This post from Arun about the Art of the Desk Setup is pretty inspiring. Following this I took a hard look at my desk setup and realised there are wins that I could be making in the short and medium term. While I note that Arun doesn’t have any notebooks or pens on his desk (that would just not fly on my desk), I really love the sheer size of his screen (something I am looking to replicate), the cable management system under his desk is great and digital dock are ideas I hadn’t considered previously.

I will say that Jason Snell’s hunt for the perfect iOS Markdown writing tool is a fools errand. I should know, I have been on this very same hunt for years. The difference is that I have realised that there is no single tool to rule them all. Rather what we are truly blessed with is a incredible ecosystem of applications with their very own strength.

I actually removed Simplenote from my setup and so my text is focused across Drafts (Micro.blog and now Twitter), iA Writer (long form writing) and my Zettelkasten. I do feel there is room for an Obsedian-like application for iOS that caters to the Zettelkasten crowd — 1Writer is great but could be soo much better, except development is seemingly very slow.

Just when I was about to drop Disney+ they go ahead and add Star to the service. I can now catch up on The Walking Dead. Sidenote, that series has some excellent music choices.

Issue 044 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out.This issue focuses on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, architectural practice Snøhetta and urban maps.

With this issue I am reverting back to my monthly schedule again in releasing the newsletter. Part of the struggle I have had is that I actually enjoy the researching and writing something that is a little longer form than what the bi-monthly schedule allowed.

I have decided to use Twitter in a different manner than I have previously. The idea is to share links, videos, images of the research that goes into each and every issue, as I am writing the issue. I’ll also be collecting these against a hashtag that is not being widely used. This means that in the future after you have read a specific issue you can jump onto the Twitter hashtag as a companion stream that allows you explore a topic in a different way that my 1500 word essays do.

Winters in Scandinavia are long affairs. Yesterday was the first signs of unlocking. Today we are truly in this region. On my daily walk, took off my wooly hat and even my parka is now starting to be a little overkill for what is happening outside. Let the good times roll. Can’t wait to get the kids prepared for a fun spring hopefully with tons of parks, sunshine and hopefully even some beaches.

Finally finished red marking my copy of the BEC Vol.1. This is the first step before I submit it to my editor. Its taken me roughly 2½ years to get to this stage and on course to being released sometime in May — roughly 3 years after I had the idea. All that is to say, things that are worthwhile sometimes take a good long time to come together.

One more week of winter and you can start to see the first signs of unlocking. The birds have retuned and have begun their chirping and nest building. Magic.

Although not always discussed but my favourite piece of software this year has been the Merriweather typeface.

  • I type my notes in my Zettlekasten using it across multiple platforms and apps (Obsidian on Windows, 1Writer/iWriter Pro on iOS).
  • All my posts to my site start their life in Drafts use it.
  • My website uses it (and its Sans sibling).
  • I get to use it at work on occasion as well (in an online format).

Easily my favourite live open source typographic projects on the net.

Since around November I have not really been following my no s-diet in the evenings. Breakfast and lunch go by without a hitch. No pangs for snacks. No craving for seconds.

Where it all goes to pot is in the evening. A combination of tiredness and late dinners means the no s-diet is all but a distant memory. So I need to make it easier for me to stick to the plan. Fill up a plate and be done with it.

Yesterday I was reminded just how powerful Drafts is as an app on any platform. My only criticism is the fact that I can just connect it to a folder with a bunch of md files. What it does however it does exceptionally well - using it to post to my site and my Twitter. Totally seamless.

When I first landed in Copenhagen a little over a year ago and stepped outside for the first time, the Nordic cold hitting my face I instantly thought, ‘What. Have. I. Done.’ The year that followed was cold, sure but nothing too crazy. Fast forward to this year and it is unbelievably cold. Minus degrees being the norm and short daily walks being slightly unpleasant. Good thing winter is nearly over and we enter unlocking soon.

