Mario Villalobos


Year of the Sketchbook

  • Journal

I finished six notebooks last year, and I have every intention to finish more this year. Writing in my notebooks has become one of my most valuable activities, and the thought of living without them frightens me. I’ve been journaling for a long time, but my decision to do them in these Leuchtturm1917 notebooks last year was a good one. The size, the paper quality, the numbered pages—I love all of it.

In my Year in Reading post, I mentioned that I began to use my notebooks as a commonplace book. That decision changed many things for me: it improved my reading, it clarified my thinking, and it ingrained my notebooks deeper into my life.

That last one is something I’ve been working toward since I first learned about Leonardo da Vinci in the 5th grade. Leonardo da Vinci was a magnificent son of a bitch, someone who opened my tiny little child mind to a wider world of possibility. At that age, my entire identity revolved around my skills as an artist. I could draw really well, and when I saw photos of da Vinci’s notebooks, I realized that I needed to keep notebooks, too, because I wanted to be just like him. If da Vinci sketched in a notebook, I wanted to sketch in a notebook, too.

Leondardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As I grew older, and as the darkness of the world began to overwhelm me, I stopped drawing and I started writing. Writing helped me combat these demons, and when I became quite good at that, my entire identity changed and revolved around writing. I wrote a lot during high school, and that helped me get into a good university where I would continue to write. At this state of my life, I considered myself a writer, an affixation that has stuck with me ever since.

During college and throughout most of my twenties, I used the classic pocket notebooks from Moleskine. Each pocket notebook took me a few years to finish but finish them I did. During the second half of my twenties, I became a minimalist, and so many of my thoughts during that time were focused on simplicity. I wanted to simplify everything, and that included my notebooks. I learned about these popular memo books from Field Notes, and those felt perfect for me, so I used those to write in up until my mid-thirties. I loved my Field Notes notebooks. They were small, they fit in my back pocket, and they didn’t take very long to finish.

But they weren’t quite right. That idea of emulating da Vinci had never left me, and I feel like it’s time I do something about it. If 2022 was the year of the commonplace book, I want 2023 to be the year of the sketchbook.

Sure, but what does that mean?

I’m glad you asked! Because I have collected some images of notebooks I like. When I was playing through The Last of Us Part II back in 2020, I wrote that Ellie’s notebook pages were beautiful, a sentiment I still hold. Look at them:

Source: The Last of Us Wiki

The sketches, the notes, the beautyoh, be still my heart. One of my behaviors I want to change is this idea of being “perfect.” I made progress on this front last year, but I’m not quite where I want to be because I still feel hesitation when I even think about picking up my pencil to sketch in my notebook. But look at Ellie’s pages again. Look at her draw guidelines to draw her faces, her multiple attempts to draw eyes, her attempts to understand how a horse looks in various angles—this is what I do when I journal. I explore, I analyze, I cross out and try again.

In short, I sketch, but in words… so why not sketch in pictures, too? (lol)

Or look at Nathan Drake’s journal from another Naughty Dog game, Uncharted:

Source: Uncharted Wiki

Look how messy they are: plants are taped to the pages and dying, a photo is stapled to the page, pages from books are cut out, taped, and written over. They’re so messy… and yet, I find these spreads so beautiful. There’s a soul to them I feel my notebooks are missing. My notebooks are filled with pages and pages of my bad handwriting, bad handwriting that has helped me in so many ways, sure, but… I want more.

I want to sketch; I want to figure out how to draw the same face from multiple angles; I want to sketch buildings and landscapes and animals and whatever else; I want to mess up and cross things out and be okay with that; I want to tape scraps of whatever onto the page and be okay with that, too.

In short, I want to do more than just write in my notebooks. I want to be more like Leonardo or Ellie or Nathan or that little shit in 5th grade who first learned about Leonardo da Vinci and wanted to be just like him. I want to be messy and curious and happy to simply be alive, and I want to express all of that in my notebooks, these little books of joy.

That’s what I want to do this year. That’s what I want to attempt to do this year, this year I’m calling the “Year of the Sketchbook.”

