Pureness in, perfection out

My wife Cassandra can read in the dark. She’s doing it now, with nothing more than the moon and a skylight. It’s taken me some time to figure out how. I might have come across an inverse to GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) during my learning.

I started out with the idea that she had great eyesight. Then I remembered she has to wear glasses or contacts to navigate the world. I quickly moved on to myself, as we are all wont to do, and thought maybe I was just bad at low-light situations because of my own physiology. Perhaps she is only normal, I thought, and quickly proved myself wrong with Google.

Tonight I found the truth: My wife can read in the dark because her reading style is pure.

I’m sure the dictionary has all kinds of complicated explanations for “pure” that I don’t need or want to get into. My definition of pureness involves something that is unadulterated despite the situation.

Cassandra’s pure reading style is one I’ve frequently called something else: slow.

Again, I have to be self-centered to explain. I consider myself a fast reader. I remember a time in elementary school when I tried to max out the computer program that tested for reading speed. It gave you a passage to read, timed you reading it, then asked you questions about it to test your comprehension. I started out reading the entire thing and ended up getting a faster score (or whatever the metric was) than everyone else. So of course I tried to up the ante and skimmed as much as possible. If memory serves I ended up almost doubling the score, mostly by deduction and reasoning about the correct answer based on very little context from skimming.

Fast forward to today and I still believe in my erstwhile speed. My main data point is the number of books I read in a year. I read 100 books in 2018, which is more than most everyone I have to compare with. I’m sure there are more voracious readers out there. If you know of anyone who reads more I’d love to chat with them.

Back to the matter at hand: Cassandra read 19 books last year. Of course, she probably didn’t spend as much time with books as I did. She still spent a good amount of time with her nose in a book, however.

We’ve discussed it at length and she does in fact read much more slowly than I do. If my memory serves (she’ll tell me if it doesn’t of course) she says the speed is mostly a function of comprehension. Any faster and she won’t pick up the information.

The lightbulb (light, dark, lightbulb…get it? Of course you get it) came when I considered the speed and comprehension in a new light (come on, I had to do it). I “can’t read” in the dark because it’s frustratingly slow for me. I can generally see the words on the page. I generally get frustrated about a page in and try for more light or give up. Cassandra is reading at the same speed regardless of the light source. Cassandra can read in the dark.

Cassandra’s reading is pure because the changing light leads to no adulteration. This pureness appears to me as perfection as she sits on the couch and impossibly reads with only the light from another room, or the moon, or whatever body is emitting light at that particular point in time.

Finally we’re back to pureness in, perfection out. I have only this example so far. I’m going to take this as gospel and work to figure out where it falls down. In the meantime I will continue to read on a backlit Kindle while Cassandra performs her nightly feats of wonder.

Current Saturday evening status

I’m listening to Lateralus on my iPod video. That’s right, tech from a decade ago still works well enough to play an album from 15 years ago. 

This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality. Embrace this moment. Remember. We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion. 

I found the iPod in an old box and scrounged up a “Dock Connector to USB Cable” to charge it. The iPod is a beautiful piece of work that more than holds its own against any contemporary Apple design. If Jony Ive is struck by a dizzying wave of nostalgia he should consider bringing back the great wheel of navigation. It’s too good, despite the dreadful clicks that should have been long ago banished to the deepest, darkest cell in the settings dungeon. Look at the wear – lit bright in chrome – honest proof of all the places we’ve been. I’ll take black on black with white accents over gold, rose or otherwise, all day every day. 

I’ve been using Apple Music the last few months. Consider my despair when I asked Siri to play Tool and she responded by laughing in my face. Watch my fruitless search for any digital version to buy. See me fail to unearth the music backup that has to be somewhere on one of the dozen drives sitting around the house. Don’t even ask about the CDs (round and holey with shiny backsides) I bought at Wooden Nickel Music (hometown shop, collect enough nickels and you can trade them in for a discount on a CD of your choice). 

Gaze upon my pure, unadulterated joy at finding all the Tool albums I crave. They’re all just a few spins of the wheel away.

Postmortem of a news junkie

All through my childhood and adolescence I read two local newspapers a day. Residents of my hometown have the option to subscribe to both the Journal Gazette and the News Sentinel. My daily news consumption formed much of who I was for a very long time. I even went to school for journalism and moved to Austin to start a digital magazine, because I was convinced the world needed another publication telling local stories in new and interesting ways.

