Hardscrabble 🍫

By Max Jacobson

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Ten years of Hardscrabble

November 6, 2023

This website launched ten years ago today.

It’s a little hard to define the exact birthday of the blog. There are a handful of posts in the archive that are older than ten years, but those ones were originally published on older iterations of my blog that weren’t called Hardscrabble, so I don’t count that. There’s the post announcing that the blog is now powered by Jekyll and open source, which is still a few weeks away from its ten year anniversary, but I’ve done a little archaeology, and I’ll point to this commit on November 6, 2013 at 10:41pm as the canonical moment. In that commit, I added the CNAME file that tells GitHub Pages that the site will be served from www.hardscrabble.net.

Incidentally, this site is still powered by Jekyll and open source and hosted by GitHub Pages. Jekyll and GitHub Pages have both iterated steadily over the years. I feel sort of like I’ve been getting away with something to have this reliable, simple free hosting service. There have been times I’ve been tempted to move the hosting elsewhere but it’s never become necessary.

Here’s a screenshot of what the site looked like in February 2014, from the internet archive:

screenshot of a very plain homepage

(I tried to check out an old version of the source code and boot it up but it proved a bit challenging. If I were a more committed nostalgist I’d probably try to make a docker image with the older dependencies, like Ruby 2.0.0, but this will have to do for now)

This has never been the most beautiful website and the design has not evolved very much. I kept the dashed lines and that shade of green for links. I changed the background color.

Before Hardscrabble, I bounced around between a bunch of different blogs and blogging tools, including WordPress, Tumblr, Octopress, Calepin, Livejournal, Facebook Notes. Maybe some others. I remember my friend Corey would poke gentle fun at me for this restlessness. I remember when I started Hardscrabble I wanted to stick with it if only to prove him wrong. I’ll have to ask.

Thanks for reading.

Programming my macropad

November 3, 2023

I recently wrote about a gadget that I’ve started using, a DOIO KB04-01 Macro Keyboard 4 Keys + 1 Knob Macro Pad. Weirdly enough, not long after I posted that, it stopped working. The buttons still worked, but the knob didn’t, and for me, the knob was basically the whole point. I had no idea how to debug this either. I had never figured out how to program the macropad at all and was using its out of the box settings. There was some discussion online about how it can be programmed using Via, the popular app, but you needed to install an old version of it and load in a special JSON file in order for that old version of Via to recognize the device. Reader, I tried.

After hitting some dead ends, distraught, I decided to shop around a bit, and to look for a more reputable brand. I ordered a Keychron Q0 Plus QMK Custom Number Pad, because Keychron is a good brand, and the product page has extensive details about how to program it with Via. I don’t really need a full numpad1 but I don’t mind having one, and more importantly, it’s got a beautiful knob and some keys that are reserved for doing whatever you want them to do.

When it came, I was thrilled to find that it worked out of the box. It controlled the volume when I turned the knob. And I was able to get Via to recognize the device by following the instructions on Keychron’s product page. Great success.

It’s neat actually. I’m simply using the web app in Chrome (it doesn’t work in Firefox or Safari) rather than the downloadable app. This is powered by the experimental WebHID API.

But, uh, now what?

I had five physical keys reserved for running macros but no immediate ideas what to have them do.

I spent the next several days happily turning the knob to adjust volume and keeping one eye open for ideas for things to turn into a macro. Eventually, inspiration struck.

I mostly use my Apple Studio Display’s speakers, but every now and then I like to use headphones, if I’m really zoning in and focusing. I keep my headphones permanently plugged in to my Mac Studio, and every now and then I’ll click open Control Center and adjust the output device like so:

Gif showing me tapping on the macOS Sonoma Control Center menu bar icon and changing my audio output to my headphones

If I can find a way to script that, that would be a fine macro: a button that toggles the audio output between my headphones and my studio display.

I hoped that would be easy to script using Shortcuts but I couldn’t find any shortcut actions that update the audio output device.

I googled around a bit and came upon this open source project: switchaudio-osx which is easily installed with Homebrew with a command line interface. Sigh, okay, let’s try that.

