Sharing ideas, in any form, is what the web empowers us to do. This is my online journal and commonplace book.

Elsewhere, I write and draw In Abeyance, a bi-monthly newsletter for people actively curious about the built environment. Sign up.


Issue 023 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This one was more difficult than usual to write, as it’s one of the first opinion pieces I’ve chosen to write.

End of week four of living & working in the house. As we settle into our new reality, my old routines has been completely upended, but I’ve been looking to add new ones and re-establish the old ones.

I think I’ve finally gotten my writing mojo back. For the last few weeks I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time looking at graphs, getting upset and then doing it again a few minutes later. Needless to say it wasn’t doing my mental health any good.

I missed my deadline for In Abeyance as it was important that I write something that brought some clarity to everything that is going on around us at the moment. Like most people my mind has been completely overcome by a fog which is slowly lifting.

Life is happening when you look for it.

Fluffy clouds.

In case you are on the latest iOS and your spell check stops working because you’ve linked an external keyboard, there is a simple fix. Bring up the onboard keyboard, type a few things and it should get it to work again.
Yes, it’s designed to work that way.
Sorry, my mistake. No it isn’t.

Man, I can’t wait to be done with having to use the fucking iPad as a primary machine. iOS sucks soo hard with it’s flacky keyboard support, and spell check that works whenever it feels like. I’ve had tons of problems with macOS, but never keyboard issues.

Yesterday I was reminded of the single best trick from Atomic Habits, which is to stack your habits. I’ve been meaning to get back into learning Danish again. My commute all but stopped it as repeating Danish words again and again on a public train would make me the weirdo on the train. However sorting out the kitchen/dishes after dinner is a prime time to do a 30 minute lesson. Stacking these two habits together really works for me. Another habit I’m stacking is doing a HIIT session with the kids right after the working day is over. Helps me get out of whatever issues where in my head throughout the day and lets me play and interact with the kids straight away.

Carl De Keyzer spent 60 days in North Korea, where he was given unprecedented access to one of the hardest places to photograph. The photos, collected in a book and on his website are nothing short of mesmerising.

Cuba Sends Doctor Brigade to Italy. There is no other way to put it, heroes. As I was reading this I couldn’t help but tear up. The humanity on display is incredible. Heroes.

If you’re wondering what the next few weeks are going to look like for your countries, these graphs from Our World in Data offer some sobering insight. The only good thing coming out of America at the moment is Governor Cuomo who seems to have his shit together, unlike the tangerine 🍊.

One of the most important pieces of technology I’ve been using to really allow me to get through the day has been my noise cancelling headphones. These bad boys would come out only when I was travelling (ha!) or writing a report at work that I wanted no distractions. Now I use it to limit my distractions from the everyday noise in the house.

First days of spring.

No idea if its the hand soap we are using or the combination of hand sanitizer and frequent washing but my hands are totally fucked. Cracked, bleeding and incredibly sore.

Years ago, when I was in University, Dan introduced me to the Iranian new year, Nowruz. He spoke with such enthusiasm about this day. How ridiculous our current new year is considering it happens at the darkest, wettest, coldest part of the year. It made no sense. It makes no sense. Rather, Iranians celebrated new years on the first day of spring. Spring is a time where the tide turns. When the days become more bountiful. When the sun begins to shine a bit more.

For myself, living in Scandinavia, it’s also the time when everyone south of us gets less sunlight than us. We’ve had to endure a long winter, now comes our reward. Copenhagen is showing it’s spring colours today. I’m thankful for that at least.

Also, to all the mothers in the Arab speaking world, Happy Mother’s Day.

This last week has been physiologically brutal. A lot of thoughts and ideas in my head (just like everyone else on the planet) as we all try and find some answers to all our legitimate and difficult questions. I have two links that gave me clarity and some reassurance on our collective future.

The first one is from Kottke, who has been nailing the COVID-19 coverage, and is an expansive article that really deserves your full attention. If there is one article you are going to read in full about this, let it be this one. Hopefully it will give you the necessary clarity it has given me.

The next one is a much shorter affair and just plain good advice from Seth.

Shawn Blanc is giving away free access to his Time Management course. You need to use a coupon code. I’ve signed up, maybe it will help you work out some things during this time as well.

We need some happiness and brightness in a world that is absolutely heading towards some real darkness. If you have young ones, one of my favourite children’s authors is Rob Biddulph will be drawing for the kids to follow along. Tuesdays & Thursdays at 10am UK time.

This season of Better Call Saul is finally hitting it’s stride and showing us what makes Saul Goodman such a good character to watch. It’s also interesting to see how they are filling in some backstory of how Mike breaks bad as well (can I even use it that way?).

Humans Build

Like many I am currently grappling with what is going on around the world. Trying desperately not to keep refreshing my newsfeeds to get a glimpse of even the tiniest piece of information. In a constant loop that is breaking my head if I’m honest.