I know this site is turning into a food log at the moment but when you dare to experiment and create, you should celebrate these small wins. My hand at some udon noodle soup.

On Marketing

I have struggled mightily with working out how best to use Twitter. It is a tool with infinite connections. The main issue is that it has never clicked with me. I struggle with finding people to follow and what to post on a regular basis.

The reason I keep coming back to the platform is down to reach. Now in my second year of publishing my newsletter, it has expanded considerably since those initial steps, but it is a long journey.

I keep coming back to this quote from Seth Godin:

Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem. Marketing helps others become who they seek to become.

What problem am I trying to solve? Trying to help people understand the built environment and what we are doing to destroy or protect our planet by way of construction, architecture and policy.

Garlic Lemon Chicken Greek style. I have Akis to thank for this. Just reminded me of what was always readily available around me growing up. If you want to get excited about cooking Greek food, highly recommend his channel (although he does sometimes go heavy on the olive oil).

Affinity 1.9. Arguably one of the best videos for a point release of an indie app. Love the music. The versatility of the functions on offer is incredibly impressive.

You’re sitting in the back of a tiny Fiat Cinquecento. Your then best bud in the back with you. Its been a long journey from the mountains having spent easter with the family. You have the radio on and then the song starts. It’s Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, in many way the song of my teenage years (along with Bullets with Butterfly wings). The word stops and even though you have heard this song what feels like a million times, the timing, the joy of the moment, the sun outside, it breaks the barrier and you find yourselves singing it. Feeling it. 25 years later, every time I hear this song, I am transported. The power of a single song is incredible given time and life.

Issue 043 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This issue considers carbon capture and sequestration.

This issue was surprisingly easier to write than a lot of them in the recent past. I attribute it to the fact that Having decided what I want to write about throughout the year means that I get a bit of time to let the ideas develop.

Coffee

I always knew there was an entire universe surrounding coffee. A bunch of coffee nerds talking about grind, water quality, grams per litre, percolation, pour over. You needed to have all the gear to make something half decent. You needed beans (sustainably sourced) from Guatemala. And on and on.

Honestly, you can go as deep as you want, like with anything attached to any industry. I’ve had a reasonably varied relationship with my coffee. This year however is when I take it up a little notch. No, not going to be buying an espresso machine any time soon, but will be building my coffee making collection purposefully.

I have been using the v60 almost exclusively over the last year to make pour over filter coffee. The first enhancement has been the introduction of a small kitchen scale and a Bodum milk frother. Its a surprising purchase that actually makes a decent milky based coffee at home. I am going to be (re)buying an Aeropress next (I lost the filter a while back and never bothered to replace it). One of the coffee nerds guiding me on this journey is James Hoffmann. Definitely recommend his videos on the subject. Suitably snooty about what he is doing, but actually comes from a factual and scientific angle.

📚 The Spy Who came in from the Cold by John Le Carré is the first book of 2021. Excellent novel, certainly worthy of your attention. Recommendation came from Ben Rhodes on the Pod Save The World podcast. I guess I totally missed this but Le Carré died a little over a month ago. Fitting tribute by reading the mans best. Although thinking about reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy next.

Also what are all the late night hosts going to talk about every day? Seriously. I think I just got back roughly 3 hours of my life per week back…I predict total boredom from them. Man I hope Biden is one boring ass president. Just put your head down dude and do the work.

I think I just fell in love with Amanda Gorman. What a great poem and a great delivery and only 22 years old?!

Also not to get superficial here, but the yellow coat and red head band were completely on point. Talk about upstaging both JLo and Gaga. Wonderful.

Been looking for some easy wins for the morning. These five overnight oats recipes have been a real winner for me. The trick to overnight oats it seems is making sure that you put the same amount of oats to liquid and then add half as much yogurt. The end result has been awesomely smooth and creamy. I have previously been eyeballing it. Big mistake. Getting the measurements right is actually super important.

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.