My Grandma’s 100th Birthday

My grandma was born 100 years ago today. Unbelievable. She left this world in 1998 but my parents, as well as my aunts and uncles, have done a great job preserving her legacy. Here is a little note my aunt sent out this morning:

One hundred years ago today Mom was born. Sometimes I wish I could share something with her. There is so much in my life for which I could thank her.

I like to remember her creativity, her skilled hands, her devotion to her children, her ability to teach us to work and what a hard worker she was. She loved beauty and music and pleasing people with her cooking. She could make a piece of meat tender and tasty. She could turn an old house and horrible kitchen cupboards into a welcoming home. How often did we hear “it’s a reasonable facsimile” as she made something for us.

To my younger siblings I should apologize because Don and I probably benefited most from the vigor of her youth. She stenciled T-shirts for all of Don’s softball team. She sang in church and around the house. She dressed dolls for me. She gardened and canned and froze vegetables, not to forget the chickens and the rabbits and other animals.

You younger ones home was like a 3-ring circus with the garden, the food preservation plus a garbage business being run out of the kitchen with drivers there morning and night, Don’s musician friends, my high school friends and parties, plus your sports and activities and Mom at times was just plain worn out.

But again, cherish the good times, the popcorn and Pepsi, and devotion of our parents (in their own way). Remembering Patty’s poem: “We shared lots of secrets, the same Mom and Dad. We shared lots of good times, don’t think of the bad. Our memories we’ll cherish with love without end. I’m glad you’re my sister/brother. I’m glad you’re my friend.”

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

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Weaponized Clickbait & AllAdvantage

But chances are you won’t know what you’re getting before you click. Today, a single-digit percentage of readers will click through a link in an “Around the Web” module, compared to 0.1 percent who will click on a traditional banner ad. But banner ads once had high clickthrough rates themselves. Over time, readers learned that banners rarely led to anything good. At Outbrain and companies like it, there’s an existential fear that their own products could suffer a similar fate. Speaking of the company’s ideal customer, LaCour says: “We want to make sure that she’s happy and she’s delighted. If we as an industry continue to try to clickbait her, and she’s not happy after she clicked, then we’re all screwed.” (LaCour says Outbrain strives to recommend only high-quality links.)

There's a very interesting story about weaponized clickbait over at The Verge about those crappy links you seem to see at the bottom of every news story. I've been shocked at how cheaply you can buy a major publisher's journalistic integrity. Whenever time I see that on a news site, I find myself grouping that site into a HuffPo or TMZ level of integrity. Then I usually go take a bath.

The article reminded me of companies like AllAdvantage. I had an account with them to get paid for banner ads to show at the lower portion of your screen. Unfortunately I never made a cent from that.1


  1. I probably never made any money from that because 1) I had no one under me and 2) I had some program that hacked the system to remove the ads. 

Down with Homework?

Down With Homework!

On top of causing stress, more homework means kids have less time for other activities. There’s less opportunity for the kind of learning that doesn’t involve traditional skills. There’s less chance to read for pleasure, make friends, play games, get some exercise, get some rest, or just be a child.

This argument would be more compelling if kids really were going to read, play games, or exercise instead of doing homework. The more likely outcome would be more consumption of brain-deadening media.

High school teacher Leslie Frothingham watched her own two children struggle with enormous quantities of homework in middle school. The value of it never seemed clear to her. “What other ‘job’ is there where you work all day, come home, have dinner, then work all night,” she asks, “unless you’re some type A attorney? It’s not a good way to live one’s life. You miss out on self-reflection, community.” Thus, when she became a teacher, she chose to have a no-homework policy.

Also, does Ms. Frothingham not know anyone in the professional world? In today's workplace many, many people have to work in the evening.

I was really disappointed by this article. I'd hoped it'd be a little more well argued.

Making a SearchLink TextExpander Snippet (and Some Troubleshooting Too)

While I’ve been sitting around the house the past few days on paternity leave, I’ve gotten eager to fiddle with something. I decided it was time to create a TextExpander snippet that I’ve been meaning to make for a long time: turn the different search operators for Brett Terpstra’s SearchLink service into a snippet. Brett has built an amazing set of Mac OS X services for writing in Markdown. He also built SearchLink, which is a way to quickly make markdown links without having to go and navigate to a million different sites. I’ve always loved the service, but have found myself not using it very often because I have trouble remembering the search operators. So today, while my 21 month old daughter was down for a nap, I started my work.

Everything was going great. I entered all the different search operators I thought I’d use. I never plan to use App.net, define, or Last.fm operators so I left those out. After figuring out how to handle the "optional search text", I had my snippet working. It was time for a test run.

I tried to do a simple search:

[great iPad calendar app](!itu “fantastical for iPad”)

hoping to see a markdown link that would look something like this:

[great iPad calendar app](https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fantastical-2-for-ipad-calendar/id830708155?mt=8&uo=4&at=11l8rP&ct=searchlink)

But, instead I kept getting this:

[great calendar app](http://lifehacker.com/5833969/the-best-calendar-app-for-iphone)

I went back through all of Brett’s instructions. At first I thought that I’d forgotten to install the Xcode Command Line Tools on my new Macbook Pro. So I logged into my developer account and downloaded the Command Line Tools (OS X Mavericks) for Xcode – March 2014 because the xcode-select --install command wasn’t working from the command line.

