Writing is often messy business. At least in those initial stages when a piece is not fully formed. You have the various threads. The ideas are relatively clear in your mind. They’re just all in the wrong place. Paper doesn’t judge. It doesn’t care for such things. I’ve ‘relearnt’ the importance of staying on paper for as long as possible. The text in the photo became the introduction of my latest issue.

Two weeks into my digital declutter and this is what my mornings are now starting to look like. Spend as much time on the paper before moving to digital. I’m also now starting to think about how I begin to introduce media back into my diet. It won’t be the free for all that it once was. That person is long gone and I honestly have no intention of bringing him back.

We were talking about sleep yesterday (something we have talked about regularly for 6 years now since our first was born and decided to destroy that most fragile of things). One of the incredible gifts that I have gotten since relegating my phone to a distant tool (probably my 5th or 6th favourite piece of technology at the moment, a thought I would have considered madness 2 weeks ago), is that my sleep has been noticeably and vastly improved.

I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to get back to sleep. My brain would start working at 100%, ideas, thoughts flashing into my head and there to feed me something was always my phone at my bedside. Part of the reason I let this happen is because I love the internet. Its an incredible resource and one of my favourite human inventions…when we use it correctly.

I do however feel completely disconnected from the world, having not read a headline in 2 weeks. I have no idea what is going on in the world. I don’t know how well or badly Corona is going. I have not followed along with Seth Meyers and Trumps latest antics. Rather I have been getting into the head of Seneca and a 50 year old Hayao Miyazaki.

Issue 027 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This one is all about wind turbines and easily the most fun I have had writing an issue. I attribute this to the manner in which I am now writing these pieces, which I’ll go into in future posts.

That was the most captivating 40 minutes we as a family have had in a long time. I wasn’t alive when NASA was at its peak, so I was only aware of it’s past successes and its decline. With SpaceX, a whole new generation of space geek can start a new. Also Florida to Ireland in a matter of minutes is pretty cool. Also, while I liked the space suits, not so sure about those space boots. Also, I thought the new (old) NASA logo was going to be used on this? Instead we got the meatball everywhere?

One of the things about being hyper aware of where your time goes on your machine (because it’s not all that common), is that you can actually analyse what you are spending time on. In this case I spent 2 hours on a single chart for the upcoming newsletter. Why? Because AmCharts. While super powerful is also pretty hard to understand what the 2000 options actually do. I am thankful that the service exists, I do wish that there was a simpler option available. I’ve considered just making things in numbers and publishing images. Whats stopped me is that the interactive charts are delightful and can contain a lot more information that is digestable.

It’s very strange to have any colour in iA Writer but the new highlight feature is a really welcome addition and goes really nicely with the flashing blue cursor.

While many swear by Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations. My favourite philosopher is Seneca. Something about the way he frames his arguements. The topics he chooses, resonate best with me. I’m currently reading On the Shortness of Life, which is incredibly apt for this new path of reclaiming my time. This line comes early on:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it…So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.

While the whole book is filled with so much goodness, this one also resonated:

But learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.

I used to be a voracious reader. That seems to have been at least 10 years ago. Before my attention was hijacked. I let it happen. It was easy. Click. Tap. Swipe. Swipe. Swipe.

Five days into my digital declutter and I have read two books (amongst a range of other activies that don’t involve the internet). In the last decade this act would usually have taken me 2 to 3 months.

I remember reading once how one of Stephen Kings advice to new writers was to read. Read widely. Over 50 books a year. I also remember thinking to myself that this is fantasy. This was impossible. This was never sustainable. At my peak I could barely finish 1 book every 3 weeks.

I don’t think I’ll reach 50, but I intend to reclaim my reading habits. I think I have around 30 unread books in my little library and on my kindle.

As much as I love Ben Elton’s books, they have such shit covers. I mean, don’t judge a book by its cover is best used on his books. They are soo poorly designed. I wish someone would do them more justice because they really are all excellent.

For over a year now I have written my bi-monthly newsletter exclusively on a computer. On the odd occasion I might write a few notes down. A couple of sentences. Maybe sketch some ideas. I never would write very much before quickly jumping back onto the screen. When I needed to FAQ check something, I would jump online and search for it,sometimes returning back to base to continue writing, sometimes not.

The latest issue has been written by hand first. The thoughts and ideas, structure and points that I want to make written by hand. It’s a decidedly different way of approaching the same thing, but I feel that this is a very purposeful approach. The words and structure is not fully formed. Things change from the written word to the typed word, but much of the meandering is carried out on paper first. When it then comes to typing, the act is oh so much easier. Direct.

Two thoughts. I’m not going to dwell on the past. That is done. I write these things to remind myself never to lapse. Its much better being in control even if it’s a little bit less convienient. The end result is better for it.

