creativity

J.K. Rowling’s storyboard – writing as engineering

Below is a snapshot — literally — of one of J.K. Rowling’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. 🤷🏻‍♂️

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

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. 🤔

Via Apple news.

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! 🏛

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

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 🤓

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. 🤦🏻‍♂️ The dude was smart. Here’s one of my favorite quotes.

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

Søren Kierkegaard

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

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? 😱

Quotes

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

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

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.

👉 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.

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. 🤯 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. 🤷🏻‍♂️

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

You

“Sometimes it’s their looks, but it’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. 🤷🏻‍♂️

👉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.

Me · Practical

In case you notice a change in case

It struck me recently that I didn’t have a strategy for capitalizing my blog posts. So I’m making a change.

As the sole proprietor of this blog, I hereby decree that henceforth and regressively back to 1 June, year 2021, all blog posts shall follow the Sentence case standard.

Title Case was starting to bug me. It was overly formal and hard to read, as in Who Do You Want to Be On The Other Side Of This Crisis? And it was confusing. Which words do you capitalize, again? I took my best guess on 5 Things You Don’t Need to be Happy, Fulfilled, and Successful.

Plus Capital Case was constantly being dissed up by quotation-titles such as “The only real escape from hell is to conquer it.”

Capital Case also made it hard distinguish Proper Nouns from normal words, as in Favorite Austin Hotel Pools. Was that post about hotel pools in Austin? Or was it about pools at the Austin Hotel?

I’m pretty happy with this change, so much so that I am tempted to go back and fix all the old posts, such as “Favorite Austin Hotel Pools” to “Favorite Austin hotel pools”. But there are 742 of them, and sometimes it’s better to live with your imperfect past anyways.

With that, enjoy all the easier-to-read blog titles, future reader. I’m going to figure out punctuation for quotations next. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Quotes · The World

“Consider yourself blessed if you have a passion for anything.”

At the end of an article about a decades-long archaeology effort in Southern California, the protagonist says this:

Consider yourself blessed if you have a passion for anything. Passion is a way of organizing your life; otherwise you go off in 20 different directions, and in the end, you wonder what you have.

Fred E. Budinger (LA Times | Apple News)

This dude knows what he’s talking about.

Fred E. Budinger has been pushing to prove, from the evidence in the ground in the Mojave Desert, that humans were in North American 200,000 years ago (not 11,000 years ago as previously thought) despite decades of misfortune, hostility, and even vandalism.

Good luck to you, Fred (pictured right, below). ✌️ Your passion is inspiring.

Travel

From rebel outpost to Silicon Docks

The story of Boland Mills in Dublin is sort of the story of modern Ireland itself.

In 1916, the mills stood as a rebel outpost for an independent Irish state. Now it’s part of a high-end residential development in that independent Irish state. See the post for more. 👇

This looks like an interesting stop on my upcoming trip to Ireland. ☘️

Software Dev

“Perhaps you could tell us what you personally have been doing for the last seven years.”

As MacBreak Weekly celebrated the 14th anniversary of the iPhone’s launch, I was reminded of Steve Jobs’ “redemptive arc.”

Here is Jobs addressing a somewhat hostile question at the 1997 WWDC. At the time, Apple was nearly out of money, and Jobs had just returned after previously being kicked out of the company.

George Bernard Shaw said that “your patience when you have nothing” is one of the two things that define you. It’s interesting to look at Steve Jobs when he is down and see the vision and patience that was brewing at the time.

As we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with what incredible benefits can we give to the customer, where can we take the customer. Not starting with ‘let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that’.

And I think that’s the right path to take.

It would be four more years until the iPod launched and ten years until the iPhone launched.

The end of Jobs’ answer also reminded me of Teddy Roosevelt.

Some mistakes will be made a long the way. That’s good, because at least some decisions will be made along the way.

Steve Jobs

Ah yes, patience and decisiveness. Like a good game, they are easy to learn and hard to master.

Quotes · You

“What a man can be, he must be.”

Good ol’ Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist who gave us a pyramid and a hammer, is at it again with some pretty sensible insights.

This time he’s riffing on Aristotle’s function argument about what the heck we’re even doing here. Basically, we’re here to be useful.

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.

(Apparently he was an old-school fan of the “he/him/man” pronoun. 🤷🏻‍♂️)

It’s one thing to find your purpose — and those who do so should consider themselves fortunate. But the real trick is to actually do something about it.

It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

Thank you for the reminder, Mazzy. Can I call you that? Because here’s another Mazzy who found her purpose.