Here’s the script I came up with2, depending on that tool, to toggle the output device:

set -e

# N.B. this depends on https://github.com/deweller/switchaudio-osx

# Fully qualified path to SwitchAudioSource
SAS="/opt/homebrew/bin/SwitchAudioSource"

# Get the current audio output device
current_device=$($SAS -c)

# Check if the current device is "External Headphones"
if [ "$current_device" == "External Headphones" ]; then
    # Set the audio output to "Studio Display Speakers"
    $SAS -s "Studio Display Speakers"
else
    # Set the audio output to "External Headphones"
    $SAS -s "External Headphones"
fi

This worked reliably when invoked from the command-line. I also wrapped it up in a Shortcut and configured the shortcut to run when I type ⌃⌥⇧⌘H.

Screenshot showing the Shortcuts app using the Run Shell Script action to run that shell script

I had always wondered what does it actually mean to program a macropad to run a macro? Like, can we load a shell script onto the keyboard?? Does it remember things??

The main screen in Via is called “Configure”, and within that is the Keymap section. There, you can map each physical key (including the knob) to type whatever character you want, or to invoke a macro. It seems that for this device, there are sixteen slots for macros, named named M0, M1, M2, … M15.

After the Keymap section is the Macro section where you can define what those sixteen macros actually are. The way it works is that you click “Record keystrokes”, and then you type some stuff, and then you click “Stop recording” and then “Save changes”. Now, whenever you invoke that macro, it will type in exactly what you typed in during the recording. That could be your billing address or a keyboard shortcut or whatever else you want. In this gif, I’m recording a macro that will perform the keyboard shortcut ⌃⌥⇧⌘H.

Recording a macro to invoke the shortcut

Once the macro exists, I just need to go back to the Keymap section and map that physical key to that macro:

Mapping the key to the macro

I’m happy to learn that this is all nicely decoupled. The keyboard doesn’t need to know anything about my computer or any particular behavior I want my computer to have. It’s simply an input device, and I can program it to send the inputs I want it to send. Then I can program my Mac to respond to those inputs how I want it to respond. The device does seem to remember how I’ve programmed it.

And now I can happily jam that button to toggle my audio output.

There may be better or simpler ways to do some of this stuff, and I’d be happy to hear about them if you’d like to share. I’m pretty new to all this.

  1. the numbers are already on my regular keyboard and I’ve never had any issue just using those, but if you’re a numpad person I wish you all the peace in the world 

  2. I’ll be real with you, I used ChatGPT to actually write this 

My tmux aliases (2023 edition)

October 21, 2023

My tmux setup, with some panes showing a vim editor process, server logs, and test output

In 2015, I wrote a blog post called some helpful tmux aliases explaining a bit about how I use tmux in my development workflow. I’ll confess it’s not my most coherent blog post I’ve written, and I’ve iterated a bit since then, so I thought I’d take another run at it.

Wait what is tmux even all about?

When I’m working on a project, I usually need a bunch of separate shells. Right now, as I work on this blog post, I’m using three:

  1. One to run my text editor, vim, where I’m writing these words
  2. Another to run my exe/serve helper script which runs the jekyll server, so I can preview the blog post in a browser and make sure it looks right
  3. Another for miscellaneous use, like running git operations to commit the changes or using ripgrep to search the project for references to things I’ve blogged about already

It would be fine and reasonable to just open three separate windows or tabs in my terminal emulator to run those various things, but instead I use tmux. I basically never have more than one actual tab or window, even when I’m bouncing between multiple projects, because my tmux workflow makes that unnecessary.

tmux is a “multiplexer”, which is to say that it lets you run multiple shells in one shell.

It can split your screen vertically and horizontally to run as many shells as you want. In the screenshot at the top of this post, there are three shells1. In tmux’s jargon, those are called “panes”, like how a window may be made up of multiple panes of glass, this window is made up of multiple shells.

