In 2020, I'll bring you new episodes dissecting tactics, tools, and habits from insightful guests and from my own experiments to live a more meaningful, creative, and simple life.
Today, you can listen to a conversation with technology whisperer Tatjana Dzambazova recorded among the trees of Mill Valley, California. Tanja inspires and connects people—myself included—as she spreads ideas to make the world a better place.
Enjoy this episode on asking the right questions to avoid wasting talent, thinking different, and the myth of a better life.
There's nothing like being authentic to gain people's trust.
But how do you determine how much to uncover?
For me, authenticity is all about learning who I am while sharing my worldview and the things I've learned that might be worth your time.
Tips and tricks and ways of doing and understanding the world.
I recently pushed a mild re-design of the Getting Simple website. It now has proper home, podcast, and writing pages with the intention of informing the newcomer about what the project is all about.
Both the home and podcast screens feature a Spotify player with the latest episode. There is still some work needed to be done around the writing page — it's hard to navigate now only looking at titles and I'm liking how lesswrong.com and gwern.net show a post preview on hover — and the podcast and article templates.
It's live, so you can Take a look.
We used to think more about what to gift.
A present involved creative thinking: knowing the other and learning about what they liked and cared about.
The mall, the outlet, the online store, and the Google search make it easy to figure out what we want and where to buy it.
The accessibility and convenience of ubiquitous technology and retail stores simplify how we gift today.
But maybe, just maybe, it was that extra effort (that's now fading away) that made the exchange special, more humane.
It's harder than ever to surprise you—and it's all about the surprise.
In Spain, we have the tradition of eating twelve grapes in the first thirty-six seconds of the new year, with each grape corresponding to one of the upcoming months. This tradition—which has been adopted in other Spanish speaking countries—is believed to provide good luck for the year.
No matter where we are, we'll eat our twelve grapes.
The beginning of the year is one of the most important temporal landmarks—moments in which it's easier for us to start doing a new activity. I'll quit smoking. I'll eat healthier. I'll exercise regularly. You name it. Each person has its own fight. And, even though you can kickoff a new habit any day, any time, it's proven that the push of an important event, such as your birthday or the start of a new year or a week, will make it easier.
As mentioned in The Fresh Start Effect—a paper published at University of Pennsylvania by Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman, and Jason Riis—"[T]he popularity of New Year's resolutions suggests that people are more likely to tackle their goals immediately following salient temporal landmarks." That is, we are more likely to achieve our personal goals when using the beginning of the week, month, year, or even a holiday or birthday as a kick-start. Temporal landmarks demarcate the passage of time and allow us to create mental accounting periods that relegate past imperfections to a previous period which, as a result, might motivate aspirational behaviors—"activities that help people achieve their wishes and personal goals." 1
These temporal landmarks—be it the turn of the year, the beginning of a month, or your birthday—can provide new opportunities to start fresh and pursue your goals, by establishing timeframes that separate you from your past failures. 2 You can set your own "temporal landmark" in advance and use it as a "fresh start" to improve different aspects of your life.
Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior. Management Science, 60(10), 2563–2582. ↩︎
Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2015). Put Your Imperfections Behind You: Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings. Psychological Science, 26(12), 1927–1936. ↩︎
— Hey, Sammy! Follow me. Jack said.
— Where are we going?
— We're getting a new gadget that will cut the grass for us.
— Oh! Will you be able to spend more time with me then?
As the year comes to an end, I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.
I hope you get time to recharge before the beginning of 2020.
I believe the ultimate goal of writing is to touch others; to make our words resonate with our readers. Today my spoken words are for you.
This episode is part of an experimental series titled Habits in which I share how myself (and others) do certain things and why, hopefully unveiling workflows, techniques, habits, and routines that you can make use of right away. Specifically, this episode focuses on writing and what's helping me write more consistently. I share the software tools and gadgets that I use on a daily basis to journal and write essays, posts, and episodes, and to review and edit my writing.
Crazy. It's already been two years. Back then, Zach Kron (@ZachKron) described his daily job as "Banging digital tools with a stick to make them break." When I left the recording room, I remember telling Zach, You just made my podcast a real thing. And I'm so grateful to him for that.
Zach is now sharing his beautiful hand (and robotic) craft on Instagram at @kronzach.
There's a subtle difference between the manual and the guide.
The manual is meant to tell you how to use and assemble your new gadget—the very function of every single button; the place where every nut and bolt need to go.