I hope I can make that little shit proud…

The Altar of Attention

  • Notes

Om Malik, in a post titled Why internet silos win, writes:

It doesn’t matter whether it is Twitter, Instagram, or Mastodon. Everyone is playing to an audience. The social Internet is a performance theater praying at the altar of attention. Journalists need attention to be relevant, and experts need to signal their expertise. And others want to be influencers. For now, Twitter, Instagram, and their ilk give the biggest bang for the blast. It is why those vocal and active about Mastodon are still posting away on Musk’s Twitter.

If we didn’t care for attention, we wouldn’t be doing anything at all. We wouldn’t broadcast. Instead, we would socialize privately in communication with friends and peers.

I’m using Om’s post as a jumping off point for something I’ve been holding onto and thinking about for a while. I’ve written my thoughts on social media before, and I see these current thoughts as an evolution on what I’ve written before. Mostly: I’m not an online community kind of guy, and I need to finally accept that.

When I jumped on the Mastodon bandwagon a few months ago, I wrote that I had mostly been enjoying myself. And that was true, I guess, but that feeling didn’t last very long. It wasn’t really who I followed, it was the whole idea of a timeline, or the feed. The feed, this box filled with 280 characters or 512 characters or an unlimited number of characters; this box filled with cat photos or moss photos or pretty sunsets; this box filled with people trying to sell me stuff, to influence my behavior in some way, to convince me that their views are right and their views are wrong; this box can go to hell.

I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and I need to get away from it.

Last month, Robin Sloan had this to say about Mastodon, words that have stuck with me ever since (I’m quoting all of it):

Don’t settle for Mastodon

I suppose this is an anti-avenue, because: Mastodon is not it.

When you tell me about Twitter vs. Mastodon, I hear that you got rid of the flesh-eating piranhas and replaced them with federated flesh-eating piranhas. No thanks, I’m still not swimming in that pool!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t create a Mastodon account, or that you can’t enjoy fun, percolating conversations on that platform. I’m just saying that it does not, to me, represent a sufficiently interesting experiment, because it accepts too much as settled.

The timeline isn’t settled.

The @-mention isn’t settled.

Nothing is settled. It’s 2003 again!

Nothing is settled. But what I don’t want to happen is probably what Robin wants to happen, and that’s for people to create something new to replace what’s already here. A new social network paradigm or something similar. What I’m thinking is: no, no we don’t. I don’t think all of humanity was meant to connect to each other in this way, something M.G. Siegler wrote (and I quoted and wrote about) back in October of 2021; mainly, that the problem is us, human beings.

A few weeks ago I went to my friend’s house and we played Uno, Old Maid, and Go Fish with her son and husband, and I had a blast—we all had a blast. We joked around and told stories and I lost my “crown” to my friend because he won the last game of Old Maid, and it was genuinely and simply a lot of fun. What I’m arguing for myself is that I want and need my “tribe,” my smaller community of good friends and family that I can see and hear regularly, and not these formless, shapeless outlines of people behind a screen. I know social networks provide something different—especially for marginalized communities—but this is what I prefer, a real life community.

Aren’t you being hypocritical? I hear someone asking. You have a blog, you’re still on Facebook and Instagram, you’re a affiliate and are trying to sell me something, so why should I listen to you? You’re right and you shouldn’t. Nobody should listen to me. Like I said, my thoughts on all this are still evolving and will continue to evolve. But I am still going to try and figure out what’s best for me. On the last day of 2022, for example, I collected my login information for my Mastodon,, and other accounts, I saved them in a CSV file (two-factor codes and everything), I deleted my login information from my password manager, I deleted all my cookies and history from all my devices, and I tucked away that CSV file deep in my Documents folder. I am still thinking about maybe printing this information instead, but for now, this is what I’ve done. My intention is to never again login to these services, to never again contribute content to these services, and to simply let them rot until the end of time.

I guess what I’m yearning for is a more genuine human connection with those I already know and will meet in the future, and a way to pull away from these boxes the Internet or tech companies or modern culture as a whole wants to put me in. And to do that, I need to reclaim my attention, to focus on my hands and what I can build with them, and less on those things sucking away at my eyeballs and stimulating my reptile brain.

But what about your blog? Aren’t you writing for an audience or for the chance to build one? Yes and no, I guess. Again—I don’t know. I have an unending physical need to write. I have had it for decades now, and writing online forces me to write something different than when I write fiction or when I journal in my notebook. I don’t think I would have ever written any of these thoughts if I didn’t have my website. They would have been short notes here and there in my notebooks, and maybe a throwaway line a character says in one of my novels. And besides, I’m guessing most nobody reads my blog anyway? So like who cares? But yeah—I don’t know.