When I open too many panes, it can start to feel a little cramped. I often resize them by dragging the little border line2. I also will often maximize the current pane, hiding the others, if I just need to focus on one task for a bit:

Resizing tmux panes and zooming into one

You can also run multiple windows, and switch between those. This is nice because sometimes you want something running in the background and you don’t really want to look at it all the time. These are called “windows” but I tend to think of them as “tabs”, because they function sort of like tabs in a GUI app. You can even rename windows to help you remember what that window’s purpose is:

Switching between windows and renaming them

The last major bit of tmux terminology, after “pane” and “window”, is “session”. A session is a group of windows. You can have many sessions running at once, and switch between them. I have one session per project that I’m working on. If I initiate a session in the directory for my project seasoning, then every new pane and window will start a new shell in that directory, which is really convenient.

So that’s the overview.

Aliases

Creating a new session

You can start a new session by simply running tmux. If you do that, your session will automatically be given a name of 0. Your next session will be called 1, and so on. Because I run one session per project, and sometimes work on multiple projects at the same time, I like to name my sessions after the project. That’s easy enough to do. Instead of running simply tmux to start a session, I can run, for example:

tmux new-session -s seasoning

That will start a new session called seasoning in the current directory.

Back in 2015, I came up with a clever alias that would automatically infer the session name from the name of the current directory. It looked like this:

alias 't'='tmux new-session -A -s $(basename $PWD | tr -d .)'

Running basename $PWD | tr -d . when you’re in a directory like /Users/max/src/gh/maxjacobson/seasoning prints the text seasoning, which seems like a perfect session name for when I’m working on that project.

The -A bit will attach to an existing session with that name, if one exists, and otherwise create it.

With this alias, I can happily run simply t in any directory and feel confident that I’ll be in a nicely-named session.

This held up pretty well over the years, but it has one flaw: every now and then (and this is pretty rare) I’ll have more than one “project” with the same name. For example, I’ll often clone other people’s dotfiles repos and rummage around for inspiration. They’re almost always called dotfiles. If I clone wfleming/dotfiles and start a new session by running t, I’ll get a new session called dotfiles in Will’s dotfiles. If I then clone pbrisbin/dotfiles and run t, tmux will see that there is already a running session called dotfiles and attach to that instead of creating a new one.

This has only come up a very small handful of times but every time is a little papercut that has bugged me. So, recently, I revised my t alias for the first time in ages. It now looks like this:

alias 't'='tmux new-session -A -s "$(basename $PWD) $(echo $PWD | shasum -a 256 | cut -c1-4)"'

With this new version, the derived session name when I’m in /Users/max/src/gh/maxjacobson/seasoning is seasoning 3f2c. That bit at the end generates a unique3 four character hash based on the absolute path to the project. It will always come up with the same hash, so it will be possible to run t in as many dotfiles repos as I want and start up independent sessions.

Listing sessions

You can run tmux list-sessions to print out a list of the running sessions, plus some interesting metadata about them:

$ tmux list-sessions
hardscrabble_github_io afd6: 4 windows (created Sat Oct 21 15:06:31 2023) (attached)
seasoning 3f2c: 1 windows (created Sat Oct 21 15:06:24 2023)

I’ve had that aliased to tl for years. Today I learned you can format the output to include whatever information you want, and spent several minutes exploring various ideas.

Some ideas…

If I want to correct the pluralization error of “1 windows”4:

$ tmux list-sessions -F '#{session_name} (#{session_windows} #{?#{==:#{session_windows},1},window,windows})'
hardscrabble_github_io afd6 (4 windows)
seasoning 3f2c (1 window)

That one is uh, pretty gnarly. In English, it’s saying “If the session_windows variable is equal to 1, say ‘window’ otherwise say ‘windows’”.

If I want to include the session’s directory:

$ tmux list-sessions -F '#{session_name} (#{session_path})'
hardscrabble_github_io afd6 (/Users/max/src/gh/hardscrabble/hardscrabble.github.io)
seasoning 3f2c (/Users/max/src/gh/maxjacobson/seasoning)

$ tmux list-sessions -F '#{session_name} (#{d:session_path})'
hardscrabble_github_io afd6 (/Users/max/src/gh/hardscrabble)
seasoning 3f2c (/Users/max/src/gh/maxjacobson)

$ tmux list-sessions -F '#{session_name} (#{b:session_path})'
hardscrabble_github_io afd6 (hardscrabble.github.io)
seasoning 3f2c (seasoning)

As you can see, there are modifiers to just say the parent directory, or just say the basename of the directory.

