Off the Top: Productivity Entries


January 17, 2021

Weeknote - 17 January 2021

Busy, but not overly productive week. I’ve been battling getting a replacement laptop actually functioning, so battling and not being productive. That scenario drives me absolutely up the wall. Going through the battles reminds me of how fairly seamlessly Apple does this.

Evenings have been trying to run errands, but finding stores closing quite early due to Covid and complications around the attack on the Capitol and Inauguration. This has left me rather tired, but also not sleeping well.

Insights from

I just read about Foxsy shutting from their CEO’s blog post about the company and product and his and their lessons learned, Moved on from my journey Foxsy. I was introduced to them from an investor as they were hitting an inflection point and needed help smoothing out some of the interactions, user flow model, and some language areas. The product was rather ingenious as it was a cross social platform chat service using AI to match people. Jin was in San Francisco and the rest of the team at that point and time was in Japan. It was great to read they kept going as I shifted to another project.

The glimpse inside a San Francisco start-up is rather typical from the doing everything to scrape by to keep the product going and get to the next level. I heard some of these stories when I was helping them and hearing it from Japanese guys was interesting as the story wasn’t that different from American guys, the French teams I know, nor the mixed teams from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The small companies I knew / know in Europe, Latin America, and Singapore were a bit different, but the dedication and passion isn’t.

While I hate to see Foxsy shut, I know whatever each of these people do will be fantastic. Only a very small percentage of start-ups make it through to launch, through a few years or use, and then making money to be self-sustaining, and getting the investors some profit. Here’s to whatever is next Foxsy crew!

Read

Every January I dig out the Saint Mary’s Jan Term Catalog and look through was is / was offered. When I was at St. Mary’s Jan Term was something I deeply enjoyed. St. Mary’s ran on a 4–1–4 schedule with four courses in a fall semester, one course in January, and four in spring semester. January classes typically met for 3 or 4 hours Monday through Thursday for an intensive course on a tight subject. There are usually also travel courses for Jan Term, like religious architecture in Ireland or Italy, or sailing course in the Caribbean. My first year I had a Sports Psychology course and second year was on charisma and public leaders (this was amazing). My last year I didn’t exactly get Jan Term as I was doing a full term in Oxford at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Centre.

Every year I find new intriguing courses with good reading lists and I add the reading list and often start digging into a subject of a few each year. I’ve long wondered what a full school year of one month one class would look like. The Oxbridge tutorial system is somewhat similar over two months with intensive tutorials used to fill in gaps through guided self-learning, with that guidance being deep and good.

I stumbled on this article from a couple people, ‘Rent-a-person who does nothing’ in Tokyo receives endless requests, gratitude. This concept is an utter gem! The guy in Japan is selling his service of not doing anything, other than “just being there” for a round $96 a task. People using him to walk them to a court house as quiet support. Listening to people talk through something that they don’t want others to they know to hear or to judge them on. The service of “doing nothing” is somewhat akin to renting someone in a mature relationship that is years into that calm quiet support that gives the deep relief of not being alone and some togetherness.

Watched

Modern Doctor Who is on HBO Max. My two favorite Doctors are David Tennent and Matt Smith. There were a lot of the Tennent episodes I missed and being able to fill in the gaps is wonderful. But, also being able to watch favorite Matt Smith episodes again is something I’m looking for.

Listened

I tend to listen to a lot of music that doesn’t have lyrics or English lyrics. I don’t often listen to lyrics when they are in English, even though I will sing along or sing the song with out music. But, every now and then the lyrics stand out as they are creative. Twice this week I hit this.

One instance was going back something I used to listen to a lot and listened to driving across country with my dad, it was A.J. Croce’s self titled album. The music and production quality are really good, but the lyrics also stand out as they are witty and creative.

The other was Olivia Rodrigo’s Driver License, which was in my short list of recommended new music for the week and I had it playing in the background and the chorus of “’Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street” that really stuck out and I scrubbed back and relisten. That was insanely well crafted lyrically as well as musically.

Food

El Charro Mexican Restaurant in Lafayette, California Closed for Good, which may be one of the odd Covid maladies I’ve run across that hurt, beside the people it has taken from us. This was my first taco. It was also the accidental spark that got my parents and I obsessed with guacamole. When I was born this wasn’t all that far from where we lived and it was a favorite of my parents. I don’t remember going here as we moved when I was about 18 months old or so. But, we always stopped here when in the Bay Area.

I went to undergrad at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, which is sort of next door via back roads through the hills. When my parent would come and visit we would often goo to El Carro for lunch or dinner. One of the things my parents loved was the small dish of guacamole that came with tortilla chips, as well as salsa. From the time I was a baby my parents tried to replicate this intensely flavored guacamole. We learned many different ways of making guacamole and had a few favorites that are still really good. But, it wasn’t anything like El Charro’s.

So one day we asked about the guacamole, with my parents explaining they had tried to replicate it for 20 some years when we moved away. There was a bit of confusion, but the waitress understood and went in the back to ask. He head cook came out smiling. He explained it wasn’t guacamole, but blue cheese, a little garlic, and butter all mashed together until the blue of the cheese was a green-ish spread / dip. I’ve never seen this anywhere else. The cook had said the owner knew it from Mexico and was a special treat in a small town there. Thanks to the confusion I’ve learned many different guacamole recipes, probably more than 50, but also how to riff with the basics.

Productivity

I’ve been trying to put something in a daily dump note. The book notes and idea notes are getting to be a decent habit and being able to easily search and build on an understanding is really nice to have. Obsidian has been proving to be an insanely great augmentation layer.

Talking with a couple people using Roam this week about Obsidian has been interesting as both lost network access and didn’t have access to their notes. This also got them thinking about how to exit Roam, and the lack of API and a common framework they are feeling really stuck. There is now an option to scrape Roam to pull the content into markdown files that can work with Obsidian, and it seems it will also work with block replication. Roam is slick and what the people who love slick, but don’t consider function and the basic use cases for every platform: Do I have ownership of everything I put in?; Do I have constant access?; How do I exit?

I’m thinking through these as I have been looking at Craft, an Apple OS focussed note system that is quite similar to Notion. I somewhat like Notion and its capabilities, but getting to things, feeding them, and searching when working on things (I have to go to it and perform search and moving content in and out for writing and other workflows has a lot of friction. One solution around it is an API, which isn’t fully there. Craft being more native and sync with iCloud or other would enable what is in it being found in a search. Notion for personal use is now free and Craft is pay, but only about $4 a month.

Craft wouldn’t replace anything in Obsidian, but could help with some organization systems. I use Notion most for pushing podcast and YouTube links into them and then annotate them for refinding and reusing.



January 13, 2021

Weeknote - 10 January 2021

The first week back at work after a 10 day break was going well, other than a continual battle with my work computer that had a battery bulge that started six months ago and slowly turned into throttling, slow cursor and slow recognition of keystrokes at times, and regular crashes. The long replacement / fix cycle is pure Covid impact. After on Friday 5pm my refresh the laptop arrived, it felt like I got half my brain back spending time getting it setup (that process is still underway).

But, the insurrection actions to take over the U.S. Capitol took the focus of the week. Work Thursday and Friday was a welcome distraction, but lack of sleep and a computer doing its best to die made them not overly productive. I never thought I would see the U.S. foundations attacked in such a brutal way. Large mobs fed by outright lies trying to keep Congress from doing what the Constitution requires them to do is years and decades in the making. Chants to execute the Vice President because he said he couldn’t do what there is no legal path for him to do is beyond excuse. Attacking the the monuments to the democracy, but also attacking the Constitution and what it has laid out to protect the U.S. democracy is pure insurrection. This is a true wicked problem that is a tightly wound gordian knot of complexity. Having leader still sitting in office that supported the insurrection and the lies that created its actions is beyond me. They are sitting in seats and elected bodies they don’t believe in and want to destroy and want to run a country with a Constitution they want to destroy.

Read

Friends shared the Rijksmuseum’s now offering high resolution images of their collection, which are stunning.

I restumbled upon SPACE10, which I used to follow but the RSS feed seem to have broken, but some of their long pieces (which is many of them) are not structured well for a long read and they have the scroll bar in the browser turned off to know roughly how far along you are in a long piece, and there are no anchors in the long pieces to link to sections of relevance. It is a really not well conceived site for people thinking about architecture and a structured world.

That said, their piece on The Digital in Architecture: Then, Now and in the Future is rather good, it reminds me of a collection of presentations on information architecture from some of the top information architects from around 2003 to 2015 or so. The piece also has a good bibliography, but nothing is linked (I’m really not sure they understand what they are doing with the web, but they content is interesting and that is likely why I pushed it off my radar in the past).

Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for fast Flow by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais finally arrived. This looks much better than what I had thought it was and may dig into it over the weekend. I picked it up to gut around the topic of teams and optimizing them, particularly around adaptive teams. I a lot of experience with building and running teams and team ecosystems in large organization and bringing helping them be modern and breaking out of the command and control as well as chain of command model non-digital companies lean on (which destroy capabilities and efficiencies and mostly died out in the early 2000s except for the dinosaur companies - for more than 20 years I’ve flipped that models and been able to vastly improve every important metric). I haven’t found good books on teams that echo not only the experiences I’ve had and have consulted others on, but ones I see as prevalent in most of the high performing companies that work the same way. I know Team Topologies is more focussed on DevOps / developer / engineering models, but some underlying foundations for improving my framing of things is what I’m looking to get out of it. There are some things I don’t fully agree with and I regularly see as problematic that are listed in headings, but I don’t know their take. What I do know is a lot of the reference materials they point to are ones I’ve long used and have in my foundations as they echo experiences and things I’ve seen in practice that are really good (I love well documented books, particularly ones that use solid references that hold up with time).

Also arrived is a used version of Paul Madonna’s Everything is its own reward, which is a book of his monochrome watercolor and sketches of San Francisco. It is wonderful and takes me back to a San Francisco I deeply miss and loved. Even though it was used, but still had the poster piece tucked into its back cover sleeve. This poster is a wonderful edition.

Watched

News…

Listened

New to me band, Her, fit the mood early in the week and I’ve added them to easy access in some playlists.

Exponent - Episode 191: Facebook, Twitter, and Trump was a good conversation that was a bit out of sync, but good from a thinking and considering the situation piece.

Postlight Podcast - WordPress and Beyond: With Matt Mullenweg was really good, as expected. Some of the side discussion that started Paul Ford thinking, really have me intrigued. I’m needing to go back and track these down.

I had A.J. Croce’s A.J. Croce album on and had forgotten how good it really is. It is so well recorded and produced as on decent headphones or sound system it sounds like you are in the room with them. This was the in the soundtrack of the cross country drive with my dad in 1993. But, even with those wonderful memories I’ve always loved this album as there is so much good music in it and the lyrics are really good with nice turns of phrase.

Productivity

I’ve gone back to a practice of daily notes (the daily dump) in Obsidian / markdown that helps keep track of thoughts. It is similar to the sections I have for the weeknote template, but include: Thoughts, read, talked to, health, watched, listened to, worked on (personal items - I haven’t kept a daily work journal in a long while, but have daily meeting notes I keep in my work environment), learned, ate, bought, added to wishlist. These last two are to keep track of why.

