Adam Tuttle

Standing Desk Update: Day 3, Going Strong!

I got a comment on my previous post about experimenting with a standing desk asking for regular updates. I'm sure it's something many people are curious about, so here you go!

Today is my 3rd day working on my feet basically all day. I haven't taken any sitting breaks today other than my lunch, because I honestly don't feel that I need them. I may be singing a different tune by the end of 5 consecutive days standing.

My knees and heels are a little on the sore side, and my calves, thighs, and lower back are fairly tired. This is not surprising, because these are exactly the muscles that I was not using while sitting all day. I'm looking at it as a form of (mild) exercise: Tired muscles is a good sign! I also expect it will get easier with time.

If you've ever had a project where you were on your feet all day (exhibiting at a trade show, etc), it's basically the same thing, only every day. I also bought a mid-range (by price, at least) anti-fatigue mat from my local Bed Bath & Beyond. With tax it was just under $75 -- I've been told by multiple people that this is not an area where you want to skimp. It's definitely better than just standing on the floor, with or without shoes, but it's not mind-blowingly, foot-meltingly better. But I am glad I have it, if that makes sense.

At the end of a work day it is very relaxing to sit down for a few minutes; and I can really feel all of those muscles releasing and relaxing. I can say that I never used to experience that much relaxation at the end of the workday and it's kind of nice. It helps mentally separate the workday from "being home" and spending time with my family. And standing all day hasn't stopped me from going on family walks or other active things that you might be worried about missing. Sitting for just 20 minutes after work makes me feel almost as good as new.

So far I'm very happy with how my experiment is going. The cardboard box setup has required a mild adjustment to get the heights just right, and this is an important detail in the standing desk setup. Too high and you'll cut off circulation to your hands, too low and you'll strain your forearms and shoulders.

I guess I'll check back in later.

Published 2014-09-30 @ 01:57 in Standing Desk

Apparently I'm Crazy

There was a period in my life, mostly in late high school and early college years, where I changed things around in my life constantly. I probably rearranged my bedroom / dorm room 4 times a semester. I completely reorganized my bookshelves and the contents of my computers often.

On September 1st of this year I gave up drinking soda, cold turkey, on a whim, from a more-than-two-liters per day habit. And habit it definitely was: I suffered massive headaches for about a week after that whim. But I've held strong and haven't had a drop of soda since the day I poured the last half-glass in a 2L bottle down the drain.

And now I'm at it again. Last Friday I decided to stop putting off the idea of finding a way to experiment with a Standing Desk setup. I already had a TV mounted to the wall above my desk, so all that I needed to do was move it to an appropriate height and find something to hold my keyboard and mouse up at their appropriate height, too.

I've been wanting to try a standing desk for a long time, for the alleged health benefits. I recognize that I'm a pretty sedentary person, most of the time, if allowed to be; and it does make a certain amount of sense that standing (more) would be good for my overall health. I've also been on a mission to lose some weight, and I'm pretty sure that Adrian mentioned in his cf.Objective() 2013 lightning talk that he lost a bunch of weight when he started using a standing desk. Anecdotal, I know, but standing certainly isn't going to hurt my mission, and if it helps a little bit, then great.

Standing desks are all the rage right now, with more and more of my friends stepping up. (See what I did there?)

So here's my setup, for this experiment:

My Standing Desk

Note that I don't yet have an anti-fatigue mat, which I'm told is pretty key in any standing desk setup; so I see a trip to Home Depot or Bed, Bath, & Beyond in my future to pick one of those up.

If you're wondering what I'm using to prop stuff up, that's a printer box on my desk, with an old soda crate (irony?) on top of it, to get (close to) the correct keyboard height. Behind the keyboard I have my Nexus 7, for various reasons. I also ended up pulling my desk about 4 more inches away from the wall so that I could stand comfortably close to the keyboard without being super close to the screen: It's a 32" TV so standing too close would give me eye strain and poor picture quality.

If my experiment goes well —If I survive— I'll probably buy a converter to make it easier to switch between sitting and standing without moving a bunch of stuff around.

Pomodoro!

