Learning about local budgets


On a weekend-stay-over in Monterey recently, I saw some poster mentioning changes in the county budget and realized I had no perspective of the “order of magnitude” of this.

Looked it up, and found that the county budget is about one and a half billion dollars (!)

This made me curious about Santa Clara county, and I looked it up — excess of six billion dollars (!) … for some perspective, it would just make it to the top 100 in this list of countries ranked by budget.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I found that … surprising (i.e. Santa Clara county alone has a greater allocated budget than most countries).


On writing with pen and paper

Very quickly: I love Baron Fig notebooks, both the larger, hard-cover Confidant, and the smaller, soft-cover Vanguard.

After a few years of trying different styles, I realized I vastly preferred white paper with light dots to either plain paper or ruled paper or grid paper, and simply will not use either of them again.

While we’re here, you can’t go wrong with a simple Lamy Safari to write with.

General interesting links: May 2018

Last month’s bunch of random stuff:


The original “skywalkers” …


  • A look at how both Apple and Star wars have come to dominate our “tech aesthetic” in a very deep sense
  • Something about Nirvana (not the band)
  • Michael Polan (of Omnivore fame) talking about psychedelics (on NPR! this stuff is going mainstream again!)
  • File this under this month’s humor section: a 30-year old man had to be sued by his parents to get him to move out of their house
  • Ditto, but the darker variety: story of a man who remained functionally illiterate while being a high school teacher. Choice quote:

Why did I go into teaching? Looking back it was crazy that I would do that. But I’d been through high school and college without getting caught – so being a teacher seemed a good place to hide. Nobody suspects a teacher of not knowing how to read.

  • On the “Very Short Introduction …” series

(there isn’t a lot here this time, partly due to it just being a busy time, partly because I was in Australia for a good third of the month …)

Continuing adventures in Tinderbox

Been using Tinderbox, in fits and starts, for a bit over a year now. I use it for all sorts of different stuff and the crazy bit is that I haven’t even scratched the surface,

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 9.19.11 PM
A sort of high-level daily work to-do pane .


I’ve used it for daily writing, for brainstorming, for just taking notes, and slowly but steadily trying on more of its feature set. The above shows an adornment for each day, with notes on them, and “task notes” outside, with todo/done states (based on a simple boolean done attribute), both of which are based on prototypes. The entire bunch is part of a composite within the main doc (yes, there’s a bit of vocabulary in the beginning).

The closest parallel I can think of, in a meta-sense, is Emacs — in the sense that it seems to have a huge learning curve and seems a bit useless at the outset, and unsophisticated, compared to a dozen other better-looking, niche tools.

And yet, both are completely programmable. You can define simple rules for the color of a note (as above, toggling between red and green based on a checkbox I added), or more complicated agents that gather notes based on arbitrary criteria.

It’s hard to even make a case for using it — though The Tinderbox Way is the closest I’ve found so far. I’d strongly recommend, on a day when you feel you have an especially open mind, to giving the free trial a try out.



Monthly recap (May 2018)


Tall eucalyptus trees in Great Otway National Park, along the ocean road


Major updates:

  • Australia trip!
    • Walked around Sydney
    • Great Ocean Road
    • Fed some kangaroos and wallabies (not yet sure about the difference)
    • Saw the Penguin parade
    • Ate lots of good food

Minor updates:

  • Hiking with Tara
  • Went for the Warriors/Cavaliers game (quite an experience!)
  • Tinkering with routine changes around reading and yoga (Yogaglo!)


  • Season 1 of Lost in Space (okay)
  • Season 1 of Veep (funny!)
  • The Little Prince on Netflix (wonderful!)
  • Black Panther, Jumanji (meh for both)
  • Death of Stalin (outstanding!)

Programming/Math/Science roundup: May 2018

Can you imagine paying $4900 for a calculator? In 1968 money??

A history of personal (static) blogs

I’ve accumulated a few static blogs over the years, each starting out, running for a while, and then petering out.

The first version, with Hakyll

The second version, with Jekyll

The third version, with Hugo (still alive, apparently!)

A good question at this point is, why did I ever bother, and why do I want anything other than this (WordPress) blog?

If you go through the content in the old repos I pointed to above, most of it was sort of “snippets”, notes about this or that, fleeting documentation, little experiments.

This sort of stuff is both too noisy (I feel) in the middle of regular summary updates, and yet something I like to have around. So, meh, I can do some sort of fancy tag-based separation in WordPress, or … I can just dump it all into a different place and never worry about the overlap.

Also, Cryogen, the Clojure-based static site solution I’m using for this, seems cool. So there’s that.

Note: Another good question here is: what should I do about all the previous existing content? There’s actually a ton of markdown-posts in each “version” of the blog(s), so I should eventually migrate all of that over.