A hand-recorder, for instance, ships with a printed booklet—a manual—that contains detailed instructions on how to use it; LEGO blocks and IKEA furniture ship with meticulous step-by-step instructions on how each of the pieces fit together. Without these detailed instructions, we would probably end up with ingenious, original combinations of the parts, but we might not get to build the shelf or toy we bought at the store.
Unless you're really familiar with hand recorders, it's unlikely you'll discover all of the capabilities your recorder is armed with without studying its manual.
The guide, however, offers advice and guidance along a given process but doesn't provide detailed instructions. No enumerated steps to follow but recommendations and tips and insights to learn from.
Guidebooks guide the tourist around a foreign country, introduce the newbie to a new activity, and educate the amateur with esoteric knowledge.
It's great to follow the manual when the equation requires precision and accuracy. (You don't want your shelf to fall apart!)
In your day to day, though, there's no need to be constrained by exact steps.
Are you following the steps in the manual or using the tips in the guide?
I had a blast giving a guest lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design back in October, invited by Jose Luis Garcia del Castillo. (Watch on YouTube.)
In this guest lecture, Nono Martínez Alonso discusses his work on developing intuitive interfaces for creative communities, and how the collaboration between human and artificial intelligences can enhance the design process like, for example, with suggestive drawing. Recorded on 2019.10.30.
Intuitive is an overused term but it simply means that with the average prior knowledge you have you can, more or less, guess the effects of certain actions. In that case, you don't need a lot of trial and error to figure out the logic of the system. […] I don't think it's a deliberate process, but the trivial thing to say is that, "People with similar experience have similar ways of responding to the world and similar ways of interacting with the world." —Panagiotis Michalatos
Yesterday, my body temperature got up to 39.7 Celsius degrees. I was shivering with fever and felt like crap.
We have all these plans we want to do, places we want to visit, and projects we want to work on. From Monday to Friday, work is imperative. Yet, a simple fever prevents you from going to work. The slightest sickness can render essential things expendable.
I've spent many hours in bed over in the last two days, and finding the time to write this was challenging. But these are the days that make me appreciate the times in which I feel good even more, when I'm free to choose what to do instead of laying down in bed.
Time flies! It's already been two years since I released the first episode of the podcast. Thank You for being there.
I've had a blast interviewing dozens of incredible people and wanted to celebrate by bringing you a special episode in which tables turn. (Special thanks to Jose Luis for making this happen.)
Please enjoy this interview with yours truly on a tiny bit of my own story, the how and why I started Getting Simple, and the struggles and joys behind producing a podcast on simple living, doing less better, and crafting your own lifestyle.
It was Friday, January 27, 2017. Geared up for the cold weather, I left Clary St biking towards Petsi Pies in Putnam Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I was about to meet with Pan at 9 am to talk about my master's thesis.
I was wearing a Columbia jacket, my Buff, thick gloves, thermal pants, and my helmet. It was between two or four celsius degrees and riding my biking made it feel a lot colder.
I got to Petsi Pies twenty minutes early, locked my bike to the nearest tree with a U lock, and sat on the sidewalk. Sketchbook in hand and gloves out, I began sketching on my pocket Moleskine, portraying the house by which a few weeks later I would find a wild turkey walking freely—a common thing to see around Cambridge that you can see by searching turkey cambridge massachusetts on Google images or YouTube.
If I were to ask you where your keys are, would you know? What about your passport? And what about what's in your pockets right now?
"A place for everything and everything in its place," says the old proverb.1 Designating a place for each of your belongings and returning them to their assigned location after each use makes it easier to find anything in the future, but keeping everything organized isn't easy. As a first step, we can focus on designating a location for each of our frequently-used items.
Carrying your phone in your pocket creates a shortcut. It's easier to take it out your pocket than it is to take it out of your backpack or purse. Each pickup will be easier and you'll use it more often.
I reserve the small pocket of my jeans for my home keys (the pocket originally meant for men to keep their pocket watches); the left pocket for my phone; and the right pocket for my wallet and AirPods. It's automatic and I know where to find them.
Placing the things you use the most within easy reach will make using them more comfortable. You can even make copies of some of these items to access them from multiple places. You won't buy two phones, but it's easy to make copies of your keys, for instance.
That's why the digital shortcut is awesome; you can create copies of your files for free, spread your most valued content across devices and folders and the cloud, and share a copy with your friends and co-workers.
What's in your pocket?
I like to start working in the early morning with the minimum amount of items on my desk. A MacBook Air, a 4K monitor, and a wireless mouse. No matter how well I clean up my desk at the end of my workday, I'll start spreading things back on it when I start working next morning.