You

How To Talk To People You Disagree With

Lots of people are still hesitant to get the Corona vaccine. Maybe you’re one of them. Or maybe they’re driving you crazy.

If you want to know how to talk to people about this — or really about any subject on which you disagree with someone — then there are some good tips in this example text message conversation.

Hint: It turns out that it’s not helpful to lecture people, judge them, or overload them with information. Who knew? 🤷🏻‍♂️😉

Books · You

Super Summary: Think Like a Monk

I accidentally subscribed to this visual book insights app called Lucid. It promised “Read faster. Remember more.” so I had to try it. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Neglecting to cancel my free trial (oops!), I now have a full year of this service, so I might as well get the most out of it.

So this is my first “super summary” (a summary of the summary) for books I find interesting. You can see if you’re interested in reading the real thing. (audiobook | “book” book).

Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty

👉 Luckily, we can take some useful lessons from monks without actually being Christian or abstinent. 😜

The monk mentality

Via Lucid

A monk has an inward focus and moves past pain and anxiety, leading to a happier and more meaningful life.

A monk focuses on core issues, long-term vision, and strives to find meaning. This is in contrast to a “monkey” mind, which is distracted, overwhelmed, and focusing on temporary fixes.

Identity and meaning

Via Lucid

Our core values define who we are and the meaning of our life. Our values should come from within rather than from other people’s influence.

We need to figure out what we’re all about so that we can focus our priorities and goals.

👉 This fits with some things the Savvy Psychologist said about values and meaning.

Dealing with negativity

👉 This section reminds me of the idea that people’s criticism often says more about themselves than the person they are criticizing. 🧐

If you think of others negatively, you think of yourself negatively.

To break this cycle: identity your negative thoughts towards others, stop, and reframe them in a more empathetic, specific, and helpful way.

If you think of others more positively, you think of yourself more positively and make better choices.

Conquering Fear

Via Lucid

👉 I like this section because I learned a while back that decisions driven by fear generally do not turn out well. 😱

Identify your deepest underlying fears. Acknowledge these fears and embrace them.

Then detach from your fears to make smart, independent, intentional choices.

Positive routines

👉 Despite this book calling for an early morning routine, I’m personally finding a relaxing nighttime routine especially useful. 😴

Wake up early to give yourself time to have a positive boost to your day. Use this time to be grateful, read & learn, meditate, and exercise.

Get to bed early and plan how you will conquer the next day.

The battle in your mind

Via Lucid

👉 I love this section because of the wolf analogy. 🤩

In each of our minds are two wolves battling with each other for control. One wolf is consumed by fear, anger, insecurity, and ego. The other is driven by love, kindness, humility, and positivity.

You can feed one of them (yes the good one!) by giving it your time and energy.

This internal battle is normal, and we should view it as external to us. Use meditation to observe your mind and better understand what might be triggering any negative thoughts.

Reframe negative thoughts in a positive way, changing problems and fears into positive actions.

Me · Music

“I Want It All” 🎶

Here is Japanese Breakfast’s perfect companion to The Walkmen singing “Baby, I want everything”.

I want it all.

Japanese Breakfast – Diving Woman

I’m feeling this vibe. I do want it all.

I don’t want six cars, a mansion, a helicopter, or even a fancy watch. Please, no. Just no.

I do want to travel, but not all the time. I could probably spend 1000 years happily just goofing around Central Texas.

But I do want to write a novel, make some music, raise some amazing kids, have a long and challenging career, learn to tell good stories and jokes, improve the world a bit, take care of myself, and be a good friend.

Am I asking too much? We shall see. 😆

We’re only given this one life, so you might as well at least try to make the most of it.

You’ll have it all
I’ll have it all
We’ll have it all

creativity · entertainment

Don’t Be Like Uncle Colm

Writing a full-length novel turns out to be hard. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Even if you know the story you want to tell, there are myriad challenges such as finding your voice, getting into the creative mood, and consistently finding the time to focus.

My latest challenge is pretty basic – figuring out what level of detail to use in the story. I want to make the story is engaging and specific, rather than just sweeping over things with the wave of a hand. 👋

But too much detail quickly turns into sounding like Uncle Colm from Derry Girls.

So if I ever find myself adding unnecessary detail and de-emphasizing the main story line, then I need to watch Uncle Colm as a little kick in the butt.

Or soon enough, people will be saying, “Alright, Colm, let’s pack it up. You’re tied to the radiator…” 🤦🏻‍♂️

You

“Meaning is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.”

Cool quote from this TED talk about almost dying and then living.

Meaning is not found in the material realm; it’s not in dinner, jazz, cocktails or conversation. Meaning is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.