Today I don’t read any news publications, digital or otherwise. Sometimes I stumble across an article from one of the major national newspapers, but it’s nothing like it once was. I was a heavy Google Reader user at one time, but now I don’t do anything with RSS. What happened?

I’ve found that the news doesn’t contribute anything useful to my life, so I choose not to consume it. Instead I get by with a lot of slow information (think magazines and books), niche blogs, and several online communities that tell me everything I need to know. I still get Austin news, but it is a filtered version that comes from other Austinites discussing it online. If I need more information about whatever is happening I go directly to the source. No newspapers or reporting required.

I don’t necessarily think my habits are a good idea for an average person, but I’m almost certain they are very similar to most people my age and younger. No one my age has ever come up to me and said, “Did you see the story about [some local event] in the Statesman?” People often ask me about thought pieces published on some blog or another, however.

It wasn’t until I spent time at my parents’ house recently that I realized how much things had changed. They still get a newspaper, and they still read it every day. Habits die hard, I suppose. Or perhaps the only way to get the information they are accustomed to is from the physical paper. I’m not sure, because it wasn’t important enough to me at the time to ask about it.

There aren’t many areas in life where I’ve changed so completely over time. I would love for the journalism and “news” business to get back on its feet and do something wonderful, especially because of all my friends and former classmates who are still working in publications. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

This all came to the forefront when I came across a Medium post about the future of “creative artists” and society the other day. I’m not sure how I found it (which is one fascinating symptom of my media habit these days) but I read it in full. Read it yourself if you must, but don’t expect any great insight into the reality of the situation. The author makes an argument that seems to be built upon the fact that journalists, musicians, and other creative types are making $X millions less a year, while Google, Amazon and Apple are making $X millions more a year. Amidst all that, people are consuming more of the stuff the creatives are making, but somehow the creative people are getting less money. The great logical leap here is that the money that went away from the former must have gone to the latter, so we can blame Google, Amazon and Apple for creative people making less money.

It’s a ridiculous argument in almost every way, and the only reason I read through the end was some small hope that it was all a joke. My hope was squashed, as it often is when reading about the business of news, and I was left to ponder my own part in all this. Over time I’ve learned to become more detached from it all, despite the time I’m spending thinking and writing about it now.

I don’t have any great insight into what the future might hold. I just know that I as a super consumer of news at one point, and now I am not. I don’t see a future where any of my news comes from anything resembling a traditional publication. I hope magazines stay around, but if not I’ll be fine getting my news from books. The rest of the important stuff will make it to me by way of the all-powerful interwebz somehow.

This is the postmortem of a news junkie. May he rest in peace.

Bookmarks, used books, and time machines

‘Snooks,’ Only 3, Learns to Knit’

1941 bookmark

I love finding old newspaper clippings in used books, and this is by far the best I’ve found. The 1941 clipping is all about Snooks, a precocious 3-year-old knitting phenom who lived at 222½ Duck Street in Stillwater Oklahoma.

Since she learned to knit a week and a half ago, she’s found time to complete several inches of a bright blue snow-suit jacket for her doll, Rachel.

The whole story goes on like that. I can’t imagine a human interest story like this taking up so much space in a paper today, or at any time in my life for that matter.

I wonder where Snooks is now. She would be 75. If she’s still around I hope she’s still knitting away.

Markdown to HTML to WordPress automatically with Automator

As promised, today I’m writing about how to post Markdown text from your favorite text editor in OS X to WordPress automatically with just three keyboard shortcuts (you also have to write the title of the post and press one button in the process, but that makes it sound less awesome).

The idea to create this workflow came after I noticed my writing frequency increased after I purchased iA Writer, but the increase didn’t result in more blog posts here. Unfortunately the software alone didn’t make me write more. I made a daily writing goal and so far I’m mostly sticking to it, which explains the increase. iA Writer makes the process more enjoyable, however, which seems to be helping with the frequency to some degree.

Rightly or wrongly (time will tell) I figured if it was easier to get my words to WordPress I might end up posting more. The default WordPress editor presents a lesser of two evils scenario. The WYSIWYG editor is unreliable and writing HTML markup in the text area slows down the process. There are Markdown plugins, but you can only go the all-or-nothing route with them from what I’ve seen. iA Writer can export HTML, but then you have to copy, go to the browser, log in, paste, then post. It seemed feasible to go straight from Markdown to WordPress, so here we are.

