• A good book

    Books are amazing.

    There’s a feeling that I wish I could describe to folks who don’t enjoy reading. The indescribable joy of picking up a great story and diving headlong into the characters and narrative. The joy of disappearing, of being drawn in, and falling in love with a good tale. Those are priceless.
    I’ve had friends over the years who weren’t into books, and as time has gone on I’ve seen a few of them convert to enjoying reading. The difference, each time, has been the need to find a story that worked for them. Not all books are alike, and not all for for me. In fact, most books will never match the type of reading I’m into. And that’s okay. I believe that many people just haven’t found the right books yet.

    As life goes on I find that I have less and less time to waste on books that aren’t worthwhile. I no longer force myself to finish a story, to treat it as homework or a school assignment. Instead I pick up books that challenge my curiosity, push my creativity, or draw me in for a break in another world. Books that do that are priceless, and worth their weight in copper.

    There’s been a few great fiction and non-fiction stories that have completely taken me in over the years, and I continue to ride the high of that as I search for the next great piece of literature. It feels like an addiction, as I keep starting new books to fall back into their worlds. Every now and then, a few times a year if I’m lucky, I find those worlds again and disappear. It’s such a privilege, and it’s part of the reason I write. I want to create worlds similar to the ones I’ve loved throughout my life.

    I remember one time, I’d finished reading The Road. It’s a brutal story, one of survival, love, and hardship. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I can’t say it didn’t impact me. My son was young then, a baby still, and hearing a story of a father trying to save his son amidst a fallen world hit home for me. The story moved me, I felt part of the pages, and wanted the characters to thrive. When I finished I felt completely raw and emotional. At the time I was working in an office, and when I reached the last chapter of the audiobook, I had a strange moment. I pulled out my headphones and looked around at the room. Several others sat with me, all working away. I’d been working too (one of the perks of being a designer), and I felt a disconnect, like I’d been through something in a world apart, and no-one else could realize what I’d experienced. Books do that, and that’s why I’ll always keep looking for more stories, and try to create a few of them myself.

  • Saving a small part of yourself each day

    Growing up I had big dreams about where the world would take me. In some ways I’ve gone further than I ever expected, and in some ways I can’t possibly do all the things I want in a single lifetime. That’s okay. As a father, husband, and primary bread winner for the family, it’s my job to make sure that my loved ones are secure. Sometimes throughout my career that’s meant taking on jobs to pay the bills, and other times I’ve been lucky enough to find a Venn diagram where the thing I like, and the thing that pays money, align.

    Regardless of that Venn diagram, I learned two years ago the importance of always having a small thing in my life that is for me, and by me. Even when work is going well, I need to have a part of my day where I go create something that isn’t for my normal job. I’d argue, in fact, that it’s just as critical when the day job is going well, as when things are headed in a downward slope.

    Right now, this post, is part of that. On most days I write fiction, disappear into Ulysses on my Mac for a while and knock out a thousand words. Today, however, my attention is spent. I had some awesome things come up at work that pulled my energy into solving work specific problems, and so I feel myself empty and ready to close out the day. However, because of my commitment to myself, I need to give my creative side room to breath and exist.

    Some days it means journaling, writing words that I alone will ever see. Some days it’s writing a post for this site, and other days it’s my fictional writing. All of them are valuable though. Each plays a part, and each keeps me to my commitment of getting words on digital ink on a regular basis.

    Having that special thing I do is critical. It helps to fuel my creativity in other areas, and encourages discovery and curiosity for something that I care about, separate from any monetary incentive. There is, of course, the potential for money in my writing, but that’s not why I’m doing it. This is a wonderful escape; and opportunity to use the creative side of my brain, and the chance to push and explore things that only I may care about.

    Exercise also plays into my life now, for a different reason than before. Now I exercise to give my brain and body a chance to stretch, push myself, and get away from the computer. I run because it fuels my brain and feels amazing. The parallel between exercise and creative work aren’t a coincidence. Taking time for myself, despite all that’s happening around me, helps me to be a better human for those I love. I’m 33 years old, and these lessons have taken me a while to learn. I’m guessing that there are many more lessons that the future will hold.

  • What I write

    At the moment I’m sort of between writing projects. I had a goal of finishing a novel by June 30th. That’s complete, and while there’s some additional work to do, such as the blurb and physical book cover, I accomplished my goal. It feels good to hit that, and to have the book ready to go out this weekend. I’m sort of in this strange middle between books. I’m about to start my seventh novel now, and I’ve had mixed results with starting. Sometimes I dive into the next book on the very next day, other times I’ve taken at least a week or two to get started. It feels like a bit of a hiccup in my process, but I’m embracing and running with it. So, this article today is about writing, and getting something out, even if it’s not directly related to my novel.

    I split my writing into four sources right now. First is the novels. I love to write them, and will continue to hone my craft and learn more about the process of creating large stories. It’s a lot of fun, and rewarding.
    The second type of writing is journal. Some days I sit down and write 1,000 words intended only for myself. It’s a way of clearing my head, of processing my thoughts, and candidly I consider them a bit of a cheat day. It’s quite easy for me to just hammer away at the keyboard, processing my thoughts in a private medium, and typing as fast as possible.

    The third source is my blog. When I’m not feeling like adding to my novel, I’ll use the blog as an escape hatch and add some words there. Somehow these other sources feel wrong, but it’s how I’m approaching the topic. In my current stage of life I limit the priority for writing. I have a full-time job, as well as a lovely family that need me. I set aside approximately 30 minutes each day for writing, and on some days I’m more tired, and just want to get something out. True, that could be in my novel, but it’s where I’m at now. Also, it’s fun to write non-fiction for a change, and add thoughts to my site. I keep a running list of article ideas in my notes app for days like this.

    The fourth source of writing is short stories. I’m not sure if the exact count, but there’s probably twenty short stories sitting inside my Ulysses app, waiting to see the world some day. One of them is in progress now, part of the Diminished universe I’m writing.
    What I’ve found is a way that works for me, something that’s sustainable. If I’m exhausted, and ready to shut down for the day, I might turn to a short journaling attempt; add some words to the page, and type out at a hundred words a minute, just hammering away to say something, to keep the chain and keep my commitment. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it keeps me going.

    All this is working toward a goal. I want to get to a place where my writing matters to a group of people, where I can learn from their feedback and continue to hone my craft.

  • Why I write

    I write most days. Since September 2019 I’ve sat down to put words on the page, and bring ideas to reality. The idea came from On Writing, by Stephen King. He suggested, that if you want to be a writer, that, as obvious as it sounds, you must write. And so I’ve taken that to heart.
    The formula from King is a minimum of 1,000 words; six days per week. Some days I’ve adjusted the writing for editing days, but always found time to do one or the other. The benefits have been profound. I’ll start with an unexpected side effect.

