SEPTEMBER 19, 2023

After the deadline

When you achieve a project milestone, you get relieve and joy, especially when things go as (or better than) planned. There tend to be things to refine and continue working on.

But there's nothing left to polish when you complete and deliver a project; it's done. There's a big void to fill and time to reclaim formerly invested in that big project.

That's the time for new projects and milestones.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2023

Involving others helps

A deadline is harder to meet when nobody's looking; it's a commitment with yourself, so you can cheat and don't ship.

When other's are expecting you to deliver, it's harder to skip your deadline.

That's why it can help to involve others in your projects and goals.

An audience, people who care, pushes you to keep going.


A few meters away

I first traveled to the US over the summer of 2006 to stay at a host family in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Everything was different, including deer walking in the front yard of our house as we arrived the first night or unlocked doors in every household.

One thing I still remember is my host student, Steve Johns, making a call on his flip phone from the front seat of his car while it poured outside. I quickly realized he was providing instructions on what to get from the trunk to a friend who was a few meters away, right outside the car.

Back then in Spain, we still payed to establish a call, for every minute we talked, and for every message we send over SMS with our mobile phones. So it seemed crazy that Steve would make a call instead of talking through the window. They already had plans with unlimited calls and messages.

Phones became smart and cellular plans started to include unlimited calls, messages, and internet data, which allowed calls over the internet, a movement pioneered by apps like Skype and now supported by many, such as FaceTime and WhatsApp.

I don't get free roaming in the US with my home carrier, which translates into prohibitive data prices. I use a Vodafone Yu S SIM card when I cross the Atlantic and always bring a tool to swap cards in the air before landing in American land.

The limit today is the amount of data. But that also seems to be going away as plans offer hundreds of gigabytes for ten euros a month. It's weird that's cheaper to connect your smartphone to the internet in the US with a Spanish carrier.

Today, most people with a phone has access to the internet. I use my phone when it's convenient, even if I'm talking to someone just a few meters away.

AUGUST 29, 2023

No more automated tweets

Twitter is making it expensive for third-party services to post automated tweets. A hundred dollars a month for hobbyists, $5,000 for "startups scaling their business," and around $42,000 for "businesses and scaled commercial projects."1

This means that apps like Tweetbot—a superb iPhone Twitter client—are going away, and services like Zapier—the automation service—will no longer be able to send updates to Twitter accounts.

It's hard for me to know how many people my content reaches through social media, and I recently thought I'd try to minimize my automatic updates in favor of something different: centralized updates on my newsletter at Sketch.Nono.MA or Substack.

While it's convenient to have posts automatically shared on social media every Tuesday, it feels noisy. I may reclaim the attention of my social media accounts for more special updates.

What do you think? How do you often get to read my posts, and what do you think is the best publication strategy?

P.S. Someday, I'll tell you a story about the seagull in today's sketch.

  1. Twitter introduces a new $5,000-per-month API tier. TechCrunch. Accessed Aug 28, 2023. 

AUGUST 15, 2023

The urge to look elsewhere

The mind asks for entertainment; something new and exciting that evades us from reality and gets us that little dopamine hit.

Certain things that get us there require little effort—say, watching viral videos—but others require more—the thrill of acquiring a new skill or physical activity, for instance.

Where was I going with this? Right, distractions.

Complying with what we know we have to do is categorized by our brain as boring and mandatory, the must-do.

We want novelty and unpredictability, at least at certain times.

That urge for something else is an elusive search for something better that distracts us from our goals.

We are often better off with what we know and wanted to do yesterday.

AUGUST 8, 2023

Off the hook

Disconnecting from work is hard if others rely on you to get things done.

To be off the hook while the closed-for-vacation sign is up, your team must be able to handle your duties without you.

AUGUST 1, 2023

Eleven thousand meters

I woke up aboard the UA181 flight from Frankfurt to Denver. I've been asleep for four hours.

I look out the window and find a beautiful landscape of snow and mountains below us. Like one of those snowy top views from Game of Thrones.

Where are we? I think.

We're flying across Greenland at nine hundred kilometers per hour, eleven thousand meters above sea level, and minus fifty degrees Celsius.

All I get is a high-level view. No detail. No sense of scale.

