In Abeyance Vol.3 No.051

Latest issue of my newsletter In Abeyance is finally out. Over the last year I have fallen out of my routine for writing in the morning. Part of this has been due to my regular work creeping outside it’s time boundaries.

I have considered making the newsletter easier to write (by writing less) but that defeats the whole point of this endeavour. What I have settled on is accepting that sometimes I will be late but (hopefully) worth the wait.


Surrounding your desk.
Around your television media area.
Across your kitchen (over and under the counters).
Deep inside your walls.
Running under your feet.
They deliver power and signals.
Cables are ubiquitous.

Yet even for an electrical engineer like myself, it would be difficult to argue that they are great to have around. They get tangled up. They fray. They are a necessary evil.

What a glorious place it would be if all your appliances and devices where always charged and ready to go. Wireless power. An idea nearly as old as electricity itself.

Read issue 051.

Sensible Defaults

I have a new form of obsession, finding my own sensible defaults. I am tantalisingly close to getting most of the way there for a number of aspects of my life. The more defaults I can add, the easier life flows and opens up the opportunity for me to explore beyond the mundane. Although this year was originally intended to be the year of learning, it really has turned into the year of sensible defaults. From clothes, to technology, to the house, to my thoughts and ideas, to what I need.

Every item that is allowed entry into my life has to enhance it in a meaningful and long term manner. Short term gains (such as the euphoria of having purchased something) is very much a thing of the past for me. Impulse buys are not allowed. Every item in my surroundings has a target on its back - unless I have some use for this item, it’s days are limited (sometimes it does take me a little while to get there but get there I do).

Cargo Bike

I thought it would be fine. We would take it nice and slow. It’s a straight line, soft downhill with a a few turns at the very end. The thing is it really has been pretty stressful these last few days taking and bringing Zane from school on his bike. Every jut out in the road I see as a trap. Even though it is only 10min on the bike, his concentration meanders. I occasionally see him where he shouldn’t be, so I slow down. I raise my voice. Sometimes he listens. Sometimes he doesn’t. He’s only 7 after all.

So I’ve decided to remove this stress from my daily life. Gonna bite the bullet and buy myself an overpriced cargo bike and go all Danish on the situation. The reason it’s taken me this long is down to need. I haven’t really needed this until this week, but I imagine it will be a very important addition to the family. Ryan will no doubt learn to love going on rides for the fun of it. Not decided which one to go for yet but aim to have that resolved by the end of tomorrow.

Mise En Place

These last few days have been exhausting. I decided to tackle the house in every single manner. When I began this process, I just knew that we had too much ‘junk’ around us. We certainly were not using everything and in a small little house, it all becomes more apparent as things tend to pile on top of each other. So I began the process of Marie Kondo-ing the house. Be ruthless, but remember to be kind to yourself throughout the process.

I have done this before but in a different time and place, during transition periods between country to country. This is the first time I review the situation within the confines of our lives as they exist now. For the most part, I was able to remove a large amount of things however there were a few things also coming in - either as necessary replacements or omissions that became clear after the clutter was removed.

While it might seem wasteful to dedicate such a large amount of my holiday time to sorting out our house this process actually frees my physical and mental space to focus on what is important. The greatest feeling I have had post this exercise has been the fact that there is now a specific place for everything. The joy of Mise en place, in a small family of four, is liberating. I highly recommend taking the time, no matter how much of a chore it feels like. Your future self will thank you for it.

On Email Pixels

And like that war on the email pixel has been declared. I’m not going to say I will miss it. The only useful aspect of this technology for me is to see who has or hasn’t opened an email in a while. Truth is even then I haven’t used this feature to cull addresses.

I imagine that this then becomes an issue only as a newsletter grows. There will have to be new solutions adopted to address this. This could be as simple as a yearly poll that asks you to confirm you still want to receive the email, otherwise you will be removed. This might get annoying if everyone adopts the same technique (think that GDPR shitfest from a few years ago).

What people click on is even of less interest. I’m just just happy they found it engaging. I guess in the new world of newsletters, the only thing that matters is if someone signed up or removed themselves. If they sent you a response. Nobody ever seems to forward on an email so no need to worry about that.

2 Micro Brand Watch Releases

As I dip my toes into the world of watches, I have decided to play around in the micro brand side of things and slowly move into more expensive options as I build my collection. There are two brands that seemingly have cornered this market as far as I’m concerned with their offerings are Vaer and Sternglas. What’s great about both is that they are not targeting the same styles, however they are approaching things in a very similar manner. One is based in the U.S and the other in Germany and both released a watch this week.

The interesting things relating to watch materials and colours are happening in the micro brand space. These new manufacturers do not have heritage to rely upon and so they have to provide a compelling reason to buy them over more established brands (that are likely to be here, 10, 20 years from now). These two brands don’t skimp on the specifications and have stayed true to their chosen design aesthetic.

Modesto

Sternglas has just released the Modesto, a very enticing watch with the option of a very simple black or white dial design. This naturally appeals to me on several levels, however if I think their very first idea, the Naos a better distillation of what they are good at.

D4

I am definitely not on the market for another Vaer watch (considering I just got one a month ago), but this is a real beauty. The D4 is their entry model dive watch. What I love about these dive watches is how the naming directly relates to their faces. I would have loved a Tropic version of the D4, however if I was to go for one of these D4s it would be the Atlantic version.

Pre-order the Built Environment Compendium Vol.1

When I set to work on Stet.Build, I knew that this was a longterm project. That the many pieces that I was putting in place would not really find their complete form until many years later.

Now three years later I am edging closer and can finally share some of the very original ideas that got me excited so long ago. The very first book, the Built Environment Compendium Vol.1 is complete and is now ready for pre-ordering. I am still in conversations with my editor for final edits to the text, which should hopefully be done within the month.

This is the first time I use Gumroad and I am actually pretty excited to see what this platform has to offer to digital content creators. Overall I like the simplicity of the platform.

Publishing Streams

It took a while but I finally reached an understanding of how to go about the self-publishing route. The truth of the matter is that one size definitely does not fit all. In this case my strategy seems like it will be split across 5 separate channels. What I also didn’t anticipate is the fact that the order in which each one is put online also plays an important role in all of this.

First and most importantly is to get your very own ISBN. Handily leaving in Denmark you are given the first 10 ISBNs for free. Not sure what happens after that (I think you just have to ask for more. For those looking to go down this wild route, here are a few key points that I have settled on:

  1. Your own site. Digital goods can get sold on your own website using Gumroad. Simple and customisable. The percentage take is pretty reasonable for the convenience factor. I think Gumroad is a solid option for selling digital so that you can continue to create things that matter.
  2. Amazon / KDP. This is the big gorilla because it is the big player in this field. Go here first. Set things up accordingly so that they are pretty exclusive to Amazon themselves. Forget about Global Distribution. This is for those who want to buy things from Amazon and are hooked up into their ecosystem.
  3. Lulu. This is to offer a print alternative from your website. This is not for global distribution, rather simply to allow those internet savvy people that want a physical copy. They will have to go via the Lulu press website to finish off the transaction. The financial incentive to the seller is actually pretty low, however there is something truly magical about having your creation appear as a high quality physical object for a reasonable price. I have much more to
  4. Draft2Digital. This is for everyone not on Amazon. I can’t tell how big a market this is but it will include Apple.
  5. IngramSpark. This is for the global distribution to anywhere but Amazon or the internet.

Each channel has a very distinct strength. None of them are ideal, but the beauty of it all is that they exist and someone with an idea and an iPad can put together their ideas into this world and offer it in a number of ways. My view is that I will begin to offer each of these distribution options in the sequence above. Launching them all on the same day is not possible but I don’t think it matters either as the work itself is not particularly topical, rather can be read now or in 5 years time.

