With the election finally over and a (potential) COVID vaccine on the horizon, I'm feeling… cautiously optimistic! We're still going to be locked down through the winter, but hopefully with a new administration – which is already poised to enact science-based COVID policies *cough* – and some good luck in vaccine efficacy, we might be looking at an early-to-mid 2021 recovery instead of mid-to-late 2021.

I spent the weekend raking leaves and prepping our firewood pile for the winter. I disliked this type of yard work when I was younger, but now I enjoy it. It's a pleasant way of marking the passage of the seasons. 🍂 Seattle, or at least the suburb I've been living in, has the perfect amount of deciduous leaves: enough to experience the autumnal color transition, but not enough that you need to rake up dozens of bags of leaves from your backyard. Sure, the Northeast has a better display of fall leaves (and I want to visit Vermont in autumn when it's safe again!), but it's nice to be able to finish an entire year's worth of raking leaves in a weekend afternoon.

On a tangentially-related note, I feel like I've been experiencing time differently this year: I was much more affected by daylight saving time ending than usual, and I'm paying much more attention to the changes in the weather than in the past. Since we're (still) staying at home so much, my attention is more drawn to these subtle month-scale changes than in “normal” life.

Baking

We received some persimmons in our CSA box, and they were starting to become over-ripe, so I decided to bake them into Persimmon-Walnut Muffins. I'd never had persimmons before – their taste is hard to describe, sort of like a watered-down apricot with the texture of a tomato. Once they were pureed and baked into the muffin, that taste blended in with the other fall spices. So, I wouldn't go out and buy persimmons again, but they made some tasty muffins:

miniflux-substack-filter

I've been starting to follow a bunch of Substack newsletters recently. Though Substack is primarily an email newsletter platform, it's easy follow publications via RSS! – Just append /feed.xml to the base USER.substack.com URL.

Paywalled Substack articles still show up in the publications’ RSS feed, so I wrote a small Go program to filter out paywalled articles from Miniflux, my RSS reader of choice. It's pretty common for a publication to have a mixture of free and paywalled articles, so I wanted a way to get a feed that contained just the free articles (at least, for the Substack publications that I don't pay for). The project is available on my Github, and I've deployed this on the Raspberry Pi that I also use to host my Miniflux instance.

Slow Laptop Maintenance

As my laptop crawls towards the end of its life, I notice that every few weeks it gets frustratingly slower. Rebooting tends to help, but I also notice that these slowdowns tend to happen more frequently if I'm running low on disk space. So, I've gotten in a habit of running a few apps that help manage disk space:

  • CleanMyMac - Finds and deletes system junk: old updates, unused language files, caches, etc.
  • Daisy Disk - Visualizes your disk usage (similar to WinDirStat, DiskInventoryX, etc.) to find large hidden files to delete.

I'm not sure what I want to replace my 2015 Macbook Pro with, and up until recently I was in denial that it needs replacing, but… it's not enjoyable to use anymore. Chrome frequently hiccups, switching between apps is slow, and I'm running a perilously thin margin of free disk space (even after using the above apps and clearing most non-essential stuff). A 256GB SSD doesn't feel as roomy in 2020 as it did in 2015…

  • Lazy Load Images Without Javascript
    • This article taught me about the loading=lazy attribute that you can add to <img> tags. There's a similarly good web.dev article that gives a more in-depth explanation. The gist is this: adding loading=lazy to image tags causes the underlying image resource to be requested only when the image is about to enter the browser viewport. This seems really useful for image-heavy pages, and I've enabled it on this blog. 😄
  • “A hypothesis is a liability” - Researchers hid a waving gorilla in a dataset given to students. The students were significantly less likely to “spot the gorilla” if they were also supplied with a hypothesis about the dataset. The results are interesting, but I just thought the experimental design was humorous:
  • Bon Appetit started posting videos to its YouTube channel again after the months-long fallout of its pay disparity scandal. It still feels like they're trying to find their footing (and new cast), and the new videos come off like they're pretending the last few months didn't happen, but with all those caveats applied, some of the new episodes are good. For example, I enjoyed this recipe for Vegan Cacio e Pepe.

    Unfortunately, I don't think we're likely to see a return to the renaissance that was the circa 2018-2020 BA YouTube channel. It's a shame that the “powers that be” at BA couldn't own up to their mistakes. At the same time, I'm looking forward to seeing what new culinary perspectives will be brought to their recipe videos.

Cover art: Autumn Landscape With Shepherd, Dog And Sheep