AUGUST 11, 2020

Imbued with memories

I guard my favorite sketches until I can work on a good story. Yet I acknowledge I won't ever find the time to write stories for all of them. Stories serve to describe how I experienced a given location, person, or object, or to elaborate a concept that lightly relates to a featured drawing.

Always timestamped, illustrations evoke memories of sketched artifacts, places, and people. However, when removed from their surrounding context, drawings act as timeless, platonic abstractions.

The windy road to Korakonisi brings me back to a one-off drive around Zakynthos with Aziz and Mikela. We are out of face masks teleports me to a conversation with Sanjay from Paris to Toronto in times when few people wore face masks around. But floating sketches of my Hatefjäll IKEA office chair make me think of the idea of this chair and not about a particular moment in time in which I was using it. What color is this chair? Is it comfortable? Is it adjustable?

Whereas a contextualized sketch is imbued with memories of the time and place in which it was sketched, a sketch of an item without context sparks thoughts of the item itself, not about the moment in which you sketched it (except when the item itself is representative of a salient event or moment in time).

A similar effect can be achieved documenting memorable events and abstract ideas with other mediums.

I'm repeatedly surprised by the power of drawings, texts, videos, photos, audio notes, and smells for memory reactivation.

AUGUST 4, 2020

Phone. Keys. Mask.

This New Yorker cartoon by Erika Sjule made me laugh.

For years, Phone, Keys, Wallet has been my usual house-leaving check.

Contactless payments recently let me keep my wallet at home and pay with my phone using Apple Pay.

After the lockdown, I repeatedly find myself coming back home right after leaving the house.

Phone. Keys. Mask!

When will we be able to leave the mask at home?

JULY 28, 2020

Jack of all trades, master of none

Back in the Renaissance, having skill in many different areas was seen as a good thing. But things changed. Movements such as the industrial revolution required individuals to specialize in one task to repeat it over and over and over—like cogs.

The phrase, "Jack of all trades, master of none," has been used to negatively refer to people who engaged in eclectic activities. Even in today's culture, doing different activities with less specialization has bad connotations.

I had a conversation with portfolio careerist Carmen Chamorro for a new episode of Getting Simple. We talked about the benefits of working in different fields, managing multiple interests, and how recognizing a potential Renaissance-like profile might positively influence your career.

Trust your nature. Be you. Don't be scared. We are all needed and we are all here. There is a balance in the world. We just need to go to the right place of the puzzle. You are here with a profile, and you are here to use it and to be authentic. Trust yourself, accept yourself, and have fun. —Carmen Chamorro

Listen to "From 9-to-5 to Freedom, A Journey to A Portfolio Career."

JULY 21, 2020

Work or walk?

Last week, I talked about repetition, automation, organization, and disconnection.

Ever since I started the podcast, I've had to prepare, manually, multiple texts in order to release each episode in various podcast providers—Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast—on the Getting Simple website, and on the newsletter.

Each text was slightly different and editing them by hand wasn't pleasing. I've released dozens of episodes this way.

I've completed a round of code edits I've been working on over the past months to automate most of the tedious work required each time I publish a new episode, and released a new podcast page layout and audio player.1

Behind the scenes, I have individual text boxes for each component of the episode notes, including the episode summary, description, links, credits, release date, duration, and more.

I can now create new episodes with ease and preview the content that will show up on podcast providers, the website, and the newsletter, with the satisfaction of having made it possible on my own instead of relying on other platforms.

After more than thirty episodes, repetition removed friction from my podcast-releasing workflow. Yet I won't ever be faster than an automatic system that apart from freeing my time reduces potential human error.

The system I have in place makes my entire episode library highly organized, helping me focus on new content and reducing stress.

Altogether, automated systems such as this one can let us disconnect and reclaim time to be humans.

Whether you continue working or go for a walk in the time you get back is on you.

  1. Even though this new layout works on mobile it shines the most on large screens. 

JULY 20, 2020

Carmen Chamorro — From 9-to-5 to Freedom, A Journey to A Portfolio Career

I had a conversation with portfolio careerist Carmen Chamorro for a new episode of Getting Simple. We talked about the benefits of working in different fields, managing multiple interests, and how recognizing a potential Renaissance-like profile might positively influence your career.

