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The ongoing quagmire that is iTunes Catalina Music.app

So, the latest issue with iTunes is that for whatever reason it’s stopped letting me actually play in a shuffle-from-library way. Which is to say, they got rid of the view where you can just see your whole library as the library, and click a “play” or “shuffle” button from there. I don’t know when it disappeared, but I know it used to be there, and now it isn’t.

It used to be that if you just had your view set to “albums” and pressed play anyway, it’d go ahead and choose something at random to play. But today it just kept on doing the same album: The Bends by Radiohead. Which is, granted, a great album, but I don’t know why it was choosing that one and that one alone, and I only felt like listening to it once, you know?

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OctoPrint et al

So, my main reason for wanting to get a Canvas Hub was to have easy one-click print support that works with the Palette; after playing with Slic3r a bunch last night I then realized I also wanted OctoPrint for its print queue functionality to decouple the print process from Slic3r (which turns out to be rather unstable at times, at least on the Mac). But it turns out that Palette’s OctoPrint plugins work with plain ol' OctoPrint, too. So I looked into building an OctoPrint node… and then realized I was overcomplicating things, since OctoPrint doesn’t actually need dedicated hardware1 — it just needs to be on a computer that’s physically close to the printer and has multiple USB ports available.

My desktop computer is physically close to the printer and has multiple USB ports available.

So I looked to see if OctoPrint runs on macOS, and yes, it does; there’s nothing Linux- or ARM-specific about it, as it’s all written in Python. The macOS-specific guide is an okay starting point, but I saw a few things that could be a bit simpler, so here’s what I settled on.

(Also note that these directions should also work for Linux and even Windows users! There’s no reason to build an OctoPrint hardware node if you already have a computer that lives nearby your printer!)

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The printer arrived!

So my new 3D printer arrived today. I went with the Artillery Genius, since it seemingly had the best blend of features and physical characteristics.

So far I like it, although wow the out-of-box experience could be a lot better. Not from the printer so much as from the software that drives it.

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Normalcy returning?

My symptoms have mostly cleared up, so I went out to get some cat food and cat litter. At the store everything seemed like it was back to normal; the crowd wasn’t quite as massive as usual for a Sunday afternoon, but the shelves were, for the most part, well-stocked. The canned beans section was still somewhat depleted (but there was still plenty to go around), and paper products and bottled water were back to normal stock levels. Hand soap was a bit scarce (and there was a “limit 5 per order” sign prominently placed there) and hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol were completely out. I didn’t think to check the rice section, though. Anyway I did end up buying some more hand soap since I’m running low. Just the usual amount1 I’d need for a reasonable amount of time, of course.

And while I was feeling up to it I finally got around to doing a Sodastream canister exchange at Bartell’s. I only went to the Sodastream section and also picked up some of their actually-sugar-based-we-mean-it raspberry mint syrup2 so I didn’t check their product availability myself, but while checking out the cashier handled a phone call and said, “Sorry, we’re out,” and then after hanging up said, “If I had a dime…”

Masking symptoms

This morning my prescriptions finally came through (I don’t know why they weren’t available same-day as they were filled, but whatever). So I donned one of my N95 masks (which I happened to have on-hand from years of preparedness around summer wildfires) and headed over to the drug store next door, to pick those up as well as some other medical things.

Unsurprisingly, the pharmacy didn’t have up-to-date insurance information in their system, and my prescriptions — a short course of prednisone, a prescription cough suppressant, and a steroid inhaler — came to around $450! When they updated with my new insurance it came down to $50, mostly for the inhaler. Even that’s a lot for a lot of people to handle, and I can’t imagine trying to afford these things without insurance. We need universal healthcare, already.

Also I dislike wearing the mask in public. People look at me like I’m either a paranoiac or like I’m one of the people who’s been hoarding necessary medical supplies that could better go to others. But I am very specifically in the category of people who are supposed to have and wear masks — people who are symptomatic and/or high-risk for infection! (I happen to be both.)

The pharmacist was completely okay, but I also went to get a few other things (cough syrup, thermometer probe covers1, nasal rinse saline2, stuff like that) and the cashier was a bit… weird to me about the mask.

