Items Of Interest #12

I have a ton of stuff backlogged to share with you. Strap in…

  • Two of my favorite writer’s and makers are making the bold and honorable move to take their online writing work full time. Matt Gemmell is one of the most compelling and refreshing voices on the Internet today. Brett Terpstra is a tinkerer who has worked for years writing and producing really useful tools to make our computing lives better. Both are more than worthy of your attention and support.

  • Deckset for Mac is an app I’m keeping my eye out for. While Keynote is pretty straight forward for creating presentations, sometimes and some folks require something even faster and easier. Deckset looks like it will be perfect for fitting that bill.

  • A Reddit Quick Start Guide for Geeks Who Aren’t Into Memes and Listicals by Nick Wynja is very useful.

  • Cory Doctorow argues that digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful. In other words, the way things fail is as important as how they work. I largely agree. Still pondering this one. I like the idea quite a bit.

  • Austin Kleon has a new book coming out called Show Your Work and has started a new Tumblelog launching of of the idea called Think Process, Not Product. I’ve really been enjoying it so far.

  • John at 50ft Shadows has released the next entry in his wonderful 50ft Radio mixtape series. This series is the only music I keep on my MacBook Air.

  • Huckberry currently has some crazy good prices on Kaweco Pens. I have two of the Classic Sport Fountain’s that I use almost daily (only $19.98). Use this link to join and we each get credit (That brings the price down by $5.00). I have ordered from Huckberry before and check it twice a week. They source great products and, for a limited time, offer them at prices you are unlikely to see anywhere else.

  • Though not much of a pencil guy myself, but a pen and analog fan in general, I found myself spending more time than I really should have at Woodclinched , a site devoted to the love of wooden pencils.

  • "The idea was to create something that was simple in concept but heavy in impact." Two Words Period is out to prove how much one can say with so little. Right up my alley.

  • Black History Album …. The Way We Were. Yes. More of this please. Much respect.

Until next time, breathe deep and seek peace.

Far, Far, Away

The movie Star Wars was released in May of 1977. I was 9 years old.

My mother and her best friend Phil went to see it together very soon after it opened. They came home absolutely raving about it. They told me they were going to take me to see it as soon as they could.

I asked them what it was about. But, when they started describing it — the big spaceships that feel like they are right on top of you, the ape-like creature that scares away the mouse-like robot in the corridor, the bad guy with the full helmet, heavy breathing, and deep voice — I could not picture it as "real".

I kept asking them, "Is this like a cartoon or, like, real things."

"Real!", they would exclaim.

"But, how can they do that stuff with real things?", I would say. I just could not imagine it. What they were describing sounded like a movie from some, until then, distant and impossible future. A dream, perhaps. It had to be animation I kept insisting. I even remember getting so angry and frustrated that they were tricking me and not confessing to it that I started to tear up.

I think we now forget just how far ahead, special effects wise, Star Wars was when it first came out. Almost every frame in the film contained something that no one else had done before. They, literally, were reinventing the technology of movie making at the same time they were making the movie. It instantly made every other sci-fi movie that came before it look like a relic of some distant past and raised the bar so high for everything after it that it took a couple of years before anything else came close. How could I, as a boy, have any reference point to imagine such things without seeing proof of their existence?

They took me a few days later. They insisted we had to sit in the front row in order to get the full effect of the opening shot. From the moment the Rebel ship flew over my head until the final scene, I was in absolute awe. I left the theater in a kind of shock — still not quite able to reconcile all I knew at age nine with what I had just seen.

I saw it several more times that summer and fall. I think it was the third or fourth time seeing it that I was able to simply sit back and enjoy the story. I was too busy having my mind blown on the viewings before then.

In the world of film technology and special effects, the marvels of Star Wars seem a long time ago now. But, at the time, they represented a future that was for most of Hollywood still far, far, away. And the level of possibility that taught my nine year old self and how much it changed me and contributed to my ability to embrace the unimaginable and believe beyond the impossible today is immeasurable.

Things I Learned In 2013

With the close of the year, here is a not nearly complete list of the things I learned this past year:

  • If you decide to do something, you can do anything. All you need is to get past that comma.

  • The first part of your life is spent finding out who you want to be. The second part of your life is spent finding out who you really are.

  • You do not discover the future. You create it with the actions you take today.

  • The fanciness of your process only reveals your resistance to the dirtiness of the work.

  • If you find yourself unusually productive in one area of life, ask yourself what tasks you are avoiding in the others.

  • "Work, without love, is slavery." — Mother Teresa

  • The secret to making kids that travel well is to start them traveling young and keep them doing so.

