Handlers speculative: how to get a random word notifier in GNOME 3

I’ve been using my “fan merinos” random word generating script for a long time, and increasingly regularly as I take part in a few forums with transient pseudonymity and it’s a useful way to quickly get a pseudonym:

$ rw 1

Sure. Pseudonym activate. Yours, “Mortally”.

The result has been though that I increasingly return to my desktop to find that I’ve opened about 15 terminals and run rw in each and abandoned them.

How useful it would be to have a GNOME notification generated via a keyboard shortcut! Eg I could press Ctrl+Alt+R and get:

A GNOME notification reading: convalescence identities teases handlers speculative

Putting all this together takes a bit of work. First, the shell script to create the notification:


NUM_WORDS=5 # fits nicely in a notification for me

notify-send "$(cat "$WORDS" | grep -v "'" | grep -v "[A-Z]" | shuf -n $NUM_WORDS | xargs echo)" -a "Random words"

Save to, eg ~/bin/rw-notify.sh, and then make it executable: chmod 700 ~/bin/rw-notify.sh

If you run the command from a terminal you then get the notification.

But for some reason I haven’t worked out, GNOME’s keyboard shortcuts won’t run a shell script. If you try and add a shortcut that runs this command, it will simply do nothing.

So, next create another file: ~/.local/share/applications/rw-notify.desktop:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Random Words Notify
Exec=[YOUR HOME DIR]/bin/rw-notify.sh

Replacing [YOUR HOME DIR] with the location of your home dir, eg:


This will let you activate an application called “Random Words Notify” from the GNOME launcher.

Last step, binding it to a key.

First, you need to have /usr/bin/exo-open available on your system (for some context, see GNOME bug 343896). On Debian and Ubuntu, you’ll need to install exo-utils and on Fedora exo.

You will also need to make the desktop file itself executable: chmod 700 ~/.local/share/applications/rw-notify.desktop

Now, finally open the keyboard shortcuts editor (open the Activities view and start typing “Keyboard”). Scroll to the bottom and press the + to add a new custom shortcut:

Screenshot of the GNOME keyboard shortcut dialog

Then press “Set shortcut” followed by the keys you want (in my case, Ctrl+Alt+R), and fill in a name and, as the command, the full path of the rw-notify.desktop file, eg /home/mary/.local/share/applications/rw-notify.desktop:

Screenshot of the GNOME Add Custom Shortcut dialog

Press “Add” and now Ctrl+Alt+R will bring up 5 random words in a notification for you:

A GNOME notification reading: convalescence identities teases handlers speculative

All shell scripts and commands in this post (enclosed in the <code> HTML tags) are in the public domain.

A very short list of things I liked about being pregnant

It was all over four years ago yesterday, and here’s what I remember fondly:

A week and a half of not testing, and just walking around being pretty sure that everything was changing.

Seeing a beating heart on the ultrasound during a threatened miscarriage, and walking home feeling so proud of the tiny little thing in there, beating its heart like that.

The first time I felt a baby move inside me; the sensation of rolling over and something rolling the other way, like a bolt had come loose inside me and fallen away.

Rubbing a baby spine through my belly.

Listening to the heartbeat storm up on the monitor as the baby prepared to kick at the sensors squeezing my belly.

Labouring at home in the light of the many blue LEDs I didn’t realise we had until that night.

People politely waiting around a hospital room for contractions to pass every 3 minutes or so, so we could resume our conversation.

2017 in threes

End of year reflections.

Reading over last year’s (very dark) reflections, I would say 2017 was not the year I feared. While it will take a few years yet to tell what 2017 really was to the world, for me, it was a quiet and quite inward looking year, after a very hard 2015 and 2016.

Three moments of 2017

January: I was ill and taking regular naps at work; weirdly easy to go to sleep. Dark rooms, trip-hop through my headphones, and free associating.

May: New York City, so overwhelmed in a new job and so jetlagged that I worked a fifteen hour day and fell into bed for a brief sleep when I lost the ability to speak English.

November: Snorkelling in the Whitsundays, wishing again and always that I had scuba equipment, but happy and peaceful in the water.

Three meals of 2017

May: our wedding anniversary meal, degustation at Restaurant Como. Especially the rose-and-raspberry Eton mess, adding a bunch of subtlety to something that’s usually more like a hammer for a sweet tooth.

May and November: sashimi at Asuka Sushi. In planning to visit New York a few times a year, I wanted to find a few rituals to get me through the visits. Sashimi seems like a good choice. Protein versus jetlag.