    Now, when I need to write something out, be it a letter to a friend, details of work to a colleague, or just overall explaining my thoughts in words, I find that this happens with ease. I’ve removed the barrier and mental block of creating, or writing, of doing. This may not last forever, but it’s a gift that I’ve received, and I’m thankful for it. I no longer have fear of getting something out. If I need to explain a technical concept I start putting one letter after another and allow my brain to fill in the pieces.

    The other results of my writing are public works. My first novel came out early this year, and the sequel comes out next week. I’ll write another novel in Q3, and hoping to finish at least one short story; that one is less certain. Getting stories out is possible when applying a daily commitment to create words. The novel third novel this year will actually be my seventh.

    I wrote four novels prior, but doubt I’ll ever publish them. I consider them my early attempts at learning the trade of writing. At over 300,000 words total, it was an expensive training course, and somewhat unnecessary, however that’s not the point of this post.

    Getting out words, and sharing them with the world is essential. I don’t do that every day, some days my words are reserved for myself, to clear my thoughts and figure out what I’m saying. But on the whole, the majority of my writing days are intended for others to read and, hopefully, gain insights.

    Writing is a form of living for me. It’s similar to exercise. I run most days, getting outside into nature; rain or shine, wind or snow. Running brings me hope and life and energy. Writing triggers similar feelings. I’m eager to get to the page each day and add some words, share some thoughts. Much of this is just practice; I’m not expecting my words to become a masterpiece to wow the world. Instead I hope to hone my skills and keep trying, keep learning, keep figuring out what it means to share what I’m thinking.

  • My top 10 Audible books

    I joined Audible in 2011, ten years of listening to hundreds of books. My iPhone app lists 372 titles in my library. I haven’t heard them all, and some are kid’s books, but I have gone through many of them.
    The key to my reading has been to listen to stories across a variety of genres. I enjoy religious books, self-help books, business, history, biography, memoir, as well as a half dozen fiction genres. Changing up the book I read helps to keep the process enjoyable and reduces the chances of feeling burned out on anyone type of story.

    A friend of mine requested a list of my top ten books. There are far more books I’d recommend, but I’ll start with ten, and share a brief paragraph on why I enjoyed each. I’ll keep this a spoiler free zone, and share across genres.

    The Martian
    Science fiction. Andy Weir has an ability to connect with the audience and characters in a way that brings depth and richness to his stories. The Martian is one of those rare books that I’ve read more than once. Instead of a story about a man who is trying to save the world, this book flips the script and has the world trying to save a man. Books and movies will sometimes evoke a feeling of humanity coming together; The Martian accomplishes this beautifully. If you don’t mind a little colorful language – the protagonist is in some dire straits throughout the story so it feels warranted – then I believe you’ll love this story. My favorite parts are the deep dives into the daily life of the main character, and the ingenuity required. It’s a lot of fun. Also, if you already read this book, I highly recommend Project Hail Mary, by the same author. It’s a spiritual successor to the book, and I enjoyed it just as much. Where the first book primarily follows a single character, Project Hail Mary follows a different type of story telling narrative. I love both, and don’t want to spoil either.

    The Guns of August
    History. This is the number one history book I recommend to friends. On the surface it sounds like a bit of a weird choice; a book about World War I. But as I dove into the story, I got lost in the political intrigue and wartime communications of the great powers of Europe. The author, Barbara Tuchman, has a way of ramping up the tempo, of bringing the story to a point, and pulling the reader with her. Her narrative view of Germany, Britain, and France, all pushing and vying for control of the continent, helps to convey the tension and emotion of the great powers. The key moments that cemented this as one of my favorite books came in the resistance from tiny countries such as Luxembourg and Belgium. Their attempt to slow down the inevitable march of the German clock, to give more time to the opposing powers, gave me chills and helped convey bravery individual characters forced into one of the worst wars of all time.

    On Writing
    Non-fiction. Stephen King is one of the best storytellers I’ve read. I’ve listened to many of his books over the years. He has an ability to create connection and conflict between characters, to breathe life into them. On Writing describes the way he approaches fiction writing, and the process he goes through to bring stories to the page. This was an inspiration for me and helped give me the start I needed to write my own works of fiction. It’s written like a story, and carries with it the emotions and drama of Stephen’s own life as he sought to become a writer.

    Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
    Non-fiction. Lori Gottlieb, an accomplished therapist living in California, uses this story as the backdrop to explain what great therapy can accomplish, and why it’s important. She shares her own need to see a therapist, and breaks down what’s happening in each session while working through problems in her own life. The key takeaway is the realization that our brains don’t perceive distress as relative. While our analytic mind can say that our problems are smaller than someone else’s, our emotions have no way of recognizing the difference. It’s important to allow those emotions the space they need in order to work through them. This book was an inspiration, and I’ve recommended it many times to friends.

    World War Z
    Fiction. This book is pure joy for me. Warning, the book is about zombies. But it’s one of my favorite stories from that genre. It does something unique, using journalism for storytelling in a fiction story. Instead of following a single character, the book jumps across time and continents to capture the retellings of people who saw and felt the effects of the world’s change under a viral attack. This book helps to bring the feeling of human connection and humanity, all working together for a greater cause. Although the genre is different, this story captured the same feelings as The Martian. It’s one of the few fiction books I’ve read twice.

    Fiction. The author is a genius at taking an exciting premise and breathing life into an ancient story. I knew nothing of the tales of Circe, the witch from ancient mythology. This character, a weak god among greater gods, must live as the lowest of all in the great courts of antiquity. Through various events she’s forced on a small island, and must live her days as queen of the island. It’s a premise that should lose my interest, but it doesn’t. Each chapter pushes the story forward and brings color and character to this mythical protagonist. The book was a joy to read, and I’ve recommended it several times to friends.

    The Hidden Life of Trees
    Non-fiction. The author spent most of his life in an ancient forest in Germany. His job is to hike the trails across the forest and investigate the health of the flora and fauna within. The premise is interesting for some with a specific interest in nature, but the book goes further than that. The author’s insights are valuable for a universal audience. He combines his observations with scientific understanding of nature and helps to bring the forest alive in our minds. I loved learning about the emotion of trees, the familial connections they make, and their resilience and intelligence across years and decades. It’s an amazing tale and helps with understanding the beauty of nature around us.

    So Good they can’t ignore you
    Non-fiction. Cal Newport is a brilliant author. I’ve read most of his books. He has an ability to dive deep into a topic, understand it, and describe learnings in a way that I can extract meaning. The major premise of the book is how to do work that is meaningful. Instead of following your passion for a career, he suggests that passion results from craftsmanship. Instead of jumping entire careers, he suggests finding the overlap from one job to another, and bringing insights from the previous forward into the next line of work. It’s a great career book and has insights for life as well.