  • Schlag is a Viennese term for homemade whipped cream that is seeing a certain renaissance as of late (in order to differentiate it from the canned stuff).

  • We don’t buy things, we buy into things.

  • One should strive to use all things until their usefulness is no more.

  • I’m not sure I will ever be as emotionally fulfilled by digital technology as I am by a good pen and a nice blank page of paper. Nor will it hold, for me, the same feeling of possibility.

  • Chindōgu is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like a solution to a particular problem but cause so many new problems it is effectively useless.

  • So much of modern tech is beginning to feel like Chindōgu to me.

  • Sometimes, you have to come up with the completely crazy idea that could never work to get to the slightly less crazy one that will.

  • It’s worse than we could ever imagine.

  • One of the most dangerous ideas in a free society is one in which we believe that rights are granted, not guaranteed.

  • Fight fear, with facts.

  • “Fear is just excitement without breath.” –Fritz Perls

  • Most of what we call truth is merely consensus.

  • Unlike other trees whose roots are deep and thick, California Coastal Redwoods, some of the tallest of trees, are thin and wide. They stand tall by binding their roots with others near and far.

  • The first approximation of others is ourselves.

  • How much better “how to” posts/sites would be if they led with “what for”.

  • "Why?" would be good as well.

  • The GORUCK Challenge taught me more about myself in 13 hours than I learned this entire year. Especially the first item in this post.

Intentions for 2014

I don’t do “resolutions”. The word lacks weight to me. I like a bit more action to a word meant to capture my plans for the coming year. I like the word “intentions” better (sounds more purposeful and deliberate), here are the things I intend to do in the coming year.

  • Publish my next book, This Could Help

  • Read only books I already own. There are so many books we own that I have never read. Some of these are ones that Bethany has purchased. Some are ones I did but then never got to. Some are ones given to me or borrowed I have yet to crack. I aim to change this. I already have a stack of a dozen or so books that fit this category and have identified a few on our shelves that will be added to the list. If I receive any new books, they will just have to wait until next year.

  • More weeknight dinner with friends. So often during the year we have friends that we do dinner with — either have them over or go over there or, even, go out — and we always come away wishing we did that more. This year, I want to be more intentional about following up on that desire. I plan to shoot for every other week.

  • One date night a month with my wife. We were pretty successful meeting this shared intention this past year. Why not go for two?

  • Keep a journal/log daily. This is one of those things I love to do, espouse doing, and that always makes me feel better having done so. Yet, I find it a challenge to keep up with daily and beat myself up when I go a day (or several) without doing so. I’m also going to make it less easy to “break the chain” by using a Hobonichi Techo Planner for the task. In the past, I have used blank or otherwise undated notebooks for the task. Therefore, it was not visible when there were days between entries. The Hobonichi, being a planner, has dates.

  • I’m going to be more mindful of my listening. I think I’m an OK listener as it is, but often I want to try to interject or correct of offer my own perspective instead of taking the time to just listen and understand. Specifically, I’m going to practice what Buddhist teacher and philosopher Thích Nhất Hạnh terms “deep listening” more often. He beautifully describes this practice in this excerpt from an interview he did with Oprah Winfrey:

    Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.

  • I also plan to do another GORUCK Challenge in 2014. Just to say I can.

A pretty good and actionable list if I do say so myself. Here’s hoping all of our actions for the coming year meets our intentions.

Happy New Year!

Other Things I’ve Read In 2013

As stated in the previous post, here are some things that I read that deserve to be counted among the things I read this past year in their own separate list.

Books I Have Started But Not Finished

  • The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman: Timothy Ferriss — This book actually explains, up front, that the best way to read it is not cover-to-cover. Instead, it proposes specific chapters in order to achieve specific goals (weight loss, increased strength, etc.). Therefore, I went with that. What I read was great.

  • Value-Based Fees: How to Charge – and Get – What You’re Worth: Alan Weiss — This is perhaps one of the most influential books I’ve read about charging for your services as a freelancer/consultant. But, I’ve had to take it in slowly and re-read several sections in order to meditate on the ultimate meaning and application to my business.

  • StrengthsFinder 2.0: Tom Rath — The book is really only a guide to the real product which is a test that helps you evaluate, understand, and best leverage your strengths. A code to take the test is included in the back of the book. Therefore, the strategy is to read the introduction and take the test. The rest of the book is meaningless until you do so and not even needed once you do so. All the information you need is included in the test results.