Looking outside my window is a reasonably busy road (by Danish standards), I think there might be at least 10 cars passing through every hour. Cyclists however travel on this road in their 10s in the same time. One of the things I have noticed is the fact that oftentimes I will see people cycling while checking their phones. On the other side, is one of the busy parks in my community. It’s home to three trampolines in the ground and kids are always playing here with their parents in tow, who are checking their phones. I used to be one of these people. Oh sure I tried to keep the damn thing in my pocket, but I know I failed to do that on many occasions.

We should not be slaves to our devices and technology. Technology should be our tools. Yet our monkey brains finds the appeal of something shiney to strong to resist. It feeds on our base instincts of not wanting to be bored. Of being entertained. Of trying to be more ‘productive’ with our time. The technology is so pervasive, it quickly becomes our comfort blanket.

They really should have a mental health warning whenever you buy one of these things.

For over a year now I have watched Seth Godin publish to his blog every single day. What struck me the most about these posts was the endless well that he was pulling ideas from and giving them form and pressing publish. What’s even more impressive is that he has been on this train for years. I always wondered what his secret was. He attributed to not having a television. I barely watch television, except specific shows that I watch with general intention. So why couldn’t I focus? Why couldn’t I do the same?

What was missing from the conversation was my phone. My phone offered the biggest distraction. It had hijacked my brain. This was then further augmented by how I used my computer. I let it happen to me again and again, even though I thought I was being mindful. While I was able to create and write a decent amount during this time, I did so inspite of being overwhelmingly distracted. It was very hard to focus. I’m now looking forward to seeing what I am able to produce and read and draw and create with this new found attention.

We’re taught a lot of things sadly we are also ignorant of a lot more. While the digital technology can be powerful and liberating, it can also have the ability to hijack our attentions without remorse.

Everyone gets 24 hours. My general perception was that we chose how to use those 24 hours. Sadly for a while now my 24 hours had been hijacked. I knew something was up a year ago, but its taken me till now to finally understand how bad the situation had become. Maybe Corona allowed me to get really bad again before I realised that something was fundamentally amiss.

I remember Stephanos, my friend Stathi’s father, tell me how he quit smoking. He was in his shop shouting to his wife that he couldn’t find his pack of cigarettes. Meanwhile he had a lit one in his mouth, he was holding another lit one and there was a third one in an ashtray infront of him. He swears he didn’t see any of them until it was pointed out to him what was going on.

Everyone should re-evaluate their digital habits. If you’re anything like me, you’re in soo deep you don’t even realise what is happening.

I’ve had my Kindle for 6½ years and today is the first time I came across the email your notes feature. Amazon packages it all up for you and sends your notes and highlights in two formats, a CSV file and a fully formatted PDF. Such a great feature.

Conversations vs Connections

At the time I genuinely thought that I was lucky. Leaving the UK in 2009, coincided with Facebook gaining popularity. I had a conricopia of communication apps that I could use to keep in touch with my friends. Instead my lizard brain decided not to do that.

What I found was that my conversations with friends and family to have diminished completely. Even connecting was difficult. It didn’t need to be that way. I let the fact that I hadn’t spoken to many people get the better of me. I felt embarassed that I had let the time between conversations slip away. It’s something I have always struggled with.

One of the best chapters in Digital Minimalism is about conversations (talking, phone calls and video calls) compared to connections (text messages & comments). It has really resonated with me. It is a little upsetting that I’ve effectively lost 10 years or conversations, but I think the friendship is strong enough to endure this short passage of time as we all got busy having families.

Digital Declutter

I’m going on a digital declutter for a month.

When I come out of this month, hopefully I’ll have decided what is truely important for me across everything. Podcasts, Spotify, social media, messages, phone calls, websites, RSS feeds, Youtube, Netflix. All this stuff just added more and more clutter to my mind. It wasn’t a lot of time on each either, but it was death by a thousand cuts.

Removing Safari from my phone has enabled me read half a book in the time that I reclaimed from that single act alone. What can I reclaim if I turn off or remove everything else?

Castro was a difficult one to delete, but it’s gone. Spotify is out. Tweetbot gone. The Micro.blog app (and Gluon and Icro) are all gone. Instead I bought Mimi for posting photos and obviously having Drafts lets me post everything.

I’ve added an app called Portal to give me some ambient sounds while I work and have my noise cancelling headphones on. My Pimsleur app now gets a prominent position, along with my Kindle app. Reminders is now on my phone again.

Email apps are off the phone, I only will check these once a day and mostly to get rid of services that have taken liberties with my email address. Before I did that I archived everything in my apps to start fresh. If I needed something then I can always search for it. The

My phone now becomes a place to read my books, learn Danish, or its a functional tool — buy groceries, log activities, take photos, write notes. My iPad is a place where deliberate work is carried out. Writing, editing, drawing, designing.