One of the things I’m trying to sort through in my notes, research, and writing process workflow that I’m doing between just the daily notes and weeknotes is a microcosm of my regular workflows for writing (which I’m getting back to). My notes sit in directories in markdown files that are now in Dropbox for mobile device access and Obsidian sits on top of them linking things together and all is searchable in spotlight and DevonThink Indexes it. My writing is now in iA Writer, which works best with iCloud directories, which can be searched by Spotlight, but is outside Obsidian and Outside DevonThink.

I sometimes start writing in iA Writer, but they may be: Just a stub, more fleshed out but still a draft, mostly finished but not posted / published, or posted / published. I have many pieces from mid-summer around the Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd was murdered, which really moved me, but they weren’t finished or posted. Weeknotes ran into multi-week notes, then into just idle and start from scratch. There are things I know I have written I want to point to, but they aren’t shared out (this is a common issue). I finally created a quick template for marking the state at the bottom of a piece in progress. But, this isn’t helping sort through my central repository in Obsidian where searching across that collection and interlinking to pull things closer.

I’ve swapped through a bunch of writing apps and at the moment I have no interest in moving off iA Writer as I really like it. There are some things I need to investigate for some writing coming (footnotes, tables, and possibly integration with Grammarly as I need to get back into good writing patterns and practices). In the past my long or focussed writing was in Scrivener, which I still love, but its treatment of markdown as second class citizen, which made it difficult to have a smooth workflow with for publishing to the web. I used Ulysses for a short while, but its own structures and not freely available markdown files made it not work well at all in my workflows. There is a lot I really like with Ulysses and Scrivener with notes and note management, but easy working across devices isn’t as smooth as iA Writer nor as smooth as the workflow that is easy with freely available markdown files.



January 3, 2021

Weeknote - 3 January 2021

Happy 309th day of March in the Year of Covid and welcome to the first weeknote of the year here. Having a work break since Christmas Eve has been fantastic. But, it took me about seven days to get into the swing of the break and put behind things that weren’t part of the break. This being the turn of the year many of the news and media outlets, as well as many of my favorite blogs still running were posting their year end wrap-ups and I really enjoy reading those, particularly for books, things to watch, music, and ideas to explore.

This week I stumbled onto a new podcast that is a gem for me, but also in digging through ideas, links, and related exploration to the podcast I stumbled upon one of my own posts from 2006 about technisocial architect, which still hits at an awful lot of my approach and where I’m really happy focussing (that across multiple domains with depth in beyond generalist depth, but aiming toward a polymath depth). The labelling of people with multiple depths and expertise and to this day still bugs me as old style business that haven’t modernized think in one dimensional people and most often have no understanding how to use people with serious depth (they mostly just leave to go to places that know what to do with then and respect them) and really are lost with people with multiple deep dimensions. I’ve been back to pulling others like this together as really missing them and the conversations the freely spin across different domains and open opportunities to explore adjacent ideas.

A wifi hub going south (the end of my Apple AirPorts) meant switching to something different and was concerned with lack of ease of use, but was pleasantly surprised. Having WiFi 6 seems to have improve the odd drops we’ve been having and able to set priority for devices. The odd blind spots for wifi now seem to be gone as well.

Read

I’ve been reading across a bunch of new additions as well as going back through some books and gutting them for some idea spelunking related to the Near Future Lab podcast and newsletters (see below). The Near Future Lab newsletter has been a good find and the breadth of things it is covering with some depth has been triggering some pulling together quite a few things I’ve put in notes and tucked away over the last 15 to 20 years. Relatedly, I’ve had David Epstein’s Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World out and gutting it, particularly around polymath, which Epstein has a good framing of, which I find far more helpful than the generalists, which is more of a deep generalist.

Book sales and gift cards have been adding to the stacks near the sofa during break, as well as targeted reading and gutting on subjects to flesh out some things in my notes (Obsidian has been great for showing gaps as I pulled in a couple of the blogfodder tagged notes and blogfodder lists).

One fiction book I picked and read the first chapter has me deeply enthralled is Richard Powers’ The Overstory: A Novel and was amazed with the beauty of it. It was like each word was a gem and each sentence a finely crafted bracelet or necklace. After two or three pages I was wondering if this would keep it up for the chapter, and it pretty much did. It has been a long while since I’ve read something this well crafted with language. I’ve been back reading poetry a little bit, but long for narrative this well crafted is a lot of work and I’m really impressed. But, with Overstory I’m also drawn by the story.

The end of this week I’ve been trying to catch-up with past [Near Future Lab Newsletters] as well as Jorge Arango’s writing and links (from the past few weeks). So much good fodder in these.

The “best of…” books I picked up and started reading a little bit, have not only been a source of good works in them, but I noticed the “other notable…” lists in the back of the books, which have been really good. These additional works mentioned have not only provided good pieces of interest to track down, but publications and sites that I’m now adding to my follow list. The last two or three years I’ve seen a lot of regular sources stop publishing and / or shut, which is problematic. There is a lot of fracturing and splintering of media recently. Most media is only as good as their individual contributors (which is the same as many things including analysts, contracting, consulting, etc.) and the really good individuals now have the capability to run things themselves or group with other strong individuals to build a good strong focused resource.

Watched

Early in the week I found myself watching downhill skiing, which I used to love watching as a kid. Not having Olympics this year has me wanting more skiing to watch and other winter sports (yes, I know it is a Summer Olympics year put on hold, but still).

Listened

One of my favorite sources for inspiration over the last 10+ years has been the Near Future Lab and this week they started a podcast (it is found linked in their 4th edition of their new newsletter Design Fiction newsletter - Design Fiction and the Optimistic Contrarian)and the first one is a pure gem for me. It is a discussion between Julian Bleeker, Fabien Girardin, and Nicholas Nova of the Near Future Lab. The focus is on what Giradin calls ambidexterity, or the switching of tasks and focus between domains and practice area. Julian maps that to what has been his favorite book of 2020, David Epstein’s Range, which is about the success of the generalist. This isn’t quiet your thin thinking generalists, but deeply curious multi-disciplinary generalist that go deep in across many domains and can deeply think (scientifically and exploratorily) as well as do. It is polymath as deep thinker and doer. The type of person who keep pursuing things to where there is boredom or able to hand it off to others. These folks are the ones who can easily have discussions with experts and leave the experts with new thinking and understandings beyond what they new prior.

Realizing Tidal added a ton of new music that is MQA wrapped from their Warner Music Group, I’be been rebuilding some play lists with the “master” version and listening as well. Along these lines I’m finding something is going on in Apple Music as a lot of their catalog is sounding much better running through a DAC on decent headphones (also finding Apple Music stopped scrobbling to Last.fm in December and I can’t get it functioning again, but Tidal still works).

Play

I was thinking I would play and finish Ghosts of Tsushima over break, but a discount on 2K21 made that the gaming focus. I’m a bit surprised with 2k21 as it isn’t as painful to play as it normally is with their “create a character” mode, but the GM mode is still as odd as it was last version. The storyline in the crate a character mode really wasn’t painful and felt more playable than usual and no annoying out of left field diversion thrown in.

Productivity

Obsidian has been getting a workout this week. I still need to sort out linking blocks, but I spent much of my time dumping in notes and connecting things. I need to sort out my workflow for writing, which is currently mostly done in iA Writer and that saves best for remote use in iCloud and my notes for Obsidian are in Dropbox. I need to work out a workflow for how to better handle this. One of the things I did this week was add a snippet for TextExpander for my existing blogfodder notes that were tagged in NValt. The snippet has the state for blogfodder to note if it is a stub, draft, done and not posted, and posted with a link to where it is posted. That would work to copy completed and posted pieces I’ve worked on in iA Writer, but need to sort out how to make that smooth.



January 2, 2021

20 Years of Blogging and Wrapping Up the Year 2020

Happy New Year (the 307th day of March in the Year of Covid). As of December 31, 2020 this blog is 20 years old. It started sort of on a whim in Blogger. I find a lot of things that stick start on a whim around here, either as a quick experiment (there are a lot always running) or just fed-up to the point of just do something. Curiosity strikes hard, but it does for most of the people who I spend time with and who do well around tech and digital systems.

There are now 2,103 blog posts. All but a handful are still around. The first one is gone, as it was a “Hello Squirrel!” post (20 years ago I was already insanely tired of hello world and switched some where in 1999 or 2000 and it stuck. I’ve thought about running stats to look at years of activity (in 2004 or 2005 I started Personal InfoCloud as my more work focussed blog and vanderwal.net stayed as my random thoughts and rarely edited brain dump. The top 5 used categories for this blog since its start are Personal, Information Architecture, Web, User-Centered Design, and Apple / Mac. The whole list can be found at vanderwal Off the Top Categories List - By Use. I really need to get a sparkline placed next to each as that would be really helpful to see what is popular when and something I’ve wanted to do for 15 or so years, but never got around to.

I haven’t really kept track of analytics. I would look at analytics on a weekly or monthly basis, but I really haven’t done that in a long while. I do know some of the folksonomy posts drew a lot of attention (the main defining folksonomy post was moved to a static HTML page at the strong urging of academics who needed that for citation purposes. I know a few posts drew a lot of attention inside some companies which were posted here and cross-posted at Personal InfoCloud.

I’ve used blogging to think out loud so to make sense of things, but also for refinding for myself, but also to connect with others who have insights or similar interests.

Wrapping Up 2020

This also is sort of Best of 2020, or things that I spent enjoyable time on or changed me in some good way. I don’t think I’ve ever done a year end wrap as I always feel I’m in the middle of things and a wrap isn’t really fitting when in the midst of things.

Podcasts

Postlight / Track Changes podcast over the last two or three years has become the conversation I’m missing. It is the conversations I miss having and sort of work I’ve been missing at times (I’ve had good stretches of moving things forward to help organization avoid the missing manhole covers or recover through helping understand need, gaps, and pain points to create vastly improved paths forward. Paul and Rich, as well as when Gina gets to play along have been great moments of agreement and a handful of, “ooh, that is good!” as well.

Dear Hank and John from brothers (vlog brothers) Hank Green and John Green, was one of the Year of Covid’s great find as refinding the vlog brothers YouTube channel and their books was comforting and grounding during this odd and rough year. In 2007 time frame with Hank and John were starting out I saw them as Ze Frank copycats, which admittedly they were, and I was a big fan of Ze (particularly after meeting him and having some great winding down rabbits holes of philosophy around content, community, and connection). I was entertained with the vlog brothers 2007 to around 2009, but didn’t overly seek them out and they fell off my radar. This year during the start of lock down they came back into to focus and stayed.

99% Invisible is a weekly breath of fresh air that digs into just one more subject from beautiful Downtown Oakland California. I am continually learning from it and go digging for more information after their podcast.

Matt Mullenweg’s Distributed isn’t quite regular, but I make room for it. Matt has had some really insightful podcasts that also have me digging for more and really am happy to see all that Matt has built so far. It is great that Matt is largely open with his sharing insights and information about they do things at Automattic, but also the guests from outside are really good.

Dave Chang Podcast seems like has a ton of content coming out and I can’t keep up. My favorites are when he is talking with other chefs and restaurant owners. The podcast was really good to listen to during the pandmic as Dave and guests dug deep into the challenges and economics around the effects of the shutdowns.

No Such Thing as a Fish is often my weekend morning listen. Last winter I caught their live DC show, which was great to see after many years. A show where you can get informed and laugh like crazy is always a win in my book.