One of the reasons that my tablet features so prominently in my Standing Desk setup is that I've decided to be very methodical about my standing and sitting time. I'm using a pomodoro timer app to remind me to stand up and sit down at regular intervals. For Friday afternoon I was doing 50 minute stands followed by 10 minute sits, but that might have been too aggressive for a beginner. I think this week I'll cut it back to half standing and half sitting and see where that takes me.

Have you tried a standing desk? What are your experiences? Any tips for a beginner like myself?

Published 2014-09-29 @ 09:00 in Meta Standing Desk

Markdown

I mostly love Markdown. It's getting pretty pervasive. I write documentation on GitHub and elsewhere with it. I ask and answer questions on StackOverflow with it. I even write my blog posts with it.

Recently there has been much ado about Markdown, as the markdown-using and -coding community at large tries to wrestle it from the opinionated, arrogant, and statuesque (which is to say, "unwilling to budge") fingers of John Gruber (its creator) to standardize the expected output and provide a reference implementation.

All of this coming to a head made me ask myself, "Is this going to be our opportunity to fix the terrible things about Markdown?"

What's terrible about Markdown, you ask? For starters, there are too many ways to do the most common jobs.

You can create a list with either a hyphen, a plus, or an asterisk:

 - a
 - b
 - c

 + a
 + b
 + c

 * a
 * b
 * c

All three of these produce the same unordered list. But why is this a bad thing? Because —as much as I want to prefer them for lists— asterisks are also used to signify bold text (**bold text**) and I kind of like that. Except that I'm not a fan of having to use double-asterisks. Why not just one?

Why not just one? Because one asterisk signifies italic text (*italic text*). But so do underscores: _italic text_. And just like double asterisks indicate bold text, so do double underscores (__so do double underscores__).

Circling back for a moment, hyphens also pull double duty in Gruber's Markdown: By underlining a line of text in equal signs or hyphens, that line of text becomes an <h1> or <h2> heading, respectively. Of course, there's another way to accomplish this: The infinitely more robust option, the octothorpe (#). # is better because it supports any level of headings you might like, and because it compresses the document: no need to waste another line to underline something. Need to use <h3>? ### Here's your heading. Want an <h12> for some reason? ############ Here you go.

Did I say double duty? I meant triple. You can put 3 hyphens, asterisks, or underscores on a line by themselves to indicate an <hr>.

I wanted to point the finger at Gruber and call him out as a meddler whose non-technical background caused him to embed these terrible mistakes into an otherwise brilliant idea, but I looked him up and it turns out he has a degree in Computer Science. I don't know if that makes it better or worse, honestly. Not that all technical people are always right (or even nearly so), but he took a stab at making an original implementation of the language syntax he designed, as a perl script — and somehow these glaring overlaps and things that make writing a markdown parser harder didn't occur to him.

If I Were the King of Markdown

If I could reinvent markdown, I would only make a few small changes from what we have now. _underscores_ would be the only way to indicate italics. *single asterisks* would be the only way to indicate bold. You could only create lists using hyphens -. The only way to make a horizontal rule (<hr>) would be with pluses +, and headings would only be done with octothorpes #.

But that will never happen.

Markdown has been around for a long time and there are a lot of documents written in it. Backwards compatibility has become a necessity. So we're stuck with a bunch of bad ideas embedded like a nail in our tire. Fortunately, the CommonMark project is trying to take a more methodical and deliberate approach to its future, but I'm afraid that these scars are here for the duration.

Published 2014-09-25 @ 09:00 in Off Topic

Taffy 3.0.0-RC1

Today I created the first Release Candidate for version 3 of Taffy: Version 3.0.0-RC1

Not much has changed since the alpha. There were a few bug fixes, and I've gotten a few pull requests that seemed like a good fit for this release, so they have been added as well. All of the additions have been added to the "What's New" section of the documentation.

While this is not officially a "stable" release, it is my estimate that it could be. I'm using it in production without any issues; but I'm also sure my code doesn't make use of every single code-path through the framework. If you have some spare cycles it would be greatly appreciated if you could try upgrading your install and make sure everything still works.

Don't forget that there are a few things that are going to require some code changes on your part, but they are relatively minor.

If all goes well with the RC, we could be looking at Taffy 3.0.0 stable in as little as a week! As always, thank you for your help testing and for your pull requests.

Published 2014-09-19 @ 02:44 in Taffy