Insomnia and Thoughts

It’s 1:28 am. I can’t sleep. I also can’t do anything productive because I should be sleeping.


That being said, man, I’ve really been neglecting this blog. A guy has two kids, a wife, and a fulfilling job, and he just abandons his blog.

Honestly, writing in this blog is something I very rarely think about. What I do think about are my hobbies.

I have a Raspberry Pi Zero with an e-paper hat and battery set up on my desk that I’m trying to come up with an idea for. One idea is a display of the most recent tweet from my Twitter feed. It’s not useful, but it might be entertaining.

Another is a display of upcoming meetings. I work from home now and sometimes don’t pay attention to the time. Outlook’s reminder has a bad tendency to pop under the VM I’m working in. I’d need to look into the MS Office or Teams API to get the event info I need for that. I could even wire in flashing LEDs or a speaker to alert me.

The last idea is just a clock with weather info. I’m not a fan of that one.

These thoughts have me wondering now: Is it possible to host VS Code on the pi and remotely access it to write the code directly on it? Just point a browser at https://[ipaddess:port] and see vs code there with the pi’s local display project, ripe for editing?

The things my brain locks onto instead of sleeping. Fun ideas, but I need sleep. C’mon brain, be tired.

??= In C#

C# has had the null coalescing operator ?? For a while now. It lets you condense

if (x = null)
y = x;
y = otherThing;


y = x ?? otherThing;

It’s a great tool for both condensing code and improving readability.

I found out recently though that C# 8.0 expanded on that idea. There is a common design pattern of caching a computed value in a variable so you only have to compute it once.

private int? _Example = null;
Public int? Example
if (_Example == null)
_Example = ComputeExample();
return _Example;

This isn’t that bad. It works. But it’s tedious to write (especially on mobile like I am now for this post). Enter the null coalescing assignment operator.

private int? _Example = null;
Public int? Example
return _Example ??= ComputeExample();

I love it!

Things I’m Enjoying

Hello there. It’s been forever since I’ve actually kept a blog. Even this one I haven’t done anything on. Some people at work asked me about a reusable notebook I had, so I posted a short description and a few links to it. I have been lost on what to put up here, but then the it occurred to me, why not just do a post about things I’m enjoying right now. Heaven knows we need more joy in the world right now.

Tales Of Vesperia

I have not played a single game in the Tales series that I haven’t liked. They are an anime styled RPG series of games that is very heavy on story and character development. I’ve greatly enjoyed the near constant interaction between the characters. Every RPG has cut-scenes that move the story along, scenes that play out like a movie, but this game has a bit more. For example: at the end of every battle is a little sound bite from one of the characters, and sometimes a conversation. What’s more, these scenes evolve over the course of the game. You even see growth in how the characters treat each other in these interactions

Then there are the skits. The skits are optional cut-scenes that are fully voice acted and animated with character portraits. A notification with the title of the skit will pop up and you can hit a button to trigger it. These skits range from random conversations between characters, to characters talking about the area they’re in, to reactions to what just happened in the story. There is a bounty of character growth in these optional scenes alone. They can be funny, heartfelt, sad, contemplative, and many other adjective filled descriptions. I just don’t want to stop seeing them.

These characters are deep and the story is strong. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I’m not going to put it down until I do.

Galaxy Tab S6

I just got this tablet on Monday and boy do I enjoy it. It’s small and light, and the stylus interaction is spot on. They were on sale on Samsung’s site, but that looks to have ended.

Years ago I had a Dell Venue 8 Pro with a stylus and it was my note-taking machine. OneNote on there was a dream. I’ve found that I can focus better on a task if I have the chance to actually write about it with a pen and paper. The problem with that though is that I wind up with a lot of hand-written notes and very little organization. Enter OneNote and searchable handwriting. What a difference that made! Then it all fell apart. I got a larger tablet with a larger SSD and I found it didn’t fit in my workspace like the smaller Venue 8 Pro did. I rejiggered things, but it just wasn’t the same. Eventually, the active stylus started acting wonky, the tablet actually started falling apart… I switched to paper again, and then the Rocketbook note-book.

I have been pining, longing, for that experience I had with the Venue 8 Pro again. I agonized over what I should get, but I’ll spare you the details. I settled on the Tab S6 and this thing is nice! It offers a very smooth and clean Android experience and OneNote works like a dream. And OneNote’s sync is faster than I remember it being. I had a notebook up on my desktop, and on the tab and seconds after I wrote it on the tab, it was on the desktop! I loved it.

The writing experience is top-notch. Palm rejection works perfectly and the feel of writing is like a very smooth pen. Like the finest of gel-ink pens. I haven’t tried gaming on it yet. I’ve downloaded some of course, but Tales is my main gaming focus right now. I might do a full review of the tab at some point in the future, but for now, I like it a lot.

Minecraft + Hermitcraft

I was sick with suspected Covid-19 (not high-risk enough to warrant a test and vitals were too good for hospitalization), so to protect my family, I was living in the basement. That was not fun. Shortly before that though, my wonderful wife convinced me to set up a Minecraft server (Java edition, not Bedrock) for my son to play with us on. This server saved my sanity. And Hermitcraft gave me the motivation to play on it.

If you’re not familiar with it, Hermitcraft is a series published on YouTube by a group of people who play Minecraft together. Think of it as a reality show within a game made from the view-points of all the participants. Each one has their own YouTube channel and they document their builds, interactions, games, and pranks played with/on other players. It is funny, sometimes exciting, and intriguing all at once. My favorites to watch right now are Grian, Mumbo Jumbo, and GoodTimesWithScar, but I’m also starting to watch XisumaVoid, Iskall85, and FalseSymmetry. Grian and Mumbo are excellent entertainers. They know what content makes for good watching and skip the boring stuff and get right to the action. Some other hermits will show them just mining or rowing a boat as they ramble, but the ones mentioned have great editing skills and know how to entertain.

In any case, Minecraft was how I could interact and play with my family. My son or wife would play on my wife’s laptop in the living-room and I’d talk to them on the phone. We’d watch the Hermitcraft episodes “together” (at the same time on different screens) and talk about them after. It was great fun. Now that I’m over this disease, we’re playing side-by-side. I have plans for building up a Tron like area, but first my son and I are looking to build a slime farm.

I’ll likely write about more things at a later date. For now, that’s it.

Everlast Rocketbook

The Rocketbook Everlast line of reusable notebooks are reusable notebooks with an app that lest’s you scan handwritten notes to many different locations including OneNote, Everlast, Dropbox, Onedrive, an e-mail address, etc… They’re like small whiteboards that allow you to easily take notes for whatever you want, and then have it filed away exactly where you need it to be.

Executive size is the one I like. It’s 6″x8.8″.

There are also the Letter 8.5″x11″ and pocket 3.5″x5.5″.

These require you to use Pilot Frixion pens and markers:

You can erase these with a damp cloth or paper towel. There are also cheaper microwavable versions, but they only work a few times per page.