Newsletters

Newsletters are a love / hate thing for me. The hate mostly is that they are in mail apps where doing useful things with content in them in my information capture for refinding, connecting with other similar things, giving attribution, and coalescing into something new or an anchor point for exploration is tough when in any mail app or service. But, I love a lot of the content. The best newsletters have HTML pages that are easy to search, find things, and interconnect ideas in. The Tiny Newsletter newsletters do this fairly well, Substack does this quite well (and can be RSS feeds), some custom solutions (like Stratechery) do this insanely well, while Mailchimp is miserable with this in so many ways (sadly none of my favorite sources is in Mailchimp, which is ironic and also frustrating).

The perennial favorite for years is Stratechery and keeping up with Ben Thompson’s take and really well thought through explanations are one of the few things I intentionally track down and at least skim (some of the subjects I know really well and look to see where Ben has a different take or a better framing for understanding).

This year perennial favorite New York Times columnist David Leonhardtt (whom I in only recently in the past year or two realized I know and see regularly) took over the daily news summary, New York Times Morning newsletter and it has become what I read as I’m getting up. The insights and framing are really good. But, also pulling things into focus in the NT Times that I may have missed is an invaluable resource with an incredibly smart take no it all.

One added midway this year is the daily MIT Technology Review’s own MIT TR Download that is edited by Charlotte Jee. The intro section and daily focussed editorial is always good, but equally as good are the daily links as I always find something that was well off my radar that I feel should be drawn closer.

My guilty pleasure that I read each morning on my coffee walk (I walk to get coffee every morning as working remotely I may not make it out the front door that day) is the Monocle Minute and Weekend Edition newsletter. Which during the week is quick, informative, breezy in a familiar tone, that cover international business, politics, global focus, travel, and more. I’ve long had a soft spot for Monocle since the started. The Weekend Edition newsletters are longer and have a highlight of someone, which I deeply enjoy, and focus on food, travel, media, the good things in life. The recipes on Sunday are also something I look out for.

The non-regular Craig Mod newsletters, Ridgeline, Explorer, and general newsletter are a good dose of calm and insight.

One of my favorite voices on systems, design, and information architecture is Jorge Arango and his biweekly Jorge Arango Newsletter is a gem of great links. I’m always finding smart and well considered content from this newsletter.

Music

I changed up my listening setup for headphones a bit swapping some things around and now enjoying things quite a bit.

I’ve been writing a bit about music in my weeknotes, but Lianne I don’t think has made the write-ups as I seem to be listening to her music during work wind down as it draws my attention and focus.

Books

2020 was a year of picking up books, but given the state of things reading wasn’t fully functional.

There are two books, which I am still working through, or more akin to meditating through that really struck me in 2020.

The first is Violet Moller’s The Map of Knowledge about a stretch of about 1,000 years and how classical books and knowledge were lost and found. She focusses on nine different periods. The background for how books were copied to stay alive (with far more frequency than I imagined), how the big libraries of the world were kept, whom they served, and how they went away and their collections lost or destroyed. This book deeply challenged a lot of underlying beliefs and, looking back, silly assumptions about keeping knowledge and the vast knowledge we have (which is only a tiny slice of what has gone before us). Reading this book, sometimes just a few pages at a time, causes long walks and deep consideration. It has been a while since I have reworked a lot of foundations for beliefs and understandings so profoundly. A lot of this book also reminds me of my time at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies that also challenged me and pushed me in similar ways, but that was more of setting foundations and extending them than reworking them.

The other book, which I’m still working through is Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.’s Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own that I had been looking forward to it since I heard about it late in 2019. As we hit summer in 2020 and the murder of George Floyd sparked a deep reawakening of the realities of race issues in the United States it brought back memories of the 1980s and 1990s and thinking and working through similar ideas. That deep caring and belief that things were better and had improved were shattered as reality reared its head. I had stumbled onto James Baldwin after returning from living in England and France for the last semester of undergrad and a little bit more. I returned to the U.S. with really bad reverse culture shock and one of those challenging understandings I had was around race and very little in the U.S. felt right nor on inline with a united anything. This bothered me deeply for a lot of reasons, but part was being threatened just by hanging out with good friends who were running errands and they were verbally abused (and I feared worse was coming) by just walking in a store and I was a target of the same because I was with him. There were many times like this. After living in England and France this was clear it was mostly an American thing, particularly in educated circles where skin color wasn’t the first consideration it was who you are and what you believe and do. Baldwin echoed these vibrations of reality that trembled through me, it made me feel not alone in this, but he also gave urgings to stand up and be a different way. Over the years this faded, until the torch march on Charlottesville, Virginia and then the long series of murders at the hands of people who should be protecting not wrongly dishing out their perverted mis-understanding of justice. Begin Again has had me thinking again, believing again, and acting again, but taking it in small meditative steps and also reworking my foundation.

William Gibson’s Agency was a good romp and included a handful of places I know quite well, which really help me see it. I hadn’t finished reading Peripheral, but have it on the list to do.

John Green’s Paper Towns was a wonderful read and his view on the world and use of language is one I find comforting, insightful, and delightful. I have The Fault in Our Stars queued up. I also picked up his brother Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and made it about a third to half way through and it was reminding me a lot of 2005 to 2010 or so and things I hadn’t fully unpacked, so set it aside for a bit. I really enjoyed the characters and storyline, but I needed something that was a little more calm for me.

Lawrence Levy’s To Pixar and Beyond which was an interesting take on one person’s interactions with Steve Jobs and Pixar, which I found incredibly insightful and enjoyable. I’ve read a lot of books on Steve Jobs, Apple, and Pixar over the last 20 to 25 years and this added new insights.

James and Deborah Fallows’ Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America has been a really good read to help understand and get insights into where America is today with what are the thinking and beliefs.

The Monocle Book of Japan is really enjoyable as it is beautifully make. It is part picture book with the great photography that is in Monocle(https://monocle.com) as well as brief well written insights into many different facets of Japan and life in Japan.

Games

Ghost of Tsushima is one of the best games I’ve run across in a long time. It is utterly beautiful, the transitions are quick, and the game play (while quite bloody) is fun and not over taxing nor complicated. I’ve really enjoyed prior Sucker Punch Production’s games, I the Infamous series has been a real favorite (although hearing a slow moving empty garbage truck with rumbling diesel engine still puts me on edge as it sounds like the Dustmen from the first Infamous game). The storyline in Ghosts is really good as well and has kept me moving through the game after taking a break. I love the open map as well, which sizable and insanely beautiful.

MLB the Show is continually one of my favorite sport sim games as the game play is quite good, the visuals are amazing, and the team management and different ways to play through a season are really enjoyable. It gets so many things right that most other sport simulations don’t. I quite like sport sims as they have a fixed time, which makes it easy to stop or at least consider how long you have been playing and then get back to other things.

Fifa 20 and 21 continued to be really fun and enjoyable. The graphics and game play improves quite a bit each iterations and this last entry was no different. Much like the Show I find Fifa really relaxing to play and fun to manage teams and work through improving them.

Others I’ve enjoyed and played Death Stranding, No Man Sky, Journey, and Grand Tourismo. Death Stranding I didn’t finish even though I was enjoying it, the theme wasn’t really working well with the Covid–19 pandemic, but I know I will return to it. I’ve sunk a fair amount of time exploring in No Man Sky again and really enjoy it. I’m still playing Journey after all these years and still like it a lot as it is calming, familiar, and time limited. Grand Tourimso is still one of the most gorgeous games and fun to just drive around in.

Watching

I’ve written a fair amount in weeknotes about these three. There is more I liked, but I I haven’t really kept good track of those things.
* The Crown
* Ted Lasso
* Mandalorian

Productivity

The big shift has been Obsidian, which has become the layer over my existing notes that are in markdown and already in directories. I looked at Roam Research, but quickly realized it is most everything I try to stay far from, which is the content isn’t in my possession (if anything goes south I’m stuck), there are no APIs to extend use, the subscription is expensive for something not fully built and not well thought through, and a whole lot of arrogance from the developers (this is something to steer very far from, particularly if things aren’t well thought through).

Obsidian has me not only finding things in my existing notes, but allowing for interconnecting them and adding structure to them. The ability to have block level linking is really nice to have as well, but I haven’t really made use of that yet. I have been writing a lot more notes and pulling notes and highlights out of books. In the past I have used VooDoo Pad wiki on Mac and loved it and Obsidian gives me that capability and with storing the notes on Dropbox I can search, edit, and add from mobile as well.

Obsidian may be my one of my favorite things from 2020 and one that will keep giving for years to come.



November 23, 2020

Weeknote - 22 November 2020

Happy 267th day of March in the Year of Covid.

A rather heads down week or planning with some errands and running kid to his appointments. The weekend became caring for a kid’s insanely kinked neck followed by stomach issues.

Read

Not a whole lot of reading happened this week as it was planning week at work and some errands and driving my son (but having it dark I lost a bit of my reading books time while waiting in the car).

One of the things that is echoing loudly from the James Fallows’ and Deborah Fallows’ Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America is people moving to “the city” or larger towns from where they grew up. This desire to get off the farm, move from a small town of a few thousand to the state’s large city of 100,000 or more for more opportunity, performing a role they trained or went to school to learn, or to get a larger dating pool to find a life mate. This desire is interesting and common, if you’ve lived in a large city. There are people who move between large cities following jobs or opportunities, but they don’t move to smaller cities (they may move to a city’s edge, an exurb, or suburb when raising families).

Somehow we are to one of my favorite times of the year a a reader, the “Top Books of the Year” time of the year. The New York Times top 100, Washington Post Top 10 (this links to other top book lists, and Financial Times Best Books of the Year 2020 have theirs out.

Sadly, a favorite author died this week at the age of 94. Jan Morris historian, travel writer, and trans pioneer dies, as the Guardian labelled her. I found Morris from her histories and culture overviews of Oxford that I read in the months prior to my heading to Oxford where I would take my last semester of undergrad. I later found collections of her travel writings and other histories, but it was the framings of Oxford that impressed me and I still return to today.

Watched

Started in on Season 4 of The Crown and finding the Prince Charles character, whom they wrote in season 3 as a young man finding himself and a bit lost, but with a soft look on life (rather than a hard, non-caring stoic side, nor overly aggressive side), and seeing hints of the effort to spin him to a dark and evil-ish look. The glare at the end of episode 1 was more funny (in an “oh, really…” way). I’m curious where the story arcs are going to go.

On Friday got caught up with Mandalorian with my son, who in used downtime due to the Covid pandemic to watch Clone Wars in its entirety and is far more versed in the backstory, places, and names that I am. I’m still enjoying it, but is doesn’t have the richness it does for him.

Listened

Not much listening to happened this week other than a really good 99% Invisible - In The Unlikely Event podcast episode, which is a really good look at not just make instructional materials work well, but understanding the whole system first, from planes, mechanical, human, and the ever important understanding the psychology of humans.

This week Pomplamoose and KT Tunstall collaborated on a new arrangement of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found”, which I found incredibly good. There is also a really good Making of Still Haven’t Found, on Jack Conte’s own channel. This may be one of the best covers / versions of the song I’ve heard by U2 or others.

One of my favorite labels, Edition Record had some new releases this week, but so far I haven’t had a chance to listen to them much but liking it a bit.

