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Here's what keeps me busy at the moment. What?

🏖️ Vacation Time

I’m writing this on day 2 of my 2-week spring vacation (which might explain why I’ve got the time to write at all 🤔). It’s going to be a welcome break from work. I’m going to visit Athens 🇬🇷 for a few days with the family. I’m looking forward to a few days of sight-seeing, visiting old temples and museums, meandering the streets of Athens, local food and drinks, and balmy 18℃.

🐇 Rabbit Holes

Somehow I managed to run into a few weird rabbit holes. It’s fun, mind you, but I know they’re going to be these time sinks with a very questionable payoff. But stuff wouldn’t be fun without this, would it?

The first one seems to evolve into a small and fun pet project that I’ve had in my notes for almost 4 years at this point: Something that involves terminal color schemes, color theory, CSS magic, Svelte, the history of computer monitors, visual perception, and cereals 🥣. More on that in a few weeks - there are some old temples to explore and gyros to eat first.

The second one involves nerdy keyboard shit. A few years back, I started writing on a ergonomic split keyboard called the Moonlander. It’s a great piece of hardware that helps me write all my stuff in a much more comfortable way. This keyboard (and others like it) allows you to program the behavior of the keys you press on the hardware side of things. I can cook up a custom firmware and flash it to the keyboard to completely alter the behavior of certain key presses or key combinations. A few days ago I came across something the keyboard-nerd community calls “home row mods” and it looks as unhinged as it looks interesting. Basically, you turn your home-row keys (A S D F and their right-handed equivalent) into modifier keys (Shift, Alt, you get the idea) when you hold them instead of just pressing them. This allows you to reduce the amount of motion your hands have to do when writing and programming. Is this a massive niche optimization? Absolutely! Is it going to be worth it? Probably not. But I’m going to try it regardless after a few people with pictures of keyboards in their profiles encouraged me that it’s going to be just fine.

And finally, the third one revolves around taking Nix for a proper spin. I’ve tried to use it to set up reproducible local development environments a few times at this point and always grew incredibly frustrated with the steep learning curve and the outright horrible documentation within a few hours of trying. Even the simplest things seem to take dozens of blog posts to sift through, discarding multiple “official” looking but outdated pieces of documentation, figuring out the right approach to use things. I ranted about it on Mastodon and got pinged from a few folks who basically told me that that’s just what it is. To be frank, I think it’s off-putting that the community seems to shrug these problems off like that and it makes me want to toss Nix into the “not gonna try again” bucket immediately. The thing is: I want to like nix. The ideas look solid, the problems it solves scratch a weird itch, and apparently it’s rock-solid once you got over the initial hump. I think I started in the worst place: trying to set up reproducible dev environments. They boast that this is one of the key features of nix right on their home page but as I learned, that doesn’t mean much in the nix world, unfortunately. Apparently building packages and setting up an immutable operating system are two use cases that are much better documented in the nix universe and therefore hopefully more approachable. It doesn’t sit right with me that I surrendered to nix a handful of times already at this point. I don’t know if I end up liking it after all this frustration, but I’m not yet ready to accept that I’m not smart enough to understand how to use nix. The fact that this rubs me the wrong way is a good sign that I should dig a little deeper and that there’s an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone some more.

📚 Reading

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately.

Dune by Frank Herbert

That’s right. At the top of the “Dune” hype, sparked by Denis Villeneuve’s excellent movie adaption, I’m picking up Frank Herbert’s classic. The movies have been my first introduction to the story, and I enjoyed them a lot. The world-building, the conflicts and intrigue, the love story, all the recipes for a good space opera sound like they might just scratch that itch that’s been bugging me after finishing Hyperion last year. I picked up the first book a few days ago and expected a clunky and somewhat dated way of storytelling after reading a few reviews online. So far I enjoy it - there’s a lot of names and phrases that sound strange, and I think having seen the plot outlined in the two recent movies really helps make this a little more digestible.

More info

The Software Developer’s Career Handbook by Michael Lopp

Michael Lopp, aka Rands, recently published an updated version of his “Being Geek” book. It’s a compilation of short, bite-sized pieces of career advice for software engineers. Stuff ranging from dealing with toxic coworkers, managing your time, managing your managers, planning your career, that kind of stuff. It’s good advice overall, presented in a digestible format of short chapters. Personally, I didn’t find it particularly revealing at this point in my career (I don’t have a huge need for someone to explain how to sort through my ‘to do’ list) but there have been a few moments where I heard interesting new ideas to try for myself, or where I gained new appreciation for questions and answers that more junior folks might have, and these might come in handy when mentoring more junior folks in the future. It’s a solid book, Rands is a great writer, so if you’re looking for a fun piece with some career advice, you might want to pick this up.

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Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

I finished the first part of the The Expanse series a few weeks ago. It was entertaining and the story was solid enough to keep me on the hook. But I can’t say that I’m looking forward to reading more of it. There are a handful of books in the series to come, and at this point I don’t think it’s been interesting enough to make me pick up the second one. I started watching the show they did based off the books on Amazon Prime. It’s super close to the source material, is fairly well-made, and suffers from the same problem: The plot doesn’t seem interesting enough to captivate me. Maybe I’ll continue with the series later - but for the time being, I’ll look for something else instead.

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🎮 Video Games

Beep boop.

Final Fantasy XVI

I’m a long-standing fan of the Final Fantasy series. This one is well-made, the cinematics are obviously great, the story seems interesting enough, but somehow the game feels a little… empty and dull. It feels like I’m watching a movie with the occasional game sequence to keep me busy (and “busy” is the feeling I’m getting from all those predictable and hardly challenging fights, the linear plot and chasing quest markers). If it weren’t Final Fantasy, I’d probably have stopped playing by now.

Baldur’s Gate 3

OMG. I finished this masterpiece a few weeks ago, and it’s been easily the most fun in video games I’ve had in years, if not ever. The role playing, the complexity, the plot, the loveable characters, the depth, the choices, the game mechanics, everything from start to finish is just the best in gaming I’ve seen. I’m pretty sure I’m going to do another run in the not-too-far future, which is something I’m basically never doing.