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When There’s No Time to Read Books

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Every book is an entire world, waiting to be explored.

My father had a large library. Many of the books were inherited from a friend. That friend had told him that when he was younger, he would worry:

“I rarely have the time to read these. When I find the time, will I be too old to see the words?”

The answer became “yes”. He did grow too old to read them and so gifted them to my father.

Funny enough, my father said the same thing. And once again, it came true.

But for him, it wasn’t for the lack of reading. He’d always had a book in hand and a pen to mark it up with and act as a bookmark. He lamented reading slowly, but I knew he read thoroughly, deeply exercising his mind as he would his body when jogging.

Books Unread

Now, I have many books.

But I’m not reading them at the pace that I’d like. Well, to be honest, they’ve mainly been sitting there.

I brought a book on vacation and began to get into it. I came back from vacation without having finished it, thinking, “Surely, I’ll continue”.

So, I sat it next to my bed, where “Of course, it will remind me.”

And, of course, it sat next to my bed, barely touched.

Two months later, I took another trip, being sure to bring the book along. I got back into it, right where I left off. And once again, I have returned.

This time, though, I’m making a change. Rather than hope the book itself would act as a reminder, I’m adding it to what I’ve come to call my “Honor Guide”.

An Honor Guide

An Honor Guide is much like many other lists, but the structure is unique. It holds 1-3 spaces for the things that I am currently active with, engaging in daily visits at my pace. There is another small area for things that await activation. There is a third area for things I have already well incorporated into my days, no longer taking deep thought to continue, but can still do with a reminder.

It’s a simple structure, but one that has carried me forward for many years now.

The structure affords a direct meeting place for Past, Present, and Future. There, I practice acknowledging what I wish to add into my life and what I would need to set aside to do so. Things that can wait, can wait. Things that cannot, come forward.

Decisions, big or small, can be difficult. But having a structure to support your decisions, so that it is no longer forced, strained, so that you don’t have to hold onto them in some chronic tension, can make all the difference.

– Kourosh

PS If you are interested in learning more about the Honor Guide, you can read its beginnings in the Navigation section (p565) of Creating Flow with OmniFocus and its latest version in Module 7 of the Waves of Focus.

The post When There’s No Time to Read Books appeared first on Kourosh Dini.

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16 hours ago
Toronto, ON
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Listening but Not Listening

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I have a white noise app on my Mac laptop that helps me focus. I noticed it doesn’t have “on” and “off” modes. It has “play” and “pause” modes. Apparently it’s never “off.” You will always listen again. If you’re not listening, you are simply preparing to listen.

As of this writing, these are the available sounds:

Fan 2
Fan 3
Rain – Light
Rain – Heavy
Wind Chimes

Blue Noise
Brown Noise
Pink Noise
Violet Noise
White Noise

I use the “airplane” noise mode, myself. I’ve become so accustomed to its tonality that I’ve been known to use it while on airplanes, which is ironic given that I usually use noise cancelling headphones on planes to block out the actual airplane noise. This is to say, I both eliminate the sound of the plane and then pipe in the artificial sound of the plane. The action is, from one perspective, the sonic equivalent of tearing out your backyard and laying down astroturf. Though of course, it’s nothing like that.

As for the other options, I appreciate the cicadas, but it mostly makes me think of camping, which is not on my personal list of ideal situations. I’ll take a non-reclining coach seat on an airplane over camping.

Of the “color” noises, I occasionally opt for brown, which is essentially airplane noise reduced to a mathematical formula. Brown noise is the airplane noise of a low-polygon simulation of flight.

One thing the app lacks is café chatter — better yet, café chatter in a language I don’t understand (which would be any language other than English, though I’m coming up on a year-long streak in Duolingo German, so who knows). Perhaps chatter will come with a future upgrade.

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10 days ago
Toronto, ON
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Kelly Moran’s Ice Breaker

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This first appeared in the March 21, 2024, issue of the This Week in Sound email newsletter, also the newsletter’s 22nd Listening Post.

Just over a year into the pandemic, Kelly Moran marked most electronic music fans’ favorite annual holiday, April 14, in honor of the Aphex Twin song “Avril 14th,” with the requisite solo piano cover. She recorded her video with a camera that she set to look directly down on her keyboard, and at first all we see is the piano — even after the music starts playing. Magically, the keys move without anyone touching them, and then her hands — slender, sensual, nails gleaming colorfully — appear alongside the ghost accompaniment and flesh out her own version of the song. 