Listen to "From 9-to-5 to Freedom, A Journey to A Portfolio Career"

JULY 14, 2020

Repetition, automation, organization, and disconnection

Repetition removes friction.

Automation frees time.

Organization helps focus.

Disconnection breeds life.

JULY 7, 2020

Unitaskers: Introduction

This piece is an introduction to a new series—called Unitaskers—that will feature single-purpose artifacts that let you do one thing.

Think, for instance, of a graphite pencil. It's useful to write or draw. You can sharpen it to get thin lines or tilt it to get thicker, faded strokes. You can write a letter or draw a house. You can trace continuous lines or do pointillism. But there isn't much more you can do with it.

In the opposite spectrum are your computer or your smartphone—they can virtually do anything, from drawing and writing to setting an alarm, sending emails, but they make doing something with focus harder than ever before.

How does your thought process change when you write with pencil and paper instead of typing on your laptop? When you read a book on Kindle instead of reading on your tablet? When you capture audio notes with a hand-recorder instead of using your phone?

Let’s find out.

Each essay of the series will use an object (or family of objects) as a source of inspirations to share stories and facts around finding focus in our age of distraction.

JUNE 30, 2020

You can measure the time elapsed during the execution of TypeScript commands by keeping a reference to the start time and then subtracting the current time at any point on your program from that start time to obtain the time elapsed between two points in time.

const start = new Date().getTime();

// Run some code..

let elapsed = new Date().getTime() - start;

Let's create two helper functions to get the current time (i.e. now) and the elapsed time at any point from that moment.

// Returns current time
// (and, if provided, prints the event's name)
const now = (eventName = null) => {
    if (eventName) {
      console.log(`Started ${eventName}..`);
    return new Date().getTime();

// Store current time as `start`
let start = now();

// Returns time elapsed since `beginning`
// (and, optionally, prints the duration in seconds)
const elapsed = (beginning = start, log = false) => {
    const duration = new Date().getTime() - beginning;
    if (log) {
    return duration;

With those utility functions defined, we can measure the duration of different events.

// A promise that takes X ms to resolve
function sleep(ms) {
    return new Promise(resolve => setTimeout(resolve, ms));

// Measure duration (while waiting for 2 seconds)
(async function demo() {
    const waitInSeconds = 2;
    let beginning = now(`${waitInSeconds}-second wait`);
    // Prints Started 2-second wait..
    await sleep(waitInSeconds * 1000);
    elapsed(beginning, true);
    // Prints 2.004s

Before you go

If you found this useful, you might want to join my mailing lists; or take a look at other posts about code, React, and TypeScript.

JUNE 30, 2020


More than a year ago, I was sitting with my Mom sketching an Eastern Island stone statue. We were, though, thousands of kilometers away from the Chilean island, right by the entrance of the Wellcome Gallery at the British Museum.

Back then, I didn't know that that drawing would be both the opener of the first of a series of A4-sized Moleskine sketchbooks and the first illustration to make it into my sketches newsletter in July 2, 2019.

One year later, I find myself with fifty-three published sketches and stories.

I won't lie: it wasn't easy.

Some posts were fast to write, others required an intensive back-and-forth effort of writing and reviewing and writing and reviewing.

Many times, I've talked about my daily routine and habits, and about the process I follow to make this newsletter happen. I've wondered if I was repeating myself too much, but ever since I read John Maeda's advice I don't worry too much about it. "Repetition, repetition, repetition. It works. It works. It works."

In these pieces, I try to share things I learn that might inspire you as much as they inspired me, and tell stories with a personal tone without turning this newsletter into a personal diary. This is not a how-to guide, it's an art experiment and a literary exercise.

Many of my journaling notes are for me to keep. Yet I'll continue revisiting my notes and using the dozens of unpublished drafts as a source of inspiration for future stories.

I'd like to THANK YOU for pushing me to keep going in one way or another.

