I’m not one for paperless

People can tell the week I’ve had by how my office looks like at the end of it. Paperwork, notepads, and books explode outwards from my desk. Like some kind mind expansion blast wave.

If by the end of the week I’m jumping over piles of paper stacked on the floor it’s probably time to schedule a few days off. I prefer the tactile process of reading and writing on paper. That means I end up with a lot of paper. I had to stop buying notebooks a while back because I had too many blank pages yet to be filled. Stationary is fun, but it’s also clutter. 

My hand writing was atrocious before I spent the majority of my time in front of a computer and it’s worse now. That said, if I want to commit a concept to memory the fastest way I’ve found of doing that is scribbling my summary of it and expanding on it with my own thoughts. Each stroke of the pen is like filing something properly in my brain. 

Any notebook I retire gets a final cover to cover read through to pluck out any forgotten gems I may have written down. I record those in text files using Markdown. There are a lot of digital black holes out there and I try to ensure I’m not making another one. I used OneNote a lot years ago and am now loath to even open the app. Too much trash in there. My strategy now is to do all the sorting and cleaning before I commit something to digital. In a weird turn of events I see digital as being permanent and paper to be temporary.

In the end if you want to keep good notes organising those notes can take as much time as you spent writing them. 


Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash 


I have no idea what to do with my spare time. Given the choice I’ll work, but as it has been pointed out to me numerous times, if you are not working for yourself you’re doing unpaid work for someone else.

I don’t have so much free time that it’s worth getting a second job and I have no drive to write a novel. Sometimes I get stuck being unproductive and the very act of staying seated drives me nuts. You don’t know how long it took me to get started on this blog post. Procrastination involves self deception, I wasn’t deceiving myself when the words weren’t flowing. There were no ideas in the well when I sent the bucket down.

I should probably file my taxes early (Due date: October) just to have a productive day. This is where I am now. Filling out tax forms. The suffering involved in writing a novel is becoming more attractive by the second. Sometimes being lazy is a gift.

8D589DAD-137C-43C4-B7FD-0DAF2B95D394Photo by Chase Yi on Unsplash

Marvel movies have nowhere to go from here

Marvel Studios spent years building up to a fight with Thanos. Like those movies or not, they delivered a two film punch up that drew a line under the shared Marvel universe. My question is, does anyone care what happens now? Who can be fought that’s worth fighting seven or eight years from now? Time travelling Kang the Conquer? We’ve seen the time travel thing.

Time travel solved the Thanos problem, it also solved the Dormammu problem. Doctor Strange bored Dormammu into a truce. He won’t be the next major threat. Ultron got one movie, it won’t be him either.

They’ll bring in mutants and the X-Men. But in a world with the Avengers why would mutants be a threat? Hydra had resources well beyond any collection of mutants and Hydra were taken to pieces. Magneto would be locked up in the Raft maximum security prison a few days after he popped his head up. 

They’ll bring in the Fantastic Four. If you can defeat Thanos you have a good shot at defeating Galactus. Galactus isn’t even a villain and can be talked into ignoring Earth and coming back millennia later. He’s got the time.

Is everyone going to be a Skrull? So what? Will there be Dark Avengers? So what? Norman Osborn using the resources of the state against everyone would be interesting for a movie. That story won’t carry a number of movies.

It is probable the days of the long story arc in Marvel movies are over. From here on out it could be smaller arcs linked together. That’s less interesting to me because that’s a TV series.


Photo by Judeus Samson on Unsplash

Don't be a digital hoarder

In the real world the act of hoarding brings with it a clutter blindness. Hoarders don’t see the mess no matter how large the mess is. In the mind of a hoarder their hoarding of objects is a means of preserving their memories. The object itself has some personal significance or is part of an uncompleted task.

Throwing things away? Well that’s like choosing to forget. Or giving up on a small job they keep meaning to do but have put off until tomorrow. Years of tomorrows pass, the job will never be completed.

I confronted my own digital clutter blindness a few weeks ago. Hard Drive capacity kept getting larger, each move of the information mess to a larger set of drives giving the mess more space to grow. The starting point was sorting the mess. I wrote some rules to classify the data by extension and last access time into different folders. I hashed them to find and eliminate duplicates, and then I went through the folders with an unmerciful use of the delete command.

I deleted hundreds of Gigabytes of digital cruft that had been hanging around for more than two decades. I organised my photo collection for offsite retention and dug out some old written work I was happy to find. I was even happier to finally finish it.

It’s a cliché in information management that the first step is classification, but it’s true. If you want to deal with your own clutter blindness get something to sort your data first. If you're not one for writing your own automation scripts there are apps that will sort it out for you and they only cost a few quid. Then you work the delete key hard. You have to be merciless, and if in doubt you delete it.

I assure you that you'll feel that you have achieved something afterwards. It felt like it was leaving the burdens of the past, and its unfinished jobs, behind me at last.


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Keep your distance. Be happier.

I’m convinced that you are better off avoiding the creators of the things you enjoy, especially online. What’s the upside of following them on social media? Are you going to learn how they do what they do from reading a few tweets? Can they explain how they do what they do themselves? So, why are you following them?

If they hold opinions you are fine with, you’re going to watch a procession of grifting nitwits argue with them to endorse more extreme opinions. “You support X, but you need to step up and support XYZ and ABC because only the worst people believe otherwise. You’re not one of them are you? Prove it.”