Analogue Rabbit Hole

In the spring of 2020, the world was going through unprecedented upheaval. Many across the world descended and depended heavily on the digital realm. It took a hold of our lives; our mental space was covered by a warm glowing digital blanket. Many of us embraced this new reality as we all tried to get away from the reality happening around us. We looked for escape. Years of conditioning took over, it could never have happened otherwise.

I was certainly not immune to this way of life. My attention was completely hijacked. Enough was enough. I confronted this new numbing reality. I consider how I wanted technology in my life. Rather than letting technology entertain me endlessly, through unlimited steams of content I would control how the digital realm would be allowed into my life. It was a difficult transition. A digital addict needs to step away from the things that have a hold over him.

At first I would leave my phone at home when I went out. I would take a notebook and a pen to try and make sense of the world around me. I looked to reading physical books again. I was transported back a decade, where these computers in our pockets did not exist. This was a slow, steady transition back to a more analogue world. The final piece of the analogue puzzle came when I looked down on my wrist. Empty and bare. I looked again and decided that it was time to finally get back to wearing a watch. That was when I fell face down into the rabbit hole.

Tone

100th episode of the Micro Monday podcast is up. Great overview of the short past and hopefully long future of the platform. I agree that getting all the things that currently exist in Micro.blog more refined and faster is the correct focus. The year of refinement.

The part I didn’t completely agree with was the suggestion by Patrick to add a tag into the profile. My site is random. Sure there are plenty of sites with a singular focus, most personal sites however do not fit this limitation. One, two or thirteen tags would not be enough or representative of my site - depends on how granular you want to get really. That is the charm and need of our digital gardens. We can plant anything we want in them.

So how do you make discovery better? That is a difficult one when everyone’s thoughts are so random. I think we need to move away from topics and concentrate our efforts elsewhere. Maybe the reasons to discover anyone should be more about tone than topic. How you quantify this tone is a tricky question to answer. I do think that understanding how often someone publishes is key to this equation as well.

RMO / Chapter 01

We all need a system that aims to reduce the noise and clutter that manifests in our lives, be it physical, digital or mental. We all have a great deal on our minds. We have too much stuff. We all need a better system than the one we’re currently using. Fundamentally, the issue with humans is that we are natural hoarders. Although it seems to takes considerably less amount of effort in accumulating as it does to discard. We seem to have more difficulty letting go. To reduce our mental overhead, the journey begins by defining those elements that are essential. This is then followed by carefully assessing what can be considered enough to our overall wellbeing, with as little excess as possible.

Any system seeking to define a universal approach to life is going to fall far short for all people. When it’s too broad it becomes harder to tailor to everyone’s unique situation. I’m a teacher. I’m a father. I’m an Engineer. I’m a mother. The intent in this sporadic series of articles is to try and find a common an implementable school of thought, such that anyone can gain something of use and merit.

Once you are able to see the elements of your life for what they truly are and what they actually mean to you, then you can decide on what to do with them. The challenge with the things that we all collect is that their status in our lives shifts in importance the longer they stay with us. They also shift in importance depending on where in your life they appear. Being able to understand these shifts and react to them is an essential skill that needs to be developed in all of us.

Our lives are complex, with a number of moving parts that are all competing with each other for attention and oftentimes supremacy. As we carry these parts around with us, they occupy physical, conscious or subconscious space. The issue being that each one of these parts contributes overall to our mental overhead. Becoming aware of these parts, then being able to categorise them and place them, first into main categories and then into smaller compartments. Once these categories and their compartments are clearly defined, managing them is the next step. Once you understand the pieces in a defined format, the enormity of the task becomes ever more apparent.

Why is this even important? Why change the way you are doing things? Being able to reduce and understand will give you agency. Agency over the world around you. Agency over your belongings (be they physical, digital or mental) that oftentimes you are beholden to. Many (most?) of us where never give clear direction on how to manage these pieces. They were just given to us and we were tasked with understanding and managing them. They called it experience. They called it life lessons. While much of this is true there has to be a better way. Others have tried in part to address this, but there are flaws in their systems. The flaw is trying to distill everything into something you can hold in the palm of your hand. Something simple. Most importantly something that can reduce mental overhead.

On Marketing

I have struggled mightily with working out how best to use Twitter. It is a tool with infinite connections. The main issue is that it has never clicked with me. I struggle with finding people to follow and what to post on a regular basis.

The reason I keep coming back to the platform is down to reach. Now in my second year of publishing my newsletter, it has expanded considerably since those initial steps, but it is a long journey.

I keep coming back to this quote from Seth Godin:

Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem. Marketing helps others become who they seek to become.

What problem am I trying to solve? Trying to help people understand the built environment and what we are doing to destroy or protect our planet by way of construction, architecture and policy.

Coffee

I always knew there was an entire universe surrounding coffee. A bunch of coffee nerds talking about grind, water quality, grams per litre, percolation, pour over. You needed to have all the gear to make something half decent. You needed beans (sustainably sourced) from Guatemala. And on and on.

Honestly, you can go as deep as you want, like with anything attached to any industry. I’ve had a reasonably varied relationship with my coffee. This year however is when I take it up a little notch. No, not going to be buying an espresso machine any time soon, but will be building my coffee making collection purposefully.

I have been using the v60 almost exclusively over the last year to make pour over filter coffee. The first enhancement has been the introduction of a small kitchen scale and a Bodum milk frother. Its a surprising purchase that actually makes a decent milky based coffee at home. I am going to be (re)buying an Aeropress next (I lost the filter a while back and never bothered to replace it). One of the coffee nerds guiding me on this journey is James Hoffmann. Definitely recommend his videos on the subject. Suitably snooty about what he is doing, but actually comes from a factual and scientific angle.

Fall of Democracy

On a personal level, nothing that happens in American politics has any direct effect on my life. Not really. It’s no different than what happens in Australian or Russian politics. In fact what happens in Belgium or Germany is likely more important to my life and I certainly don’t pay them any attention.

I have a bipolar relationship with America. I consume a lot of culture that is produced there (from books, to shows, to music, to software, to electronics). I mean the ultimate endorsement is that my wife is half American. Yet I certainly don’t believe in the rhetoric and I can see many of the social issues that the country has to manage (systemic racism, rampant gun control, undemocratic electoral system, etc).

One of the best books I’ve read about America’s future is called Fall of the Empire. Its not talking about the British one, that fell long ago. No this was published over a decade ago by the same guy how predicted the fall of the USSR, then at the peak of its power and the reasons why, back in the 70s. In this book he described the reasons for the fall of the American Empire. Many of the topics he covers were played out yesterday.

So why am I glued to watching what is happening? Part of it might be that its a well documented car crash. This week has shown just how much of a sham the whole system is. Sure you might argue that the system will get rid of the bad players eventually, proof that there are some checks and balances. The thing is I want to try and remember when an angry mob stormed another parliament building in a first world country? Seriously. The fact that it got this far shows how poor the system in place is. Hell, even countries like Lebanon, with governments soo incompetent they kept a nuclear bomb in the center of the city for over 10 years, is able to control it’s population from entering the parliament building.

More broadly however I think from an early age I realised that the American machine touched many of our lives but in an indirect way. Democracy is in decline. I am someone raised in a democracy and enjoy the freedoms that comes with that. I certainly don’t want to swear allegiance to any ‘dear leader’ nor do I want to operate under the watchful eye of a ‘party’, communist or otherwise. I believe in democracy.

Year of Learning

Having released a number of projects in 2019 (it was after all the year of release), the focus of 2020 was the year of consolidation. The intent was to focus my mind on these projects and make them better - implicit was the fact that I was not to add any new projects.

What I didn’t expect was that in 2020, I would also start my personal learning journey.

