Book logging in Emacs

I’ve kept a list of books I’ve read as a plain text (well, technically, Markdown) file for years. I wrote about it here . The public version is rendered using Github Pages at books.baty.net . This is fine, but at some point last year I also started logging books in an Org mode file, just to see how it felt. It felt pretty good!

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I need a new film scanner

My Epson V750 Pro, purchased in 2009, has scanned thousands of rolls of film, slides, and prints. After making strange grinding noises recently, it has finally ground to a halt.

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Searching Org-roam files

Org-roam is “A plain-text personal knowledge management system” using Emacs and Org-mode and I put nearly all my notes in there. While it’s easy to find notes in org-roam based on filename, there’s no obvious way to search the contents of notes. Weird, right?

I could use the default projectile search, but my org-roam files live within my main ~/org directory, so the results are littered with all my other org documents. I’d prefer to only search in ~/org/roam

I use a simple lisp function to help with this. It uses consult-ripgrep:

(defun jab/search-roam ()
 "Run consult-ripgrep on the org roam directory"
 (interactive)
 (consult-ripgrep org-roam-directory nil))

I added a keybinding for it to my other org-roam bindings:

(map!
 "C-c n f" 'org-roam-node-find
 "s-u" 'org-roam-node-find
 "C-c n i" 'org-roam-node-insert
 "C-c n t" 'org-roam-dailies-goto-today
 "C-c n d" 'org-roam-dailies-capture-today
 "C-c n c" 'org-roam-capture
 "C-c n s" 'jab/search-roam               ;; <-- my new keybinding
 "C-c n l" 'org-roam-buffer-toggle)

Now, with a quick C-s n s I can search my org-roam files using the blazingly fast ripgrep .

If there’s a better way to do this, I’m all ears.

The West Wing Productivity System

The last time I rewatched “The West Wing” I was once again impressed by how good people were at their jobs. How productive everyone was. I wondered how I could be that productive.

I noticed that the entire process used by the staff seemed to be carrying around folders full of paper and barking things like “Get me the file on senator Jones and the notes from our briefing!” Within minutes they would be perusing a bunch of photos and papers scattered about a desk and they’d develop a plan right then and there. Awesome!

So, I started organizing all of my projects in manilla folders. One folder per project. I called it the “West Wing Productivity System”. I’d print meeting notes, mindmaps, emails, etc and put them in the appropriate folder. I kept a single summary sheet clipped to the inside with contact information, summary info, budgets, etc.

Whenever I needed to work on a project, I’d grab the folder, spread its contents across my desk, and get to work. It was nice knowing where everything was. It was nice being able to see everything at once, if necessary. (I had a big desk).

On the other hand, it was a pain when I needed to share something with colleagues. Search kind of sucked. And if I happened to be at home without the proper folder in my bag I was screwed.

It was fun for a while, but this was nearly 10 years ago. I still use folders, just not quite so deliberately. Just for the hell of it, I’ve brought back the system for some of my home projects. There’s not a lot of risk and I get to shuffle papers around again like I’m Josh’s assistant or something.

The kinds of portraits I prefer…Judith Joy Ross, for example

I recently read Joe McNally’s book, The Real Deal: Field Notes from the Life of a Working Photographer . While I found his anecdotes occasionally interesting, I didn’t really enjoy the book. I think this was because I don’t much care for McNally’s photographs. Here’s one of his portraits.

Photo by Joe McNally

There’s no question that McNally is a talented photographer with a powerful work ethic and serious technical skills. His portraits, however, leave me uninspired. You know the style. Creatively lit with a handful of Speedlights, carefully arranged backgrounds or sets, wardrobe and makeup people, etc. The kinds of photos that get a shit ton of likes. This style is not for me.

