creativity · entertainment

Missed Fortune ๐Ÿ—ป

What does it take to pull you into a new podcast? Or a book? Or really anything?

With so many great podcasts out there and already not enough time for them all, the bar can be pretty high for anything new. But the first few lines of the Missed Fortune podcast pulled me in right away.

Did you ever find yourself in one of those situations where if it goes well, thereโ€™s a huge reward? But if it goes bad, you look just unforgivably stupid? Like what were you possibly thinking?

Iโ€™m in a car with some guys I donโ€™t know on the way to somewhere weโ€™re not supposed to be. And this is one of those situations.

They go on to explain that this is the story of a real-life treasure hunt in the Rocky Mountains with the only clues being a short poem.

Iโ€™m already hooked. ๐Ÿ˜ฒ Well played, new podcast.

Apps · Practical · Software Dev

UX teardown: make your own guides in ๏ฃฟ Maps

I always found the “favorites” feature in Apple Maps to be too general and dissatisfying. I quit using that feature once I had 48 places saved all across the world. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Before that, I saved specific lists of places in Google Maps, but found their mobile app to be cluttered and confusing. ๐Ÿ˜– So I gave up and started using Trello.

Trello is cool for some things like trip planning and small projects, but it did not scale well and didn’t handle lists of places well. So I gave up on that. ๐Ÿ˜ข

๏ฃฟ Maps guides

I’m happy to have just discovered that you can save your favorite places as “guides” in Apple Maps. Finally, this is genuinely useful!

I just set up my own guide for coffee places open early for when I’m looking to get our early. Quick and easy and right to the point! ๐Ÿคฉ. I can immediately see all the places I saved and their hours. Check it out for yourself! (This is my own personal guide, so it’s focused on Austin, TX.)

Of course this guide automatically syncs to my iPad and Mac as well. โœ…

Rechecking Goole Maps

Forgive me if I sound like an ๏ฃฟ fanboy, but out of genuine curiosity I went back and I did the same thing in the latest Google maps. It was a bit painful. ๐Ÿ˜ข

Notice how the “main” screen is oddly not a map but more of a picture of a cup of coffee and therefore not useful to me.

And even when I drilled into an actual map view, the places I care about are unlabeled in favor of (1) a notification that HEB has an offer and (2) the Texas Capitol and Congress Ave. Bridge exist. Again, not useful.

I just want to know where a coffee shop is open at 7am! Now that would be useful. ๐Ÿ‘†

entertainment · Quotes

“When I choose to see the good side of things…It is strategic and necessary.”

Packed inside the breakneck crazy multiverse film Everything Everywhere All at Once is some real wisdom.

My favorite character is the unfailingly nice Waymond, the husband of the main character. One minute he seems a bit out of touch, and the next minute he is the man with the plan.

He embodies the idea that optimism is courageous and powerful. Being cynical and guarded might seem smart, but it will never land you on the moon or win a big battle. Did you ever hear a great general say, “I’m not sure we can do this, guys.” Being optimistic is strategic and necessary.

When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I learned to survive through everything.

Waymond from Everything Everywhere All at Once

Thank you, Waymond. ๐Ÿ™

Side note: Ke Huy Quan, who played Waymond, was also the little kid in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies. ๐Ÿคฏ

Quotes

“Make glorious, amazing mistakes.”

Neil Gaiman, being a great writer, says a lot in just four words.

Make glorious, amazing mistakes.

Neil Gaiman

Note that he’s not saying to make dumb, easy, obvious mistakes. ๐Ÿ™ƒ

If that’s enough to get you interested, he has more to say.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.

It reminds me of Steve Jobs.

entertainment · Me

Cultivating cultivating

My daughter finds the best shows to watch. She introduced me to the amazing Avatar series. More recently we’re watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, a post-apocalyptic anime series from the 1990’s. ๐Ÿคฉ

One thing jumped out to me in episode 17. The cool guy Kaji, who seemed like just a shallow “player” type, introduced his friend Shinji to his secret watermelon garden.

It’s my hobby. Donโ€™t tell anybody, okay?

Shinji was feeling down at the time, and Kaji was trying to lift him up.