Productivity

It was good to see a New Yorker piece, The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done by Cal Newport and starting off with Merlin Mann. It wove through the enhancements something like Getting Things Done offers, but also its gaps. It wove in Thomas Davenport’s knowledge management improvements for personal improvement and thinking. It is a good high level view, that roughly scratches the surface. But, the diversity of options and models are also ones that are quite personal, but also needed for diversity of intellectual processes and needs of different systems and purpose.

I’ve been doing some rethinking of some of my Social / Complexity Lenses Models to expand and branch them as need and realities dictate. It takes some rigor in understanding what you have, what the needs are, and even more what are the gaps. It is at that point where thinking of a system to support what is being worked through and augmented as well as things held in valuable tension.



November 2, 2020

Weeknote - 1 November 2020

There was a point this week that took me back to March or April and wearing masks to go out the front door and wondering would this last long enough that it felt normal. The old adage of a habit is made with 21 days of doing the same thing. It is far past those 21 days, but it not only seems like something we have been doing naturally forever but feels like walking out the front door without a mask it like walking out without your keys. I stepped out of the car and had my mask on and realized it was normal and natural, so much I didn’t think about it. It seems really odd and not so smart to see people without them.

I’ve given my hosting company notification that I don’t want to be moved to their new place as GoDaddy shuts down my hosting company I’ve been with for 7 to 10 years. The options they offer is a giant step backwards, so moving on. I have found a good replacement that is relatively similar, and a bit better. The next 3 to 5 weeks things will be moving here. I have part of the 10 apps and services I run partly mapped out, but have been waiting to sort out the destination to understand the scope of the move and if all the languages used will work. Mail may be my biggest pain, but that may be one of the last things to move.

The past few work cycles have me worn, but getting insanely high kudos from vendors about finally cracking some tough patterns that have been pain points for many others. That combined with election related matters I’m a bit drained and been really cranky. I did vote in early voting, which was relatively quick and easy, after seeing wait times over 45 minutes (at times it was 90 to 120) earlier in the week.

Read

I’m reading an early copy of a friends book that is really good and pretty much nails one of the small pieces that create massive positive differences, but are rarely noticed nor focussed on. Many organizations focus on innovation, and while some do it incredibly well most are a farce and are just copying practices from other companies with different problems and not understand the problems and starting from there (hence, the innovation doesn’t really have much positive value). I am looking forward to getting through the rest of the book, but also seeing it out and available for everybody.

Watched

Like that, I pretty much gave up on Deadwind after the first episode, as the second I didn’t make it through. The story is interesting, but also close to a few other things I’ve watched recently. But, I also I tend to watch things while wrapping other things up and not having enough of a foothold on Finnish I was having to pause, back up 30 seconds to a few minutes to understand what I missed which had me realizing I didn’t miss much or I didn’t care about what I missed. That was it and moved on.

I’ve been hoping to finish season 3 of The Crown, which I find to be some of the best writing and film craft around. By writing some is the words, but much of it is the setup and drawing and building of an arc and story line.

Also catching up on Somebody Feed Phil, which I really like but usually watch with my son, but we got distracted and missed a couple.

I’m holding off on Mandalorian for a couple weeks. But, it looks really good and looking forward to it.

Listened

Incomparables on Ted Lasso was really good and was a great reminder of just how good Ted Lasso was. I nearly started back watching it again from the beginning.

Productivity

Obsidian has released and then updated block referencing functionality. I haven’t had time to focus on it nor sort through a couple use cases I really things this may help with. One is keeping book notes tied with the book, but using block referencing to place subject / domain related ideas in their subject page and similarly with subject related quote files.



October 25, 2020

Weeknote - 25 October 2020

I’m returning back to something I read a bit ago from Matt Webb about getting back into a habit for blogging again. Matt’s posting about 15 rules for blogging, and my current streak is one that really struck home as I’m trying to get back to a regular writing habit, here and elsewhere. Matt’s idea for one idea per post is the old school way of knocking out quick short notes on one topic for reference for one’s self, but also sharing out for others by default. The weeknote model runs a bit counter to this, but trying to get back to a habit of capturing things and trying to get to a schedule helps get things moving again. Matt’s post is more than worth your time.

The week was heavily focussed on the work front as trying doing work that could really benefit from a good innovation space with large whiteboard and to include teammates to think and work through the flows and integrated systems. I’ve been working through a solutions to a gap that makes some easy solutions not viable due to compliance and needing to craft for a large enterprise and the constraints and diversity of needs. The start to the solution came about about 3 weeks ago and trying to work through a solution for one piece of it that would remove a lot of manual work that has a lot of opportunity for error as it scales and scope increases. Getting he foundations right is key, but I think we will have a good solution. Working through permeations of scenarios and modifications coming from vendors was a good chunk of working with large logic puzzles, but the foundation should be good. Now to work on workflows and interactions for it, or at least the first step and a solid system of record for these. I love this type of work, but it is much more sane with a good sized room, large whiteboard and stickynotes, and a few others to work through permeations and potential missing manhole covers that are created when the goal is seeing them and resolving them.

Early voting starts this week and trying to sort out when I can fit that in. While today (Sunday) was eerily quiet, which could be the cold snap or Covid cases spiking at its worst everywhere around the U.S. and people playing safe, I don’t expect that quiet to last for the week.

Read

A really quiet week on the reading front. I have some things to read this next week for a quick review that I am really looking forward to.

Watched

I sort of stumbled onto starting the Finnish crime drama, Deadwind that is on Netflix. I have only watched one episode, but I think I will stick with it. I thought it was a different series, but it has me interested.

One of the things that had me intrigued is not so much the show, but it is in Finnish. I haven’t listened to a lot of Finnish as an adult and its spoken and linguistic patterns are well outside of any language I have a passing understanding of. I was reading the closed captions and trying to pull out some words that could work as way in, but that was tough. I also realized I really liked the cinematography and focussing on closed captions and thinking about language structure was a bit in the way of what had drawn me in.

Listened

Over the past year I’ve become a fan of Rick Beato’s YouTube channel and I stumbled onto his break down of Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes in the episode What Makes This Song Great? Ep.27 Peter Gabriel. There is so much more to this song and with Rick had taken another 30 minutes to dig into that.

Productivity

I’ve been using Obsidian more and a release that should hit those with early access and allowing block addressability really looks good. I’m finding with what Obsidian offers I’m able to really get a lot of crosswalks between ideas, sources, authors / creators, and structures that I just didn’t have access to before. Already it feels a bit like I have a James Burke long transfer system in the works that is part of the structure of his Connections series.



October 19, 2020

Weeknote - 18 October 2020

Okay, that week was the prior week’s weeknote. Now I’m trying to capture two weeks in one. The prior week was rather busy and the weekend full too.

The morning coffee walk, this week turned a bit wet and chilly. I may need to change from wearing shorts for my this trek to get me out my door and a bit of exercise to start the day. Seasons and other temporal changes of worldly transitions have really flown past this year with little acknowledgement. The trees are just starting to turn in their autumnal color pageant, but it seems like they were just bare and bright green sprouts coming out.

I got a note this week from my webhost, which had been bought quite a while ago by GoDaddy and they finally said they are transitioning and my host is going away. I know a lot of people who work at GoDaddy and the leadership and inhumane leadership problems are gone. But, they are planning on moving from a hosting plan and platform I love that fits what I want to keep going (this site) and some small experimental spaces playing with Python, NodeJS small services, and a little Ruby and moving to a service that really isn’t clear about what it does, nor what it offers, nor pricing, nor service, and it is only based in the UK. With Brexit it is deeply unclear what is going on in the UK with regulation and anything and that is one of the last places I would want to have anything hosted.

So, some of my time will be focussed in the next couple or few weeks transitioning elsewhere. I think I know where, which is a hosting platform from former founders and employees of my current host. They have similar offerings, but I’m needing to sort out what these changes will entail for some of the custom pieces I have and dealing with email.

I was in the midst of starting to plan an upgrade to the underlying code of the site to bring it to a modern version of PHP. This is on hold until I get the site moved.

Read

There wasn’t a lot of reading time this week. But, I sort of parked An Absolutely Remarkable Thing for now as the micro-fame discussions were something that was causing a lot of self reflection around similar. I picked up John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and just a few pages in I’m happy with the swap as John Green’s writing voice is one I find comfort in.

I’m also reading / skimming back through some Richard Feynman as some friends have stumbled on to it and has lead to interesting discussions. I read Six Easy Pieces around 2003 or so after writing the draft of Model of Attraction and as I fleshed it out and it turned into Complexity / Social Lenses there is a strong underpinning in physics through Feynman’s introduction, followed by discussions with good depth in physics and quantum underpinnings.

Watched

The Pete Souza documentary, The Way I See It about his time as White House photographer for Reagan and Obama. It was completely wonderful and a solid reminder of what a great leader does through understanding things deeply and supporting all others through leading with empathy.

Listened

Tigran Hamasyan is a musician I stumbled upon through a “what is this” explainer on YouTube, which lead to a mini deep dive. The two videos that had been deeply intrigued and really enjoying his music are IMPOSSIBLE Time Signature or 4/4? Tigran Hamasyan Explained and The Rhythms of Tigran Hamasyan on David Bruce’s channel, which I have enjoyed and stumbled on before. The cross over and different mental model using math transformations and mapping patterns through size relevance patterns that are adaptive is really intriguing.

Food

I don’t understand why sole, particularly Dover or Petrale, is so hard to find on the East Coast. I swear they were pretty much a year round fish growing up on the West Coast. This week I stumbled on a decent sale on Dover Sole so made a quick fry in virgin olive oil and brown butter, with a dry coating of corn starch, rice crumbles, sea salt, and black pepper then finishing with lemon and quick fried capers and pickled capers. This was a good Sunday brunch to say the least.

Productivity

In this transition from light too mid-term notes in NValt to Obsidian for better organization and cross-linking and an app that actually works (NValt stopped working spectacularly). One of the things I was peeved about was the tagging I had done in NValt. But, Brett Terpstra knows tagging well and tucked the tags in the user interface of NValt into the tag field in Apple’s file metadata. The one that I’m really wanting to get organized is my blogfodder tag, which is really rough drafts of posts, or collections of notes no a subject.



October 11, 2020

Weeknote - 04 October 2020

I have so many partially completed weeknotes sitting for the last many weeks. Some are partial efforts to combine two, then three weeks or even more. The Black Lives Matter need for focus from utterly disgusting lack of people’s care for other humans diverts my focus.

But, I’ve also been needing to do a slight update to get this site running on a slightly newer version of PHP. Yet, in the next few months I needing to do a slow drip conversion to a quite modern PHP. To me it is utterly amazing that this site is still running on code I started writing in 2000 and fully started using in 2001 (I ran it is a temporary travel blogging fill-in when all too often hotels wouldn’t connect with FTP that I used to push Blogger pieces into place for new blog posts). I have made some minor changes to the underlying code three or four times, but this is going to be a large change. I will likely just do a straight conversion of the underpinnings, but following that may finish some better navigation and then a redesign.

Work has shifted from 4 days a week back to 5 days and that shift put a damper on a couple small personal side projects.

Another thing I’m working on is turning some of my core pieces of my talks and workshops into 1 to 5 minute video explainers. I regularly chat with grad students that run into my work around folksonomy, but also many of the social complexity models and lenses. Some of these have helpful animations I use as explainers and get really strong praise from professors when they run across them. This will likely lead to writing them up as well.