  1. I learnt how to draw trees, which really laid the foundation for my artwork to take a step forward.
  2. I had never made sweet potato buns, now these have become a regular staple in the house and have seriously elevated my burger-fu. I have become ever better at making eggs in a number of ways (omelettes were conquered early on, but now boiled and Korean-style egg sandwiches are normal for us).
  3. I finally understood how to make a better cup of coffee (I was 80% of the way there, that last 20% really makes all the difference).
  4. I dove deeper than I care to admitt into the world of watches, which I hope to expand upon one a year until I have my collection where I want it to be.
  5. I spent hours working out my clothing style (and working out where to buy what), which I hope will come together more in 2021.
  6. I discovered digital minimalism and time block planning. I still suck at both, but at least I know what I need to do.
  7. I finally consolidated my notes into a Zettelkasten built around Obsidian and 1Writer.
  8. I was able to loose about 10kg using the No-S diet. I fell off the wagon a little bit in the last few months (mainly due to work pressures and just being a little bit mentally exhausted).

For 2021, the year of learning I want more of the above. I’m not sure what exactly I want to learn specifically, but I know that I really have enjoyed the process of getting better personally at certain things and understanding the reasons why.

Productivity Methods

Since I read Digital Minimalism earlier this year, I have been on a bit of a journey into more purposeful productivity methods, which can be attributed to a couple of reasons - the work itself and the place of work.

I have been listening to Cal Newport talk about Time Blocking for months now, but not really been able to implement it because there was another piece of the puzzle that was not available to me, the configure part of his method. This week I was finally able to find the solution to the configure section of things.

He would alway suggest using Trello and I did honestly try a couple of times. Turns out the man is very smart but his blind spot is Trello (we all have one). This overtly complicated software with fiddly (and silly) options, themes, templates, bloat. Just terrible advice really.

Enter Basecamp and TeamTime.

Two apps that work together to complete the configure circle. While it may seem limited at first, the free Basecamp Tier is incredibly versatile, because you can have an infinite amount of individually named todo lists.

Basecamp gives you three ‘projects’. I would offer you to think of these as contexts instead. I have three contexts:

  1. Personal
  2. Internal
  3. External

Within each context I then have multiple projects, each with its own todo list. What is great about the Todo lists for Basecamp is that each todo list can have a general discussion attached to it, each item can have a general discussion attached to it. I can add files if I want, but I tend not to (usually adding links to files instead).

Under personal I have also added categories such as housework, to get a general feel for how much time I actually spend on household tasks. Eventually I will also add how much time I spend on walking, reading and writing.

At work the external context gets the most action, however increasingly more time is spent elsewhere. I needed an ever more accurate way of tracking the plethora of channels so that I don’t context switch and keep that to a minimum. I think I finally found it as long as the free tiers remain.

Reading & Interacting

Earlier this year I semi stepped away from the Micro.blog community. It certainly wasn’t anything the community did to me. The truth is I enjoyed many of the interactions and the people I ‘met’ on the platform. The problem was that I didn’t like how I was using the service as a crutch for boredom.

This is a service that doesn’t really gain much from me constantly checking it. There are no advertisers involved, and yet I found myself checking the feed. Maybe it was a muscle memory, built across a decade that will be hard to break after a few short months? So as part of my digital detox I cut everything out.

A little while later I thought I could be an adult about this and decided to try and introduce it back into my life. Sadly, I found I was falling into the same trap as before.


I love the service for my hosting and the near limitless ways of publishing. It works perfectly for me. In fact this year I am going the full premium. I don’t like it for reading. So what to do? I created a new tag in Feedbin. Slowly I am pushing everyone’s feeds in there and now i have a dedicated place that I can go and access in a more purposeful manner.

What is missing is the interaction. I wish there was a way to interact with these posts directly from Feedbin, or at least be able to go to the site and somehow leave a comment. My comments made to a post in Micro.blog is then displayed on a persons website. I don’t know what the easy way to leave a comment on a persons website is.

Typed Writing Modes

Spent some time sorting out through my various text editors and how I want to organise my typed words. Taking inspiration from the system for my notebook, once again I realised that a single app for all the different threads and channels is foolish. By dedicating an app for a specific task, you are signaling to yourself that this is what I want to get done right now. This is where this type of work lives. Also different apps have different strengths - play to their strengths.

Drafts

This is where all my blogging happens. The direct publishing to Micro.blog is exactly what I want. I open the app and can get writing straight away. If I want to have something with a title, it’s also there. No constraints or worrying about length. Just type and publish.

I set this up with two specific managed workspaces. Default is unpublished and therefore publishing ideas. The second is just an archive of everything that I have written and published.

iA Writer

This is where the projects live. I have synced this up with iCloud. I have individual folders for each project and so when its time to work on any on project I know where to go.

1Writer / Obsidian / Software Agnostic

Finally this all clicked for me. This is my second brain. Using the Zettlekasten method, I am able to start collecting and writing information knowing that it is a single folder of text files. Lives on Dropbox and honestly I can’t wait to have hundreds of thousands of notes in there. The more the better as long as they are tagged and interlinked with each other

Simplenote

I decided to also add Simplenote to the mix. This is really just a place to brain dump. Sometimes I like to work something out. It doesn’t really fit into any of the above modes. Sometimes its clearing out junk from my head, when I don’t want to write things down, I want to type them out. Its not a major part of my routine, but I have found that these random text files find their way into different places. Why not create a dedicated space for this. I have called this my Brain Cleanser.

There’s a notebook for that.

Its taken a really long time but I have finally settled on my physical notebook situation that I use on a regular basis. I originally was trying to fit everything into a single book, a Hobonichi. Foolishness. No instead, what I actually needed was 5 distinct notebooks, plus a bunch of little pocket notebooks. Lets unpack that.

1 / The Sketchbook

I wish I had stumbled across this concept earlier in my life. Keep a sketchbook for exploration. Use one notebook and fill it with all the sketches, rough, finished, try different mediums, give yourself room to explore. What you might find in those pages is your style moving; shifting; growing. A visual playground of your own creation. What’s interesting about this is the first few pages are going to be poor even to your eyes. Don’t feel discouraged. Persevere and you will see yourself slowly but surely getting better.

My notebook of choice for this type of notebook is a blank A5 Midori MD.

2 / The Journal

Your thoughts are like water.

Now in my 5th year of regular journalling I don’t do this as often as I want (twice a day), but I have been carving some time out every day to go through it. This is your mental dumping ground. This is where you letter your mind write whatever it wants. The paper is not going to judge you. Better for you to write it down than let it float and bounce around your head.

For this, I have settled on the excellent sized B6 Cafe Note from Nanami paper. I’ve got a Gfeller cover that will last me years and years to come.

3 / The Writer

Turns out the best way to write articles, books or anything is to get it onto paper first. While my online writing can be captured pretty quickly in Drafts or iA Writer, when I want to work something out, the sequence of thoughts and ideas, there is nothing better than paper. For stringing these thoughts into cohesive sentences I go digital, but for working things out, I go analogue.

Although I am currently using some Muji A5 notebooks, I have a massive Seven Seas Nanami notebook waiting to be used just for this purpose. Once my current notebook is finished (probably end of the year), can shift over to the book that will last me a whole lot longer.

4 & 5 / Meeting Notes & Taskmanager

For years I employed the bullet journal method to get shit done at work. It was invaluable to me. However one of the issues is we live in an increasingly digital world and there are far to many channels. I found myself breaking the mould and away from some of the basic things that make the system useful (put the date at the top, collection of tasks for a topic, bullets for notes). It was all getting messy again. I also found the A5 notebook wasn’t getting filled out very well.

