Off the Top: Podcast Entries


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 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.



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.



June 21, 2017

Spines On the Bookshelf

Today listening to the latest Track Changes podcast, Maris Kreizman Wants to Mail You Books there was a statement by Paul Ford of Postlight and many other things at Ftrain commented about how he likes physical book, particularly on his bookshelves as looking at their spines he will “think new thoughts because of the juxtapositioning of the spines”. This was brought up because it is one of the things that ebooks don’t offer.

This remixing and thinking new thoughts by looking at one’s shelves and the book on them is something I have a few conversations about over the last 5 to 10 years of reading digital books and paper books. Each physical book, not only has its own content with it shared and intermingles with one’s own preexisting knowing (or even can supplant prior understanding), but they accrete context interwoven with when and where they were read. They can also accrete understandings and framings that were concurrent thoughts during that reading. A book can really sink in for me when I discuss it with others, to a lesser degree it takes hold when I write about it. So, when I think of a book through the spine I see on the shelf I can often see the people I interacted with around the time I was reading it or discussing it with others.

This visceral sense springs to life when looking at my shelves (less so with the stack not currently shelved for various reasons). But, also the intermixing of the spines and their concurrent and accreted thoughts and understanding that come along with them.

Bookshelves and physical books are a sensorial wonder that ebooks don’t bring along. I can’t feel where in the book I read something - how much of the book’s pages are stacked on the right side, how many on the left, what side of the book a thought or passage may have been on, or where I was when I read it. These ancillary senses are not permitted when I read something as an ebook.

I do read ebooks and I find the ability to have a stack of books in my pocket or thin bookbag something nice. I also deeply appreciate the ability to search in an ebook. The ability to highlight and pull that highlight out easily (this is increasingly difficult with Findings cutting this off and Readmill shutting down). Having digital notes typed out easily in the pages of an ebook and having relatively easy retrieval is also nice (when there is easy access, see above).

What ebooks don’t provide is that sensorial interaction and deeper recall. The other ability that is missing is the ease of flipping through a book to find what is needed and flipping through the pages prior to what is found to be helpful to get context easily. The flipping through prior pages to get the beginning of a framing of an idea or concept is really nice. It echoes the gutting a book I learned in Oxford and is a practice that has stuck with me. I’ve run into a few people who have the same gutting practice and they also haven’t found a way to work ebooks in the same manner.

My preference? Both. They each have their benefit. Paper books have their added sensory enjoyment. But, ebooks have that ease of portability and search, as well as annotation (when it has some permanence).



January 14, 2016

Podcast That Gave Life Back to the Living

A few years ago after my mom passed away, which was 11 months after my dad passed, I was in a deep fog. I was in Stockton, California a lot for about 16 to 18 months taking care of things and wrapping things up (mostly trying to sort out a lot of mysteries of where things were and went - some mysteries remain). On my trips out there I would get out to the Bay Area every few days to see friends, have work focussed meetings, or just get out of town.

On those trips, as well as errands around town (including around DC), I would listen to podcasts. They were great ways to have (sort of one-sided) conversations around things I had interest in, but was lacking someone else with that interest with depth where I could learn things. They also kept me entertained. The big thing was they kept my mind going (it was a slow time on the work front) and not dwelling on loss.

Many of the podcasts I listened to then were on the 5by5 Network. I deeply enjoyed Mac Power Users (and still do) and many other shows there. But, there was one I really enjoyed, which was Back to Work with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.

Back to Work Was a Lifeline Back

I’d met Merlin a few times through special web related things were both were involved in, he is a friend with many friends, and we had the pleasure (at least for me) of meeting for lunch. But, Back to Work laid me out in a wonderful way.

While, I got a lot out of the productivity, life guidance, how to think through things in a manner that will improve things, and other more serious things; what was a huge, no giant, help was the humor. That stretch after losing both parents and being an only child (trying to keep it all together), while being somewhat (okay a lot) numb to things in life because of the loss was tough. There were days where it was tough to do things and get things done that needed to be done, but they mostly did. But, that bright light that deeply helped was Merlin and his humor on Back to Work. This humor and riffs fit how my brain works really well. It also would get me laughing insanely hard to the point of nearly crying. It also nearly caused me to have to pull off the road I was laughing so uncontrollably.

That finding and holding on to my sense of humor, from just being able to laugh, helped me through that deep grief fog. It helped me get the light part of my brain back to life. When things get tough (like last year’s serious health issues) I make light of it and get myself to laugh. During the stretch after my parents died, I had lost that ability to do that for myself. Thanks to Merlin, I got it back and walked out of the grief fog intact (maybe even in better shape than going into it).

Every time I listen to Merlin these days on Back to Work, Dalrymple Report, and Reconcilable Differences I think I need to just say a little thanks for a little unknown gesture that had a big impact, laughter. So, thank you Merlin.



January 1, 2016

What to do with Podcast Favorites

Another thing I’m wanting to sort is podcasts I like, make that one’s I listen to and like. I have a list of podcasts I regularly listen to tucked into the left column in my links: podasts.

But, there are often podcasts I listen to that I really like and would like to easily share out to others. When I run into podcasts episodes that I hear mentioned I will track them down and most often use Huffduffer to grab it and putting into my listening queue that I most often consume in Overcast in the car driving to get my son or going through my morning routine that includes making breakfast and coffee and consuming them while scanning news and the day’s plans.

Last year I found many of the episodes of Exponent with Ben Thompson and James Allworth that I really liked a lot. While Overcast has a nice share component within it, that functionality takes the person clicking to it to Overcast’s web page for the podcast (or to the exact timestamp in the podcast) and to play it. While I like the idea of this, what I’m really wanting is to primarily link to the actual podcast page (hopefully this is something beyond a Soundcloud page, which I find to be really frustrating for this purpose as well).

Potential Zeef Solution

I do use a “podfodder” tag in Pinboard, which I occasionally push things into. But with this I don’t have it easily exposed elsewhere and people aren’t exactly looking for a podfodder tag they don’t know of (well they may do so now, but now isn’t then). I keep thinking I will do something similar I do to the “linkfodder” tag in Pinboard, which I use on things I read I really like (when I remember to tag them).

With “linkfodder” I pull that tag into Zeef, which is a list making and managing site that structures related content well, as a link widget. The Zeef link widget pulls the last 10 from the “linkfodder” list and makes them available in as a JavaScript component, which I embed in the side of this vanderwal.net blog. I could do the same thing for "podfodder’ (in 2 minutes I added the feed to a private page in Zeef and may make it public), but I’m not sure where the widget will be best placed.

Wishing a Solution Were Just Here

About a year ago Matt Haughey wrote about podcasting needs and more directly Matt Haughey has social subscription list wish. I keep hoping somebody would have built this podcasting social subscription list as a tool. It seems like a perfect thing for Huffduffer as a “rate after listening” feature. This seems to be wide open for somebody to do, it may not have great money attached to it, but it would be a great service that has value.



March 28, 2015

Inviewed on Shift Podcast

On Friday I had the pleasure of spending about an hour with two of my favorite people, Euan Semple and Megan Murray on the wonderful podcast, Shift. We covered tagging, taxonomies, meaning, power, and the future that we are all hurtling towards.

I am a big fan of their interviews (as their conversations between them are familiar from past conversations between us) with other. I still have a few to get to.


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