Itโ€™s great to make something. To grow something. You notice things and figure stuff out. Things you enjoy, for example

Shinji was’t super receptive at the time, but I knew exactly what Kaji was talking about, having experimented with gardening some myself in my tiny urban plot.

There was the early attempt in the pandemic, then everything getting wiped out in the 2021 snowpocalypse. Hints of a natural rebirth, then actively clearing out the dead brush for new growth. This was followed by some small success at growing something you can eat, and then some wild growth this spring.

Right now I’m eating a few bell peppers, tomatoes, jalapeรฑos, and strawberries from my tiny garden. The pesky birds and squirrels have caught on and are usually getting to the good stuff before I do. ๐Ÿ˜ญ

Still, I don’t mind feeding the wildlife. I just like to grow stuff. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Austin

Favorite Spots For Remote Work in Austin

Even if you have a top-notch home office, sometimes it helps to get out and clear your head.

I get some of my best work done at Cosmic (in good wether) or Barley Bean (in most weather). Do512 did their own polling and came up with the best places to work all around Austin.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Our Favorite Spots For Remote Work

I’m bookmarking this list in case I find myself somewhere besides South Austin (gasp!), looking for a place to pull out my laptop and knock out some writing or code.

๐Ÿ‘‰ See also: The Best Outdoor Seating in Austin, TX

Quotes

“Why can’t things just be good?”

Kimi is a thriller about someone who steps in some ๐Ÿ’ฉ working on a Siri– or Alexa-like voice assistant for a fictional company. It is a stylish, tech-savvy romp.

However, this quote stuck out for me when some characters were talking about having the “best” Thai food ever.

‘Why can’t things just be good? Why do things always have to be the best?’

Angela Childs (Kimi)

Hey, if it’s good Thai food, does it even matter if it’s the best Thai food? I just thought it was a cool observation nestled in the middle of a pretty good movie. ๐Ÿ˜œ

๐Ÿ‘‰ See also: โ€œComparison is the thief ofย joyโ€ and perfect is the enemy of good.

You

Stay calm ๐Ÿ™ and kick butt โš”๏ธ

Here are a few tips that helped me get through times when I felt lost or hopeless. This is my practical, step-by-step guide, hard-earned and tested in real life.

Setting goals

Decide what you want. Pick a small goal for now — anything useful. Take the pressure off. Just pick something to work on that you can do.

Think short-term and what’s in your control. What can do you today, tomorrow, this week, this month? You can act most effectively in this timeframe.

Narrow your focus: Do one (main) thing at a time. You can’t do everything all at once. Once you finish a major goal, you can move on to the next with even more focus, having the first thing done.

Working towards goals

๐Ÿ‘‰ It takes practice.

Visualize the outcome you want. Close your eyes, breath, and picture in vivid detail what you want to happen. This may sound silly, but it can help motivate you and sharpen your focus.

Work towards the outcome you want in small steps every day. Keep your current daily goals modest; keeping a backlog of stuff to do later is helpful.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Doing Great Things is Boring ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ.

Place your happiness in the progress towards the results, not in the result itself. Steady work in itself will make you feel better.

๐Ÿ‘‰ โ€œThe foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.โ€

Yes, work towards an outcome, but don’t get attached to it; you can’t control everything. Focus on what you can do right now and take pride in your effort, however it may turn out.

Keep your ego in check. Do things because they go with your values and goals and not to look good or to avoid judgement.

Your happiness depends only on you, not on external people, places, or things.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Secrets to Happiness (Distilled)

Taking care of yourself

Enjoy nourishing foods any time you want: water, tea, bone broth, fruit, avocado, nuts, yogurt…

Try some calming sounds. Listen to some ambient music, nature sounds, movie soundtracks, whatever works. You can find these in your music app or even YouTube.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Best Music for Working

Freshen up your environment. Get outside for some sunlight and fresh air. Open a window. Light a scented candle or incense. Clean and tidy your home.

Move. Walk, stretch, exercise every day. Find an exercise (or two) that works for you. ๐Ÿง˜๐Ÿป

Taming your mind

It takes practice.โ˜๏ธ

๐Ÿ‘‰ Super Summary: Think Like a Monk

Ask yourself – is this useful? If you find yourself having unhelpful, repetitive thoughts, then nip them in the bud. These are usually about a past or future that you can’t control and can’t solve by thinking.