If I want to scrub out the unsightly trailing hash from the session name:

$ tmux list-sessions -F '#{s/ [a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9]$//:session_name}'
hardscrabble_github_io
seasoning

I feel like I should be able to simplify that regular expression to something like / [a-f0-9]{4}$/ but I can’t quite figure out how to escape it. So it goes.

I think I’m going to keep it minimalist and use this last one when I run tl. That means my next recommended alias looks like this:

alias 'tl'="tmux list-sessions -F '#{s/ [a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9]$//:session_name}' 2>/dev/null || echo 'no sessions'"

You’ll notice that there’s a little bit of error handling in there. That’s because, by default, tmux list-sessions throws a kind of unsightly error when there are no sessions to list. We can make that a little nicer.

Attaching to an existing session

One of the benefits of tmux is that if you accidentally close your terminal emulator app (e.g. Terminal or iTerm 2 or Alacritty or whatever), your session is still running in the background, and you can reattach to it. It’ll keep running until all of the shells within the session exit. I normally press Ctrl + d to exit shells, but you can also type exit and hit enter.

You can attach to a session by running tmux attach-session, which will attach to the most recently used session. I have this aliased to ta like so:

alias 'ta'='tmux attach-session'

This is usually what I want. From there, if I happen to have multiple sessions going, I might switch to another session like so:

switching between tmux sessions

(Eagle-eyed readers might notice that the hash has disappeared from the status bar in the lower right in that gif, because I realized I can use the same format string trick to scrub it from there too. And now you know that I am a bit too lazy to redo the earlier gifs for consistency’s sake.)

It’s also possible to attach to a specific session, rather than the most recently used one. You can do that by running a command like this:

$ tmux attach-session -t seas

Thankfully you don’t need to specify the full name. tmux can figure out that when I specify seas I mean seasoning 3f2c.

I have that aliased as to, so I can simply run:

$ to seas

That alias looks like this:

alias 'to'='tmux attach-session -t'

Wrapping it all up

Alright, thanks for coming on this journey. Here’s the aliases all together:

alias 't'='tmux new-session -A -s "$(basename $PWD) $(echo $PWD | shasum -a 256 | cut -c1-4)"'
alias 'tl'="tmux list-sessions -F '#{s/ [a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9]$//:session_name}' 2>/dev/null || echo 'no sessions'"
alias 'ta'='tmux attach-session'
alias 'to'='tmux attach-session -t'

And here’s the relevant bits of config in my ~/.tmux.conf

set -g status-interval 1
set -g status-left ""
set -g status-right "%b %d %H:%M:%S #{s/ [a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9][a-f0-9]$//:session_name}"

Happy tmuxing. See you in another eight years.

  1. It sort of looks like four, but it’s really three. The one in the top left is running vim, which has its own splitting mechanism, and is showing two different files.

    It can get a bit fractal when you have vim inside tmux, but you get used to it. 

  2. This requires you to enable mouse support in your tmux configuration, which I heartily recommend.

    set-option -g mouse on
    

  3. I guess it’s possible to have a hash conflict, and that’s much more likely because I’m truncating the hash to just four characters, but uh, fingers crossed. 

  4. This is something that has apparently bothered me for a long time. I added the Rails/PluralizationGrammar rule to rubocop many years ago, and now it’s referenced in thousands of repos, something that genuinely delights me. 

Multi-paragraph footnotes in Markdown

October 1, 2023

It can be challenging to write about Markdown in Markdown, but I’m going to try. The hard part is showing examples of the syntax without that syntax getting converted into HTML. For example, did you know that if you want to bold some text, you do it like this? Shit, that got bolded. Let me try again. You can do it **like this**. OK, great.

So what about footnotes? Adding a simple footnote is fairly straightforward: you put [^1] in the main flow of your prose to indicate that there is a footnote. Then you can add your footnote like this:

[^1]: My great footnote

Here’s how that looks1.

John Gruber, the inventor of Markdown, recently published a recap of Apple’s recent iPhone 15 event which contained three footnotes. When I saw that one of them is three whole paragraphs, my eyes widened. You can do that???

