Category Archives: Administrivia


noun: “playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor.” (OED)

To me, it speaks of playfulness, perhaps some randomness, a willingness to play along and see where things go. Perhaps somewhere between the Pkunk and Dirk Gently.

If you played the old M:tG ‘Shandalar’ computer game[1], you may remember this card.

But I’m speaking of whimsy today because I had recently noticed that I had been feeling much less of it my life, due to some stressful circumstances that (I think) have now dissipated. You may have been following my writing for a while, and this is a large part of why I have not written in months, with the few sporadic mostly-picture posts being the most that I could put together.

I’ve been working with my life coach for some time now, on a number of things. One of the largest ones was finding space to create. I had spent a lot of time focusing on making physical and temporal space for creation, but had forgotten about creating the mental space, to be able to deal with distractions.

I almost said ‘push away’ distractions, but similar to the discussion of Saidin and Saidar, pushing away distractions is okay as a crutch, but being able to relax into the flow is much more powerful.

Either way, I’m excited to be feeling creative again, and have some ideas[2] about how to keep this going, even through the next set of distractions that will inevitably crop up.

It’s going to be an interesting year, thanks for being here with me.

-Nayrb 😀

[1]Still one of my favourite games of all time, and I think, even with all its faults, the best M:tG computer game.

[2]Interestingly, a bunch of these are around meditation, which I feel I only discovered very recently.

Adventures in Mobile Phone Resurrection

My day, in a nutshell:


0) See that your phone may be having issues. No time to spend the week fixing it. Tape[1] it up and take it to Burning Man. Wait 10 months for the issues to become serious. Go on vacation. Drop it in the airport on the way there. Nursemaid it through the vacation, trying to read through the horizontal lines of ‘VGA cable is partially detached’. Drop it on the plane on the way home.

0.5) Take it in to the store. They say they’ll replace the phone for $100, but the data won’t be transferred over. I buy a new phone and go home to check my backup situation. (All my photos and videos are fine, it’s my notes and TTD lists that I’m most concerned about.)

0.7) Get home and find out my last full backup sufficient for a ‘Restore’ is about 10 months old. For some reason the ‘Sync’ doesn’t actually sync any useful amount of data, and there are no useful ways to gain finer control of this (I’m assuming) without jailbreaking the device.

0.8) Restore the device using the old backup. It’s really odd to see your last messages with someone that are 10 months old. Resolve to transfer over the rest of the data somehow…

[Next Day]

1) Start backing up the old phone. Discover that your phone needs some number of tens of gigs to do a full backup, and your computer only has 11GB free.

2) Rummage through your hard drive, using suggestions from helpful sites, finding another 15GB.

3) Figure out that 25GB is again not enough. Start taking a closer look at that 40GB backup from 10 months ago. Look at the directory, noticing that it contains about 40k files, each named with a 40 character hex hash. Try uploading it to back it up. After about half an hour, calculate that it will take 15-20 hours. Try tar -czvf to reduce the number of files. this doesn’t significantly help the upload time.

4) Decide to bite the bullet and delete the old backup. As there are too many files in the directory for ‘rm *’ to work, start with ‘rm 1*’, through to ‘rm f*'[2].

5) Start the backup of the old phone again, it finishes, and I start the restore to the new phone.

6) After waiting for a while, the phone has reset, and it gives me the option to ‘restore from backup’. More waiting. ‘The backup was corrupt or not compatible with this device or device version.’

7) Try again. More waiting. Once again having the new phone factory reset to start the restore. Once again: ‘The backup was corrupt or not compatible with this device or device version.’

8) Look in the directory to see if there’s something obviously corrupt. Wait a second…Some of those files starting with ‘0’ are from 2015…

9) Move all of the old remaining files to a new folder. Try the restore again. ‘The backup was corrupt or not compatible with this device or device version.'[3] Realizing that I had missed other files (not starting with 0-f), or that some of the 0-starting files had made their way into the list of files for the new backup, I delete all of the files in the directory this time.

10) Full backup. Full restore. Full day.

[1]Duct tape, of course. My little friend was suffering from an ‘expanded battery’, which eventually became bad enough that the screen became separated from whatever was feeding the screen data. Two drops later, it was unfixable, thankfully still okay enough on the inside to back up.

[2]You may notice something here.