It turns out that she was performing on a Disklavier, on loan from Yamaha, the same instrument on which Aphex Twin reportedly recorded the original version. “Avril 14th” appeared on his 2001 album, Drukqs; Moran’s cover marked the 20th anniversary. 

More time has passed. In the years since that simple (if deceptively so) Aphex Twin experiment of hers, Moran has come to wield the Disklavier not just expertly but ferociously. She has pushed its feature set further. The instrument allows her to record parts and play along with them, and record that and play along with that. Her deep pandemic studies have yielded impossible, post-human music that is truly hyperactive, with chords that no human could accomplish on their lonesome in cadences no human could play for a prolonged period. The works are crystalline paradoxes at warp speed. It’s absolutely perfect that “Butterfly Phase,” the lead video for her forthcoming record, Moves in the Field (due out March 29), involves figure skating, because aesthetically that’s what Moran’s current music is: calisthenic, showy, muscular, and deeply competitive. (Regarding that last point, the title comes from the term in skating for the tests of a competitor’s abilities.) 

Both “Butterfly Phase” and another track, “Sodalis (II),” are available as previews in advance of the full album’s release:


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13 days ago
Toronto, ON
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What Did You Learn How To Do This Year?

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Hey, real quick, what’s something you always wanted to do, but only just started to learn how to do in the last year? I always wanted to learn how to play guitar and last year my son and I started taking guitar lessons together and now I can sort of play guitar a little.

If you’re trying to convince yourself to learn something you should just do it because you might still be shitty at whatever you’re learning 6 months from now, but you’ll be much better than you’d be if you didn’t start until 6 months from now. I think I saw someone say this more eloquently (obviously), but when I tried to find it, all I could find was someone saying imagine if you started 6 months ago, which I think is a recipe for making yourself feel bad, and I bet you don’t need any help doing that, do you?

So, what’d you learn how to do this year or if you haven’t learned anything new yet, what are you going to start learning how to do this year?

💬 Join the discussion on kottke.org

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13 days ago
Toronto, ON
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P&B: Adrianna Tan

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This is the 31st edition of People and Blogs, the series where I ask interesting people to talk about themselves and their blogs. Today we have Adrianna Tan and her blog, popagandhi.com

Adrianna's blog was suggested by Winnie Lim in her interview, back in February. I love discovering new blogs thanks to recommendations. I especially love to see how the various blogs all connect and influence echother. The web, the best social media platform.

To follow this series subscribe to the newsletter. A new interview will land in your inbox every Friday. Not a fan of newsletters? No problem! You can read the interviews here on the blog or you can subscribe to the RSS feed.

Let's start from the basics: can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Adrianna. I’m an old school blogger. I’ve been blogging as a teenager, since before 2003 (various blogspots and self-hosted blogs). In 2003 my brother bought me my domain, Popagandhi.com as a birthday present, and I’ve had it ever since.

I grew up in Singapore, lived there and in Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Mumbai, and many other places in the world until I moved to San Francisco in 2018.

I have always worked in tech. I’ve done the whole range of tech jobs from being an early stage tech company employee (various Silicon Valley companies) to startup founder, and now, public servant at San Francisco Digital Services, the digital team for the City and County of San Francisco, where I am the director of the product management team.

In my free time, I run, bike, cook, bake, and take film photos.

What's the story behind your blog?

I was always a nerdy, introverted person so the early days of blogging felt like a godsend. I prefer to express myself in writing, rather than in speaking, or in audio or video (true, even today). I read a lot, and still do, and writing is my primary means of self-expression. So that’s probably what got me interested in tech: how to set up a blog, how to host it, how to change it, make it look good, all of those things.

I have been Popagandhi for two decades. The site, its name, and its past renown (it was quite popular in the early 00s) is forever attached to who I am as a person. The story behind the name it not that exciting: at the time, I was listening to a lot of punk music, I liked a band called Propagandhi. I was also just starting to be interested in art, and in travel (to India). So it felt like punk, pop art, India, all in one.

What I write about on Popagandhi has also gone through many iterations. I started when I was in high school, so there was a lot of first queer love anguish and sadness, then there was the travel and ‘seeing the world’ part of my life. Now the content is about photography, bicycles, and my quiet home life. So in a way, the blog has tracked my life through many important seasons. The content reflects that.

What does your creative process look like when it comes to blogging?

I’m a pretty spontaneous writer. Sometimes things just pop into my head, and I start and finish and post pretty much instantly. Partly it’s that I have ADHD. It’s hard for me to plan ahead. If I am planning to write something longer, with references, I try to do more planning.