The creative process is messy. You might sketch with your hands and prototype with your computer, copy-paste text and images, or note down what you need to do on a piece of paper. Files, sheets, and work tools end up scattered around your physical and virtual desktops.
Part of our work will inevitably end up in the trash or archived on a folder. What's discarded is essential to get the work done and a potential source of future inspiration but not part of the finished piece.
We need the quick-and-dirty as much as we need the refined, careful mockup. The draft and the revision. The process of making is somewhat chaotic. Creativity is messy and there's little room for cleanliness, as it might add friction to our process. The focus should be on making. But we can save time later by organizing and cleaning up while we make. A systemized to store file versions so you don't have to find a place for them later; a trash can right next to your desk so you can trash scrap paper as you go.
The deliverable—the final final—is, hopefully, always clear and pristine. You hide the crap and leave the final printout on the table by itself. I often do this at my desk, I reset. I take everything out except for my laptop, mouse, and monitor, and even though I'll need my charger eventually, I clear the cache and start from scratch. It's a simple way to remove visual distractions.
But, really, Who cares about your workflow? Well, it's mainly you, and perhaps a few others. We often overvalue how we did our work—it's where our efforts lie—but people want to see the shiny artifact. The ones who care about how you did it are the ones willing to replicate your creative process (and the uber-curious). For them, your workflow—the steps that brought you here—are useful and didactic, or simply an interesting thing to learn from.
By about 3000 BC the Egyptians had already developed a calendar, and a water clock, the sand clock predecesor, was already in use around 1500 BC, probably to time guard duty watches, travel time, or other cultural events.1
Today, time is ubiquitous and highly synchronized throughout the world, and the instruments we use to measure, keep, and indicate time have evolved a lot.2
We hang clocks in our walls and wear watches in our wrists and, with the appearance of digital devices, time turned into one more feature in our displays. We hardly ask each other the time anymore, as we simply reach into our pockets and tap our phone screen or look at the corner of our computer monitor.
I still keep the watches I wore when I was a child as some sort of memory tokens; a blue and yellow Flik Flak, a Casio F-91W, and an infra-red remote control capable of learning new commands, the Casio CMD-40.
With my first Nokia phone, I somehow stopped wearing watches. In 2008, I got my first iPod touch and, in 2015, my first and only smartphone so far, an iPhone 6. I remember being happy about not having to rely on a hand watch to check the time. But these smart devices are capable of doing so much more than just check the time and, as it turns out, we end up heavily relying on them. A simple time check can turn into a sudden exposure to notifications prompting you to reply a message, watch a dumb meme, or simply reminding you of your next commitment. Useful but often distracting interactions.
This is why, a few months ago, I decided to go back to wearing the classic Japanese watch I used to wear as a kid—the Casio F-91W—to avoid relying so much on my iPhone to check the time, set my morning alarm, or use a stopwatch.
I could buy it on Amazon for 10,60 euros and have it on my hands in just a few days. A surprisingly cheap, comfortable, and lazy purchase that makes me undermine its monetary value.
Why am I telling you this? Because this unitasker has probably saved me hundreds or thousands of phone pickups, and lots of time-sinking moments mindlessly using my phone.
In an era of multitasking smartphones, purposefully relying on unitasking devices—that can only do one thing, really well—can help you better focus on whatever it is you want to do.
If you want to be more present, maybe finding the answer to What's the time? or being able to sketch or note something down outside of your smartphone may be a good strategy.
How can we use our design skills for good? Nate Peters, who specialized in design technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, believes we can make open tools that others cherish, enjoy, and benefit from.
Enjoy this episode on using design for good, Nate's take (and paranoia) on what's coming with artificial intelligence and machine learning, his take on creativity, work & life, and much more.
Psst! And, for the first time, you can read a full transcript of this episode.
On the early morning of Sunday, April 7, 2019, Mom and I started a new sketchbook in London.
Each sketchbook is unique. A set of pages bound to a specific time of your life, usually loaded with memories of where you brought it and when you sketched what's in there. A precious and irreplaceable object.
Many times—and I've heard others say the same—I'm more afraid of loosing my laptop or my phone than I am of loosing my sketches. I do a good job backing my stuff up to the cloud, religiously scanning and editing my drawings, but the digital experience isn't quite the same. Feeling the texture of the paper with your fingers, examining the different color shades, and browsing through the pages with your hands make holding this hand-crafted artifacts a joy.
It was between April 7 and July 10, 2019 (a span of ninety four days) when I sprinted through my first 60-page, A4, landscape Moleskine sketchbook, and I'm about to finish the second one.