[3]Interestingly, (from behaviour, not from looking in the files), the backup program (iTunes) blindly adds new files to the list of hashed files, and probably adds them to a list somewhere in that directory. It apparently doesn’t do much checking of the backup until it tries to restore it somewhere.

Why do I Write?

Earlier today, after showing him my ‘Beenary‘ post from yesterday, M asked me: “How did you get the motivation to write every day?”

I ended up writing a lot on the topic (apparently I have feelings here), and I wanted to share it with you. (I’ve also said a few things on this topic in a previous post.)[1]

There are a few ways to interpret this question:

1) What started you writing every day?
– I was on vacation for the holidays, and had a few days to just sit on the couch and write, to get me started. Last year, I did some Project Euler problems, this year I decided to write. I ended up making some posts, and a bunch of extra drafts, which I mine when I’m looking for inspiration.

2) Why do you keep writing every day?
– I want to be able to look back and see things I’ve done, both for the feeling of satisfaction, and so I don’t forget things.
– It feels *really* good to finally be releasing (in the software sense) some of the thoughts and ideas that have been kicking around in my head for so many years.
– I know that I now feel like I have something to tell the world…I’m not sure where that changed. I know that when I was writing on LiveJournal, that was not the case, and that’s a lot of what stopped me.
– At the same time, I’m doing this for me more than for others. There was a time in February when my readership dropped by more than half for a week, but I found that it didn’t really change my motivation to write (turns out deleting a post manually (I had mistakenly hit ‘publish’ rather than ‘save draft’) on fb turns off autoposting).
– At some point I would like to write a novel (the category ‘Rollick’ is the closest I’ve come so far), and this is a convenient way to break it down into chunks and get ‘er done.

3) How do you keep writing every day?
– I’ve made it a non-negotiable. I’m allowed to get a day or two ahead, but I’m not allowed to fall behind. It helps that I usually finish them in the late evening for the following day, so I can trade a bit of sleep for writing the post that day.
– I currently have 127 drafts on the go, in addition to hundreds of emails to myself and a bazillion Apple Notes to myself. If that runs out, I have 19 years of journals and five figures of photos to mine for ideas.
– But don’t let that daunt you. After doing this for a bit, I find that I can take some random words and spin a story in about an hour that fills a few hundred words, sometimes more. I often start with puns, or two words which sound the same but are not really related. ‘Bracer, Embrasure’ started this way, I envisioned a hallway with display cases, a thief creeping down the hall, then I fit it into the existing ‘Rollick’ universe.

One thing I’m finding is that I would like to do more more in depth posts, but they are much more difficult to do on a work-during-the-week writing daily schedule. I usually have to give up an hour or more of sleep to get the focus and time required to get one of them done. Not sure how to solve this, other than doing more ‘quicker’ posts and giving myself more time for the more in-depth ones.

Really all of the above is a lot of words to say that I’m doing this because I enjoy doing it, and more fundamentally, I enjoy the act of creation.

[1]For those of you keeping score at home, this will be post 157, daily post #77, meaning I had 80 posts during the previous ~4.5 years. I also have 128 drafts, and 2 of my drafts went to the trash. 4800 emails, and 480 emails in my project folders. I’m releasing faster than I ever have, and the backlog is still piling up. Turns out prioritization is important in everything. (Compare with 5 Jan, where I had just finished my 10th daily post, I had 93 drafts, 0 Trash, 3600 in my inbox, and 400 in my project folder.)

Nice and Egregious: Shifted Meanings

Recently C pointed me to a blog post about the etymology of the word ‘Egregious’. This is especially relevant to me, as you may guess, because of the title I chose for this blog: ‘Sometimes Egregious, Always Gregarious’.

At the time I chose the title, I thought that ‘egregious’ and ‘gregarious’ were almost anagrams of each other, and were only one letter apart. Hence the ‘one letter can make a word of difference'[1]. It turns out that you need to replace the ‘e’ in ‘egregious’ with the ‘ar’ in ‘gregarious’, but I think it’s still apropos and funny.

Anyways, etymology. I also chose the words ‘egregious’ and ‘gregarious’ because I feel they describe me. ‘Egregious’ because I’m often pushing the boundaries[2], or going the ‘third mile'[3]. ‘Gregarious’ because I like talking to people, saying random things when I walk up to strangers. (Come to think of it, ‘Garrulous’ might be better in some situations, but it doesn’t anagram quite as well. Also, it implies a talking requirement that I don’t always fulfill.)