It took quite a bit of tinkering and Googling to figure out this workflow. I’m mostly satisfied with the solution (more on that later) and I hope you find it useful as well. Let me know if you have any improvements or questions in the comments below.

Note that the images in this post were not published through the automated process. I’m confident that functionality can be added with a plugin like Postie. I will likely add it later so I can have better control over post categories/tags through the automated process as well, but that’s for another day.

The prerequisites

Here’s what you’ll need to set up the workflow:

That’s it!

The workflow

The workflow is simple:

  1. Write post in iA Writer (or your favorite text editor) with markdown. Don’t include the post title as we will write it later.
  2. Select the text (keyboard shortcut one)
  3. Convert the text from Markdown to HTML and copy it to the Clipboard (keyboard shortcut two)
  4. Initiate the post to WordPress automation (keyboard shortcut three)
  5. Write the title for the post and press the Continue button. I Tab twice then Enter so I don’t have to use the trackpad.
  6. Visit the blog to initiate the automated browser activation and check the post for errors

If you’re reading this I’m assuming you can take care of the first two steps without any direction.

Next we need to set up the service for Step 3. Markdown Service Tools comes with 30+ awesome Markdown-related services. The one we need is called md – Convert – HTML to Clipboard. As the name suggests, this takes highlighted Markdown and converts it to HTML, then sends it to the Clipboard. Open up the service (you might have to Control click to get past the Unknown Developer warning) and choose Install when prompted. You should see something like this:

Convert Markdown to HTML

You can add a key binding to this by opening System Preferences > Keyboard then navigating to Keyboard Shortcuts at the top and Services in the left menu.

Convert Markdown to HTML shortcut

As you can see I use Command-Shift-H for this because it makes me think of HTML; and I don’t like trying to mash four buttons so the more logical Command-Shift-Option-C was out. When I hit the shortcut the selected text is converted to HTML and copied to the Clipboard. Step 3 complete!

Now that you have everything you need for Step 3 it’s time to get into the fun automation part. We’re going to accomplish this with one application and one service from Automator.

First let’s build the application that will do most of the heavy lifting. Create a new document in Automator and choose Application when prompted.

The left pane shows the library of various things you can use to build out your Automator applications or services. It’s quite extensive and useful, so use it to automate your other tasks! All you have to do is pull the actions you need over to the right pane to start building your application.

Remember, we already have our HTML copied to the Clipboard, so the first thing we need to do is get the contents of the Clipboard. Automator makes this super easy with Get Contents of Clipboard under the Utilities section.

Get Contents of Clipboard

Next, we need to create our new mail message. The action we’re looking for under Mail is called New Mail Message. Drag it under the first step and add your super duper secret email in the To field.

New Mail Message

I didn’t didn’t figure out a way to write the title in the text document and somehow transfer it to the subject line of the email (which is where WordPress gets the title for the post). If you know of a way to do grab the first line of the text and make it into the subject line let me know. Until then you have to make sure to check the “Show this action when the workflow runs” box under Options.

New Mail Message options

This option stops the flow so you can add a Subject to the message before it is sent out. You can also choose to only show the Subject field as I have. So now we have the email set up with a subject line so we can move on to adding the message content from the clipboard.

This step uses the Watch Me Do action, which can be found under Utilities. As you probably guessed, this allows you to record something you do and turn it into an action. In this case we will be pasting into Mail. I opened up a new mail message, then went to Automator and pressed the Record button at the top (note that you might have to set up accessibility options if prompted). Then I clicked over to mail and hit Command-V into the message area. Last I went back to Automator to stop recording and ended up with this:

Watch Me Do

I only need the Press Command-V event, so I deleted the first step. Now we have the the post text in the Message field and we’re ready to send the email to WordPress.

For this it’s another simple step, all we need is the Send Outgoing Messages action from Mail. It will send the message for us.