The other piece the last few weeks I’ve been focussing on is reworking my note taking and organization model. I will get into this in more detail below in the Productivity section.

Read

Reading took a bit of a back seat the past 6 weeks or so. I’be been reading two books in a slow meditative manner, due to the thinking and rethinking they are leading to. These two are The Map of Knowledge by Violet Moller and Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., which I’ve mention here before (I think, they may be in unfinished weeknotes I haven’t posted). My fun read, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, has turned into a slow meditative read, which is helping me realize why I stopped writing and sharing on the web as much, but also why I need to get back to it. The last of my concurrent reads is James Fallows and Deborah Fallows Our Towns: A 100,000-mile Journey into the Heart of America fits one of my favorite genres of exploring America though stopping and asking questions, but also listening deeply across America.

The Map of Knowledge runs quite counter to the poor assumption that the intellectuals of antiquity we know shared their knowledge and we have much of it. Well, we have very little of it. Much of it lost to lack of continual upkeep and continual recopying of works that was / is needed. The book looks at the old great libraries and how they disappeared and what happened to their collections.

A few years ago doing expert witness analysis I was amazed that much of the domain of canonical works about the internet, particularly around the Web 2.0 era, were gone from the web, they are also missing from the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine. I have a decent chunk of them in my own collection as archived html and / or PDF tucked away and searchable in DevonThink. But, many of these are linked to from Wikipedia the sites that hosted them are gone to the digital winds. For a long time we thought of the Web as being the holding of all the thinking of mankind and having it all searchable and within easy reach (this also means the appalling thought of the fringes that get over amplified are there as well), yet this is far far from the case.

I have yet to discern if this loss of knowledge and really good thinking and understanding not being a new reality is comforting or not. A high school economics summer school class that introduced the “pure flow of information” leading to good decisions. Searching Google for “pure flow of information” my blog pops up a fair amount where I’m pointing to Nobel Prize for economists work around the internet and this, how to manage a vast flow of information, disillusionment with the lack of reality of the pure flow, and more. The thought I keep having, is along the lines of, “I thought we had so much more than we do”, then weighing true repositories like the Bodlian Library and the Library of Congress and their seemingly vast collections. The vacillating perspective of “we have only a tiny slice of what we have known” and “we have far more than any one person or collection of people can know” are a tension I’m very slowly learning to live with as a viable tension while still believing in the pure flow.

Watched

Mostly I’ve been rewatching movies and shows. But, the newest season of Endeavour, The Young Wallander, Van Der Valk have scratched an itch that I can always use more of.

Like many, I’ve stumbled into and really been enjoying Ted Lasso which has been a really good cultural palate cleanser to the mess going on in the world who want to lead by hate and lies.

Listened

Through a Tidal recommendation I found Brian Bromberg’s album Bromberg Plays Hendrix, which is decently good, but Hey Joe really stuck out and I’m really enjoying it (particularly on Tidal and really wishing they had a Master (MQA) version of it).

My podcast listening slowed as I shifted my morning breakfast routine from a 15 minute making a black bean bowl (black beans, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, fresh turmeric, Canadian bacon, sometimes grape tomatoes (cooked so they are jammy), and with a farm fresh egg on top). The current is thick yoghurt and fresh fruit, sometimes with muesli on top and a perfect bar. I’ve also gone back to doing a coffee walk in the morning to fetch coffee (this ensures I get out for a decent walk at least once a day) rather than preferably making coffee at home. This shift from 15 minutes to under 5 minutes knocked out my usual podcast listening time.

Food

I finally tried some gluten free baking. A peach and blueberry clafoutis was a good pleasure, but the gluten free Dutch baby went all sorts of wrong.

Play

I’m about a third of the way through Ghosts of Tsushima and a bit stalled. This game is a really gem. It is utterly beautiful (yet insanely bloody, which is something I often steer clear of) with an open map, good game play, and a tiny bit educational and has lead to reading understanding feudal Japan and samurai culture. I am a big fan of Sucker Punch’s prior series, Infamous, and Ghosts expands on what I really like about their games.

Productivity

The past few weeks I’ve been needing to find a different and improved method for my note taking method and workflow. I have long used NValt and it stopped working, but since it is just a front end for many (1,200+) markdown text files, I can use any markdown editor or text editor. But, what is missing is a loose wrapper around these short snippets of somethingness, collections of quotes, lists of interesting words with definitions, drafts for blog posts, other stubs of ideas (fiction and non-fiction), and also finished items I’ve started in NValt and then using small apps loosely joined method of doing things I use focussed writing tools for longer pieces that work with markdown files natively and can output to many other formats.

This exploration I pulled from here and posted it as its own piece (in very rough form) as Rebuilding My Note Taking and Management System and Model on Saturday.



October 3, 2020

Rebuilding My Note Taking and Management System and Model

The past many weeks I have been digging into a better note taking and management method, while also embracing what I have and my core underlying principles. A continual genre in YouTube I watch is around productivity, particularly around personal knowledge management methods and tools. A couple years back I ran into Zettelkasten Method, that comes from Niklas Luhmann, which focuses on his prolific reading and his card catalogue and related note taking system. Then a few months back I heard Jorge Arango’s interview with Beck Tench it drew Zettelkasten back into focus. The interview with Beck focussed on Tinderbox, which I love, but I also want mobile access to my notes from phone and tablet.

Early Exploration

I have been using Notion a little bit, but my only use the last few months is as an interstitial capture for YouTube and some other rich media. [I like Notion and it seems like a modern take on Podio and has a similar downfall of not sorting out an adaptive data structure for interoperability and consistency.] But, the communities that are interested in Notion became obsessed with Roam Research, so I looked at Roam. Roam and Notion are two vastly different approaches, which can complement each other but in to way replace each other. But, each has a similar faults, no API, no standard export for structured information, and fully cloud based. That is too many common failure points wrapped into one product (Notion is working on and API, which is really good). Roam bugged me most because it relies on an outline format but has no clue about OPML exporting, but worse has no good export model. The cloud based, which requires being connected and online is a model I really don’t like as, particularly if their isn’t a local sync nor standard data format model. What I really like about Roam is its block focussed format, that is akin to purple numbers model of small chunks that are addressable and reusable.

In this time of looking what a next generation of quick note taking would look like, but long used tool, NValt failed spectacularly, in that it would not find my directory where my 1,200+ notes were stored, nor could I add new notes. Fortunately all of my notes are in plain markdown text files, so all I was missing was my tagging of the files in NValt (Brett Terpstra who created NValt has been working on a new tool that can replace NValt but has been taking forever to show up and my need became immediate). This is one of the common reasons for owning my own notes and having them locally and not using somebody else’s model and framework. But, also using the [small apps loosely joined] model where many tools pointing at well formatted / structured data / information can function to their best ability and can use their strengths without breaking anything with the information / data.

Seriously Looking at Note Taking and Management Tools

I started looking at about five or six different note taking tools. I was building out a rough attribute model of tools to help see what each offered or didn’t. I am needing to write this up, but it started with watching Mike and Matty’s, Notion vs Roam vs Obsidian vs Remnote - How to best fit note taking app for you and using their criteria as a base, then building on it. Obsidian and Remnote were already on my list, but also included Zettelnote, Zettlr, and a couple that extended Tidlywiki for a Zettelkasten type model. I also included OmniOutliner as that has been (and will be) my core outlining tool that interplays well with OPML and I can back and forth with good mind mapping tools that also output and import OPML data standard. I also included DevonThink Pro as it is my long used (since 2005) note and information storage and smart search tool (it already was indexing my notes directories) that there is no chance I’m going to give up, but also knew it didn’t have the core functionality I was seeking, wiki-style back linking.

I did a quick test or Roam and ruled it out as it broke rules I try not to break, and it broke many of them (biggest one is know now you are going to exit before you enter anything and a lack of any structure nor API made it a giant risk I’ve been burned by too many times, but the developers have a lot of arrogance about their approach that far too often leads to disasters - sometimes the kindest, smartest, and solid planning people end up with disasters that I feel very badly about but arrogance and ignorant I don’t).

Zettlr and Remnote were next. But the setup took a bit more of me managing and building things and I know when I lose focus those may not be best choices for myself (my past self 15 years ago or more would have loved it and done well with it, but those days are not now).

Obsidian Ticks the Right Boxes and Adapts to My Existing Model

Obsidian is where I put some time. I pointed its “Vault” to my notes directory (and sub-directory) where I had my 1,200 markdown notes already (some of them were .txt extensions, which I did bulk extension swap on) and it could read everything perfectly. One of my first tests was adding backlinks to some of my social lenses and social scaling notes, which worked really well by making related elements connected. I started capturing my notes about what I was doing in Obsidian and the ease of not only connecting things with backlinks, but having the ability to set empty node wiki links (many notes with the same link to a note / page that doesn’t exist yet, but have the same link to it) and then being able to use backlink following from that non-existent notes link list of things pointing to it was insanely valuable.

I have quite a few book list and book note pages already and I started linking them and linking authors and making author pages. I also found I was wanting note page templates for simple book pages in a Zettelkasten model, a book notes template, author / creator template, and a few others. I created these from existing structured notes I’ve used for years and put the outlines in TextExpander using a simple input line or two to label all of the headers with author name or other name.

I started typing out my notes and highlights from books I’ve read and annotated over the years and after the first three or so books I was deeply hooked.

The Use Where Obsidian Showed I was Hooked

Where I knew I was sold was this last weekend I went back to one of Matt Webb’s blog posts on Small Groups that is dense and has links out to great resources. I captured my initial notes on Matt’s post, and annotated relating to his sections. But, I also quickly dug through the linked materials and created and filled out structured note pages for those as well. The James Mullholland post on Small Groups was fantastic and it spidered out to more related resources, so I followed those and took notes. All of this was cross-linked and back-linked and fleshed out small group notes that I have been building as part of social scaling I’ve been writing on and presenting (talks and workshops) for years. The small group size they focus on is roughly team size, but not a team. Both of these are cooperative social models, which scale from teams, groups (small to large groups with similar social interaction models, but the dynamics shift quite a bit around 75 people and break fully about 300 to 500 people), community (everybody inside a firewall or inside an walled off construct), and network (inside and outside a firewall - so for business it is customers, contractors, consultants, vendors, etc. where there needs to be a safe model for sharing information with shared goals as different roles with their purpose come together for back and forth exchange) - more can be found in my related write-up 5 Core Insights for Community Platforms Today.

This note taking and contextualizing and cross linking to rip through and gut a series of related and interrelated pieces has been something I’ve long looked for and wanted. Many dog years ago in college I took reading notes on note cards with citations and context. When writing a paper / essay I would assemble the note cards in an order that could tell a story. Then I would build an outline in WordStar and type in the quotes. Then I would write the narrative and wrapper. Obsidian is starting to get at that, but ripping through a resource to pull out highlights, quotes, annotations, and notes is utterly fantastic. It gives me a solid resource to easily pull together ideas and supporting information.

Other Obsidian Capabilities

Obsidian can show two note pages at once so to easily copy book citation information from the structured book note file into the book note page. The multiple notes in panels also works well for copying quotes to quote pages and cross linking.

