Nono.MA

                        

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## Repetition, automation, organization, and disconnection

Repetition removes friction. Automation frees time. Organization helps focus. Disconnection breeds life.

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## Unitaskers: Introduction

This piece is an introduction 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.

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## Newsletterversary

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](/out-of-context) 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. Certainly, many of my journaling notes are for me to keep. Still, 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 drawing—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](https://gettingsimple.com/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. *Thanks.* --- Happy newsletterversary.

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## 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?

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## Should you aim for quantity instead of quality?

Last week, [I asked you whether you were writing enough](/are-you-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](https://gettingsimple.com)) 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.

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## 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. [^aywe-adam-grant-originals-01] 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. [^aywe-adam-grant-originals-01]: Grant, Adam M., and Sheryl Sandberg. *[Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25614523-originals)*. New York, New York: Viking, 2016. Kindle version.

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## 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!*

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## 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](https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23290410). 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.* [^waila-laws-maeda] [^waila-laws-maeda]: Maeda, John. *[The Laws of Simplicity](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/225111.The_Laws_of_Simplicity)*. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006. Kindle version.

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## We just wanted free internet

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

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190815-panaderos-kindle.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Feels like simplicity

I'm in the midst of reading *The Laws of Simplicity* by John Maeda. [^fls-laws-maeda] [^fls-laws-maeda]: Maeda, John. *[The Laws of Simplicity](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/225111.The_Laws_of_Simplicity)*. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006. Kindle version. 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.*

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190830-iceland-manolo-sleeping.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Keeping memories

To write non-fiction, you want to know as much as you can about a given subject. Your knowledge might come from different sources—even your own memory—but relying on memory can be dangerous. Memories are temporarily stored in the hippocampus (the part of your brain that acts as a daily memory cache) and only transferred into a long-term storage device (the neocortex) after a good night's sleep. In fact, the less quality sleep you get the harder it is to retain your memories in old age. [^lost-details-why-we-sleep] [^lost-details-why-we-sleep]: Walter, Matthew (2017). [Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_We_Sleep), Penguin Random, Kindle version. Often, my memories of certain events are limited to what's written in the page, and I repeatedly wish I had added just a bit more detail. That's why I prefer to write daily. I want to know more. As I forget more and more details of those future-proofed memories, each of my written words gains value. Today is a new opportunity to add more depth. How are you feeling? What's your plan for the day? Where are you writing from? What pen (or keyboard) are you using to write? What are you wearing? What worries you? How did you sleep today?

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## Into the wild

The first bite to one of the dried apricots I bought at Market Basket teleported me back to the mountain bike trips my cousins and I would do with my father, early on Sunday morning. Ito, Nacho, and myself—and Dad leading the way—would go through various routes in Torre de Benagalbón, often using Santillán Stream as our starting point. The beginning was always familiar: we'd leave home and reach the river mouth within minutes, biking through "El Chalet" (what used to be the summer house of my uncle's family), passing through a small bridge below road N-340, and leaving the nuns' school behind. In our childhood, it wasn't long until the landscape turned into a *wild* route. We'd only spot little farmer settlements and other informal constructions along our way. Today, a big chunk of land has been built on. The route has become a small stream, often dry, along a set of housing units built over the past twenty years. Continuing with our journey, we'd bike along Añoreta's golf course (where my dad plays religiously every week[^itw-dad-plays]) and pass below the A-7 highway bridge. When biking through this area, we'll be on the look for golf balls. We knew locals would have done their round in the early morning, but balls were constantly being kicked out of the course and we'd always collect a few. *** ![Mountain bike route into the wild.](/img/u/sketch-image-into-the-wild-bikes-and-sandwich.jpg) {style="max-width:400px;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;"} ***
Our destination changed every weekend and we'd end up in different places, often making a stop and sitting on the floor to eat a sandwich.[^itw-dad-memories] It was my father who'd lead the way and decide which tracks to follow. I've never known how he'd manage to orient himself to reach all of those places. I guess you don't think about it when it's on someone else's plate to decide. Wherever it is that we went, those dried apricots (which we call *orejones* back home) were a constant. Both their taste and smell bring back memories of our bike trips across the streams of Torre de Benagalbón. Dad loves them. ![Dried apricots.](/img/u/sketch-image-into-the-wild-dried-apricots-512-10-colors-at-2500.png) [^itw-dad-plays]: Of course, golf has also been disrupted by COVID-19. [^itw-dad-memories]: I still keep digital photos of those trips, and that's probably why I better remember those moments.

