Can’t wait for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the other networks to send me some stickers and a handwritten card. Aaaaannny minute now I’m sure. Not that I needed a reason to be on Micro.blog. A wonderful reminder that you are dealing with real people. Thanks @jean and @manton

It’s always a ton of fun when work starts on the next issue. All the possibilities of a topic I know very little about, waiting to be discovered. Usually one the fears I have is whether or not a subject has enough ‘meat’ on the bone. Can I dive into it and find the nuggets that I am looking for. Delightful details that put a smile on my face that I can also share. I feel reasonably comfortable with this one, although speaking about architecture in the abstract is a hard skill to employ.

It’s been years since I worked on a website design in vector format (why waste my time when I can just code what is in my head). This one is different and needs a little more care and attention.

Super interesting concept from Cal Newport about reading. The goal is to read two chapters a day. Doesn’t really matter what you are reading to begin with - the consistent nature of the exercise will eventually diversify the pool. Its got enough friction and is attainable to become a meaningful habit. I keep falling in and out of reading at the moment. Maybe this will right the course a little.

Zane has recently discovered the work of Sir David Attenborough and is a new mega-fan. Drew him a postcard. Then in a Corona-meta-what-the-hell-just-happened made sure that he had received the vaccine and was going to be safe.

Its always a great boost when there is a huge influx of new readers to the newsletter. I then usually scratch my head for a few days before I find out the source, but it is always welcome and one of the exciting times in a newsletters life.

Been wanting a photo that I can use online for a while now. Thanks to my wife and a lot of patience, have a few that don’t suck.

Issue 046 of In Abeyance is out. This issue is about Shipping Container Architecture. Also features The Ocean Cleanup, Prometheus Fuels, Michael Sorkin and the Ferrule.

This issue is a little late, but I’ve been a little preoccupied with life recently. Had a lot of fun creating the artwork this time.

Obsidian on iOS & Android is now closed beta. Super excited about this development. One of my favourite and most used apps on Windows is coming to iOS. Can it supplant 1Writer?

🧩 Puzzle time with the kids. Was never a puzzle fan, but there is therapy in a 200 piece.

Now that the manuscript is done, time to turn my attention onto the Stet.Build website. In dire need of a ton of attention. The iPad has been a wonderful machine in creating the work, the only area it really doesn’t do a very good job with is coding.

That’s not entirely true as there are a number of capable code editors (Coda from Panic being one of them). The only reasonable option is Inspect Browser. It was recently upgraded to 2.0 but it really is an unfortunate omission from the iPad toolbox - easily one of the things I miss the most from not having a Mac.

It took 3 years, but I finally submitted my draft of the BEC to my editor. Incredibly I was only 23 days outside my target date of completing the whole book, but I had a couple of technical hiccups which slowed things a little. I shared two quotes with Mike to frame what I hoped would be achieved through this process. The first is by Ryan Holiday:

No one creates flawless first drafts. And nobody creates better second drafts without the intervention of someone else. Nobody.

The second is by Neil Gaiman:

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right.

I removed the last part of the quote, because I kinda want to hear from him what he would do differently. He is my editor after all.

I will say creating an index by hand is the biggest ball ache ever. Pages has to automate this process in a future update!

That is annoying. There is a flaw in my book at the moment. No old style numerals. No idea how I totally missed this, but Pages on iOS does not allow you to choose these, which is very annoying. They came so damn close. Plan B is to see if it is possible to do this on the Mac version before bringing it back into iOS.

Publishing Streams

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

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

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

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

Park bench & journal on a crisp unlocking day. Spring is nearly here.

Pages on iOS

I have been using Pages for iOS for the last year putting together several books and documents. In a word it been a revalation. Incredibly solid application that continues to put a smile on my face as I continue to use and be delighted by it. Working between my iPad and iPhone is seemless. From my part, I am extremely thankful to have such an application at my literal fingertips that has allowed me to create the book that I wanted. This first book is certainly not the last book that I intend to create using this application.