Using Obsidian and Still Working from Mobile and Tablet

The mobile use essential had been broken for a bit after Dropbox stopped supporting softlinks in Mac and requiring that to be native in Dropbox and doing the softlink from the Mac to Dropbox. I moved the directory to Dropbox, which leaves a copy locally usable should something happen to Dropbox and added a softlink for local backups. I pointed DevonThink to this directory to index and I was back running. Now I can use Drafts to take a quick note from my iOS devices and push it to the notes directory (later go back and fix the file name) and I have good inbound notes and can use backlinks (which I test later). This method also works for share sheet to Drafts from Overcast or YouTube and having the link to the media and the notes all pulled in.

Happiness with notes has been missing for a while, perhaps happiness has returned.

Resources



May 31, 2020

Week Note 5 - 24 May & 31 May 2020

This started (and was on time for) the week before Memorial Day for release that weekend, but it didn’t ship. The life diversion beasts seam to have come in the way.

This was the first week that furlough Friday came into effect, so have essentially an “4 day week of 8 hour days”, as if workdays are that short. So I’ve gone from a week of: Monday followed by three Tuesdays and then a Friday; to Monday followed by two Tuesdays and a Friday (on a calendar stated Thursday), which this being now a 4 day weekend a 3 Saturday and one Sunday (on a calendar stated Monday) weekend. The shortened week turned into a week with some of the longest days I’ve had for a while with a 14 hour day Monday, a 12 of Tuesday (the real Tuesday, or the first of them if thinking in Covid week time) that I initially thought was 9 hours, 10 hour Wednesday (second Tuesday, for those playing in Covid time at home), and 9 hour Thursday (well Friday in Covid adjusted time, or as others call them all, “Blursday”).

I’ve been trying to sort out if I was going to work a bit on the long weekend, start digging back on reading, tackle some of my long put off personal tech such as converting this website back to https or some other digging into updating some of my productivity practices.


Since this a double week edition (edition? Heh, well I just hit the “post” button (or whatever I’ve clicked since 2001 when I rebuilt this)).

This second week had me baffled with what day it was and the hyper rhythm of the week prior was mired in a sludge of timing being off. But, on the work front a lot of positive movement happened, which was really good. We are about a third of the way through what I’m working on and the next chunk over the next few months will be one of the more challenging from the perspective of pulling it all together. Getting the next piece right and worked through the foundations properly will set up whether it has long term success.

A lot of the work is talking the complicated and complex and making it more simple to understand and using that as a foundation to bring more people along, but also get the tough decisions understood and in front of the right people with their understanding to bring their expertise and needed framing from their domain. The downside (always) of making things more simple is having people believe it is that simple, but not grasping the complications and complexity under that need attending to properly.

On the personal side this week had me utterly stumped and hurt with injustice of George Floyd’s death. These hurt. They hurt deep down to the fabric of the core that stems for basic humanity. During the week I pushed it aside, but this weekend as work wound down on Friday it really sunk in.

Read

Students are failing AP tests because the College Board can’t handle iPhone photos is an example of an organization failing to do the basic tests and fixing problems, but then failing more with their response.

Microsoft’s New Fluid Office Document Is Google Docs on Steroids is something I’m keeping an eye on.

A New York Times piece about what is on bookshelves behind people as they are interviewed on tv. It is about one book, “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York” by Robert Caro. The piece is really good and dives into why it is behind so many people and the meta value of it in view.

Another piece in the New York Times pulled me in, Brooklyn, Before It Was a Global Brand: Walk Its History. It is a wonderful pieces (on the long side for some) that gives the history and and background of common areas. The last year or so I’ve been going up to Brooklyn to work and been really fascinated by it and this fills in some of the background I’ve been hoping to track down one day. One of my friends has done that for me, when I’ve caught up with him in Brooklyn across the years.

A few weeks ago I was in a discussion with folks in one of the back channels about the economics of the new food delivery services. I repeatedly hear from shop owners and restauranteurs that they often are losing money on each delivery. I brought this up, partly because I hadn’t had / found the time to dig into what this means. But one of the folks in the group shared this gem by Rajan Roy in Margins, Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage. This hit on target on so many different levels and now I’m wanting to dig even deeper.

Along the lines of the above, the Washington Post picked up on this in their piece Restaurants are barely surviving. Delivery apps will kill them..

I my “to read” stack got another addition with [Stephen P. Anderson and Karl Fast’s book Figure It Out: Getting from Information to Understanding)[https://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/figure-it-out/] ariving. Two favorite people and minds I miss and haven’t run across in person for far too long. This is a book I’ve been waiting on for quite sometime. From my perspective this may be the conversations I’ve been missing with them.

About a decade or more ago I was talking with a friend about a book of his that was coming out that had a quote / quip or two of mine in it and saying I was really looking forward to his book. His comment to me about his book was, “This book isn’t for you, as you know everything in it already. But, I would hope it is worthy of you blessing and sharing with others.” This brought clarity to many books I have, as they are about the conversations and deep dives with many of the authors over the years. But, a good chunk of the books I pick-up are to dig deeper and push at the edges of the domains I read in and work to understand so to find unknown areas to dig.

Listened

I stumbled into a custom Tidal playlist that was triggered by Danny Wilson’s “Mary’s Prayer” and includes Prefab Sprout, The Style Council, Propaganda, Haircut 100, Wang Chung, Blue Nile and so much more. The night I listened to this was a quite rainy evening and I had the balcony doors open and could hear the occasional car sloshing by and it took me right back to the mid to late 80s in England and France listening to this music on walkman or radio over sloshing car noises. So many memories tied up into all of this, it was wonderful.

The Verge podcast seems to be running interview podcasts along with their weekly Vergecast. This week was Nilay Patel’s interview / chat with Stewart Butterfield on The Vergecast. Stewart is one of those people I miss talking with and interacting with. Stewart doesn’t approach things like most others, but there are similarities with a handful of others I also miss that we all regularly interacted, but we each went our own directions and got absorbed there.

Play

Leading up to the long weekend there really wasn’t much play as the work front had sets of issues that needed sorting and digging. The long weekend didn’t provide as much play as I thought it may (nor as much reading) but a bit of MLB the Show and Death Stranding was played on Monday.

I’m deeply realizing I need to get outside more for walks, hikes, and perhaps finally get my bike out of storage.

Productivity

The past month or two I’ve been trying to sort out the value of Roam, which many productivity types around YouTube and blogs have been discussing and raving about, but it negatively hits some of my must have for note taking and organization. Roam is outline focussed, but can go long, but to keep track of nested hierarchy it has grey dashed lines to show / hint at the nested layers, but I find it quite distracting. My favorite outlining tool is OmniGroup’s OmniGraffle which handles this far more elegantly and keeps the focus. The other is its export offering which lacks OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language). Yep, an outlining tool that doesn’t use OPML as an import nor export offering is utterly bizarre. There are many insanely good reasons to use OPML for outlines and a means to transfer or integrate with workflows, but the top one for me is keeping the nested hierarchies. Roam currently is an island that doesn’t interconnect well with other productivity services and doesn’t work well in outline centric or tangential workflows. Roam’s biggest advantage is the internal linking

I have somewhat similar feeling for similar reasons for Notion, which I use a little bit, but keep from working in it heavily due to import, exports, and integrations.



May 17, 2020

Week Note 4 - 17 May 2020

Another really busy work week where I set work aside for a few hours then back at it, which means reading and other things were down a bit. It is the last full (5 day) work week (not that work stops at 8 hours or 5 days) until September. Deeply fortunate and grateful for the work and challenges on that front, which are things I find deeply fun and get my brain lighting up. I’ve been joking that I’ve been trying to sort out 6 day work week with 3 day weekends or 7 days workweek and 4 day weekend.

Where I am in Maryland, the county is still shut, which I’m mostly fine with. Quick trips to the store aren’t going to change from the hour to 90 minutes back to 15 to 25 treks they were. I am looking forward to getting back to my favorite bookstores and having a couple favorite restaurants open back up in some form.

Read

Some pre-ordered books and books ordered a while back from local bookstores arrived this week. I’m trying to sort out what follows Agency as my fiction read, but likely going to be finishing Charlie Stross’ Empire Games. I know have Chris Pavone’s The Paris Diversion at hand, which likely could be a good romp of a read.

The long awaited Steven Johnson Enemy of All Mankind arrived and I haven’t had even a preliminary scan of it yet. Robert Reich’s The Common Good also arrived after a good wait. I’m thinking extra weekend day (if I use it that way in coming weeks) could be good to get some reading done.

Watched

Early in the week I stumbled onto Coast Modern on Amazon Prime, which is about modern design on the Pacific Coast. Some of the architecture reminded me of homes around Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles that intrigued me when I was a kid. The modern and cutting edge design had shifted into some of the more mainstream vernacular by the time I was a kid and evoked a lot of memories and had me realize some of the seeds for domestic design that feels “normal to me”.

I rented Little Women and finally watched it this weekend. I was really impressed with most everything about the production. I had never read Little Women, nor seen it on screen or stage before. But, a lot of friends have long used the characters as short hand when discussing others. The characters now have resonance, but also set in a really wonderfully filmed movie.

This weekend we finally watched Prince George’s County: In the Water on Showtime on Showtime and have been waiting for this for months. There is a lot of lore and solid history with PG County basketball. Walking into a lot of the gyms and rec centers the trophies and familiar names are impressive, but so is the coaching and the level of play. If you want to know if you can ball as a teen on up, that is a good place to learn that and learn to play well in and against a broad array of styles of offenses and defenses.

Listened

Yet another Postlight gem! One of the few must listens each week for me is Track Changes with Paul Ford and Rich Ziade, I though last week I missed and it drifted into this week. tk!

It was great to have Exponents pop-up in my podcast feeds this week and be a good listen for a Friday evening wind down and dinner prep.

Food

My morning routine has been shifted a bit as with the Covid lockdowns my coffee walk in the morning hasn’t been something I can do, before the work day starts. The coffee places are now back open for pick-up, but starting too late to get my work day going. I have been going with Ceremony, which is my favorite brew at home option, particularly Thesis. I’ve picked up beans on sale and a local grocery is back stocking it again, so I’m not doing the delivery route.

I’ve been sticking with my breakfast, which started a couple years ago as heuevos verde, with corn tortilla, black bean refried, then then brown garlic and add fresh spinach and a pinch of salt to cook down, then top with sunny side up covered eggs, and top with salsa verde. That morphed into making my own black bean smash. To now it is a black beans cooked in a Canadian bacon (loin, not reconstituted pork bits), garlic, mushrooms (shiitake or brown button), fresh garlic, and grate in fresh turmeric. Then add some large spoonfuls of canned (not drained and unsalted) black beans to cook down and put in a bowl. Then sunny side up covered runny egg on top. In about 10 minutes it is great comfort that with coffee will get me into afternoon just fine.

Productivity

My usual routine was get up, check late night messages and email, grab coffee and eat, and map out the day while colleagues are driving to work. Now they don’t have a commute and that planning time on paper or in an app has drifted to the winds a bit.

My scratch paper sort of has some framing and occasionally I get to my journal to map a FGL for the day: Something to Focus on; Something Grateful for; and something to Let go of. Then right out a few things that need to get done. Then check it a few times a day. This week I realized I’m only getting to that once a week at best these days.

The days and weeks shift focus and priority, but longer work goals remain, as well as some of the longer priorities that will take effort over a long stretch to make a lot of things run much more smoothly.