Throughout the second half of the year: the truffle oil dumpling at the Din Tai Fung outlets throughout Sydney. As with making an Eton mess subtle, this makes truffle just subtle enough. And there’s only ever one of them…

Three photos of 2017

This represents being happy at work to me, although it’s also a million years ago in 2017-career-time. I was a newbie facing her first performance review, not the incoming manager of the team):

Today's look: writing self assessment for performance review. 💪

By the following cycle, I was doing performance reviews for other people.

A sweet boy and his baby cousin:

Cousin cuddle

The sun setting over the exit from Monk Park in Tamworth, a walk I did many times as a child:

Last rays

Three pleasures of 2017

Throughout the year: bike rides to work after a fresh service and with full tyres, fast climbs for a change.

May: our wedding anniversary weekend away west of the mountains. Wood fire, hot tub, creek nearby, eucalyptus leaves glowing yellow-green when the sun shone through them.

August/September: the week when skiing finally clicked for me. Mid-week, I led Andrew down a narrow run that neither of us had seen before. With my daughter ill on the last day of our lift ticket, Andrew took care of her in the morning while I did my last ski runs; three each of the intermediate runs on Merritts Mountain. Two falls all week; one the now traditional collision with Andrew. Lots of fun.

Three news stories from 2017

January: the first of the Trump travel bans, the one that proposed to limit green card holder travel to the US. Protests at US airports, mobilisation inside my workplace. I ran a fundraiser for a few tens of thousands for refugee rights activism in Australia.

February onwards: Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber and the ongoing work of The Silence Breakers, whether named in Time or not. Australia’s version, I think, is just firing up.

December: the passing of Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 on the 7th. I wasn’t in the country when the postal vote results came out and it became clear that fears that the ‘Yes’ vote would be complacent about turning out were unfounded. And I wasn’t following the parliamentary progress either, so I had to catch up that evening. I got a rather mystified Vincent to watch it carefully.

Three sensations from 2017

Throughout the year: hypnagogic hallucinations, almost every night. I’ve occasionally had them before but not nearly so constantly. They’re more like dreams than like free associating for me; they have images and plots. They’re mostly harmless; they’re only somewhat annoying in that I usually wake up from them a few times before going all the way to sleep.

November: New York, around −5°C and windy. Despite my (excellent) new winter coat that I bought for that trip, the cold surrounded my legs in their thin trousers and got up into my core that way. I run very hot, thyroid or no, so getting truly cold on a short walk is very memorable.

November again: sleeping under the stars on a boat in Queensland. I was committed to the outdoor plan as soon as I heard that the cabins often get above 30°C at night. The first night I was short a blanket but really tired, so I woke to squint at the stars over and over before sleepiness won over chill. On the third night, it rained just enough to wake me gently, and not enough to drive me inside.

Three sadnesses of 2017

May: my uncle Rob died of a brain tumour aged 57, just shy of nine months after he was diagnosed (alluded to in last year’s version of this). I wasn’t in the country for his funeral; I flew up to Tamworth the day before I left and drove my teenage cousin around to shop for soft drinks to be served at his wake.

Later in the year: another friend was diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve thought more about Nóirín again this year. It was the year of the silence breakers after all, and of course the Ninth Circuit ruling. Nóirín was one of many silence breakers who paved the way.

Three plans for 2018

We’re heading to Kauaʻi in January with some of my friends, the first time we’ve travelled overseas with both children and both adults. I’m a bit wary of what it will be like, with Vincent the child who is only alive around other children.

I’m going to do an introduction to sailing course early in the year, and if it works out, train through to day skipper so that we can charter sailboats for weekends away. Like camping, only with more water, wind, and creature comforts. That’s the theory.

New York is my main work travel destination, so I’ll be there again at least once. My parents are hoping to join me for one trip. I’d like to spend time in Brooklyn while I’m there.

Three hopes for 2018

Some good news about climate change, whether statistics or serious political will.

Travelling to North America with my family. This is somewhere between a hope and a plan; I’ve barely begun putting it together. But it is increasingly strange and sad having two lives, one as a single career woman in North America and the other as a married mother of two in Sydney. Andrew and I have both walked the High Line in New York, but never together, both explored Lands End in San Francisco, but never together.

An easy one: I hope it rains all day at some point. It’s been a dry year; I really miss a good rainy day.

End of year prompts

I came up with my end of year prompts in 2014, feel free to use them yourself.

17 years and through

Since July 21, 2000, I’ve been keeping a diary at this website, chronicling my doings. Here’s an excerpt from entry #1:

[K] asked me to be on a campaign for the Honi 2001 editorial team. Honi is the Sydney University campus newspaper, and the team is determined by popular vote, which means the campaign is dominated by political factions, and the newspaper is edited by the campus left. I am very left in social politics and centre economically according to some quiz I did on the web once, but don’t belong to a campus faction.