    Creative Selection
    Non-fiction. Ken, one of the first half dozen engineers working on the iPhone, writes about his long history at Apple, and the opportunities he had to build some of the most used software in the world. Ken describes the creative process that his team approached to building software for the iPhone, the Mac, and the iPad. He also describes interactions with Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall. Throughout this narration of his time at Apple, Ken weaves anecdotes on the connection between design and engineering, and gives concrete examples on how to emulate that in our own work. I’ve read this book twice and will probably pick it up a third time.

    Ender’s Game
    Fiction. I disappeared into the world that Orson Scott Card created. Ender’s game is a story of humanity fighting together against a foe, and attempting to come out on top. The premise is not new, but the book has a unique take on how the protagonist will defeat the enemy. I knew nothing about the story going in and listened through to the end without spoilers. I’d suggest you do the same. Orson wrote the book in such a way that a second reading feels required. For that reason the author wrote a sequel, Ender’s Shadow, which relives the events of the first book through the eyes of a second character, giving color and meaning to the decisions you see in Ender’s Game.

    I’m stopping at ten books for now, but there are more; so many more. I only went through about half of my Audible library so far as I thought through previous titles. I might have to come back later and write a second post with more favorites.

  • Writing without knowing

    I’m a fan of writing into the dark, a phrase I picked up from Dean-Wesley Smith. I love to sit down with a blank page and write the first line. It’s taken some practice, but the joy of not knowing brings me back to writing, and pushes me forward. Often I want to start new ideas and explore them for a few days, but my goal setting and desire to push out full novels slows that down. Here’s a simple example I’ll share for fun. I’m going to think up a story idea, with no pre-planning. I’ll explain that process in a live format, live for me at least.

    I’m thinking about a man walking down the street, headed to a restaurant late at night. I’m going to jump into the scene, and whatever comes after this will be a first run example without editing. The words that appear will be as I first typed them, minus spelling or grammar issues.

    James looked up at the night sky and watched for stars. The din of the city lights blocked out the view, and the buildings overhead made up their own stars of sorts. Ahead he saw a small restaurant, its neon light indicating that it was open, even at 2:00 a.m. He stepped forward and looked around. The street was empty, save for a single Uber car headed in the opposite direction. Inside, a smiling attendant motioned toward a table, and John slid into a chair. The attendant offered coffee, but he shook his head and pointed to the menu.

    “Sandwich please.”

    As he waited, he pulled out a small notebook and logged down the time. Then he looked around. The small restaurant wasn’t empty. A single woman sat in the corner opposite. She looked at him and nodded.

    I typed that up in a single shot. Took me just a few minutes, and other than replacing a few words as I went, the story popped out exactly as it came to mind and into my fingers for the keyboard. I have no clue what’s going to happen next with James, but as I typed my emotions fired; in my subconscious I imagined some crazy things happening to him. Perhaps he’d turn out to be a superhero. Maybe he had a devious streak, or felt lost and empty. There’s an infinite amount of directions to take with this idea, and that’s some of the beauty of discovery writing. 

    One area I still need to learn is how much editing I should bring to the page. The above short snippet of a story could use lots of work, or not. Now that I’m deep into discovery writing, I change little of my books after the first pass. Right now I’m editing 1-10%, leaving most words intact and allowing my creative brain to push my thoughts forward. I’m hoping to resolve that in my mind over the coming months and figure out what’s best for long term writing.

  • Emotion Thesaurus

    I’m working on connecting to my emotions as an adult; it’s a crutch of mine, and I want to better understanding what I’m feeling day-to-day. Since 2019 I’ve written fiction, and much of my writing has been about how people feel, and what they’re doing. Emotion is a weakness for me. I’ve spent far too many words telling my audience what the protagonist is feeling, instead of showing. 

    Here’s an example of a typical sentence I might write.

    John understood she wasn’t coming back and felt the weight of that emotion roll over him.

    Now, that sentence is passable. I wouldn’t mind if I had to ship it, and if you read through my books, you’ll find similar passages. Adding emotion, though, similar to my attempts to remove adverbs from my writing, is taking time and effort. 

    Earlier this year I listened to a podcast episode by Joanna Penn, where she interviewed the author of The Emotion Thesaurus. The idea was like a bolt of lightning to my mind. I bought the book before I’d even finished listening. The idea is simple. You pick an emotion that you want to convey and jump to the section in the book. Each emotion has two full pages explaining the feeling and showing physical traits that help to define how a person would react. 

    Back to the line about John. There are better ways to define emotion in a scene. 

    Right now what I’m dealing with is a protagonist that is feeling loss, despair, and agony. He knows he’s about to lose the woman he loves and doesn’t know what to do. There are so many ways to write this scene and push the reader to feel what’s happening.

    Before hearing about this book, I did my best to write something describing John’s feelings and move on. Now I’m pausing and trying to feel the pain and anguish of the protagonist. So, taking a metaphorical page from The Emotion Thesaurus, let’s try that scene again. 

    John watched Elissa walk away, saw her silhouette disappear along the docks, fading into the fog. He swayed against the planks and held out an arm to a nearby street lamp. He touched the cold metal and slid down to the ground, burying his face in his hands.

    I rewrote the scene based on what I was feeling, what I imagined I might do in a similar situation, and calling on times where my whole body felt a downward fall toward gravity, toward loss. There are other ways to write that scene, a million ways in fact, but I’m happier with how that one turned out than the first attempt.

    Now, as I write this I don’t have the actual book in front of me. I reference it each day when I’m writing at home, but don’t always have it on the road. So, I’m guessing the book would suggest a better way to convey despair and loss. The point, though, is that it’s encouraged me to think about the external traits that a person shows when they’re feeling something. Too often I write wooden characters, bereft of affect, and following through the motions. That’s fine if you intend it, and the person is like that on purpose. However, for most characters, most of the time, that’s going to feel dull and boring. 

    And so I persist, attempting to put myself into the scene day after day, trying to feel John in that moment. 

  • The Watch I’d Wear

    I’ve had a love hate relationship with watches for my entire life. I remember saving up money to buy a cheap Walmart brand as a nine-year-old. The watch was everything I could want. It told the time and looked cool. The problem, though, came with the destructibility. The connection to my strap broke, and I scuffed the screen within a few weeks of use. I was not a gentle kid; I was clumsy, and unaware of the strength or length of my arms and legs. Attaching a watch to my body seemed to throw off my balance, even though that sounds impossible. I went through several cheap watches, and have memories of changing batteries, fixing broken straps, and repairing pins.

    Fast forward to my teen years, and I wore an expensive (by my standards) digital watch with water resistance, alarms, and a few other fun features. It was sturdy and held up to the damage I inflicted. The features were hard to figure out though, and I spent far too much time trying to take down tiny notes, or set the three different alarms.
    Then there were the straps. I was a tall, skinny kid, with an even skinnier arm. The strap wrapped around my wrist, and then slipped out at the end, far from the two loops meant to hold it. No matter how much I adjusted, the straps always felt off; bumping up against things, or looking unseemly. Even as a teenager I had some sense of style, though my wife would disagree on my clothing choices. Having that strap hang out made my wrist look like a stapler with the bottom hinge floating loose. I didn’t like it. I also didn’t like the strangeness of an object attached far down on my arm, swinging around with my long limbs, at risk of bumping into something.

