Nutmeg. Red leaves. Colder weather. Longer nights. Gloves. Falling leaves. Rainy days. Mugs of coffee. Scarves. Brisk autumn walks. Pumpkin pie. Scary ghosts. Orange leaves. Witches. Warm jumpers. Woolly socks. Apple pie. Hot tea. Cinnamon buns. Warm blankets.

Had to take my iPad Pro to the shop. I couldn’t take the battery drain any more.

Realising that this could take several days, I had to make sure that the cover to next week’s issue was done.

Now is as good a time as any to sign up to the best (totally objective opinion) newsletter about the built environment.

Got an awesome email this morning from my ISP. They’ve bumped our internet speed from 50Mbit/s to 300Mbit/s. Wonder how long this post will take to age?

Saw this in my RSS feed this morning and I am in the ‘Neutral Good’ category. However I might look into ‘True Neutral’. One file for the draft. One file for the research. One folder for anything I collect on the subject.

So annoyed. I really wanted to finally buy a new Kindle after using my current one for the last 7 years, however get to the final part of the checkout and for some bizarre reason it does not ship the damn thing from either Germany or the UK. Madness and stupidity. Because Denmark?!

Typed Writing Modes

Spent some time sorting out through my various text editors and how I want to organise my typed words. Taking inspiration from the system for my notebook, once again I realised that a single app for all the different threads and channels is foolish. By dedicating an app for a specific task, you are signaling to yourself that this is what I want to get done right now. This is where this type of work lives. Also different apps have different strengths - play to their strengths.

Drafts

This is where all my blogging happens. The direct publishing to Micro.blog is exactly what I want. I open the app and can get writing straight away. If I want to have something with a title, it’s also there. No constraints or worrying about length. Just type and publish.

I set this up with two specific managed workspaces. Default is unpublished and therefore publishing ideas. The second is just an archive of everything that I have written and published.

iA Writer

This is where the projects live. I have synced this up with iCloud. I have individual folders for each project and so when its time to work on any on project I know where to go.

1Writer / Obsidian / Software Agnostic

Finally this all clicked for me. This is my second brain. Using the Zettlekasten method, I am able to start collecting and writing information knowing that it is a single folder of text files. Lives on Dropbox and honestly I can’t wait to have hundreds of thousands of notes in there. The more the better as long as they are tagged and interlinked with each other

Simplenote

I decided to also add Simplenote to the mix. This is really just a place to brain dump. Sometimes I like to work something out. It doesn’t really fit into any of the above modes. Sometimes its clearing out junk from my head, when I don’t want to write things down, I want to type them out. Its not a major part of my routine, but I have found that these random text files find their way into different places. Why not create a dedicated space for this. I have called this my Brain Cleanser.

You write. You draw.
As you move your hand, the lines start running.
With the running lines, our mind sprint.
Handwriting means letting your mind take off.
— Hobonichi Techi 2021 packaging

There’s a notebook for that.

Its taken a really long time but I have finally settled on my physical notebook situation that I use on a regular basis. I originally was trying to fit everything into a single book, a Hobonichi. Foolishness. No instead, what I actually needed was 5 distinct notebooks, plus a bunch of little pocket notebooks. Lets unpack that.

1 / The Sketchbook

I wish I had stumbled across this concept earlier in my life. Keep a sketchbook for exploration. Use one notebook and fill it with all the sketches, rough, finished, try different mediums, give yourself room to explore. What you might find in those pages is your style moving; shifting; growing. A visual playground of your own creation. What’s interesting about this is the first few pages are going to be poor even to your eyes. Don’t feel discouraged. Persevere and you will see yourself slowly but surely getting better.

My notebook of choice for this type of notebook is a blank A5 Midori MD.

2 / The Journal

Your thoughts are like water.

Now in my 5th year of regular journalling I don’t do this as often as I want (twice a day), but I have been carving some time out every day to go through it. This is your mental dumping ground. This is where you letter your mind write whatever it wants. The paper is not going to judge you. Better for you to write it down than let it float and bounce around your head.

For this, I have settled on the excellent sized B6 Cafe Note from Nanami paper. I’ve got a Gfeller cover that will last me years and years to come.

3 / The Writer

Turns out the best way to write articles, books or anything is to get it onto paper first. While my online writing can be captured pretty quickly in Drafts or iA Writer, when I want to work something out, the sequence of thoughts and ideas, there is nothing better than paper. For stringing these thoughts into cohesive sentences I go digital, but for working things out, I go analogue.

