Working Tools 23. – Time to Upgrade?

Is it time to upgrade my hardware setup?

Hardware

The first post in the #Workingtools series was a description of my hardware setup, and the second was on software. That was in April. All of the hardware is 2016 / 2017, which is unusual for me.

The laptop is of the generation(s) with the fragile keyboard. I’m hoping that it is relatively safe, as I use it in clamshell mode with an external display and keyboard. The iPad Pro is a 10.5 inch and I use it more and more for work.

WWDC

As I write, the Apple WWDC shindig is a week away, and it is widely rumoured that many of the software limitations of the tablet will be removed. This spring event focuses on software, so I expect no new hardware.

Expectations

Realistically, I don’t expect to be closer to an iPad-only workflow. Recording a podcast, importing photos and then editing them, are tasks that I expect to remain easier on machine that allows for some physical connection. However, some of the expected changes will, I suspect, increase the advantage that the tablet has over the laptop for some tasks. I welcome that, but at the time of writing, I’m still happy with the hardware that I have, or rather I cannot justify the cost of any available upgrade.

Presumably, the new software will enable Apple to release exciting shiny things in the autumn, things that will be appreciably more powerful than the things that I’m using now. Perhaps that will be the time to upgrade?

Conclusion

I’m disappointed now. I started this post with a vague idea that WWDC would mark the time that I should upgrade my tablet and pencil. However, as I wrote it, I came to the conclusion that I have no need for any new electronics. I must be getting old.

Still – I may be wrong, Apple may have a surprise in store.

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Book? What book?

Book

It’s been quiet on the book front this week. By quiet, I mean that I have been writing for the blog, for Nero’s Notes and for the jobby-job. Not one word has been written on Sean.

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Living the Dream – 48. Roundup

Time for a roundup.

Weather

I wrote last week that things were hotting up. Haven’t they just. Temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) on the golf course this week. I prefer to walk a course, eschewing both a buggy and a trolley. I find it easier to have the clubs on my back. That preference has a cost when it gets this hot.
The Coptic storms have passed, without clearing out the dust, so a layer of dessert remains suspended in the air, and will do for the rest of the month, we’re told. A fair amount of it seems to end up in my nostrils.

Brexit

Brexit and its possible impact on us out here remains unclear. As I write, Teresa May has resigned, or as is now the fashion, “set a timetable for resigning”. We’re sticking to our strategy as outlined in “Contrarian”.

Trees

Daniel, the tree man, came, and has done a grand job, bringing our lovely trees under control. He has restored my faith in contractors. On time, worked hard, tidied up and did what he said he would do. If only it was always this way.
The trees done, I’m able to move to the next phase of my garden plan, which is to update and upgrade the irrigation system. I expect no rain over the next 6 months, so this needs doing now.

Roundup

Garden

We have invested heavily in making the garden more secure and more attractive. I’m far from green-fingered, or DIY-focused, but there are many things that need doing, and I’m looking forward to learning by doing. Everybody has to start somewhere, right?

Typically, my drive to clear out various hidden corners coincides with the Mukhtar deciding that garden waste collections would be suspended. Presumably for financial reasons. I look forward to finding out his logic and then shredding it to his face.
Spice has not managed to escape the garden, and enjoys exploring her fiefdom. Our hearts are always in mouth when she is nosing about. She is inquisitive and fearless. Taking on small lizards is one thing, I hope that her self-preservation instinct will kick in when she comes across a snake.

Conclusion

The roundup. We’re getting there. Things take a little longer here, and at times it has felt like a struggle, but progress has been made, and the weather is hot enough to get Mrs L in the pool (which means its really hot.)

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Working Tools 22. – New Camera

There is a new camera in the bag. Actually, it’s not in the bag, it’s in the pocket. That’s the point.

“The best camera is the one with you” or versions thereof, is often attributed to photographer Chase Jarvis, and he may have been the first to say it, I don’t know. I can’t doubt the veracity of it.

Existing Kit

I have a good iPhone, and it takes excellent snaps. I have no doubt that with sufficient effort, I could learn to harness its power. But, it’s not a camera. It’s a computer. My whole office lives in there. Social media and the internet too. Sure, I’m likely to have it with me at all times, but I’d like to leave it in my pocket.

I have been taking more photographs with my DSLR, a Nikon D3300, and working through the basics of the craft. Learning. It’s a great camera with more capability than the person carrying it. Pocketable; it isn’t. I can wear it around my neck, or carry a bag. Those are my choices.