Next I tried to make sure that I had the JSON gem installed correctly, so I ran the old sudo gem install json. That kept returning errors for me, so I figured that I might be running into an problem with it parsing my search wrong and then doing a fallback to the Google results. I spent about an hour doing various searches through StackExchange trying to figure out how I could fix my Ruby troubles. Finally, I gave up on that.

Then I read that I should install the Command Line Tools (OS X Mavericks) for Xcode – Late October 2013 because of some sort of deprecated functionality in the 2014 tools. I tried that and while that appeared to help some of my Ruby errors (I could now get the JSON gem to install), it was still throwing off errors like:

unable to convert "\xCF" from ASCII-8BIT to UTF-8 for lib/json/ext/generator.bundle, skipping
unable to convert "\xCF" from ASCII-8BIT to UTF-8 for lib/json/ext/parser.bundle, skipping

I figured those errors were what was causing the issue, so after about 2 hours of fiddling (including some permissions repairing, holding a newborn in one arm while trying to update Ruby, and another incident involving a serious poopy diaper from my 21 month old) I decided to just go and ask the developer, Brett, if he had any ideas.

Brett was gracious to do some troubleshooting with me. He told me that I shouldn’t be getting any results if the JSON gem wasn’t installed and that he was running stock Xcode Command Line Tools and the version of Ruby that came with OS X Mavericks. He ran the exact same search on his machine and got the correct results.

That got me thinking that I needed to go back to the basics. I started looking at making sure my search was EXACTLY the same as his. Then, somehow, it hit me: I’m using smart quotes. You know, those beautiful little quotes with the rounded edges.

Yes. Those. I lost almost 3 hours of my life to those dang things. They are gorgeous and they are a killer in Markdown.

Lesson learned: DO NOT USE SMART QUOTES IN MARKDOWN!

So with that figured out I was finally able to test my little TextExpander snippet properly. And it works beautifully. I’ve already used the snippet a fair amount in writing this post. I’m hoping that it will be a crutch until I can simply remember the search operators. Until then, happy expanding!

Download the SearchLink TextExpander Search Operator Snippet here.

A note to those on iOS: this snippet doesn’t work well with apps that sync to TextExpanderTouch on iOS like Drafts, Editorial for iPad[1], or Byword because it uses the pop-up menu. That feature is only available directly in the TEtouch app. Not to mention SearchLink* is a Ruby script and as far as I know, you can only run Python scripts on iOS.*


  1. Although Editorial developer Ole Moritz ported SearchLink to Editorial so as long as you can remember the search operators, you’re golden.  ↩

Music Monday – Weaver At The Loom’s Before Now, Was Then

For years, my friend Beth has been telling me to check out Weaver At The Loom. Thinking back on it, she has been telling me this since before my wife and I were married, so it has been going on 7 years that I’ve ignored her earnest pleas. I had tried to get into their first album, I Was Searching And I Was Found, but I never found it compelling.

So I don’t remember what triggered me investigating their newer album[1], Before Now, Was Then, but I sure am glad that I did. There is so much to like about this album, from the etherial keys to the major gaps in percussion on some songs, it’s refreshing to hear. There’s a lot in this album that reminds me of TJ Hill’s Tortilla Factory which I wrote about here.

But what’s deeply drawn me into this album are the lyrical themes. Here are two of my favorites:

  • We are to live life to it’s fullest
  • That we are aliens on this earth

I Feel Good, (Great, Wonderful)

One of my favorite books is Death by Living by N.D. Wilson. As I’m rereading this book, I’m continually reminded of how God has not called us to live in safety, but to pour ourselves out (Phil 2:17) for His sake. I love to life my life safely. I’m not crazy about a bohemian lifestyle or going with the flow. I love to plan. I love the safety that comes with planning. And yet, I feel more and more like I want to throw away all my plans for my life and just life a life obedient to Christ and where he calls me. My aforementioned friend Beth’s sister Beki used to have a quote in her AIM profile (remember those?). At the time I just chalked it up to being a very “Beki” quote. Now, as I’ve delved deeper into parenthood and realizing more and more how everything is by grace alone, it has come back into my mind:

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd

Lord, help me sail out of the harbor. So as i’ve been listening to this Weaver album, the song I Feel Good, (Great, Wonderful) has stood out to me because of this line. Make it so, Lord!

But life is meant to be consumed

Not preserved to ward off doom.

Oh one can surely die from fear,

Before the end is ever near.

Dozens of Us (Dozens!)

This song starts with a guitar part that reminds me of something. I can’t remember what, but it’s hauntingly good. The guitar tone is just perfect. And then the lyrics come in. Again, Dan Smith nails it on the head:

But if you talk like they do

You’ll be ok

And if you walk like they do,

There will be no shame.

Oh man I’m living in Rome,

And it does not feel like home.

Don’t wanna do as the Romans do.

The more time I spend trying to pour my life out, the more I feel disconnected from this world. It doesn’t feel like home. It isn’t home. It is merely a shadow. A beautiful shadow, but a shadow nonetheless. Pair this with Underoath’s Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape and you will find yourself on the floor yearing to be united with Christ. Until then, we wait patiently for His return.

Liked the two songs? Go buy the entire album like I did and support a struggling musician.


  1. To call it an album is rather generous, since it is only eight songs long.  ↩