July 24, 2020

Respect and Distrust Your Future Self

Talk to yourself with kindness when writing tasks. Remember you’re passing notes to an older and forgetful person. Be sure to not only define the task clearly, but remind yourself why it exists. Your next week self might be wiser, but it is more distracted about this particular task than your present self.

Next Monday you’ll need the freedom to decide if the task is as important as it sounds on Friday. Mistakes might have been made, but jot down the keywords that’ll help you remember why.

An useful note is the least you can do to someone you’re making do your work.

July 23, 2020

The Sky Is a Big Place

The bombardment of email, chat, video calls, tasks and issues, can feel like the sky is falling during every hour of every day in the work week.

A few years back I watched a TV show about Air Traffic Controllers. When asked about how he dealt with the anxiety of planes full of people flying close to each other the ATC replied:

The sky is a pretty big place.

The traffic controller screen is a concentration of critical data: a flat black and white representation at scale of 3D space. You have to pay attention to it. But don’t confuse it for the real world.

July 22, 2020
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1) by J.K. Rowling

It’s been 20 years since I read this book and it shows. I did not remember most of it, and what I did was actually from the movie. I’d also forgotten how much of a children book it was, in language and length. The book is surprisingly short! Again, I seem to remember it longer than it was actually was.

Still, it’s a great book. It’s fun to go back to the start of the characters and their world. Reading it as a parent, I really hope Robie and Bettina can discover it on their own terms — unlike Star Wars, which like it or not are influenced by me.

July 21, 2020

On the Contents Page and Pages of Content

Receiving a Wired Magazine in the late 90’s provided me with hours of restrained entertainment. The ritual began by inspecting every page of the issue from start to finish — regardless of the cover.

Physical magazines have an index, but its UX doesn’t require you to choose an article to get started. The experience invites browsing.

This mindset is missing from the a la carte on-demand infinite availability nowadays.

I try to make the effort to mentally switch view modes from an streaming river to something closer to a bookshelf — where the content is not going away, and is available to pick back up. This helps me reduce the anxiety of the paradox of choice, and even adding enjoyment to wasting time.

July 20, 2020

Tidbits for 2020 Week 29

  • Camo: Use your iPhone or iPad as a pro webcam.
  • Cascable Pro: Use your DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam using just USB or WiFi.
July 20, 2020
Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America

Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America by Scott Adams

I did not enjoy reading this book, but it was a good mental exercise. It kept reminding me of light Jordan Peterson — which is not a bad thing, but not what I expected.

The book has useful pockets of knowledge and anecdotes. But every few pages it can’t seem to avoid reminding that he know better than you , which while probably true, becomes annoying.

Why read it then? because now is an important time to read things that challenge you and makes you uncomfortable. In this sense, it’s worth a read.

However, if you haven’t read How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, read that one first. This one suffers from too many as I said on my other book, which doesn’t allow it to stand on its own.

July 19, 2020

Rain or Shine

Weather means different things in different cultures. In Norway they say there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing — which I learned the first time I cancelled a morning run because it was raining.

Back in Venezuela, cancelling would have been normal, because if it wasn’t sunny you’d wait half an hour, and the weather will be fine again.

In Scandinavia you can’t do this because then you might never be able to exercise. They take weather out of the equation because it affects the outcome so much. In the tropics we leave it because it doesn’t.

Makes me wonder if there’s a major element of my everyday life that I should ignore, and get better clothing for.

July 19, 2020

Alternative to Note-Taking Apps

Akkshaya Varkhedi on akkshaya.blog:

After battling with so many apps only to feel guilty for not having the discipline to consistently use them, I’ve finally resorted to the most personal and easy alternative ⁠— writing things down.

Well, that’s a crazy idea. Totally valid points in the post though. I just think that throwing everything into a bucket and let the computer figure it out is going to win in the end.

July 18, 2020

On Crashing Waves

When swimming on a beach with big waves, you fall into cadence in response to each. Whatever works for one wave can be repeated for a whole set, but always one will come that’s different enough that it requires you change your strategy.