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## Stories are the answer

Early morning on December 20, 2016, I found my way into a huge sports field at MIT, plagued with evenly-spaced tables ready for an exam. Nervous, as if I were back to school, I was the first one to get there. Our professor would get there a bit later—that was Patrick Henry Winston.[^mit-winston-patrick] *** Three months earlier, on September 7, 2016, I would attend what was the first of a series of lectures of Winston's introductory course to artificial intelligence—6.034—and would sit in the first row of Huntington Hall[^mit-winston-huntington-hall], room 10-250, colloquially known as "Ten Two Fifty," located right below the Great Dome[^mit-winston-great-dome] of MIT. Some days, I'd arrive early and get a chance to talk to Patrick for a bit before class. *What's the most dangerous power tool you've ever used?* He asked me one day. *Silence.* I didn't know what to answer. *I thought an architect would have used power tools.* He followed. I was pleased to see he knew my name just a couple weeks into the course. In retrospect, I find most of my "tools" these days being virtual pieces of software. *** In one of those classes—as if it were a line from Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's *Westworld* series (2016)—Winston emphasized the relevance of the following question: *Can you explain why you think so?* To Winston, whether a machine is able to answer questions of the type of *why* and *how* it reached a conclusion in a humanlike way was as important, or even more, as the conclusion or the answer itself. "Genesis supports steps toward story understanding," reads the headline of his draft paper with Dylan Holmes, titled *The Genesis Manifesto: Story Understanding and Human Intelligence*[^mit-winston-genesis-paper] as of December 13, 2016, barely ten days after the release of HBO's series first seasons' finale. "To understand what makes humans uniquely intelligent, we build computational models of how humans tell and understand stories."[^mit-winston-genesis-group] A system like *Genesis* is meant to be on top of all other technologies and make the system self-conscious. *Genesis* can understand stories, answer questions, and—unlike other narrow artificial intelligence systems[^mit-winston-narrow-ais]—reason and explain why it reaches its conclusions. Winston shared a fascinating (yet worrying) idea in class. *If you don't know how a program gets to a conclusion, you can't trust it. It's not possible to debug it.* As a matter of fact, we rarely know how machines work, but we still give away our trust for their convenience. *** Three years ago, on April 20, 2017, I met with Patrick to ask for his feedback on the project I was working on at the time—Suggestive Drawing[^mit-winston-suggestive-drawing]. He tested one of my first working prototypes, a drawing app running on an iPad with an Apple Pencil. Patrick sketched these two flowers. *** ![Patrick H. Winston free-hand flower sketches.](/img/u/sd-patrick-winston-170420-input.jpg) {style="width:50%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;filter:brightness(0.99);max-width:300px"} Patrick Henry Winston's free-hand flower sketches. Timestamped at April 20, 2017, 15:28. {style="color:#777;font-size:0.7rem;width:50%;line-height:16px;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;max-width:300px"} *** A few seconds later, the system returned a prediction for each of them using a generative machine learning model that only knew about daisies. *** ![Patrick H. Winston Pix2Pix output of flower sketches.](/img/u/sd-patrick-winston-170420-output.jpg) {style="width:50%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;max-width:300px"} Pix2Pix predictions using Patrick's flower sketches as input with a model trained to learn a mapping from line sketches of flowers to daisy flower photo textures. {style="color:#777;font-size:0.7rem;width:50%;line-height:16px;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;max-width:300px"} *** ![Patrick H. Winston Pix2Pix processed output of flower sketches.](/img/u/sd-patrick-winston-170420-output-processed.jpg) {style="width:50%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;filter:brightness(0.99);max-width:300px"} Output processed with an alpha mask. {style="color:#777;font-size:0.7rem;width:50%;line-height:16px;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;max-width:300px"} *** *That's pretty cool!* Patrick said. We discussed the project for half an hour and I left his office at Stata Center. That was the last time I saw him. *** ![Patrick Henry Winston.](/img/u/sd-170421_web-patrick-henry-winston.png) {style="width:200px;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;"} ***
Patrick passed away on July 20, 2019. His [memorial](https://www.memoriesofpatrickwinston.com/resolution)[^mit-winston-memorial], held in October 2019, surfaces the fact that Patrick influenced many people's life in profound positive ways. Not only as a teacher or a mentor, but as someone who loved sharing the experience he acquired over years of teaching. I never had a chance to interview Winston for the podcast, but I'd have loved hearing more about his worldview. Luckily, he contributed a great amount with numerous online lectures, talks, and other learning resources. There's a sentence that Patrick said that will stick with me for the rest of my life. *Stories are the answer.* [^mit-winston-memorial]: On April 29, 2020, Patrick's colleagues, students, friends, and acquaintances were invited to join [PHWFest](https://www.memoriesofpatrickwinston.com), a gathering to share memories and experiences, an event that has been postponed due to the current COVID-19 situation in Boston. [^mit-winston-suggestive-drawing]: *[Suggestive Drawing Among Human and Artificial Intelligences](https://nono.ma/suggestive-drawing)* (May 2017) was my master's thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in which I explore the role of machine learning in design or, more specifically, in drawing. [^mit-winston-patrick]: Patrick Henry Winston (1943-2019) was the Ford Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I invite you to watch his *[Hello World, Hello MIT](https://people.csail.mit.edu/phw/video/NewCollegeTalk.mp4)* talk (2019) to learn more about his worldview and his contributions, and to [Watch his 6.034 lectures online](https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUl4u3cNGP63gFHB6xb-kVBiQHYe_4hSi). [^mit-winston-huntington-hall]: The [10-250 Lecture Hall](http://www.cavtocci.com/?portfolio=mit-10-250-lecture-hall) is one of the most popular meeting places in MIT. [^mit-winston-great-dome]: The day I sketched this view was the day I met [Pier Gustafson](https://gettingsimple.com/pier-gustafson) for the first time. He showed up biking across Killian Court, right in front of the building that was named after MIT's 10th president, [James Rhyne Killian Jr](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Rhyne_Killian). I often passed through this location when running along the Charles River. I had this sketch on the back-burner for a while now, and by chance I decided to prepare it for this Tuesday, exactly three years after the last time I met with Patrick. [^mit-winston-genesis-group]: Patrick Winston and his students formed [The Genesis Story Understanding Group](https://groups.csail.mit.edu/genesis/index.html). [^mit-winston-genesis-paper]: Winston, Patrick H. Holmes, Dylan. *[The Genesis Manifesto: Story Understanding and Human Intelligence](https://cbmm.mit.edu/sites/default/files/documents/manifesto.pdf)*. 2017. [^mit-winston-narrow-ais]: As described in [this article](https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2016/07/29/whats-difference-artificial-intelligence-machine-learning-deep-learning-ai/) in the NVIDIA blog (July 29, 2016), *narrow* artificial intelligences are "technologies that are able to perform specific tasks as well, or better than, we humans can."

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## The luxury of simplicity

Back in August 2018, Panagiotis Michalatos and I sat down at the back porch of his house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to chat for a couple of hours. Pan, as people often call him, is one of the most intelligent persons I've ever met, and I was lucky enough to have him share his idiosyncratic worldview over a microphone with me.[^pan-minimalism-mic] [^pan-minimalism-mic]: If you listen to [Pan's episode](https://gettingsimple.com/panagiotis-michalatos), pay attention to the background sounds. You'll not only hear birds chirping and insect sounds coming and going as the night falls but golf irons hitting the ball, tree leaves shook by the wind, and buses passing. The way he lives and works, the clothes he wears, and the way he designs or codes, inspired me to think of one word: minimalism. Minimalism is the reduction of anything to its essential elements, stripping out the superfluous and bringing to light nuances that might otherwise ego unnoticed. The result of that reduction is what we often call *simple*. Paradoxically, simplifying any process, artifact, or concept, is complex. Minimalism and simplicity are hard. Our nomad predecessors would clutter a space and, after its use, would move somewhere else, start from scratch, and let nature clean up the mess. But we're stuck in one place. In our times, minimalism often implies getting rid of possessions and keeping only the things we use and value. Certainly, not something everyone can afford. As Pan told me on his [podcast episode](https://gettingsimple.com/panagiotis-michalatos), when you have too little, you want to hold on to anything that comes your way, because you can loose it immediately. "You need to have the luxury to choose to simplify your life."

