rstidyman (Richard)

This started out as a facebook post but then edited it and put it here.

I’m contemplating this morning why so many people are so unhappy and their lives are so unproductive. Only as children are we victims of circumstances. I believe however with age, we have the choice and responsibility to put on our adult panties and take complete responsibility for who we become. Some will…some won’t. Some do so while young, for others it is a long tough life long struggle. Image result for lethargy

What I have read, and now believe is that one becomes what you focus on, think about, etc. Everything we expose ourselves to and participate in shapes us. Hang out with lowlifes, guess what. We begin to act like and even look like the people we hang out with. Hang out with haters, bullies, cheaters and con artists, that’s what one learns.

Hang out with creators, makers, movers and shakers, and you learn, and often get asked to ride along. It is more challenging. It is more risky. It requires some vulnerability, a willingness to fail. But it is oh so worth it.

I started reading and researching happiness when I was pretty miserable back in my 20’s. I learned “if it is to be, then it is up to me”. Read books. Listened to audio tapes…cassette tapes that is. Changed my beliefs. Changed my thoughts. Changed my habits of thinking and doing. Changed who I hung out with. As scary at times as it was, I tried new things, made new friends, some of which I am still friends with 40 years later. Tried lots of different jobs, some lasted a day or two, others for a few years. Moved from Cleveland to Kent, OH. Along the way, also visited and lived in multiple places like DC, Pittsburgh, Vermont, Maine. Eventually, moved to NC. Now TN.

To a certain degree, my choices were the safer ones. The life on the edge never appealed to me. I skipped the drugs, heavy partying, and risky behavior. A few disappointments along the way of course. Stayed in school. Then dropped out, then back when I knew what I wanted to study.

Back in the day, it was Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, Wayne Dyer, Steven Covey. All very very successful and seemingly happy. It wasn’t spiritual, but more formulaic. Formulas were safe. For the spiritual stuff, I turned to psychic and mystical authors, e.g., Ruth Montgomery, Jane Roberts, and others. I tried traditional religion and upon closer inspection, it couldn’t answer the logical questions and didn’t meet my spiritual needs.

Finally, about 10 years ago, someone recommended Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”. Her research brought together everything I knew from before and provided the basic most fundamental ingredient for finding the joy, joy, joy down in my heart, and the peace that passes understanding, and the strength to carry on, to do the scary stuff. Here it is. Self worth. My lack of it hindered me along the way. To the degree that I have understood it and embraced it, my life has flourished.

In retrospect, it certainly has been an adventure. Three colleges. Two college degrees. Taught in 12 different schools over the course of 27 years. Tried selling cars. Failed. Tried selling insurance. Failed. Tried working in a factory. Hated it. Tried selling satellite dishes, nutritional supplements, and air purifiers. Mostly failed. Waiting on tables and teaching seemed to be the best fit. Excellent waiter. Pretty good teacher. Teaching is a moving target and hard to know how effective one is. I did the best I could.

One can make excuses or one can get on with it. There is no shortage of information, i.e, suggestions on how to grow, excel and make a life. Information is more readily available than ever. It isn’t fast. It isn’t easy. It is a long slow forward moving journey. Good friends make it easier. Good luck. You are worth it.

My friend Stuart sent this to me as a comment on Facebook..thus, making it public and free to the world.  Try it, you’ll like it.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Through the wall chimney kit
Wood stove through-the-wall chimney

My greatest joy this winter has been getting our old wood stove into our "new" place! Yes, we dragged our darling Jotul from Virginia then let it sit in the corner for two years before installing. Instead of boring you with the vacillating in the middle, how about I skip to the happy ending?

Through the wall kit

Rather than building a new room or piercing a non-leaking roof, we opted for a through-the-wall kit. My top takeaways from this project:

  • Despite warnings on the internet, a horizontal stove pipe didn't mess with our draft all. The stove starts and runs just as delightfully as it did in Virginia.
  • Heat output with the wood stove in the middle of the room is even greater than we saw with the same stove in an alcove. Our little Jotul easily heats the open central half of our trailer (about 400 square feet) while burning on medium or low.
  • Creosote is more tricky. Make sure the horizontal part of the interior stovepipe isn't really horizontal and instead slants slightly down toward the stove so you don't end up leaking black goo in unwanted places.
  • The price tag was higher than expected because Amazon's through-the-wall kit requires triple-walled stovepipe once you get through the wall. It might be worth paying the higher price for Lowes' through-the-wall kit so you can use slightly cheaper double-walled stovepipe (available locally) instead.
  • On the other hand --- safety first! We're very pleased to find that the outside of the thimble (black part that goes through the wall) isn't even warm to the touch.