That Sunday morning of April, Mom and I were sitting in the Wellcome Gallery at the British Museum with our brand new sketchbook, portraying our stolen friend, whom you might already know from the first little story that kick-started this whole thing.
Ever since, we carry this sketchbooks wherever we go, capturing our own journeys as our paths move away and come closer together.
"In the United States, food waste is estimated at thirty to forty percent of the food supply." 1 That's a lot.
A vast amount of goods are produced, packaged, and shipped all around the world for us to buy and consume locally. No matter how far and no matter the time of the year, you can probably get it, and a big chunk ends up being trashed without ever being used—how could we live without kiwis, right?
Individual decisions—say, finding the nearest trash can (as opposed to dropping something on the floor) or re-using a plastic bag (instead of heading to the supermarket empty-handed)—are on you. This is what I do.
Larger decisions—whether to ban plastic bags or how much carbon dioxide emissions are too much—are on your community, your city, your country, or even the world as a whole. This is how we do.
I'm skeptic of the effectiveness of our decisions as consumers. We're at the end of a big chain of decisions and have been fooled into thinking we can change the world. Yes, "the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world [might be] the ones who do,"2 but that requires involvement in large organizations as well, not a personal behavioral change. Bring your own bag dot com, for instance, proudly claims to have saved 12,500,000,000 plastic bags from landfill waste. They seem to have convinced millions of people and businesses to use their earth-friendly bags.
Even thought governments and large corporations determine what (and how) gets produced and where it's exported for its consumption, our decisions as individuals end up determining what companies want to sell and produce as well. The new trends we adopt as consumers seem to reinforce the kinds of goods that get produced to make a sale. Take, for instance, veganism. A global phenomena spreading quickly, I believe, thanks to the choice of organizations and so-called influencers to promote it as a positive movement for the planet that, if adopted wisely, can be a healthy habit for yourself as well.3 As a result of individual adoption vegan restaurants are spreading, and new companies are solely focusing on producing vegan food.
As much as I can, I'll keep bringing my own bags to do groceries, but I'm not completely sure about the effects of such smalls acts at a time in which thousands of small rubber ducks ship daily from Asia to every single corner in the world.
Here's the original quote (apparently) by Rob Siltanen. “Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ↩︎
It isn't easy to go vegan without missing out on some proteins and nutrients your body needs and was getting somewhere else. ↩︎
So happy to announce that our short film — Sisyphus, directed by Dani Natoli — has been selected by the Seville European Film Festival and will be screening on November 14, 2019.
I like to re-visit how nervous or stressed or calm or impatient or curious or mistaken I was before a given event was about to happen. Maybe, I was nervous about meeting someone for the first time or interviewing a podcast guest. Maybe, I felt the struggle of doing something hard when I wasn't used to it, something that today come naturally to me today. Maybe, I was holding thoughts or opinions that turned out to be completely wrong afterwards.
Our mind is skilled at altering memories and experiences from the past. I find it rewarding to mull over journaling notes, from weeks, months, or even years ago, to encounter thoughts I couldn't recall anymore, simply because I managed to capture them on time.
I love Laura Vanderkam's suggestion to be grateful every week at least for a few minutes. "Things that were once uncertain seem, in retrospect, to be inevitable. You can choose, however, to rekindle some of the joy you felt after winning that promotion or landing that record deal. Simply remind yourself of where you once were, and where you are now, and the gulf between them that’s as wide as the ocean blue."1
A talk about machine learning, design, and creativity, at University of Arts Berlin on September 21, 2019, during the Fresh Eyes workshop at the Design Modelling Symposium conference.
You are, once again, in that long line at the airport to get your boarding passes and drop your bag. Your luggage includes three items—a check-in suitcase, a carry-on, and a small backpack, maybe a purse—and now you're next in line. (To be honest, a little nervous.) Your bag is over the 23 kg limit, and it's your turn. Passport in hand, you go to the counter and are prompted to place your suitcase on the weight. The machine reads 24.5 kilos. Overweight! You think to yourself. It's all fine—the lady smiles—wrapping a tag around your suitcase's handle and sending it in through the conveyor belt. Here are your boarding passes. Have a safe flight!
If you want to add the
cs files from one Visual Studio solution (or project) into another, without duplicating the
cs files or moving them over, you can simply use the
Add > Existing file.. option, making sure that instead of selecting the files and clicking
Add (which would copy the files over to your project folder duplicating them) you click on the small arrow and click
Add As Link. The files will be linked to your project as a reference to the other project, and editing them will change their code for both Visual Studio projects.
