Jeremy Cherfas: Posts

Jeremy Cherfas

Monthly report: March 2020

Hard to believe that this time last month I wrote “just another month. … Covid-19 had no impact.” Then came the lockdown. I didn’t even mark the date, just got on with it. I was immediately surprised by how well Italians were taking it, with orderly lines outside the open shops and supermarkets and no empty shelves inside. Truth be told, for me, personally, there honestly hasn’t been that much change. I can’t walk in the park, and when I do walk, which I must, I tend to circle around near to home. Meeting people on the streets, both parties generally take evasive action, which is easy as there is very little traffic on the roads. I’ve rapidly become bored by all the advice being given to home workers, first time cooks and all the rest of it, but I realise I am enormously privileged. I expect we’ll be here at least another couple of weeks, probably more, and all bets are off for the summer.

Highlights of the month:


Weight unchanged, sleep unchanged. Stability is not always a good thing.





A new big project came in at the end of the month, which is nice. Less Admin and more ETP is always good to see.

Hours logged per month

Percent of logged hours: 2020

Previous years are on an archive page.


Eight new posts in February! And three old ones, which were:

And in connection with that last one, I wonder whether it is possible, or even a good idea, to resurrect those “you’re it” blog chains. I do believe I will. Try.


None, really. I updated Grav, as I hoped to, but haven’t pushed the button yet. It should be almost unnoticeable when I do.

Final remarks

The lockdown has not been nearly as awful as it might be, and we’re still perfectly healthy, as far as we know.

Here's the table

Click the triangle to see or hide the table
Month Total Daily Admin % ETP % Other %
03 164 7.50 38 27 35
02 129.0 6.50 45 17 38
2020-01 89.25 5.25 48 19 43

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 19:00:00 +0200


That was totally enjoyable, and I have no idea why I didn’t try it before. I wanted to watch a new documentary film, and I wanted to watch it in the company of a friend who is equally interested in the topic. So we fired up the film, got onto a Google Hangout together and just did it. And you know what? It just worked.

I half expected there to be technical difficulties but there were none. The hardest part was syncing when we started and paused the film -- three, two, one, pause -- and even so we were only a couple of seconds apart by the end. This wasn’t pure entertainment either. I’m hopeful it will bear podcastable fruit in a little while.

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:44:00 +0200

Cabin fever

As we enter the third week of lockdown, the restrictions are beginning to get to me. Not that I am any kind of gung-ho athlete, but I do like getting at least a couple of walks in every day, and some more strenuous cardio exercise two or three times a week. That’s been out of the question for about a week now, with the parks shut and cyclists liable to be stopped.

This cuts in another way too: my podcast queue is backing up fast. That’s because I find it hard to listen indoors. Podcasts deserve my attention, and they don’t get it if I am doing something else, like cooking or hanging up the laundry. I listen on my walks. No walks, no listening.

Advice in the past couple of days has been to walk or run around the block, more or less, but that seems pretty tedious. So this morning I adopted a new regime. I’ll walk around the block for one or two podcasts. It went well. I was out, getting a bit of exercise, and trimming my queue. If I do that two or three times a day, it will be like being able to do my normal morning walk.

I’m still not sure I understand why the parks are closed, but I hear that people were gathering too close to one another in the parks. I’m a bit surprised by that, because when I went to the supermarket on Saturday everyone was very patiently standing 2 metres and more apart. I was in line for about an hour and a quarter, during which I enjoyed the sunshine and three shows; 99pi, Shortcuts and The Automators. Very diverse.

When I got in, the supermarket was very orderly. All the shelves were fully stocked.1 Some people’s trolleys did seem awfully full, and I confess I bought twice the number of tins of tomatoes I normally buy, but by and large things were calm. Even the cashiers seemed less stressed than usual as they did not have a large queue waiting for their services. We can probably restrict supermarket visits to one every couple of weeks as long as the wonderful greengrocer round the corner stays open, although the queue is a great way to reduce the podcast queue.

Still no clear idea of how long this is going to be, but I’m mentally prepared for at least another 6 weeks.

  1. I hear there’s a Great European Yeast Shortage, about which I need to do something. 

Mon, 23 Mar 2020 10:30:00 +0100

Trying hard to be antifragile

Thinking about risk and prediction recently, especially after listening to Talking Politics on Superforecasters. The takeaway from that was that the more you can distance yourself emotionally from the outcome, the better you are likely to be at both estimating probabilities and adjusting them in the light of new information.

On that basis, a friend and I decided yesterday to postpone an event we had both been looking forward to for months. We were to have done it in late May. We’re re-thinking maybe September. I’m really sorry to have made that decision. I also think it is the right decision, which mitigates the disappointment.

