Time seriously flies by. Today marks three (!) years on Micro.blog. The last year being the most I have posted to any website ever within a year. 1700 posts later, I absolutely love the service that has gone from strength to strength. My interaction changed from the middle of last year, but that was part of a digital detox that I have maintained (after a fashion). I certain miss some of the interactions, but for the time being this distance works for me a little. Maybe this year I bring back some of the interactions back, in a controlled way.

As is customary for me, my yearly pitch about the excellence of Micro.blog. I’ll use one of my favourite quotes:

“You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.”
— Seneca

As far as Micro.blog is concerned, it gives you what is essential and then what is enough.

The first issue In Abeyance for 2021 is now out. Issue 042 is now out. The issue looks ferrock, Neom’s The Line, ACME Studio’s architecture line and more. I also spent some time updating the design of the email slightly. As always you can sign up here.

Naturally, living in the upper northern hemisphere, the winter offers a unique challenge for us. Grey skies. Cold weather. Limited sunlight. The middle of January is starting to feel like we are slowly creeping away from the exceedingly long nights. Sure there is much better days to come, but at least you can see light by 7:30am and there is still light after 4:30pm. Its funny how you can take a lot for granted until it is taken away from you. Equally, experiencing all four seasons has been spectacular. Can’t have it all.

First chocolate chip cookies. These things turned out perfect. Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.

Fall of Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

I know its only snow, but can’t help be feel super excited about this development. I have not seen real snow in so long and it feels like we have the full seasons in Denmark, something so simple that I had almost forgotten what it felt like.

Very first attempt at a snowman in probably over 20 years. Will make an even better one next time.

We have been in Scandinavia for a little over a year now. Today is the first day that my kids finally see snow.

Sometime last year I fell out of love with science fiction. I know anathema! The truth is that maybe after decades of being a real lover of the genre I just need a break to immerse myself in something else. I have two books lined up and I can’t get through them for some reason.

Meanwhile I am getting into Less, a pulitzer prize winning romantic comedy about a 50 year old gay man. The last pulitzer prize winner I read was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, which is one of my favourite books of all time, so no pressure Less.

Maybe its because 2020 was such a basket case of a year that the Danes have saw sense but I feel that they are not going as batshit crazy with the fireworks as they did last year. Last year truly was exceptional and relentless. Hopefully I’m not jinxing anything but I’m pretty sure this time last year I was already over new years celebrations and had vowed never to be in Denmark during the turn of the year.

Year of Learning

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

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

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

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

The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for my newsletter. I felt like I was not giving myself the necessary time to let ideas percolate. Rather once I had settled on the idea, the writing process felt a little hurried.

Following on from the release of the latest issue, I sat down and mapped out all of next year’s issues, at least in principal. Surprisingly I am only revisiting 5 topics discussed in the previous 2 volumes. I think it is important that I review some of these topics from time to time if I feel that there is more to discuss. I’m sure new and wonderful ideas will bubble up throughout the year but in this way I hope to have a place to throw ideas and links into the document over a period of time. Takes a little bit of the friction from starting to write an idea.

Issue 041 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This is the last issue of 2020 and volume 2, the purple volume. In this issue, house of the present, AuReus, circular economy and architectural watering cans.

As alway you can sign up and receive it direct in you inbox.

As has become a bit of a tradition on this site, new colour scheme for 2021.

2019

2020

2021

For 2½ years I have been working on Stet.Build. It has been some of the most enjoyable work I have done in that time and aim to continue writing it for years to come. Lately I have started to wonder why it isn’t receiving traction with more readers.

The truth is I have tried a few things on LinkedIn but Twitter is where those most likely to engage with the articles hang out online. I have never had a good relationship with the platform but I have recognised that it is what it is. So I will be spending the next few months trying to build over there. What I will be posting over there is considerably different to what I post here on my site. It has been an interesting few days and my mind is switching into this mode a little bit.

There is actually a lot of excellent information and people posting on there in the science ans engineering sphere. Already got two new ideas for future articles and I’ve only been on there for a few days. The main issue is that the information is desperately dispersed. Building up my lists of accoubts to follow has been the hardest part of this process - my reasoning is that once this is set it will be a matter of managing and pruning.

Diving into print on demand publishing, ISBN numbers, Ingramspark, KDP, Lulu and everything in between has been overwhelming.

Selling something online is very easy. The fact that there are options available to tap into all these markets is amazing. Going digital is the smart way to go.