Although I am currently using some Muji A5 notebooks, I have a massive Seven Seas Nanami notebook waiting to be used just for this purpose. Once my current notebook is finished (probably end of the year), can shift over to the book that will last me a whole lot longer.

4 & 5 / Meeting Notes & Taskmanager

For years I employed the bullet journal method to get shit done at work. It was invaluable to me. However one of the issues is we live in an increasingly digital world and there are far to many channels. I found myself breaking the mould and away from some of the basic things that make the system useful (put the date at the top, collection of tasks for a topic, bullets for notes). It was all getting messy again. I also found the A5 notebook wasn’t getting filled out very well.

So I decided to split things a little. I have two A6 notebooks. One dedicated for just notes, ideas, whatever. The other is just to capture all of my actions into individual buckets. Every page is a channel. Whenever a task pops up I put it into one of the channels

My go to are the Hobonichi A6 notebooks. Blank and beautiful. No eccentric Japanese quotes or sketches of foxes or whatever else they have added recently to the Techo. I know this is probably part of the charm, but to be honest, I want that 20% lost paper per page to be mine.

6 / Pocket Notebooks

Finally I have been using pocket notebooks for over a decade. These go with me wherever I go. Its a practice that has served me well and even if it’s one note, its one note less bouncing in your head or worse, lost forever. I hate that.

Issue 036 of my newsletter In Abeyance is now out. This issue concentrates on adaptive façade, David Attenborough’s latest documentary, Ørsted, The 99% Invisible City and Signify.

Outlook you are the worst. Sent out the latest issue of my newsletter (post coming) and some of the images have a .jpeg filename. Guess which application doesn’t recognise this filename extension. Shakes fist at the sky!

I finally found a good place for stationary in Scandinavia, the Pen Store out in Stockholm. Ordered a couple of bottles of ink (Iroshizuku Yama-budo and Lamy Topaz), a bunch of refills and a Lamy Safari Mango (to match up with the brown ink). Package arrived within a few days in a gloriously yellow box.

Just finished watching David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet. As always the man is a treasure and I hope we heed the advice in the years and decades to come.

A lesson in Wabi-sabi

One of my many flaws, and one that I have struggled with the most, is my general nature to maintain my stuff like new. Its a character trait that I fully inherited from my mother. We get upset when something gets a scratch, or a tear or a dent. Sadly I see that this trait has been passed onto my eldest. I know how heartbreaking it feels when something you cherish breaks somehow but I also recognise that this is not the way of the world. So when Zane had a moment of recent madness over a tear in one of his drawings, I decided to explain the beauty and acceptance of Wabi-sabi. It helped that I had the perfect prop to explain it to him.

When he couldn’t have been more than a few years old he took a liking to my navy blue Kaweco fountain pen. Coming home one day I saw that he had totally done a number on all the edges as he frantically was trying to use it as marking tool. At the time I was super upset as Kaweco had stopped making pens in this rich blue colour. I now look at the pen and it reminds of a curious 2 year old and all the times it would write all over the house with anything he found. Every ‘flaw’ tells a story which becomes even more important than the object itself. Surprisingly it didn’t take him very long to start looking for wabi-sabi in all his own posessions.

🎨 001 / Doodlober

I’m certainly not partaking in ‘Inktober’ this year (because Jake Parker) but will be participating in Doodlober. I just made it up, you can use it widely and freely.

It’s been a real pleasure seeing the evolution of Micro.blog over these last few years. Slow and purposeful incremental steps in making writing your thoughts to be shared on the web as easy as possible.

Version 2.0, released yesterday brings a lot of new polish to the service apps across platforms. By far my favourite is the web interface upgrade on mobile. Great work @manton

For years I have always thought that a habit tracker is a very powerful motivator. So much so I even designed one for a few years. Then I thought that maybe in a notebook. Then in an app. Then I know online.

Nothing was really working. I would loose interest. So I decided to go very lo-fi. Double page from my Field Notes with 365ish boxes. The single most important task. I might do a bigger one with several smaller tasks and put it on my wall

Ted Lasso has been a great find these last few weeks. Just a really great way of starting the weekend with a beer with 30min of escapism that is warm and fun. Season finale next week will be bittersweet.

Issue 035 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. Leader topic for this week is submerged floating tunnels. Yes, as mad as that.

Two things that were reinforced today about something you create. The first is that the best ‘marketing’ you can hope to achieve is creating something worthwhile. Creating something people care about and find value in. The second thing is that any form of success can take a long while to achieve. Don’t despair. The road is long.