I realize this is the first time I've seen Greenland.

JULY 25, 2023

The second mistake

It had been a while since I sat to meditate. I used to do it daily, ten to twenty minutes at a time, and wouldn't miss a day. Meditating was a daily habit.

"One mistake is just an outlier. Two mistakes is the beginning of a pattern." Says James Clear.

After missing my daily practice a few times, not meditating daily became a habit.

"Killing this pattern before it snowballs into something bigger is one reason why learning how to get back on track quickly is an essential skill for building good habits." Follows Clear.

If you follow a practice and miss it once, ensure it doesn't happen twice.

Today, I meditated for ten minutes.

JULY 21, 2023

Looking for products on Amazon is a loophole.

Amazon prices are competitive. They often match offers from other vendors automatically. In Spain, for instance, they match MediaMarkt's discounts to the cent.

The issue is that offers and discounts are not always real discounts. Amazon may have a 100-euro product listed at 60 euros (40% discount) when in reality, everyone's selling the product at that price now, and 100 euros was when the product was released. It's not a discount; it's the product's current price.

What I want to do is remember the different Amazon prices I saw when visiting the product or even adding it to the shopping cart.

The idea is to create a Google Chrome extension to track the price of an Amazon page when I visit it, creating a log of actual prices. That way, when you return, you can know if that fifty percent off is an actual sale.

JULY 20, 2023

If you're trying to run a Bash script and get a Permission Denied error, it's probably because you don't have the rights to execute it.

Let's check that's true.

# Get the current file permissions.
stat -f %A
# 644

With 644, the user owner can read and write but not execute.1

Set the permissions to 755 to fix the issue.

chmod 755

  1. Chmod 644. CHMOD Calculator. 

JULY 19, 2023

Even though Vite doesn't like chunks larger than 500 kBs after minification, you can increase the kB limit. Remember, this is just a warning, not an error.

An alternative solution is to chunk your JavaScript bundle into separate chunks, known as chunking. You can do this with the vite-plugin-chunk-split package.

JULY 18, 2023

Practice and outcome

I publish a mini-essay like the one you're currently reading every Tuesday. Inevitably, some of my pieces will be better than others.1

"The practice is agnostic about the outcome." Says Seth Godin.

I write daily regardless of what I publish. The more words I type, the easier it is to dig and find things worth sharing with you at a later time.2

I don't always write for publication. I write to figure out what I'm thinking and capture memories. Discover and remember. I write for the sake of writing, to practice.

This gives me the license to write badly. No pressure. I can distance myself from my writing, return to it from a reader's perspective, then curate and polish what will see the light.

  1. Better is defined by the reader and might mean interesting, thoughtful, or inspiring. It depends on the person. 

  2. This also happens with drawings. The more I sketch, the easier it is to pair essays with a drawing for publishing. 

JULY 11, 2023

Tedious but priceless

Scanning my sketchbook is slow.

Each of its 124 pages takes up to two minutes to scan at 1200 dpi.1 But it ends up being more like 5 minutes per page as you position the sketchbook, generate a preview, and select the scanning area. Scanning an entire sketchbook takes four to ten hours (!).

A tedious task that requires patience and I recommend tackling as your sketchbook fills, not once it's full, which makes it more approachable and serves as a digital backup of your drawings if you were to lose your sketchbook.2

Browsing through my drawings anywhere I am—on my phone or laptop—is priceless. It makes it a breeze to select, edit, and publish.

Scanning my sketches equals peace of mind.

  1. I scan with the Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 (and the 400) at 1200 dpi. Even though it can go up to 4800 dpi, you mostly get larger file sizes, and the resolution difference isn't noticeable. I want to try the equivalent Epson Perfection V39II at some point. All these are A4 scanners, which limits the sketchbook size I carry with me. I use 22.9 x 15.2 cm sketchbooks because they are easier to scan. 

  2. Disclaimer: I've never lost a sketchbook, probably because I'm always scared and alert that I might. If you aren't worried, you should worry. If you are worried, you don't need to worry. 

JULY 4, 2023

Newsletterversary IV

Frank Harmon is a friend who taught me architecture studio at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, in 2012 and inspired me to look at the world differently.

Frank is an architect, teacher, writer, and avid sketcher who always has a sketchbook with him.