So I decided to split things a little. I have two A6 notebooks. One dedicated for just notes, ideas, whatever. The other is just to capture all of my actions into individual buckets. Every page is a channel. Whenever a task pops up I put it into one of the channels

My go to are the Hobonichi A6 notebooks. Blank and beautiful. No eccentric Japanese quotes or sketches of foxes or whatever else they have added recently to the Techo. I know this is probably part of the charm, but to be honest, I want that 20% lost paper per page to be mine.

6 / Pocket Notebooks

Finally I have been using pocket notebooks for over a decade. These go with me wherever I go. Its a practice that has served me well and even if it’s one note, its one note less bouncing in your head or worse, lost forever. I hate that.

A lesson in Wabi-sabi

One of my many flaws, and one that I have struggled with the most, is my general nature to maintain my stuff like new. Its a character trait that I fully inherited from my mother. We get upset when something gets a scratch, or a tear or a dent. Sadly I see that this trait has been passed onto my eldest. I know how heartbreaking it feels when something you cherish breaks somehow but I also recognise that this is not the way of the world. So when Zane had a moment of recent madness over a tear in one of his drawings, I decided to explain the beauty and acceptance of Wabi-sabi. It helped that I had the perfect prop to explain it to him.

When he couldn’t have been more than a few years old he took a liking to my navy blue Kaweco fountain pen. Coming home one day I saw that he had totally done a number on all the edges as he frantically was trying to use it as marking tool. At the time I was super upset as Kaweco had stopped making pens in this rich blue colour. I now look at the pen and it reminds of a curious 2 year old and all the times it would write all over the house with anything he found. Every ‘flaw’ tells a story which becomes even more important than the object itself. Surprisingly it didn’t take him very long to start looking for wabi-sabi in all his own posessions.

A year without a MacBook

Since around 2007, nearly 12 years, I have relied on a Mac to get me through my projects. During that time I have used a Mac Mini and two 13” MacBook Pros. They are machines that have served me very well during these times. Last year I had the first motherboard problem on any machine I have owned. To be honest it was 6 years old at this stage and had taken a considerable beating being in a household with young children.

Luckily I had invested a year earlier in an iPad Pro, in the hope of one day relying upon it as my portable device and hopefully getting an iMac for the desk. For the most part that plan is still on track as I have found my iPad to be more than capable for 80% of the tasks that I want to get done. My biggest limitation being the reasonably poor front end web development tools available on the iPad. The most glaring omission being the lack of a web inspector backed into any of the browsers.

Another reason I opted not to buy a replacement was that I was waiting for an update to the infamous keyboard. This came relatively quickly along with news of new Apple silicon towards the end of the year. While others may have just bit the bullet and gotten a replacement, these are COVID times and my iPad Pro was perfectly capable of handling most of my computing needs, something it was even much better than a MacBook.

The experience wasn’t rosey the whole year. For weeks I was plagued with poor bluetooth connectivity to the keyboard. It just made for a frustrating experience. The killer blow to me was a little over a month ago. I upgraded to 13.6 and ran into a battery drain bug for my iPad which actually derailed my production for several weeks as I spent far too long trying to resolve it.

It remains unresolved.

I jumped into iOS 14 Beta in the hopes that this will go away. It didn’t.

Tomorrow iOS 14 comes out of beta. Honestly I have little to no hope that this will get resolved until I take it in and pay again to get it ‘fixed’. A year of using the iPad as my sole machine has left a seriously bad taste in my mouth. I got into Apple products to not have to worry about this sort of thing. I’m also not alone. I found myself angry at the Apple keynote today rather than being happy.

Newsletter Dos & Donts

So you want to write and publish a newsletter? Based on my admittedly limited experience (when compared to the torrent of newsletter out there), it seems that the first 100 subscribers is a battle of attrition. Having said that, it is also the single greatest thing I have done online since coming online. In every respect I wish that I had started my letter 10 years ago (when I had the original idea). So here are 5 dos and 5 donts for those thinking or at the start of their journey:

Dos

  1. Do have a clear overarching theme you want to talk about, week after week, month after month. The time between newsletters creeps on you surprisingly quickly.
  2. Do have a schedule. If you’ve never done this, start with once per month. Then ramp it up to twice. Only when you know you have the process under control, switch to weekly if you dare.
  3. Do remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  4. Do have an opinion. People are there for your voice and your thoughts. Developing this will take time. Embrace it.
  5. Do enjoy the process. You’re more likely to last.

Donts

  1. Don’t be afraid to start.
  2. Don’t be discouraged when days, weeks and sometimes months pass and you get no new subscribers.
  3. Don’t get discouraged when someone unsubscribes.
  4. Don’t be discouraged when nobody forwards your email on - this rarely happens. I don’t think anyone has ever forwarded on my newsletter.
  5. Don’t worry about the final look. Email design is an exercise in futility. You could try but there will always be cases when the shit breaks in the worst possible way. Keep it simple, text based, with a few images probably is best.

41

Took a long walk this morning to take stock and review the year that just passed. It has been a real transition year for myself and the family. A rebuilding year. New country. New office. New language. New everything. Then Corona happened. We struggled in the beginning, like the majority of the world. We are now in a better place. Things are not as extreme as they were 6 months ago of course. Summer is officially over, with the weather changing here in Denmark.

Frankly, the change of the weather is not the only change happening around me. I am focusing on things that I am in control of. Very much of life is beyond your control. Remembering what you are able to control every day is super important.

Health wise, I’ve been on the No S diet for 4-5 months and have lost nearly 10kg in that time. It has not been particularly difficult (except the very start of things) and now when I get to indulge in things (like on my birthday) I don’t feel guilty about it all. Rather I know that tomorrow will be back to my 3 meals, no snacking, no sugar, no seconds. At this rate, I will be back to my pre-marriage weight by Christmas. For all those looking for a way out of their bad eating habits, this is one I can honestly stand behind 100%. It works, when nothing else came close.

From a creative perspective this year has been one of the most incredible in recent years. The readership for my newsletter In Abeyance continues to build, slowly but honestly in a very purposeful manner which I am very happy with. I’m also about to release my the first collection of the first year of the newsletter. Over the summer, the intention was to finish putting together the package. Its 90% there. Easily the most time consuming element being the cover that I have been drawing for a month — I am this close to finish this mega project off and its surprisingly met my original vision. Which I will go into more detail at some point.

The Switch

It turns out that one of the things that I have struggled with over the last few years is called ‘context switching’. You’re doing this thing over here, your brain gets bored, distracted or wanders and now it wants to do this thing over there. The switch comes at a price, your time. You’ll get there eventually I’m sure, but it might take you hours rather than minutes. Months, rather than days.

The first step out of this loop is to recognise that this is happening and also stop yourself as it happens. From there you can start to put the mental pieces in place to prevent it from happening. Traditionally I would just let my brain do its thing. I have started to find the incredible benefit of actually focusing on one subject and bringing my brain back to centre to let it complete the task at hand.

The switch usually happens when the hard part of the task you are doing presents itself. Your brain just gives into something easier. However if you fight the urge even for a fraction you are rewarded pretty quickly. I’m not advocating to eat through a wall every time, but I am saying to keep the pressure up just enough to let your brain flex.

Daily Lynchpin Tasks

Following reading Digital Minimalism, I’ve found myself circling around Cal Newport and his way of thinking. His podcast has made my digital detox cut. Even though he sends out two episodes a week, I find the information and discussion to be super useful in a practical sense.

I have been trying to refocus my mind in the little pockets of “free” time that I have available to me. One of the key takes from this week’s episode has been to identify my daily lynchpin tasks that over time build in a way that is important to me. Identifying these tasks is only part of the solution. Defining exactly when I want to do this will hopefully help me maintain this task. Each task has an elastic timeline, from 5 minutes to 1 hour tops.