These days, the things I post seem to follow a few patterns: stuff about cycling, interesting photos I’ve taken, longer thoughts about how I did something or more reflective thoughts about my creative processes. In the past I might worry more about ‘what’s the point of this post?’ but lately I’m taking the perspective, in everything that I do, that it’s just fun to blog.

Do you have an ideal creative environment? Also do you believe the physical space influences your creativity?

I don’t really need external stimulation to feel creative, most of my struggles to get creative are very much personal. It’s more of ‘can I drop everything and get into a flow state to hyper-focus on something for a bit?’ Sometimes, I can. Not always. When I do start creating things, I don’t need much around me to keep going. Good music does help, but honestly as long as I have a decently fast computer, a desk, I can start writing.

As I’m getting older, I am pickier about having the right tools: I need an ergonomic keyboard and mouse and good chair! That doesn’t help me get more creative as much as it helps me feel more comfortable.

A question for the techie readers: can you run us through your tech stack?

These days, I host most of my domains on porkbun.com. I tend to run static sites, and my static site generator of choice is 11ty, which I love; I used to use Hugo and Jekyll but 11ty is the one that just clicked for me. In fact, learning 11ty is also what got me to relaunch my blog. I use GitHub to check in my code and posts, and Netlify to deploy the site. With this stack, I don’t pay anything other than the annual domain registration renewal fee for Popagandhi.com.

Given your experience, if you were to start a blog today, would you do anything differently?

I’ve been thinking about how it feels harder to set up a blog than in the past, where there seemed to be more tools. I guess you can still use blogspot.com or wordpress.com, and that would be my recommendation for anyone who wants a traditional blog. I don’t really like posting content elsewhere, even on sites with more reach; so even though I previously posted on Medium, I’ve since moved a copy of all my posts there onto my own blog.

I would recommend that anyone somewhat technically inclined learn a tool like 11ty. With 11ty and basic CSS (I don’t like using libraries for CSS), you can get a site up and running really fast. The main gap in this would be in content management. If you plan to setup a blog this way for a less technical person, then it can be hard for them to update the site unless you also wire up something like Sanity, Strapi, Decap, or CloudCannon. Pros and cons for all of those. It’s personally too much for a one person blog like mine, so I would just stick to my current setup.

If owning your own content is important to you (and it is to me), then I would recommend learning some skills and rolling your own.

Financial question since the web is obsessed with money: how much does it cost to run your blog? Is it just a cost or does it generate some revenue? And what's your position on people monetising personal blogs?

I was there when adtech started becoming a thing, and I still have a difficult relationship with it. I have not monetized my blog in any meaningful way. Nor am I interested in it. I understand why some people feel they have to, but in the long run, and I think this is still true, advertising corporate interests don’t care about you as a person, an individual, a creator, and burnout is real. You see this now with YouTube content creators starting to feel like none of what they do matters, like they have to churn out content no matter what, or as if they have to structure their work in certain algorithm-gaming ways in order for the work to matter.

I pay around ten bucks a year or less, for my .com renewal. I don’t pay other fees. Even if I wanted to move off a service like Netlify, I guess I could set up something reasonably cheaply on a VPS.

I think newsletter style subscriptions have been a better model than advertising, but even then that’s not really an option for many people other than the most popular. I’m happy in my little corner of the web, just publishing stuff for myself. I don’t love corporations, so it’s hard for me to imagine being beholden to one (or several). Much better for me this way though I understand why others might want to monetize.

Time for some recommendations: any blog you think is worth checking out? And also, who do you think I should be interviewing next?

I really love Rachel Smiths’s site. I think the colors and cursor trails brings back a bit of the joy that the old web brought me. And my friend Jason Li!

Final question: is there anything you want to share with us?

Jason Li and collaborators have a super fun website called Asian Food Dictionary.

The podcasts I’ve been listening to have been all of Whetstone’s podcasts. Their stuff isn’t just about food but also about deep dives into culture, using food and ingredients as a lens.

I’ve also been cooking my way through SGP Noodles’ recipes (Singapore noodles are not actually from Singapore, so it’s pretty fun ‘in’ joke). Being an immigrant to the United States, what I miss most about home is the food. Pamela’s paid Substack has good recipes for the stuff I love.

This was the 31st edition of People and Blogs. Hope you enjoyed this interview with Adrianna. Make sure to follow her blog (RSS) and get in touch with her if you have any questions.

