Thanks, I Think

My vanity Google Alert turned up something a little strange today. A track contributed to the Internet Archive’s Open Source Audio collection, entitled “Nathan R Yergler”. OK, more than a little strange, that’s weird.

It’s sort of relaxing to listen to, but… yeah, weird.

date:2009-10-19 22:16:05
category:my life

Remembering with org-mode and Ubiquity

Yesterday evening I published my second set of Ubiquity commands which provide a Ubiquity interface between Firefox and Emacs — specifically org-mode — using org-protocol. Ubiquity is an experimental extension from Mozilla Labs that lets you interact with the browser by giving it short, plain text commands. For example, “share” to post a bookmark to Delicious, or “map” to open a map of the selected address.

Org-Mode is an Emacs mode that can be used to keep track of notes, agendas and task lists. I use it to maintain my task list for various projects and take notes when I’m in a meeting. I really like that while it’s an outline editor at heart, it lets me write lots of text and go back later and figure out what’s actually actionable, as opposed to maintaining separate notes and task lists. org-protocol is included in recent releases and lets you launch an instance of emacsclient with some additional information (i.e., the URL and title of a web page, etc) and take some action on it. One of the built in “protocols” is sending that information to remember mode, which org-mode augments.

The main command is simply remember. Invoking it will send the current URL and document title to org-mode’s Remember buffer. You can optionally type a note or select text in the page to be captured along with the link.

Once you’re in the buffer you can make any changes needed and then simply C-c C-c to save the note, or C-1 C-c C-c to interactively file the note someplace else. I’m using this command to quickly store links with some notes to project files. I hope this will be particularly useful when I run across something for a project I’m not actually able to spend time on at the moment.

Note that before using the commands you need to configure Firefox to understand org-protocol:// links, and need to configure a remember template. The template I use looks like:

(?w "* %?\n\n  Source: %u, %c\n\n  %i" nil "Notes")

This store the information in the Notes section of my org-default-notes-file and positions the cursor ready to type a heading.

To install, visit the command page and click “Subscribe”in the upper right hand corner when prompted (this assumes you have Ubiquity already installed). You can find the Javascript source on gitorious; I’ll be adding my RDFa commands to that repository as well.

date:2009-10-07 12:52:04
category:development, geek
tags:emacs, firefox, mozilla, orgmode, ubiquity

Communication and Trust

This afternoon I left work early to visit my landlord and try to iron out an issue that I’ve been dealing with for over two weeks. The issue, ironically, is that I want to give them money. Some would even call it rent.

The issue boils down to this: I was having my rent debited from my checking account and wanted to stop. I called and left a message asking how to do that, and never heard back. I called a few more times, asking if it was indeed going to keep going, or if I should write a check (you know, cause I want to pay my rent on time). I never heard back. I left two notes at the office for the building accountant (“Jeff”), sent an email to the accounting email address they post online and called their general accounting phone number. Nothing. The one accountant I did manage to speak to (“Mike Z”) told me that, yes, the rent would be debited for October, but not November. I left my phone number in case that changed for some reason, but never received a call.

When I checked today and saw that the rent still hadn’t cleared, I decided I should follow up. They’re usually not this tardy taking my money, so I stopped by the office today. When “Jeff” finally came downstairs (after not answering his phone when the woman at the front desk called up), he launched right in. “Oh, I guess I stopped things too soon, but if you can just write a check, we’ll call it OK.” Frankly, stopping the debit now is fine with me; but how was I to know? My response, “That’s fine, I just didn’t know I was supposed to write a check, since I hadn’t heard anything back from you,” was met with a simple, “Oh, right.”

It’s obvious CitiApartments is in trouble; our elevator was recently broken for a couple weeks and just after Labor Day a piece of the gutter fell off the second story into the courtyard. Luckily no one was hurt. Google’s cache reveals that my building was (is?) for sale, although maybe that complaint to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection had something to do with the page going away.

This incident, though, is the first time that my direct experience has been uniformly negative. Up until now I could say, “Yeah, I’ve heard they don’t treat residents that well, but I don’t have any direct experience with that. Maybe it’s isolated cases.” Unfortunately their lack of communication while dealing with this means that I no longer trust them to deal with me in an up front manner. A simple phone call back to say, “yes, we’ll stop debiting your account, when would you like to do that?” would have retained my belief that they value me as a tenant. All they had to do was communicate that they’d received my request and were acting on it, and trust would still exist between us.

Sorry, Citi; I won’t be too sad when you finally implode.

date:2009-10-06 15:16:17
category:my life
tags:400 duboce, citiapartments, landlord, rental

Aimee Mann at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Sunday the weather in San Francisco shifted from San Francisco Autumn back to, well, San Francisco Summer: cool, windy, and clear; sunshine that imparts far less warmth than you might imagine. Richard and I ventured to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival at Golden Gate Park Sunday afternoon. Aimee Mann was playing the Arrow Stage and I’d managed to miss every other opportunity I’ve had to see her play live.

Speedway Meadow was far more crowded than I imagined and I think Richard was amused by my remaining provincialism. Somehow we managed to make our way through the crowd and find a spot stage left. We put our blanket down, enjoyed a sandwich, and tried to avoid being trampled while we waited for Aimee to come on.

Aimee Mann (flickr)

I’ve heard several live recordings of Aimee and she was just as warm and engaging Sunday as she is on those recordings. She opened saying, “Holy shit! There’re way more people here than I expected! This is awesome!” and interspersed generous helpings of “oh, thanks” and “you guys are so great” between songs. It may be an act but it works for me. On some level I’m able to forget the crowds, the pushing, the pot, the sorority girls behind me (“Oh my god guys! She drank my fifth of vodka! MY FIFTH!” “Damn! No!” “Yeah!”) and imagine that Aimee and I are hanging out and she’s just picking and playing a few songs, just for me.

The set was “Magnolia” heavy. I’m not sure if that’s because her more recent work on “@#%&*! Smilers” is even less “bluegrass” or if she’s playing what she thinks people know and want to hear. The set list went something like this:

  • The Moth
  • Nightmare Girl
  • Momentum
  • Build That Wall
  • Par for the Course
  • Amateur
  • This is How It Goes
  • Wise Up
  • Save Me
  • You Could Make a Killing
  • Little Bombs
  • Thirty One Today
  • Freeway

I thought it was interesting that she introduced the last two song as “from my most recent album, Smilers,” as opposed to calling it “Fucking Smilers”. Everyone got a good laugh, too, when she introduced “Save Me” by saying, “this is the song that lost an Oscar; to Phil Collins.”

I had hoped to stick around and see Neko Case and Emmylou Harris, but after walking over to the Star Stage, I decided it wasn’t worth dealing with the crowd. Another time. I’m not sure that I love the free festival musical experience, but I’m glad I finally got to see Aimee live.

date:2009-10-05 21:28:34
category:my life
tags:aimee mann, concert, music, setlist