Issue 026 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This issue is about 3D printing, the true cost of solar, the cooling prize and AutoMEP.

01 / Daily Sketch

Trying to introduce sketching into my day.

Incredible analysis of the general cost of solar and how all previous predictions (including the author Ramez Naam) have been wrong. Now it’s time to work out all the stuff that goes around this pillar. See also issues 002 and 015 of In Abeyance for added context.

Obviously there is much to love about the latest update to iA Writer. I’ve been on the beta for a while now and just can’t get enough of this app (huge fanboy). So definitely looking forward to their physical product that they hinted at years ago, which I’m hoping ties into this tenth anniversary. Also they always nail the music for their promo videos.

Since moving to Scandinavia, one of the weirdest things I am still learning to live with (in a good way) is how much longer the days are now. I mean, it’s nearly 10 o’clock in the evening and the sun is just saying goodnight. Your day feels infinite.

I now understand why Google can ‘afford’ to give much of its stuff away while Apple continues to charge you for iCloud storage. They don’t have enough of their own infrastructure. Probably why they rely on AWS? Apple clearly needs more data centres to be in a better position to give storage away with their devices.

A couple of interesting facts from the issue 025 of In Abeyance. Firstly Google uses nearly 5 times as much electrical energy for its operations compared with Apple. Secondly, data centres account for around 1% of all global energy use. What’s more impressive is the fact that these values have remained flat since 2015.

Not sure if I’ve linked to this before, but the Simple Icons project offers an incredible array of SVG icons for all the brands. All the brands. Currently clocking in at 1315 icons.

I’ve been having fun discovering the simple jobs of things I bought years ago and now I have the opportunity to spend more time with them and use them more.

First up is probably one of the most elegant and functional ballpoint pen ever made, the Rotring 600.

Went on a bit of an ebook shopping spree. Top of my list was Drawdown, which ‘describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming.’ Hadn’t appreciated that the book was the work of an army of contributors.

Posting to my site and having full control of everything has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done online. also want to give credit to @manton and the Micro.blog system which also gives you control of how you share your information more widely.

I recently decided I wanted to control what I post to my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. I’ve decided to use both as a means to post similar types of information, which will be different from what I typical post to my personal site. What I didn’t want to do is create more work for myself — having to post the exact same thing two or three times. So I created a new category and hooked the category RSS feed up to post to these services. My site remains the one source of everything.

A few bonus items:

@craigmcclellan has an awesome Drafts with categories action. The information on the Micro.blog help site is very good in understanding how Micro.blog handles the cross-posting.

The year of consolidation continues.

Scratch all of that. It turns out RSS control on Micro.blog doesn’t really work this way. There is some funny limitations under the hood. Basically you can’t control your RSS feeds in this manner.

🥖 Look, it took me about two months but I’m now on team bread making.

We have a three day weekend ahead of us. Good time to reset my brain a little bit as it has running on overdrive a little bit. Will try and do some more reading. Less interneting. So will try and go a little bit analogue for the majority of these days. I’m sure the internet will be fine while I’m gone.

So it’s been an entire week on the No S diet. The first few days were relatively easy as I was enthusiastic. The next few days were a little more difficult. Now it has become a way of life.

There are just three rules and one exception:
No Snacks.
No Sweets.
No Seconds.
Except (sometimes) on days that start with “S”.
That’s it.

The no seconds has been tough. No snacking has been tougher. Actually the no sugar has been much easier than I imagined. Although it’s only been 7 days, I actually feel lighter. Not physically, but mentally. I enjoy and tend to savour my food more these days because it is several hour between meals. You get to eat whatever you want, just portion controlled and at very distinct times of the day. It’s also helped me slow the speed that I used to eat. I think it’s the simplicity of the diet that might make it stick with me.

One thing I didn’t do on purpose was to weigh myself. I decided to just see how this new routine makes me feel (apart from hungry at the moment) and how my clothes feel on me. Everything else is immaterial.

Issue 025 of my newsletter In Abeyance is out. This one is all about data centres and marries my love for the built environment with my love for technology.

The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.
David Viscott

💬

I now have no excuse. I used the last iteration of the MacBook for 6 years and loved that machine. The new MacBook Air is looking pretty good as well. I now have both options to choose from. No wondering about a mythical laptop that might come down the line. It’s here.

Doing some research for the next issue of my newsletter, I saw this table. Obviously blogging software does not have green credentials. WordPress, the biggest player (as far as I’m concerned) is tracking with a D rating. @manton any ideas where Micro.blog fits into all of this?