Send Outgoing Messages

You can stop here if you want, but I added another step to quit Mail because I don’t use it for email. I added a Run Applescript action with that adds a 10-second delay then quits the application.

on run {input, parameters}
delay 10--number is time in seconds
tell application "Mail"
end tell
return input
end run

Run Applescript

You could also add a step to open up a browser window and visit your site to initiate the automated browser activation here if you wanted. I didn’t because I would have to wait for the delay for Mail to quit and I can just navigate to the browser quickly and load my site during the delay. If you want to automate this step I think you could accomplish it with Get Specified Text with your site’s address in the text area followed by the Display Webpages action.

Now you can save the application and add it to your Applications folder. I called mine PostToWordpress but you can call it whatever you want; just remember the name for the next step. We have to create a service so we can run the application with our last keyboard shortcut.

Create a new Automator document, this time a service instead of an application. We need the Launch Application action under Utilities. Choose your application name, save it, and create whatever shortcut you want in System Preferences.

Launch Application

That’s it! You should be set up to follow the steps above to post to WordPress directly from selected Markdown text. Remember, someone has to visit your site to tell WordPress to get the message and publish the post. Depending on the traffic of your site you could wait, or visit the site yourself to initiate the automated posting. I like to go to the site and refresh a couple of times to see the post, then read through it to check for errors.

A note on images

I’ve already mentioned Postie, but I wanted to outline the process I used to insert the images in this post. It still uses Markdown and all the writing is still in iA Writer.

First I gathered all the screenshots and sized them appropriately. Then I uploaded them all into WordPress and copied the URLs to insert into my text document. I use Jumpcut for clipboard buffering so I just did it all at once. Then I added the appropriate Markdown image syntax to insert the images where they needed to be. Once the post was uploaded the image links were already pointing to the right files, so they worked!

I hope you find this workflow useful. Let me know if you have any improvements or questions in the comments section. Happy automated posting!

I’m testing my automagic posting workflow

Tonight I am running a test. It is a very simple test.

This should post to the blog automagically. If it does I will write about the way I set it up.

If not I will search the Interwebz far and wide to find this post, because they all deserve a chance to lead a good, published life.

All posts deserve to have a good life.
some guy that one time

Does this work? If you’re reading this the answer is yes.

Running: Day 71

My leg felt almost 100 percent on today’s run. I’m so glad it’s healing and I can’t wait for it to be back to normal. Luna is also getting better at running with me, with a few exceptions.

There were a lot of people out on the road/trail today. Sometimes Luna gets distracted by people or other dogs, but she kept it mostly in check today. There was a woman walking two Chihuahuas without leashes and they were terrible. We passed them twice on the route and both times they yapped and ran after Luna while trying to bite her. She handled it well and only got hung up temporarily when they got underfoot. I wanted to yell at the woman about keeping her dogs on leash but I figured it would only aggravate her so I kept on going.

We only had one other issue during the run. Somehow Luna found some kind of bone on the sidewalk when we were almost home. At first I thought it was a piece of wood but she was really trying to eat it. We’ve already had problems with her eating things she shouldn’t and getting sick, so I decided to get whatever it was out of her mouth. She’s very food motivated (likely because she was a stray and had to fend for her own food) so I pretty much had to pry it out of her mouth. It took a while to get it out, but once it was gone she just started running again like it was nothing.

Tomorrow is an off day, then I’m slated for an 8-mile run on Saturday. If my leg feels 100 percent, or very close to it, I’ll likely go the full distance.

Happy running!

The stats
– Daily: 2.15 miles at 13:10 pace
– Week total: 6.34 miles
– January total: 10.1 miles
– 2012 total: 10.1 miles
– Distance to 2012 goal: 2,489.9 miles

Running: Day 51

I went a little bit farther today and my calf handled it just fine. It was cold, but I borrowed some gloves from Cassandra and they kept my most vulnerable part of my body nice and toasty. All told, tonight’s run was pretty decent. I even saw two deer on the trail. My heart rate doubled when I spotted them, but they just watched as I went by then slowly started nibbling at the grass again.

I’m hoping my calf doesn’t start having issues. If it keeps feeling OK then the plan is to slowly add mileage back in so I can get back on schedule. I have races to run and this injury stuff isn’t helping any. It feels good to be back at it again and I want to keep it that way. Slow and steady seems to be working so far, so that’s what I’ll stick to.

Happy running!

The stats
– Daily: 3.1 miles at 9:49 pace
– Week total: 5.25 miles
– December total: 5.25 miles
– 2011 total: 202.65 miles