You can dip under, swim towards, or maybe even swim back to the beach to catch it. It depends on the wave, your position, your level of energy, etc. With a major force like the ocean, you must adapt — there’s no negotiation.

Sometimes you miscalculate, and you’re literally sweep off your feet. Remember, you can’t fight the wave — you must remain calm a let it carry you. And always keep in the back your mind that once you get out this… there’s another wave behind the current one.

July 17, 2020

Planning and Deadlines

Planning is wishful thinking, which is why optimist make terrible delivery estimates. Pessimists are always able to hit the target from afar better.

But fixing an optimist estimate by multiplying by two, is too simplistic. A better fix is something IT departments do all the time: not give estimates. Brilliant buzzwords like agile and sprints mostly allow us to get away with it.

The actual solution is simple: deadlines. You can get philosophical about planning, waterfall, sprints, etc. But if a products has to be live on a certain day, all BS goes out the window, and a minimum viable product plan will appear.

Deadlines are the reality check most plans need. And just like a meeting without an agenda, you should never one without the other.

July 16, 2020

Corner Cases Are How They Get You

Twitter’s hack yesterday was a serious issue, and signs point to an internal support tool as the vector to the attack. These non-technical attacks are usually attributed to a security lapse with a dose human error. But the core cause always relates to complex processes and systems abstraction to deal with them.

This is not a defense. The attack was luckily used for financial gain, but a similar attack targeting an election day or a tense international situation wouldn’t be a joke. I don’t envy being support at Twitter. You are a global target and especially when WFM, the attacks surfaces are even larger.

I’m very curious to read the post-mortem, hopefully with some related investigative piece. For sure it’ll read like a heist movie script.

July 15, 2020

On Mind Time Travel

I decided not to post today. To break the streak because I was tired/busy/uninspired — and I felt sad. Then I edited a mess of a draft to uncover something postable, and felt immediately better.

The challenge is to time travel the mind to the near future to remember this. To remember the near future when this too shall pass, and I’ll feel better after getting through the day.

But it but it’s hard to remember the future.

July 14, 2020

On Job Descriptions

Q: What do you do?
A: What needs to be done.

This answer sounds like an end of world movie title, but it can also be a typical job description — which few mention on LinkedIn. It also is a sign of a troubled organization.

Doing whatever needs doing implies that either: 1) you have enough clarity and perspective in your organization to correctly assess the needs, or 2) another person has these qualities and does it for you.

In most cases neither scenario is real. The needs of many agendas fill your inbox, and it’s only when you are at capacity, and one of the actual priorities gets delayed that a clear signal breaks through the noise to set it straight. Which still describes a working organization.

Yet, how many non-priority, misunderstood and plain wrong tasks consume time and effort before you reach capacity? How can these corrections of priorities happen more fluently?

Somewhere in the middle of what needs to be done and I just work here, lies the answer.

July 13, 2020

On the Speed of Consumption

Looking at a painting to remember it, to analyze it, or hoping that it awakens something in you1 — are very different activities.

I’m able to listen at up to 2x to podcasts with information I want to skim  . But on other podcasts want to savor the discussion. To be part of the conversation in my head, requiring the pause to assemble my ideas.

Same with books — on many, I want to enjoy each line, but others make want to tell the writer to hurry along, to get to the point. Which thanks to the marvel of reading doesn’t require changing the text in front of you — just how you engage with it.

The amazing variety of content nowadays makes it impossible to define the correct way of consuming any of it. The question then becomes: do you want to expose yourself to as much as possible — risking misunderstanding it, or invest in acquiring fewer content, but of the best quality.

I’ve answered this very differently over the last 20 years, but the overall trend is to use each of these methods as tools — and not be a purist about either corner.

  1. Community reference.

July 13, 2020

Tidbits for 2020 Week 28

  • Nudget: clean looking budgeting app for iOS.
  • Mimestream: fast native Gmail client for macOS. Impressive.
  • Mumu: better macOS emoji picker.