Eating Fountain Pens, Cancelling Amazon Prime

I’ve been faithfully keeping a diary since October 27, 2018. It has become one of my most successful new habits. I write a brief summary of my day every night before bed, and the next morning, as I wake up, a flip back through the pages to a month or two earlier to get a sense of the passage of time. Here’s an entry from February 28, 2019, for example:

Note from my diary

The day before Ethan had sneaked into my bedroom, found my diary-keeping Platinum Preppy fountain pen, and had bitten into it, destroying the pen, staining my duvet but, oddly, not becoming covered in black ink himself.

Mindful that positive reinforcement is better than negative, I resolved, as I wrote in my diary, to solve this problem of fountain pen eating through misdirection. So far it’s been working.

Today I got my renewal notice for Amazon Prime, and I decided that, like eating fountain pens, shopping at Amazon due the shiny allure of “free” shipping that Prime provides is bad behaviour, and so I cancelled my membership, effective next month.

I’m hoping that, like Ethan is now encouraged to chew on proper-for-dogs bones from Blue Ribbon, I will now be encouraged to shop locally, to borrow more books from the public library, and to make fewer impulse purchases.

Show me the email addresses in this file that aren’t in this other file…

I have two text files, each containing a list of email addresses.

The first file, invited.txt, has 82 email address of people who responded positively to my initial call for interest in the Crafting {:} a Life unconference back in February.

The second file, registered.txt, has 50 email addresses of people who’ve registered for the unconference.

I know that there are some people who responded to the initial call who haven’t registered, and I want to double-check with them to see if they’re planning to come (some of them likely thought that initial call for interest was registering).

How to get the list of email addresses in the first file that aren’t in the second file?

It turns out to be pretty easy from the Mac command line:

grep -i -v -f registered.txt invited.txt

The grep command is used to search inside files for things.

  • The -i flag says “ignore the case of the letters”. This way and will appear to be the same, which is what we want.
  • The -v flags kind of turns grep on its head, so that rather than searching for lines that match, we tell it to search for lines that don’t match.
  • The -f registered.txt says “take the lines from this file as the what you’re looking for,” except in this case, because of the -v, it’s the what we’re not looking for.
  • The invited.txt is the file we want to search.

Put that all together and what you get is “show me every email address in invited.txt that doesn’t appear in registered.txt.”

Or, in other words, “tell me who I invited who hasn’t registered.”

How to turn off Notifications Prompts in Firefox

The ability of websites to send push notifications has extremely limited practical utility. I’m fine with getting notification from the website that lets me send and receive text messages from my browser, but I have no interest in receiving breaking celebrity news notifications, and find the prompt as to whether I want to receive these very annoying.

Fortunately Firefox provides a way to turn these prompts off: in Preferences, search for Notifications, and check the “Block new requests asking to allow notifications” checkbox:

How to turn off notifications prompting in Firefox

Oliver at the Podium

This afternoon Oliver and I went to a volunteer social at Green Party HQ. There was pizza and sushi and punch and lots of talk about the election campaign and its results and what comes next.

Midway through the event everyone gathered in the kitchen and Cynthia King and Jordan Bober, campaign co-managers, and leader Peter Bevan-Baker, made some introductory remarks and thank yous, and then Cynthia opened the floor to anyone who wanted to share a volunteering story.

The volunteering stories were fascinating: a cook’s tour through the process of moving from non-involved non-partisan to someone working morning, noon and night to get one of their neighbours elected to the legislature.

As the session drew to a close, Cynthia made one final call for stories, and Oliver confidently strode up to the microphone and told the story of his volunteering–button making, canvassing with Karla, etc. He mentioned Josh Underhay’s death. And he talked about how happy he was to live in one Green district and go to school in another.

Oliver speaking at the Green Party volunteer celebration

Needless to say, I had tears well up in my eyes. I was so proud of him.

Shredded Scroll Nib

One of the nice things about Pen Night is that it is, by its very nature, self-documenting: as pens get passed around, inks tried out, tips shared, my notebook fills up with a cacophony of penliness:

My notebook for Pen Night, April 27, 2019

We were a smaller by still-hearty group last night, with members from as far away as Victoria West. Some of the things I took away from the evening:

  • When addressing an envelope with a fountain pen, rub a stick of paraffin wax over it once the ink is try; this will prevent the ink from running if the envelope is exposed to moisture (hard to avoid on a rainy day with the community mailboxes here in Charlottetown that have a tiny mail slot that attracts drips). You can put paraffin in an old Chapstick tube and throw it in your back for use on the road.
  • The free Apple Books book Script in the Copperplate Style, by Dr. Joseph M. Vitolo, comes recommended as an introduction to calligraphy.
  • The Lamy 2000 is a very nice pen (many pen-people’s favourite, I was told); I got to try one one and it is, indeed, lovely and light and a joy to write with.
  • A pointer to The Well-Appointed Desk blog.
  • G. Lalo paper is delightful.

Pen Night has a Facebook page now (which, alas, I’ll never see).

The next meeting is Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. at The Bookmark. All are welcome; RSVP to Dan MacDonald at The Bookmark if you’re coming to ensure there’s a chair for you.

Moto G7 Play

My Nextbit Robin phone gave up the ghost this spring: as an orphaned product, it hadn’t received software updates for several years and, perhaps because of this, as well due its aging battery, it started to do some annoying things. Like spontaneously restarting when the battery was below 25%. And not allowing me to make telephone calls because the “Phone” app kept crashing.

