Mark Grealish

the life and code of a crazy cat man


A hot new look

in the website

I changed the site’s layout because I didn’t like the old version. Along the way I fixed a good deal of shit code and poor design decisions. Gone is any compatibility with Internet Explorer.

https://github.com/bhalash/sheepie-theme

Sheepie: old lookSheepie: new look

Off the top of my head, I:

  • Removed KnockoutJS in favour of a teeny jQuery pub/sub model.
  • Removed convoluted avatar code added to test a client feature.
  • Streamlined my assets manager. It is not much clearer how you can add your own Sass and JavaScript assets.
  • Streamlined the Gulp build chain with an npm script: npm run build
  • Removed all IE9-11 compatibility. The hooks for you to include your own code remain.
  • Gave Sheepie the hip new look you enjoy today.
  • Broke up most of the CSS and made it even more modular.
  • Moved the theme to a 100% mobile-first layout that uses my @media query manager.
  • Broke out modal elements from the header.
  • Removed several filters wrapped around WordPress actions.

I think we were burgled

in me

I’m confused as fuck.

  • On Wednesday our lodger reported that €150 missing from her wardrobe.
  • On Thursday I discovered somebody had stolen from my change jar. They took only the €1 and €2 coins.
  • On Friday, after a lot of talk, our lodger reported this to the Gardai. We had a 10pm visit from two detectives.

Who did this? The lodger? The landlord? An old tenant? Our lodger had means and motive, but not opportunity. Our landlord had means and opportunity, but not motive. The tenants before us had the house for four years and now won’t even collect their mail.

The other alternative is that our lodger raided my change jar and lied about her own missing money. My heart and my head both say that isn’t her because this is just too much effort for such a tiny return. I lost maybe €50 at most, and I wouldn’t even have noticed if our lodger hadn’t put us on alert.

The robbery has scared Eadaoin and stumped me. We’re worried a former tenant has access to the house is using it to steal from us on a regular basis. All we can do is change the locks, secure internal doors when we leave and maybe cover the landing with a camera.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Yet despite all that, I bought one anyways

in science fiction

Paul Mac Eoin and I have kickstarted a new technology podcast. The Future Of. Our slogan is ‘infinity…awaits!’

The Future Of is not just about technology: I want to explore European views and the wider shifts in culture that new gadgets wreak. There are dozens of American technology podcasts full of the Bay Area or the latest round of Technology versus Law up on the Hill. I don’t give much of a shit about San Francisco and I’m sick to death of arguments about the NSA. I’m European and the NSA spy on Europe, discussion done, next topic.

I'm a Fitbit tosser now

The podcast is fun. It is great to dive into subjects close to my own heart. I love to flesh out my ideas, to have Paul challenge me when I say something stupid, and for pair of us learn along the way.

Today was our third session and second podcast recording, on the topic of wearable technology. We introduced modern wearables of as a logical extension of your smartphone. It’s always within arm’s reach, on your desk, in your pocket or under your pillow. Wearable devices present a digest of notifications if you have an active social life. They record your biometrics when you work out and help you to chart your progression over time. Wearables have a long history (they were around in 1876!), and are a staple of science fiction. I can name a dozen science fiction worlds where wrist computers are an everyday staple. Three off the topic my head there are Neuromancer, Snow Crash and The Expanse.

Joshua Csucker, an organic chemistry researcher in Zurich joined us. Josh works with flexible OLEDs, and his goal is to make OLEDs smaller and cheaper and smaller and cheaper. He talks about the day when they’ll be woven into your clothes. This exists today. Josh’s goal is more specific: imagine a touch screen woven into the cuff of your jacket that networks with the phone in your pocket.

As Paul and Josh describe it, the paying public want the smartphone experience combined with modern watch battery life, and they want it strapped to their arms. That they have to take off that same wearable every other day to charge kills off any expected convenience.

Energy density is one crux of the problem. There is only so much power that can you can store in a battery small enough to fit in a wristwatch. This is a zero-sum problem that a lot of bright minds are trying to tackle right now. Josh’s angle is more efficient OLED screens. If you can’t have more energy in, then try for less energy out.

I played the straight man to Paul and Joshua’s advocates. I’m always worried about privacy, body privacy in particular. Most European countries-including Ireland-limit the disclosure of personal medical information. In short, if you are a third party then you don’t get it. But now there are a bunch of fitness startups who encourage the disclosure just this information. ‘Give up your body’ they cry as they run off back to America with your intimates. Verbatim from MyFitnessPal:

BY USING THE SERVICES YOU CONSENT TO THE COLLECTION, USE AND TRANSFER OF YOUR PERSONAL DATA FOR PROCESSING IN THE UNITED STATES AS DESCRIBED IN THIS PRIVACY POLICY.

You assume all risks arising…you agree that MyFitnessPal and its affiliates, partners, suppliers and licensors are not responsible or liable for any loss or result of the presence of information about or links to such advertisers or service providers.

Yeah, thanks.

Josh and Paul put forward what they want from wearables. Paul, as a medical researcher, advances always-on health monitoring in high risk patients. Josh envisions intelligent clothing, like safety vests for cyclists that flash up turn signals. Together they laid out a series of use cases that I don’t fit into as an introverted Luddite.

Their argument is that wearables aren’t a solution to problems in today’s paradigm, but instead a whole new paradigm of themselves. Think of a problem as a product of starting conditions. You can change conditions enough that their byproduct-problems disappear. Think about Google: before Google came along we had to remember voluminous information. It took time to look up references, filter bad information and parse documentation. Now Google does this for us. Today’s important skill is to know what questions to ask of the oracle. We haven’t gotten any less stupid because of Google; it’s Google who’ve gifted us the freedom to work in new ways.

By the end of the recording they had made enough of an argument for me to buy a Fitbit. It seems useful.

The podcast should be up by the end of the month!


Many meetings

in friends

Here’s a blast from my past:

Fawzi and me

I was an avid gamer in my teens. I can’t remember every game that I played. I can say that they included Magic, L5R, D&D, and Middle Earth. I put hundreds of hours into Tribes. I collected all the things, played all the things, and that was before had turned twenty.

Games People Play on Eyre Street were a better surrogate family than what I had at home. It was a shop full of goths, introverts, techies and nerds, and god help me, but I belonged. They introduced me to Tolkien and Herbert, the gateway drugs of the fantasy world. Right after that came Feist, Heinlein, Niven, Eddings and LeGuin. I was a planeswalker, a samurai, a Gangrel vampire, a warrior, and a buxom blonde barbarian chick this one time. The chainmail bikini hid nothing.

All the gibberish bullshit talk about computers in Games People Play sung to me; now there was a world of real magic. They spoke about IRC, Linux, ISOs, scripts and MUDs. It stuck.

Fantasy games exposed me to creative problem solving too: as a Dwarf warrior who has a knack for cantrips, I have a job to assassinate a local lord. There are no wrong decisions; only consequences. How do I proceed?

I was also sometimes an annoying little prick. Once I even made it a point of pride to expound my powers of annoyance. While I don’t remember the context for the conversation, I guess that it came in the wake of me being a shit. But yeah.

So I haven’t seen Fawzi in sixteen years, give or take, and dinner with him unlocked a cascade of memories-some good, others cringeworthy. I want to go roll D20s again!


Killiney Hill

in ireland

Eadaoin...fearlessEadaoin on the way upEadaoin and I


Show untracked git files

in code

This has been a real lifesaver at work.

[alias]
  untracked = !git ls-files -o --exclude-standard