If we look at the generated HTML, it looks like this:

<li id="fn2-2023-09-15">
<p>On the eve...</p>

<blockquote>
  <p>Apple has also...</p>
</blockquote>

<p>Huawei’s geopolitical travails...</p>
</li>

Nothing magical going on at all. Just some normal-looking HTML.

But, I wondered, how the hell do you represent that in Markdown? When I generate footnotes with Markdown, as soon as I finish the first paragraph, the footnote is done.

I happen to know that Daring Fireball has a trick, where you can append .text to any URL and see the Markdown source code for that article. So I took a look at that article’s source Markdown, and here’s what I saw:

<li id="fn2-2023-09-15">
<p>On the eve...</p>

<blockquote>
  <p>Apple has also...</p>
</blockquote>

<p>Huawei’s geopolitical travails...</p>
</li>

Yep: the exact same thing. He’s not using any special Markdown syntax to generate the footnotes, he’s doing it manually by writing HTML. And that’s fair enough; it’s totally valid to include bits of HTML in your Markdown source.

But… does that mean that it’s not possible to have multi-paragraph footnotes in HTML-free Markdown? Well… unfortunately, it’s time that we start to get into some nuance (and a bit of drama).

I should note that I’m referring to “Markdown” as though Markdown is one thing. It’s not. Gruber’s original version of Markdown doesn’t support footnotes at all (so it’s not a surprise that his blog implements them without any non-HTML syntax). There are many, many different implementations of Markdown. The one that I tend to use is called GitHub Flavored Markdown, which is the version of Markdown used in GitHub text fields. It’s also the version of Markdown that I use to build this blog. So that’s the one I’ll focus on today.

This diaspora of implementations can make it hard to find good information about what features you should expect to have access to. GitHub publishes a spec for GitHub flavored Markdown but it doesn’t describe their implementation of footnotes. Elsewhere, they publish a doc on “Basic writing and formatting syntax” and its section on footnotes includes these two examples:

Here is a simple footnote[^1].

A footnote can also have multiple lines[^2].

[^1]: My reference.
[^2]: To add line breaks within a footnote, prefix new lines with 2 spaces.
  This is a second line.

Oh God, is that the best we can do? That seems to generate one paragraph, with <br /> tags breaking it up into multiple lines. That’s not really what I want.

But, clicking around, I found some reason for hope. The 2021 changelog post that introduced footnotes to GitHub embeds a gif that, hooray, includes a multi-paragraph footnote example, which looks like this:

Some text.[^bignote]

[^bignote]: Here's one with multiple paragraphs and code.

    Indent paragraphs to include them in the footnote.

    `{ my code }`

    Add as many paragraphs as you like

As the gif looped and this little miracle flashed on the screen momentarily before flickering away again, I did my best to see what was there, and eventually the carousel looped around enough times that I got it. So that’s easy enough: you can add more paragraphs to your footnote as long as you indent them (with four spaces). Easy.2 And hopefully this will actually continue to work, even though it’s barely documented.

I did tease a little drama, but I’m actually not super invested in it. So, suffice it to say that Gruber is occasionally a bit salty about the various takes on Markdown that exist.

  1. My great footnote 

  2. Just to show it off here, I’m doing another footnote, and this is the first paragraph of it.

    and wow here’s a blockquote and it’s still in the same footnote

    And here’s another paragraph that’s still, magically, in the same footnote.

    The blank lines between the paragraphs can just be blank, they don’t need to have four spaces in them for no reason, don’t worry. 

The Apple Studio Display's Missing Volume Knob

October 1, 2023

EDIT Nov 3, 2023: I’ve replaced that gadget with a different, similar gadget that I’ve written a new post about.

I’ve been using the Apple Studio Display as a computer monitor for over a year now and here’s my review: it’s pretty good, but it’s missing a volume knob.

I use the built-in speakers, which are pretty good. And, of course, it’s possible to adjust the volume. My goofy mechanical keyboard1 has a row of function keys, and maybe one of them is supposed to control the volume, but I can’t figure it out (I’ve tried for like two whole minutes). So for the first year or so of using this monitor, any time I wanted to adjust the volume, I moused up to the little Control Center icon in the menu bar, clicked, and dragged the little slider.