My main issue however is that I have gotten properly excited about the physical object in front of me. I’d like to offer this option to others but not sure the smartest route. Ingramspark can get you into the building, if you take some risk (offer a high discount and allow returns). Lulu royalties make the exercise nearly worthless (0.79 cents for a $15 is a joke). Not a real fan of any of these options.

Following on my original statement about print quality from Lulu, I can confirm that the overall quality of the trade books with the high quality paper is truly excellent.

I printed the book both with the higher end printing process and the standard printing process and found the difference unnoticeable. I had to go check that I had indeed ordered two different books. I think for something like the BEC, the standard printing is going to be an excellent option that has a good balance between the cost and quality.

The only element that I wish was available is having french flaps - although don’t think that many POD services offer this option. The soft matt cover however is excellent. If you have any hesitation about going down the Lulu printing for this type of book, put those worries to ease.

First copy of the Built Environment Compendium Vol.1. 2 ½ years in the making.

I’m still mulling over the quality of the printing (via Lulu). The cover colours didn’t come out anywhere near what I am looking for but still a physical thing in this world is always a good time.

Spent the entire day building the kids first bunk beds. Mammoth undertaking (took me about 6 hours when all was said). However for the first time since we started having kids (over 6 years) I thought that our bed was finally ours again…except the little one has different ideas entirely.

This is going to take a little time I see to get him to start his night off in his bed and hopefully stay there.

Certainly not a protectionist view (I’ve never been to Estonia) and I feel patriotic for the nation that has accepted me during that period of my life, but it is nice to see anything other than the ‘Made in China’ stamp.

I’ve been looking around me and have realised that overall there seems to be an accumulation of stuff and cruft. Minimalism this is not. Marie Kondo would not be very happy. This Christmas break I fully intend to do a proper clear out of everything that does not contribute and is no longer used. Then make a list of all the things that we actually definitely need in the future.

2021 is already looking better than this bitch of a year. Then you have season 3 of Cobra Kai as the cherry on top.

So we are not able to go to a bar, so we had the bar sent to us. Great evening of making 3 cocktails and I have all the gear to do more in the future! Now just need to get that alcohol smell from my desk….

Issue 040 of my email newsletter, In Abeyance is now out.

Always feels good to get an issue done. Most times I have no idea what I am going to write about until a week before it needs to go out and there is some frantic searching and banging my head against the wall for a few days. I might even get a little grumpy. This is the 23rd issue of the year and what a year it has been. Next issue is the last for the year.

From my introduction:

As a child one of my deepest fears was that of loosing my eyesight. Something about living such a life filled me first with sorrow and dread. With age that point of view transformed into admiration and respect. Throughout my life I have not had any real interaction with anyone that is visually impaired or blind. One of the only real interaction that I have had is those elements present in the built environment meant to cater to the blind. These elements have become more noticeable to me since moving to Copenhagen last year and were the clear inspiration for this week’s issue.

If you are curious about the built environment I urge you to sign up, best email on the subject you will get roughly published every two weeks — I’m trying to resolve my publishing schedule so that I can get rid of the roughly part of that sentence.

I’ve been looking for a Fracture equivalent in Europe and stumbled onto this Finnish company Beyondprint. Have so many ideas that I want to start putting on the walls. Definitely a project for 2021.

This post from Derek Sivers captures how I feel about arbitrary celebration dates. When did my year begin? Around May time when things started kicking off at work properly and I read Digital Minimalism that allowed me to regain my attention which was hijacked by the internet. I fall back into some old habits on occasion, but this is definitely less common these days than a year ago.

I honestly didn’t know that this was missing from my life, Korean-style egg sandwich with cheese and jam. Whhhaaaatt? It really works. Sunday mornings got transformed a little.

Story Exploder

This is now becoming a bit of a tradition on this site. During the month of November I will take my hand at a little bit of short fiction that I make up on a daily basis. This breaks every rule I have for writing. Not knowing what the story is ultimately about and where it is heading is both scary and foreign to me - which is why I insist on doing it. It puts my brain in a mode that I am not used to. It stretches it.

This year was exceptionally hard for me. I came close to giving up a few times around the half way mark which I think is the hardest part of the story. The first 10 instalments are about building the world, the middle 10 instalments are about giving the characters something to do. The last 10 instalments are about bringing it all together.

The prompts are interesting for me in that they help get things kicked off at the start. Even though they are a single word in 50 they do play an important role. When I know where the story is meant to be heading is when I drop them. This year I used them all the way up to day 25 (shows how completely lost I felt this year).

The final story (and title) will be published next week after I have had a few days to let it all sink in. I can get the editing machete to the whole body of text, fine tuning and pruning it into something more coherent. What’s currently published on the site is the first draft. We all know that mostly these are…raw.

