On Wednesday, it was a beautiful morning. I woke early and started watching MSNBC around 6:30am to watch Trump leave the White House and the day prepare for the inauguration of Joe Biden. it was a gorgeous morning in Washington, DC with a rain overnight washing everything clean and a cool to warming breeze through the day.
Trying to get work done I didn’t really focus on the Inauguration until the evening and trying to catch-up on it.
I’ve had a quite a few browser tabs open to Tom Critchlow site pages of late. This week had four or five.
A Washington Post article about modern urban transportation, In South Bend, Pete Buttigieg challenged a decades-old assumption that streets are for cars above all else. Pete Buttigieg will be President Biden’s Transportation Secretary and this article points out Buttigieg’s history and experience. The other than car first urban centers bring life and vitality to downtowns and urban centers.
There was a long good piece by Simukai Chigudu piece in The Guardian, ‘Colonialism had never really ended’: my life in the shadow of Cecil Rhodes, which really pulled on a lot of strings for me around Oxford University and its role in my life. Many also are impacted by Cecil Rhodes if they are a Rhode’s Scholar, or hold it in high esteem and value.s
Amanda Gorman’s full poem at the Inauguration of Joe Biden as 46th President of the United States of America was amazing to me. So many good turns of phrase and setups to land a great idea and image. So, so, good! - The full text of Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” can be read on The Hill
I finished watching the last two episodes of the first season of Roadkill with Hugh Laurie (shown on PBS, but a BBC One production). I watched the first two a few weeks back. I was mostly paying attention, but watching the story arch and trying to sort where it was going as well as rewatching segments with a focus on cinematography (which is rather good). There were some odd progressions and lumpy plot transitions. By the end I realized this is a first season or more to come, but is also is quite close to some of the patterns from the British (the original) House of Cards.
Twice this week I ran into Viking TV twice and found this cruise and travel tour company’s offering online to be quite good for giving a view of countries, regions, sights, history, and attractions.
Fridays are New Music Fridays around these parts and one that drifted into focus is Lo Vas A Olvidar by Billie Eilish and Rosalia, which was a good early Friday morning find.
I was back listening to Uncommon Ritual again as work background music while working at my desk. The sound production on this stellar collection of musicians playing bluegrass and classical is really pleasing.
The use of the daily dump notes is getting me close to an old good habit of smaller quicker blog posts. Last week’s weeknote included a piece about the guy where people were hiring him to do nothing (which was actually something much deeper). I nearly posted that mid-week when I found it (errands to places that were closed or had closed early lost that time to do a quick-ish post). When I started blogging (using Blogger) I had many quick one to four sentence posts with links to things. Also getting back to single focus blog posts and the main sharing, but likely would keep the weeknote as well. There have been a few times this week where taking notes in my daily dump of notes that I was thinking it would make a good piece on its own.
Also, I’ve getting back to regularly reading my feed reader, I’m back using the new NetNewsWire. I was trying to clear my reader and tuck things away from portable devices while waiting for my son to get out of his conditioning sessions, but sync of what is read stopped working, so I manually dig through a handful of links or lean on Apple News. For years I used Fever as a background aggregator I ran, but it has needed updates and it hasn’t been updated in a long while, so I moved back to old school, which mostly works really well.
I watched Curtis McHale walking through DevonThink to Craft Shortcut on iPad and there was quite a bit in Curtis workflow that I’m wanting to pick-up and adapt and adopt into my workflows.
Marked as :: Blog :: History :: Politics :: Productivity :: Television :: Travel :: Weeknote :: in Weblog [perma link]
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marked as :: Application :: Food :: Learning :: Music :: PIM / PKM :: Politics :: Productivity :: Restaurant :: Startup :: Television :: Weeknote :: in Weblog [perma link]
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marked as :: Art :: Blog :: Book Review :: Books :: Design :: Information Architecture :: Podcast :: Politics :: Productivity :: Weeknote :: Workflow :: in Weblog [perma link]
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
Marked as :: Book Review :: Games :: Information Architecture :: Music :: Podcast :: Productivity :: Weeknote :: Writing :: in Weblog [perma link]
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.