There are lots of way to interpret that quote, of course.

One way I look at it is this: life is about who you are. If everything in your life suddenly disappeared and you were dropped into an empty field in an unknown country, what person would be standing there?

I’m not talking about some crazy Naked and Afraid survival scenario. Suppose you have some money and some clothes. But not much else. Who is that person standing in the field? What does he know? What does he want? How does he move forward? How will he impact the world around him? That’s who you are.

I’m not actually sure if that’s what that quote meant ☝️, but there’s my take. 😆

This goes with Aristotle’s idea that the meaning of life is what you do — how you impact the real world. As humans, we are uniquely gifted with smart brains and “rational faculty”. We are happiest when we use these minds for some purpose in the world.

A poet should write, a teacher teach, and a doctor heal. Not only should each person do their thing, but they should do it well.

I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty inspirational. 😊

You

5 Things You Don’t Need to be Happy, Fulfilled, and Successful

This Medium post has lots of juicy points.

👉 5 Things You Don’t Need to be Happy, Fulfilled, and Successful

It’s so good that I am just going to summarize it and quote it a lot right here per my own goals, but you should read it for yourself.

You Don’t Need A Bunch of Money – But making money encourages personal growth and gives you freedom and peace of mind. And the personal growth keeps you away from bad jobs, bad bosses, and bad commutes.

You Don’t Need to “Find Your Passion” – Just be good at something. Passion comes from being good at something, not the other way around. Being good at decent job can get you autonomy, a sense of meaning, and a positive work environment.

If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (“what can the world offer me?”) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (“what can I offer the world?”).

Cal Newport

You Don’t Need Everyone to Like You – “The best way to get other people to like you is to learn how to like yourself.”

You Don’t Need (Or Even Want) to Be Famous – “What can you pursue if fame isn’t the answer? Pursue building a tribe instead.”

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.

Jim Carrey

You Don’t Need Your Life to be a Movie – “You want a feeling of accomplishment, growth, and the pride that comes from following through with your goals.”

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

Seth Godin
creativity · You

Doing Great Things is Boring 🤷🏻‍♂️

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.

👉 How I Changed My Life’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. 😛


See also

This article about going slow and sticking to the process.

The moment you start enjoying the process, you’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.

creativity · You

Genius Happens When You’re Not Thinking

I love the idea that your brain makes its most interesting breakthroughs and connections when you’re not actively thinking. It is well stated in this article.

👉 Your Unconscious Mind Is a Supercomputer. Use It to Achieve Breakthroughs.

With really interesting problems, you usually don’t need to think harder. You need to relax and let you mind do its thing while you sleep or do errands. That is when genius strikes. ⚡️

Creativity is all about making interesting connections. Albert Einstein called it “combination play.”

In my experience, this unconscious combo play is important for figuring out what do to and not so much how to do it. Once the what is clear in your mind, it can be followed by all the conscious thinking and hard work to get it done. Unfortunately, that part does not happen in your sleep. 😉

As a side note, there is also a beautiful space when your mind is so immediate and present that is simply doesn’t have time to think. This is what I like about improv. And also baseball.

You can’t think and hit at the same time.

Yogi Berra (maybe)
You

Get Ready For The Roaring 2020’s

I’ve been saying for a few months that I really want to make the most of this awful pandemic. Stuck at home with time on your hands, it’s a great chance to focus and reinvent yourself. So I loved seeing this post touting the idea that we’re just getting ready for the next phase of our lives individually and collectively.

Prepare for the Golden Age: Why The Next Decade Will be Awesome

This post says that people will thrive in the coming years if they have the right attitude and beliefs, or dwindle if they let the changes in the world beat them down.

Many of us have spent the past year not just coping with the present moment, but getting better. When the conditions are back to normal, we’re already going to have momentum. The golden age is upon us.

Is this just wishful thinking? Maybe so, but your beliefs tend to become your reality, so this is a good starting point.

And as more people believe this, the more real it will be for everyone.

The world has been through much worse than the current situation and come out better on the other end. Make the most of it.

I just feel something in the air. I feel an awakening. I have this strong conviction that a large portion of society is just done with the pessimistic outrage culture nonsense. We’re ready to take control of not just the discourse, but our own lives.

Happy roaring 2020’s.

Image for post
Austin

Favorite Austin Hotel Pools

There’s just something about a hotel pool. 🤩 Here are some wet and sunny spots to enjoy around Austin. This picture is of the Austin Motel pool, but many more are listed in the post.