Yesterday when I was walking to the doctor and back I made extra-sure to cough audibly whenever people looked at me funny.

Which reminds me, I still need to get a cane for when I’m having a pain flareup and want people to not give me dirty looks when I sit in the priority seats on the bus.

I hate that so much of illness has to be performative. Can’t people just, like, assume that people only take what they need? Then again, the massive hoarding of masks and hand sanitizer just indicates that people generally don’t, and that’s a big part of the problem.

But, whatever. I have my meds and I have no real reason to leave the house for a while. Well, except I need to buy more cat litter and I have a bunch of coupons that expire tomorrow anyway. Maybe I’ll just go maskless and cough on everyone. That’ll learn ‘em.

Ironically, when I wear the mask outside I don’t need to cough as much, because the air inside it is warm and moist.

Everything has to be sweet

So part of whatever this is I have is muscle pain, and my doctor directed me to take 1000mg of acetaminophen up to 4x daily. So I bought acetaminophen at the drug store just now, and the only non-expensive version they had was these “cool capsule” versions with an “instant cooling sensation.”

Which is to say they are cloyingly sweet and have a hint of mint flavor.

Of course the sweetness comes from an artificial zero-calorie sweetener which will probably end up giving me a headache.

Why the heck does everything have to be super-sweet? Maybe we wouldn’t need artificial zero-calorie sweeteners in pretty much everything if we didn’t have this expectation that everything taste like candy all the time.

I don’t know how it is in other countries but at least in the US we seem to have forgotten how to taste things. Everything’s loaded up with sugar and super-sweet. And so we have zero-calorie sweeteners to reduce the amount of sugar (instead of just reducing the amount of sugar in things that didn’t need sugar in the first place), and then we have sugar taxes to incentivize people away from sugar.

When I want to reduce my sugar intake, I generally do so by not eating sugary things. Yeah, I have a tendency to keep too much candy and snacks and so on around and I could stand to remove more from my diet. But it’s hard to avoid sweets when everything is sweet. And now I’m left with the horrible aftertaste of acesulfame potassium in my throat, this pernicious coating of not-sugar that just feels gross.

I just wanted some fucking Tylenol, man.

Prognosis: good

Just got back from the doctor. She says I definitely have a virus but it’s probably not COVID-19; I probably have one of the many other emergent respiratory viruses that’s going around, many of which also cause the symptoms I’m feeling. Notably I’m not having any signs of pneumonia, which is what I really need to look out for.

She prescribed me prednisone and inhaled steroids and says I should continue to self-isolate (of course) but otherwise I don’t really have anything to worry about. Of course I should go back if things get worse and keep her in the loop about any changes.

Incidentally, I am quite pleased with One Medical so far. They were super-friendly and compassionate, and they asked my pronouns and are elated to call me “fluffy.” It’s annoying that this kind of healthcare is only really available if you’re able to spend $200/year for concierge care, but I’m glad to be in a position where I can.

I mean, Kaiser was pretty okay! But they still felt bureaucratic and, well, HMO-ish. (And they were still better than any of the major care clinics/hospitals in Seattle, like Swedish or, worse yet, Virginia Mason…)

Anyway. Folks were asking for updates so here’s the update.

Current status

My shortness of breath has gotten somewhat worse, and my peak flow is around 400 L/min, which is somewhat lower than my average healthy level.

I had a video visit with one of the nurse practitioners at One Medical and while my symptoms aren’t severe enough yet that they think I need urgent attention, they do want me to come in this afternoon for a secondary screening so they can check out my lungs and see what’s going on with my asthma, at least.

Despite the current administration’s advertisements, there’s still no test kits available, and they’re not expected to be for a couple weeks. This h*cking country, am I right? And the CDC still only care about suspected direct exposure or people who have themselves traveled internationally, despite the growing epidemic and the fact that almost none of the confirmed cases (including deaths) fell into those categories.

If this were just an asthma flare due to a cold they’d be putting me on prednisone (which is a standard course of treatment which works well for me), but they’re concerned about the immunosuppressant effect if I do have COVID-19.