On top of writing a story and drawing, scanning, and editing a sketch—every Tuesday—I was hesitant to translate every single story to Spanish. "If you don't translate [your stories] to Spanish I probably won't read them," a friend said. As a native Spanish speaker who's been reading in English for the past ten years, I've used the translation of these posts as a way to practice my Spanish writing skills.

Some stories even made it into the Getting Simple podcast. (I produced an augmented audio version of Stories Are The Answer including clips from Patrick Winston's lectures.)

My girlfriend and my Mom have supported me heavily, providing feedback on most posts and helping with things that didn't sound quite right in Spanish.

Friends reviewed drafts; brainstormed; shared ideas on the publication format and the web layout; and spotted typos or simply corrected my English.

Many of you replied to my emails with insightful points of view.


Happy newsletterversary.

JUNE 27, 2020

Thanks to everyone who attended, really.

We've had such a great time and were humbled by seeing 230+ people connected at all times.

Take a look at the links and references with many of the things and people we talked about.

JUNE 27, 2020

Well, this is happening today.

Even though our workshop is listed in the North-South Americas Workshops page, I'm tuning in from Málaga, Spain, where I live and work, remotely.

Jose Luis, Nate, and guest speakers will be joining from the US. Those include Elizabeth Christoforetti & Romy El Sayah, Ao Li, Runjia Tian, Xiaoshi Wang & Yueheng Lu, and Andrew Witt.

The format of our workshop has been widely adopted by numerous organizations as an alternative to the cancelation of on-site conferences, workshops, and other gatherings.

Zoom conference rooms miss many of the nuances present in in-person events, yet I feel they enable a new kind of interaction in which people who wouldn't have been able to cross the Atlantic are now a click away from hopping into a live conference with us. (No need to book plane tickets and accommodation, and seats don't necessarily need to be limited.)

As suggested by Jose Luis, ours are a series of non-technical lectures and demos. We've organized a one-day workshop in which we'll share our views on the role of machine intelligence in architecture, art, and design, commenting on state-of-the-art projects, tools, and machine learning models that are here to stay with us.

While preparing this workshop, I recorded two technical, hands-on coding tutorials as I was building the Pix2Pix & RunwayML drawing app we'll showcase today, using Glitch, Paper.js, RunwayML, and Pix2Pix, among other technologies. (I've published Part 1 and Part 2 so far.)

Visit our workshop page to see the most up-to-date schedule.

I hope you'll join us.

Stay in touch for future events.

JUNE 26, 2020

JR — Insisting Simplicity, Frugal Practices to Achieve Financial Independence, and Permaculture Design

Hi Friends—

In these challenging times, I truly hope you and your loved ones can shelter in place and stay healthy.

Today, I bring you a conversation with JR from Insisting Simplicity—a blog about simple living, minimalism, and adventure travel in which he writes to celebrate life, our planet, and the richness of simple living.

Please enjoy this (remote) episode as much as I did. I learned a lot about financial independence, the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early), and permaculture design.

Listen to "JR — Insisting Simplicity, Frugal Practices to Achieve Financial Independence, and Permaculture Design"

JUNE 23, 2020

Achievements of 2020

Wash hands more than twenty times per day.

Wear a face mask.

Elbow-greet people.

Deliver a talk from my living room.

Play social distancing (two-meter mode) with strangers.

Stay at home for 45 days in a row.

Astronaut-grade package reception with elevator delivery.

Those are my achievements. What are yours?

JUNE 16, 2020

Should you aim for quantity instead of quality?

Last week, I asked you whether you were writing enough, stating that it is more likely to get good ideas when you're generating lots of them.

This mindset seems to go against Getting Simple's motto—Do Less, Better—but that's far from true. It's all about paying attention to your daily inputs and outputs.

If, as I do, you like to do many different things, you can carefully choose what you want to spend your time on. What activities you want to engage in, what type of tools you want to use, what it is that you want to create, and what type of information you want to consume.

You don't need to stick with a single project or a single activity. But you need to approach anything you do with focus.

In my case (and as you might already know if you've been reading to previous sketches and listening to the podcast) I've chosen to sketch, write, podcast, code, and record learning videos to share my knowledge and, hopefully, inspire others.