I’m still trying to figure my shit out. I have a long list of ideas in my drafts folder I’d still like to write and explore, and I still enjoy writing and publishing things on my own website—more for myself than for others, honestly—so I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And that’s a good encapsulation of what being a human is like, I guess, and that’s what I want to be doing more of, being more human.

I Don’t Think Books Are Overpriced

  • Notes

Last week, Ted Gioia wrote a good article about Barnes & Noble’s recent turnaround, and in it, he quotes James Daunt, the current CEO of Barnes & Noble:

Back when he was 26, Daunt had started out running a single bookstore in London—and it was a beautiful store. He had to borrow the money to do it, but he wanted a store that was a showplace for books. And he succeeded despite breaking all the rules.

For a start, he refused to discount his books, despite intense price competition in the market. If you asked him why, he had a simple answer: “I don’t think books are overpriced.”

I don’t think books are overpriced. Books, to me, have always been the one exception I’ve made when it came to my budget and how I spent money. If I really wanted a book but I really didn’t have the money, I bought it anyway. I understand how irresponsible this sounds, and it is… or was. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can afford to do this now without amassing any form of consumer debt, and in fact, the one reason why I’m not buying books all the time is because I live in a small apartment and I don’t have the space to keep them all. So I have to be a bit judicious about it (says the guy who bought more books yesterday).

I don’t think books are overpriced. And they’re not. Most paperbacks cost somewhere around $10-15, and hardcovers are maybe $10 more than that. For what books offer, that’s relatively cheap. I like buying paper books because I like writing in them (see here), and I like holding them. I’m not opposed to eBooks—hell, at the end of 2020, I wrote about Standard eBooks, and just yesterday they released about half a dozen new books, some of which just entered the public domain, and I downloaded many of them. Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis sounds AMAZING. I simply prefer holding my books and writing in them. There’s a simple pleasure whenever I start a book for the first time and I bend the front cover behind the back of the book and I hold it in place as I read the page on the right, then as I get deeper into the book, I do the same but with the back cover—ahhh, I love doing that. Anyways.

I don’t think books are overpriced. Even though I only read 10 books last year, I spent $1,273.84 on books anyway. That’s a helluva lot more than I spent on music, I can tell you that much. I spent most of that money on, and yeah, they charge more for books than a place like Amazon, but again, I don’t think books are overpriced. I’m happy Barnes & Noble is doing well. Whenever I make my way to Missoula, I usually try to stop at the local Barnes & Noble (after first checking out Shakespeare & Co., the best bookstore around), and I usually come away with something good (they had Spanish versions of Don Quixote and One Hundred Years of Solitude last time I was there, so I bought those).

I love books, and I love spending money on things I love… so yeah, that’s how I spent $1,273.84 on books last year. Fuck’s sake, that’s crazy, lol.

I’ve Spent How Much on Music?!

  • Notes

I love music (who doesn’t?), and in America, you show how much you love something by how much you paid for it, so how much did I spend on music this year?!

I spent $937.22 on music this year. Is that a lot? I feel like that’s a lot. That’s an average of $78.10 a month, which, yeah, feels about right. That’s also about 93 to 94 albums in a year, or about 7 to 8 new albums a month, which, yeah, also sounds about right. I think one of the main questions some people will have is: why not subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music or another streaming music service? And my answer to that is:

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck streaming music services. Fuck them all to hell.

I used to subscribe to Apple Music. For a few years, actually. I paid for their $99 annual plan, which came out to $8.25 a month. For $8.25 a month, I could listen to all the music I wanted. It was great! I listened to everything, and I discovered many great new artists. All in all, I had a great time with Apple Music… until I canceled it during one fire season. I had plans to renew it later, but I wouldn’t need it during fire season because I would be in the mountains where service was spotty and where I wouldn’t really have the time or the energy to listen to music anyway. And when I canceled it, I saw the last few years’ worth of music—music I’ve spent time listening to and curating and rating—vanish. Of course it vanished, but I still felt like a big part of me just died. All my new artists, all my playlists, all the work I did to curate my library to my tastes—all gone. So what did I actually pay for? All those hundreds of dollars?

