ORG-mode and Fossil (by )

I'm always moaning about how I have too many ideas and not enough time, so it's quite important to me to manage my time efficiently.

My biggest concern, with many projects on the go at once (and I don't just mean fun personal projects, I'm including things my family depends upon me for as well), is that I'll forget something important I'm supposed to do. And I'm also concerned that I'll forget a fun personal project, so that when I do get a moment, I can't think of anything to do, or that I spend my time on something that doesn't get me as good a reward for the available resources as I could have had.

Therefore, I've always been a big fan of "To Do" lists in one form or another. I've tried a few apps to manage TODOs for me, from the excellent personal information management facilities of the Palm Pilot to Things on the Mac, but I've tended to find such things restrictive. For a long time I had a complex OmniOutliner setup that also computed my timesheets with AppleScript, which suited me well; indeed, I've still yet to completely migrate all of the content out of that file (tricky now I no longer have a Mac, but I've looked at the underlying XML file and it seems reasonably parseable), and I think it still contains some notes about ARGON that I've not written up anywhere else!

However, I've had the most success with text files, adding hierarchic structure with headings, so it was fairly natural for me to try Org Mode one of these days. For those not in the know, this is an Emacs package designed to help you organise things with hierarchically-structured plain text files. You write heading lines prefixed with an asterisk, indicating the level of nesting by adding more asterisks, and Org helps by syntax-highlighting the header lines, hiding entire subtrees so you can see the large-scale structure, editing operations to cut and paste entire subtrees (properly adjusting the levels to match where you paste the subtree too), and so on.

But that's just the start. That's what it inherits from the Outline Mode it's based on.

What Org Mode adds on top of that is really hard to list. You can add workflow tags (TODO -> INPROGRESS -> STALLED -> DONE, for instance; you get to define your own little state machine), along with optional priorities, to mark some headings as tasks requiring attention (and obtain a report in the "agenda view" of all headings in certain states, ordered by priority, for instance). You can attach tags to headlines (and use them as filters in the agenda). You can attach arbitrary key-value metadata lists to headings (which are folded down into a single line, and opened up on request, so they don't clutter it), and use those to annotate things with deadlines, or scheduled dates, and have a calendar view in your agenda. Or use the key-value properties to filter the agenda view. Or have Org Mode automatically record a log book of state transitions of a task in the metadata. Or take metadata keys out and display them as extra columns in the hierarchy of headings, in a manner reminicent of OmniOutliner. You can embed links to other files that can be opened in Emacs; if it's an org-mode file you can link to a heading by a unique ID, or you can link to any old text file by line number or by searching for nearby text. There's a feature you can use, while editing any file, to create an Org-Mode heading containing text you are prompted for and a link to the place you were at in the file you were editing, timestamped, inserted under a specified heading of a specified org-mode file, so you can trivially create tasks referencing the file you're working on. Or you can embed executable elisp code to perform arbitrarily complex operations.

I'd been using Org Mode for a while, but I wasn't really using it properly; I had a whole bunch of .org files for different areas of my life, but it was sometimes difficult to fit things into the taxonomy. However, lately, I've had a big tidy-up of my home directory.

I've migrated old projects from Subversion or Git into Fossil, for a start, so now all of my projects - open-source ones at Kitten Technologies, and personal ones, are in their own Fossil repos, which means they have their own ticket trackers for their individual tasks. But each and every one of them has a heading in my new single file, which is a unified repository of things I should, or would like to, think about. Fossil projects have a single heading, tagged with "FOSSIL", that lists the place in my home directory where I have the repo working copy, and the URL of the master repository on my server; Γ…Β§his exists to prevent me from forgetting about a project.

I've migrated our long-standing home wiki (mainly a repository of recipies and other such domestic stuff) into the inbuilt wiki of the Fossil repo I already use to store documentation about the house, such as network configuration, a PDF of the plans from the Land Registry, and stuff like that; and the ticket tracker in that repo is now the domestic TODO list. Running the Fossil web interface for that repo off of the home fileserver means that Sarah and I can share the Wiki and task list. And I've configured the Fossil user roles so that anonymous users can't see anything too sensitive.

So in general I've moved as much as I can to Fossil repositories, combining versioned file storage and ticket tracking with a wiki as appropriate; and my exists to act as an index to all of them, and to store actual task list items for things that don't naturally map to a fossil repo, although I may find ways to deal with those as well (for instance, I have a fossil repo I use to store my org files, encrypted password database, household budget, address book, and the like, that I'm not using the ticket tracker on; that could be used as a place to put my general administrative tasks as tickets).