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-200326-panaderos-bea-exercising-post.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The subject keeps moving

When the subject keeps moving, it's hard to capture her face. You try to sketch fast, but sometimes there's too much movement, too quickly, and you can't capture the facial features that make someone be who they are. But you start getting used to it. You can learn the basic facial proportions to "complete the puzzle" when the subject moved (or is gone) and you only got a few elements on the page.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-200229-cordoba-to-malaga-train-renfe.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## From a parallel universe

Events kept popping up on my phone throughout March. In that parallel universe, I would had a hectic month of March. Two weeks ago (on March 16, 2020) Daniel Natoli and I would have presented and screened [*Sisyphus*](https://gettingsimple.com/sisyphus) at Antonio Banderas' new theater as part of 2020 Málaga Film Festival. I would have delivered an Autodesk talk in Helsinki but I didn't fly. I would have talked at ALGOMAD Madrid but I didn't catch that train. I would hike Macchu Picchu next week but I won't board that plane. Yet, I'm lucky enough to be able to continue living a fairly similar lifestyle to how I've been living for the past year: I plug my laptop to a screen and code long hours, then connect with a remote team of developers in the afternoon; I sketch and write and podcast[^efapu-podcast-scott-mitchell] in the evening; then rinse and repeat. [^efapu-podcast-scott-mitchell]: Psst! I just released [Getting Simple's episode with Scott Mitchell](https://gettingsimple.com/scott-mitchell)—*Experimentation in the Arena*—in which Scott jumps in time to dissect his own experimentation life philosophy, his efforts to remove creative friction, and his worldview.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190528-panaderos-working-desk-computer-screen.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## News from the future

While I was taking part on an online architecture school review last week—with more than twenty students and review guests confined to their bedrooms and talking into a Zoom window through their webcams—Kyle Steinfeld mentioned how we, in Spain, were "in the future, five days ahead of us [in California]."[^nfff-drawn-together] [^nfff-drawn-together]: The work Kyle and his students are doing at Berkeley training machine learning models to generate architectural sketches is worth seeing. You can take a look at [Drawn, Together](http://blah.ksteinfe.com/200317/100d_midreview.html). None of us saw it coming. It was a foreign problem seen from the distance and read on a screen, which the entire world thought was an issue for Wuhan to deal with. Just a few weeks later there are more than 160 countries fighting against the virus.[^covid-19-gif-200323] [^covid-19-gif-200323]: Here's an animation of [how COVID-19 keeps ramping up](/img/u/post-news-from-the-future.gif). The amount of confirmed cases and the ratio of deaths to recoveries reported by each country depends on its testing strategy. I'd be curious to know which countries weren't added earlier to [the map](/img/u/post-news-from-the-future.jpg){target="_blank"} just because they took longer to start testing for the virus. We usually don't act until something affects us directly (may it be us as individuals, as family, as a country, or the world). It's the politicians in the end who dictate what we have to do—whether we need to stay at home or who should continue going to work or whether it's ok to go walk your dog or buy bread. All that's left for us is to applaud, complain, or share the meme of the moment, to laugh at how surreal the situation we're living is at the same time that many people still don't think these agreements apply to them. Stay home. We can do it! That's my rant.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190624_malaga-panaderos-our-new-mampara-bathroom.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Taking time to make decisions: Our new mampara

Eleven months after moving to Panaderos, on January 16, 2020, we were able to shower for the first time with our new *mampara* in place. (That's how we say "shower screen" here in Spain.) Alex and Lolo, from Bauhaus, installed it the day before. We had to wait twenty four hours for the silicone sealing to dry out before we could use it. Showering without splashing water out (and staying warm) was a joyous moment. A luxury we grew up with for around $600. But why did we wait for almost a year to have it installed if the installation took just one hour? We didn't know what we wanted when we first moved. We spent months evaluating different options to end up giving into an idea we didn't want to settle for initially—building an opaque, perpendicular extension to one of the existing bathroom walls which, after all, doesn't look that bad. *** *Farsighted* is a book about making decisions, about why it takes us so long to make them and practices to end up making the best possible choices in a world in which we won't ever know the correct answer, written by Steven Johnson. With experience, (some) decisions are faster. Others will always take long. And other won't ever be made. In my own experience, I've discover that what works for me is letting things sit over days, weeks, or even months, and let my mind evaluate the different possibilities. Still, no matter how long you take to make a decision, you won't ever know whether it was the right choice.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191109_apple-fruit-04-and-software-have-in-common.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## What do apples and software have in common?

Software, as fruit, rots. If you leave it there for long enough it will go bad, and programs stop working. When the dependencies of a program and the environment in which it runs get updated, different pieces of code break. You need to re-write parts of it to make it compatible with the latest "breaking changes." Code maintenance is a labor of love—and even more when your software is open source as other programs might rely on it. The biggest platform to share and find open-source software is GitHub. The "stars" of a project are the code-equivalent to Instagram or Facebook likes, usually indicative of how likely a repository of code is to withstand the test of time, as they often represent not only the size of a project's community but how quickly code gets fixed when it breaks.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190526_greece-zakynthos-drive-to-korakonisi-mikela-aziz.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The windy road to Korakonisi

Mikela was holding the wheel. Aziz was her co-pilot. They drove her car to Zakynthos all the way from Athens. The Mediterranean sea was in front of us as we descended a windy road among bushes. We'd rented an AirBnb to stay in Drosia, the top-floor of a two-story house of the nicest Greek family. I still remember the joy I got when Aziz and Mikela showed up. I hand't seen them since our last trip to the snowy mountains of New England, where we went snowboarding and skiing with our *squad*. This time, far from Cambridge, we wore swimsuits and sunglasses. I left my rental car at the AirBnb and joined them in Mikela's car. As we approached the sea through a bumpy and windy road I started getting dizzy while trying to capture this scene. We finally arrived at Korakonisi's rocky beach, and set camp in front of the immense natural arch, which I recall climbing up to a little wooden hut with Captain Gabour and Giorgos later that day. Our only concern was to sunbathe, swim, climb, and chat. Who wouldn't go back there?