    And so for various reasons I stopped wearing a watch by the time I’d turned 20. In my twenties I avoided watches, and resorted to pulling a cellphone out of my pant’s pocket to check the time. I tried, a few times, to pick up a watch, but never liked the bands; let alone the watch face.
    Then there was the Fitbit. I bought a few different devices: the Charge HR, Fitbit Versa 2, and maybe another one somewhere in the mix. I tried them, synced them up with my phone, tracked my steps, and attempted to bring each into my lifestyle. They never stuck. It just wasn’t useful enough to put back on after recharging. And there was that ever-present problem with my long arms, I’m still not 100% in control of bumping them around, and sometimes my wrist swipes a hard countertop a little too hard.

    Now, in 2021, I’m looking around and trying to decide what a watch would mean for me. My friends own Apple Watches, Garmin, Nike, and a host of other interesting devices. I’ve thought about this for far longer than seems necessary, imagined the uses, the value, and what I’d do with the device. I’ve never worn an Apple Watch for more than a few minutes, and I haven’t been sure if the use case was there for me.
    What I’m looking for with a watch seems simple enough. I’d like a device that allows me to leave my phone at home. Watch and AirPods, and I’m gone. I head out, can make calls as needed, review my list of to-dos, check my calendar and email, and in a pinch take down notes. Those are all doable on the Apple Watch, and it seems the device would match perfectly for those use cases. But that’s not all. I’m also looking for an extension of my audio habit. If I’m not actively talking to someone, I’m probably listening to music, podcasts, or a book. From what I can tell the Apple Watch and Audible do not play well together; syncing has been a problem since its inception.

    I like to listen to Spotify, Audible, and podcasts. And, until recently, each of those were better suited to the iPhone. Based on my research – but not firsthand knowledge – getting audio through the watch is challenging, and requires syncing to your iPhone.

    Apple Watch is my most likely go to moving forward; but I’d love to see some more of a disconnect from the phone, where it fits in my device lineup as an equal partner, and not subservient to another computer. I wonder if Apple will separate the watch from the phone, and if the limitations are technical or more related to keeping users within the ecosystem. Given the power of WatchOS, and the yearly leaps in silicon technology, I’m guessing that we’re fast approaching a world where the watch can live on its own. I hope that’s the case.

    I’m pretty sure Apple solved the problem with bad wrist bands. I should probably just bite the bullet and try one for a while. It’s hard to justify that much money on something I might like, so I’ve held off. This has been a pattern of mine throughout my life. I think like an early adopter, but don’t buy most products until years later. Even though I’m an Apple enthusiast, I only got the iPhone with the 4th model, and my first iPad was the Pro model. My first MacBook came in 2010, years after working professionally on Windows devices.

    I am excited to see how watches continue to evolve. As a gadget enthusiast from a young age, I dreamt of something on my wrist that captured notes, told time, and acted as a bit of a second brain. We’re in that era now, I’m just not on board yet. I might end up with a tech watch and an analog watch, both with beautiful materials and an aesthetic that’s elegant but not bold. That’s part of the reason I like GORUCK backpacks. They are useful, sturdy, and simple, without being gaudy or annoying.

  • Bluey

    Bluey is the most delightful children’s show I’ve watched, by far. Over the past few months my wife and I caught up on nearly every episode, including Season 2 on Disney+. I must caveat this by adding that I have two small children. I don’t generally sit around and watch kid’s shows on my own. With that said, I’ve watched a lot of shows and movies intended for a younger audience. Sometimes I like the shows, and sometimes they leave me confounded. Bluey is in a special category. It’s a show that I enjoy, and my kids also love. In fact, judging by my random outbursts of laughter, I might like it more. 

    The writing is perfect. The show creators have a great sense of humor and they add a realistic element to what it’s like to be a parent. Each episode is just 7-8 minutes long, and most of the stories revolve around time together as a family. In that short time the audience can connect with the parents and children, and understand their unique struggles. It’s pretty special because it helps me remember children are just smaller versions of adults, they’re not a separate species – even if it feels that way sometimes. 

    We’re not all fully patient or checked in, or completely wanting to do what our kids ask at every moment. That doesn’t mean we don’t care though, we try, and we want to be there for our kids. Bluey presents that in a realistic way, and encourages parents they’re not alone. It also reminds us of the value of play. My wife and I have taken lessons from the show and tried to apply them in our own lives.

    Puffin Rock is another great show that we’ve enjoyed. It’s written in a way that kids will like, but also adds the odd reference that only a parent will pick up on. This isn’t subliminal messaging, or even anything inappropriate, it’s just slight bits of context that you learn with age. 

    There a host of shows out there that are nowhere close to this mark. Several kid’s favorite shows feel like time fillers, with no extra effort placed on making them special. 

    Great shows offer inspiration in how great content can bridge the gap between generations. Pixar is a master at this. I loved their movies as a young child, and have a deeper appreciation for them as a parent. In recent years almost all of their movies will bring me to tears by the end. Stories like this are special, and it inspires me to create things that offer that inspiration and education for others.

  • Zoom Fatigue

    I’ve used video conference calls a lot. In fact, on some days I’ll spend up to six hours on back-to-back calls. In 2015, I joined a remote team that made use of Zoom and Google Hangouts (later Meet) for communication. Since my work has been 100% remote in the last six years, I’ve had a lot of hours on video calls. The previous year in the pandemic was little different from the years before, with one notable exception. I’m used to flying out and seeing my teammates throughout the year at conferences, client onsite, or company meetups. 

    Having that face-to-face time together helped to bridge the gap between long periods of online only communication. There’s something special about eating dinner, having fun, and sitting in a room in physical space. I’m hoping that things can change soon, and that I’ll soon be able to connect with my colleagues on location. However, other than that one, albeit major factor, my life has changed little. 

    Zoom fatigue is real, and I feel it. Staring at a screen for hours on end, and seeing the faces of others staring back at you is not a natural feeling. When I go to hangout with friends in real life, I don’t look into their eyes for an hour at a time, making direct contact. That’d be creepy, and I’m pretty sure I’d lose all my friends. And yet, this is exactly how video calls work. You look at a screen, stare straight into it, and your colleagues stare straight back at you. It gets tiring and drains energy as time goes on. 

    I’ve found a few ways to resolve it, and while everyone is different, these little methods help me throughout the week.

