Diapers & Coffee

I’ve started what I guess could be described as a parenting blog. This idea came up sometime toward the end of last year, when Megan commented on my habit of reasoning very matter-of-factly with our daughter about the kind of ridiculous things that come up in parenting a toddler. She thought it would be entertaining to save some of these situations, exchanges, and one-liners for…posterity?

As recounted in my opening post, the name came from an exchange in probably the spring or fall, when we were still eating brunch on our terrace in pleasant weather. The phrase “diapers and coffee” came back to me when I started kicking around the idea for this blog, and then I had the inspiration for the domain,, which was too perfect.[1]

I expressly wanted to keep this a very lightweight, short-form blog to which I could post quickly and often—but I couldn’t help but spin my tires for two months trying to put together the perfect system to allow me to do that. I let that be the enemy of the good until this weekend, when I realized I needed to cut loose the distraction that was all the custom code, and focus on launching with something simple.

So that’s what I’ve done.[2] Enjoy.

  1. I just looked and saw that I registered two months ago to the day. ↩︎

  2. For those interested, I’m using Blot, a static site generator that automatically turns a folder of Markdown files into a website. I stuck with the default blog template instead of rolling my own, at least for now. (Update: I'm now using Eleventy—a more configurable, open-source static site generator—deployed on Digital Ocean.) ↩︎

2023 in Focus

It’s been a couple years since I’ve written about a yearly theme, but I wanted to post something about this year’s. I think it is helpful to put a public stake in the ground, and since I don’t have a podcast to talk about these on anymore, here we are.

The word that kept coming to mind towards the end of last year was focus. It initially felt a bit on the nose, but what made me come around on it was thinking of focus as a photography term. I picture spinning a focus ring to isolate one thing at a time, or adjusting the aperture to bring more things into focus at once if I want the bigger picture. It’s a useful lens[1] to approach the year with.

The impetus for this theme came from two observations. The glaring one is that I’ve been trying to do way too many things in life lately. Secondarily, I’ve had a hard time doing any one thing for long without getting sidetracked. Sure, these are nothing new—but I hit a breaking point with them in the last third or so of 2022.

A large part of what I need to do this year is is to make the hard calls about what is important for me to give my time and focus to, and to pare back everything else. The important things include being a husband to my wife and a dad to our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter. They include my work—not just because it pays the bills, but because going into this year I have an exciting new role that I want to have the headspace to do well. That means making the space to focus on things that will contribute to my mental and emotional wellbeing—particularly creative outlets like photography, writing, and perhaps filmmaking. It also means taking intentional steps to ensure that when I’m doing any one of these things, it is the one thing in focus and everything else fades into a nice background blur.[2]

One creative outlet I want to pay attention to is photography. The launch of Glass in late 2021 and my purchase of a new camera this past spring together spurred a renewed interest in this creative hobby for me. I’ve been inspired to branch out from the travel and landscape photos I take on trips and hikes and to start carrying my camera around town to take photos of the everyday. This year I want to foster that artistic expression by embarking on a 365: inspired by another photographer on Glass, I plan to post a photo each day that was taken that day. The first one is up; the rest will be published to my profile each day. This is the most resolution-y (no pun intended) part of this theme, but it is a daily habit I’d like to cultivate, and it dovetails well with the idea of Focus.

As usual, a yearly theme is meant to be a North Star in making decisions throughout the year, not a specific set of pass/fail objectives.[3] All of this is just a snapshot of some of my thoughts going into this year.[4]

So begins the Year of Focus.

  1. See what I did there? ↩︎

  2. A couple paragraphs into this, I pulled out a notebook and pen to write the rest of it; doing so made a night-and-day difference to being able to tune everything else out and let the words flow onto the page. ↩︎

  3. Basically the opposite of those SMART goals they used to make us write in school. ↩︎

  4. I also need to go in for another vision checkup and probably get a new pair of glasses. ↩︎

Thing Builder

Today I’m taking the wraps off a side project I started almost three years ago. It started with me wishing for project templates in my task manager, Things. At the time, I was using Drafts a lot for text automation, and I found a couple different user-created text parsers for Things in the Action Directory. Inspired by these, I wanted something more Markdown-like, and as I thought about it, something in Shortcuts and not tied to a single third-party app.[1]

I created the Thing Builder, a 250-action shortcut that accepts text using a particular markup, which can be used to define and create a new Things project with all its associated tasks and dates, or to batch-add tasks to existing projects or areas. In addition to using the Markdown syntax for headings and bullets, I chose a handful of symbols, which can prefix a string of text to mark it as a list, date, tag, or note.

I did this in July 2019, but I decided to sit on it for a while before sharing it—mainly to actually put the tool through its paces and iron out any wrinkles. I’d also run into a bug with one of Shortcuts’ actions while initially working on this. (I was running an iOS beta, after all.) I found a workaround for the time being, but I did want to come back and use the more elegant solution whenever that got taken care of.[2]

This has been longer of “a while” than I expected—but in the meantime, I’ve used it a lot, made a few tweaks, and built several other shortcuts that themselves call the Thing Builder to generate a project. I have several templates for work that I use on a regular basis. This outlasted another fling with the Bullet Journal and was waiting for me when I came back to the warm embrace of Things in January. At some point I’d seen that that buggy action was working again, so I’d had swapping those actions out on my to-do list for some time, along with writing documentation and sharing the shortcut (all in a Things project, of course). Yesterday that caught my eye, I made the updates, and then I went ahead with writing docs. And here we are.

If you’re looking for a way to create reusable project templates for Things—or just add a bunch of tasks from a text editor—you can find a link to download the shortcut and an explanation of the syntax in the documentation.

  1. Though there were plenty of times during development where I would’ve rather been working with code in a text editor for something of this scale, using Shortcuts turned out to be a good move: I’ve long since moved on from Drafts, but the shortcut I built is alive and well, and accessible anywhere through the iOS share sheet. ↩︎

  2. It was the “Get Group from Matched Text” action, for extracting sub-patterns from text matched with a regular expression. In those cases, I ended up using the “Match Pattern” action again to match within the match. ↩︎