Adjusting volume with Control Center

And reader, forgive me, maybe this is intuitively obvious to you, but it must be said: this experience sucks!

If I’m “feeling myself” and want to turn up the tunes, that should be as easy as possible to do. I don’t want to scan through a mess of tiny monochromatic icons and have to think. If I’m in the middle of a tense chess position and I want to turn down the music and concentrate, again, that needs to be so easy to do without even taking my eyes off the chess.com chess board.

This sucky experience was kind of simmering below the threshold of conscious annoyance for a while, but a few months ago I finally put my finger on it and had the thought: damn, I wish I had a little volume knob I could turn right now, I wonder if that exists somewhere? So I started doing some google queries like “standalone volume knob” that yielded some very interesting products.

Some products are literally what I imagined: a standalone volume knob. For example this handmade walnut one from Etsy seller ZiddyMakes that I came very close to ordering:

Walnut knob

A bunch more of them were small knobs that are not usable standalone electronics, but meant to be somehow fastened to a mechanical keyboard. An appealing idea! If my keyboard had a little knob, I’d be thrilled. But my keyboard doesn’t, and I do not dare attempt to give it one.

Eventually, in this research, I found my way to the term “macropad”, which is basically like a little standalone keyboard with a few keys on it that you can program to do whatever you want, like kick off some automation, or act as simple media controls to pause your music or adjust your volume. Some of them even have knobs on them.

I ordered this one: DOIO KB04-01 Macro Keyboard 4 Keys + 1 Knob Macro Pad

DOIO macropad

Hot yellow! Nice.

When it arrived, it basically worked out of the box. The knob controlled the volume. The first button worked like a play/pause button. The second button like a previous track button. The third one like a next track button. The fourth one, uh, didn’t seem to do anything.

I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to customize what those buttons would do, but nothing seemed to work. Then I remembered the classic Mitch Hedberg joke:

I write jokes for a living, I sit at my hotel at night, I think of something that’s funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen is too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.

And so I convinced myself that actually having play/pause, previous track, next track, and a no-op button was what I wanted.

I did order some media keycaps from WASD to replace the blank keycaps that came with it, so I could remember what each key does. I was planning to leave the fourth key blank, but the WASD keycaps were a bit taller than the keycaps that came with the macropad, and it felt weird for them not to all be the same height, so I just put the square “stop” keycap there, even though it doesn’t actually stop anything.

I’ve had this little guy on my desk for a few months now and I really love it. I almost never press the keys, but I turn the volume knob all the time. It has a nice uh, knob feel. It isn’t an entirely smooth spin; it sort of turns in notches. As you turn it, you can feel exactly how many notches you’re turning it, and each notch is equivalent to pressing the “volume up” or “volume down” key on a keyboard that has those buttons.

Nice little gizmo.

  1. FWIW, I’ve been very happily using the REALFORCE R2 KEYBOARD MID SIZE (IVORY) keyboard for almost two years and it’s my favorite keyboard I’ve ever used. It has the excellent topre switches from the iconic Happy Hacker Keyboard, but in a normal keyboard layout that asks very little of you. 

Streaming sites and their bad URLs

October 1, 2023

Why do streaming sites have such poor URLs?

Here’s a quick survey of the field:

Site Example series URL
Amazon Prime Gen V https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B0CBFTRGPZ/
Apple TV+ Ted Lasso https://tv.apple.com/us/show/ted-lasso/umc.cmc.vtoh0mn0xn7t3c643xqonfzy
Disney+ Bluey https://www.disneyplus.com/series/bluey/1xy9TAOQ0M3r
Hulu Only Murders in the Building https://www.hulu.com/series/ef31c7e1-cd0f-4e07-848d-1cbfedb50ddf
Max Friends https://play.max.com/show/52dae4c7-2ab1-4bb9-ab1c-8100fd54e2f9
Netflix One Piece https://www.netflix.com/title/80217863
Paramount+ Star Trek: The Original Series (Remastered) https://www.paramountplus.com/shows/star_trek/
Peacock Killing It https://www.peacocktv.com/watch/asset/tv/killing-it/5156438808822262112
Tubi Hannibal https://tubitv.com/series/300000159/hannibal

Of these, the best one is clearly Paramount+, because it’s human-readable and free of any junk. If I were feeling uncharitable, I might ding it for using snake case rather than kebab case, but I’m willing to concede that’s a matter of taste.