    First, I turn off my camera. I disable it and join the call with audio only. As an introvert, this helps to lower the temperature of the call, and allows me to pace, look down from the screen, or even go on a walk in nature for an hour. Video calls aren’t natural to the human conscious, so trying to re-enact a meeting in a 1-1 ratio doesn’t really work, at least with current technology. Besides turning off the camera, I also try to minimize whatever screen I’m on; I don’t need to always see the faces of my colleagues, I can hear them just fine. 

    In situations where it’s not practical to disable the camera, I try a second technique. At work I have a 28 inch monitor. It’s huge, and having a browser up with a dozen faces staring back at me can feel intimidating. Or a single person can loom larger than real life. Often I’ll shrink the window to make the size of others on the call more realistic. I wouldn’t sit in a room with my face two feet away from someone else. Again, that’s creepy. Making the screen smaller tricks my brain a bit, and it feels like they are further away. If I had to guess, having someone’s face right up against yours triggers the fight-or-flight mechanisms in the brain.

    Remote work is here to stay, perhaps not in the same way as we’ve seen it in the last year, but it will continue to iterate and become part of our society. It’s important that we adjust and reduce the strain that technology can bring. Video calls, screen sharing, audio calls, and all the other communication tools that come with it are amazing. I couldn’t do my work without them. I enjoy being able to get on calls and see my teammates and friends; it makes a vast difference. However, limiting the artificial tension that arises from a video call can help us all to feel a little less tired at the end of the day. 

  • Maple syrup and dark patterns

    We’ve all run across them, and in more recent years a word is used to cover things in our life that just feel – wrong. I’m speaking about dark patterns. Things that force us, as humans interacting with the design, to use it in a way that feels unnatural and goes against the grain. You know it when you see it, it just feels wrong somehow, even if you can’t quite place words on it.

    Whether it’s a used car salesperson trying to force me to pay more at the last minute with an upsell that I neither want nor need, or something less obvious, these patterns sit all around us and are pervasive in our everyday life. 

    Software is all too guilty of this, and I run across it in my everyday work. The biggest offender is canceling a subscription. If you’ve signed up for a newsletter, news subscription, monthly shipped product, or even the New York Times, you’ve come across this. It drives me nuts. I will raise hell to get out of anything that obfuscates my ability to leave. The moment I feel stuck with something, I want out, even if it was a wonderful service. 

    Earlier this year I had a bit of a scare where I thought I was losing my hair. I developed a bald spot at the back of my head. Completely bald, no hair, nothing. At 33 years old, it was the time for these sorts of things to happen. Instead of accepting my fate, I ordered a hair product online from an ad. The design of the website, the box, the subscription service; everything seemed perfect and good to go. I tried the product for a month and saw results. And only time will tell if I’m right. I realized that the hair loss was not a result of balding, but a case of alopecia; likely brought on by stress. Alright, glorious news.

    I went to cancel the service and found that I couldn’t. Whether through malice or ineptitude, there was no way to use the website to cancel; the software ran me through a series of loops leading from one part to another, with no way out. I tried, the software would not allow me to cancel. Then, in a twist of irony, I didn’t feel comfortable complaining on their social media account. Would I want to admit hair loss? That’s embarrassing. Hopelessness washed over me, and I got mad; furious, in fact. Several months later I can still feel the emotions running through me at feeling misused.

    I emailed customer service, got a standard reply that I was “holding it wrong”, I needed to go to the website. After another response or two, they agreed to cancel my service. I shouldn’t have had to do that though, there should have been a mechanism to do that from the site. It felt intentional; especially at a scary time that caused a lot of stress in my life. 

    This pattern exists in software the world over. It’s not just software, it’s everywhere. It doesn’t have to be this way. I find delight in things that let me escape, and come back if I want; that’s freedom, and I love an easy exit path. This hair care product could have been that; there’s a chance that my hoped for alopecia is wrong, and I’ll go bald again; would I care to try the product after that previous experience? Doubtful. 

    And so we come to maple syrup. I remember a time, back in the nineties, when the big syrup bottle my mom served our family for months at a time. We’d buy syrup and pull it out for pancakes and such. I’m guessing – and here I go into speculation territory, but again, the results are the same for the end customer – that a marketing executive somewhere, or a product designer, decided that the company could move more inventory if they made the opening to the lid wider. It pours out; fast. And so, we come to a situation where – when I go to the store and buy a big thick maple syrup bottle – I dread bringing it home. It’s frustrating.

    I have two little children, and they like maple syrup waffles; an entirely reasonable activity. In their eagerness to enjoy the food, they often tip the bottle back; it’s heavy after all, and syrup flows out, flooding their waffles. My children don’t like this. They don’t want that much syrup; waffles shouldn’t float in liquid. And so, again, we run into a situation where they feel helplessness; they can’t serve themselves as a result, I have to help. 

    I try to remedy the situation by cutting a tiny hole in the seal, instead of pulling it off; that doesn’t work well though. The hole should just be smaller. My kids feel bad for wasting the syrup, and the vast majority of it goes into the trash; they don’t like to consume straight sugar. I’ve fielded apologies from them, when it was not their fault. The moment an alternative comes available, I’ll switch. 

    Dark patterns are a short-term fix; they don’t bring happiness and don’t bring love from the humans that experience them. I’ll push back and fight against any perceivable manipulation by products I use, and will go out of my way to pick something better. This is an opportunity for those who create things, the designers out there, to stand out with honest products that improve our lives. 

    Perhaps someone has designed a product to solve this. A lid that screws on, with a smaller opening, would earn its money back in a few months. I’d be down for buying one, even if it cost $5. We easily spend that much on wasted syrup every year. Keep an eye out for dark patterns and call them out when you see them; together we have a chance to make the world a better place. 

  • Chairs

    I’ve written a bit about chairs on this site, their comfort level, ergonomics, positioning, and how I want to use them for work and life arrangements. In the past month I changed things up again, and want to process how that’s affected my time at work.

    My small home office has three chairs right now. The first, and primary chair, is my Capisco Hag. It’s weird, and somewhat uncomfortable, but as I’ve written before, it serves a purpose and I’m happy with it. 

    The second sitting implement is an old IKEA office chair. It’s fine, not bad, but not great either. I picked it up as a Wirecutter recommendation years ago; and for $200 it served me well. This chair sits in front of a small desk, and acts as a second creative space, where I can do my writing each day. Of note, while I recently extolled the virtues of said sacred space, I’ve used it but once or twice a week for a half hour each. It’s not getting the full value that I hoped for. I suspect this is due to the stage I’m at with my writing; where I’m doing a bit more read through than actual writing. Or, I just like writing on an iPad in a relaxed position more; not great, but comfy.

    My third chair is a recliner. It’s something small we got for rocking our daughter to sleep when she was smaller, and through the shuffling of kid’s sleeping arrangements, I managed to sneak it away into my office. 

    There’s a fourth position I use, which is standing at my desk; but since that’s not a chair, it only half way counts.