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-200127_fight-paris-toronto-face-mask-sanjay.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## We are out of face masks

Four days before the Chinese New Year, Dr. Guan Yi went to Wuhan among billions of Chinese people on their way to celebrate the year of the Rat, but the reason for his trip was different.[^nyt-200124] The Chinese took 3 billion trips in a forty-day period surrounding January 25[^coronavirus-france-24], the Chinese New Year and, last time I checked, China had locked down five different cities amounting to twenty-something million people (which is half the population of Spain).[^coronavirus-cnn-live-dbb28e326d6cbd83bae222932be7d1df] *** A few days later, on January 27, Sanjay sat next to me on a flight from Paris to Toronto. Coming all the way from India to spend four weeks in Canada with his son, Sanjay was wearing a face mask for prevention, and I spotted two other people wearing face masks as I changed flights in Charles de Gaulle that same day. *** Coming back to Dr. Guan Yi, he traveled with his team to identify the germ that originated Coronavirus' outbreak[^nyt-200124]. They had successfully identified the Coronavirus that caused 2002–2003's SARS epidemic. This time, when Dr. Guan and his team arrived to the market where many infections had been traced back to, he found no trace of the virus. The government had disinfected it getting rid of any evidence. *** At the moment of this writing, there are seventy-six thousand confirmed cases[^COVID-19]. I wonder if there have been any previous viruses tracked so closely. Yet, only 0.004% of the reported deaths have occurred outside of China. China quickly ran out of face masks, and I gave up searching for face masks in Brooklyn. While the media does its job to keep us alert, rumors say that China has been playing down its numbers. I have no idea. What's true is that Coronavirus is (or has been) in your mind. It's not only a virus that spreads but viral news. [^nyt-200124]: At the moment of my visit to [Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs in China, and a Lockdown Widens](https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/world/asia/china-coronavirus.html) (2020) on *The New York Times*, the alarming headline said "25 people [had] died and more than 800 [had] been sickened by the mysterious illness." [^coronavirus-france-24]: [More Chinese cities shut down, New Year events cancelled as deadly virus spreads](https://www.france24.com/en/20200123-beijing-cancels-major-lunar-new-year-events-in-effort-to-contain-coronavirus-spread) (2020). *France 24*. [^coronavirus-cnn-live-dbb28e326d6cbd83bae222932be7d1df]: [CNN Live news](https://edition.cnn.com/asia/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-hnk-intl-01-24-20/h_c43d502480f91875babacc06b679a3d5) (Jan 24, 2020). *CNN*. [^COVID-19]: You can [check the reported cases live](https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6). Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-209129_canada-toronto-the-fairmont-york-self-portrait.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Thirty

I was born on a day of rest—on a Sunday morning at 10:50 am. Today, I'm turning thirty years old. I've been alive for 10,957 days (1,565 weeks and 2 days) and, looking at it that way, it might as well make sense to celebrate my 11,000th day on April 1, 2020. Back then in 1990, when I was born, my sister was 1,224 days old. [^thirty-searching-time-spans-on-google] [^thirty-searching-time-spans-on-google]: As I used to do before on Wolfram Alpha, you can now Google time spans and get the amount of days, like, for instance, [days between 1990-02-18 and today](https://www.google.com/search?q=days+between+1990-02-18+and+today). *What would you tell your twenty-year-old self?* I wanted to ask myself this question today, as I often ask others on the [podcast](https://gettingsimple.com/podcast). Let's see what I came up with. - Friends and family are more important than anything else. - Side projects are as important (or even more) than school and work. They define who you really are and give meaning to your life. - Document everything as you do it (and write everyday). You'll love being able to look back at what you're doing today when you're older. It's hard to find meaning and purpose, and extremely easy to get caught on doing one thing after the other, spanning across years—if not decades—without asking yourself the real question, so I'll keep asking myself, day after day: *What do you want to be when you grow up?*

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191224_table-croque-christmas-at-panaderos-banak-importa-maisons-du-monde-fibule-bleu.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## A chair and a table

I grew up sitting at the table to eat—often half-sitting with one knee, ready to flee to my computer or my toys. A year ago, right when we moved into our new place, we were slow to acquire new furniture. For a few days, maybe weeks, we'd do picnics in the living room, waiting for our table to arrive. We'd eat on top of a blanket. We'd eat on the floor. The picnics were fun. We then bought a table and four chairs. The picnic season was over. *** I like to test myself by relocating objects to a different place and paying attention to when the next time I want to use them is. I'd take things I don't use too often to my old bedroom at my parents house (mostly empty) or simply put the things I use daily inside of a closet at my house. After storing (or hiding) certain things—even for short periods of time—you can truly feel how [essential](https://gettingsimple.com/love-what-you-own-and-how-disasters-might-help) they are to the life you enjoy living, and experience alternative ways of living without them. Most of us have a table. But we rarely eat on the floor.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-200201_hand-sketching-with-molotov-pen-ways-of-talking.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Ways of talking

It's not *I don't have the time* but *This is not important enough for me.* It's not *I can't do this* but *I didn't sit down to try.* It's not *I wish I could do that* but *I've never tried to do that.*

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191028_plane-agp-to-mad-monica-tony-sweden-legs-phone.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Everything is an ad