I think this team is going to be comprised of people at various stages of left-ness who are unaligned – so it would be very hard to win…

Yes, we did run for Honi Soit editorial board late in 2000. No, we didn’t win.

And yes, seventeen years in, I’m winding up the diary. The last entry will be the one for July 2017.

There’s no one big explanation about why I’m ending it, it’s been in gradual decline for about ten years now, and today’s the day I decided I just don’t want to tell you about my ski holiday in August, gosh darn it. (It was quite good!) Or about my next round of thyroid cancer surveillance. (There will always be thyroid cancer surveillance. Anything could happen!)

Have some little explanations:

  • The diary project, in its waxing and waning, has lasted nearly half my life, that is, the length of time it takes to become almost a different person.
  • 17 years ago, I was just barely someone’s girlfriend. Now I’m someone’s mother and someone else’s boss.
  • The author of the diary it was modelled on died two years ago last month.
  • The parts of my life I want to talk about in a globally accessible public diary have got even smaller than they were in 2000 (and it was never a tell-all in the first place).
  • The time I used to sink into writing I increasingly sink into taking photographs.
  • I always assumed I’d read the diary and reminisce, and I’ve only read any previous entries a total of about three times.

What now?

  • puzzling.org is staying and every so often I’ll post to it.
  • That may sometimes be a story posted about something that happened to me. It will probably be in the ‘Diary‘ section if so.
    If I had to guess how often, I’d guess once or twice a year. But I won’t be trying to write down an ongoing saga of my deeds.
  • I’ll keep my parenting blog, Incrementum, going for some time yet, although attentive readers will note that my older child is into reading and surfing the web age, so I imagine that it also has at most a couple of years to live in anything like its current form. (At which point it too will have been a decade-long project.)

Thanks for following. See you in some other genre.

After sunset, Cid Harbour

July 2017

July was an inevitable tour through my yearly theme of “why don’t I have any social life or do anything ever?” also known as “every single winter of my adult life”. Relatively speaking that is, mostly meaning I didn’t see a lot of unrelated adults.

It began, to be fair, with Pia’s hen’s night, which was the most hen’s night I’ve ever been to. That is, not very, but there were penis-shaped straws, so an effort was made. There was karaoke, at which I pulled my usual karaoke trick (I can more or less perform Eminem’s Lose Yourself, which invariably gets put on at any white person karaoke without anyone first checking that anyone there can rap). There was a chocolate cafe which really doubled down on chocolate cafe to a degree that really puts anything else in the category to shame. And so Pia was sent off.

We took the kids to Luna Park halfway through the month. It turned out they’ve been watching Youtube with the ads on: V sidled into our bedroom with “an idea I had, about what we could do today?” and later A was burbling with joy about going to “LunaParkWinterfest” all-one-word. Luna Park had its usual knack for us of having Sydney throw a warm and painfully glarey day at us regardless of time of year. Youtube ads or the school holidays got half of the city there, packed onto ferries loading and unloading at the very underprovisioned Jeffrey Street wharf. A went on the ferris wheel, crying, and the carousel, not crying, and she was done. Andrew and V left an hour after us and had made it through the queue of just one additional ride.

At the end of the month we went to Tamworth for a weekend to visit my aunt — Rob‘s widow — and my cousin, their youngest child. They live next door to where my grandparents lived until my grandmother died in 2000, which means same corner shop, same park hidden behind the water tower. If it hadn’t been winter, same pool that we swam in as guests of the neighbours at the time that Rob and Cas eventually bought the house from.

It was winter though, and a run of cold nights, so lots of adorable moments of the kids cutely huddling under blankets and drinking hot chocolates. Lots of daytime adventures too; I had forgotten the wildlife park at Tamworth, and several of the playgrounds have had an upgrade to fancy 2010s adventure playground gear so it was a bit of a dream weekend for the kids. The tens of thousands of smelly flying foxes living along the Peel River are new since I was last there too and presumably unwelcome to everyone but curious visitors. Someone set off a siren to scare them while we were there and V was staunchly defensive of the “brave bats” refusing to leave their trees. Mid-winter sunlight and wide streets and New England hills are all somewhere in my personal geography.

V’s soccer season went right through the month, so, each Saturday, down through Callan Park to the oval, and up hill again to the ridge after the game. A’s walking pace and distance slowly improved over the season, and most Saturdays other than the one with the 8am game it was a nice way to get out of the house and into the sun and trees each weekend. Also destined to be somewhere in my personal geography.