Books I Wrote Or Was Otherwise Involved In

In fairness, a lot of my reading time is taken up by reading my own books or books I’m somehow involved in. If I’m asked to write a forward for a book, I will likely read through it a couple of times — before and after writing the forward — to make it a good fit. I then often read through it a third time after it has been published. In fact, I might read through my own books a dozen times or more in the process of editing and publishing. This year, these books include:

  • The Mobile Writer eBook: Julio Ojeda-Zapata — I wrote the forward for this and it features my writing methods throughout. Julio is a good friend and it was an honor to be asked and included. Therefore, I’m hardly unbiased. That said, this is a perfect book for any writer who has wanted to get more productivity while on the go.

  • So, You Want To Be A Mac Consultant… — My guide to everything you need to know to get started as an independent technology consultant. If you’ve ever even considered it, this will give you the tools you need to make the leap.

  • Minimal Mac: What We Believe In — My updated and expanded collection of the best post from four years of my other site, Minimal Mac.

Other Things I Read

  • Literary Journals — I read a couple of literary journals that I picked up at a book fair this summer. First volumes of The Common and Rust Belt Rising. Enjoyed them both and reminded me of my love of a good literary journal.

  • The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls – Three Stories by JD Salinger — Three previously little known and unpublished short stories by one of my favorite authors leaked for free online. This was a no brainer. So, so, rewarding.

  • Articles in Instapaper, ious magazines I read monthly, etc. — The point being that time reading these (still valuable and worthy) things means less time for reading a good book.

Books I’ve Read 2013

Here is a list of the books that I read this year. I try to post this up once a year as a reminder for myself that, despite my feeling like I did not read enough, I actually read more than I thought. There might even be a few I have missed recording but this constitutes the bulk of it.

Last year, I just gave a simple list of the books I read. This year, I added a short review to each. It was also my goal to read more fiction than I normally do. I think I did well with that goal but know I could (and want to) do better in the coming year. More on that later.

This also does not include some items I felt deserved a list or two of their own. More on these later too.

So, without further delay…


Kindness. It is amazingly simple to practice. It avoids so much suffering. Yet I’ve seen so little of it as of late. Especially surprising given the season.

If Justine Sacco had practiced kindness, would she have been more mindful of how hurtful her words may be? If those who read those words had practiced kindness in their response, would she have lost her job or had the opportunity to learn and, thus, be even better at it?

If those on the Angry Mac Bastards podcast had practiced kindness in their constructive criticism of Aaron Vegh’s webpage, would he have had the opportunity to make it better? If the response from Aaron and others who took umbrage would have been that of kindness, would there have been opportunity for all to understand a way to communicate disagreements better?

These are just two recent and raw examples of cases where I really think that kindness and compassion displayed by either side would have helped. Instead, we have people who have lost their jobs or felt forced to shutter something they enjoyed. And, the hurt feelings, anger, and feeling of having been attacked remain on all sides.

And, here’s a little secret I’m going to tell you — kindness in the face of an adversary immediately gives you, the kind practitioner, the upper hand. It often throws those gripped by anger off balance. It often diffuses the tension. It puts one in a position of power to effect positive change. And, even if it fails to do any of those things, it garners the support of those viewing from the outside. Who can fault the person who tried to bring kindness, compassion, and understanding into a bad situation? Who can fault the person who stands with peace in opposition to aggression? Who really has the moral power and respect of others — one who takes up arms against another or one who lays theirs down in response?

I would argue that it is my practice of kindness in such situations that gives me the most power. So, instead of being disheartened by the lack of it I have witnessed lately, I’m encouraged to practice kindness even more. I invite you to do the same.

Journal Day

Yesterday, in conversation with a close friend about the nature of holidays and our relationships to them, we decided to create one of our own.

Journal Day.

lt will fall on December 9th each year. The idea is to celebrate the practice of journaling.

There are many ways to celebrate or traditions one could keep to mark the day. For instance, this might be the day to take out previous journals and reflect on where you were then versus where you are today. Another tradition may be to let someone you trust read one you have kept and get to know the “real” you. Perhaps gift one to another person in your life who practices or you feel could benefit from doing so. Or, maybe, be so bold as to spend a year keeping a journal for someone else in your life whom you love and spend your days with — write down their day as you saw it or the things you were thinking about them at that time. How wonderful a gift would it be to allow someone close to "see" themselves and their year through your eyes?

I think you get the general idea. I would love to see others expand upon it. Let’s make a deal: On or before next December 9th shoot me a note and let me know how you are celebrating Journal Day. I’d love the opportunity to consider making your Journal Day tradition one of mine.