However, although putting tickets in the repositories that store individual projects is conceptually neat, and allows for third parties to interact with my task list for open-source projects on Kitten Technologies, it does mean that I have a lot of separate task lists. means I won't forget about any of them, but I still have no simple way of knowing what the most urgent or interesting task out of all of my twenty-five repositories is. That's not a great problem in itself, but the next logical step will be to use the automation facilities of Fossil to pull out the tickets from all of my repos and to add them into as tasks beneath the corresponding Fossil project heading (including the ticket URL so I can go and edit them easily), so I can see them all consolidated on the agenda view...

Part of this process which has been interesting, though, is digging out various old TODO lists (such as the aforementioned OmniOutliner file) and project directories scattered over archives of old home directories and consolidating them. I've found various projects I'd forgotten about, and neatly filed them as current projects or into my archive tree as old projects (and, oh, how I look forward to being able to put things like that as archives into Ugarit, automatically cross-referenced by their metadata...). Having brought everything together and assembled an index reduces the horrible, lingering, feeling of having lost or forgotten something...

Me Bucky Balls and All (by )

Knitted Bucky Ball

Thursday the 12th of July saw me at the Grain Barge performing geek poetry, throwing knitting and inflicting my sense of humour on people.

Science Equipment

We turned up and there was some classical science equipment set up - which is always 'ooooo do you think there will be fire and explosions and glowing stuff?'.

The show got started with the comedic Steve proclaiming he had super powers - he the guy who organises and entertains between the acts.

Super Steve at Science Show Off Bristol 2012

The first act was Jim Bell with his spiders which the brave Suze who is very scared of them, managed to hold momentarily with lots of squeaking.

Fear of Spiders Brave Suze Holding a spider

Then it was time for the fire and glowing stuff but alas no explosions πŸ™

Decian Fleming at Science Show Off Bristol Flying Tea Bag Glowing Science

Then it was on to Sophia with her set on why parents are so annoying.

Sophia Collins at Science Show Off Bristol Sophia at Science Show Off Bristol

At some point a red nose appeared just to remind me that Clowns exist shudders

Red Nose Steve

Then we had Joe Wright and a very funny sketch and video about Darwin - including all the mistakes in the video πŸ™‚

Joe Wright

Then we had Nicole Slavin and opera about STIs.

Nicole Slavin at Bristol Science Show Off singing science opera Nicole Slavin

We then had a break were instead of talking to the people who had come to see me I was hovering waiting for a laptop to work so that my first power point in 6 yrs could be shown and to make it worse it wasn't actually a power point :/

But then we had the Science of Cocktails and me being me I announced to the room that I like the frothy head :/ Which Suze who was doing the talk gracefully sailed over.

Science of cocktails Science Show Off Bristol

Then there was Sam Phippen with his funny stories of Robots that kids build.

Sam Phippen robbot dude at Science Show Off Bristol

Then there was me - I was so nervous

Sarah Snell-Pym Science Show Off Bristol

Here is the video

And yes I corpsed and yes I got flustered and yes someone nicked my knitted bucky ball!

Then we had a talk on Viruses!

Karl Byrne at Science Show Off Bristol

And then to finish off we had the halarious nerd rock of Mark Lewney.

Nerd Rock Mark Lewney and the geek guitar of win

Postcard Art (by )

As part of the Art Tournament mini festival in August there is a picture on a post card competition organised by Sabre Arts. Here are my two entries:

Seascape Postcard

Space Postcard

Jean did her own postcard though she is not old enough to enter, she decided to do a space theme too πŸ™‚

Jean's Space Post Card

The cards are going to be auctioned for charity after the comp is over :).

The Higgs Field (by )

The Higgs Field

This is a visual joke or pun about the Higgs field. It is in no way correct. I drew it last night and already this morning my little girl asks 'What's a Higgs Field?' so it's purpose has been served.

A Higgs Field is not the type of field where fluffy lambs play but it is thought to 'birth' the particles of the Boson family. These are sub-atomical particles but they are some of the ones that make up the sub-atomics you learnt at school. The Higgs-Boson particles are thought to be what gives all the other particles mass. Mass is what makes matter all clump together.

Matter is everything, so that is the atoms that make the stars, the atoms that make the Earth, the atoms that make you and me and Jeany and little baby Mary. All of it.

Without the Higgs everything would be wizzing around at the speed of light - they think. This was the idea they came up with 50 years ago, well specifically Peter Higgs did and he was told he was wrong but he kept going even though it is scary to be told you are wrong.

Now I'm still abit hazy on what is a field in this case and what is the particle so you may have to look that up yourself. (on that note guys are we talking probability fields and planck equations here? I'm a bit confused as the field is supposed to permeate the universe?)

The picture came from a friends facebook status were he gave his life sciences view on what had happened yesterday. I liked the imagery of a field giving birth to a particle and then I thought about the fact that yesterdays discovery had taken fifty years but like 3 of hard slog and that became the labour in my mind. Then I thought about the fact that they have found a Higgs-Boson and not the Higgs-Boson* and how annoyed anyone would be to have spent that long in labour and be told it wasn't over yet!