A year without a MacBook

Since around 2007, nearly 12 years, I have relied on a Mac to get me through my projects. During that time I have used a Mac Mini and two 13” MacBook Pros. They are machines that have served me very well during these times. Last year I had the first motherboard problem on any machine I have owned. To be honest it was 6 years old at this stage and had taken a considerable beating being in a household with young children.

Luckily I had invested a year earlier in an iPad Pro, in the hope of one day relying upon it as my portable device and hopefully getting an iMac for the desk. For the most part that plan is still on track as I have found my iPad to be more than capable for 80% of the tasks that I want to get done. My biggest limitation being the reasonably poor front end web development tools available on the iPad. The most glaring omission being the lack of a web inspector backed into any of the browsers.

Another reason I opted not to buy a replacement was that I was waiting for an update to the infamous keyboard. This came relatively quickly along with news of new Apple silicon towards the end of the year. While others may have just bit the bullet and gotten a replacement, these are COVID times and my iPad Pro was perfectly capable of handling most of my computing needs, something it was even much better than a MacBook.

The experience wasn’t rosey the whole year. For weeks I was plagued with poor bluetooth connectivity to the keyboard. It just made for a frustrating experience. The killer blow to me was a little over a month ago. I upgraded to 13.6 and ran into a battery drain bug for my iPad which actually derailed my production for several weeks as I spent far too long trying to resolve it.

It remains unresolved.

I jumped into iOS 14 Beta in the hopes that this will go away. It didn’t.

Tomorrow iOS 14 comes out of beta. Honestly I have little to no hope that this will get resolved until I take it in and pay again to get it ‘fixed’. A year of using the iPad as my sole machine has left a seriously bad taste in my mouth. I got into Apple products to not have to worry about this sort of thing. I’m also not alone. I found myself angry at the Apple keynote today rather than being happy.

First scratch on the swatch. Totally forgot that this was a thing for watch wearers. Quick search online reveals that Polywatch might be the perfect solution for this type of thing. Imagine I will be using the hell out of this thing.

🎬 Finally finished Roma. I barely watch any television these days, so when I do I want to make sure that there will be some connection. This movie was super powerful but in a magical way. Transported me to a time and place I have never lived, which oddly was familiar. Beautifully shot.

Taking long walks on a Sunday has become a bit of a thing for me. It lets my mind wander a little. My body gets a little bit of exercise at the same time. Part of this is down to a general sense of anxiety. The soundtrack for this week is Tori Amos ‘Gold Dust’ album. Life is a collection of choices we make and then living with those choices. Everything we experience is down to a choice. To move or to stay. To take action or to wait. To buy or to abstain.

📚 I don’t typically like to give up on a book but Essentialism by just could not keep my attention. My cardinal rule when reading a non-fiction book is that it has to inform me and delight me by stretching my brain. Not in its prose but rather in the message and thoughts it is trying to convey. In this instance, even though I read 50% of the book it just isn’t very well written. It lacks a confidence. It lacks a unique sense of style.

This one is a day late but issue 034 ‘On Bridges’ of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This issue equals the same number of issues sent out last year. As always the subject crept up on me but I ended up learning a lot about bridges over the last few days.

So let me get this straight. The UAE no longer has diplomatic ties with Qatar, yet it is establishing them with Israel and in doing so has given the tangerino a nobel peace price nomination. Serious 2020, you are the worst.

📚 Currently reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown. While the thesis found inside is fine (although not particularly earth shattering), I have found the writing to be less refined when compared to the writing of Cal Newport or Seth Godin. In fact as I am reading things in a more concentrated manner these last few months I have been able to compare styles of writing when comparing similar topics. Even Ryan Holiday’s style meanders a little too much into what seems like superfluous examples.

It took me weeks. It got to the point that Yasmine was sick and tired of me looking at watch websites. Endlessly navigating between different styles, then checking them out on YouTube in the hope that I would be convinced. It didn’t all finally fall into place until this morning. A watch I may have looked at before in passing.

For weeks now I have been trending towards the Certina DS-8, a more beautiful and understated timepiece you probably are unlikely to find. My problem with it wasn’t the price, it was the very fact of its appeal. It was steel (and there had heft) it was large enough to make it presence felt. I went for utility instead.

The Swatch Skinera offers me the function over form that I was desperately seeking.

A life worth living. That is the ultimate goal that everyone aims for. A life they can look back on and say that it was worth it. Sure it was difficult. Sure it made you mad, angry, happy, frustrated or any other emotion., but crucially it was worth it. Sometimes its hard to separate this worth. Sitting in a cemetery surrounded by dead Danes I’m reminded that we all have one life and that we should all remember that fact as often as we can.