As a result, I was primed to read Alex Danco on Antifragility. Talking Politics had pointed out that resilience requires overcapacity, that if you are going to able to cope with unforeseen events, then normal events are going to leave resources “idle”. Danco explains clearly that antifragility is not the same as resilience or robustness. Antifragility actually requires disorder — unforeseen events — to flourish. Without the disorder, it stagnates.

For a fragile system, an unexpected event is uncertainty. It doesn’t know what to do.

An antifragile system treats uncertainty as information (in the sense of reducing uncertainty, because it tells the system what to do) and responds appropriately.

Danco uses the immune system as one example, and extends the idea to how countries are responding to the coronavirus. It’s unexpected, for sure. Countries like Singapore or Switzerland, according to Danco, treat the outbreak as information and respond properly, titrating their response against new information. They are antifragile. The US, by contrast, treats the outbreak as uncertainty, and is shown to be fragile.

Feeling less fragile here.

And even less so after reading Thomas PM Barnett’s latest post: The coronavirus reminds us just how connected our world is, how there’s no going back, and how this is the nature of crisis in the age of globalization

Tue, 17 Mar 2020 15:30:00 +0100

Why are the parks closed?

We’re almost a week into the lockdown here, and until Saturday morning there was almost no change from my normal life. Work from home? Check. See hardly any living souls in the flesh? Check. The new rules made life a little difficult. The lack of a morning cappuccino is hard, but bearable. Standing two metres apart outside the supermarket and the small local grocery stores likewise. As I’ve told anyone who’ll listen, the Italians are demonstrating the pure Blitz Spirit while my fellow Brits are pure Dad’s Army.

On Saturday morning I was astonished to find the local park closed. According to the Mayor of Rome, the nice weather is encouraging people out into the parks, which would become too crowded. This is absolute nonsense. First of all, the park is absolutely huge. More importantly, being in the fresh air is possibly the safest place to be, especially if you are not too close to anybody else.

I went for an urban stroll instead, armed with my official form in which I self-certified that I was out of the house “for reasons of health,” which is pretty ironic in its way.

Yesterday evening it really struck me how much this one small change had affected me. For the first time, I felt really depressed about the whole business. I need my walks, morning and evening. They are what make working at home doable. It isn’t just the exercise or the change of scene, because the scene on my walks remains the same, bar the changing seasons. No, it is something deeper than that, something about over-reacting, something about not understanding what at least some locked-down people need.

This morning I went for a ride along the Tiber, which was great for blowing out the cobwebs, and I have felt better today. I almost got off my bike to remonstrate with a couple walking hand-in-hand. For God’s sake, don’t they realise what a danger they are to each other?

One thing I can’t and won’t do on the bike, though, is listen to podcasts, so that backlog is growing. And my bum hurts. But I think a ride every couple of days might do the trick.

Mon, 16 Mar 2020 17:30:00 +0100

Bise workflow

It has been three weeks now since I first ran Bise on my logfiles to see who and what had been popping in here to take a look. It’s a bit of a faff, for a whole variety of reasons, which start with my host keeping only a couple of days worth of logs. That means I have to download the logs daily. And my host’s naming convention is different from the one Bise expects. Rather than play with Bise, it is easier to rename the files. And then there's a whole lot of to-ing and fro-ing.

Anyway, although it seems complex, in that there are many steps, those steps individually are not too arduous, so I am happy to go through them manually. Ultimately, of course, it would be great to automate everything and have it Just Work™.

Until then, and with a view to helping me understand what automation would entail, here is my ...

Bise workflow

  1. Is it Sunday afternoon?
  2. Open A Better Finder Renamer 11, where there is a preset called bise logs
  3. Go to /Users/jeremycherfas/Dropbox/jcn-logs
  4. Copy 14 items
  5. Go to /Users/jeremycherfas/bise/jcn-logs
  6. Paste 14 items
  7. Rename most recent log file, e.g. access.log.2020-03-14 to access.log
  8. Drag 13 dated access logs to ABFR 11 and Rename All
  9. Open /bise in Terminal
  10. Run /Users/jeremycherfas/bise/bin/bise jcn-logs/access.log*
  11. Marvel at the data returned
  12. Select and copy data from Terminal and append to file jcn-logged.md
  13. Select all access.log files and move to a new folder labelled 2020-03-15
  14. Go to /Users/jeremycherfas/Dropbox/jcn-logs
  15. Select 7 oldest files and delete them
  16. Wait until next Sunday and repeat.

Sun, 15 Mar 2020 15:57:00 +0100

A complete mystery, mysteriously solved

Yesterday, I came home from a walk, during which the person who helps clean the house was cleaning the house, to discover the groovy lights under my keyboard breathing heavily.

I have never shown the slightest interest in the groovy lights under my keyboard. I’m not even sure I knew they existed. This was odd.