He writes to find out what he’s thinking, and draws to understand what he’s looking at and ensure he doesn’t forget it.

"It’s too late to stop [the internet], but what we can do as architects and artists and writers is give people a sense of place where they are," Frank said in a podcast conversation we recorded last year.

Frank believes we can make places that have something physical and concrete, grounding us in an otherwise unlimited digital world.

Today, I’m celebrating my publication’s fourth anniversary with 210 weekly sketches and mini-essays published over 1463 days.1

Frank’s Native Places blog was one of my greatest inspirations to get started with this project. The formula is simple: pair a sketch with a mini-essay, share it online, and repeat.

I’m still figuring it out. But I enjoy every bit of it and will continue writing, drawing, and publishing for years. (I encourage you to discover the power of writing: start with one word per day.)

I'd love to hear your thoughts, feedback, comments, and suggestions and invite you to write a comment, reply, send me a voice note, or send me a private message.

Thank you, as always, for pushing me to keep going.

Happy newsletterversary.

210 hand sketches by Nono Martínez Alonso.

  1. It’s been 209 weeks, 1463 days, since my first sketch and mini-essay on July 2, 2019. 

JUNE 27, 2023

Something else

There's always something else.

Something else to work on.
Something else to learn.
Something else to improve.

Something else that wants to distract you, especially when what you're doing gets boring or hard.

Today, let's focus on what we committed to yesterday, on what we already know, and on what's already working.

JUNE 20, 2023

Podcasting from New Orleans

I visited Ian Keough at his single-family home in Culver City, California, in July 2018, where he took me out surfing after recording a podcast at his kitchen table.

Ian had just started Hypar1 out of his garage, "a platform for designing, generating, and sharing building systems." He's the CEO and founder of Hypar and is known as the father of Dynamo.

Last September, we recorded a conversation in a hotel room at St Joseph Street, New Orleans, with two cameras and two microphones. We didn't surf this time but got a beautiful 6.7-mile run in at sunrise along the Mississippi River with Zach Kron.

Enjoy this episode on how Hypar is creating the next-generation platform to design, generate, and share buildings and Ian's thoughts on open-source software, visual programming, authorship, monetization, and generative AI.

We'll premiere the episode on YouTube today, Tuesday, June 20, at 2 PM ET, which means you'll be able to chat with Ian and me during the episode.

We hope you can make it!

  1. Hypar stands for hyperbolic paraboloid, a mathematical surface that resembles a saddle shape. 

JUNE 13, 2023

Seven principles to simplify email

Half of the eight billion humans alive use email.1

Some of us rely on it daily.

We browse our inboxes dozens of times a day, likely because items require time, don't have a clear resolution, or because we need to wait til we can take action.

I aim at inbox zero, which means I try to keep my email inbox empty.

Others adopt inbox infinity, a phrase coined by Taylor Lorenz in early 2019, "accepting the fact that there will be an endless, growing amount of email in your inbox every day, most of which you will never address or even see."2

Here are my principles to minimize the time spent looking at email.

  • Batch email. Process messages over a single session.
  • Act once. When possible, take action the first time you look at a message to prevent mulling over it for long periods.
  • Extract what's actionable. Don't use email as a to-do list. Move actionable messages to an external system. I'm currently using Notion.
  • Snooze what isn't actionable yet. Gmail's snooze feature lets me delay emails to a future date when they will become actionable.
  • Archive or delete. Once done with an email, I either delete it or archive it with a Keep tag to store it for the long run.
  • Remove email from your phone. I've tried this in the past, and it's the best way to detach yourself from email. But it's not something I'm doing at the moment.
  • Schedule emails. You don't need to respond to every email or reply right away. I often schedule messages for the following workday when I reply outside of work hours or during the weekend. This way, I don't involve others in work matters during the weekend and delay potential work-related replies while I'm off work.

Defining principles that work for everyone—or even a single person at different moments in life—is hard. This practice seems to be working for me right now. But I'll continue to adjust it over time.

Do you have other tricks to simplify email? I'd love to know.

  1. This statement is based on information provided by the 8 Billion Lives, INFINITE POSSIBILITIES: The Case for Rights and Choices report by United Nations and the How Many People Use Email? report by Oberlo, which state that the human population surpassed 8 billion people in November 2022 and that 4.26 billion people used email in 2022, respectively. 