I was reluctant to replace it because, for most other intents and purposes, it was a perfectly acceptable Android phone that worked well and was pleasant in the hand.

But when a phone stops being able to be a phone, then it’s time to look elsewhere.

I am, I have found, constitutionally unable to conscience the notion of having a “flagship” phone in my pocket. Phones from OnePlus, Samsung, Google and others cost $1000 or more, and the idea of being responsible for not losing such an expensive thing in my day to day life (to say nothing of affording it in the first place) is anathema.

So on my recent trip to New England I stopped in at Best Buy, a store that, in the USA at least, has a wide selection of phones in its “unlocked phones” section of the store. I sampled phones by Sony, Nokia, and some of the brands-nobody-has-ever-heard-of, and my eyes started to settle on the Moto G7 Play.

Oliver’s been using the larger Moto G7 for the past few months and it’s served him well. I liked the feel of the smaller “Play” variant in my hand, and testing it out in Best Buy showed it to be zippy and capable and matching my Robin almost feature-for-feature (the only thing it lacked was NFC support, which I almost never used anyway on the Robin).

So I bought one. For $199 US. That’s the kind of phone price I can handle, both financially and constitutionally.

My specific model, for posterity, is the XT1952-4.

I’ve been using the phone every day for almost a month, and I really, really like it.


  • At 149 grams, it’s a gram lighter than my Nextbit Robin, and it’s about the same size. I like lightweight phones that fit easily in my hand.
  • It’s battery life, at least compared to my aging Robin, is amazing. For the last year I was ending the day with the Robin dead or almost dead; I rarely find the G7 below 50% battery by day’s end.
  • The fingerprint reader on the back is positioned in the right place for me, and is quick.
  • The Android is essentially “stock,” with no additional cruft, spam, launcher, etc.


  • For reasons I’m not sure whether to ascribe to the phone, to the Public Mobile (Telus) network I’m using it on, or a combination of the two, I’m getting more dropped calls and outbound calls that don’t complete. It’s not frequent or annoying enough to be a deal breaker, at least not yet.
  • The back of the phone is unusually slippery, which has proved not so much a problem in my hand as for the phone’s propensity to slide off the chair, bed, table, ottoman that I place it on. I’ve “solved” this by keeping it in my pocket more.
  • As a non-flagship phone with less horsepower, some of the UI animations aren’t as seamless as I’d like; for example rotating the phone from portrait to landscape can manifest some very obvious stuttering of the UI. This is more “not as smooth as butter” and not really into “so annoying as to be unusable” territory.
  • The phone has a 2018-style wide camera notch at the top rather than a 2019-style cutout, and I initially thought I would find this infuriating. But I don’t. Except for the placement of the clock relative to the rounded corner on the toolbar, which is a perpetual source of visual stress to me for its clunky “kerning.”

I’ll report back more after I’ve some more months of experience with the phone but, for the time being if you’re looking for an inexpensive very usable Android phone, I recommend you consider the Moto G7 Play.

Victory at Pancake Ridge

If you Google “pancake recipe,” the first search result, for the past couple of months at least, is this one from Allrecipes.

The flour-milk-egg ratio of that recipe produces batter with the consistency of molasses, and, try as I might, I’ve been unable to get pancakes made with that recipe to be anything other than burnt, raw on the inside, or both.

Two nights ago, lacking other options, I decided to make crepes for supper, and I figured that crepes are really just thin pancakes, so I freestyled a recipe, using a cup of flour, a single egg, and considerably more milk than that pancake recipe calls for. The batter was the consistency of motor oil. And the resulting neo-pancakes were thin, cooked right through, and as different from the disastrous pancakes of yore as to be an entirely new species. With a little bit of dried basil added to the batter, and some of Paul Offer’s mushrooms fried up and placed on top, the result was very tasty.

So much so that I switched out cinnamon for basil this morning and we had blueberry pancakes from the same ad hoc recipe.

Out of Office Messages

From an October profile of Gavin Newsom in The New Yorker:

Newsom gazed up into the building’s marble dome. Did he get smaller, or did the problems get bigger? You enter politics to change lives, and you end up hoping just to save your own. “I always imagined what it would be like to leave this office,” he said. “I thought it would be powerful, but the minute I swore in Ed Lee as the next mayor, literally seconds later, every reporter is running toward Ed Lee, every staffer is running toward him, and I remember walking down these stairs alone. Ed never called me, my staff didn’t call me—nobody. All that energy, over in a nanosecond.” He shivered, draped his jacket over his shoulder, and loped downstairs to the S.U.V. waiting to speed him on his way to being the future ex-governor of California. 

Tuesday’s election say 7 members of Executive Council lose their seats: Paula Biggar, Jordan Brown, Richard Brown, Tina Mundy, Pat Murphy, Chris Palmer and Wade MacLauchlan, and I expect they’re all going through variations of what Newsom experienced.

These are people who, under Tuesday, were called “Minister” by their employees and were responsible for significant budgets and policies. Today they are civilians, responsible for getting their summer tires put on.

While I’m sure they’ll all do okay in life, it wouldn’t hurt to drop them a line today to thank them for their service, especially if their service touched you, your family, or your community in a particularly significant way.