We love to think we're in control of what we think and how we think about it, and we are often convinced we can ignore ads. But our brain is easily fooled and can't avoid reading a short sentence or processing an image when put in front of us. In this short essay, I invite you to think differently about what happens in your brain when you're exposed to an ad—which, broadly speaking, can be anything from a TV commercial to a vague recommendation made by a friend. *** *Listen to Getting Simple.* Take this sentence, for instance. It's a command. It's a suggestion to listen to a podcast that I just put in your mind. Even if the Getting Simple podcast didn't exist your mind has to decide whether to listen to it or not. I learned of an experiment in *Thinking, Fast and Slow*[^everything-is-an-ad-adam-menges]—a book by Nobel Prize-winning Daniel Kahneman—in which participants lying in a brain scanner were shown a picture of the eyes of a terrified person for less than 2/100 of a second. Participants were not aware of the picture but their brain was. "One part of their brain evidently knew: the amygdala," says Kahneman. "Images of the brain showed an intense response of the amygdala to a threatening picture that the viewer did not recognize." [^everything-is-an-ad-thinking-fast-and-slow] The media—newspapers, radio, television, even a friend or your favorite blog—expose us to the latest news, trending topics, products, and brands which end up occupying space in our brain. Even when you're not paying attention (and ads don't trigger a purchase or a sign-up) the mere exposure slowly makes what you see and listen feel more familiar. "Familiarity breeds liking." Daniel Kahneman refers to this phenomenon as the *exposure effect*. "Words that you have seen before become easier to see again—you can identify them better than other words when they are shown very briefly or masked by noise, and you will be quicker (by a few hundredths of a second) to read them than to read other words." [^everything-is-an-ad-thinking-fast-and-slow] If you hadn't read *Getting Simple* before, you have now. And the phrase will be easier for your brain to process—and like—next time you read it. That's why Netflix and HBO keep showing you their logo (and distinctive sound) at the beginning of each show. After eight seasons of Game of Thrones, HBO's intro inevitably *sounds* familiar, and it is this familiarity that links the watching experience throughout HBO shows and episodes. If this happens to you as it does to me, that's the feeling you get when you start watching something on Netflix. It's foolish to believe you can simply ignore ads. Every mention and suggestion and recommendation put in front of you slightly alters your perception of whatever it is they're talking about. You might just not be aware of it. [^everything-is-an-ad-adam-menges]: I learned about this book from [Adam Menges](https://adammenges.com), and I can't recommend you to read it enough. [^everything-is-an-ad-thinking-fast-and-slow]: Kahneman, Daniel. *Thinking, Fast and Slow.* New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. Kindle edition.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190528_portable-battery-power-bank.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Please charge soon

Ubiquitous internet and unlimited data plans got rid of any limitations for texting, calling, or browsing the internet. Speeds are fast and using all of your monthly gigabytes requires creative thinking. The gist is, you don't need to save data or call minutes for later use in the month. The scarce resource today is battery. Yes, new phones go for one or two days with a full charge but that doesn't last too long as the duration of lithium-powered batteries slowly fades away with time. That's what makes these _power bricks_ useful—a portable charger that can recharge your phone a couple times removing the need to save battery. Without it, a drain battery is an opportunity to refrain from using the phone to save battery for something else later in the day, or simply to not use your phone after its battery dies. The only resource you have left is time and—if you're not careful—your phone might drain it all as well.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191001_san-francisco-self-portrait-mission-st-marks.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## On authenticity

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. From [how I write](https://gettingsimple.com/writing-habits) or [edit a podcast](https://youtu.be/1WA89gA29Iw) or [draw a tree](https://sketch.nono.ma/curiosity) to what I think about [electric scooters](https://gettingsimple.com/would-the-amish-ride-electric-scooters) and [rediscovering the past](https://gettingsimple.com/the-power-of-time-capsules-capturing-how-mundane-events-make-you-feel).

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190628_panaderos-bag-massimo-dutti-gift.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## It's all about the surprise

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.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191230_panaderos-codorniu-raventos-cava-twelve-grapes.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Twelve grapes

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." [^dai14] These [temporal landmarks](https://gettingsimple.com/whenever-resolutions-how-to-use-temporal-landmarks-to-pursue-your-goals)—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. [^dai15] You can set your own "temporal landmark" in advance and use it as a "fresh start" to improve different aspects of your life. [^dai14]: Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior. Management Science, 60(10), 2563–2582. [^dai15]: 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. --- Happy New Year. 🍾 Thank you for being there. _What are your goals for 2020?_

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191220_panaderos-christmas-socks-bea.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The slack myth

— _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.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191216_malaga-panaderos-lonely-planet-iceland.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The manual and the guide

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?*

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190612_thermometer-36.4.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## A simple fever

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.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-170127_cambridge-outside-of-petsi-pies-meeting-pan.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Meeting at Petsi Pies

It was Friday, January 27, 2017. Geared up for the cold weather, I left [Clary St](/i-see-clary-st-from-my-window) 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](https://www.google.com/search?q=turkey+cambridge+massachusetts&tbm=isch) or [YouTube](https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=turkey+cambridge+massachusetts).

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191013_malaga-panaderos-wallet-airpods.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The right pocket

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.[^a-place-for-everything] 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](/whats-the-time)); 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?_ [^a-place-for-everything]: Learn more about the [origins and meaning](https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/14400.html) of this phrase.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190911_panaderos-work-desk-setup-monitor-microphone.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Who cares about your workflow?

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](https://gettingsimple.com/on-drafts) 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.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191106_panaderos-casio-f-91w.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## What's the time?

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.[^balmer-79] 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.[^wikipedia-clock] 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. [^wikipedia-clock]: [Clock](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock). Wikipedia. [^balmer-79]: R.T Balmer, [The invention of the sand clock](https://doi.org/10.1016/0160-9327(79)90100-5), Endeavour, Volume 3, Issue 3, 1979, Pages 118-122, ISSN 0160-9327. --- 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](/the-box-with-blue-tape) 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. For instance, writing on a physical [notebook](/distorted-memories) or drawing on a [sketchbook](/the-sketchbook) (instead of using one more app) are easy ways to escape the digital world to focus on the task at stake. 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. --- If there's something you do as well to temporarily escape the screen and better focus, reply to this email and tell me about it. I'd love to know how and why you do it. =)

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191021_panaderos-sketchbook-my-feet-la-termica.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The sketchbook

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](/out-of-context), 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.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190904_malaga-paper-bag-dunnes-stores.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Bring your own bag