I’ve settled on five separate tasks:

  1. Journalling - The plan is to begin my night time routine at my journal. 10-15min daily.
  2. Reading - I have been reading a lot more since the 21st of May, my current log is found over at kaa.bz/library. My subscription to The Economist remains, although I want to read finish reading this over the weekend over breakfast. 15-30min daily.
  3. Writing - My mornings are sacracent. This is where I do my deep work. This is my 30min to 1hour of writing that I allow myself to write by hand or in iA Writer to create the words that I am keen on doing. 30-1hour daily.
  4. Drawing - This is actually an exercise of relaxation. Doing this after I’ve had my dinner (the kids take an hour to feed, I take 15min, might as well doodle while they procrastinate about eating their veg). 15min daily.
  5. Exercise - Interspersed is some weekly exercise. 2-3 times a week I’ll be riding my bike. I’ve also started taking some 30-50 minute walks around the neighborhood, solving a problem I might be struggling with and clearing my head from things. I might add a little bit of basketball in there to loosen up as well. Depends.

Maybe doing more than I can chew to be honest, but some of these items I think I will be able to do daily, other items I might find that I miss a day or 2 a week. That’s fine, it’s not a sprint, its a marathon. Over time I hopefully will be more consistent.

Ditching Mailerlite

For 26 issues I have been using Mailerlite to publish my newsletter. For the most part the experience was perfectly fine except the friction between moving from Markdown into the final email.

I switched over to the rich text editor (which admittedly in beta) and while the output was better, the friction has become unbearable. The interface in Safari iOS also does not work, by their own admission. Simple things like adding a link or deleting is just broken. Its been months of literally no improvement. The few times I have sent a support email, I’ve not had my issue resolved. Again I’m not a paying customer, but what I was reporting were bugs that could be fixed.

So what to do? I think I’m going to be moving back to Buttondown. The time spent on formatting a newsletter or wrestling with it could be better spent doing something else entirely. I am trying to reduce the friction in my life and my projects and this certainly qualifies as an important step.

What about the design? I’ve decided it doesnt really matter. Not really. What matters is that my readership get a well formatted email, that is typographically rock solid with a few minor items elements of flair. It’s likely too late for this issue (which comes out on Wednesday) but from next issue for sure.

Mohammad El Sharif

I lost my uncle.

My mother’s face crumbled on the call. She couldn’t hold back the tears. Neither could I.

He was by and large a towering figure in my life. To understand the reverence that I held for this man is to understand my mother’s own upbringing. My uncle was the same age as my father, they were in the same class - small town Lebanon. My uncle however couldn’t finish his schooling. He had to shoulder the responsibility left by his own father. My grandfather died around the ages of 50 (heart attack) and left behind him his wife and eight children. The oldest barely in her early 20s. The youngest barely a child of 4 years old. I remember considering the weight that was on his shoulders. Yet for most of his life my uncle was a jovial character. His smile always warm. Natural.

My favourite memories that are seared into my memory however are as a child he held a special place. He loved kids. So much so that even after raising his fathers, he had seven of his own. During the years of war, he would pick us all up from the airport, an arduous journey, with a smile on his face. The best welcoming committee anyone could hope for. Optimism always shining, even when the country had fallen apart.

In that same mini bus/van he would pile all the cousins (there must have been 10 of us at a time) up and take us to the beach. Then we would go and get the best ice cream in the world (I made sure we had the same at our wedding). When we got home his work was not done, he would line us all up, hose us down from all the sand and salt water before sending us off to our mothers.

Sharp. He was a do-er. He would get shit done. I remember my mother telling me about the times her brother would come back exhausted from work after most of her family had gone to sleep. My mother would make him something to eat and off to bed. Only to wake up again before the family had woken up and repeat the cycle all over again.

He wasn’t a flamboyant character. A man who always lived in modesty. A man who lived two lives. One before and after his stroke. Things changed. There was a brief time where his mind wandered. Then there was a time where he was obsessed with the family tree. Something was lost. In life, you get one body and one mind. Sometimes parts of one fail before the other.

My mother had seen him a few days earlier. They’d talked for 20 minutes (a rarified feat), but he was getting hungry so he had to excuse himself and go. You’d get a few minutes from him here and there. Always in a seeming rush. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll catch up soon.’

My uncle Mohammad died yesteday.

Squaring a Round Peg

Today I ventured into the office for the first time since the 1st week of March. A little over 4 months has passed. I took my bike for the first time. The ride there was mostly pleasant. Birds chirping. Sounds of church bells in the distance. The city was waking up slowly. Sun was shining in my face.

To look at Copenhagen, is to look at a city that is not going through a pandemic. Nobody is wearing masks. People are in Cafes and restaurants and bars partaking in ‘normal’ activities. I look outside my office window and I see a swarm of people outside Tivoli waiting for the doors to open.

It is very difficult to square what is going on in this country against what is happening across the world. Its not that Denmark doesn’t give a shit, its just that it sees a different threat because of this. Maybe its down to the size of the country? Maybe its how people generally respect the rules here? I expect to make more regular trips into the office to get a new perspective on life. Talk to people other than my wife and kids. Make new connections, but at a slower than usual pace.

Hopefully a second lockdown is not imminent. It took me this long to start to come out of the first one.

Micro Constraints

Its funny how things click into place.

2½ years ago, I’d all but given up on having an online presence. Then Micro.blog came along and gave me a limited framework from which to build something. Similarly I have been wanting to draw more regularly. The process makes calms me, but starting off a drawing was always a challenge. I didn’t make the process easy for myself and every time I would sit down, it was a chore to start. In a similar way, I think I have found a way to make entry simple

I have settled on is focusing on urban sketching. The idea is that this will help me understand how buildings and the built world is put together. I’m also going to be using photo reference. Not to replicate the photo as a drawing, but rather to allow me to travel the world and discover interesting details. I’m also limiting the amount of time I spend, to between 30 min to 1 hour every morning. The drawings don’t have to be a particular size, they just have to be fun. I hope to fill many, many books with tons of sketches.

I guess that is the one thing I would tell me 20 year old self. Provide proper constraints. Make it as easy for yourself as possible. And most importantly pick a time of the day and do it again and again and again.

1500

I must have imported around 500 photos and posts from Instagram and Tumblr, which leaves around 1000 posts over a 2½ year period. At first there is a question as to the reason for posting. Simply, it is primarily for myself. My site is one of the first sites I visit every morning. I head on over to the previously page and relive and remember my life from 1, 2 or more years ago. I don’t publish my deepest darkest thoughts (those I chuck into my journal), rather it is fun milestones that I would otherwise not record.

Today for instance was the first time that I took Zane on a long bike ride. It was a little bit stressful at the start as I needed to set some ground rules and make sure he kept close by and didn’t get in the way of other cyclists. Once we were inside the park it was a pure joy of just riding our bikes and exploring a park filled with trees towering above and around us. Its a moment in time, captured for me to see and relive in the future again and again.

Out of Corona

There was much said and discussed as the world gradually went into lockdown. The one idea that resonated with me was that we should aim to be better coming out than when we went in. For me this happened in two distinct ways:

  1. Going on the S-diet that I have managed to maintain for nearly 2 months now. Slowly I have seen my overall mood and general face look a little healthier. I don’t think about sugar (except that spoon of honey I might have with my oats). Beer intake has dropped off to a couple a week maximum and snacking has been eliminated (save for a few almonds on occasion).
  2. Reclaimed my attention from my phone and internet.During that time I was able to read multiple books and continue to do so on a regular basis. I have writing on a regular basis. I have had soo many excellent conversations with friends and family that I had also not really done in a long while.

These are two major elements of my life that I have felt had gotten away from me. The most encouraging element is that I have been able to maintain.