If they hold opinions you find distasteful that can sour everything of theirs that you have enjoyed. Out of the creators who have “suffered consequences” online for not being on the correct side of an ever shifting line, how many of them were inhuman? Or were they fine up until the moment they stepped on an opinion landmine and online outrage inertia finished them off?

Keep your distance from the creators you like, you may enjoy their work more.


Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash

Who has time for this?

I was a news junkie but I’ve given up following most news. It’s ephemeral and of little long term value. I open Twitter and look away for a few minutes, 300 odd Tweets have dropped into my timeline. RSS reader? When I get around to opening it up I declare anything older than yesterday to be bankrupt and have it deleted.

Email? A river of the stuff flows into the work account, enough to be bothersome flows into the personal account. The majority of it is from mass distribution lists or some other automated process. I don’t feel bad when I don’t open them. Slack? An ocean of drivel. Podcasts? More drivel.

Who has time for this? I’m not sure I do. The value is all coming from peer to peer conversations on messaging apps. Maybe we should turn this car around and head back to AOL Instant Messenger.

Ben-white-xqjMjaGGhmw-unsplash1Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Jet stream

Today, I shook hands with someone who wasn’t a direct family member. First time in 15 months. I’m not one for handshakes. I take note it has happened and want to wash my hands as soon as possible afterwards. I needed to move towards life after the pandemic. This was a small step towards that. Random handshakes happen. Mental note, buy and carry pocket sanitiser. Then still wash my hands.

My work calendar now has tentative international travel dates. I’m not going anywhere until I’ve had my second vaccination, and the digital Covid vaccination passport is available. But now I have places to go to. I was reticent about agreeing to travel but it’s a matter of getting back on the horse.

While travelling I used to pack light, move fast and do so with purpose. Who knows what the airports are going to be like over the next few months? Pack light and wait. With purpose.

L-filipe-c-sousa-0nUcd4-pp5k-unsplashPhoto by L.Filipe C.Sousa on Unsplash

Amazon's brain, but portable

I’m coming up on my two-year anniversary of joining Amazon Web Services. More than half of this has been spent at home without any face-to-face meetings with colleagues. Or anyone else. I thought this would weaken my connection to the company. Surprisingly, Amazon’s corporate culture is so strong I’m more “Amazonian” now than I have ever been.

It’s not strong in the “cheer for the leader and wear the T-Shirt” way. It’s intellectually strong. One day you realise you are using the lingo and looking at everything through the prism of the Amazon decision-making system. Subconsciously, I start tagging work things with leadership principles. Are we diving deep in this meeting? I see the invention where is the simplification? Who has the ownership of what’s happening here? Who makes the decision and implements it? Is it me?

I’m a big supporter of the heuristics concept. Mental shortcuts that rely on prior experience from which you can make snap decisions. Now I take the time to see if the data is 70% of the way there first, heuristics getting a 30% weighting in the decision-making process. How Amazonian of me. Trust me, I roll my eyes at that last line too. (Or I used to.)

At some stage Jeff Bezos recognised he could no longer make every decision so he wanted a mental model that any employee could apply to a situation. Well, he built one. I can tell you that it silently installs when you least expect it to, doesn’t appear to need a reboot, and it works at work. It’ll be interesting to see what the software updates will look like after he steps away from the company in a few weeks.


Photo by Daniel Eledut on Unsplash

macOS still has a few interesting tricks

Having lamented the bland state of the Mac in a prior entry I went out and ordered an M1 MacBook Pro during the week. What precipitated this was receiving a small piece of code that chugged on my (obsolete as of macOS12) MacBook Air.

A late-night Slack message to the developer asking her if she could use Grand Central Dispatch, so more of the weakling processing cores on the now ancient Intel CPU would do some work in parallel, turned out well. Those changes made; the application zoomed along.

This dramatic improvement, using an OS feature that is nearly a decade old, had me digging back into macOS to see what had changed since I stopped paying attention years ago. It was a quick read, not much has changed. But it still has some nice tricks up its sleeve so we'll carry on.

This will be my third Macintosh processor architecture transition. There was the 68K to PowerPC transition between 1994 and 1996. Then the PowerPC to Intel transition from 2005 to 2007 and now we are in the middle of the move to Apple Silicon. I enjoyed the 68K to PowerPC move and we went from System7 to OPENSTEP in the same five years, maybe I’ll enjoy this move too.

I suppose I had better go buy a dock for it.


Photo by Serhii Butenko on Unsplash

Lock in PTSD

I suspect some people are suffering from “lock in” PTSD. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see masses of young people, and those in their twenties, clogging the streets up now that the pubs are open. Most of them have spent months not drinking with friends and not screwing people who may not be friends. They think they have to catch up.

Those who are healthy and perhaps vaccinated, but dragging their feet when it comes to reengaging with the world? That may be a surprise and should be a worry. I’ve been speaking with people who tell me that they have relatives who are afraid to go out and do things. Here’s my completely unscientific advice, do what it takes to get them out of the house. Do anything.

A socially distanced walk with those who are unvaccinated or a tea/coffee/drink with those who are is good for the soul. If they are vaccinated send them in to get to the drinks, you can have them outside.

Part of the clean-up of the Covid mess is going to be in helping those who can’t move past these months of stress.

Nathan-mcdine-q8YJZe4SeDQ-unsplash-1Photo by Nathan McDine on Unsplash