Now, Judith Joy Ross , on the other hand, makes deeply moving, personal portraits while wandering around with an 8×10 view camera. I wasn’t familiar with her work until recently. I mean, just look at these…

Photo by Judith Joy Ross
Photo by Judith Joy Ross
Photo by Judith Joy Ross

Simply fantastic work. I just ordered her new book: Judith Joy Ross: Photographs 1978–2015 .

Comparing film and digital: Mom

I had lunch with my parents recently and took a few photos with both my film and digital cameras. I shot about the same number of photos with each camera, with close to the same number of “keepers”. Which do I prefer?

Here I’m showing one of each, digital and film, of my favorite from the visit.

Film: Leica MP (HP5 Plus)
Digital: Leica M10-R (B&W conversion in Silver Efex)

I prefer the film image. I manipulated the digital shot in Silver Efex Pro and added a bit of grain to try and get the look I like, but I still prefer the film image.

The difference might be partially due to using the 50mm Summilux on the MP. It’s my favorite lens. The digital shot was with the 35mm Summilux. Also a great lens, but lacks that certain “something” of the 50.

I don’t think the lens difference explains it, though. A large part of what makes me prefer film photos is just knowing they’re film photos. That means something to me, and influences how I respond to an image. One could probably use a decent HP5 preset on that image in Lightroom and I wouldn’t be able to tell it from a film photo in a blind test, but I don’t view my images that way. I know how they were made, and it matters.

Additionally, I can make beautiful silver gelatin prints of the film photo in my darkroom. That’s important, too.

I’ll probably always shoot both film and digital, but more often than not I prefer the results I get from film.

Some unremarkable pens the Internet made me buy

I’m an impressionable young man, and when I notice someone on The Internet raving about something, I want to feel that way, too. I often order whatever that thing is, only to be disappointed. For example, here are a few of the pens I bought after being told how remarkable they are. They’re not that remarkable.

Publishing portions of my Org-roam database

I’m trying something new.

I’ve become a pretty heavy user of Org-roam  for personal notes. I put nearly everything there now; technical notes, contact information, project notes, vendor info, etc. These notes are all nicely linked and backlinked and live in my main ~/org directory so I can easily find things right within Emacs.

A portion of these notes might be useful to other people. So I’m exporting the shareable notes from Org-roam as Hugo -compatible Markdown files. This turned out to be surprisingly easy. You can see the results at https://notes.baty.net and the details of how it works makes a good example.

I’m sure there are a dozen ways to do this, but this seems to work quite well.

Aligning comments in Emacs

I want my per-line code comments to line up nicely, so I’ll often add a bunch of spaces by hand to make things just so. I realized that, being Emacs, there must be an easier way to handle this. Of course there is.

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Configuring the org-download save directory

When I drag and drop an image into Emacs, I want the attached file to end up in ./img/YYYY/. This is how I tried configuring org-download in my setup (I use Doom Emacs):

(setq org-download-method 'directory
        org-download-image-dir (concat "img/"  (format-time-string "%Y") "/")
        org-download-image-org-width 600
        org-download-heading-lvl 1)
(setq org-download-method 'directory
        org-download-image-dir (concat "img/"  (format-time-string "%Y") "/")
        org-download-image-org-width 600
        org-download-heading-lvl 1)

For some reason, org-download-method was being reset from 'directory to 'attachafter loading, and this broke things. I thought maybe I needed to set the variables afterorg-download was loaded, so I did this:

(after! org-download
  (setq org-download-method 'directory
        org-download-image-dir (concat "img/"  (format-time-string "%Y") "/")
        org-download-image-org-width 600
        org-download-heading-lvl 1))

That didn’t work. At startup I was seeing this error:

Error (org-mode-hook): Error running hook “org-fancy-priorities-mode” because: (void-variable org-download-image-dir)

Huh. I guess not everything can be set after org-download, so I tried only setting org-download-method

(after! org-download
  (setq org-download-method 'directory))

This worked. The other settings are done in the (after! org block.

It feels like I have to fight Doom too often, but the details and refinement of Doom is worth the trouble.