One of the great things about working in tech and optimizing toolsets and patterns, is things change rapidly. What was a really good practice 12 months back is now depricated, or a more secure or computationally efficient way is now the norm. Staying up with this tools, shifts in tools, vendors adding new functionality or tool, and vendors going out of business or selling to another company is all a large task in and of it self (but also part of the fun), but also part of the big challenge.



May 3, 2020

Week Note 2 - 3 May 2020

This week, like many in the life and times of Covid–19 pandemic, was a week of three Tuesday’s bookended by a Monday (a day I try to get back into the swing of things (unless it is filled with meetings)) and Friday. Tuesdays are often when I did into the meat of things I’m trying to get things accomplished for the week. But, while I’m used to working remote (15 years mostly working that way) coordinating with a corporation just gone through a large merger, is a bit more unusual (not bad, just needing different adaptions). I also am finding I really miss my monthly week with the team in Connecticut and time in Brooklyn to work though ideas in person. I’m also craving large workspaces with a lot of walls and whiteboards.

This week flew by yet again (not a good thing when feeling there is a lot that needs to be done) and trying to use weekend time to decompress, think, recalibrate, and meditate on solutions.

Also finding the simple errands that were a 30 minute walk shop and return or drive for a 45 minute shop and return are now 60 to 90+ minutes. Much standing and waiting in 6 foot apart lines, mask in the up and locked positions, to get into stores. Trying to get get tasks done while waiting in line, like clearing email, reading favorite daily items, organizing things for the week note, editing notes (downside is Dropbox breaking sync’ed folders makes this (and a whole lot of other things) impossible (reminds me I need to fix this when not standing in line to get eggs and fruit, but at a home).

I added Play to my template as that fills in for watching, and is often my decompression, as well as discovery mode, which out of guilt of “play” from childhood I don’t often embrace.

Read

Matt Mullenweg posted his Distributed Work’s Five Levels of Autonomy, which is quite good.

As part of this week’s 99 Percent - The Smell of Concrete After Rain as part of remembrance of Michael Sorkin (which was really good) it surfaced Sorkin’s Two Hundred Fifty Things an Architect Should Know, which I’m really enjoying.

My books to finish or read more from last week didn’t get touched much this week, but may today. It was a busy week.

I did find a good piece in Vanity Fair about Regan being shot from a young CNN’s perspective and how that was the start of a viable cable news medium, in their piece “Shots Fired. Hilton Hotel”: How CNN’s Raw, Unfolding Reagan Coverage Heralded the Nonstop News Cycle.

The NY Times piece, In Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine, an Oxford Group Leaps Ahead offered some good insights on structure, innovations, and challenges for a vaccine in a timely manner.

Monocle’s May edition and the 2019 The Entrepreneurs edition my time between time reading this week. Stepping away from online news and having Monocle is my guilty pleasure that doesn’t come with notification and alerts popping up (but the pages don’t offer the time with you touch the top of the page, no matter how long or hard you press).

I really liked this NY Times piece - This Florida Student Was Accepted at All 8 Ivy League Schools, which is an all too rare “Florida man” type story.

JTBD

Jim Kalbach’s The Job’s to be Done Playbook arrived this week in physical form (digi version did this a bit before, but I hadn’t had time to get to it) and I did a quick skim and read the early bits. I am really looking forward to this.

JTBD has played a common role in a lot of my focus over the last 10 to 12+ years. Enterprise work environments make a lot more sense when trying to understand problems and gaps through using the JTBD lens and framing solutions is so much easier as well. I’ve never been a full convert, but use it here and there (mostly because JTBD isn’t a full frame for understanding, but is good paired with other insight tools and methods, it by doesn’t get one far, but it opens paths for insights). Or I should say I wasn’t a full convert, as a little over a year ago I paired to do an internal work shop on work patterns, different social scales of work, tool types teams need for work, and the different tools at different scales and what type of interactions and work can be done at those scales to help set clarity for what the problems are, what are the gaps, where are tools types missing, where are wrong tools to the need being used and making utter messes (the same sort of enterprise workshop I’ve done for 10 to 15 years) using my social / complexity lenses. But, this workshop I paid with an internal designer lead who brought deep JTBD background and created a survey that mixed JTBD and a few of the complexity lenses around how teams work and interacting and working at different social scales. The outcome was insanely good that provided solid insight for what is needed, where there are issues and problems that decision makers needed to see openly and clearly to take the correct steps.

A good friend and occasional colleague has long pushed the pairing of JTBD and the complexity lenses, particularly to use as a survey and entry to capturing and showing gaps and needs. I’m a huge fan of Kalbach’s work, writing, and insights.

So, yes. I’m really looking forward to this book to putty in some of the gaps I may have.

Watched

This week was mostly a YouTube week, other than starting in on the Michael Jordan biography series running on ESPN.

I stumbled onto Explaining the Pandemic to My Past Self by Julie Nolke, which was utterly brilliant and funny. That had me checking out her other offerings.

But, YouTube being YouTube watching Nolke’s pieces I was recommended Charlie Berens’ IKEA Husbands and down a rabbit hole created by Charlie Berens I went for my distractions. I love IKEA and needing to get there once lockdown lifts to finish something I started in early March with Billy (Billy is my buddy, but so is donating) and 12 years on an Ektorp, may just be a bit too long.

Listened

On the podcast front two friends I don’t get to run into nor talk to enough in recent years (one I haven’t talked to in quite a while) started a new podcast Finding Our Way, which is Jesse James Garrett and Peter Merholz talking about design, user experience, and leadership. I stumbled into this late in the week and listened on Saturday and I’m now looking forward to every session. I’m really happy they have a real website for it with a transcript, which seems like it should be the basic for a podcast these days, but oddly it isn’t (also for newsletters to have a real web home the kludgy Webmonkey hack, isn’t done well enough to really count).

I stumbled back into Prince’s New Power Generation, One Night Alone… The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over! after a couple weeks not listening and found it is as magical as always.

Food

This was a week of putting off grocery runs, as trying to work through some of what I have. But, also my usually stores have been out of what I’ve normally been seeking. There is a local egg farmer that a local store carries that have amazing yolks (the color of the shell doesn’t mean anything, but the color of the yolk tells you a lot). But, Saturday was restock day and things were in stock (even found brown rice) and good lentils (I have some asafoetida hing powder I’ve been wanting to put to good use). I also found one of the brands of gluten free flour as well as pancake mix I like, so things are good-ish.

I did make a fresh garlic and anchovy paste as a base for a quick lunch spaghetti (corn and brown rice pasta) with pea pasta bowl with Parmesan and butter / olive oil light sauce. I may want to come back to this one again. Using good jarred (pink) anchovies that aren’t overly pungent seems to be essential.

Play

I’ve been playing MLB The Show as my post work decompression for about 90 minutes each day (one thing I like and appreciate with sports is building teams and I’m playing franchise mode with this year’s Pittsburgh Pirates and did some gutting of the team (not quite intentionally) but building on contact (hits) and speed, which in current MLB is undervalued so inexpensive. I’m also focussing on decent starting pitching that can get through 5 to 7 innings, then use a series of pitchers to get through the remainder of the game pitching an inning each. The salary budget is in the $60 to $75 million range for players and I spent heavily on coaching. It is working, as I’m a week from the All Star break and 6 games up in first place.

I took advantage of a 50% off sale and picked up Death Stranding, which is a bit dark (something I normally stay away from), but the graphics, story, and AR interfaces are good. I normally keep to sports games (or sims) to time constrain play (or help reduce over play - playing a far longer stretch than intended as I did with Sim City on my birthday in an empty house in 1993 and wondering why the sun was coming up).

Productivity

This weeks productivity insights and practices took a backseat to frustrations with my daytime lack of good tools for productivity, particularly when One Note decides it won’t include anything in search from 2020. My brain dumps and notes live there and lacking basic organization, refinding, and productivity tools on Windows side (particularly that run locally) that there are on the Mac side of the world, I’ve been down that road battling.

I sort of treat OneNote as I do DevonThink as my catch all and lean on search heavily and organize later approach, which is a model that works really well with good to great search (something DevonThing is aces with, but OneNote is just okay with as its search is a blunt approach and not finesse approach).



April 27, 2020

Weeknote # 1 - 26 April 2020

This is my first weeknote, which by the name I am committing to posting weekly. I’m not sure how this will work as aiming for daily writing to set a habit is far more anchoring something in place that a something new with a weekly cadence.

I’ve long been a fan of friend’s and acquaintances weeknotes as it is a way to keep up with what they are reading, watching, listening to, writing, and thinking. I deeply appreciate other’s sharing their interests and likes and after many years planning to do similar I am finally doing this. I am also doing this for my own consumption and tracking.

I have a template setup with general categories / headings in TextExpander and each week I’m planning on opening a new markdown file in iA Writer and filling it in as I go. The starter headings are: Read; Watched; Listened; Food; and Productivity. This is largely what I care about from others, but also things I’m continually tracking down. I regularly tuck things into my Pinboard and tag links of interest with “linkfodder” and podcasts with “podfodder”, but also things I think I may want to write-up and have more of a fleshed out response to as “blogfodder” (those rarely actually get done, mostly due to being busy).

This first weeknote I’m catching up on the past few weeks a bit.

Read

I’m still trying to get through the last few chapters of William Gibson’s Agency, which I have been deeply enjoying (for quite some time, as it arrived when it came out and I started in then, but work and other life slowed progress). I always have a few books going at once and Violet Moller’s The Map of Knowledge has been a wonderful slow read full of thinking and reworking some back history on knowledge and understandings I have that were set in place in undergrad when studying at Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford (now changed a bit since Middlebury took over, not a bad thing, just different) and the shift of pockets of knowledge and learning from the Middle East / Arabian / Northeast Africa areas and some of that shift to Europe after Constantinople fell in the Spring of 1453.

Supporting my favorite local bookstore, Politics and Prose I ordered Humo Ludens by Johan Huizinga for delivery. I have just tucked into that, which I have in a few readers and collected contributions to the value of play in understanding work as well as the world around us. Having the full text (only 213 pages) I can finally read as a whole rather than a gutting or selected reading approach.

Being a fan of Kenya Hara’s work and writing (Designing Design is a favorite of mine) I picked up a sale copy of Designing Japan and the preface and first few pages really has me looking forward with some quiet time with the book.

Watched

Last weekend, on recommendation of a colleague (and has been mentioned in other’s weeknotes as well) I watched Devs that was on Hulu / FX. I nearly gave up on it as it is a bit dark and gruesome, but stuck with it and it has turned into a show I’m thinking somewhat deeply about a week later. The inclusion of theoretical physics / science got me really hooked. Sorting out what character was the focal view from wasn’t clear for quite a few episodes, but understanding that helped frame sorting through some of the ambiguities. But, it also had me digging out framing resources on a few of the theoretical physics I’ve never fully anchored in my head, and don’t really have folks I’m talking to regularly to talk through thing around this.

The late summer and fall of 2018 when I was digging for work / projects I started in on the corpus of Bon Appetit on YouTube (along with a few other channels). During this time of lockdown and remote work, this crew of cooks / chefs has been highly entertaining with what they are sharing.

Listened

I’ll address podcasts in later weeknotes, but I’m consuming them at a slower rate than I was prior to covid lockdown (mostly due to my morning listening I’m spending some of that time trying to pull focus on what I need to so that day for work and focus has been a bit more fragile).