For the last few weeks I have been spending a stupid amount of time trying to choose a practical daily watch. With my iPhone relegated as a tool I use on occasion and for very specific things, I find myself wondering what time it is more regularly with no instant way of knowing this most basic of information.

Truth is I am struggling with the incredible sea of choice that is available. Getting into the watch game is very similar to getting into anything with a rich history. The options and things you need to get your head around is legion. That is the problem. You cannot find that one watch that satisfies all situations. You likely need a small collection. So the hunt begins.

Over the last 3 months it happened. The thing that I have been wanting to do for years. Recognise that reading long form articles is difficult inside a browser. Now I send it to Feedbin and then at some point send them to my Kindle where I am actually reading the damn things, rather than pretending to read them.

It doesn’t happen very often, once every few years probably, but new Smashing Pumpkins songs are the only music that I will buy without even waiting to hear it first. It doesn’t matter. The Corgan tickles my music funny bone. Every. Single. Time. The latest song Cyr is certainly no exception. The official website is equally cryptic but in a fun Pumpkins way. I guess they are releasing a new song every 2 weeks?

Jake Parker Plagiarized My Book. This is heartbreaking. I have participated in Inktober several times now and think Parker has created something many of us aspire to. However I owe so much knowledge to Alphonso Dunn, probably one of the best art instructors or teachers anyone could have. He is also exceptionally composed even on the end of pure theft. I’m not surprised that someone would steal from him, but I honestly did not think it would be Parker.

In the latest issue of my newsletter I shared the almost complete cover for my upcoming book, the Built Environment Compendium (or BEC for short). Its something I am really proud of and is the very first publication in a book format for Stet.Build. While still work in progress (things will likely change), I wanted to share a little bit about the process of designing the cover. I will be sharing a lot more information in the coming weeks and months.

I did not expect to like Ted Lasso as much as I have. Great writing, very clever in many little ways.

Newsletter Dos & Donts

So you want to write and publish a newsletter? Based on my admittedly limited experience (when compared to the torrent of newsletter out there), it seems that the first 100 subscribers is a battle of attrition. Having said that, it is also the single greatest thing I have done online since coming online. In every respect I wish that I had started my letter 10 years ago (when I had the original idea). So here are 5 dos and 5 donts for those thinking or at the start of their journey:

Dos

  1. Do have a clear overarching theme you want to talk about, week after week, month after month. The time between newsletters creeps on you surprisingly quickly.
  2. Do have a schedule. If you’ve never done this, start with once per month. Then ramp it up to twice. Only when you know you have the process under control, switch to weekly if you dare.
  3. Do remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  4. Do have an opinion. People are there for your voice and your thoughts. Developing this will take time. Embrace it.
  5. Do enjoy the process. You’re more likely to last.

Donts

  1. Don’t be afraid to start.
  2. Don’t be discouraged when days, weeks and sometimes months pass and you get no new subscribers.
  3. Don’t get discouraged when someone unsubscribes.
  4. Don’t be discouraged when nobody forwards your email on - this rarely happens. I don’t think anyone has ever forwarded on my newsletter.
  5. Don’t worry about the final look. Email design is an exercise in futility. You could try but there will always be cases when the shit breaks in the worst possible way. Keep it simple, text based, with a few images probably is best.

Issue 033 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This issue has a decidedly Japanese flavour and touches upon circular architecture, the Hobonichi Techo, Perskovite and some vertical agriculture.

I barely watch any movies anymore (the thing has to be pretty spectacular to get onto my radar these days), but I am a total sucker for all things Batman. Surprisingly ‘The Batman’ teaser trailer is actually very, very good. Using the Nirvana song is inspired.

For nearly 6 years I used a bullet journal for my entire professional life. I found it provided me with the exact structure for the plethora of tasks in front of me. The last year and a bit I have wandered away. I haven’t been very happy with what I was left with.

I have come back to the fold only in a slightly different manner. I have multiple buckets. Each bucket is a single page. Each page can have notes (if they are super important), but really it is for tasks that I need to finish. By having clearly defined buckets I am able to muster up the necessary courage for the next step with the full knowledge of what I have to do.

Once I have everything in front of me, I want to block when I am going to carry out each of the buckets. This is the difficult part. Which task do I do first and how long will it take? Which task am I paralysed with because I am waiting for a response or input (the biggest killer).

Its a small step to take in what is no doubt going to become an incredibly busy period ahead of me. I’m glad to have been allowed the time to consider and reflect and read and adapt things, processes and thoughts that many others also struggle with.