"In the United States, food waste is estimated at thirty to forty percent of the food supply." [^usda] That's a lot. [^usda]: Approximately 60 billion kilograms and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. ([Read on USDA](https://web.archive.org/web/20190801213620/https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs)). 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,"[^the-crazy-ones] 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. [^the-crazy-ones]: 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.” 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.[^veganism-diet] 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. [^veganism-diet]: It isn't easy to go vegan without missing out on some proteins and nutrients your body needs and was getting somewhere else.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-191018_malaga-panaderos-moleskine-classic-notebook-muji-0.38-01.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Distorted memories

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](https://sketch.nono.ma/its-all-fine) 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."[^168-hours] [^168-hours]: [168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think](https://lauravanderkam.com/books/168-hours/). Laura Vanderkam. Penguin. 2011.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190905_panaderos-suitcase-delsey-to-tarragona.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## It's all fine

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!_

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-170202_cambridge-clary-st.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## I see Clary St from my window

*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](https://gettingsimple.com/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](https://gettingsimple.com/the-power-of-time-capsules-capturing-how-mundane-events-make-you-feel), but looking at these sketches sparks joy.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190509_malaga-my-blue-hat.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## My blue hat

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.[^tri-state-tank] 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](https://vimeo.com/314293925) 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. [^tri-state-tank]: Tri-State Tank West, Inc. seems to be a truck tank company created back [in the 1980s](https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_ks/0697201). You can buy some of their [swag](https://www.google.com/search?q=%22tri-state+tank+west%22&tbm=isch) online—including [keyrings](https://nono.ma/img/u/190928_tri-state-tank-west-inc-keyring-03.jpg). California Headwear is the manufacturer that made the hats for them.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190623_malaga-panaderos-printer-brother-HL-L2375DW.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The zine

Russ Chauvenet was a chess champion and one of the founders of science fiction fandom. In October 1940, Russ himself coined the term _fanzine_ in one of the issues of his fanzine publication titled _Detours_.[^zine-wikipedia] A _zine_ is a self-published work of text and images to distribute original or appropriated content. In December 2018, I bought a monochrome, two-sided, A4 laser printer and a long arm stapler to produce A5 zines in-house.[^zine-printer] You can print on regular paper or, as I'm in love with, on recycled 80-grams paper, which makes zines look like a paperback publication with the right typeface and layout. Thousands of years ago—well before the invention of the printing press—civilizations used stamps and presses to reproduce documents. Today, home printers, copy machines, and publishing software are widely available.[^zine-wikipedia] I print my writing drafts to review and edit away from the screen. The experience is closer to reading a physical book than to that of reading an article online. Gifting a physical booklet is a great way to share my writing instead of sending a digital version to somebody's busy inbox.[^fanzine-wikipedia] [^zine-printer]: I bought the simple and robust [ Brother HLL2375DW](https://amzn.to/2ZYKLdQ) printer and a [Rapesco 790](https://amzn.to/34zeNbB) stapler. [^zine-wikipedia]: [Zine](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zine) on Wikipedia. [^fanzine-wikipedia]: As a curiosity, in the 1920s, science fiction [magazines](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanzine) would publish readers' addresses in a column so readers would be able to exchange letters.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190515_malaga-limasa-trash-trucks.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Who collects your trash?

I've been living in a small apartment in downtown Málaga for the past seven months. Two people producing one or two bags of trash per week—mainly food packaging and spoiled items—bringing them to a nearby dumpster and starting over again. In May 15, 2019, two Limasa trucks were collecting trash at La Plaza de la Merced. The small vehicle brooms and sucks the garbage that people mindlessly drop on the floor and accumulates trash from street sweepers as well. While I was sketching, this little truck moved from right to left to release all of its trash into the bigger one, which also collects trash from street containers. It's become part of our daily lives. Trash cans, street sweepers, and a variety of vehicles keeping the streets clean for us and bringing our waste to landfills. We rarely stop and ask ourselves whether we should produce less trash and how to do it. Could our individual decisions make a change or do decisions need to be made by the cities and entities who supply us with goods? I'm a bit skeptical of the real impact our individual decisions as consumers have, but that's a story for another day.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190527_london-gatwick-airport-people-01.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Cheerleader effect

If you squint, people's faces start looking more and more alike, until they're all just blobs. That's a simple way to abstract a drawing. As a short-sighted person, this happens to me all the time, objects blur more and more the farther away they are. And I might be fooling myself, but I'm still at the edge of not needing to wear glasses on my day to day. I just use them while driving, watching movies, or attending to a presentation. *** Sketches of people wandering around the streets make some of the most attractive pages in my sketchbook—people stare at them, probably completing the missing parts in their minds, as the sketches are made out of rough strokes without much detail. What's calling people's attention? I believe it's the _cheerleader effect_, also known as the group attractiveness effect.[^cheerleader-effect] According to the research carried out in 2013 and 2015, the effect is the cognitive bias which makes us think that individuals are more attractive when they are in a group. I don't think any of those individual sketches of people are perfect or specially attractive on their own but being part of a page seems to make them more attractive. The [pattern](https://nono.ma/project/the-people-project)—not its individual elements—is easier to like. --- What do _you_ think? [^cheerleader-effect]: Apparently, the phrase was coined by Barney Stinson in an episode of *How I Met Your Mother* first aired in November 2008. ([Read on Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheerleader_effect).)

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190216_malaga-usk-puente-aurora-01.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Why are you sketching?