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Using multiple GitHub accounts from a single macOS/Linux account

Let’s say you’re stuck working from home due to an ongoing apocalypse. Let’s say that you use separate GitHub accounts for personal projects vs. work (for one of any number of reasons), and that when you’re working from home you’re using a personal computer. Let’s say that for Reasons it’s not feasible for you to juggle multiple user accounts on said computer, and you need to be able to access both of your GitHub accounts without a lot of hassle.

The main problem is that GitHub ties your ssh key to your account (out of necessity), but all connections to GitHub are via the master git@github.com account, so there’s no easy way to differentiate which key to use at runtime.

So, here’s how I managed to set things up so that I could select a GitHub account on a per-shell basis.

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Living in a future ghost town

Pretty much all of the tech companies (mine included) have moved to a “work from home unless absolutely necessary” policy. We’re all suddenly getting into a remote-worker mindset — which I think is a long-term good thing, but it’s jarring. Looking out my dining room window I still see a typical amount of foot and car traffic for this time of day, but there’s an air of desperation and paranoia. Maybe I’m just projecting though.

My own symptoms have all but cleared up. I do have a persistent ache in my back and shoulders, which I’m not sure if it’s attributable to this mystery illness or is simply my fibromyalgia flaring up as always. My temperature is back to normal. I’m still coughing on occasion but it’s infrequent, and it’s gone from dry to productive. My shortness of breath is… well, still lurking, but doesn’t feel like an impairment at the moment. I’m still glad that I have a pretty strong reserve of albuterol, all the same.

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Health update

I took a sick day today, because I was feeling very much under the weather, and had a mild fever and a bit of a cough. I rested up a bunch and I’m feeling a lot better now. Still slightly short of breath. So I’m probably going to continue to work from home for the next few days at least (a shame, I really want to try out my new chair which finally arrived today!) and if I hear that COVID-19 test kits are both reliable and available I’ll probably see about getting tested, even if it doesn’t progress any further than this. I’m also going to skip my drawing group this week.

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Cold in a hot zone

So, COVID-19 has made it to Seattle, and there’s been enough localized outbreaks that people are absolutely flipping out because of it. Store shelves have been cleared of nonperishables, paper products (especially toilet paper!), hand sanitizer, face masks, and bottled water (even though there’s been absolutely no concerns about our water infrastructure whatsoever and this is only causing problems for people who need to, like, fill their CPAPs and humidifiers and whatever).

Hospitals are completely overwhelmed and unprepared, and there’s no test kits to go around. I have people shouting in one ear about how terrible everything is and how we’re all going to die, and people in the other ear saying how everyone who’s overreacting is being silly and there’s no reason for anyone to do anything differently.

Somewhere in the middle, I am concerned about the pandemic, but also about what this will do to this city while everyone’s in a panic.

And meanwhile, I’m coming down with something. I don’t know if it’s my usual winter cold, or something worse; I don’t think I’ve been in a situation where I’d have been exposed to COVID-19 in particular, but for the past few days I’ve had persistent shortness of breath, and today I started feeling nauseous and came close to vomiting; not a typical COVID-19 symptom but not without precedent either.

I contacted my new doctor about it and they gave me the usual CDC guidance and that if I’m feeling ill and haven’t been directly exposed to coronavirus I should come in for an exam, and if I have possibly been exposed they can do a video visit to get a better idea of what’s going on. Meanwhile I had a hot shower and some toast and fried eggs for dinner and I’m feeling somewhat better. Not great, but better.

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Disabled dark mode for now

Ugh, I really want to support dark mode (it’s a big accessibility win!) but right now my stylesheets are such a mess and Isso does a couple of aggravating things that makes it hard to correctly do dark mode themes. Namely that it provides its own inline stylesheet that is difficult to override correctly (without just throwing the whole thing out and remaking it from the ground up).

I wish more things used CSS variables by default – they’re very well-supported now and make it a lot easier to reason around themes. One of these days I’m going to get around to redoing all my stylesheets and use them for all colors and probably for most of my sizing.

