In my pursuit of Building a second brain, I hit a blocker fairly early on: Obsidian doesn’t support mobile applications currently. This makes the experience rather disjointed as I’m not able to build on it when I’m not sitting down at a computer, or that I can’t refer to my notes when I need to. In order to remedy this, I searched high and low for an application that has [[url handing]] as a feature and finally stumbled upon 1Writer as a “good enough” solution when I was finding more uses for my first ipad.
In order to sync my notes across multiple devices, I either need to pay $10/month for Dropbox, pay for some other service, or find a self-hosted option.
(Pretty pissed when Dropbox decided to limit the number of devices that can sync with Dropbox else I wouldn’t have to spend so much time on this)
Of course, being Asian, I went with the free option of self-hosting. The protocol of choice was Webdav because it’s the one that 1Writer supported, and I’ve had some experience with it in the past.
In 2019 September, I bought my first ever iPad: the iPad Pro 11″ 2018. I remember how excited I felt when I finally got it. The reason why this took 8 years since the launch of the first iPad for me to get one was for two simple reasons.
I was poorer back then
iPad was still using iOS and the software was limited
The moment that they announced iPadOS, it really piqued my interest that I can potentially have a small portable tablet that can act as a laptop replacement. The “meh” part about this is that the cost of the iPad is pretty much the same as a laptop; but at least I get to experience an entire different class of computing device.
You might be looking at the date of this post and think, what took you1.5 years to write about this tablet that has already been outdated by the latest 2020 iPad lineup? I was taking my time to evaluate the things that I do on it, and how those activities change over time. It’s absolutely not because I procrastinated and forgot to write about it.
If I had to choose the one thing that the iPad does well, it would be leisure and content consumption. My desktop setup consist of a 32″ 4K Curved Monitor with Logitech Z623 (THX) Speakers, yet I absolutely love watching Netflix on my iPad. Consuming media on the iPad provides a really satisfying experience, and it’s an experience that I can bring with me on my commute.
At the beginning I felt like I was standing out like a sore thumb for being “that guy” who watches shows on a tablet on the train/bus. But after a couple of months, I completely internalized that people really care a lot less about you than you think (the spotlight effect) and just focus on finding a comfortable position for my journey and not watching any questionable content (p.s. please don’t watch Redo Healer in public).
Recently watched something from CGP Grey on YouTube again that really clicked in my head and just wanted to note it down on my blog in case I forget about it.
If there is anything I’ve learned from thousands of spoken words, it’s that human communication is hard. Way harder than people think. Precisely because people think it’s easy. You just say the words and the other person hear them and bam! Understanding! Alas, no. Words are fuzzy things and you don’t realize how poorly you string them together until you are forced to listen to yourself saying those words. And even if you’re happy with your string of words, you just don’t know how those fuzzy patterns of sound will pattern match in someone else’s brain. Human communication is a dance, and a dance requires partners. We all create content and I think we should all keep that in mind and be much more willing to work with the intended intention of our interlocutors.
This really clicked in my head because there are so many occasions where I felt that I wasn’t communicating the thoughts in my head across effectively and I search high and low for the right combination of words that I hope would make sense to the others, often following up with “did that make sense to you?”.
But this also made me realize the many other occasions where I thought that I had explained something that seemed obvious to me and simply assumed that the other party understood exactly what I meant.
It also made me aware that many disagreements where the other party said something I found offensive and they said, “that’s not what I meant!”, and I retorted with, “but that’s what you said”; is a counterproductive response which doesn’t help the situation. Being aware of this made me think that I should’ve held my feelings and judgment at the moment and clarify with, “well, what do you mean then?”, and give the benefit of the doubt that the other party simply chose the wrong string of words to express their intention. Alas, it’s not that simple all the time because humans are complicated and will often obfuscate their intentions for various reasons; but simply being aware of this will at least help me navigate the murky waters of communication.
What is a theme? Think of a new year’s resolution, only broader and more vague. This is an idea that I was introduced to when I watched this Youtube video last year; and it really resonated with me, hence I’m going for a theme instead of a resolution.
TLDR; of the idea is, a resolution is too stiff, and it usually only sets you up for failure; cause I end up beating myself up over and over for not achieving a certain goal. But a theme is more of a guiding principle than a concrete task. When given a choice, choose the option that follows your theme.
Well, health is something that slowly deteriorate over time if you don’t take good care of it. I am starting to feel the effects of sitting in front of a computer for a 9-6 job. This is effect is compounded with the Covid pandemic and not going outside as often. I was also made painfully aware when I couldn’t fit into my old army uniform pants anymore and had to purchase new ones last year.
I want to do something about it, but setting something like, “I’m going to the gym everyday!”, or “I’m going to lose X kg by Y date!”, puts a ton of pressure on myself and honestly these kinds of resolution has never stood the test of time.