Software Dev

Scroll Hitch Rate

Xcode 12 is adding a new metric to objectively track how smoothly your app scrolls. This is kind of cool since scrolling smoothness feels right and is a sign of a good design.

Via iOS Dev Weekly.

Texas

10 Weird and Wonderful Places to Stay in Texas

Are you tired of sitting around the house during this pandemic? Do you want to get out somewhere fun and interesting but keep socially distanced?

If you’re in Texas and not ready to hop on an airplane or crowd into some cosmopolitan hotel, then this guide is for you.

👉 10 Weird & Wonderful Places to Stay in Texas

Would you like to spend your weekend in a treehouse high up in the cypress trees with a canopy tour to boot? Or perhaps in a teepee? Maybe being surrounded by gazelles, zebras, yak and emu sounds fun. Or maybe glamping in an Airstream at the beach is your cup of tea. Sleeping in a caboose is a choice. There’s also an old Spanish mission.

Okay, this all sounds like a Dr. Seuss book. I’m tempted to go back and make it rhyme. Maybe another time.

You

Introvert-Friendly Conversation Tips

As a bit of an introvert, I find happy hours 🙄, networking events 🥱, and other stand-around-talking situations frustrating. They tend to feel shallow, and they get boring fast.

But these events can be fun, even for us introverts!

I really like this Medium article because it’s just such a simple win-win: tips for having fun and being more likable when meeting random people. Plus it lets the people you are stuck talking with have a better time too!

👉 3 Habits of Super-Likable People

Basically, it says to go ahead and be the geek that you really are and curiously let other people geek out about themselves. Hmm, that feels like two tips. Anyways, it’s three somehow. 🤷🏻‍♂️

There is no right or wrong way to interact with people. There’s only the authentic way — being you; which means connecting with others in a way that feels right for you.

See also: 3 Ways To Improve A Conversation If You’re An Introvert (👉 Ask Open-Ended Questions, Don’t Make The Conversation About Yourself, Improve Your Body Language.

By the way, these tips overlap a lot with a previous post about easy conversation here as well.

Software Dev

Mac-assed Mac Apps 😆

I came across the phrase “Mac-assed Mac apps” 😆 in this short post about Proxyman. Proxyman is a “Modern and Delightful Web Debugging Proxy” for the Mac.

👉Proxyman

Proxyman SSL Proxying on macOS iOS and Android

Proxyman looks like a really nice alternative to Charles Proxy, which is very functional but drearily cross-platform app for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Other examples are Mac-assed Mac apps are the Paw REST client as an alternative to the cumbersome Postman and Things as a true Mac-first app. And I’ll add Mail as an alternative to the crusty Outlook, which is slow to load and I just cannot use because it doesn’t support the standard Mac keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Clrt-A, Crtl-E).

What can I say, I just love these true Mac-assed Mac apps because they’re fun and easy to use. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Via iOS Dev Weekly.

Travel

Rolf’s NYC

Cool-looking German restaurant for next time I’m in New York City.

You

Can’t Sleep? Try ‘Quiet Wakefulness’ Instead

I just stumbled upon this idea myself and love that it’s being validated here. ☺️

If you can’t sleep, then don’t stress about it. Just lay there and meditate. Or simply lay still and relax without trying to sleep. It’s low-stress and almost as good as actual sleep.

👉 Can’t Sleep? Try ‘Quiet Wakefulness’ Instead

Actually, with meditation it’s better in some ways such as in increase in “relaxation, an uptick in creativity, a decrease in depressive symptoms“.

The way I look at this is, if I wake up at 3:00 am, this is a great chance to mediate (laying-down style) with no time pressure at all. All sleep-stress goes away, and it feels pretty luxurious. It’s best to have some basic meditation practice down first, of course. But nothing fancy is required.

Most of the time I fall back asleep. But if not, I’m still getting meaningful rest and feelin’ good!

The World

Printing a village, one house at a time 🏡🏠🏡

If you had told me a few years ago that homes would be “printed” at all, much less a full village of them down in Mexico, I would have laughed. But here it is, the strange and sometimes beautiful world of tomorrow.

Sure, these “printed” homes are IKEA-showroom-small at 500 square feet. But they are real homes – and real stylish, with interestingly rounded corners and a traditional terracotta look. These homes are not chintzy at all. They have already survived a magnitude 7.4 earthquake.

The houses are made with a a Vulcan II printer, developed by an Austin-based construction technology company. The building material is called “lavacrete”. The process is controlled by a smartphone. Three people can build a house in less than a day.

When it’s time for me to really downsize and move to Mexico, I want one of these.