  2. Don't Reply to Your Emails by Taylor Lorenz. The Atlantic. 2019. 

JUNE 6, 2023

An infinite canvas

Apple announced Vision Pro yesterday, a mixed-reality headset that "seamlessly blends digital content with your physical space." I wonder about this product's adoption rate.

Cupertino's tech giant has previously redefined product categories and managed to educate the world on why they need them—think of browsing the internet on your iPad or iPhone in bed instead of sitting at your desk.

The device is pricey—north of three thousand dollars. Yet some argue it equals the cost of certain desktop setups if you think about buying a computer, monitor, and other peripherals. Vision Pro is everything you need. "Free your desktop. And your apps will follow." No display. No mouse. No keyboard. "You navigate simply by using your eyes, hands, and voice."

Apple coined the term visionOS to refer to their first spatial operating system, inviting us to an infinite canvas that transforms the way we work.1

I can't wait to try them out.

  1. Apple Vision Pro. Apple. June 5, 2023. 

JUNE 2, 2023

I've been doing a lot of React and TypeScript work lately. It had been a few years since I worked with them on a daily basis, and things are improving a lot. It's a breeze to work with some of these technologies to build web apps, and one of the newest additions that works well is Vite.

Is anyone else working with React these days? I will cover some of my learnings on YouTube and want to get a sense of interest. (Let me know on Discord.)

What's cool is that frameworks such as ONNX and TensorFlow have wide support to export and run models in the browser (web workers, WebGPU, WebAssembly) and you don't even need to build microservices for certain models. (Plus there's now support for Node.js to run in the browser as well!)

MAY 31, 2023

I just started a new daily file with my &ndaily Typinator text expansion. This expansion archives my current daily file, an action I run whenever a daily file goes over seven thousand words. It then creates a new file named — for Daily 94.

A few weeks ago, I paid for a Typinator 9 upgrade. The app is more modern, has light and dark modes, and promises long-term support. I'm glad they did that.

I'm a heavy user of Typinator and, someday, I'll create a list of all the things I use on a daily basis.

One of my most-used expansions—they've added usage stats (!)—is dtt, which would expand, today, to 230531.

MAY 30, 2023

What you thought and believed

"A general limitation of the human mind is its imperfect ability to reconstruct past states of knowledge, or beliefs that have changed." Says Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow. "Once you adopt a new view of the world (or of any part of it), you immediately lose much of your ability to recall what you used to believe before your mind changed."

Writing down your past states of knowledge and beliefs—keeping memories—is helpful because they will change.

MAY 23, 2023

Five quick minutes

Even five minutes of daily sketching can get your skill pretty far. It's a way to wire your brain to move your hand how you want it to move. Practice strokes, capture proportions, and decode perspective. It doesn't need to be a big effort as long as you do it every single day. What's key is to enjoy it so those five minutes flow into a longer drawing session when you have time.

Needless to say, you can apply this logic to activities other than sketching that you enjoy doing. I use it daily for sketching and writing.

MAY 16, 2023

AI misses the point

Leonardo Da Vinci recommended to young artists the practice of finding people around town to use as models and taking note of the most interesting figures with slight strokes in a small notebook they could always carry with them.1

Today, there's no need to draw by hand anymore. The camera captures lights and shadows for you. And AI is learning to do knowledge work.

'When you automate as much of your life as possible, you can spend your effort on the tasks machines cannot do yet.' This is what James Clear says in Atomic Habits. 'Each [automated] habit frees up time and energy to pour into the next stage of growth.'

The amount of tasks machines cannot do yet keeps getting smaller and smaller.

James Clear quotes Alfred North Whitehead—mathematician and philosopher—who wrote, 'Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.'

The camera misses the point of sketching, which is to understand what you see.2

The machine does the work for us, and we get to skip the struggle. But it is that struggle that makes us learn and master skills.

Imagine a little kid using an AI to draw or color a flower. How is she meant to learn to draw or color when the machine does it for her?

It keeps getting harder to figure out what tasks machines won't be able to do for us. In the future, the skill to be mastered is controlling the machine, what's currently being called prompt engineering.