The short answer is that you can't. But there's a workaround.
Let's say you have a newsletter design as follows, which shows the post
image, followed by its
title and full
*|RSSITEM:IMAGE|* *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*
*|RSSITEM:IMAGE|* RSS merge tag will pull in the image and assign to the the created
img element the
height corresponding to the original size of the image. Something like this (which is an example extracted from my Mailchimp campaign using the design template above).
<img class="mc-rss-item-img" src="https://nono.ma/img/u/sketch-170202_cambridge-clary-st.jpg" height="1868" width="2500" style="height: 1868;width: 2500;">
The problem is that we don't want to explicitly specify the
width values of our image, as its oversized compared to the width of our design, which in my example was
600px plus margins, which was leaving
564px for the width of the image itself.
Here's the workaround: You create the image's
img HTML element yourself, formatting it as you want, and use the
RSSITEM:ENCLOSURE_URL—which according to Mailchimp "Displays the URL for the attached file [of your post]." In my case, the RSS feed is using the
enclosure tag to send the image URL.
// RSS feed item enclosure tag <enclosure url="https://nono.ma/img/u/sketch-170202_cambridge-clary-st.jpg" type="image/jpeg"/>
Then I can use that URL in my Mailchimp design as follows (also adding the post's
title and full
content below the
<img src="*|RSSITEM:ENCLOSURE_URL|*" style="max-width: 100%"> *|RSSITEM:TITLE|* *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*
It snowed two days ago, the snow melted yesterday, and Cambridge is sunny today. With clear skies, temperatures go low.
I had been learning Go programming all day and needed a break. My first thought was to go for a walk or sketch outside, but I didn't really felt like going outside in such cold weather, so I decided to draw the same house my mom had sketched six months before from my window. I didn't notice the amount of cables until I sketched them.
I wrote those words the morning of February 2, 2017, right before sketching this view from my desk. A year and a half before, in August 2015, I would arrive to our shared student apartment in 8 Clary St, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
My room was a spacious studio originally meant to be our living room, one of the most special places I've lived in that became my home for the three winters to come. I probably spent thousands of hours meditating and starring out of my bow window, talking on the phone and working at my desk—a two-and-a-half-meter-long kitchen top from IKEA, finished in beech, sitting over two black table legs.
Looking out the window, I've seen my girlfriend, family, and friends—including roommates and podcast guests—get home; my bike locked to street signs; random passersby walking along Prospect St; and the white snow cover the streets in winter.
I captured my room and a few other spaces in Cambridge the months preceding my departure in the form of 360-degree virtual reality panoramas that I revisit from time to time using a simple Google cardboard set. I keep surprising myself with the power of these virtual reality scenes—which include sound and imagery—to bring me back to Cambridge. If only for a second, I'm fooled into thinking I'm still there; biking from Clary street to Harvard and then to MIT, commuting to Boston Seaport, or simply hanging out with friends for dinner. Sweet memories.
I'm not sure how many times I looked out that window, but looking at these sketches sparks joy.
In 2011, I found this blue hat in a thrift store in Raleigh, North Carolina. Looks good! I thought to myself while trying it out in front of a mirror—I bought it for seven dollars.
Even though I remember owning (and wearing) hats when young, I was not a big fan of hats during my teenage years, probably, because I had short hair and I don't like to wear hats when my hair is too short. It wasn't until I started letting my curls grow—and found this blue hat—that I started wearing them.
"Tri State Tank West, Inc. Sacramento, CA," reads the cap. It's a Calhead style #92 made out of cotton and polyester in Taiwan by California Headwear (Calhead), 661 Rio St. Los Angeles, California, 90023.1
I searched the internet for references to California Headwear and their style 92 and found similar hats, also from Calhead, sold as vintage hats on sites like eBay. Air Space America 88, Jack Daniels, Iowa Rose Bowl 1991, Ross for boss 1992, Chip, Dole Hawaii. Then, googling Tri-State Tank West, I found two hats of the same exact design but different color—red and white—on sale on eBay, listed as Vintage Tri State Tank West Sacramento California Baseball Hat Red Snapback Cap. Their price? $41.41 and $51.97.
Ever since I bought it, this has been my hat. I've wore it on sunny and cloudy days, not only while living in Raleigh but on trips around the world, including Australia, London, Spain, Greece, Cambridge, and many, many other places. (I also wore it in this short film recorded in the desert of Almería.)
Now, I have it here with me in San Francisco, California. After eight years, it's getting old. So it might about time to get a new one.