So I bought a road bike for myself because I liked cycling, just that I’ve stopped when my old bike died and didn’t really bother repairing it. For the past month or so I’ve been cycling at least 15km about every other day. Even though I’ve barely lost any weight, I can certainly feel my stamina increasing and walking up stairs has been getting just tad easier.
For diet, when given a choice, I’ll try to go for a healthier option. The point is not to shame myself when I don’t, but to just have a little angel sitting on my shoulder telling me that, “hey, have you considered this other option?”. So far, I think it’s working out. I’ve cut down on a lot of sugary drinks, but… steaks are still a weakness for me.
This theme is extremely vague, partially because I usually have quite a few things going on at once. The idea is to make progress on all the things that I’ve set out to do; even if I don’t finish them, I want to nudge all of them a little in the right direction and eventually I will finish it. One way of doing this is the second brain methodology that I’ve tried and am still using currently.
For learning, I’ve went for a course called Facilitating Powerful Conversations 1 and I’ve found it extremely helpful in improving my understanding of my own emotions and language in general. Went for online and physical workshops to improve my technical skills. Had some long running tasks for work that I’ve slowly but surely been able to clear them off one by one everyday. The improvement on my health has also been a form of progress. Ideas on making videos about keyboards have been progressing slowly but surely.
p.s. it was ironic that I paused this post halfway to do something else but totally forgot to finish it up until 2 weeks later.
Coming back to this draft made me realize that I have not been making as much progress and I wish on all the secondary stuffs (i.e. side quests). It’s a bit of wake up call but I’m glad I was made aware of this early on in the year. Time to get these gears cranking.
One of the duties as a Male in Singapore is to serve the national service, and we are called back between 1-3 weeks every year for our “reservist” until we reach MR or “operational ready”.
The past 2 weeks was my turn, and I decided to bring in a cheap $200 android tablet and a keyboard to see how far I could push it. In other words, I want to see what else I could do with it other than just consuming media.
It started with curiosity of finding out how close to Linux I can get Android to be. Termux is an awesome terminal emulator that provides an almost desktop-like experience. I will have a separate write up on how I customized it.
Ever since I’ve taken on the role as a full-time devops in my new team, the amount of tasks that I have to juggle in a workday has exploded exponentially. I’ve written/complained about it nearly 2 months ago on organizing chaotic information.
It is now time to share what I’ve tried, what worked and what didn’t.
Food for thought used to be a series in my old blogs for something that I just dump my random musings, I’m reviving it now because I’m in a new phase of life.
Up until recently, I felt that people are jaded/spoilt when they spend “unnecessarily” on things they want instead of things they need, or getting the more premium option when the normal option would’ve worked fine.
But after reviewing my spending trends across the past year, I feel like I’m starting to become that kind of person. For example, taking a cab used to be: “I’ll take a cab only if I’m really tired or it’s really just way too troublesome to get there”. Nowadays it’s more like: “I’ll take the public transport only if I’m feel energetic and I feel like it”.
I’m attributing this change to having a job, and not having many obligations (yet). “Adult money” as me and my partner would like to call it, is dangerous to us. Given the means, there is an increasing number of things where it does not makes sense to spend the extra/time and effort when money can solve it.
When I think about money as a function of my life energy that I’m exchanging for, I want to spend the remaining life energy (and time), on the things that I truly care about. When I’m meeting friends, the part that matters is meeting the people, not the travelling to the destination. If I can find a tool that gives me a better working experience, it’s worth the extra because it reduces the friction of doing “something”, which has a multiplicative effect on the consumption of life energy.
function of life energy: spending X amount of life to get Y money.
I feel that the relationship between income and the amount someone is willing to spend on conveniences is approximately proportional. The (rough) graph drawn below shows the relationship, and I feel like I’m breaching into the conveniences territory which prompted this FFT post.
This also reminded me of The Last Bit in the Container post I’ve read may years ago. TLDR; squeeze your toothpaste if it only takes a few seconds, else it’s not worth it.
Light bulb moment
Have I been misunderstanding those people who have been spending for convenience and quality of life? Is this because that I have not reached the same phase of life as them?
Moments like this really make me hit the pause button and think really hard about my life.
An interesting conversation I had sometime ago was an advice to “be kind to the older folks in IT” even though sometimes their ideas/suggestion may seem very outdated. It’s because their reality has been shaped by the experience of working with the older systems and they have learnt many lessons the hard way; instead of dismissing it as “irrelevant in current context”, it could just be an old solution to a still plausible problem (that we may have missed).
I feel like I’m experiencing the “You’ll understand when you’re a parent yourself” moment before becoming a parent.