    The challenge I’m dealing with now, through all the arrangement of these seating spaces, is how to account for comfort and creativity. Ergonomics have become more important to me as I age. I want to find situations where I’m comfortable, and not straining muscles and tendons. That’s good, and I’ll keep working at it. The Capisco chair, along with my standing desk, is a pretty ideal arrangement. I can situate myself so that shoulders, neck, wrists, back, and arms, are all at relatively healthy angles. It is not the most cushy situation though. After a few hours I get restless.

    Now, as I ponder that previous sentence, I realize that’s not a bad thing. Being in a healthy working position, albeit not the most comfortable, reduces my body’s chance of suffering injury. When I start to feel discomfort, it’s another way of telling myself that I should get up, stretch, and move around. My eye doctor said the same thing, I need to find times in the day to get away from the screen and relax my eyes. Apparently I blink 1/3rd as often when staring at a screen, that’s not great.

    The third chair has come in use more often of late. When I’m feeling antsy from sitting at the Capisco, instead of going for a break, or shifting to standing, I pull my laptop over to the recliner and kick my feet up. It’s comfortable, and gets me out of a situation where I don’t have to use so many active muscles. The downside of this, and really the downside of all sitting these days, is the stress I feel on my back. I haven’t investigated with a doctor or chiropractor yet, so I’m just going on a hunch, but there may be muscle misalignment in my core. That means any chair that’s not providing strong back support is likely to bring lower strain. 

    Standing, or laying on a decent mattress, are the only positions that I can handle for hours on end without discomfort. So, with all that going on, I’m rethinking my seating situation and trying to figure out what will work best for the long haul. More standing seems to be better, and has the added benefit of putting me in a pretty good ergonomic position. That, however, took a long time to work up to, and still tends to tire me out a bit. Standing is just hard, for me at least. 

    It’s hard to work through design challenges, or spend hours writing up technical requirements, all while standing and feeling the day wear on. On the other hand, sitting at the computer, even on the Capisco chair, brings on strain over time. So I have the trade off of fatigue versus strain. The reclining chair, while comfortable, brings that same strain to my lower back. It also restricts my computer use to a laptop-like-device with a trackpad and keyboard. No ergonomics related to a mouse and screen. This limits me to specific types of work. I need to be at a desk for much of my creative work; whether that’s using iPad, larger monitor, or a Wacom tablet. 

    Incidentally, and I may write more on this; I’ve been experimenting with the world of manual input for design. I’ve been testing out iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, in contrast to a large Wacom tablet and a smaller one. My goal with each is to find a good ergonomic balance where my shoulders, eyes, and wrist are in alignment. Nothing has been perfect yet, but the desk and standing seems to be the best of any situation thus far. During the day, when I need such an input device, sitting in a reclining chair won’t cut it.

    It’s good to think over these things, and try to improve and adjust. I don’t expect that I need a perfectly comfortable situation. That’d be laying down with a couch and propping an iPad up on a pillow; not great for productivity. I do, however, want to find something that keeps me healthy, feels generally good, and allows for a range of motion to use a number of devices for work. I’ll think on this more. My default baseline has been the Capisco being a good device for office space. To date I’ve not used a high quality chair, such as Steelcase or Aeron. I don’t know if they are just hyped up, or make a difference. I also have a friend who swears by a different type of chair altogether. The limiting factor for me is wanting to testing changes to my work environment for at least a week, perhaps longer. I’ll report back if anything changes. 

  • Writing as Practice

    My brain shifted over the past year as I’ve taken to daily writing. Before, I’d sit down to put words on the page, and find that my brain shut the process down before it began. We each have two different parts of our brain that fight with each other during the writing process: the creative brain, and the critical brain. Writing into the Dark, by Dean Wesley-Smith, talks about this; emphasizing the importance of shutting the critical brain out of the entire process. 

    When I sit down to write I think of my time as practice. I’m not creating a perfect thing, intended for the world to enjoy and sing my praises. Instead, my goal is to get thoughts onto the page and try to share an idea in a way that benefits me, and hopefully helps others. 

    If I continue on this path of writing at least six days per week, I’m hoping that my brain will continue to adapt for a practice creation mindset. Writing in fiction feels like a different game for me at the moment, and non-fiction is still taking some time to get used to with this method of creativity.

    The change has been profound. Where before I’d stare at a page and try to figure out what to say, try to perfect it and create just the right combination of thoughts in my head, now I just start typing and my brain figures it out as I go along. When I keep typing, keep pressing ahead on the keyboard, my critical brain doesn’t have time to cause any problems; it’s just my creative brain flowing and putting all that together. 

    This is something I’ve also experienced in my design work. Sometimes I need to just put my work onto the page, and stop stalling for more information, details, context, etc. Practicing in this way is rather freeing, and helps to bring anticipation to my work. Knowing that I’ll sit down each day, write out a thousand words, and then move on, removes a lot of weight from the process.

    So for writing, I pull up a full screen on my device and start hammering away. I’m fortunate enough to have a device that’s mostly dedicated to this, using Ulysses on my iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard, but in the past I’d just clear out my laptop’s desktop, and open up a full-screen window. It also helps to write in a space separate from my other work. Writing in the same spot as my work desk is a creativity drain. For that reason I bought a cheap desk, put it beside my main desk, and move over to that area during the 20-30 minutes of writing time each day. 

    I’ve had opportunity to chat with friends about this process, and share how I work; it’s helped to inspire a few, and also cements my thinking. Learning about others over the past year, through books, podcasts, and online discussions, has helped with understanding the different methods of writing. The most important thing for me is to find what works, and adjust as needed. Most styles of fiction writing are along a scale, where writers lean more towards the planning method, or just diving in and figuring it out along the way. On the one hand, we call the planning type of person a plotter / outliner. They want to bring some organization, thought, research, and forethought to their work ahead of writing the manuscript. On the other hand, we have discovery writers, sometimes referred to as pantsers. They move forward with stories, focused on specific aspects such as dialogue, character, or plot, and type page after page until a story forms. Others take this further and write out the complete story in one go, with minor revisions along the way.

    Most writers fall somewhere on that spectrum. Similar to how few people are 100% extroverted, or 100% introverted, few writers are 100% on either side of the discovery / plotter scale.

    My novels have been on the discovery end of things, where I’ve figured out the story as I go along. That is a lot of fun for me and helps keep the story fresh and interesting as I add to it each day. It’s not for everyone, and some writers prefer the planning, but that daily excitement and motivation drives me forward.

    With that said, I may adjust a bit as I continue to write. I want to get to where I feel that I have a basic grasp of the mechanics of storytelling, and can use that to propel my discovery style into an interesting and cohesive adventure. For me, it’s about telling the stories I wish someone else wrote. The other part of this, along with the fun of learning new stories as I go, is the realization that I can continue to learn the craft of writing for years to come. There is no planned end date where I expect to arrive, and believe that I know all there is about fiction, and that’s a good thing. Pushing the boundaries of my work is important, as it gives a reason to continue to learn and be curious. 