_Is there a drawing competition? Are you an architecture student? Why are you all sketching around here? Why are you doing this?_ People stop by to ask *what* and *why* we're sketching, and sometimes to simply watch us doing our thing. They first look at you and your drawing, then they look at what's in front of you, wondering what is _so important_ as to deserve being sketched. _Why are you doing this?_ It's a relaxing, joyful, and rewarding experience. A meditative moment in which your week finally slows down. There's no need to think about anything else: Just pay attention to what's in front of you and render it in your page. After deliberating *what* to draw, the beginning of a sketch—the blank page—can indeed be stressful. Why, then, would you put yourself in such a situation? Well, you start loving the challenge, a challenge that requires your effort and concentration and pushes you to get a tiny bit better every day. Once the drawing is laid out on the page you can continue adding detail and shading and coloring mindlessly, without too much thinking, and feeling a rewarding sense of joy as your sketch gets closer and closer to a finished drawing. *** *Is there a drawing competition?* Not really. *Are you an architecture student?* This is a funny one that I'll try to cover in a future post. *Why are you all sketching around here?* Frequently, it's just me by myself (or with Mom). But we also meet with the *Urban Sketchers* group from time to time to sketch a specific place or building altogether. *** I'm truthful to the *Urban Sketchers* [manifesto](http://www.urbansketchers.org/p/our-manifesto.html): sketching on location and capturing what I see from direct observation, using my drawings as a story-telling medium.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190315_malaga-mercado-atarazanas.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Pedro & Isa's Butcher Shop

As soon as I stopped by his butcher stand, Pedro hooked me. Just one minute away from home, I was wondering around Atarazanas Market on a Monday morning for a quick disconnection from the screen when I discovered _Pedro & Isa_'s modest butcher shop at stall 166–167. As I stared at their home-made burgers, Pedro offered to prepare whatever burger mix and weight I wanted. I ended up buying three two-hundred-gram burgers: Chicken with spinach; beef with goose foie; and beef cheek with onion. They tasted awesome. As I handed Pedro 6.50 euros, he mesmerized me with his kind marketing copy: _You call us. You choose what, how, when, and how much you want. And I prepare it for you. I do this for restaurants all the time._ A fully customized service just one minute away from home. As every other Monday, the odds were in Pedro's favor. All fish stands close on Mondays, so you either buy fruit, vegetables, or meat. But no fish. And this is probably why I paid attention to his burgers that morning.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190504_malaga-panaderos-measure-tape.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## What can you measure?

The length of your table. Time. Your age and weight and height. The money you have in the bank. The number of tee shirts you own. Certain things are easy to measure. Grab a ruler or a tape measure. A clock. A calendar. A weight. Access your bank account. Take a look at your wardrobe. You got it: the exact number, the precise answer. Other things, however, are not so easy to measure; *How happy are you with your current job? How are your relationships with the people around you? Is the food you are eating making you healthier? How are your current habits contributing to your well-being?* Even thought researchers try really hard to plot abstract aspects of our quotidian lives on tables and charts, the truth is, it's weird to wrap our head around measuring things like happiness, well-being, enjoyment, love, or even mood. You can't reduce these feelings to distances, dates, durations, or numbers. *** In some cases, however, conclusions about happiness or well-being can be extracted by studying the habitual patterns of individuals. Take, for instance, a research study developed at University of Warwick, in the UK, by Caroline Meyer and her team, in which participants noted down their two main activities every ten minutes during a 24-hour period on a diary, along with where and who they were with, whether they were using a digital device (smartphone, tablet, or computer), and a rating of their enjoyment of each activity, on a scale of 1 to 7.[^measures-wellbeing-paper] "Commuting to and from work can constitute a significant proportion of a person's day and can have a considerable impact on one's well being," the researchers conclude in their study on *workforce commuting and subjective well-being*. "Commutes using passive modes of transport (e.g., car, train) were found to be the least enjoyable activities carried out in the day. Commuting using active modes of transport (e.g., cycle, walk) was also amongst the least enjoyable activities, although enjoyment of active commuting was significantly higher than that of passive commuting." This study compared *experienced well-being* across different activities, and how commuting or not affects the overall, subjective sense of enjoyment of the rest of daily activities. (And, even though commuting was amongst the activities we enjoy the least, it seems to have little impact on how much we enjoy the rest of activities in which we partake.) *** As research shows, you can identify metrics that, in one way or another, encode subjective aspects of your life, and compare how much better today was than yesterday. Write down what you did and how much better (or worse) it made you feel. Then repeat what makes you happy, what helps you relax and be at peace with yourself, and avoid what stresses you out, what makes you waste your time, or what makes you sad. You won't get an exact number. But learning about yourself—even in a subjective, fuzzy way—might be good enough to reinforce the habits that end up making you, if only, a tiny bit happier. [^measures-wellbeing-paper]: Adam, Zakiyya & Walasek, Lukasz & Meyer, Caroline. (2018). [*Workforce Commuting and Subjective Well-Being*](https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tbs.2018.08.006 ). Travel Behaviour and Society. 13. 183-196.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190718-malaga-panaderos-amazon-box.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The box with blue tape

*Click*. It's made out of cardboard. *Click*. It's sealed with blue tape. *Click*. There are 3 items in your cart. *Click*. Your order has been placed. *** Amazon is making us lazy. Set a default delivery address and credit card on file, and you can place an order with *one click*. With more than 600,000 employees, Amazon has crafted an online experience so convenient as to become the standard method to buy virtually anything for many people all over the world. You might receive your package faster than they initially said, and returning what you bought has never been easier. Without shipping costs, the thrill of going to the store to buy the things you love rapidly fades away, replaced by a virtual, addictive shopping experience while wearing your best pajamas. *** *Ding*. The bell rings. *You've got an Amazon package.*

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190127-madrid-iberia-prensa-espanola-thats-my-seat.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## That's my seat

"Hey, I think that's my seat. I'm 5D." "Hmm, I think this is my seat," she replied. "Look, my ticket says 5D." *** Apart from helping each other place heavy suitcases in the overhead compartment, there's another reason why strangers tend to talk when riding the AVE — the high-speed rail system of Spain. At the entrance between each two wagons, a flashing number signals the number of the wagon to its left and to its right. (At the beginning of wagon twelve, for instance, the label flashes both 011 and 012, intermittently.) Depending on when you arrive at that entrance, the flashing label might say eleven or twelve, and you may enter the train before seeing the other number flash, assuming you entered the wagon in your passage. I enter the wagon. Then take a seat. Thinking I'm seating in the right place, another passenger suggests that that's her seat, asking me to move. Her passage — as does mine — says 5D. Someone, obviously, is sitting in the wrong wagon. The numbering system is ambiguous. Its ambiguity creates an interesting situation: Two people think they're right, but one of them has to be wrong. (Unless the rail company sold the same seat twice.) These ambiguities make us think we're *both* right when we're obviously not. In the train, there's an easy way to check who's right — verifying the wagon you're in. But in many other situations, we find ourselves arguing about topics where no universal truth can tell us who's right or wrong. It's good to keep this in mind when you (or someone else) thinks they are right. Listen to what the other has to say. Think, even if only for a second, that your assumptions could be wrong. Your seat is right. You might just not be in the right wagon.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190508-malaga-la-farola-color.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## The warm-up