The very last element that I am now slowly starting to dip my toe in cautiously is social media. That is Twitter and Micro.blog. I am also in no rush to reintroduce this back into my life. For example on Micro.blog I have added Manton and Jean to my RSS feed and that is it for now, as though I was starting from zero and building the list in a very slow and purposeful manner. I don’t ever want to go back to that phase in my life when I was basically scrolling mindlessly. The signal to noise ratio has to be maintained at a point which is giving me joy and value.

Un-hijacked

It’s now been 4 weeks into my digital detox, so its time to review how that’s been going.

The Problem

I have said this before and it absolutely remains the case but 4 weeks ago my attention was completely hijacked. I had fallen into a trap that I had enabled and partially built for myself.

  • I had 50 podcasts that I wouldn’t listen to.
  • I was subscribed to sites that would collectively pump hundreds of posts every day.
  • I was subscribed to email newsletters and services that would constantly spam me.
  • I was part of a few social networks that stole minutes from me throughout the day.
  • I found myself incapable of concentrating for a sustained period of time.
  • I would take my phone with me to bed (with the lie that it was acting as a clock, but it really wasn’t). My sleep was terrible as I would wake up in the middle of the night and I could not get back to sleep.
  • The same phone would be taken with me as we played with the kids and I would let my attention focus on this thing (even if it was for seconds or minutes).
  • I would visit ‘news’ websites that were blasting bite sized pieces of information that added nothing to my life in the interest of ‘staying current’.
  • I was texting people, thinking that this was enough for us as communication. Sadly it was nowhere near where it should be.

Sadly this had been going on for years. What is even sadder, is that looking around me, I know that I am not alone. If any of the above has resonated with you, then I honestly encourage you to try and read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and start thinking about how you want to manage your life.

Life

Like a switch that had been turned on, I was finally able to be more present around people around me. I have also been more present to people away from me having phoned a number of friends and family that I used to only text.

Sure that number could be a little better but this is barely the first month. There will be plenty of time to review.

Writing

One of the things that I implemented pretty early on is to write, on paper, every morning for about an hour. For sure the amount of writing notes I took in this month far exceed what I have done in a very very long time - if ever.

Reading

This has been one of the biggest joys that I have gotten back. In the space of this time I have managed to read 4 books, 3 issues of the Economist and several mega articles on the internet. Wait, what?

Drawing

Somehow I have also been able to get some actual drawing done as well. Not just for In Abeyance but also randomly. Its a slow start but one that I have wanted to include as part of my daily routine for years.

This has been the greatest gift that I could give myself. My evenings are now filled with reading and the occasional show.

Re-seeing the Tree

Something felt off.

I put the final touches on the latest issue and then we went downstairs for the kids to play in the park. I normally take a small notebook with me and just try and collect my thoughts for a few minutes while the kids play in the sand (I hate playing in the sand). Across from me was a tree. I looked up and just thought to myself ‘I can actually see this tree. Why can’t I draw the thing?’ I could see the values, I could see details. So I went back to my favourite teacher, Alphonso Dunn. The man is arguable the best art teacher I have ever had. I recommend you buy both his books and subscribe to his channel. Its all gold.

Week 3 of digital declutter…and it has been properly quiet. Both in my head and in my online world. I haven’t disconnected completely, because frankly that just wouldn’t be practical.

I have let in many newsletters into my life, and unlike before I am reading these in their entirety, rather than skimming. This has meant I am actually loving email now. because it’s all good.

In terms of news, I read through my issue of The Economist and if I want an additional fix,…I read some more of the issue - the beauty of this publication is that it is dense. I have reached for the online websites out of habit (& likely some boredom) but I have managed to stop myself every time.

Another pillar that fell this week was podcasting. I had a very rough idea of what I wanted to bring back into my life. I limited it to seasonal series (Revisionist History, 13 Minutes from the Moon, Against The Rules), sporadic podcasts (On Margins and Hello Internet), and bi-monthly (Erasable Podcast). The only weekly podcast I have allowed is Akimbo, although this is a 30 minute show. I might also bring 99% Invisible back.

I’m also playing a game with myself which is to keep driving the average amount of weekly screentime down week on week. The big margins happened a while ago, but now 10% or 15% is surprisingly meaningful.

Looking outside my window is a reasonably busy road (by Danish standards), I think there might be at least 10 cars passing through every hour. Cyclists however travel on this road in their 10s in the same time. One of the things I have noticed is the fact that oftentimes I will see people cycling while checking their phones. On the other side, is one of the busy parks in my community. It’s home to three trampolines in the ground and kids are always playing here with their parents in tow, who are checking their phones. I used to be one of these people. Oh sure I tried to keep the damn thing in my pocket, but I know I failed to do that on many occasions.

We should not be slaves to our devices and technology. Technology should be our tools. Yet our monkey brains finds the appeal of something shiney to strong to resist. It feeds on our base instincts of not wanting to be bored. Of being entertained. Of trying to be more ‘productive’ with our time. The technology is so pervasive, it quickly becomes our comfort blanket.

They really should have a mental health warning whenever you buy one of these things.

For over a year now I have watched Seth Godin publish to his blog every single day. What struck me the most about these posts was the endless well that he was pulling ideas from and giving them form and pressing publish. What’s even more impressive is that he has been on this train for years. I always wondered what his secret was. He attributed to not having a television. I barely watch television, except specific shows that I watch with general intention. So why couldn’t I focus? Why couldn’t I do the same?

What was missing from the conversation was my phone. My phone offered the biggest distraction. It had hijacked my brain. This was then further augmented by how I used my computer. I let it happen to me again and again, even though I thought I was being mindful. While I was able to create and write a decent amount during this time, I did so inspite of being overwhelmingly distracted. It was very hard to focus. I’m now looking forward to seeing what I am able to produce and read and draw and create with this new found attention.

We’re taught a lot of things sadly we are also ignorant of a lot more. While the digital technology can be powerful and liberating, it can also have the ability to hijack our attentions without remorse.

Everyone gets 24 hours. My general perception was that we chose how to use those 24 hours. Sadly for a while now my 24 hours had been hijacked. I knew something was up a year ago, but its taken me till now to finally understand how bad the situation had become. Maybe Corona allowed me to get really bad again before I realised that something was fundamentally amiss.

I remember Stephanos, my friend Stathi’s father, tell me how he quit smoking. He was in his shop shouting to his wife that he couldn’t find his pack of cigarettes. Meanwhile he had a lit one in his mouth, he was holding another lit one and there was a third one in an ashtray infront of him. He swears he didn’t see any of them until it was pointed out to him what was going on.

Everyone should re-evaluate their digital habits. If you’re anything like me, you’re in soo deep you don’t even realise what is happening.

Conversations vs Connections

At the time I genuinely thought that I was lucky. Leaving the UK in 2009, coincided with Facebook gaining popularity. I had a conricopia of communication apps that I could use to keep in touch with my friends. Instead my lizard brain decided not to do that.

What I found was that my conversations with friends and family to have diminished completely. Even connecting was difficult. It didn’t need to be that way. I let the fact that I hadn’t spoken to many people get the better of me. I felt embarassed that I had let the time between conversations slip away. It’s something I have always struggled with.

One of the best chapters in Digital Minimalism is about conversations (talking, phone calls and video calls) compared to connections (text messages & comments). It has really resonated with me. It is a little upsetting that I’ve effectively lost 10 years or conversations, but I think the friendship is strong enough to endure this short passage of time as we all got busy having families.

Digital Declutter

I’m going on a digital declutter for a month.

When I come out of this month, hopefully I’ll have decided what is truely important for me across everything. Podcasts, Spotify, social media, messages, phone calls, websites, RSS feeds, Youtube, Netflix. All this stuff just added more and more clutter to my mind. It wasn’t a lot of time on each either, but it was death by a thousand cuts.