Technology misses the point of craft.2

No matter how well machines can draw, I will continue to sketch by hand.

  1. Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. 

  2. Of course, this is an oversimplification. Many uses of technology and artificial intelligence automate processes that don't provide any value to the human performing the manual task. The gist is that we do certain things for the sake of doing them, not for the outcome and that the journey yields growth to the individual doing the work.  

MAY 10, 2023

No matter how small a piece of software is, it requires maintenance.

Except when it doesn't, which is true for certain programs without external dependencies and deprecated features.

The more code bases you rely on or develop, the more tiny efforts you'll have to put here and there to keep them running, especially if you want to keep the operating system up to date.

MAY 9, 2023


If I had to pick a word for our current times, that would be impatience.

Impatience for the video to load,
and to be done watching.

Impatience for new episodes,
and to binge-watch the entire season.

Impatience, with whatever is in front of you,
and a great discontent with the present.

We're in constant search for the next thing.

Screens rewired us this way,
and wire young generations from the start.

Impatience to read this post in full,
yet an urge to find more content.

In this speedy world,
the turtle wins.

Seth Godin calls it the dip;
Steven Pressfield the resistance;
Cal Newport shallow work.

Just stick around when everyone else gives up.

MAY 2, 2023

Black and white boxes

In computer science, black-box algorithms are the ones that provide an output to a given input but don't tell you how did obtain that output—you can't see how the machine works.

On the contrary, white box algorithms let you see what's inside. Browse their code, change it, and learn why and how they generate a given output.

Black boxes protect intellectual property, make it harder to hack programs1, and let companies monetize services by putting their services behind a paywall.

White boxes let the community contribute by collectively maintaining their code and adding new features.

  1. Hackers often search for bugs in open-source code to exploit their vulnerabilities. 

APRIL 27, 2023

Live 100 Special: Creative AI with Friends

Hi Friends!

I'm hosting a live conversation today with special guests to celebrate my 100th YouTube live stream, Thursday, April 27, at 10:30 AM Pacific Time.

I've invited Adam Menges (, Joel Simon (Artbreeder), Jose Luis Garcia del Castillo (Harvard, ParametricCamp), and Kyle Steinfeld (University of California, Berkeley) to pick their brains on creative machine intelligence and how it's being used in academia and next-generation design tools.

The conversation will take place in Riverside at

With that link, you'll join as part of the audience and can participate in the chat. There's an option to "call in" and join the call, which we could use for questions or even to have everyone who wants to join at the end of the call.

Feel free to forward this invite to friends interested in AI & ML.

Thanks so much for being part of my journey.



Join the Live Event

APRIL 26, 2023

Alex O'Connor — Transformers, Generative AI, and the Deep Learning Revolution

Hi Friends—

Alex O'Connor is a researcher and machine learning manager.

I had the chance to pick his brain on the latest trends of generative AI — transformers, language and image models, fine-tuning, prompt engineering, tokenization, the latent space, adversarial attacks, and more.

Thanks to everyone who chatted with us during the YouTube premiere.

★ I'm excited to celebrate Live 100 with Special Guests tomorrow, April 27, at 1:30 PM ET with a conversation on creative machine intelligence with Adam Menges, Joel Simon, José Luis García del Castillo, and Kyle Steinfeld.

I'd love for you to join us live at


Alex O'Connor and Nono Martínez Alonso at Vegas.

Recorded at The Palazzo, Las Vegas on December 2022.


00:00 · Introduction
00:40 · Machine learning
02:36 · Spam and scams
15:57 · Adversarial attacks
20:50 · Deep learning revolution
23:06 · Transformers
31:23 · Language models
37:09 · Zero-shot learning
42:16 · Prompt engineering
43:45 · Training costs and hardware
47:56 · Open contributions
51:26 · BERT and Stable Diffusion
54:42 · Tokenization
59:36 · Latent space
01:05:33 · Ethics
01:10:39 · Fine-tuning and pretrained models
01:18:43 · Textual inversion
01:22:46 · Dimensionality reduction
01:25:21 · Mission
01:27:34 · Advice for beginners
01:30:15 · Books and papers
01:34:17 · The lab notebook
01:44:57 · Thanks

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