For limited access to an infinite number of songs. I was renting this music—it wasn’t mine. And right then it hit me:

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck streaming music services. Fuck them all to hell.

The only music left in my music app was all the music I purchased before I subscribed to Apple Music, before I spent hundreds of dollars on… honestly? Nothing. It’s like spending $20 for a movie ticket—the cost is in the experience, and for $99 a year, I was allowed access to this musical experience for a limited time, and if I wanted continued access to it, I would have to spend more and more of my money. I would have rather spent that money on buying my music—for sure, far fewer albums than before, but at least I would own them.

And so, that’s why I’ve spent $937.22 on music this year, and why I will continue to spend more than $99 a year on music, more than $8.25 or $9.99 a month on music. Besides, the artists making this music deserve to get paid, and they get paid more when I buy their music directly rather than if I streamed it.

Do I recommend you buy your music, too? I don’t care. If you want, I guess. If you’re happy renting your music from these big companies, then more power to you. For me, though, I’m just fine spending almost $1,000 a year on music, and I will continue doing so for as long as I have money to spend.

Possible Threat to Life or Property

  • Notes

Today was supposed to be the last day of school before the holiday break, but:

Wind chills as low as 60 below zero and a temperature range of -38° to -8°? Yeah, no thanks.

School was canceled yesterday and today because of this really really cold winter storm affecting “a broad swath of the country.”

When the high for today is -8°F and the National Weather Service is warning us that there’s a “possible threat to life or property,” you better believe I’m staying inside, blasting my heater, and snuggling underneath a warm blanket.

These old bones miss sunny San Diego. Be safe everyone!

Holy Shit. I'm Totally Speechless.

  • Notes

Alden Gonzalez, writing for ESPN (paywall):

From the start of Monday to the end of Wednesday, 20 major league free agents agreed to contracts totaling nearly $1.6 billion. The vast majority did so while outshooting their projections. And if there was one phrase that could encapsulate the week’s event, it was that one – muttered so often by front-office members, agents, scouts, coaches and media members that it might as well have been part of the branding. ‌The winter meetings, presented by Holy S—.

One of the topics I’ve stayed away from on my website is sports. Why? This idiotic idea that I might alienate people with it. But sports has been such a big part of my life this year that I can’t not write about it anymore.

I’m from San Diego. Born and raised. My team is the San Diego Padres. They’ve been my team since my childhood, since I went to my first baseball game in ‘96 and saw Ken Caminiti hit a home run, since I saw them make it to the World Series in ‘98 (and get swept by those damn Yankees), since I saw Tony Gwynn get his 3,000th hit. They’re my team, and oh my goodness, wasn’t this year so damn special? First, we signed Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell, and Brandon Drury, then we lost Tatis Jr. to a stupid PED suspension, then we beat the Mets and the Dodgers to make it to the NLCS.

And now we’ve signed Xander fucking Bogaerts. These aren’t my childhood Dads. If I had children, these would be their Dads, and that’s amazing.

$1.6 billion, $280 million to sign Bogaerts. Wow.

The Padres began the week with a payroll that was already projected to surpass $200 million and stood dangerously close to exceeding MLB’s luxury-tax threshold for a third consecutive year. (“Where are they getting all this money?” one agent asked.) Then they pursued Turner aggressively, made a late – and highly competitive – offer to Judge and blew past the Red Sox for Bogaerts, who will join a dynamic lineup featuring Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth and, eventually, Fernando Tatis Jr. Bogaerts is an imperfect fit, no doubt, but the Padres believe they have the roster versatility and the payroll flexibility to make it work.

“Where are they getting all this money?” Peter Seidler and his ownership group is treating this team like the investment it is. During Bogaerts welcome ceremony in San Diego, Peter said,

I’m financially trained, I have a budget in mind up there somewhere, and I think budgets get better when you win world championships.

San Diego has never won a major sports world championship. I think if they win one, they will have all the money they need to make up for these signings and more.

Let’s Fucking Go San Diego!

Notes for December 2nd, 2022

  • Notes

The friendly competition between my friend and me is ongoing, and she has been kicking my ass all week. Today, I decided to change that by doing 30 minutes of yoga in the morning, then a 20 minute strength workout followed by a 20 minute HIIT workout in the afternoon. I’m now kicking her ass, but at what cost?

