to learn it?) to monitor a directory and automatically optimize the images when they’re saved. This way no plugin is required and it could be used no matter the blogging engine.

Made it to Shonandai and back. Took the direct route there and the scenic route along sakaigawa back. Love rice harvest season. πŸƒπŸŒΎπŸž

Typically I always have had a side project that I work on before or after hours. However, with Covid-19 and everything else going on in the world I decided that rather than add another stressor to take a step back and focus on my mental and physical health.

To improve my physical fitness, I’ve been working on developing a regular running habit again. To improve my mental health, I’ve been focusing getting enough sleep.

In both of those aims my Apple Watch and iPhone have been a key tool in keeping me on track.

My watch reminds me to stand up and tracks my runs. I’ve also started a running club at work and while we can’t run together, we do share our runs on Slack and set running goals each month.

For sleep health, I’ve setup Downtime everyday from 8:30pm – 5:30am, as part of my Screentime settings. This disables all apps on my phone, except phone calls and apps that I specifically allow. The only apps that I allow are Runkeeper, Music, and Overcast, as I use them when running.

I didn’t think Downtime would have much of an effect at first, but I discovered that it prevents me from doom scrolling while in bed. And it turns out that limiting your intake of doom directly before and after you wake up, does wonders for your mental health.

The other setting that helps drastically is Bedtime. I aim for 8 hours of sleep a night and have set bedtime from 8:30pm – 4:30am, everyday. Notice that Downtime doesn’t end until an hour after I’ve woken up – giving me at least an hour of time with “just me”.

45 minutes before bedtime I get a notification that it’s time to start winding down and notifications disappear, my phone dims and I get a nice banner that say things like “Good evening. It’s time to start winding down.”. Removing the notifications and making such a simple display makes it much less tempting to pick up my phone.

When I first heard about these features I thought they sounded a bit gimmicky and they wouldn’t work. But they do. In the past two weeks I’ve averaged 8:29 hours in bed at 7:36 hours asleep each night. And each morning I feel refreshed.

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping this year, give yourself a break and try Downtime and Screentime.