This year has brought a slew of additional features which have been incredibly welcome. In my mind there is only one major feature that is surprisingly missing from such a complete package and that is the ability of creating an index. Sure you can create a table of contents automatically. You can style it to your hearts content, but the ability of highlighting a number of index points that get captured later is missing unfortunately. I do hope that Apple considers to add this feature - which has been requested across the place since 2009.

Been testing out Descript for editing podcasts. There is a way to do this right and a way not to. Recording and publishing is pretty easy. It’s clear to me that editing is where the hard work lies. Descript is compelling but needs time to develop.

So finally got an upgrade to my Swatch. While I do love that little thing, this watch from Vaer encapsulates what I have been looking for in an everyday watch. Have a longer thing to write (or maybe even talk about) soon. The tldr: its an excellent upgrade to a Timex Expedition.

So I have not had the misfortune of having to rely very much on FedEx for packages and deliveries, but this first attempt has left a great deal to be desired. Their customer support is atrocious. They don’t man the phones, don’t answer email. In fact I had to go via their Twitter account to get someone to respond to me. Truly awful. Best to avoid them if you have the choice.

Today is one day (to the day) that I started working on compiling my first book, the Built Environment Compendium. Timing is pretty incredible really. Without planning, today is also the day I finally completed the work inside the book. The cover is mostly done — there are still some small tweaks needed. There is still much work to be done before I can release it to the world, however that day is fast approaching.

This was a major project which included working out how to use Pages app on the iPad. I have been amazed at the completeness of features that Pages offers. The only missing feature has been creating an index.

Great short post by Josh Spector, Simple = Sustainable. I can definitely attest to this ideal. Micro.blog is a prime example of this. While the end result you get from something complicated can be infinitely more deep, it’s not much good if you don’t finish it because you gave up on it.

Analogue Rabbit Hole

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

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

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

Tone

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

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

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

Easter weekend is over. I’m not going to lie, it went by way to quickly for me. I honestly could have done with some more time of resetting. Many of my side projects didn’t get any love, but I guess giving pause to some projects is a good practice to let the subconscious do its thing and let your brain come back fresh to the table.

Considering the insane weather we had today (sunshine, snow, sleet and crazy degrees of rain) decided to sort out my wardrobe. Mostly it wasn’t so bad, but even for a Marie Kondoist such as myself, I managed to find a few items that no longer fit me or were way past their useful date. Begone.

I had this idea nearly a year ago. I tinkered with something on this last year. Today I finally finished my first Concise Guide. Really looking forward to sharing these with everyone.

1st of April ‘jokes’ are such bullshit. The next time you think doing one would be a great idea, it really won’t. It’s bullshit.

Hoping to finishing the book this Easter weekend. Release is on target for end of May.

Advise for those struggling to write on the web. Written 3 years ago and honestly could have written the exact same thing this morning.

Issue 045 of In Abeyance is out. This issue is about Seismic Design. Also features Vortex Bladeless & Field Notes Brand.

One of the joys about spending a little longer researching and writing each article is that I get to dive in a little deeper. Get to discover a little more. Sometimes I am genuinely surprised by where the journey takes me.

The year of learning continues - at least in so much as I can see what the next thing that I want to learn. Last week I ventured into the world of juggling. While I’m not ready to join the circus yet, I am actually capable of juggling 3 objects, a skill I have wondered about for years. YouTube is an exceptional platform for learning as it connects you to a world of teachers. For juggling I learnt from Taylor Tries.

Next up I’m thinking of diving into learning the piano and maybe teaching Zane as well. The piano is an instrument I gave up on over 25 years ago. I do have some mental scars from my piano teacher but I’m hoping that my current self can overcome these. First is getting a piano, but it seems that the one to go for is either the Yamaha P45 or the Roland FP10.

The March issue of In Abeyance is in the can. Just need to draw the cover, which I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to be. 45 issues in and honestly it is clear that I have really only scratched the surface of what I want to explore, research and write about. The monthly schedule suits me better as it allows me to balance work and family and the other Stet.Build projects I’m working on.