Are we glad we did it? The cats and I are basking in the radiant heat, our inside temperatures are 15 degrees higher than the minisplit managed, and the electric bill is $100 less per month. At that rate, it won't take too long for installation to pay for itself.

(Short answer: yes!)

git-annex devblog (Joey devblog)
day 617 remote config parsing continued

This has been a big change, I'm now 3 days and a 3000 line diff in and I finally got all the remote configuration settings converted to the new up-front parsing.

Seems like quite a lot of work, since the only user-visible improvement is these error messages:

# git annex initremote demo type=directory directory=../foo encryption=none foo=bar
initremote demo
git-annex: Unexpected fields: foo

# git annex initremote demo type=directory directory=../foo encryption=none exporttree=true
initremote demo
git-annex: Bad value for exporttree (expected yes or no)

But this involved paying down technical debt in a big code base, so of course it was expensive.

Anyway, it should now be relatively easy to implement git annex initremote --list-params-for=S3

git-annex devblog (Joey devblog)
day 616 remote config parsing

I'm in the middle of a big change to internals. Remotes have buried inside them a string-based configuration, and those settings are only parsed when they're used, so bad configuration is often ignored rather than being detected when the user inputs it. The parsing is moving to happen upfront.

This is something I could not have done when I first wrote git-annex, because the values that get parsed have many different types, so how can a single Remote data type contain those, whatever they are? Now I know how to use the Typeable class to do such things.

rstidyman (Richard)
Emotion Hacks for Healthy Eating

My sister share an article the other day that relates to changing ones’ habits to increase health and well being (aka “diet”).  A little rough to follow but here is what I got out of it.

He says “Instead of putting our noses ever closer to the grindstone, he advocates relying on so-called social emotions—gratitude, compassion, and pride—to get things done. These emotions, he says, naturally encourage self-control and patience.” Willpower will fail by itself, and your rational thinking.  Mental fatigue kicks in, and the desire to feel good in the present throws the future out the window.

I’m all about understanding the emotions that contribute to unhealthy addictions.  I think there are so many principles from AA that come into play, and for us serious overeaters, it is an addiction, based in our emotions. For me, childhood emotions that used food to sooth the isolation and hopelessness. And when I feel a isolated now, I head for the cookie jar. One day at a time. Easy does it. Maybe you can suggest some more?

Consider this.  Maybe your beliefs and emotions are different than his cookie cutter approach.  But what if you could identify what really matters for you, and what your emotional strengths are, and then use those for changing your health habits.  TA DAA!!!  Here it is.  the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. helps you identify your greatest strengths.  If you can find a way to use your greatest strengths at the task at hand, i seems you will enjoy it more and be more successful.

My results show:

My Top Strengths:

  • Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith.
  • Humor and playfulness
  • Fairness, equity, and justice
  • Gratitude
  • Forgiveness and mercy
  • Curiosity and interest in the world
  • Creativity, ingenuity, and originality

My emotional hack?  Focus on how this health regimen journey has multiple purposes, physical, practical and spiritual.  Make it fun, practice gratitude for small accomplishments, go easy on myself, seek out new ways to go forward, and explore ways to make it work for me.

Finally, I’ve used this other personality test to identify strengths AND weakness (aka areas needing improvement) to understand what and how to do things to be more effective and enjoy it more too.  I’ll spare you my details but give it a shot.  Reading it is like having a friend tell you all the wonderful things about you…and those areas of needed improvement.


All for now.  Feedback is welcomed.




git-annex devblog (Joey devblog)
day 615 new year

The release of git-annex with all the ByteString optimisations went out earlier this week. The Windows autobuilder was down and I didn't try to get it building on Windows, so fixed that today, luckily all those changes only broke a few bits of Windows-specific code.