    The natural progression of writing is that I may expand beyond fiction to other areas and bring my experience with me. That might mean other types of books as time goes on, and I’m excited to see what happens there. 

    Now, to be completely candid, I don’t write fiction every day. Sometimes I feel too tired, or worn out, and don’t want to add to my stories. I give myself a pass on those days though, and bring the true meaning of practice sessions to my writing time.. This blog post is an example of that other writing. I want to just share ideas, but not hold to a specific expectation on every single day; this allows some level of variety. 

    When I started reading in more earnest as an adult, I developed the habit of setting down books before finishing them. If the book no longer interested me, I wouldn’t force myself to finish. As a result, I read far more books, to completion. Even though I expect to finish the books I start, that experience is something I’ve considered for writing as well. We’ll see how this continues to unfold.

  • Spaces

    I’ve worked from home for the past six years. In the years prior, my work time was a mixed bag of remote and in-office. Now, living in a small town in Idaho, spending most of my days in a small room, I have a lot of time to figure out what makes sense for an office setup, and what doesn’t. I spend most of my time in the home office, with one day a week in a local co-working space (although more often than not I don’t bother and just stay home). I imagine this will be a work in progress for years to come, so right now I’ll share more of a status of the current state, and less an understanding of the best solution overall.

    There are three purposes, well more like four, for trying to tweak my home office setup. First is utility; I need certain things to get my job done. Second is aesthetics. I like things to look good because it helps create an environment where I’m happy to work. Third is curiosity, of a sort; I like to tinker and try out new things and see if they’ll give me some level of gains. It doesn’t always work out, but it’s fun to try. The last purpose is for better ergonomics. As I start to into my thirties, it’s becoming important to take care of myself and have a setup that’s built around me, instead of the other way around. When typing I want to have my wrists, shoulders, elbows, neck, and eyes all setup in such a way as to avoid strain or injury. So with those in mind, I’ll dive into some things I’m using.

    Let’s start with my desk. I have an automatic stand-sit desk. There’s nothing particularly fancy about it, and at the top level it’s just tall enough for me as a 6’ 2” human. After a decade plus of slouching, and likely causing some displeasure for my back, I took ergonomics seriously. Right now that involves a combination of sitting and standing. For sitting I use a type of elevated standing chair, which I’ve discussed previously [link].

    The standing desk is not new, but it’s only been in the last 18 months that I’ve used it more for its standing features. That came about because of acquiring the chair. It’s an easier transition to just slide off your chair when the desk is already close to the height of standing. I’ve also encountered the previously described issue with my back, where sitting for long periods becomes uncomfortable. It’s easier to just stand; granted that took a while, and I had to work up to the point of standing for 2-8 hours/day without feeling fatigued. Now I prefer to just stand most days.
    Besides the standing desk, I bought an anti-fatigue standing mat from fully.com. This helps a lot and gives my feet something squishy to move on; I also wear a pair of Santa Cruz convertible slip-ons for comfort. They’re just fancy looking Crocs, but the most relaxing thing I’ve found for long hours of standing.

    My computer setup has varied over the years as I’ve both upgraded and downgraded. My current system, and the one I feel most happy with, is an M1 MacBook Air, sitting on top of a Roost Laptop Stand, combined with a 27” LG Monitor on an Ergotron raised arm. Between the stand, the arm, and my desk, I’m able to tweak things to get just the right height for elbows, wrists, and neck.

    The laptop, with 7 GPU Cores, and upgraded ram (16 GB), is perfect for my needs as a designer. I can run Safari with 30+ tabs, Adobe Illustrator, Figma, Slack, email, Zoom conference with screen sharing, Local by Flywheel, and 3-4 other apps I’m forgetting right now. That can all be going with barely a hiccup. It’s amazing, and was enough to convince me to switch away from a 2018 15-inch top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. I can’t wait to see what Apple does with their silicon on a real high-end laptop.

    Besides the Roost Laptop Stand, I also use an Apple keyboard and mouse, along with Magic Grips for the mouse. I’m not sure if they give real ergonomic benefits, but I like the feel of them. As an aside, the Magic Grips are not intended for travel. If you regularly move your mouse from your desk, to a laptop bag, and to another desk, they’ll likely break down. I’ve had to get several replacements already (which the company was kind enough to send me at no charge). I’m thinking I may want to own two mice, eventually; one for travel and one for home.

    I also bought a cheap desk pad for my keyboard and mouse, which allows me to lean over and rest my elbows without hurting the tendons. This happens sometimes when I switch to drawing on my iPad.

    For iPad I use a 2020 12.9” iPad Pro. It’s great, and I’m writing this article on its Magic Keyboard case; although I have a nitpick with that, where the cursor randomly jumps to another spot in the editing process and starts inserting words; I might have to get it looked at. Hoping to write an article soon where I talk about the ideal writing setup; hint, the iPad is close, but not perfect.

    At some point I bought an LED lamp, which gives a bit of brightness to my desk, and looks decent. I’ve tried several other things, but those are the key pieces that help get work done. My next step is to figure out the best method for a Wacom tablet; I acquired one last year and love it, but the large size (it was an Intuos Pro L) means re-arranging my entire ergonomic desk setup. That’s a bit more challenging when you have to move the keyboard and mouse around to make room for the tablet. I may try purchasing a small Wacom tablet and putting it to the side of the mouse; curious to see how that plays out.

    Each of these pieces took time, and I’ll improve as I go forward. The main thing I’m watching for these days is my overall body placement. It’s important to listen to what my body is saying, and adjust accordingly.

  • The Books I Would Read

    I learned to read at a later age than most. For me that came around 8 years old, when I picked up basic books and began to understand the core concepts of reading from my mother. At 9 I was fully in it, so to speak, and reading books on my own. I have vivid memories of reading books under the sheets at night with a flashlight, staying up hours past my bedtime, wanting to just read one more page. That desire, to see where the story would go, along with a voracious appetitive to learn more, continued on for a period.

    At one point my brother got a hold of a large volume of Mark Twain’s published writings, all bound in a single book. By memory, and of course that’s a faulty thing to trust. The book was around 2,000 pages. Once my brother finished with it, I picked up the task and devoured the book. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was one such tale that stuck in my mind and inspired a similar book of my own decades later.

    That desire to read continued. My mom found some reading software for elementary kids, and we bought it for our family computer. I spent countless hours clicking through the pages, reading tales of The Jungle Book, Little Women, and dozens more that escape me now. Those stories of wonder captured me; allowing a young kid to get lost in the worlds of someone else’s imagination.