Plan is now to go back to writing about randomness that I have actually missed this last month and a half.

30 of 30
As I stared outside I wondered how many others had made the switch back. Was I alone in the world? The communicator remained silent for what seemed like forever. I tried to add to the silence. I tried again and again. Then after trying for what seemed like an eternity, ever so faintly, apprehensively even, I heard the words, ‘Hello. World?’

29 of 30
I switched back. Silence. Inside the alert module was not exploding around me, the communications were not responding. Outside was even more disconcerting. Rather than the regular barrage I was greeted with a soft glow from the horizon. For the first time in centuries a human being could see the sun rising.

Yesterday we put up the Christmas tree. Yasmine tells me to get a smaller tree. So that is what I tried to do. I even convinced myself that this was the case throughout the trip carrying the thing back to the house. Turns out the tree is pretty much the exact same size as last year.

Aside: Last year I remember I had to stop multiple times along the journey. Not so much this year, didn’t actually stop at all . Was it because I have lost weight this year and therefore the same tasks seem much easier?

28 of 30
Humanity had reached its zenith and had succeeded in destroying itself. We couldn’t talk, plead or engineer ourselves out of the situation. In these moments our imagination and creativity did not count for much. As the most destructive species on the planet it was hardly a surprise that our final act would be unto ourselves.

27 of 30

At first the plan looked to be working. For a brief moment in time, humanity had the better of it deepest darkest impulses, our most vile desires, our struggle with the worst we had to offer was being conquered. Our joy was short lived and in what seemed like an instant, we were overwhelmed.

This years short story has been an interesting exercise of something not quiet going my way, until I remembered what made last year’s attempt work for me. This year I was focusing on the individual 50 word instalments. Last year I was writing the story in one big file. I would go back and modify, tweak, edit. With four more instalments to go, I went back and did a number of heavy edits to the story.

I don’t ever intend to participate in Nanowrimo, however this single-1500-word-story-per-year exercises a writing muscle I don’t typically get to use very often. While the process can be frustrating at times (I still have no idea how the story is going to end on Monday), coming up with the actual story, building on it and trying to stick the landing is worth trying once a year.

26 of 30
What we also noticed was that after someone did manage to return from the Spectrum, this came with an extended period of tranquility. By sending everyone into the Spectrum at once the hope was that this would overwhelm the system and allow as many to return as possible.

25 of 30 / Call
Generations were lost in our pursuit of finding a way to stopping a our own subconscious from killing us off in the real world. The numbers kept going down and nothing was working. We eventually stumbled on a possible solution. We would answer the call, en masse.

24 of 30 / Provision
To discover the thing that hunts you is also a part of you was existential crisis. We doubted everything that humanity stood for. Why were we trying to kill ourselves? More importantly how could we stop?

23 of 30 / Capture
An idea can be forgotten, remembered, captured, buried but never destroyed. We realised that the frequency invaders were nothing more than manifestations of our own subconscious. All this time we had been in battle with ourselves. Or at least part of ourselves.

22 of 30
We had sent multiple skyminders into the Spectrum before. What made this time different was the stakes and the scale. This move was putting all of human existence on the line. Based on a simple hypothesis. I was sent in first.

Issue 039 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out, The Shinkansen. This is one of those topics that practically wrote itself. I could have easily written two or three times as much. An incredibly rich topic and one I hope to expand upon in the future.

21 of 30 / Winter
‘We are deep in humanity’s longest and maybe last winter. We’ve been here before, maybe a thousand times over. I’ve lost count. We have sacrificed nearly everything we have. This is my account of our very last attack and how we survived.’

Productivity Methods

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

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

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

Enter Basecamp and TeamTime.

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

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

  1. Personal
  2. Internal
  3. External

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

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

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

20 of 30 / Fade
While she had faded from existence, her presences would be known in this place. The best way to disrupt any frequency is to create the right circumstances that lead to interference. Luciana didn’t loose any time getting to work. Even though she didn’t understand the why, she was a soldier and a good soldier always follows orders.

19 of 30 / Possible
The Spectrum was a hard concept for humans to conceive of such a place, like infinity. It did not resemble the physical. Here linear thought was not possible and your very existence was a very different experience. You became your thoughts, wrapped in your ideas. Endlessly.

18 of 30 / Dependence
‘Always remember that you have nothing to fear. Your dependence has been untethered. A million souls. All of what is left of humanity is behind you in these moments.’ The Admiral passed Luciana a golden glass filled to the top. Luciana stood on the edge of forever and at once ceased to exist in both the real and subconscious human worlds.