Here are some notes from today, this 2nd day of December, 2022:

Hibernation Mode

God or whoever decided to take a cold dump on us yesterday. Tis the season and all that.

I’ve been telling my friends that it’s hibernating in my cave time, but they’re having none of it. I was invited to a friend’s house tomorrow, and I told her I’d be there. Who am I?

I am shutting down my social channels, because that I can control. My feeds will be auto-posting to Mastodon but I won’t be checking it for anything for an indeterminate amount of time. Maybe once the sun comes out again?

I want to focus on my work and health this season. Part of that work involves writing my novel again.


I tried ChatGPT today, and, of course, because my mind was on my novel, I started my conversation with that. Let me just say, I was very impressed! I can totally see Google or whoever using this technology to power their search engine, and instead of a list of links, we could all one day be having a conversation with ChatGPT or what(who?)ever to find the information we’re looking for. I’m curious to see where this goes.

The Chat

I’m writing a novel about the origins of human mythology—gods and demons and the story we tell ourselves about the world we see. What are some good books to get me started on my research?

There are many great books that explore the origins of human mythology and religion. Some of the classics in the field include “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, and “The Golden Bough” by Sir James Frazer. These books offer insight into the common themes and motifs found in myths and religious stories from around the world. Additionally, books like “Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia” by Jeremy Black and “The Ancient Gods Speak” by Donald B. Redford offer more specific insights into the mythology of ancient cultures.

Could you tell me more about what “The Golden Bough” by Sir James Frazer is about?

Certainly! “The Golden Bough” is a classic work of comparative mythology and religion by Sir James Frazer. The book is a wide-ranging exploration of the beliefs, customs, and institutions of various cultures from around the world, with a focus on the role of magic and religion in shaping human society. One of the central ideas of the book is the concept of the “sacred king,” a figure who is believed to possess divine power and who serves as the link between the human and spiritual worlds. The book also explores the rituals and practices associated with the sacred king, including the concept of the “golden bough,” a symbol of his power and authority. Overall, “The Golden Bough” offers a fascinating look at the beliefs and practices of different cultures and is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the origins of human mythology and religion.

What have others said about James Frazer’s idea of the “sacred king”?

Frazer’s concept of the “sacred king” has been both highly influential and highly controversial. Some have praised the book for its comprehensive approach to the study of mythology and religion, as well as its innovative ideas about the role of magic and ritual in shaping human societies. Others, however, have criticized the book for its outdated and overly broad approach to the subject, as well as its lack of focus on the specific beliefs and practices of individual cultures. Some have also questioned the validity of Frazer’s ideas, arguing that they are based on outdated and flawed assumptions about the nature of religion and myth. Despite these criticisms, “The Golden Bough” remains an important and widely read work in the field of comparative mythology and religion.

What other books did “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” inspire?

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell is a highly influential work in the field of comparative mythology and religion. In the book, Campbell explores the common themes and motifs found in myths and folktales from around the world, and argues that these stories can be seen as part of a universal “monomyth” or hero’s journey. Campbell’s ideas have had a profound impact on a wide range of fields, including literature, psychology, and film.

One of the most notable books influenced by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is “The Power of Myth,” a book that grew out of a series of conversations between Campbell and journalist Bill Moyers. In the book, Campbell expands on many of the ideas from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” discussing the role of myth and religion in shaping human culture and experience.

Other books that have been influenced by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” include “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher Vogler, which applies Campbell’s ideas to the field of screenwriting, and “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion” by Joseph Campbell, which explores the role of myth and metaphor in shaping human understanding of the world. Overall, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” has had a significant impact on the study of mythology and religion, and continues to inspire new ideas and approaches in these fields.

When I came up with my story idea, the first book I thought of was The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I read that over a decade ago, so it’s been on my list of books to re-read. Earlier this year, I watched The Power of Myth, and it was incredible. I immediately bought the book, and it’s on my “to read” shelf as I write this. I’m amazed ChatGPT started off with these two works, and the other books it mentioned blew my mind. I had never heard of The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer, but I am definitely intrigued. If anything, it gave me a reading list to checkout:

  • Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia by Jeremy Black
  • The Ancient Gods Speak by Donald B. Redford
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion by Joseph Campbell

I have to say, this is really cool technology, and I am intrigued to see where this goes.