There's room for different types of projects in which you can aim for quantity over quality to obtain more original outcomes.

To provide a tangible example, think of a sketchbook.

The more sketches you draw, the more chances there are that you'll produce good drawings.

An easy rule of thumb for beginners is that one out of each ten ideas you generate will be good. (And this applies to sketches, stories, videos, or anything you make as well.)

For instance, my skill as a writer or sketcher influences my ratio of good-to-bad stories or drawings.

Of course, this ratio might be lower or higher depending on the field you are in and your level of expertise.

Experts manage to bring that ratio down when they reach proficiency at whatever it is they do. Still, they know there will always be bad ideas among the ones they generate.

The good thing is that, apart from lowering the good-to-bad ratio, skill and expertise let you judge your own ideas to better identify the good ones and discard the bad ones.

I believe this mindset helps me produce more original ideas.

Give it a try.

Go for quantity.

Learn to judge what's good and what's not so good.

Then refine your best creations.

JUNE 9, 2020

Are you writing enough?

Picasso's artworks include more than 1,800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics, and 12,000 drawings, without mentioning prints, rugs, and tapestries, but only a tiny fraction of those are recognized today as great works of art. 1

Reading Adam Grant's latest book, Originals, I learned about the fact that many artists—such as Picasso, Beethoven, Mozart, or even Shakespeare—created hundreds (if not thousands) of artworks that have been forgotten.

I write (at least) two hundred words every day.

(That's my practice to get more fluent and to "show up" day after day.)

The key is in not missing a single day—reinforcing my writing habit with an easy word count I can complete in a matter of minutes.

When the night comes and I haven't written, this exercise inevitably turns into an obligation. I quickly pour ideas that might end up being developed at a later date.

On the contrary, it's a joy to overpass your personal goal early in the morning with ample time to work on your drafts.

Let's do the math.

Two hundred words a day for thirty days makes 6,000 words per month.

Six thousand words a month for twelve months makes 72,000 words per year.

It's easy(er)—no matter what you write—to find something worth publishing among thousands and thousands of words (than it is to start from scratch).

So, when daily writing, I go for quantity instead of quality.

Selectively, I'll review and refine old drafts in an effort to publish something worth your time.

And I truly hope I'm doing a good job.

In Grant's words, "Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection."

In short: write, and write a lot.

It's more likely to get good ideas when you're generating lots of them.

  1. Grant, Adam M., and Sheryl Sandberg. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. New York, New York: Viking, 2016. Kindle version. 

JUNE 8, 2020

Just came across this machine learning (and TensorFlow) glossary which "defines general machine learning terms, plus terms specific to TensorFlow."

JUNE 2, 2020

Hello, June

When I came back to Spain from the US almost two years ago, I was surprised to see people wandering around even on Tuesday afternoons in the month of February.

It isn't high season. It isn't the weekend. I thought to myself. I guess it'd be this way for ever.

The streets were full of people, among them (some) locals and (many) foreigners, (most) of the latter ones tourists back them.

Today, walking by the beach, in good company, feeling the water on my feet, I was surprised by the amount of foreigners that live in Málaga or spent the quarantine here, in heaven.

I had never seen the coast as full of people walking, exercising, biking, and talking to their loved ones as these days, and we might not see it again unless we get ourselves into a similar pandemic (or, more likely, in another unexpected series of events we can't even imagine).

Until then, I invite you to enjoy your current city.

Get to know how you and other locals like to navigate the places around you.

In Málaga, days keep getting longer and longer, and the fact that people can only sit outside at restaurants makes the city feel even more alive than when things were "normal."

I feel lucky to be where I am.

Hello, June!

JUNE 2, 2020

In trying to use Artisan::call($command, $arguments) to execute a command exposed by my Laravel package—Folio—I was running into this issue.

The command "folio:clone" does not exist.

My commands were working on the terminal, by calling php artisan folio:clone, for instance, but they were not working programmatically, calling something like this.

Artisan::call('folio:clone 123 "New Title"');

Artisan::command was not a solution as it serves to register commands and not to execute them.