    Then something happened. It’s not that I stopped reading, but the habits of consuming information changed. Much of my reading got taken up by school work demands; things that I could find some interest in, but not the same level of joy. With few exceptions, The Hatchet being one; I didn’t enjoy reading something as a requirement. The moment I was told to consume something, I no longer wanted to do that; at the same time my brothers and I tinkered with the computer. At some point we understood the possibilities it offered and explored the world of America Online (I feel old). Once we realized we could get games, and explore the internet, the joy of reading took a back seat. There were, however, e a few standout examples of books that still held sway in my early teenage years; such as the many late nights reading Lord of the Rings under the covers.

    Fast forward into my early twenties, and something shifted again. I was diving into my career, trying to understand the needs of building software, all that comes with it. My primary work, designing websites and software, required many hours of computer time, with a butt in the seat moving pixels on a screen. While my eyes and mouse stayed busy in building designs, my mind would often wander. That provided a place for something to fill the gap. At that time I discovered Audible. Growing up, we’d occasionally grab Books on Tape from the library; but the format didn’t have the same appeal anymore. Audible though, that recaptured my imagination. I started to grab books, mostly business or self-help, and poured through them. From there it was a natural expansion into biographies and history books; at some point I also made the shift back into fiction. Over the next decade I often found time to listen to a great book, and in many cases podcasts, while also working.

    Now, at 33 years old, I’ve come full circle. There’s been, as with anything, some ebbs and flows, but on the whole I’m enjoying reading. My habit is costly, but fun. Sometimes offsetting with library holds helps, but more often than not I’m too excited and want to buy it right away, without waiting.

    There’s a realization that struck me a few years back; namely that I cannot read all that I want to read in this lifetime, it’s just not possible. Instead, I have to be selective and put the time into books that matter to me. Sometimes those are religious books, other times self-help or business, other times great biographies or histories, or one of the many fiction categories I’ve grown to love. I have to content myself with knowing that the things I want to read will always be greater than the things I have read. It’s with that knowledge that I still buy more books than I can handle.
    You could say I’ve reached a place of acceptance, where I’m aware of that limitation, but find joy in the possible, in what I might read, could read.

    That then, has evolved into a hobby I’ve been pursuing since 2019; trying to write the stories I want to read. This trip is new to me, and requires so much learning in every possible way, but at the end of the day I like to sit down and make characters do things that are fun and interesting, and hopefully surprising.

    Books represent so much possibility. Often it can be the culmination of countless hours, or years, of thought and effort poured into a particular topic; that then becomes available for any of us to open and read.

    Reading is a verb I like to apply to any form of books; audio, ebook, or physical copies. I don’t distinguish much, and personally I spend about 90% of my reading time through audio formats.

    And so it continues. I look forward to seeing what types of adventures I can find for the coming years, what books pull me in and take me to new places, and what stories I can write to do the same for others. This reading thing is such a wonder, and I sometimes wonder if my delayed entry into the practice, starting my reading at 8 years old, helped to propel me forward. By the time I could read, I wanted nothing more than to do just that.

  • Nexstand Laptop Stand vs Roost Laptop Stand

    This has been a long time coming. Years ago someone asked me to compare the Roost versus Nexstand. I ignored the request, and went about my life. Since then I’ve had numerous occasions where the comparison came up. Since I have often worked in coffee shops, co-working spaces, or client onsite, there are opportunities for other folks to see my laptop stand.

    If I had to guess, there have probably been as many as 10 times, but no less than 5, where someone asked what I was using for a laptop stand. In each of those cases I told them the name, and sometimes steered them toward buying Nexstand.

    Until now. I’ve always used the Roost, and loved it. Recently, I purchased the Nexstand for a second laptop, and tried it out. In the future I plan to write a full review of the two, and compare in detail. However, I can give a quick summary.

    If you’re truly short on cash, go with Nexstand. It does what you expect, and will put your laptop at the proper level for ergonomic reasons. Those should not be ignored. I can’t use a laptop for days on end without a stand, external mouse and keyboard.

    If you have a little more money, and like something nicer, go with the Roost. The Roost stand, for almost twice the price, has small siliconish (maybe rubber) bits that grip the table top surface, and cradle your laptop. They’re not necessary, since there is nothing wrong with plastic, but they make a difference. You feel like you’re buying something that will take good care of your device. In addition, the Roost is smaller when folded up, probably 30% less volume.

    TL;DR – Nexstand is fine, if you have more money and want something nicer, go with Roost.

  • My first novel

    I’ve been exploring a number of writing methods for fiction over the past year. My learning has been part doing, and part knowledge input. This has included diving into a number of non-fiction books, tons of great podcasts, articles, courses, and more. In addition, I’ve continued to read works of fiction. All of this input has led to an output, to the tune of a thousand words per day (six days a week).

    Right now I’m working on the cover for a book, as well as pushing through another book. There’s so much to learn, and I enjoy this part of trying to figure out what it takes to get a book out.

  • Writing and living

    Since September 2019 I’ve been engaged in the process of daily writing. This writing has been for offline projects, which someday will see the light online. It’s been long enough, so this is an update on a few fronts.

    Work – 2020 was a crazy year for many of us, and despite all the chaos around I was able to get work done with a number of amazing colleagues. I’ve been busy with projects at XWP. There’s a lot I could write about there, but at a high level I’m support on projects as a Senior Product Designer, as well as a Senior Product Owner. I’m loving it! Thankful each day for an opportunity to work with a great company.

    Fiction – Each day, six days a week, I sit down to write fiction or edit my fiction. I’ve now written manuscripts for four novels, a half dozen short stories, and am partway into writing a fifth novel. All of this has been a length learning process, but one which I’ve enjoyed along the way. I’m now at the point where I need to take my learnings and ship something, and that’s my goal for Q1 of 2021, to publish my first novel. Here’s to hoping for a great update in the near future on that front.

  • Lewiston, Idaho

    A few pictures from my journey down to Lewiston with a friend. It’s such a beautiful city; thankful to call Idaho home!

  • On Writing Daily

    On Writing Daily

    In September, 2019 I began writing a novel. One thousand words per day, six days per week. By Thanksgiving the manuscript was complete. The next day I started a second novel, and completed the manuscript this week.

    I stuck to a plan suggested by Stephen King in On Writing, and have found it works well for me.

    The process has been a joy for the past six months. No matter what’s going on in my life I know I’ll sit down by the end of the day and write a thousand words. Most days this takes me about twenty minutes.

    Yesterday I picked up the first novel and started editing it. This was the first time I’d read it since November. For the editing process I exported from Ulysses > PDF > Apple Books, and began reading on my iPad Mini. Using a stylus I was able to cut out paragraphs, add a few notes here and there, and start reading. It was a lot of fun! Most of what I wrote needs to be removed or changed entirely, but there’s a nugget of a story that I’m coming to love.

    To keep up with the original plan I also started writing a third book that I’ve been thinking about for a few months.

    This is partially why I’ve been so silent here for the past few months, I’ve been investing a little time each day into larger projects, all of which I hope to share some day.