*Sketchbook and pen in hand in front of a blank page.* *Sitting on the floor—slightly nervous.* *Ready to start the first sketch of the day.* *** I tend to study the perspective, proportions, and the relations between the objects in front of me with a swift analytic drawing. This analytic exercise is meant to be rough and quick, a loose approximation to something I want to sketch. In theory, it's a draft and not the finished thing, so I don't have to worry about it being perfect. There's some sort of freedom I don't usually get when trying to do a finished drawing that I get when I know a drawing "doesn't count." It's just a warm-up. One of these warm-up drawings preceded my sketch of [La Farola](/time-place-and-people), but this time, as often occurs, I ended up doing a full sketch over what was meant to be a simple study. Here, I played with my watercolors in a way I'm often *scared* of. *** *The warm-up is done.* *Pressure fades away.* *Ready for the next page.*

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190531_malaga-enrique-garcia-herrera-tree-erythrina-caffra.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Curiosity

Once again, a simple sketch made me wonder about something I didn't know before: the species of tree I had in front of me and the name of the square I was sitting in. Just a couple minutes away from home, I was sketching in Plaza Enrique García-Herrera (a square better known for being "the square above Camas St's parking," in Málaga) under a few trees that weakly attempt to protect passersby from the sun. Their scientific name? *Erythrina*—a species of tree of the rosebush family, commonly known as coast coral tree or African coral tree, which flowers into shades of warm red and has thorns all over its trunk. Erythrina (a term that refers to dozens of tree variations) comes from the Greek word for red—*erythros*—and refers to the red flowers of the most common types. Even thought I thought this was an *Erythrina Caffra* tree, I'm not sure anymore. *** Curiosity is a choice. And I love how obsessing about the details of something as mundane (and often ignored) as a tree or a city square can get you started to talk and learn about *anything*.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190603_malaga-panaderos-sliced-bread.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Health or convenience?

Last winter, Bea attended a talk by a nutritionist at the Dance Conservatory in Málaga. That's how I learned that *healthy* bread is made out of four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. You mix them, get a dough, and them bake them. It's simple and authentic. What's the problem? It tastes best right after you make it. Warm, soft inside, and maybe crunchy on the outside. Then it can only get worse. Even though some ingredients (say, cereals) might make bread better for some aspects of your health, the truth is that extra ingredients often make it more convenient but unhealthier. Last more; be softer; crunchier; tastier; more colorful; or even give it a nice smell. All of these properties make it attractive, convenient, maybe durable, but they are unlikely to make it healthier. Listening to the *#realfood* movement? The less ingredients the better. From the oven in your neighborhood (or from your own oven) to your table. Most importantly, you have to buy it and eat it today. Unless you've been living under a rock, you might already know that this applies to most types of food. The fresher and less processed the better; but will go bad earlier. *** Convenience always has a price.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190508-malaga-la-farola.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Time, place, and people

We had been sketching lighthouses before[^farola-we]: more than five thousand kilometers away from home[^farola-malaga-to-scarborough], along the coast of Maine. But we had never sketched La Farola together, our hometown's lighthouse, barely a ten-minute walk from where I grew up. *** There are plenty of things to sketch around us, all the time. Places and buildings and people and artifacts to stop by. To stare and study carefully. Things to look with joy. But we rarely do. What's far and different—the exotic—prompts us to take our phones out of our pocket to shoot and share more often than what's around us everyday. Not what's close by. But the distant and, in some way, disconnected from our own world. Coming back *home* from the US made me look at my city differently. Now in Málaga, I look at what surrounds me, at the mundane, at the little things I've always given for granted. I seat in front of them and *picture* them in my sketchbook. *** In some way, you can compare sketching to taking an Instagram photo for thirty or sixty minutes. With so much time to think about what I'm doing, each capture creates a strong connection to *when*, *where*, and with *whom* I was sketching; that's why I browse through them with nostalgia and joy. [^farola-malaga-to-scarborough]: According to Wolfram Alpha, Málaga, Spain, and Scarborough, Maine, are [5519 kilometers](https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=distance+from+malaga,+spain+to+Scarborough+Town,+ME,+USA) apart. [^farola-we]: *We* as in [Mom](https://lourdes.ac) and I.

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![](https://nono.imgix.net/img/u/sketch-190419_london-british-museum-hoa-hokakanaia.jpg?ixlib=php-3.3.0)

## Out of context

Surrounded by tourists in the Wellcome Gallery at the British Museum, sits this stolen Basalt stone statue, around 13,638 kilometers away from its original home in *Rapa Nui*[^ooc-london-to-easter-island]—a Chilean island also known as Easter Island—where it was taken by the British around one hundred and fifty years ago. This *moai* figure, labeled as *Hoa Hakananai'a* ("hidden or stolen friend"), is said to be "one of the most spiritually important statues of the Chilean island's stone monoliths."[^the-guardian-easter-island] And the Rapa Nui want to bring it back home. I kept wondering *who* decided to bring this huge piece of carved stone to London, any *why*. According to the British Museum's website, the figure was "collected" by an expedition to Rapa Nui commanded by captain Powell in 1868, and given to Queen Victoria, who then gifted it to the British Museum.[^ooc-british-museum] What do you think? Will our *stolen friend* go back home? [^ooc-london-to-easter-island]: [Easter Island and London are 13,638 kilometers apart](https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=distance+from+easter+island+to+london). Wolfram Alpha. [^the-guardian-easter-island]: [Easter Island governor begs British Museum to return Moai: 'You have our soul'](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/20/easter-island-british-museum-return-moai-statue). The Guardian. 2018. [^ooc-british-museum]: [Hoa Hakananai'a](https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=512302&partId=1). British Museum.

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