Take a few deep breaths, then work on calming yourself.

Focus your mind on a gameWordle, a crossword puzzle, or a chill app like isowords, Townscaper, paper.io, or MiniMetro.

Work through your thoughts and feelings with journaling. Don’t hold back. Get it all out – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or just write a haiku about your day to make it more fun. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Meditate: Clear and observe your mind non-judgmentally. Scan your body, focus on breathing, visualize success, give gratitude, find empathy for others.

Feed your heart, not your fears

Fear makes you do stupid things and must be conquered.

๐Ÿ‘‰ โ€œFear is the mind-killer.โ€โ€œMove, but donโ€™t move the way fear makes you move.โ€.

Above all, keep faith in yourself. โœŒ๏ธ

๐Ÿ‘‰ โ€œMay your choices reflect your hopes, not your fearsโ€

Books · creativity · Practical

Super Summary: Deep Work

Next up in my super summary series: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.

On this blog, a super summary is basically a โ€œsummary of a summaryโ€ of a book (with a few additions of my own). It gives you the basic idea of a book to see if you want to read the real thing. Most of the content comes from Lucid visual book summary series.

๐Ÿ‘‰This book gives you official permission to set your chat app to do-not-disturb or enable Focus mode on your iPhone.

Deep vs. shallow work

Shallow work is work thatโ€™s done in small pieces, doesnโ€™t require your full attention, and keeps you busy. It is often necessary, but does not lead to great achievements.

Deep work means complex thinking in a state of distraction-free concentration. Think flow. Your brain can do amazing things in this state of focus.

Many great thinkers in history went to incredible lengths to isolate themselves from distractions while they worked. Studies show that many of people’s happiest moments come when they are stretched to their mental limits and lose themselves in this state.

This intense focus allows you to master difficult skills and produce at an elite level.

๐Ÿ‘‰ It’s a career builder.

Making time for deep work

Switching frequently between tasks leaves “attention residue” and makes it difficult to focus on a new task after switching focus, especially if you leave the previous ask unfinished.

To allow yourself to get the most out of deep work, schedule you time in blocks of deep and shallow work with one of these strategies.

๐Ÿ‘‰I’ve found that I can only be productive at highly creative deep work for about 90 minutes at a time. Then I need a mental break.

Monastic

On one end, monastic deep workers go to great lengths to make time for deep work. They eliminate social media and use email sparingly to achieve their goals.

๐Ÿ‘‰This seems pretty extreme unless you aim to be Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond or Bon Iver at his cabin in Wisconsin. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Bimodal

Bimodal deep workers plan their day to make time for the shallow and deep work they need to do.

This strategy can mean bookending a solid day of deep work email and busy work at the beginning and end.

ย Rhythmic

Rhythmic deep workers break their time down into smaller chunks to fit their schedule.

๐Ÿ‘‰This is how I work because, you know, meetings. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Journalistic

For those whose less predictable days, journalistic deep workers capitalize on spare moments that come up throughout the day, even if it’s just 30 minutes.

These people fighting for deep work time as their day evolves. ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

๐Ÿ‘‰ For some additional ideas, check out Wired article How to Use Block Scheduling to Revamp Your Workflow.

Quotes

“There is in the worst of fortune the best of chances for a happy change.”

Here’s a counterintuitive gem from one of those ancient Greeks. Euripides called it.

“There is in the worst of fortune the best of chances for a happy change.”

Euripides

Yeah, making a mistake feels terrible. But these are your best chances for change and end up defining who you are. So when you make a mistake, own it and accept the opportunity to rethink yourself. โœŒ๏ธ

Quotes

“You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.”

You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.

Timothy Leary

I love this perspective. Being flexible in light of new information is a key to growth and is likely to lead to a more interesting and fulfilling life.

I’m changing my mind about Timothy Leary. To me, he’s no longer just a hallucinogenic drug weirdo any more, but a pretty smart guy. ๐Ÿ˜† Staying’ young, folks.

The World

Trams, cable cars, ferries, and bikes – making transportation cleaner (and more fun)

Since I first discovered the care-free movement years ago, I’ve always been a sucker for ways to get around besides those same old gas-guzzling, traffic-jamming cars.