Coffee is so difficult to nail consistently, which is down to the number of variables. It starts off with the type of bean; which country did it come from? How was it roasted; dark or light? How did you grind it; what setting and was it a burr grinder? What kind of water did you use; soft or hard? What temperature was the water exactly when you prepared it? What extraction method did you use; pour over, Aeropress, moka pot, other? What method did you use? How many grams did you use? Stacked and in concert it totally changes the outcome.

Been reading Zane his first proper book. Decided to go for some classics (on account that they are now public domain). Tried The Jungle Book, The Wind in the Willows but what finally stuck and he is following is Treasure Island. Bedtime stories just got a whole lot more exciting.

First day of spring. Also, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. Also happy Na Ruz to all the Iranians out there. I’ve said it before, this is absolutely the right day to celebrate the start of a new year. Also seems Copenhagen got the message as well and is celebrating with clear blue skies and warmer weather.

It is all a little behind schedule, but it is getting very real now. Polish, polish, polish.

It strikes me as odd that we have not considered where things are meant to go after they have served their purpose with us. They don’t necessarily need to be old and broken to have exhausted their usefulness, rather they were important to us at one point that we brought them into our lives and now they are not. Mostly things get discarded and thrown into landfills or burned. From a manufacturer level there should be a clear understanding as to how the story ends for each item we buy.

RMO / Chapter 01

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

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

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

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

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

In the truest spirit of the term, unlocking is in full swing in Denmark. Outside it is snowing, with 8°C and glorious sunshine expected on Sunday. March and April are not my favourite months of the year, but they do signal the change that is coming.

Update: And then in true unlocking fashion, the sun comes out and it is absolutely glorious TODAY. March Madness!

While it may seem that I am on a mission to collect all the iOS text apps, Quick Draft by giddyapp is an excellent addition. This is the spiritual replacement for the Edit app. It links the text across your iCloud account (including your Mac). Has some basic, but elegant, markdown formatting. I’m using it to dump any idea or thought that comes into my head. Surprisingly there is a lot of randomness in the file. Intention is to clean it up at the end of the day into more permanent places.

One of the things that I have learnt much later on in my life is the power of iteration. When I was younger I would look on in wonder at what others had accomplished. What I failed to understand is that by merely starting and allowing yourself the time to iterate and build upon the foundation that you have built will allow you go to get to something infinitely more complex than if you tried to condense the process. Your taste exceeds your skill at this stage. That is ok. Keep at it by iterating often, don’t get frustrated. If you keep at it, one day your skills and taste will meet.

I’m sure this was on Ngoc’s list for a while however by chance I dropped him an email a few days ago asking for the opportunity to use my beloved Merriweather. He said it was coming in the latest iteration of 1writer - which just dropped. One of the new features is being able to pick any of your installed fonts. Oh and he also mentioned that he is hard at work on version 4. Super excited about that.

It took me a lifetime but I finally learnt how to sew a button. Growing up my mother had an incredible hand in sewing. I grew up learning none of these skills.

One of my favourite shirts lost a couple of buttons and I just ignored the whole thing. Certainly not something I am adept at but glad to have gained this skill.

I get it now. Yesterday after having discovered the recently added broadcast feature for Goodnotes, I stumbled across a video about the Craft app. I really wasn’t looking for another note taking app (I promise) — yet I quickly realised where this could fit in perfectly. Research.

The main reason I think this works, is because Craft isn’t a pure text editor. It will happily collect pdfs and images and format links with thumbnails, in a manner that is less bloated than something like Evernote. For years I have tried using Pinboard as a way to collect all my research, but it doesn’t fully fit into my workflow. Having one document which I use to dump things into during a month of writing is a pretty powerful way to collect all these thoughts. Exceptional polish for such a young application and I can certainly see why it has gotten the attention it has. It is different to Obsidian, Roam and that is ok, you cannot have one text editor to rule them all.

The biggest ding against it however is the pricing. At $45/year, the question is whether I feel strongly enough about keeping everything within the app itself. The app makes it easy to export an .md file along with all the attachments. Honestly this limitation might actually be a blessing considering it forces me to keep everything pruned - although I will probably only need to do this around the 10-15 document limit.