Remember Ping, Apple’s failed social network built into iTunes? I remember being interested in it when I watched Steve Jobs announce it, and I did try it for a few weeks after it launched. I followed some celebrities on there and watched as the feed showed that so and so just bought the new White Stripes album or whatever. I liked it, but then yeah, the spam, the fake accounts…

But in that similar spirit, here are some albums I bought this week:

  • Björk: Medulla
  • Björk: Biophilia
  • Björk: Utopia
  • The Knife: Deep Cuts
  • Sudan Archives: Athena
  • Sudan Archives: Natural Brown Prom Queen
  • SZA: Ctrl (Deluxe)

I finished buying Björk’s discography, which makes me happy. Not having Deep Cuts by the Knife was an oversight on my part, so I needed to rectify that ASAP. I had been a fan of Sudan Archives since I discovered her over the summer, so I’ve been enjoying her two albums. SZA has not been on my radar at all, but I sometimes like to buy albums I know nothing about but that have received good reviews just to expand my musical tastes. So far, I’m loving her. Really good.

Yesterday, I also subscribed to Pro. I’ve been “scrobbling since 15 Jan 2022,” and I enjoy it. Considering I’d rather buy my music than stream it, I am curious to see what kind of trends I’ve had this year, similar to Spotify’s Wrapped or Apple Music’s Replay. You can find me on over here.

My new FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 lens

Notes for November 25, 2022

  • Notes

I’ve done lots of sleeping and not enough reading this week, so this edition of my Notes (original name, huh?) will be shortish. Yeah, that’s the excuse I’m going with… Anyways! Here are some notes from today, this 25th day of November, 2022:

New lens

My new XF16-55mm lens arrived today. First impressions:

  • It’s big
  • It’s beautiful

That’s it because I haven’t really had a chance to play with it yet. Because Montana is very cold right now and because UPS doesn’t heat their trucks, my lens was ice cold as soon as I unpacked it. When I went to use it, condensation fogged up the lens, so I couldn’t really use it on anything. That’s fine because I wasn’t going to go out to shoot anything today anyway. Maybe this weekend?

Black Friday

How many people were ridiculously spammed today by emails from Anyways, I setup a rule to automatically mark them all as spam, and my inbox has been quiet ever since.

I took advantage of some sales, many of which I did not really have my eye on, but when I saw them, I was like, why not? That’s how they get you. Well, me, at least.

Here are some of the deals I took advantage of:

  • 25% off a lifetime license to Plex Pass. I’ve been using Plex for years, and I’ve always had my eye on this, so I decided to take advantage of it now. Doing so gave me access to Plexamp, quite possibly the best music player I’ve ever used. It’s not without some major flaws, but the good parts far outweigh the bad. I’ve been thinking of doing a deep dive into it… I just have to write it.
  • A lifetime license for GameTrack+. I discovered this app a few weeks ago when my guilt over my backlog finally forced me to do something about it. I downloaded the app, added over 100 games into it, and realized that 1) this app is fantastic, and 2) I wanted the ability to add more lists, which, alas, was hidden behind a paywall. $20 for a lifetime pass was worth it for me.
  • 50% off a basic Xnapper license. Another app I discovered a few weeks ago. I noticed some web development blogs using it for their screenshots, and I thought it looked really cool. Once I bought the license, I used it on this post from a few days ago. Simple and nice. I like it.
  • 50% off Every Layout, Heydon Pickering & Andy Bell’s awesome CSS course. I love web development, and I’m always looking to improve my skills. I cannot wait to get started on this.

Video Games

I finished Spider-Man: Miles Morales yesterday, and my goodness. I have so many thoughts about this game, thoughts I hope to write soon. This game hit me hard.

Once I finished it, I still wanted to play video games, so I started Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, another game I purchased a year or two ago and never played. I’ve been playing since yesterday, and I’m enjoying it! I love the Uncharted universe, and this game is hitting all the right spots.

Finding your people

Okay, I did do some reading. I read this post by Tom Critchlow on generating agency through blogging, and this part jumped out to me:

It’s common to think of blogging as “building an audience”, but this can sound negative, self-serving, sleazy and promotional. Instead we can think of blogging as “finding your people”, which sounds much more wholesome, generative and positive.