It just seems like walking, biking, and taking a ride on something are more fun than cars. Mass transit makes the world more beautiful and is better for the planet.

Here’s a great overview of how cities across the world are finding better, electric options for moving lots of people around.

creativity

J.K. Rowlingโ€™s storyboard – writing as engineering

Below is a snapshot — literally — of one of J.K. Rowlingโ€™s storyboards.

Firs of all, it looks cool!

But more importantly, it illustrates an interesting point. No matter how natural and effortless a Harry Potter book is to read, clearly writing it is a pretty analytical process. Starting with a big vision, drilling down into the details, and finally “shipping” the end result seems similar to making software.

I’m organizing and planning my own book using software engineering tools and processes, all the way down to version control and text formatting. What can I say, as a software engineer, this is my comfort zone. Having a good process gives me the freedom and security to be creative, try ideas without risk, and literally commit when I’m done. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

And like a great app, I hope the end result will impact you but appear effortless. Stay tuned to see how that goes. ๐Ÿค“ #goals

Quotes

“Noise is the enemy, clarity the goal.”

It’s cool that Jon Stewart is back with a new show. And it’s really cool it’s on a streaming service that I already have. ๐Ÿ˜›

In this interview, he’s is talking about doing his new show in a deeper and more focused way than he did The Daily Show, which was funny but all over the place.

In the interview, a really cool quote popped out to me.

 Noise is the enemy, clarity the goal.

Jon Stewart

It seemed so succinct and true. And probably applies to more than just TV shows. ๐Ÿค”

Via Apple news.

Austin

The sisters behind some of Austin’s best tacos

For a while, I thought Veracruz All Natural was basically just the taco truck at Radio. But they’re all over town. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Here’s the story behind the immigrant sisters who founded Veracruz All Natural.

Key facts: they’re actually from Veracruz, Mexico and came to the US illegally 22 years ago. They contributed a lot to the Austin taco scene by not changing what they knew growing up in Mexico. They started in 2006 with $6,000. A 2009 mention in the Austin Chronicle gave them a good early the boost.

๐Ÿ‘‰ I’m more of a Pueblo Viejo guy because there’s one that is walking distance from my house. But Veracruz is great too, and I love the story.

Quotes

“Being one’s self is a twenty-four hour a day job anyway, isn’t it?”

It struck me recently that most of the quotes I post on this blog are from men; usually men from like 100 years ago or even 1000 years ago. I like the classics! ๐Ÿ›

Yeah, these guys have some great perspective. But it’s become a pretty stuffy group of old guys. ๐Ÿค”

So I was happy to come across something a little lighter that just happened to be from a famous modern(ish) woman. It goes nicely with the self-awareness kick I’ve been on.

I am content to be Marilyn Monroe, to the best of my ability. Being one’s self is a twenty-four hour a day job anyway, isn’t it?

Marilyn Monroe

It turns out that this blonde bombshell had some interesting things to say, and she worked hard on her career. She just made it look effortless.

Portrait of Monroe aged 20, taken at the Radioplane Munitions Factory
Marilyn Monroe sporting a nerdy vibe in 1944 ๐Ÿค“

Quotes

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Back in college, I remember philosophy geeks loved to say, “Well, Kierkegaard said…” and would quote him and act all superior. It was so annoying.

Kierkegaard

But now I get it, dammit. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ The dude was smart. Here’s one of my favorite quotes.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Sรธren Kierkegaard

It’s the basic trick of life. Take what you’ve learned so far in life and use it to more forward. โžก

I really like this quote because, like with Rumi, it’s practical advice about living a good life. It’s right on the edge between “cool ideas” and basic self-help.

Wait, am I become a philosophy geek? ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

Quotes

“Move, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.”

Another gem from Rumi, the 13th-century Persian fountain of wisdom. ๐Ÿคฏ

Move, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

Rumi

Rumi was part of the old-school philosophy (quite literally) that focused on how to live a good life rather than the big questions of the universe. Although these two questions can certainly meld together.

๐Ÿ‘‰ This open and fearless attitude might be useful for those anti-vaxxers among us.

