Tenday Notes: 21 Feb - 1 Mar 2020

Tenday Notes: 21 Feb - 1 Mar 2020

Every ten days I share a quick digest of what I've been working on. Here's the latest. You can find more in the series here.

A hundred days ago, I began following a new system to get my life closer to where I want it to be. It's called "Cadence", and sets up a hierarchical system of objectives that cascade down from overarching priorities to daily habits.

I set up periodic review sessions for every 100 days, and I've now completed the first. Without going into too much detail, I'm really pleased. Not only have I successfully stuck with it, but I'm healthier, happier, and feel more like I'm doing what I want to be doing - on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis. If you feel like you're spinning your wheels in your life right now and want a framework for improvement, I can highly recommend it.

I woke up at 5am one morning, and after trying to get back to sleep for 30 mins or so decided to just get up and learn something that I've been meaning to learn for a while - how to make nice hill-shaded maps. I found a decent tutorial, and put the image below together. I'm pretty pleased with the results.

The biggest issue I had was the difficulty of finding good elevation data at a high-enough resolution for what I wanted to do. Everything started looking pixelated when I zoomed in. I'll keep digging, but in the meantime here's an hour or so's work:

After putting out an appeal on Twitter, I was able to find some better elevation data, and now I've got a lovely contour map of the area around Mont Poupet and Nans Sous St Anne in eastern France. Here it is.

The data I used, when viewed in its entirety, also looks pretty beautiful. A weird mix of organic and synthetic shapes.

So beautiful, in fact, that I used Spreadshirt to turn it into a t-shirt - which was delivered in about 24 hours. One of those "the modern world is amazing!" moments. I think it looks pretty awesome. If you do too, then shoot me an email and I'll get you one made up.

One book ends, and another begins. I finished the excellent Marine Biology: A Very Short Introduction, which was comprehensive and at exactly the right level of understanding for me. Not to get all George Costanza, but I've always had a fascination with marine biology. Love me an aquarium. The book gave me a great framework for understanding the various different undersea environments, how they work, and how we're changing them.

To replace it, I've started Work For Money, Design For Love - a manual for how to run a freelance design business, which was recommended by Shirley Wu in this podcast. I've always been a passive reader, but I know that active reading - where you make loads of notes in the margins - is a much better way for taking in and remembering information. So I'm trying that this time. Getting over the "omg I can't write in a book" hurdle was easier than I thought. Not getting too self-conscious about what I'm writing and whether it's useful was harder than I thought.

A few days later and I'm enjoying Work For Money, Design For Love. It's very practical, which I like in a manual of this sort. The annotating is going well, and I think it's helped by the fact that the book itself has clearly been printed rather cheaply. It's not an especially beautiful object, so I don't have too much of a problem despoiling it with my scribblings. I think the biggest things it has made me realise so far is that I should probably put together a business plan and improve my website. Adding those to the to-do list...

I’m trying very hard not to buy a plotter. I keep seeing the amazing things people are doing with them. The sensible part of my brain keeps pointing out that I need to learn how to make beautiful generative art on a computer before I can plot beautiful generative art on paper. So I’m holding onto that. But I don’t know how long I can hold onto it for...

In the meantime, I've done two things. First, I've set up an under-construction Twitter list of generative artists for inspiration and creative oxygen. Let me know if there's someone I should add to it (maybe you?).

Second, I've made a new Instagram account for posting my early attempts at generative artwork. If you're on Instagram, follow me at @vhfseizures.

VHF Seizures (@vhfseizures) • Instagram photos and videos
Generative art by @notrealistic

I was on the radio this week. K103 - the student radio here in Gothenburg, to be specific. I was invited on a show called In Your Head where people talk through a playlist of songs that mean something to them. At the time of writing the show isn’t yet online but I’ll edit in a link when it is. Turns out it’s very hard to compress a life down into a few songs, so there’s lots of rambling at the start and much less at the end when we realised the time pressure. But it was a lot of fun to do, and I hope it might be interesting to some of you. The Spotify version of the playlist, for completionists, is right here:

I've made some good progress with my Carbon in Context graphic, which I want to get done sooner rather than later. My D3 skills haven't left me, it turns out - though I did have a weird labelling issue when I tried to bind data to text on the page, because it was binding it to axis text instead. The main issue I need to tackle next is that the data isn't very well-distributed - a lot of it is bunched up in a relatively small area. Fixing that will mean more research, so I've got that on the to-do list for next week. Once that's done, all that'll be left to do is add the ability for the reader to put in their own carbon quantities, make a desktop layout (I've gone mobile-first for this project), and write a short article explaining the logpile plot and its advantages over a simple number line.

Finally, I'll leave you with an article that I've finally got around to reading in my Pocket backlog. Chaos at the Top of the World is a GQ feature by Joshua Hammer that tells the story of that photo of people queuing atop Everest that went viral earlier in the year. It's a gripping, but grim, read:

Shortly after dawn the previous morning, Donald Cash, a Utah software salesman who had quit his job in December to devote himself to high-altitude climbing, had also reached the top. The achievement marked the completion of Cash's Seven Summits project, and overjoyed, he performed a little victory jig at the summit. Then, without warning, he sank to his knees and toppled over. Cash's guide raced to his side and opened wide the valve on his oxygen.