So, now you know more than you thought you needed to about how this blog came to have its title. I hope you’re happy[4].

[1]The phrase ‘One letter can make a word of difference’ came from P, from his rotating .sig file during undergrad. It was routinely a source of wonder for me.

[2]’Pushing the boundaries’ was the motto for my undergrad program, Engineering Science. I enjoy doing this in many ways, the most socially acceptable probably being attempting to solve problems with stupid and outlandish suggestions.

[3]My grandfather was part of the 3T5 class, which decided to give back to the community by instituting a ‘Second Mile’ award. The ‘First Mile’ is the things you normally do, working at work and the things you do at home. The ‘Second Mile’ is ‘going the extra mile’ in service to the community. Our class decided to have an ad hoc ‘Third Mile’ award, which is awarded when ‘You’ve gone too far’.

[4]Really, I do. 😀

How I Organize my Thoughts

Right now, I have 89 posts posted on my blog, 2 scheduled, and 93* drafts at one stage or another. I have 20 posts open for editing, 11 Google docs, 1 Google spreadsheet, 19 tabs of various research, and 12 minimized browser windows. I also use Clear**, Apple Notes, and I have written journals going back to 1997. I also have about 3600 emails in my inbox and roughly 400 emails in my ‘project’ folder.

For some reason, though, I feel like I’m finally taking charge of this. I think the maxim ‘Real Artists Ship***’ applies. I’m finally shipping some of my thoughts, closing open loops****

When I’m working on my computer, it seems to be a 2-6 brain system*****:
1) Blog post ideas go straight into drafts. (I have 23 that I’ve created or edited within the last two days
2) Longer form ideas go into a Google doc, if there are a lot of numbers, into a spreadsheet.
3) Plans go into my calendar immediately
4) Various things I’m tracking go into Clear
5) Emails go out when they need to, as soon as I can send them out
6) If I need a blank sheet to think about something, it goes in my journal

Interestingly, I’ve been using 3,4,5,6 for a while, to close open loops. What makes this different now is using 1 and 2 to actually release some of those closed-but-in-abeyance loops. Even though the loop is closed and saved, there is still a cost in knowing that I have so many just waiting to be reopened.

This blog seems to be functioning as the ‘bigger can’ to re-can all of those mind worms that pop out when I go trawling through my ideas.

There are plenty of ideas on the go, but I’m sure you have many as well. Let me know if there’s something you’d like me to write about.

*94 now!

**It is amazing todo- and other- list software. Try it!

***Attributed to Steve Jobs

****A concept central to ‘Getting Things Done’, is that of ‘open loops’, or mental distractions, things you’re worried about, or worried about forgetting. A large part of the method is to reduce these as much as possible.

*****I used to call it a ‘3-brain system’ when I just had my PDA and journal. Things have spiraled a little since then.

New Year, New Beginnings

2016. It feels like the future. As I write this, it is. I feel like this is the first time I’m really conscious of what I want to do next (at least from the perspective of having the ability to have that decision).

When this is published, this will be #8 in a row of daily posts. My goal is to keep this up indefinitely. I also have other resolutions which need a little more work before I share them. Anything you want me to write about this year? Comments below!

A Manual of Style for Satire I

I have always enjoyed reading satire. Ever since I picked up Monty Python’s Big Red Book, read my first Onion article, read my first mainstream news article as an adult.

This is my favourite Onion article. It combines political satire with intelligent art humour. The execution is also quite good, (mostly) transporting the reader into an alternate reality where the events described are normal.

That being said, there are a few places where I feel it could be better.

If I had to summarize this into a few statements, it would be the following:

1. You are writing as if the subject of your story is your (alternate) reality

This means that you should be writing in proper objective style, and making no judgements:

2. Make no judgements

You are a simple objective watcher. The humour comes from the juxtaposition between the seriousness of the writing style with the absurd situation.

3. Describe what the reader would see, instead of telling them what is going on

This will help with the above. You want to be like a good Game Master, describing what the reader sees, instead of telling them what is going on. You want to encourage them to make the connection themselves. They’ll enjoy it more, the comedic timing will work better*, and they will be more satisfied.

At the same time, when the people you are writing about are doing things that they could be describing themselves,

4. Use quotations instead of description when you can

This is even better.