Also today, I added git-annex add --force-annex/--force-git options. These do the same thing as -c annex.largefiles=anthing etc, but are easier to type and may avoid some tricky git behavior in some edge cases.

I'd kind of like to get back to v8 this month and perhaps release it. There's a v8 branch now, which as well as the sqlite changes adds a new annex.dotfiles config setting, and cleans up the special cases around adding dotfiles. Anyone not using git-annex to manage large dotfiles (or files in dotdirs) won't be impacted, but those who do will need to enable annex.dotfiles and configure annex.largefiles to match the dotfiles they want annexed. There is a risk that someone who's in the habit of running git annex add .dotfile to add them to the annex will be surprised when the new version adds them to git because they've not done the necessary configuration. I'm still mulling over whether this is an acceptable risk to mostly de-uglify and de-special-case dotfiles.

2020 hindsight

(Someone stumbled upon my 2010 decade retrospective post and suggested I write a followup...)

This has been a big decade for me.

Ten years ago, I'd been in an increasingly stale job for several years too long. I was tired of living in the city, and had a yurt as a weekend relief valve. I had the feeling a big change was coming.

Four months on and I quit my job, despite the ongoing financial crisis making prospects poor for other employment, especially work on free software.

I tried to start a business, Branchable, with liw, based on my earlier ikiwiki project, but it never really took off. However, I'm proud it's still serving the users it did find, 10 years later.

Then, through luck and connections, I found a patch of land in a blank spot in the map with the most absurd rent ever ($5/acre/month). It had a house on it, no running water, barely solar power, a phone line, no cell service or internet, total privacy.

This proved very inspiring. Once again I was hauling water, chopping wood, poking at web pages on the other end of a dialup modem. Just like it was 2000 again. Now I was also hacking by lantern-light until the ancient batteries got so depleted I could hear the voltage regulator crackle with every surge of CPU activity.

I had wanted to learn Haskell, but could never concentrate on it enough. I learned me some Haskell and wrote git-annex, my first real world Haskell program, to help me deal with shuttling data back and forth from civilization on sneakernet.

After two idyllic years of depleting savings, I did a Kickstarter for git-annex and raised not much, but I was now living on very little, so that was a nice windfall. I went full crowdfunding for a couple of years. After a while, I started getting contracting work, supplementing the croudfunding, as git-annex found use in science and education. Both have continued ever since, amazingly.

I was free to do whatever I wanted to. A lot of that was git-annex, with some Debian, and some smaller projects, too many to list here.

Then, mid-decade, I left the Debian project. I'm still sad, still miss everybody, but I also think, had I not been so free, I would not have been able to leave it. It had driven most of my career before this point. I was lucky to be able to leave Debian. 💧

Adding to the stress of that, my patch of countryside was being sold out from under me. I considered moving to some city, but the income that's freeing here would be barely getting by there. Instead, I bought the place, using git-annex income, plus a crucial loan from a wonderful friend.

That changed how I dealt with being offgrid. Before it was an interesting constraint, something to adapt to, an added texture to life. Now it's all of those and also a source of inspiration and learning. How to install solar panels on a roof. How to wire things to code. Circuit design. Plumbing. Ditch digging. With my offgrid fridge project, things are feeling interdisciplinary in ways my work has not been before.

From here at its end, this decade feels both inevitable and highly unlikely. Now I feel.. comfortable. Settled. Surely older. More unsure of myself than ever really, nearly everything is more complicated than I used to think it was. Maybe a little stuck? But not really.

I'm planting fruit trees, something says I will be here to enjoy them. But times are getting beyond interesting. Anything could be around the corner.

rstidyman (Richard)
Thanks to a Broken Present

Dec. 29 A.M. Thoughts

father-son-argumentOn Facebook,  two of my friends were arguing back and forth about Trump. One friend is in his late 50s. The other friend is a former student, and is now  18 or 20 years old. One is extreme right wing, repeating the right wing talking points and childhood indoctrination. The other, a more independent, liberal and well-read. But the thing that struck me most was that the older gentleman said he had been a conservative Christian for 50 years of his life.  Something, maybe Trump, made him re-evaluate. But why did he wait 50 years to change his beliefs. 

