The Wednesday Writeup - Issue #8

Welcome back to The Wednesday Writeup!

I have to say, I'm feeling so much more energetic this week. I finished my diet, and I gave myself a few days off from my working out, and I have come into this week feeling great! Turns out I need carbs.

I hope folks are coping well with the quarantine. It definitely starts to feel a bit like groundhog day, and I very much miss going to coffee shops. But I have to say, it feels it is getting easier to be productive as it goes along, and I'm incredibly impressed by the quality of digital communities that are popping up. This whole situation sucks of course, but I think some good things will come from it too.

What I'm Doing

Building a Second Brain is over. As of this morning we completed the last official course session. Although there will continue to be a community element and a bit of coaching going forward, the bulk of it is done. Now that it is over, I really want to take the time in the next few weeks to figure out the best way to apply the methodologies specifically to coding work. I think all of it works incredibly well with writing, PARA and Roam work perfectly to pull together posts and newsletters, and generally I feel like all I need at this point is to put in the time and I can produce decent written works. Programming not so much. I know I'm not the only one that feels this way, but managing the set of libraries, patterns, architectures, and code heavy sources involved in pulling together a software project is still difficult. I think that Notion is going to be key here, I just need to spend the time figuring out exactly how.

I have been maintaining a sourdough starter for the last week or so, and already have gotten some pretty tasty use out of the discard. Sourdough waffles turned out really well, I have a loaf of sourdough rising now, and although a little bit dense, I finished making a batch of bagels a few days ago that are quite tasty. I think I'm going to have to put the starter in the fridge soon to slow it down though, otherwise we will be devouring far too many baked goods in the coming months.

I'm trying to get better at interaction/ui design. I was making good progress on my app, but then I started implementing sharing. I can't decide where to put the share button! Figuring out the best possible way to present the features I want in a way that is intuitive, looks good, doesn't crowd the UI, and aligns with what users expect from the platform is actually really hard. I'm going through a few ideas in a design tool, and I probably need to actually pull out some physical paper and do some paper prototyping at some point. Otherwise I might just have to put it somewhere, ship it, and see how many people complain. Because I have to get this thing out sooner than later.

Speaking of my app, I decided to start sharing details of it more publicly. I have started a twitter thread about it with details, screenshots, and demos. I will be trying to tweet out updates every few days there.

What I'm Thinking

Yak Shaving is a problem. I know I'm not the only one to face the issue, but it is so incredibly easy to get caught in a loop of doing nothing but messing with systems and tools, instead of just getting things done. I'm in a situation right now where I'm still trying to pin down my systems, and this is leading to a lot of yak shaving in Notion. I think the easiest way to break this would be to just use Roam exclusively and make it work, but I will admit, there is a bit of a fear right now because of some buggy behavior that has been happening, I'm not certain I can trust it with the most important stuff. I think I'm just going to have to focus on simplicity between the two platforms, and just do the minimum viable amount I need to start getting work done, and just evolve it over time.

Been thinking about the bubbles that we all live in. I know that I was in a certain bubble back at Facebook, and I'm in a different bubble now. Trying to think beyond that bubble can be surprisingly difficult. Trying to think of what types of writing would resonate with more people, or what apps could appeal to a broad enough audience, it takes some self reflection of the nature of your bubble and how it differs from the world outside of it. On the other hand, the bubble can be a great place to start out, because it is an audience you are much more familiar with and whose needs you know intimately.

Things to Read

Have a couple of fiction(ish) recommendations this week. I need to pick up a new fiction book myself and want to pad out my reading list, so if anyone has anything particularly good they would like to recommend, send it my way!

Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Pretty much anything by Brandon Sanderson is good, but this is probably one of the easier starting points. A trilogy of really solid books, with additional spin offs being written over time. Sanderson is good because he is incredibly prolific, writes consistently high quality fantasy, and most of his books are actually set in the same universe. Not necessarily classic literature, and doesn't strive for the same type of story telling as someone like Tolkien, but he writes great characters, solid stories, and always gives a lot of thought to the consistency and rules of the settings he creates.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I read this a few years back and it stuck with me and I always try to get more people to read it. Although not technically a fiction, it is a novelization of real events written in such a way that it feels almost fictional. This book is a great blending of two stories surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. One the one hand is the story of creation and construction from the architect of the fair, and on the other is the death and destruction caused by serial killer H.H. Holmes. I only recommend reading this if you are in the mood for something slightly dark, but if you do you won't regret it.

Things to Watch

August Bradley's Notion videos

This is an interesting alternative to the PARA system for folks using Notion. It seems quite complicated, and at the moment I'm forcing myself not to pivot again into something totally different, but it is a nice alternative, that takes advantage of the power that Notion provides. I haven't gone through the whole series, but just from the first few videos there are a number of good ideas around task management and dashboard design.

Binging with Babish & Bon Appétit

Probably the best cooking shows on YouTube. If you want to improve your chops, get inspired, or even just have a bit of entertainment you should check these out.

Babish started out with minimal cooking skill but lots of skill producing videos, and taught himself to cook by starting a channel dedicated to reproducing classic dishes from film and television. Everything from the Spongebob Krabby Patty to the Pasta Aglio e Olio from Chef, if the food stood out, he has probably cooked it.

Bon Appétit is a group of chefs in a test kitchen creating and writing recipes, trying things out, and making videos about a bunch of it. There is a whole range of personalities and different focuses on the channel. There is one series of a pastry chef trying to make high quality versions of various popular sweets, one guy who focuses on making things from scratch and connecting more with the ingredients, and during this quaran-time they have started releasing videos showing their own kitchens, and demonstrating how things might be done without a professional kitchen.

Location of the Week: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

A few years back I went to Switzerland for the first time over Christmas to visit my sister who is completing school there. I pretty much immediately fell in love with the country. Amazing public transit, a culinary focus on cheese and chocolate, and gorgeous scenery no matter where you look, there isn't much not to like.

While there, me and my sister got an Airbnb in a town called Lauterbrunnen. It was incredible starting from the approach in. Despite being this relatively small town way outside of any main cities, we got there entirely from transit. After three trains and a bus, we were dropped off at the bus station at the end of the line, and from there we walked 20 minutes through the snow, carrying all of our stuff, up into a llama farm, and headed into the basement of one of the farm buildings to settle in. The view we had was incredible, we were looking out over the valley that was the inspiration for Rivendell from Lord of the Rings! And it doesn't surprise me, it was truly majestic.

Signing off until next week
- Aengus McMillin