Removing Safari from my phone has enabled me read half a book in the time that I reclaimed from that single act alone. What can I reclaim if I turn off or remove everything else?

Castro was a difficult one to delete, but it’s gone. Spotify is out. Tweetbot gone. The Micro.blog app (and Gluon and Icro) are all gone. Instead I bought Mimi for posting photos and obviously having Drafts lets me post everything.

I’ve added an app called Portal to give me some ambient sounds while I work and have my noise cancelling headphones on. My Pimsleur app now gets a prominent position, along with my Kindle app. Reminders is now on my phone again.

Email apps are off the phone, I only will check these once a day and mostly to get rid of services that have taken liberties with my email address. Before I did that I archived everything in my apps to start fresh. If I needed something then I can always search for it. The

My phone now becomes a place to read my books, learn Danish, or its a functional tool — buy groceries, log activities, take photos, write notes. My iPad is a place where deliberate work is carried out. Writing, editing, drawing, designing.

Drafts for iOS

Some people bake bread. Others collect watches. Some watch birds. I collect iOS text editors. Scratch that, I spend an incredible amount of time considering, testing and playing with text editors on iOS. It all started out looking for a text based nirvana. Ultimately my quest for that perfect editor has come up short as it has now dawned on me that the perfect text editor doesn’t exist. Rather what I have come to realise is that there are several amazing editors that have a number of strengths and weaknesses. The trick is to find the collection that best compliment each other in your quest for capturing and further developing your thoughts.

My collection of apps that I love on iOS are:

  1. iA Writer
  2. Editorial
  3. 1Writer

To that collection I have recently added Drafts as it has become my replacement The Archive on the Mac. My long held belief that the modal design established by Notational Velocity1 was/is the ultimate method for capturing and searching for text. Drafts introduces another way that is equally as powerful, only different.

Getting Over the Omnibar

In The Archive, once you open the app, the cursor is in the omnibar which lets you create or search for a note. In creating a note, you type in some words, which then become the name of the file and the first line of the new file. It’s an incredibly powerful concept that has not been replicated successfully on iOS yet (although there have been some flawed attempts).

Drafts does away with the search. For Drafts, by default, the first thing that you are allowed to is start writing in a blank file. That is where you start. If you want to search, there are three ways, press the search icon in the bottom right hand corner (prime location), press shift+command+f or pull down to reveal the search. The reason this is better for iOS is the fact that this entire app is replicated on the iPhone, with a single exception (that I can find), which is pinning the sidebar (this seems to only be available on the iPad).

Getting Over the Clutter

One of the things that drove me away from using Drafts was that I thought it was too cluttered. I had bought into the minimal aesthetics provided by iA Writer and I liked it that way.

Except Drafts is more function over form. In many ways, this app is the total antithesis of iA Writer. The icon isn’t great (although you can change it). Both the overall graphic direction of the app and the iconography for the groups sidebar leave a lot to be desired. I’ve quickly learnt not to care.

Being able to write whatever I want and then call up a function and publish to my website in microseconds makes the function trump any ugly iconography found within the app itself. That is where I started seeing that there is more to this app than meets the eye. I published exclusively from it for 2 months before realising that all of my thoughts should live in here. Thoughts that need to be expanded upon can get moved over to iA Writer for a more refined experience.

Workspaces

The Archive has a similar feature to this, except it wasn’t graphically implemented as elegantly as this. This feature is available, but it is mostly hidden.

What I love about this particular feature is the fact that I can flip between different frames of mind. I want to write some thoughts about engineering? There’s a workspace for that. Something for this site? There’s a workspace for that. General reference texts? Yup, there’s a space for that.

Deep

Rearranging the text within a file, as per blocks, sentences or lines is an excellent idea that I’ve not encounter anywhere else. The fact that it has a shortcut for just about everything shows that the developer understands what is important. Version history for all your text is there and readily available within the app. And on the list goes. @cm called this app deep which is such an excellent description of what this app has to offer.

Subscription Model

I don’t agree with the subscription model used and would have preferred if the subscription model established by Sketch was used instead. You pay once and continue to use the app that you paid for at that point in time for as long as you want. For 1 year you get all monthly updates. If you want future updates after that year, you have to pay again. Not sure what happens to all my Workspaces when the year is over tbh.

Having said that, there is plenty of room for the app to improve. The aforementioned graphical shortcomings. The selection of themes could be better, maybe something similar to those provided in iWriter Pro. The fact that there isn’t a baked in path to exporting the text as a series of files, which goes against some of what I want (but there might be a pretty easy workaround for that).

These are quibbles in what is otherwise one of the most pro writing app on any platform.


  1. I wish I could find out why that website is still live? It’s not been updated in nearly a decade and from memory the app stopped working years ago. [return]

Routines

Everyone is going through a number of changes in their lives and trying to adapt. It’s now been 4 weeks since this lockdown began for us. At first it was about getting over the shock. Now it’s about settling in and doing things purposefully. As an absolute minimum in Denmark this is going to go on here for another month - although that is on the optimistic side of things. To make the transition even more disorienting, the changing of hours only added to my routine upheaval. Something I’ve not had to deal with for 8 years, I forgot that it messes your brain for at least 2 weeks, until you get your circadian rhythms back.

  • The first month I experimented with a beard. While it was pretty cool not to have to shave every day, it’s not for me. Maybe when I’m in my 50s and really, really don’t give a shit. Now I give half a shit.
  • Working from home has shown me what it would actually be like. With young kids. I have found that there are plenty of hours where I am super focused on what I am doing and the time genuinely flies. However it has come at a price. The price of my own time. Where previously I had very distinct lines that I managed, these lines have now been blurred.

For the next month, I’m going to try and be more purposeful with our new reality.

  • While some exercise has made it’s way into my day, I want to be a little more purposeful with this. There is a time of the day this happens, just need to extend
  • I’d like to write more regularly, both in my journal and online. To do something you have to set an actual time of the day that you do this. Journalling happens when I first wake up and when I go to be. Online writing can happen at any point in the day.
  • I want to get through some more books. Rather than checking the same damn websites again and again. Then open my emails. Then back to my RSS reading. Then lets check Micro.blog…hmmm I wonder what is happening on MySpace these days…RSS is awesome….oh time for bed. I honestly have a ton of books that I really want to get into but the amount of easier distractions has overcome me.
  • There are some awesome shows I’d also like to get into, with Better Call Saul coming to an end (for this penultimate season). Maybe watch See or Stranger Things or The Mandalorian. There are a few Pixar movies I’ve not watched including Coco, Toy Story 4 and Outbound.
  • I want to make sure I do my Danish lessons while doing the dishes every single day. This was going well for a few days, before it stopped. Need to get back on that wagon.

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.

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.

Two

Back in 2014, feeling that Facebook was not making me happy and after the initial euphoria of ‘connecting’ with old friends and family wore off, I decided to leave the platform. Knowing all too well that Instagram was part of Facebook, I reluctantly stayed on the platform because I liked my grid of photos. I knew that it wasn’t going to be a sustainable solution for me.

Thankfully I didn’t need to wait an exceedingly long time for a better solution to come along. That solution was Micro.blog, which today marks two years since I first started using the service.

As the platform and it’s tools, have developed the way I use it has also changed, from mainly on the desktop to mainly on mobile. This year I would like to contribute something more to this service (I have a couple of ideas). Needless to say that I heartily recommend you consider it as your place on the web.

2020 Theme

Following the Cortex podcast idea of yearly themes, 2019 was my year of Release. I think overall the theme served me well as I tried to keep releasing ideas, projects large and small throughout the year, regardless of what was happening around me, which admittedly was a lot.

Did I release everything that I wanted? In some cases I actually released more. In other respects I didn’t achieve everything that I was hoping, but that is the point of the yearly theme. It’s not a resolution, it’s an idea to guide me through the year.