In the second tier are Apple TV+, Disney+, Peacock, and Tubi which all contain the series name somewhere in their URL. They don’t make it easy for you to read them, because there’s some amount of junk mixed in there too, but it’s possible.

When I see a URL like that, I want to test if they actually validate the human-readable bit. Let’s see:

Site Example series Fake URL
Apple TV+ Ted Lasso https://tv.apple.com/us/show/sad-soccer-show/umc.cmc.vtoh0mn0xn7t3c643xqonfzy
Disney+ Bluey https://www.disneyplus.com/series/sad-dog-show/1xy9TAOQ0M3r
Peacock Killing It https://www.peacocktv.com/watch/asset/tv/silly-snake-scenarios/5156438808822262112

And indeed, two out of those three work. Good for Peacock going that extra mile.

In a distant last place, of course, are Hulu, Netflix, Max, and Amazon Prime, which don’t make an effort to be human-readable at all. Boo.

Michael in the Bathroom

September 3, 2023

Here’s some more musical theatre. I think a lot of people’s introduction to the musical Be More Chill is this song, because it’s a real powerhouse performance.

I wonder how many of them, like me, were disappointed to learn that Michael is not the main character of the musical. He’s the best friend of the main character, Jeremy.

Jeremy is being a kind of shitty friend, and Michael feels abandoned. That’s all you need to know to enjoy this song.

George Salazar performs this song again at the Tiny Desk Concert performance the production did:

C’mon, what a voice!

Be More Chill is based on a young adult novel by Ned Vizzini which I haven’t read. When I was a young adult I recall enjoying his memoir Teen Angst? Naaah…, which he published in 2000 while still a teenager. He died, apparently by suicide, in 2013. The reference to suicide in this song hits harder knowing that.

On a related note, perhaps the other great example of a musical theatre piece about debilitating anxiety in recent years is Surface Pressure from Encanto:

Fair warning to readers with siblings that this one might fuck you up a little, depending on whatever dynamics y’all are working with.

On another tangentically related note, here’s one more terrific George Salazar performance, this one a duet with Michaela Jaé Rodriguez performing Suddenly Seymour:

Tautology Supercut

September 3, 2023

The Wire (famously good TV show) had this weird tic: practically half of it’s dialogue is tautologies like “it is what it is”.

And it works.

I saw this video years ago and I think about it constantly. Enjoy.

My baby teeth

May 24, 2023

Wye Oak’s Civilian is one of my favorite songs.

There’s a cinematic, epic yearning here, and it’s no surprise it’s been used in a ton of movies and TV shows.

I don’t need another friend

When most of them I can barely keep up with them

I’m perfectly able to hold my own hand

But I still can’t kiss my own neck

The studio version benefits from a driving drum beat and a ripping guitar solo to help build up its intensity, but this acoustic rendition doesn’t need them.

Jenn Wasner is the coolest. Outside of her work in Wye Oak, she’s also toured with Bon Iver and contributed to their most recent album I, I.

Sweet like Fanta

May 22, 2023

This track by Rema and Selena Gomez from last summer is so good:

You can sing along to it if you want to.

The world is so vast. This song is a massive hit featuring a pop star I’m a fan of1 and I almost never heard about it.

I came across it in a kind of fun way that I want to recommend. I’m big into the Apple ecosystem, including Apple TV and Apple Music. Recently I was clicking around the Apple Music app on my Apple TV and I found a section dedicated to music videos. I put on a playlist of music videos called The A-List: Pop Videos and let it play on shuffle on the TV while I worked on other things. Lots of good, fun stuff came through, but this was the stand out. The experience was great: not cluttered with ads or other non-music segments. They have other playlists for other genres and moods too.

I love music videos. The track opens with Selena Gomez murmuring the word “Vibes” and then Rema declaring that the track is “Another banger”, and it’s hard to disagree when you watch this.

  1. Not only is Selena Gomez a very talented singer (my favorite solo song of hers is the frosty Hands To Myself) but she’s also very funny in Only Murders In The Building