It is a shameless personification of something that can only really be visualised with mind bending maths and it is done as a joke! Honest guys don't shoot me πŸ™‚

p.s. I am not saying that the theoretical part before the collider wasn't hard slog but more that the physical aspect of the experiments fit better with the idea of labour!

Cornbury Sunday 2012 (by )

There are a lot of photos here, just click on any you want to see bigger πŸ™‚ (WARNING lots of CUTE)

Sunday Morning at Cornbury 2012 Sarah Snell-Pym in tent at Cornbury

Sunday Morning at Cornbury Music Festival loomed large and again I was the first to rise,s o I went to the lovely on site showers and then went and bought Kava Coconut milk from the brilliant site store and began making breakfast and stuff. Jean had instructed me not to run away again as she didn't like me being missing Saturday morning when she woke up!

Alaric and Mary playing at the campsite at Cornbury Baby Mary at the Campsite at Cornbury

Though the baby didn't stay over with us again as she is still so chesty she did have a good explore of the campsite πŸ™‚ Whilst her sister decided to roll down the hill in her sleeping bag - this is traditional for camps we are on. Last day come rain or shine she gets to find a hill and roll! This time she was disgruntled as I wouldn't let her go any further and there were spiky plants she was worried she would roll into!

Ready set roll! Jean sleeping bag and a hill Rollong down the hill

We didn't see the giant rainbow birds again but we did see some Road Rage Grannys ridding their shopping trollies - Jean thinks it might have been the same people just doing a new pretend.

Road Rage Shopping Trolly Granny Old ladies and shopping carts!

We had a go at Welly Wanging - Alaric almost won me a pair of wellies but the welly skidded half an inch over the line and it had to be the whole welly in the circle πŸ™

Alaric welly wanging at Cornbury Jeany welly wanging at Cornbury

Mary Mary not quiet a fairy, has lots of flowers you know! She also kept trying to run off with other toddlers which was fine until they got pushy as toddlers do and being small she was being bowled over by babies 3 months her junior!

A Mary flower! Mary how does your garden grow!

Alaric really wanted to make a fish as did I but Jean didn't so Al went and made one anyway but just the frame as we didn't want to be taking a gluey drying thing home with us!

Alaric making his fish at Cornbury

I love stilt walkers! This time it was a larger than life Lord who kept trying to join in the Morris Dancing!

A larger than life lord

Jean has a habit of finding people who will blow bubbles for her - this I found is quadrupled when she has her sister with her!

The girls watching Bubbles at Cornbury

We still could not find any childrens ear defenders so Jeany did not want to go to near the stages but that didn't stop her and Mary from dancing to the songs!

Dancing Polyps Jean and Mary and a giant cocktail umbrella

The girls loved the ribbon maze which Jean had spent large parts of the festival making as she did last year at the festivals!

Mary in the Ribbon Maze Ribbons at Cornbury Jeany and Mary in the Ribbon Maze at Cornbury

We liked the Morris Dancers especially as they had girl ones dressed in funky blacks highlighted with different colours and there was a Big Cheese too who actually had a cheese hat πŸ™‚ I had to stop the girls trying to join in, I spotted the symptoms - wiggling and inching forward in the hope mummy and daddy wouldn't notice. But big sticks and stomping feet wouldn't mix well with little girls so I had to be mean!

Jean and Mary inching closer to the Morris Dancers with a view to joining in The Big Cheese Cornbury 2012

Mary managed to join in the crafts this year - well painting - with just a little help. Jeany was so excited to be helping Mary to paint!

Jean and Mary painting at Cornbury Me and baby Mary doing crafts at Cornbury

There was one group of people running the most fantastic kids workshops! This was the Going Native one which Jean loved!

Native American Drumming Jean Drumming at Cornbury Drumming like the natives Drumming Indian Wacky Stick Rhythms learning the beat Going Native Workshop

She even made a bow and arrow which she got a bit annoyed with having done actual archery - there was a feather and no knock on the end of the arrow. No arrow rest she could cope with but no knock....

Jean and her bow and arrow

Here is a pic of my family festivaling it πŸ™‚

A pile of festival polyps

I ran the sock puppet making so Jean made several - this is her with one of her creations whilst wearing her angry birds hat from Wychwood Festival.

Jean the angry bird at Cornbury Jean and sock puppet at Cornbury

And then after face painting and candyfloss and Jean winning a badge from the Qi elves for her question about recursive acronymes (it was her own question too! I was relieved that it was a different set of people to the ones I'd asked my question off!). It was time to go - with me moaning about a certain Will Young who's lovely voice was mullering once again, one of my favourite songs - warrble warrble - how much warrble? rolls eyes.

Packed up to go home

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