I about how I came to the place of where I am and what I believe. I’ll admit, I’m “out there”. Reading and listening to a variety of viewpoints, I have pursued and chosen the beliefs I have.  They will continue to change with new information. 

My question to you is: Why do you believe what you believe?

Back in my 20s, I would listen to a guy named Brian Tracy and others on cassette tape. He had a list of “Ten  Beliefs of Peak Performing Men and Women”. It is so powerful, that I made it into a poster and put it in my classroom, and would often refer to it when talking with students. Number five was the hardest  to explain. It reads: “Your beliefs are a choice.”

Ask most middle school or high school kids what they believe and they will say “That’s just the way I was raised.”  But adults who have had time and ready access to information from all over the world?  Many will still say “Well I don’t know. I’ve always believed that way. I was raised that way.” And in my head I’m thinking really? You’ve got a God given brain and it’s never occurred to you to question the information that’s been rammed down your throat since you were a kid?”

If someone were to ask me one what I thought was one of the most important idea or principle,  I would say this. Your beliefs are choice. 

And how does one change your beliefs? We often hear “You become what you think about.” You train your thoughts and your beliefs through repetition through conscious effort. I gather information from multiple sources. I observe. Listen. Read. Feel.  One’s beliefs I’m told are nothing more than a thoughts one keeps having over and over. Choose carefully what you listen to, as the pattern will sink in.  I consciously listen to TED talks with uplifting positive messages, and sometimes information that challenges my beliefs.  If it is news, I’ll skim the more reputable news sites.  That excludes Fox and the Drudge Report. 

Why change?  I needed to.  I grew up thinking life sucks. I now think life is a precious gift. I used to think life was a zero-sum game, a win/loose proposition, a scarcity mentality perspective where there is only enough for some but not all. I now believe in in abundance. There’s enough for everyone (if distributed equitably). No need to hoard or stash away huge amounts of wealth.

choice of attitudeIf you choose what you read, listen to and watch, then you choose your beliefs. Your attitude, your mood, and your reactions to life’s challenges follows suit.  I think that when I practice gratitude consciously, like the last thing I do when I go to be, or think when I wake up,  it becomes a habit.


We were opening Christmas presents. Overflowing stockings were hung  on the fireplace mantel. The 10 year old desperately wanted to pass out stockings. The father said “be careful, don’t drop them.” I was cringing slightly because I knew in the bottom of one stocking was a coffee cup. Ceramic. And not well cushioned. The first stocking was distributed successfully. The second.  The third stocking holding the ceramic cup was dropped onto the marble hearth. It crashed. It broke. There was no question in my mind that this cup was irreparable.

For a brief moment, I cursed under my breath. I wanted to blame and judge, frustrated that the child had not been better supervised or instructed. And then, my practicedthought  took over. I said outloud “Everything is as it should be.”  Also, “ There are lots of valuable lessons to learn here.” The father commented that he should have explained how to hold the stockings so they wouldn’t be dropped. Good lesson. My lesson, if you’re going to put ceramic up into a stocking, cushion it more thoroughly and don’t put it on the bottom. 

broken cupIronically, molded into the side of the cup was a single word. Gratitude.  Thank heaven it wasn’t something more expensive that hit the marble. Thank heaven it didn’t land on the 10 year old’s foot. Thank heaven, it can be easily replaced. Thank heaven nothing else broke. And thank heaven for all these wonderful, generous people who gather on holidays to express appreciation and love for one another.

If you find yourself quick to judge,  quick to express a negative emotion, consider the idea that emotions and attitude are a direct result of your beliefs, and  your beliefs are a choice. Beliefs may not be easy to change but it is an option. what you choose to read and watch is yours to decide. And beliefs follow suit.

beliefs of peak

In case you want to make your own poser:

Beliefs Unique to All Peak Performing Men and Women

  1. Winners are not born. They are made.
  2. The dominant force in your existence is the way you think.
  3. You can create your own reality.
  4. There is some benefit to be had from every hardship.
  5. Each one of your beliefs is a choice.
  6. You are never defeated until you stop trying.
  7. The only limits are ones that you impose.
  8. You have the potential to excel in one key area of your life.
  9. There can be no great success without great commitment.
  10. You need the support of others to achieve your goals.




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