Time to upgrade my printer

So, I’ve had a Makerbot Replicator Duo since late 2012; I bought it used at a significant discount (“only” $1200!) and it’s served me pretty okay. But over time, better, cheaper printers have come along, and my Replicator has gotten pretty unreliable. Actually it’s been pretty much hobbling along for the last several years:

  • The heated print bed stopped heating, due to it shorting out due to a well-known design flaw in the print bed connector1
  • One of the last firmware updates made it only compatible with Makerbot’s own proprietary software, which was very soon discontinued to upsell newer Makerbot versions
  • The left extruder stopped working at some point; the right extruder barely works
  • The hot end really needs new nozzles but the design is such that replacing the nozzle is very easy to crossthread/ruin the hot end2
  • And really it’s never been all that great, it was just pretty much the only game in town when I bought it

So anyway, yeah, this upgrade is long-overdue.

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Caffeine acclimation

I’ve mentioned before how I used to self-medicate my undiagnosed ADHD with a trickle of caffeine until I started getting anxiety problems from it. I’ve also mentioned how post-diagnosis I’ve had trouble finding a medication which has worked for me, and I’ve tried slowly reacclimating myself to caffeine during periods between medications.

At my new job we have a pretty decent automatic espresso-drink maker, and out of curiosity I’ve tried slowly consuming one coffee drink over the course of each morning, and so far that’s actually working pretty well for me. Inasmuch as it’s not giving me a panic attack. It hasn’t really helped me with my focus, but maybe this is a sign I can try having more and maybe it won’t make me feel like I’m going to die!

I’m not about to start slamming the energy drinks or anything, but still, I’m glad that I’ve at least been able to get back a thing that’s been missing for the past decade.

Visit some hydroelectric dams!

Remember the AR startup? I’m still involved enough to be happy that our latest app, powAR, is out, and ready to possibly educate and entertain you about hydroelectric dams.

This was a fun project to work on. My main contributions were animating and educating the fish. And editing some drone footage. That was fun too.

Unlike our other AR apps, it does require an ARKit or ARCore-compatible device, so on iOS it needs iOS 12 and at least an A9 CPU (so at least an iPhone 6S, iPad Pro, 5th-gen/2019 iPad mini, or 7th-gen/mid-2019 iPod Touch), and on Android it needs… whatever the confusing device matrix works out to be there.

Anyway. I won’t be as involved with WORKSHOP 3D going forward (at least, I’m hoping my new job does well for me!), but I’ll still be around to give them advice from time to time and I am looking forward to seeing what else they make.

New store page

I finally got around to making a better store page. It’s still not great but it’s better than just linking to either my Threadless or Storenvy or whatever, and I’ll be able to backfill a bunch more of my items into it eventually.

There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to change of course, but this at least gives me a hook to setting up my own PayPal/Stripe/etc. cart as well.

Anyway I’m glad that Publ is in a state where it’s gotten easier and easier for me to make new sites from scratch with it. And I also released a new version of Publ with some shiny new features.

Ghost phone update!

I finally got around to trying out the OBi WiFi adapter today, and while I had great difficulty getting it to connect to the network, once I did, it worked like a charm.

Then out of curiosity I tried connecting it back to my regular landline and… it was able to work just fine, and it saw no backfeed at all. Meaning it was probably just having trouble due to moisture from all the rain or something, and the OBi WiFi wasn’t necessary after all.

So, I tried out the HT502, and that was also able to work just fine, and was able to make an outgoing call via pulse dialing!

Incoming calls still don’t ring quite right because as far as I can tell there’s no way to configure it with a 30Hz ring, but setting it to 25Hz gets the clapper to vibrate enough that I could theoretically tune the bells to work well enough (just more quietly). That’ll have to wait until sometime tomorrow when I’m not likely to wake up neighbors with the sound, though.

Of course if I could get the HT502 to ring at 30Hz that would be even better… I did finally find someone selling what purports to be a standard AE90 ringer and I’ve asked them for more information (like a specific part number) to see if that’d work for me. I’m not holding my breath for a response but it’d be really cool if that ends up working.

Update: The seller got back to me and confirmed that it is an AE90 ringer at the standard 20Hz. So I’ve ordered it. Another $40 spent on this silly project, oh well! It’s fun.