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This is INFODUMP 45
The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.

Another crazy week. No sooner had I sent last week's letter than Joe Biden became President Elect. At time of writing, Trump has yet to accept this fact. We live in interesting times.

I'm being brief this week, mainly blathering on about desktop publishing and note-taking...

We put some more finishing touches to The Shadow Over Innsmouth, including a brief session re-recording some chunks with an actor, to get over a minor sound-quality issue we had on the original remote recording. The episodes are sounding really great now.

Episode 0 has gone up, and you can hear it HERE. The whole series, plus bonus episodes, is going to be available on 19 November.

I've spent some time this week making a "deck" to pitch our company's podcast ideas. For those who don't know (which was me about two months ago) a deck is a kind of hybrid of a presentation and a document; it's designed like a presentation but then it's sent out as a pdf. At least I think that's what it is.

Making stuff like this is not really what I do, but I quite like the change of mindset it requires. I created this one by setting up a project in Notion, using the gallery view so that each database entry represented one card in the deck (oh, I get why it's called a deck now!). On that card I wrote the headline and bullet points. Then, when I was happy with what I had, I started copy-pasting the text into Affinity Publisher.

I really like Publisher, though I'm certainly not a graphic designer and wouldn't claim to know my way around anything other than the essentials. Back in my Windows days, I had a pirate copy of Quark Express (on a computer with a 100mb hard-drive!) which I used to love tooling around with to make presentation documents for short films etc. Again, these presentations probably weren't any good from a technical standpoint, but I really enjoyed presenting my ideas in a new way, and often found that the exercise would give me some new insight into the project, or a new way to connect thoughts. The same is now true using Publisher - I've learned about how our company slots into the bigger media ecosystem through the discipline of having to present it as something other than a creative.

No deck is complete without some serious flow charts, and that required me to head back to OmniGraffle, which I haven't used for years. Again, this is a fun way to present information, with a really easy learning curve. I'm tempted to try OmniGraffle out as a writing tool - I think it could be an interesting way to go about structuring a pitch, or even a story.

Once again, I have failed to get involved with NaNoWriMo. Every year I think I'm going to do it, every year I realise halfway through the month that I haven't. I realise this is mostly Fear Of The Novel. But that's a fear I'd like to overcome at some point.

On Audible, I'm listening to Matthew McConaughey reading his book "Greenlights", which is every bit as awesome as Matthew McConaughey reading his own book sounds like it would be. Part memoir, part notebook, part random bits of advice and wisdom, it's full of great anecdotes delivered with a ton of energy and charm. I had no idea how genuinely strange and unusual McConaughey's life has been - a chapter about his year as an exchange student in Australia keeps threatening to turn into a full on psychological horror movie. If you need something to take you out of your head, and you need a sense that life can be looked at from a completely different perspective, you should check this out.

We haven't done music for a little while, so here's a list of the things that have been on rotation for me the most over the past few weeks:

  • Blue Note Re:imagined - Various Artists. Old Blue Note classics performed by modern jazz artists.
  • You Can't Steal My Joy - Ezra Collective. Discovered via the Blue Note album, a great young London jazz collective.
  • The Prisoner - Herbie Hancock. Classic late-sixties Herbie Hancock.
  • The Power Of The One - Bootsy Collins. His latest, and with all of the energy of everything else Bootsy does.
  • Sunset In The Blue - Melody Gardot. An amazing singer with an amazing story.
  • Giant Steps - John Coltrane (Mono). A classic, but in mono, as it was meant to be heard.
  • Miles Davis in Mono. A collection of Miles albums remastered in the original mono. Again, it just sounds better this way.

Let's talk about to do apps, because I am on this never ending quest for the right one. As previously noted, I am currently using Sorted 3, which is an iOS app which has a desktop version in (mostly solid) beta. I like it for one key feature; it auto-schedules the day. Right now, at time of writing, it's 6.45 in the morning on Wednesday and I have 23 items on today's to do list. These include hour-long slots for writing on three different projects, some scripts to read, a Zoom meeting with some people at the University of York, a meeting with a writer, various errands and bits of admin etc. This looks like an average day for me, in productivity terms. Sorted allows me to assign a duration to each event when I put it into the system. It also allows me to "lock" certain events to a time (meetings etc). Then, at the click of a button, it schedules the day for me. This is time-blocking; every minute of the day is accounted for. And as the day goes on and new things come in, or things drift, I can keep clicking that button to have the thing re-schedule on the fly.

Sorted is not the best looking app, and it has a few annoying features, but this single idea of auto-scheduling is a life saver.

I've been trying TickTick alongside Sorted. TickTick looks nicer, by quite a long way, but it is a real pain to import things and give them a duration and it does not auto-schedule. There is some pleasure in being able to move these blocks around the day manually, like playing Tetris with your tasks, but it visualizes the day in 30 minute slots. If TickTick introduced auto-scheduling, and was a little more flexible and user-friendly, I would be all over it.

I used to alternate between Things and OmniFocus. And I still like both apps. But these are both really glorified to do lists, and it seems that this is not actually the most efficient way to manage tasks. To do lists are a mountain you can never conquer, where a daily schedule is a finite thing that you can actually (sometimes) get to the end of. It's a map through the day.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about notes; specifically the Zettlr and Obsidian apps. These are both still working out very well for me, but I've added Roam Research into the mix, mainly because there is so much chatter about it that I wanted to be on top of what it's doing and where it's going. Roam is a great tool for note-taking/note making because it makes use of links and backlinks to connect ideas together. Roam is online-only at the moment, which is a bit of a shortcoming as far as I'm concerned, but it imports and exports well to Markdown and they are developing very fast; apps are supposedly on the way imminently and I suspect they'll introduce Markdown in an attempt to kill Obsidian, which seems to be their main rival.

Roam has a cleaner interface than Obsidian, which is to say that they let a lot of the functionality run in the background. I'm not sure which system I prefer, but I am certain that this is the future of note-making and idea-generation. This whole "second brain" thing (details HERE) is fascinating to me. I recently re-organised all the files in my Dropbox (which is all my files) into the PARA system which has radically cut down the time it takes me to find anything.

A few things that grabbed me this week:

An oral history of "Marge Vs The Monorail", which I didn't realise was written by Conan O'Brien

Austin Kleon referred to this as one of his favourite essays: How The Karate Kid Ruined The Modern World

The Denialist Playbook is a fascinating account of how denial of science works now, and historically.

In The Atlantic, Helen Lewis managed the rare trick of writing about something you don't think you care about, and making it important: Earldoms for Girldom

And here's one I haven't read yet, but which I'm looking forward to getting into just as soon as this letter has been sent: My Priceless Summer on a Maine Lobster Boat

Have a good week, don't let the bastards get you down.

Fuck it. Send.
Copyright © 2020 Julian Simpson Ltd, All rights reserved.

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