By looking into the FolioServiceProvider.php (the service provider of my own package) I noticed the $this->app->runningInConsole() check. My commands were being registered in the console but were not exposed elsewhere (that is, in the application itself).

I'd guess this is a security and performance measure. Commands that don't need to be available to the Laravel app are not registered for it.


The solution was simply registering the commands I want to be callable from my Laravel sites outside of the if statement that checks for $this->app->runningInConsole().

While eight commands are only available to run on the console, there's one available to both the console and the application's runtime.

if ($this->app->runningInConsole()) {


In my case, I'm the maintainer of the package and could easily work around this limitation by taking the command I want to use in Laravel out of the if statement.

But you can register commands yourself in your app's $commands array in app/Console/Kernel.php. See the following example.

// app/Console/Kernel.php
protected $commands = [

While the CreateUserCommand is only registered to the console by the package, I can explicitly make it available for my entire application calling it with Artisan::call('folio:user {email} {password}') (which is this command's signature).


I hope you found this useful. Feel free to ping me at @nonoesp, join the mailing list, or check out other Laravel posts and code-related publications.

MAY 30, 2020

The Anchor team has a new video-to-audio conversion tool, making it easier than ever to transform virtual hangouts into podcast episodes.


And if you already have a podcast, video uploading means more options and flexibility in your recording process. Whether you’re interviewing guests on Google Meet or livestreaming with your co-host over Instagram, now you can import, edit, and share your conversations — wherever they take place — all from the same platform. Recording on video also makes it easy to maintain the magic of in-person podcasting sessions, so when recording together in the same room isn’t an option, you can still rely on the body language and visual cues that keep your conversations flowing smoothly.

You can use recordings from Google Meet, Zoom, Instagram Live, Skype, FaceTime, or Twitch.

MAY 28, 2020

Kean Walmsley — Fun, Freedom, Flexibility, and Family

Hi Friends—

If you were to ask me who I'd like to be when I grow up, Kean Walmsley would be high on my list.

Kean has crafted a lifestyle that prioritizes fun, freedom, flexibility, and family, leaving room for traveling and working around the world, blogging, teaching, sports, research, and more.

Please enjoy this episode, its transcript, and its show notes.

Listen to "Kean Walmsley — Fun, Freedom, Flexibility, and Family"

MAY 28, 2020

If you are wondering where the audio files of your Apple Voice Memos are, in case you want to browse through them, see their file sizes, and copy or remove them, they are located in the folder inside of ~/Library/Application Support.

That is, the Library folder inside of your macOS username. For instance, if your username was john, this would be the full path.

/Users/john/Library/Application Support/

Hope that helps!

MAY 26, 2020

What am I looking at?

Many Mondays, I find myself empty-handed—exactly as I did yesterday—browsing through my journals in search of a story I could share today.

Back when I started in July 2019, I committed to post a short story every Tuesday, both in English and Spanish, to my sketches newsletter.

I keep getting surprised by the amount of words I've written and the amount of things I've drawn over the past year.

My hope is that I'll find the time to write more "deeply," preparing posts and sketches in advance and having more time to mull over my own thoughts and ideas.

But hey, here it is.

I have no real reason to keep going other than an agreement with myself, and the intention to keep improving my sketching, writing, and storytelling skills.

Yesterday, I shared last week's sketch on Hacker News.

User sktrdie asked, What am I looking at?

Art, I think. maaark replied.

And I also think that's what all of this is about in the end: an art project.

Last week's text was short (maybe lazy). My intention was generate a feeling of incompleteness. To leave room for interpretation.

In John Maeda's words, Perhaps this is the fundamental distinction between pure art and pure design. […] The best art makes your head spin with questions. 1

  1. Maeda, John. The Laws of Simplicity. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006. Kindle version. 

MAY 21, 2020

Yesterday, I made a first live stream to test the waters while editing Kean Walmsley's episode of the Getting Simple podcast, what will be May 2020's monthly episode.