2020 is the year of Consolidation and will not have major new releases. Rather it will be building upon the blocks that I have established already - namely all things Stet.Build and everything on kaa.bz. I’m excited for the coming year.

11

No idea why I keep doing this to myself. I’ve finally upgraded my phone from a 6S, which served me very faithfully for 4 years. This last month has been exceptionally rough as the battery on iOS 13 has made the phone practically unusable.

I went for the iPhone 11, as I am likely going to have to drop some more cash in the new year for a MacBook to replace my 6 year old brick with a broken logic board.

The size of this screen will take a little getting used to, but I’m sure I’ll get through that hardship 🤣.

So many great little features to appreciate, but to be honest it’s all about these cameras. It kinda reminds me of my beloved Kodak camera from over a decade ago. That camera was way ahead of its time. Hopefully this means I’ll start taking photos again.

Two Gifts

I’ve seen a great number of people struggling with finding their voice online. They clearly want to have a presence online but don’t know what to say, or more over they loose the momentum for themselves and end up reposting things or being passive clients scrolling and reading.

I know I had that exact same problem and I honestly think it’s a missed opportunity. So here are two reasons why you should publish your voice online.

A Gift for Your Current Self

The gift for your current self is really to help you develop a new skill. A skill that shows up regularly to do something for yourself. That lets you gain some clarity to your thoughts and your writing that is not meant for your own consumption. The most basic of skills is being able to write and communicate ideas. These skills are needed in every single walk of life. Having a personal site allows you to develop those skills day in and day out. Over time you will be able to get your point across faster and more succinctly.

A Gift for Your Future Self

You might think that you are writing this website for others, but actually if others engage with it that’s just a bonus. That should not be the reason you do this.

Rather, think of your personal site as a present you’re giving yourself 5 years into the future. 10 years. 20 years. You are cataloguing events that meant something to you. Thoughts that were important to you at the time. It’s a time capsule that you wrote and documented. You won’t get to really enjoy and appreciate it till a little later.

One of the questions that is then asked is, why publish it at all? Why not just put it in any type of app for journaling. Different bucket. You fill every bucket differently. The type of things that you write on your site are thoughts, ideas, that you can enjoy in the future. Your journal are is there to try and help you work things out in your daily life. It’s a fine line to walk, but once you have worked it out you’ll appreciate that they are two different things.

Ryan, Age 2

It’s Ryan’s birthday today. He’s turned 2. I realised that I may not have written how he was born. Having only experienced his brother’s birth 3 years earlier, I was somewhat expecting a difficult affair. The hospital sent us back home a few times. When Yasmine was officially and totally done, we drove at a reasonable pace to the hospital where we were informed that she was really at the end. I ambled downstairs to the car, called my brother to tell him it was all about to begin and went upstairs.

Yasmine was getting in more pain very quickly. We were discussing epidurals (I was all in favour). Yasmine, as she is want to do, was questioning it all. The nurse patiently told us to wait as the doctor was around and she would come take a look and advise. Doctor came, she was 8cm dilated (i.e. very close). No time for epidural, the baby was coming out very soon. 20 minutes later he was out.

It’s been a different adventure than what we went though with Zane but Ryan’s been a great baby, now a proper toddler. Here’s to many more little guy.

Micro Fiction

Writing The Mark was a really interesting and unfamiliar process to me. First of all it was written as a narrative, while all my previous works of fiction were written as scripts intended for being made into comics. This was obviously a very different muscle that I had to use. For example I didn’t know how to format dialogue (even though I’ve thousands of line of dialogue), I ended up referring back to this page time and time again throughout the month. Apart from the mechanics there is also a question of flow and structure. Two elements I really only considered in the most superficial manner. I will be revisiting the story to see what I did wrong and how I can improve.

One of the limitations I included (constraint is the mother of all creativity), was to the daily word count to around 50 words. This constraint allowed me to peck out the story predominantly on my iPhone. Every night after work I would take 5-10 minutes and just type something out. Having the bar so low meant that I was able to do achieve my goal every night, even when I was busy, or tired or had a headache.

As the process moved forward I finally realised that this was the perfect way to move several fiction ideas that I have had serious brain crack over. So that’s what I’m going to be doing. As an experiment I’m going to see if I can move a story that I’ve had in different stages, 50 words at a time. The thing is I also think that my site isn’t really the perfect place to show the work as it progresses, rather to showcase completed chapters. So I’ll be writing it on a service I’ve been looking for the right project to try out. So I’ll be running a new newsletter that has nothing in it but text (eventually a little logo) that I will hopefully publish to on a daily basis. Once a chapter is written then I’ll publish that on the site.

Why publish it at all? Part of it is building accountability and movement behind something that I otherwise won’t touch. It’s also a break that my creative brain needs in addition to the work that I carry out over on Stet.Build

Copenhagen

I’ve now been in Copenhagen for a week and have had a tiny bit of time to get a feel for the city. The closest city I can compare this to is London. However I keep reminding myself that this is not the UK, things are decidedly different here. The best example I can think of was when I was walking, I take a turn off the main high street, onto what looked like a simple residential area, and there at the end of the road I could see the wind turbines1. It was just another reminder, things are different here. However, the biggest difference that I can gather is the city’s approach to transport.

Transport

The truth is though the city’s layout is different, the streets are wider. They have very distinct lanes for the different modes of transport. The lack of total dependence on the car is absolutely evident here. Every form of transport has been catered to in one form or another. Walking, cycling, scooters, boats, metro, train, buses and even the ‘humble’ car. The first few days I spent walking. That’s because this simple act of taking a long walk and watching what’s going on in the world has been an exercise that I have not been able to do over these last decade(?!). The Gulf is many things, but a haven and promoter for walkers it is not.

Most telling for me is that I’m about to have walked more in the month of October, than any other month over the last year (according to my iPhone, which is missing a great deal of steps I know, but I’m using it as a loose indicator).

I’m now also looking very closely at buying a Segway Ninebot Kickscooter as a fun and simple way to get around town. While there are scooters everywhere for hire, the cost adds up really quickly (by my calculation use the scooter for 140 trips and you’ve paid off the scooter). That’s the other thing about micromobility, it’s generally really affordable, even if you have to replace the scooter relatively regularly - it’s a utility cost more than anything.

Local Not Global Country

The other element that is clear here is the fact that this is not a Global city. There are no Amazon Prime trucks running around. There isn’t a MacDonalds or Starbucks on every corner (although these two staples do exist here). There is no Apple store. Vodaphone doesn’t operate here (at least I haven’t seen the Vodaphone logo anywhere). And so it goes. In this regard, it feels like a place caught in time…with it’s own home brands, made by and catering it’s own people. Some companies I’ve never heard of before, others have actually made the leap outside these borders.

Over the last 8 years, the word ‘local’ was seen as a bit of a derogative term. Somehow, local here is celebrated, as it’s the main part of your every day life. It’s another part that I will need to recalibrate my thinking.

Food

Since arriving in Copenhagen, I’ve eaten at one restaurant and it was a magnificent. The one thing that I do have to say is that the produce here is exceptional. I knew that strawberries here have a good reputation, but I didn’t expect that. Bringing the shopping into my apartment, I could smell them straight away. I haven’t smelt a strawberry in so long.

Buying local chicken, local tomatoes, berries, have all really elevated my meals considerably. I’ve been getting more and more into Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel as well and have been really loving it.

Language Barrier

I knew that this would be a thing. I’ve not gotten into a habit yet for listening and doing my Danish lessons but I do intend to do incorporate into my life very very soon.


  1. I know I’ve spoken about this before, but they always take my breathe away. I love them so much because they signal progress. They signal the future married to the past that I was walking through. [return]