When does civil society break down exactly? This is a question that is not too far away from my mind. We live in such a precarious time at the moment. Where a virus can kill thousands of people by touching them. Nobody is prepared. Everyone is either scared or should be.

Then I remind myself that we are humans. We build. It’s what we do. We build airports. We build homes. We build schools and museums and mausoleums. We build aeroplanes and rockets. We build systems. We build hospitals. We build our future.

So looking to that future, here are two wishes:

  1. I hope that when we come out of this, hopefully soon, we are able to enforce change. We now understand how fragile this world we have built truly is.
  2. I also want to hope that this virus will ultimately bring us closer together as we all come to understand that in this life there are no Chinese or American, Russian or Syrian; there is only human.

Like many around the world we are effectively locked in and self isolating. Family of four confined to our little apartment. Yesterday the weather was incredible and invited us out for a little bit. Having said that we were incredibly conscious of everything the kids touched and of any people within 10m of us.

My favourite quote during this whole time has come from the Italian Foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, who said:

Our grandfathers were drafted to go to war; we’re being asked to stay at home.

Putting everything into context, this is hardly a hardship. It just needs discipline to not go a little bit loopy and remain patient (with everything and everyone) . For my part I have been using this time to reflect and try and come out of this a slightly better person than when we entered this thing.

These social distancing posters by Bix are great. I had never even heard of the term till a few weeks ago, now it’s going to be a way of life for a little while.

Look no further than Our World in Data for the best internet coverage on the Coronavirus. They have been really on this.

Incredible detail for the work that went into localising the deceptively simple and elegant app Currency by Nuno Coelho Santos

That is some of the trippiest weather I’ve experienced in a really long time. Sunny, overcast, hail, rain and I think I saw a few pigs flying as well.

Sometimes the simplest apps hold the most power. Edit for iOS is one of those apps. Was reminded of this app with the release of Tot. This fits my mind more.

Issue 022 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This issue focuses on Energy Vaults, Microlino, hydrogen trains and Zettelkasten.

Excellent introduction on how the use of colour within a space has a direct impact on how we percieve the space itself - the examples are excellent.

Cardhop has got to be one of the most impressive apps on iOS, it’s actually let me take control of my contacts. Something I have never had any control over. I bought it when it first came out and never used it. Big mistake. I’ve been using it all weekend and it’s an absolute joy to use as it’s taken me down memory lane and made me relive my contacts with so many people. I’ve even started reaching out to a few of them as a result of this clarity. Going forward maintaining the garden is key.

I’ve just realised why I’ve found it hard to keep in contact with a bunch of people, my address book is total garbage - or at least a lot of the information in my address book is either hopelessly out of date, incorrect or non-existent. Good thing I’ve given myself a month to sort all of this out. I see a lot of text messages and emails in my future.

I finally sat down and really thought about how I want to use my iPhone & iPad. Turns out I’ve seriously let my digital garden go completely wild over the last few years. My contacts are all over the place. The less said about my photos the better. My emails accounts are out of hand. My files are in slightly better condition (but even then, it will need some consideration). Thankfully there are some seriously awesome tools made for just this thing. The plan is to try and deal with one area every month.

Top of my list on this journey is Cardhop. These videos for Cardhop by David Sparks is a seriously great introduction to the power behind this deceptively simple looking app.

Great video by Vox explaining why new diseases keep appearing in China and why these may continue to appear. Unlike America’s lack of gun control (which is terrible) affects Americans within their borders. The Chinese government’s policies to not only allow but actively encourage wildlife farming practices (which is awful, even without the addition of disease to the mix), have a significant affect across the entire world. Hopefully world governments can put enough pressure on China to finally put an end to this.

The most dangerous app on my phone, for allowing me to waste my time, is Safari. The most important app on my phone, for allowing me to find out anything, is Safari.

One of the main areas that I feel like I have lost total control over in recent years are my 100s of text files that live across a wide range of folders and within apps. So in the year of consolidation I’ve decided to bring everything under a single roof. I’ve decided on the method, now the hard graft of closing one folder and application at a time begins.

Finally, my credit nightmare is officially over. That took a month to get sorted out. I was able to tie a bunch of other financial loose ends as well, while I was at it. Learnt a ton of hard lessons in the process, but clearly things are decidedly different in Europe. 10 years in the Middle East makes a person forget.

One of my favourite typefaces, Merriweather, has recently (3 months ago is recent in the typeface world) been updated with what appears to be display, wide, narrow and heading variants. Last year in April, small-caps were added as well (in case you missed that update).

What’s interesting is that Google now appears to be funding the efforts of future development - which was news to me. It’s not very well documented anywhere.