Getting back on track, I don’t think I would change my spending drastically even with this realization because I’m still able to justify for them. What I would do instead, is question myself: “would this money be better spent invested in something?”.
(Ending off this post as I sip coffee on my new $20 thermos mug)
In preparation for my upcoming AWS Exams, I’ve gotten some PDF materials to go through and study. However, the formatting of the document is terrible, and it made it really hard for me to study.
So I moved to my iPad, hoping that some Apple magic might help with making the text more readable instead of sprawling across the entire width of the screen. That didn’t help.
“There has got to be a way to reflow the text”, I thought. I ended up downloading 3 different PDF reader apps looking for that magical bullet that would solve all my problems.
One didn’t have the functionality
One worked but it made the format worse
One works beautifully, but I cannot annotate or highlight in the “Reflow” mode which made it basically useless for studying
I gave up on the iPad and I thought, there has to be a way on the Desktop that would help me to reflow the text. My default go-to PDF reader: SumatraPDF didn’t have that option. After Googling for way too many minutes, there was basically no obvious option that could solve my problem of having reflowable text and still annotatable (and free).
It was when I came across (rediscovered) that yes, you could convert a PDF into a Word document. So I quickly searched for “Word” in my start menu and guess what, I don’t have it; because I recently formatted my computer. The version I had in the past was my education version that I shouldn’t have access to anymore. But I still tried, logging into my old school email to dig for that option that allows me to install Office.
That led me to searching online for what’s the cheapest way to get Office legitimately, preferably something that is a one-time license and not a subscription fee for a product that I only use infrequently. It was during this search that I saw someone mention that “education” should be free. I thought, okay, why not give it another shot.
Bam! Logging in with my student email through the official Microsoft Office site gave me an option to download a genuine version of Office that is properly licensed. The best part? I apparently performed some kind of voodoo in the past for claiming office, and the license actually belongs to my personal account and it all ties in nicely with my existing documents.
I finally have Word now.
Yes, it was able to convert PDFs into a Word document, no problem. This solves my reflow and annotation problems.
Then I thought, hey, doesn’t this mean that I could now study on my iPad?
Pushed the document over to my iPad then I thought, “wouldn’t it be nice to have Word here too”. I remembered that I was able to use it freely on my 8″ Xiaomi Tablet. Downloaded it, fired it up and it asked for my account, I logged in, only for it to tell me that
Confused, I did a quick check online, so…
Apparently, any devices >10 inches are considered professional use, which basically rules out all iPad Pros out there. Which means that I would need to purchase a subscription in order to use it. Nevertheless, this caused me to open the Pages app for the first time ever, and it managed to open up the document flawlessly.
It was at this point when my girlfriend asked me, “why not just print this out?”
In my relentless pursue for a digital solution to read a damn PDF comfortably, it totally slipped my mind that sometimes having a physical copy is much simpler and elegant.
The title sounds grander than this really is. It was one of those work days where I felt like I didn’t get much done. I checked my calendar and there wasn’t many meetings, only the one in the morning. It felt like a really busy day but I couldn’t think of a concrete task that I have accomplished that day.
As I lay in my bed, tossing and turning, being unable to sleep, I figured out why I couldn’t get my tasks done for the day, and came up with a simple workflow that would solve this.
Why I wasn’t able to work on my tasks
A day in the life of a software/devops engineer is pretty chaotic. You have various information requiring different context streaming in from multiple sources throughout the day. For example, I was working on updating some configuration mapping on Kubernetes for our new SES SMTP Relay credentials. Then I get a message clarifying about a story that I completed yesterday, about a backend API written in GO. Then I had to join a meeting about decoupling our entire platform from an external service that many of our logic is intertwined with.
This came about because of something I discovered recently about building a second brain. The prospect of it is extremely enticing for me.
Idea is that over time you build a second brain that is like a digital collection of all the knowledge that you’ve gained over your lifetime.
As someone working in the digital field, the amount of information that I go through on a daily basis is pretty huge. I’ve been taking notes for a million and one things, but I realize that I’ve almost never really gone through my notes and make something out of it. Which I felt has been really wasteful because, why would I even write them in the first place if I’m not going to use it? How many % of the things I’ve written can I actually remember in my dumb human brain?
Armed with the motivation to build a digital brain that I can tap into for creating new ideas and products, I embarked on part 1 of the journey.
Finding the right tool
The “original” tool (that I know of) is known as Roam Research, however, it’s a web only tool currently, and it’s a paid service of $15/month. This makes it slightly undesirable as I would prefer if it’s something that I could potentially migrate/export out of the system. I also wish that there exist a free option that I can try out to see if this second brain business is something that I really want.
I checked out 8 different not taking tools to see what works for me and compare across them.