Music, well music to help focus to get work done has been something I’ve been working to get sorted as my usual go to playlists haven’t really been doing the trick.

I have cut back my use of Apple Music streaming listening as a few months back I picked up a discounted set of months from Tidal and the Master quality with MQA decoding (or partial decoding) has been a real find and source of enjoyment for headphone or in ear monitors (IEMs). I’m still on trial with Amazon’s Music HD (which their Ultra HD, is similar, but not quite the quality of Tidal yet can still hear details of well recorded playing and hear the room) and trying to sort what I may do between the two services.

This past week I found Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks have been good fodder for focus listening that, for me, can fade into the background a bit yet still drive energy and focus for work forward. The “Interstellar”, “Inception”, and “Batman Begins” soundtracks had multiple plays on days without many meetings to work through some explainers I’m working on to shorten getting to understanding with people we’re trying to onboard into a complicated system nested in a world of complexities.

Food

Spring foods (or one’s that really have me loving spring) are fading as spring onions (not green onions) were no longer in the farm fresh section of the grocery store. I am on my last bundle of them and using the last of them in Canadian bacon, garlic, shitake mushroom, spring onion, asparagus, and feta omelettes is planned. Also putting them in the black bean, Canadian bacon, mushroom, garlic, fresh grated tumeric breakfast bowl with soft fried eggs during the week may finish them before they go bad.

Productivity

Over the last year or two I stumbled onto Ali Abdaal particularly Ali’s YouTube Channel and he covers a lot of productivity tools and focus. Ali shares his study techniques he picked up studying for medical exams at University of Cambridge where he studied and now for medical exams as a junior doctor near Cambridge. Ali share a lot of how to study insights and deep dives, which are mostly applied practical organization and productivity practices

Through Ali’s work I re-stumbled upon Tiago Forte and his work, which many of my long time practices (when I am in them deeply) are quite similar. A project / product I was helping about 10 years ago was trying to bring Tiago on to it as well and I started looking into his work and what he was sharing.

Closing

Well, this wraps a first weeknote. Let’s see if it there is one next week.

Be well. Stay safe. Peace be with you.



July 15, 2018

Mac Touchpad Dragging

I bought a Mac laptop for myself in 2001 and largely have been using the same version of the same set-up since then across 5 or 6 Macs since them (with one or two full nuke and repaves in there, but with those I pulled in my the applications and modification / customizations from preferences). In the past few months, I’ve been using a brand new Mac that is supplied by work / project and not only does it lack my outboard brain, but it doesn’t work like my heavily modified Mac.

The one thing that has been driving me crazy is I haven’t been able to sort out how I have a three finger drag on my personal MacBook Pro so I can have it on my one for work. It is frustrating as I go to click on an object to then drag it with three fingers to where I want it, or I go to the top bar of an app and place the cursor over it and use three fingers to drag the window to where I want. I do similar things to resize windows. I have looked in Better Touch Tool, thinking I had set it up there. I looked in Preference Settings for the touchpad, but no. Today I opened a lot of customization apps I have on my personal Mac and nothing.

I was looking in the Preference Settings in the Accessibility settings and found what I was looking for, the three finger drag. I would have never thought it would be in Accessibility. Given that my current personal MBP has a touchpad that the left half needs a lot of force to click on something and do usual tasks it does make sense that having a light touch manner of dragging things would be in Accessibility. Now I know how to fix one more thing on a work Mac to get it to my own personal Mac set-up so it gets closer to being an extension of me and less a tool I have to think about how to interact with rather than thinking about the work I am doing.



March 18, 2015

Blogfodder and Linkfodder

Not only do I have a blogfodder tag I use on my local drive and cross device idea repositories and writing spaces, but I have a linkfodder marker as well.

Blogfodder

Blogfodder are those things that are seeds of ideas for writing or are fleshed out, but not quite postable / publishable. As I wrote in Refinement can be a Hinderance I am trying to get back to my old pattern of writing regularly as a brain dump, which can drift to stream of consciousness (but, I find most of the things that inspire me to good thoughts and exploration are other’s expressions shared in a stream of consciousness manner). The heavy edit and reviews get in the way of thought and sharing, which often lead to interactions with others around those ideas. I am deeply missing that and have been for a few years, although I have had some great interactions the last 6 months or so.

I also use blogfodder as a tag for ideas and writing to easily search and aggregate the items, which I also keep track of in an outline in OmniOutliner. But, as soon as I have posted these I remove the blogfodder tag and use a “posted” tag and change the status in OmniOutliner to posted and place a link to the post.

Linkfodder

Linkfodder is a term I am using in bookmarking in Pinboard and other local applications. These started with the aim of being links I really want to share and bring back into the sidebar of this blog at vanderwal.net. I have also hoped to capture and write quick annotations for a week ending links of note post. That has yet to happen as I want to bring in all the months of prior linkfoddering.

I have been looking at Zeef to capture the feed from my Pinboard linkfodder page and use a Zeef widget in my blog sidebar. I have that running well on a test sight and may implement it soon here (it is a 5 minute task to do, but it is the “is it how I want to do it” question holding me back). In the past I used Delicious javascript, which the newest owners of Delicious gloriously broke in their great unknowing.

The Wrap

Both of these are helping filter and keep fleeting things more organized. And hopefully execution of these follows.



November 10, 2014

Manufacturing Time

In addition to trying to hack a habit into existence around blogging every day (here but also counting the larger posts over at Personal InfoCloud, which is mostly working-ish), I am trying to hack my sleep cycles.

For a few years I have been running Sleep Cycle app to optimize my sleep wake up times so I am feeling more rested (read, “a lot less cranky”) by waking in the optimum sleep pattern. This has been a great tool and has really helped.

While all things are lovely on this front, I have been trying to sort out how to better optimize time or create more productive time. I haven’t been getting optimal output, which I was used to over many years. Part of the shift was slipping out of good habits, but on a recent work travel stint (I’m always a lot more productive when traveling, even though I’m lacking some resources (physical books) on the road).

In working through this productivity difference, it starting coming down to the revelation that home cycles include family time and driving my son to practices and games (I love doing this), but by the time I return in the late evening I am not as ready nor willing to sit down and work again.

While there are tasks that will engage my mind and I will get a lot of focus and crank things out (this is largely coding projects) but the late evening turns into night and then middle of the night quite easily, the evening is rather out. So, if I am trying to manufacture more time for productivity during the day the morning is the other option (in science fiction cracking open as slice in the middle of the day to add time would be a possibility, but I’m still living in my version of the now).

I am hoping to shift my 8am wake time, which ties to a midnight to 1am sleep time, back about two hours. I chipped back about 45 minutes today and hoping by week’s end to have this down.



January 16, 2014

OmniOutliner Counts to Four

One of my favorite applications that a lot of my work and workflow lives in and through, OmniOutliner, updated today. OmniOutliner 4 finally was released today. Its interface becomes a little easier to use for more advanced functions, but if you use the iPad version the new Mac version now looks and works a little more like the iPad version (I think this is a good thing for consistency and ease of use).

I have been using OmniOutliner since version one. I learned to think and organize in outlines and I loved in the old days of WordPerfect the start a document in an outline and then start fleshing it out allowed me to work in the same manner I learned in the fourth grade in Mrs. Norman’s class at Raleigh Park Elementary. This seemed natural to prepare writing this way and once WordPerfect went missing from my workflow other writing tools faked outlines and I looked for good outlining tools to be that foundation. OmniOutliner filled this void. But, once I found OmniOutliner I found other fans who had scripted it to do really helpful tasks, like capture web site maps and dump them into OmniOutliner to annotate and arrange them, then use a script to push into OmniGraffle to visualize. Doing this in 2003 (or so) was pure joy. Not only was was OmniOutliner easy to use, it was really powerful because it was well structured and scriptable.

OmniOutliner is Where I Think

About 2003 I was asked by friend Jesse James Garret, “What tool to you think in?” At that point my answer was OmniOutliner. OmniOutliner was my capture tool that allowed for easy structuring and arranging of order. In years to come with OPML becoming the glue to connect many things in my workflow, I would would move my outlines from OmniOutliner to a mind mapping tool and back and forth. This moving the outline into a mind map allowed me to see it and see relationships spatially and to identify order, modify structure, and make connections between nodes in different branches of the mind map. From the mind map I could take all the modifications and move them back into the outline and tweak a little more. From this point it was moving into writing or into a Keynote presentation (also with a script that would take the OmniOutline and convert it to a presentation to flesh out visually).

The Initial Foundation of What Became OmniFocus

With OmniOutliner I went through the early productivity layer for it that later turned into OmniFocus. My old business started and was kept on schedule in that precursor to OmniFocus that Ethan Schoonover cobbled into and on top of OmniOutliner that was called Kinkless GTD (or KGTD for short).

I still think in OmniOutliner. I have all of the (now) 54 elements of the social lenses tucked in there with their hundreds of sub-nodes. This outline is what became the initial foundation for the four days of walk through of them with Dave Gray for what would turn into the Connected Company book. The collection of similar outlines are all within easy reach. I have a saved Spotlight search in the Finder sidebar that aggregate all my OmniOutliner files for one easy view across everything.

OmniOutliner 4 Offers Even More Potential

I really look forward to how OmniOutliner 4 becomes a new part of my world and workflows. The AppleScript looks robust (I didn’t try it in the many months of beta, but look forward to it now). With scripting and the structure there is a whole lot that is possible.



Brett Terpstra Focusses on His Work Full-time

I have been a fan of Brett Terpstra for some time. I found his site through a few buds who focus on productivity and personal workflows (including scripting). I have followed his Systematic podcast since the first episode and have found it is the one podcast I listen to when my weekly listening dwindles to just one podcast. His nvALT became an app that is always running and where a lot of writing snippets get stored on my Mac (that content I also reach on my iOS devices to edit and extend). His Marked2 app not only is my Markedown viewer, but a rather good writing analysis tool.

Not only all of this but Brett is a tagger and not only tags, belives tagging is helpful for personal filtering and workflow, but has built tools to greater extend tagging in and around Mac and iOS. If you talk folksonomy and pull the third leg of it, person / identity back into just your own perspective and keep the tag and objects in place you have the realm that Brett focusses and pushes farther for our own personal benefit.

Brett Steps Out to Focus on His Work

This week I have been incredibly happy to learn that Brett moved out of his daytime job to and his new job is to focus on his products, podcast, writing, and new projects and products. This is great news for all of us. Brett took this step before, but we can help him keep these tools and services flowing by supporting him.

If you have benefitted from Brett’s free products of want to ensure the great services and tools that Bret has created you paid for keep improving go help him out.



April 27, 2012

Pear Note Updates to v3 Now with Skype Support

This morning’s email notification that Pear Note, a note taking and recording app for Mac OS, updated to version 3. I’ve used Pear Note for meetings to record the audio and take note and the text syncs to a timestamp in the audio, which is incredibly helpful and reduces the notes I have to take so I spend more time listening.

The best part of the news of this update for me is that it can now grab Skype recorder. I use Skype recorder a lot so I can pay attention to the conversation and not focus on note taking. Now having Pear Note tied in I can mark quick annotations on the Skype call and then go back later and fill the notes in (if you are listening to the recording while updating your notes it will continue to timestamp).

Pear Note 3 is now optimized for Lion, includes higher bit rate audio recording and HD 720p video recording. This is paired with the updated Pair Note for iOS, which updated today as well.


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