Portability

I really don’t like carrying a bag if I don’t have to. Nor, am I a fan of having an ostentatious DSLR around my neck. So began my quest for a camera that is portable, powerful, and not a phone. After lots of research, and advice from some smart people, I plumped for a Ricoh GR III.

New Camera

Learning

There is a steep learning curve, upon which I have just embarked. I know, beyond any doubt, how to take unfocused photographs. Fortunately, I am getting the knack of taking focused ones too.

I intend to make “Rick” my constant companion, so that it becomes “the one with me”. I’ll learn by doing, and when I can’t work something out, I’ll dig out the manual and search for the answer. For reasons unknown, Amazon sent me a French-market camera, and though my French is OK, I might struggle with some of the more technical words, so I downloaded an English version. Just in case.

First Thoughts

Observations on the new camera thus far:
1. No view finder. Takes some getting used to – I’m considering the accessory, but will persevere. It may just need some time.
2. Light. There’s no inbuilt flash, so taking photos in low light takes a little more thought and creativity.
3. Wow. It’s clever.

Photography ticks multiple boxes for me. It gets the gears turning in my head, captures memories, and provides shots for the notebook business, and this blog.

I’m not very good at it, but I’ll get better.

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Adjectively speaking

Adjectives and adverbs are often cited as the enemy of writing. I participated in a “Twitter-Chat”, called #writingchat on this very subject.

Mark Twain is quoted, “when you catch and adjective, kill it.”

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Living the Dream – 47. Hotting up

Hotting Up

Cyprus is hotting up. Overnight, summer arrived. In true British style, we had been lamenting how unsettled the weather was and how temperatures were below average. Then, boom. Temperatures leapt from low twenties (70f) centigrade to low thirties (90f). The dog appeared shocked initially, but has quickly dropped into a new routine. It’s taking us longer to adapt.

The upside is that the change in the weather has forced me to deliberately consider my daily routine.

Routine

#livingthedream is intended to chart our efforts to design a new life for ourselves, and we’ve been here nearly eight months now, so this is as good a time as any to look at how we’re doing.

I rise early, usually around 6.30am. I don’t use an alarm, nor have I made a conscious decision to rise at a particular time. It just happens. Once up, Spice, is up and wants out for her morning patrol. I’ll play with her, trying to activate her appetite by throwing a ball. (She has taken to not eating in the morning.)

Margaret and I will have an espresso or two for breakfast in the early sun, and I’ll write a gratitude note in my bullet journal. Then I’ll go swim for half an hour. By 8 / 8.30 I’m heading downstairs to the office as the day is hotting up.

Through till lunch, I am writing, or working on one of my businesses, usually with podcasts in the background. My tiny contribution to running the house is to hang out the laundry whenever the machine beeps insistently at me from the room next to the office. How things get into the machine is a mystery, similar to how the house is always full of food. I’ve asked Margaret, how all these things happen, but she just rolls her eyes…

Lunch is around 1, and we eat together, up on the terrace. Afterwards, I’ve taken to spending some more time in the pool and then having a nap. Traditionally, Cyprus shuts down through the heat of the afternoon, and I’m all for it.

Some time around four, the day restarts. I refresh myself with a shower and will either get back into work, or read a book.

Evenings

Dinner is getting lighter and lighter, and later and later. In the winter we ate around 6, but now don’t feel much like food until 8 or so.

Evenings are delightful at the mountain hideaway. It’s quiet and there is often a breeze. A chilled glass of wine with some olives on the terrace is the perfect evening as far as I’m concerned.

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Working Tools – 22. ScanSnap

Filing. Yay!

Alright, it’s difficult to get excited about filing. However, the ScanSnap has made my filing tolerable.

Evernote

I first came across the ScanSnap, in a green jacket: The Evernote Edition. This piece of hardware was completely integrated with Evernote, and I was smitten.

I would flick open the scanner, drop in a document, a receipt or a business card, press fire and it would be automatically scanned and saved into the right place in Evernote. It was awesome.

However, my love affair with Evernote waned. Retasking the scanner to work outside of Evernote was awkward and hacky.

Fujitsu

Eventually, I bought a “naked” ScanSnap, the iX500 by Fujitsu. It looks exactly the same as the Evernote edition, but with a black and blue colour scheme rather than a grey and green one under Evernote.

This allows my office to be paperless. The system transforms all correspondence into electronic format.

ScanSnap

Paperless

There is irony I know, to read from someone who has a business selling notebooks, and runs his life from a bullet journal, that he prefers a paperless office.