I’m adding Rumi to my list of ancient people I wish I could hang out with, along with Marcus Aurelius, the Roman philosopher king and self-awareness guru who pre-dated Rumi by over 1000 years.

Travel

Szรฉchenyi thermal bath, Budapest

Szechenyi Baths in Budapest is now on my fantasy European pool/spa itinerary. Built in 1913, this pool is “the most visited and much praised attraction in Budapest: relaxing, fun, affordable and, at night, romantic.”

Apparently those Hungarians even like to hang out and play chess in the pool (when they’re not making out ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ).

The World

The helicopter on Mars

I’m taking a minute to appreciate that, despite all the challenges we currently face here on Earth, we’re flying a helicopter around on another planet. ๐Ÿคฏ We can still do incredible things.

This image goes with my continued fascination that we’re invading Mars instead of the them invading us. If there were really such as thing as Martians, then they surely would have blown this helicopter to smithereens and sent us an ultimatum by now. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

(Also: NASA, can I use this as an album cover? Some stylish text would fit nicely against the pale Martian sky.)

Photos

Swan Dive

Swan Diveโ€ฆ The music was alright, but the place looked amazing. ๐Ÿคฉ I thought the floor was a standout. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ #swandive #livemusic #livemusiccapitaloftheworld #floor #lighting #discolights #dress #fashion #austin #texas #atx #shotoniphone via Instagram https://instagr.am/p/CRbseqhly_y/

creativity · You

Doing Great Things is Boring ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

It’s all about consistency, process, and patience… I know, yawn. But also, wow!

Interesting story here about how this guy changed his life in one year.

๐Ÿ‘‰ How I Changed My Lifeโ€™s Trajectory in Only 1 Year

For him, it came down to a few simple behaviors applied consistently.

  • Being curious
  • Meditating
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Saying no
  • Deemphasizing external approval
  • Doing these things consistently

I’m trying to do the same, but I would add exercising, playing music, and goofing around with the kids to the list as well. ๐Ÿ˜›


See also

This article about going slow and sticking to the process.

The moment you start enjoying the process, youโ€™ll realize that this is what life is all about.

And this article about consistency.

The world is brimming with ideas, but few act as vessels.

Creating is not simply laying out the concept, but adapting through implementation as many times as needed until it finally works.

You

“Sometimes itโ€™s their looks, but itโ€™s never just that.”

I recently rediscovered a dazzling post from one of my previous favorite writers on Medium, who has taken lately to more of a “We’re screwed” vibe. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

๐Ÿ‘‰What Really Makes Someone Beautiful

Despite the title, this is not just one of those “beauty is only skin deep” platitudes.

Aren’t we drawn to people with hidden depth and curiosity? People who show who they really are. People who are strong, funny, creative, and kind. People who see beauty in the weirdness and in the darkness. People who are not innocent, even if they appear innocent.

Beauty can be found in the balance of all these things.

The World

How efficient are you at reading this article? ๐Ÿง

Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times on how many companies digitally monitor their employees’ time in some pretty invasive and distrustful ways.

This includes taking screenshots and photos randomly in 10-minute chunks and actually docking pay if you don’t appear productive. So every trip to the bathroom is possible lost pay. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

And hospice workers being paid by productivity points. ๐Ÿ˜ณ “A visit to the dying: as little as one point.”

And social workers being penalized for not typing on their keyboard while actively counseling patients in drug treatment facilities. ๐Ÿคจ

But the brilliance of this article is how they present it.

To let you appreciate how annoying this kind of digital surveillance is, the article tells you as you read it if you’ve been “idle” for too long. It ends with a summary of your reading efficiency stats, which will inevitably make you feel weird. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Also, I wonder how these companies would feel about the The Ship Repairman Story.

Travel

Travel backpacks ๐ŸŽ’

Hereโ€™s a helpful GQ post for next time you travel.

๐Ÿ‘‰ The Best Travel Backpacks for Business Trips, Weekend Getaways, and Going Off the Grid

Having just gotten back from a trip with my kiddos, I’ve been reassessing my travel gear. GQ recommends a large โ€œblack holeโ€ duffel bag ๐Ÿ˜† which is similar to what I used.

The only issue was that sometimes I wanted to roll this monster around on wheels at the airports but was stuck hefting it around. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