A broken orange keyboard covered in dirt

The keyboard, I should add, is a delight, a Varmilo VA87/Mac. I know it can also be switched for use on Windows, but I had never done so, and the manual in English is sketchy at best. I tried a couple of things, and nothing worked, and I hated the lights shining up at me every time I looked down.

Then I noticed that my keyboard shortcuts weren’t working. I don’t have many, but the ones I do have I love, and they’re firmly embedded in muscle memory. So that was a drag. Worst of all, ⌘-TAB no longer allowed me to cycle through open apps. In fact, didn’t seem to be working at all.

There were other strangenesses too, none of which made any sense. I was floundering. I uninstalled and reinstalled various things. Logged out and logged in again. Even shut down and restarted. Changed back to the old keybaord, and it worked perfectly. Nothing. Online searching turned up a load of sites that didn’t help me, until I found Fix keyboard input not behaving properly in OS X on CNET. And that contained this very salient piece of advice:

[T]he first thing to do is determine if the problem is happening in your user account (a step that is part of a basic troubleshooting routine).

Duh. I should have known I was missing something simple. So I cranked up a new user, logged in, and everything worked as expected. So, it was a problem with my user. I ritualistically went through most of the other steps in that article, and finally lit upon the idea of using the keyboard viewer to see what was going on. (I had tried using Karabiner-EventViewer but to be honest, it offered a bit too much information.) It turned out to be relatively simple. ⌘ and ⌥ had somehow got inverted -- I still don’t know how -- and after a bunch of back and forth, things now seem to be how they were yesterday morning. Which is nice, not least because it will save me having to relearn all that muscle memory.

I still have no real idea what happened, or what actually solved the problem, but I do think I am going to unplug the keyboard, or even shut down, next Tuesday morning.

Photo by lost places on Flickr

Tue, 10 Mar 2020 18:30:00 +0100

They’re not dead!

Very strange, but for two days straight my log files have not shown anyone coming here for a post that couldn't be found. Is this a sign of success, or of increasing irrelevance?

Anyway, I did eventually find something that couldn't be found, and brought it in. And it triggered all sorts of nostalgia and a surprising realisation.

The post was my response to being meme tagged, or whatever we called it back in the day. That, dearly beloved, was a technique bloggers used in the old, independent days, to engage with their online friends. You'd think of something silly to say, then challenge some of your online chums (you were probably on one another's blogrolls) to do the same and challenge their friends etc etc until the whole world had said something silly.

Does that still happen? Could it happen again?

And the realisation?

Every one of the blogs I mentioned in my post is still alive and still at the same domain.

Mind you, only one of them is anything like current, but all of them could be, if they chose to be.

And they say blogging is dead!

Also posted on IndieNews

Sat, 07 Mar 2020 15:00:00 +0100

Monthly report: February 2020

Just another month, really, which has flown by. There've been some warm harbingers of spring and some icy, damp reminders of winter. Paid work has been fine, although I seem to have lost control of keeping my podcast pipeline flowing. A bit more deliberately active. Covid-19 had no impact on the month, although I have had to cancel one brief trip in March.

Highlights of the month:


Weight down a bit, sleep up a bit,





Chugging along nicely, after taking it easy in January. The drop in Admin and ETP reflects a bit more paid work, which is also nice.

Hours logged per month

Percent of logged hours: 2020

As promised last month, I have relegated previous years to an archive page.


Only four new posts in January, one of which was a bit of a cheat because it mainly drew attention to some of the six (pathetic) older posts I brought in. They were:


None, really, except for this strange inability to fill the podcast pipeline. I ought to update Grav too.

Final remarks

I've got a lot to do this month.

Here's the table

Click the triangle to see or hide the table
Month Total Daily Admin % ETP % Other %
2020-01 89.25 5.25 48 19 43

Wed, 04 Mar 2020 13:06:00 +0100

Working life

An archive of some of the data I have recorded about how I spend some of my time.

Percent of logged hours: 2019

Percent of logged hours: 2018

Here's the table

Click the triangle to see or hide the table
Month Total Daily Admin % ETP % Other %
2019-12 96.1 6.9 16 28 56
11 154.1 8.1 63 18 19
10 96.5 4.5 37 19 44
09 128 6.1 33 28 39
08 110 3.1 38 37 25
07 58 2.9 22 21 57
06 75 3.75 38 18 44
05 145 7.25 40 2 58
04 128 6.4 37 28 35
03 158 7.5 44 28 28
02 121 6.0 32 42 26
2019-01 95 5.4 39 13 48
10 100 4.2 41 34 25
09 131 6.5 45 23 32
08 185 8.0 14 85 1
07 68 5.25 25 63 12
06 96 5.75 34 9 57
05 151 6.0 36 20 44
04 159 7.5 29 29 40
2018-03 152 7.0 20 10 70

Wed, 04 Mar 2020 11:05:00 +0100

Page created: Fri, Apr 03, 2020 - 09:05 AM GMT