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13 days ago
Toronto, ON
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REVIEW: Neptune’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead delights in dichotomy

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Take a beloved contemporary play by Tom Stoppard, cast starring actors from the Lord of the Rings films, and finish it off with some of Canadian theatre’s best Shakespearean actors, and you’ve got an assured box office hit. But star power isn’t the only reason Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead shines — instead, it’s the clever use of contrast between the large and small that lights up the stage, and these contrasts extend through every aspect of the production. Director Jeremy Webb’s vision is clear throughout the play, and utilizes the complex demands of the script to craft a dance between elements of decadence and distress.

The play’s premise is simple, yet opens a world of possibility: it’s Hamlet, told from the perspective of the ill-fated Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Tom Stoppard’s famed 1966 script weaves in and out of Shakespeare’s familiar text while filling the audience in on what “R and G” are up to when they aren’t on stage. For the most part. that’s trying to figure out what the heck is going on with that tricky Prince of Denmark, a task made a little harder when they can’t even seem to remember how they ended up here in the first place. 

Even if you’re not familiar with Hamlet, the title provides you with the key information: These guys are going to die. The play is about the journey.

The show opens with Rosencrantz (Dominic Monaghan) and Guildenstern (Billy Boyd) in complementary blue and green suits that seem just a little ragged, alone on a stage decorated to be… well, a stage, albeit an abandoned one. The two sit on a set of sparse metal risers, while tattered curtains hang haphazardly behind them, in shadowy light that leads us into the metafictional world of this play, where reality and performance blend together.

Immediately, contrasts are at play: Boyd’s Guildenstern is thoughtful, chatty, usually talking himself in circles, while Monaghan’s Rosencrantz punctuates his ramblings with occasional insights and physical comedy. Boyd and Monaghan play off each other like old friends — their characters have clearly known each other for as long as they remember (even though they seem to have forgotten when that was). Their dialogue is snappy and almost dizzying, both to the audience and themselves, but the confusion of the characters is the comedy, in true absurdist fashion. The inherent appeal of this production is in this dynamic. Webb captures the comedic pace of Boyd and Monaghan that is familiar to fans of the celebrity duo, but utilizes that pace to pull the less theatre-minded easily into the absurdism of the script.

The mid-stage curtain then rises to reveal a troupe of actors who call themselves the Tragedians, led by Michael Blake as The Player. Blake perfectly complements the leading duo — he slides easily into the scene, matching Guildenstern’s snappy dialogue with his own witty rhetoric, and Rosencrantz’s large physical movement with bold, extravagant movement. The players begin to further blur the borders between reality and representation as some of them transform into characters from Hamlet, and the more familiar plot begins to unfold. Pasha Ebrahimi as Hamlet is an intense inferno, ferocious and assured and grounded, the starkest contrast to the shadowy uncertainty of our titular characters as they try to puzzle out what exactly is going on around them.

The scenes with the rest of the cast feel incredibly decadent, with the company of 11 actors in layers and layers of fabric and masks gesticulating dramatically in the light. At first, this felt strange to me; why are there so many people on stage? Such a large cast feels almost jarring against the simpler scenes where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are alone, but Webb’s choice for a large cast is not simply to have bodies in the space. As the play continues, the high energy of the full company scenes allow for the quieter, introspective moments of the piece to feel all the more poignant, as the two contemplate their existence, reality, life, and death.

Webb continues to build contrasts between the simple and the extreme through the rest of the production’s aesthetic. Kaelen MacDonald’s costumes, built from shining fabrics, are shape-shifters — under certain lighting they seem glorious and indulgent, while in others they seem to show wear, dirt, and grime. The sound design by Deanna H. Choi swings wildly between comedically hollow echoes of certain lines, to a more subtle reverb to demonstrate scale as the Hamlet characters declaim their iconic lines. Andrew Cull’s set moves constantly, creating everything from an actual theatre to a moving ship, all from what seems like fragments of a theatre that has fallen into shambles.

The play showcases many such contrasting beats and design elements, to great emotional effect. It is heart-racing when the story moves into the familiar world of Hamlet, and then heart-wrenching as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come closer and closer to their inevitable fates, and whatever may come after. The result is the ride of a lifetime, so strap in and hold onto your hats.

Neptune Theatre’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead runs until February 25 in Halifax, before moving to Mirvish Productions from March 5 to 31. You can learn more about the production here (Halifax) and here (Toronto).

Intermission reviews are independent and unrelated to Intermission’s partnered content. Learn more about Intermission’s partnership model here and here.

The post REVIEW: Neptune’s <i>Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead</i> delights in dichotomy appeared first on Intermission.

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28 days ago
Toronto, ON
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