Finding your people. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I’ve found some people through blogging, and having them in my life has made my life that much more fun. I think when I first started blogging, building an audience was something I cared about, but when the focus turned to that, I cared more about them and not on my writing, and that only made me hate blogging, so I quit. When I returned, I did not focus on building an audience, and because of that, I’ve enjoyed writing again.

I wonder if people can notice that. I really have no clue how many people are reading me because I don’t have analytics on my site, nor do I care to add them. The odd email here and there from a reader is more than enough for me.

Again, thank you for reading. I really appreciate it.

Notes for November 18, 2022

  • Notes

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what exactly I’m wanting to do with these weekly notes (this is only my second one), but I’m the type of person that needs to do something to get a feel for it and not one that’s good at planning ahead… Anyways! Here are some notes from today, this 18th day of November, 2022:

Grab two of everything and hop onto the Arc

Earlier this week, I received an invite to try the brand new, overly hyped, Arc browser. First impressions:

  • It’s… a browser? But the sidebar is on the left side, and it has a nice enough design, but that icon… it’s very ugly? Is that just me? It kinda looks like the Apple App Store icon had a baby with the Amazon logo.
  • I really like how the ⌘+T shortcut brings up the Command Bar instead of opening a new tab. That shortcut is already ingrained in my muscle memory, so using it how the people behind Arc want me to use their browser is easy enough. I like how I can switch between tabs from here, search the web, enter URLs, whatever. Clever idea.
  • I really like the idea of folders and spaces, and the easel seems like a great way to collect research and notes.
  • My problem with all that though (and the fact that it’s based on Chromium) is that I already have years and years of workflows built using Safari, not to mention some amazing Safari-only extensions that I simply cannot install in Arc. I want to like Arc, but old habits die hard.
  • If you’d like to try it, I have 5 invites to the first 5 people to click this link!

Not your father’s wrestling federation

Earlier this week, I hopped onto the Mastodon bandwagon, and I have mostly been enjoying myself. It’s not a place I’m spending too much of my time in, but when I do, it’s nice. Quiet. But it does have its quirks, quirks that were nicely explained in this article by the EFF:

No matter how much you love or hate email itself, it is a working federated system that’s been around for over a half-century. It doesn’t matter what email server you use, what email client you use, we all use email and the experience is more or less the same for us all, and that’s a good thing. The Web is also federated – any web site can link to, embed, refer to stuff on any other site and in general, it doesn’t matter what browser you use. The internet started out federated, and even continues to be.

I really liked this email analogy because once I read it, I immediately understood what a federated social media network actually meant and what it will mean in the future. This is what social media should have been all along!

However, it took email a long time before people fully grokked it, and I think the same will be true for Mastadon and other federated networks. Max Böck put it best when he wrote:

I think we’re at a special moment right now. People have been fed up with social media and its various problems (surveillance capitalism, erosion of mental health, active destruction of democracy, bla bla bla) for quite a while now. But it needs a special bang to get a critical mass of users to actually pack up their stuff and move.

When that happens, we have the chance to build something better. We could enable people to connect and publish their content on the web independently – the technology for these services is already there. For that to succeed though, these services have to be useable by all people - not just those who understand the tech.

Just like with migration to another country, it takes two sides to make this work: Easing access at the border to let folks in, and the willingness to accept a shared culture - to make that new place a home.

These services have to be useable by all people - not just those who understand the tech. Exactly. I think we can get there, though, especially if these services can accommodate more and more people, people who don’t want to understand all this “tech stuff.” Give it to the big guys, though: they made this stuff easy for anyone to understand. But it was this ease that got us into this mess in the first place!

“This enshittification [more mass surveillance, finer-grained and more intrusive ad targeting],” writes Cory Doctorow, “was made possible by high switching costs. The vast communities who’d been brought in by network effects were so valuable that users couldn’t afford to quit, because that would mean giving up on important personal, professional, commercial and romantic ties.”

With federated networks, these switching costs are no longer an issue. Hell, I created my Mastodon account in 2018, but I switched to the instance in just a few minutes. All my followers, everyone I followed, my block and mute lists, all transferred over just fine. The whole experience was slick! Again, this is what social media should be.

To the moon! Some stretchy stuff! 8 billion people!

NASA launched the Artemis 1 rocket earlier this week, “which will, among other things, take scientific experiments to produce metal on the moon.”