Just finished the cover gallery for my newsletter In Abeyance. Writing and drawing this newsletter has been one of the most fun and satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on. Special thanks to @blot for all his help on this.

First day of Unlocking. No better way to celebrate than getting home with the sun blazing brightly across clear blue skies. Tomorrow it might rain or snow or hail; and thats alright to.

This thread on Twitter, regarding the future of the Editorial app for iOS is bittersweet. Even though the app hasn’t been updated (apart from a few maintenance releases) in an age, it’s still an incredibly solid editor - a testament to how advanced the app was compared to others around it. I would say it is still the best app for Dropbox sync, Taskpaper features and Fountain support.

One of the most important parts associated with any app, is it’s longevity, which is the only major ding against lone developers. I love to support them, but at the same time you always run the risk of any number of issues halting future development. In this case it’s clearly not lack of enthusiasm. I do hope everything works out for him and he’s able to work through any issues he’s going through.

And maybe, just maybe he can come back stronger with a future release.

I’ve been really enjoying CJ Chilver’s recent series of posts on one of my favourite subjects, newsletters.

Taking some of the advice in this series, which coincides with my general theme for the year, I’ve now updated the Stet.build website to include a new sign up and about pages.

One of the quotes I recently read in Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, was in the early days of Google:

So we were never in a big hurry to get you to use it today. Tomorrow would be better.
— Sergey Brin

Whenever I add something new to the site, it’s a small step that makes it better for the person who has just discovered the site.

All the pictograms for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics move. So. So. Great.

The new Tot app is a quintessentially Icon Factory app. It’s opinionated software of the highest order. I’m sure it’s got a ton of polish and will serve those that choose to buy it very well. For now it’s not for me, even though one of my favourite hobbies is to buy different text editors.

iPad Revelations & Misery

I really miss my MacBook. I’m a firm believer that using the right tool makes you happier and is therefore more sustainable in the long run. Since September, I have been relegated to using my iPad Pro exclusively for all my needs. In some ways, it has been both a revelation and joy to use. In other respects, it has been abject misery.

Protability

Where the iPad shines for me is it’s portability. This thing is incredibly light. Solidly built and has an incredible battery that keeps on going and going. The fact that the pencil is magnetically attached to the top means it’s always charged and ready to go. All in all, it is definitely the road warrior that I imagined it to be. I opted for the 12.9” version, which is right for me, in most cases. It gets a bit big when I write notes, but this is mainly a mindset thing that I need to get past and work into my routine.

Keyboard Support

While this isn’t perfect, I use this with two keyboards. One by Apple and it’s perfect and the other by Logitech and it works great at work as I need to flip between a Windows machine and my iPad. The only issue I’ve ever really had is that sometimes support across various apps has been pretty buggy recently. Most notably with iAWriter, the keyboard goes haywire if I switch between apps. Its restored only when I restart the app.

Apps

Apps like GoodNotes, Procreate, iFontMaker, Stop Motion Pro, and PDFExpert truly shine on this machine in a way that other apps cannot. There are the apps that have been adapted exceptionally well. iA Writer. Soulver. Drafts. Affinity’s Photos and Designer work surprisingly well but they falter by the limitations of the iPad’s poor support of a mouse which is where these types of apps shine.

Then there are the apps that don’t exist on the platform. The Archive. Affinity say that they are working on a version for their Publisher app, but until then, creating books isn’t really all that possible - sure there is Pages…but I mean, c’mon guys. It’s called an iPad Pro. No Web Developer tools of note. The ones available are barely ok, but certainly not as powerful as what already comes with desktop safari.

Buggy Software

This is something that I have noticed a sharp addition of bugs for iOS13. It’s not been great. Everything from dictionary support to weird and wonderful bugs with the keyboard support. As this is my main machine for production, it’s frustrating.

Fonts

Yes, you can have your own fonts installed, except for some reason, it’s only through third party apps (none of which are very good). Why the hell isn’t this baked into the OS?


Fixing It

I know it’s fashionable to pile onto the iPad at the moment. The truth is that it wouldn’t take very much for me not to pine over my macbook.

  1. Add the Safari Developer Tools.
  2. Give proper mouse support to the OS.
  3. Design a nice interface for font management.
  4. Sort out the bugs related to the keyboard support.

Moonshot

The thing that would be the real game changer for me is if the 3rd party developers are enticed to actually develop real productivity software for the platform. I’d love to see ports of Mac apps on iOS. Make it happen Apple. It’s the sort of crazy shit Steve Jobs would ask for. This would allow me to have The Archive, Hemingway, Highland, Marsedit and any number of other great Mac apps that I have already paid for and currently have no way to use.

After 10 years without access to formula one, living in Europe opens this possibility up again with F1 TV. I might keep my €110 this year, as it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a vintage year, based on practice sessions and the expected dominance of the Mercedes machine. Next year however, things might be different with the new rules.