Example from the Onion article above:

“Calling for the elimination of federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts; the banning of offensive art from museums and schools; and the destruction of the “hoax of reason” in our increasingly random, irrational and meaningless age, the Republicans and Dadaists were unified in their condemnation of the role of the artist in society today.”

Note that the ‘Journalist’ is (possibly inadvertently) making a judgement here, when they could instead be quoting one of the Dadaists saying “the destruction of the hoax of reason in our increasingly random, irrational and meaningless age”.

An even stronger example is the below:

“Added nonsense-poet Hugo Ball, founder of Zurich’s famed Cabaret Voltaire: “…’dada’ (‘Dada’). Adad Dada Dada Dada.” Donning an elaborate, primitivist painted paper mask, he then engaged reporters in a tragico-absurd dance, contorting wildly while bellowing inanities.”

The description ‘nonsense-poet’ is reasonable. Even if the audience doesn’t know enough art history to understand exactly what a ‘nonsense-poet’ is, they can probably figure it out. It also sounds enough like a title that a person in our alternate reality would understand. Similarly, ‘founder of Zurich’s famed Cabaret Voltaire’ is a reasonable description. It is factual, and objective (you can reasonably check how famous a cabaret is, and who the founder was). The paragraph then continues with a quote (fine), but then becomes problematic. The descriptor ‘primitivist’ seems almost unnecessary, and presumes a knowledge of art history probably only shared by Onion writers. ‘he then engaged reporters’ is simple description, fine, but then ‘tragico-absurd dance’ is again too art history-jargony. ‘contorting wildly’ is again a judgement. Perhaps a quote from someone describing what he was doing, or ‘contorting his body’ for a more objective description. ‘bellowing inanities’ is telling the audience what is happening. A quote would be far better here, such as “yelling loudly ‘Shpma Protback Beep!'”.

The fixed paragraph:

“Added nonsense-poet Hugo Ball, founder of Zurich’s famed Cabaret Voltaire: “…’dada’ (‘Dada’). Adad Dada Dada Dada.” Donning an elaborate, painted paper mask, he then engaged reporters in a tragic dance, contorting his body while yelling loudly ‘Shpma Protback Beep!’.”

So that feels better to me, but could probably use more editing. (Perhaps the Onion chose scansion over humour smoothness scanning?)

The rest of the article was generally smooth, including such gems of description as:

“Dadaist leaders were even more strident than Helms, stressing the need for the elimination of not only art, but also of dada itself. “To be a Dadaist means to be against dada,” Arp said. “Dada equals anti-dada.” Urging full-scale rioting, the assembled Dadaists called for their own destruction, each of them alternately running into the audience to pelt those still on stage with tomatoes.”

Which I think strikes just the right level of description and quotations. It also shows an important point, that the ‘journalist’ can describe what the ‘person’ is saying, as long as it’s immediately followed or preceded by a quote.

The following almost works:

“Centered in Berlin, Paris and Zurich, the Dadaist movement was launched as a reaction of revulsion to the senseless butchery of World War I. “While the guns rumbled in the distance,” Arp said, “we had a dim premonition that power-mad gangsters would one day use art itself as a means of deadening men’s minds.” ”

I would put ‘senseless butchery’ in quotes. Perhaps the ‘journalist’ only wanted to put quotes around actual quotes said by dadaists?

“When told of Arp’s comments, Helms said he was “fairly certain” that he concurred.”

Let me know in the comments below other humorous articles you wish me to dissect!


*See a later post that I will write about the theory of puns, and other forms of verbal warfare.

Some things I read and found useful while writing this article:

Writing Satire Is Harder Than You Think

This article wrote around the edges of what I was speaking to above:

Some things I found not so useful (too general, more of a 101 instead of actually helping you write well):

I tried to find online manuals of style, but they all cost money or only talked about technical details about whether you said ‘one’ or ‘1’.

Chicago Manual of Style basics

Ant, elope, antelope, cantelope

So, we went out to Nuit Blanche last night, and I have to say, it was the best we’re ever been to. Probably the most important part was that S and I treated it like a night out, with no specific places to get to (except for one rogue artist friend of ours), and we didn’t book any specific times to meet anyone specific.

Pics soon!

P.S. This is also a re-test of Simple Facebook Connect, which fb broke silently sometime over the past few months. Hooray.