What if we could save money by using the resources that are already there? This process is called in-situ resource utilization, and it’s exactly what astrometallurgy researchers are trying to achieve.


While the moon has metals in abundance, they’re bound up in the rocks as oxides—metals and oxygen stuck together. This is where astrometallurgy comes in, which is simply the study of extracting metal from space rocks.

I love that astrometallurgy exists. What a cool word and what a cool science.

Apparently, scientists have created a “skinlike sticker” that “runs machine-learning algorithms to continuously collect and analyze health data directly on the body. The skinlike sticker… includes a soft, stretchable computing chip that mimics the human brain.”

“We envision that wearable electronics,” they continue

will play a key role in tracking complex indicators of human health, including body temperature, cardiac activity, levels of oxygen, sugar, metabolites and immune molecules in the blood. […] Our work is a good starting point for creating devices that build artificial intelligence into wearable electronics – devices that could help people live longer and healthier lives.

That always seems to be the promise, huh? This promise to “live longer and healthier lives.” Living longer is always nice, but should we? Our bodies might possibly go on for forever, but can our minds? Can a human mind handle 150, 500, 1000 years of being alive? At some point, we have to die. But this stretchable sticker idea is cool.

The UN reported earlier this week that humanity has surpassed 8 billion people. Imagine 8 billion people living for over 100 years. Can planet earth sustain that? I don’t think it can. I’m glad and excited that we’re pushing our species past our home and into the great unknown that is outer space, but earth is our home, too. Are we parasites or caretakers? Are we here to ravage this place and move on, or can we live with some sort of harmony with our ancestral home?

I hope we can, but unless I live to be 250 years old, I might not be alive to find out.

Sleeping while on duty

Finally, I learned a new term today: ‌inemuri (居眠り), or “present while sleeping” in Japanese. Basically, it’s this idea of taking power naps while at work, and in Japan, these naps are seen as virtuous because it signifies that you’ve worked to the point of complete exhaustion.

For me, though, it means that napping is a necessary part of modern human culture. I’ve been having trouble sleeping all year, but my 10, 20, 30 minute naps I have taken throughout the year have helped me stay sane. And yes, sometimes I have snuck a quick nap or two while at work, and I am not ashamed! It means I have worked myself to the point of complete exhaustion. Like a real American!

Literally Advanced Civilization

  • Notes

Chris Coyier quoting Dan Cederholm:

As soon as I typed the HTML for my first hyperlink, the power of it hit me. This is the DNA of the web, the fabric that connects all of the bits and pieces all over the globe. It sounds so primitive now, but when this was all new to me and I was discovering how it all worked and how simple it was to create links, it was magic.

It’s still magic! URLs are one of mankind’s greatest achievements. It took a lot for them to exist, and now that they do, they have literally advanced civilization. They are the ultimate unbeatable feature.

I couldn’t sleep last night (big surprise), and when I can’t sleep, I either watch TV or think. I watched this tutorial on how to create and organize a Capture One Catalog (yes, I like watching webinars sometimes), but that wasn’t enough to knock me out. So I lied in bed, and I thought—about my life, about my friends, about my writing, about things I’ve read.

About a week and a half ago, I read Tom Critchlow’s post titled Small b blogging. In it, he wrote:

And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows.

As Venkatesh says in the calculus of grit - release work often, reference your own thinking & rework the same ideas again and again. That’s the small b blogging model.

Before I read this, I always believed that “small b blogging” was about linking to my ideas again and again, that none of my “ideas” or “essays” or “posts” existed in a vacuum. I’ve always considered my website as my second brain, and by linking to other things I’ve written, I’ve been able to reinforce these connections in my head, helping me remember things I’ve thought about and thus, helping me connect disparate ideas together and create new connections. It’s really fun when I think, “Wait… didn’t I mention something like this before?” And I search for it, and there, I did write about it before, so I link to it and move on, this new connection firmly created in my brain.

I don’t know how many people actually follow my links (my guess is not many), but that’s okay. I write mostly for myself. It’s like I’m holding a conversation with myself through time, and each time I link back to something from before, I’m crafting this web of ideas that only really makes sense in my head. Am I “literally advancing civilization” like Chris says? I doubt it, but I’m advancing myself, I think, and that’s pretty cool.

Small b blogging is cool.

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