Much though I love paper notebooks and writing letters, I’m less keen on paper copies of invoices, delivery notes and receipts. I’m even less keen on paying rent for space to put expensive shelves, where expensive folders sit full of expensive paper that nobody ever looks at.

I love the ScanSnap because it makes scanning so easy. The unit connects to my wireless network meaning it can sit anywhere. Scanning is quick, reliable and easy. Invest a little time in setup, and the scanner will save specific types of documents to designated folders. The software even ‘reads’ the documents, allowing them to be searchable.

Open Scansnap

Instructions

Listening to the excellent podcast, Mac Power Users introduced me to David Sparks and his field guide to “Going Paperless”. Here, I learned about Hazel, a mac app that does much of my filing automatically.

No more filing!

I have to admit, that I have not set up a fraction of the automation that I should have, but nevertheless, once paperwork is into the system, my automated backup routines mean that I have multiple copies distributed across several sites, both physical and virtual.

I have two ScanSnaps now. One in the UK office, and one beside me here in the mountain hideaway.

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Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week begins today, May 13th. Twenty years ago, I’m fairly certain that I had no awareness at all of mental health issues. I’m guessing that I had a loose perception of depression, which I would have confronted with pearls of wisdom such as “chin up” or “pull your socks up.”

Then, a friend was sectioned.

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Living the Dream – 46. The Trouble with Trees

The trouble with trees is that they keep growing.

“Sorry. We can’t stay long, we have to get home to meet our tree surgeon.”

Not words that I had ever imagined saying. My parents built the house nearly thirty years ago, and planted several trees then. One or two pre-date the house.

Carob, fig, pomelo, lime, mandarin and orange are the ones that I recognise and that produce fruit. There are several flowering trees too, that burst into colour at various points through the year. Some provide welcome shade in the summer.

The Plan

As the title suggests, the trouble with trees is that they grow. Pretty big as it happens. Some of them were touching the house, even towering above it. As I sipped a cold beer, I decided that a few hours with a wood saw would sort everything out.

Hmmm…

Several people have snipped at, and trimmed branches over time. A couple of them have cut back growth severely.

However, some of the larger trees remain pristine. As I stood at the base of one, craning my neck to see the top, it was clear that one man and his saw was not going to be sufficient.

Nor could I overlook the facts of the matter.

  1. I have not the faintest idea about how one properly reduces the size of a tree.
  2. There is a documented and demonstrated lack of competence with any and all tools.
  3. I respect hard, manual, work and if at all possible, avoid it.

Faced with these truths, I repaired to the terrace and opened a bottle of wine. (Playing to my strengths.)

Plan B

I spoke to the guys that put up the fence, and they put me onto Daniel, of High Access Point, and so it was, that yesterday, I met with him.

It is little known that “Daniel”, in Bulgarian, means “little tree squirrel”. As I write, Daniel is sucking his pencil somewhere, preparing me a quote to makeover all of the trees, with judicious use of ladders, ropes and power tools.

I am resigned to the prospect of a big, scary number.

This is made less painful by the realisation that I will, on a regular, if infrequent, basis be able to say,

“Sorry, must dash. Doesn’t do to keep one’s tree surgeon waiting.”

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Working Tool – 21. Me

The biggest tool of all. Me.

Hmm… that hasn’t come out quite as I’d hoped.

It’s blazingly obvious, but whatever tools I use to help me write, they are insignificant next to the source of the writing. Whether it be of the head, the heart, of experience or imagination, the words come from me.

So, looking after me, keeping the tool sharp, as it were, is important.

There is no magic formula. No special magic.

It’s all the things that everybody has already told you. No, I didn’t believe them either.

  1. Sleep. Yep. A good night’s sleep makes you a better writer. (Naps work too.)

  2. Diet. We are what we eat – and all that. Overused, often with a preachy tone, but believe me, less processed stuff will make you feel better.

  3. Exercise. HUGE!!! (Look, capitals. That means I really mean it.) The endorphins help with mental health, physical health and a sense of well-being. Exercise takes time, time that allows the mind to wander…to say, a plot, for example.

  4. Self-love. No. Not that. Go wash your mouth out with soap.

Whatever it takes to show yourself a little love. If you’re interested in writing, then you are insecure. Not insecure? Come back and read this post quarterly. The insecurities are coming. Techniques that I use? A gratitude journal. Meditation. Participation in several writers communities online.

I’m not going to labour the point.

Looking after yourself is important for a myriad of reasons, so do it. Make one small change for the better. It will help your writing. Really, it will.

Now – I’m off to #writingchat on Twitter

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