I was using OBS on a MacBook Pro to stream, via Ethernet, my webcam video and a 4K display at 2560x1440 at thirty frames per second at 9000 kbps, recording locally at the same resolution and fps at 25000 kbps, and then using Adobe Audition to edit an individual audio file.

While YouTube considered my stream was "healthy," the problem was, I believe, that I was streaming using Apple's Hardware Encoder (which releases a lot of CPU while streaming). This was slowing down every single effect I applied in Audition, making my share-out counterproductive, as all I was trying to do was trying my live streaming setup while editing the podcast.

Long story short, I won't probably be editing the podcast live anymore, at least not with this setup. I might be able to pipe my MacBook Pro's screen through an Elgato HD60S+ video capture device to then stream from a different machine, so the machine that's running Adobe Audition is not the same than the machine that's streaming.

That might complicate the setup but might allow for this sort of streaming. For other coding tutorials, a single machine should work fine.

If that's your thing, tune in on YouTube (@nonomartinezalonso) to know when I go live next (and make sure to turn on all channel notifications to be notified).

MAY 19, 2020

We just wanted free internet

And you gave us ads and all sorts of unsolicited connections.

MAY 15, 2020

iA Writer 5.5 Brings Real-Time Markdown to PDF Previews

This sparked a smile on my face.

I don't even remember when I paid for iA Writer (both desktop and mobile) yet I keep getting awesome updates in a consistent bases for the Information Architects team.

Their latest update — iA Writer 5.5 — showed up yesterday on my machines with PDF previews (!) that update in real time, which lets me skip one step on my process, which is often exporting, opening a PDF in Preview, and then iterate through the changes I want to make. The preview respects the page size you've setup for printing as well as the title page, headers, footers, and page numbering.

iA Writer 5.5 for Mac and iOS has arrived. The update adds a powerful mix of functionality and delicate subtlety that will improve your writing workflow.

Congratulations to the team, really. And thanks so much for making my writing experience such a joy.

Read more on their blog.

MAY 14, 2020

I recently got Hands-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn, Keras, and TensorFlow, 2nd Edition by Aurélien Géron as a recomendation from Keith.

This second version updates all code samples to work with TensorFlow 2, and the repository that accompanies the book—ageron/handson-ml2—is also updated frequently to catch up with the latest updates.

Just the Python notebooks on that GitHub repository are super helpful to get an overall on state-of-the-art machine learning and deep learning techniques, from the basics of machine learning and classic techniques like classification, support vector machines, or decision trees to the latest techniques to code neural networks, customizing and trained them, loading and pre-processing data, natural language processing, computer vision, autoencoders and gans, or reinforcement learning.

MAY 13, 2020


Nice work from Shenzhen, Carleton, and Simon Fraser Universities, titled Graph2Plan: Learning Floorplan Generation from Layout Graphs, along the lines of #HouseGAN. Via @alfarok.

Our deep neural network Graph2Plan is a learning framework for automated floorplan generation from layout graphs. The trained network can generate floorplans based on an input building boundary only (a-b), like in previous works. In addition, we allow users to add a variety of constraints such as room counts (c), room connectivity (d), and other layout graph edits. Multiple generated floorplans which fulfill the input constraints are shown.

Read the paper on Arxiv.

MAY 12, 2020

Feels like simplicity

I'm in the midst of reading The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda. 1

I love the tone of the book—sharp, on point, but also personal, funny, and entertaining—and the way he invites the reader, I welcome you to this creative experience.

He made it, exactly, 100 pages.

I wanted to share three out of his ten laws with you today.

Law 3. Time. Savings in time feel like simplicity.
Law 4. Learn. Knowledge makes everything simpler.
Law 7. Emotion. More emotions are better than less.

  1. Maeda, John. The Laws of Simplicity. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006. Kindle version. 

MAY 11, 2020

Their demo video made me look. This seems like a super useful tool for creatives that would let us skip things like cropping, editing, sharing via Email or Airdrop, and much more. Seamless. As John Maeda would say, "Savings in time feel like simplicity."

Finally a practical use of AR. —The Verge

They have a form to request early access.

Want to see older publications? Visit the archive.

Listen to Getting Simple .