Dear Siri, I have no confidence in you

I’ve tried to use Siri more and use it for common tasks but every time I feel like I get burned. Today is a prime example. I had my phone on my desk and AirPods in. When I went to get a cup of coffee I decided I wanted to listen to some different music.

Hey Siri, play 80’s music…

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Really?! You couldn’t find any music from the 80’s? Jack McDade would weep.

I thought okay. I’ll try something else. How about, “Play some Drake”…

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My phone was not on me at the time, it was sitting in my office so I couldn’t “open music”, but if I’m driving isn’t the whole point not to be looking at your phone?

I guess I’m expecting too much out of Siri but I feel like this small common tasks should be easy things for it to handle. Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

 

My Workspace

It seems like sharing your workspace is all the rage this week and since everyone else is doing it, I figured I will too. Before I get into sharing my space I should prefix mine with a note that I change my home office a lot. I’d estimate every 90 days or so, I rearrange it somehow just to freshen it up and make me feel like I have a new place.

Workspace

 

I’ve been trying to put a focus on more analog tools so I’ve moved the computer off to the side to have more room for reading and writing. It’s been working pretty well and I have a typical office chair that spins so it’s easy to move my body toward the computer as I’m working.

The rest of my office features an IKEA bookshelf and hutch under the windows, then a comfy chair for reading or relaxing.

 

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It’s all pretty minimal but that is how I like it and try to keep it free from clutter.

Desk

My desk is an IKEA VÄSTANBY table and it has plenty of room. On the desk, I have an iMac on the left, a few books that I’m reading or want for quick reference, an awesome pencil holder made by my friend Jesse Schutt, a Midori travelers notebook, and Rhodia grid notebook. Above the desk is two paintings by Ninjagrl.

Computer

The computer on the desk is an iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014) with a 4 GHz Intel Core i7 and 16 GB memory. It’s plenty for what I do and I’ve not hit the limits.  My secondary computer that isn’t shown is a 12″ Macbook and I honestly love developing on it. Something about having that small screen and only being able to focus on one thing at a time is freeing.

Music

I just went all in on Apple Music (follow me @ericlbarnes) because the family just liked its integration into Apple products and I’m still trying to get used to it.  I have a very weird music taste and you never know what I’m going to listen too.  Lately, though I’ve been doing a lot of classical and jazz. Loving some Charlie Parker.

I typically just try to find playlists for focus music and just have it repeat all day. When the kids get home from school I’ll throw my headphones in so I’m disturbed by their loudness.

Mac Apps

I’ve been trying to stick with only a few core Mac Apps and these are the main ones I use now:

Editor Setup

I’m using Dracula for PhpStorm and the Operator Mono font.

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VS Code is set up basically the same and I switch between each depending on the task at hand. On my MacBook, I also use VS Code but I prefer a light IDE theme.

This about covers my home entire home office space. If I missed anything or if you want to ask me about anything sound off below in the comments.

Book Review: How to Fight a Hydra

How to Fight a Hydra by Josh Kaufman is a book for artists, creative professionals, and entrepreneurs with advice given through a story of a warrior learning to face their fears, learning from mistakes, and persisting through a fight with a Hydra, a mythical serpent with nine heads.

I bought this book based on a recommendation and didn’t really research what it was about before I started reading. In the beginning, I started to think about Don Quixote and his adventures but it quickly turned into the meat of the story and I love the whole premise of the metaphor of doing battle against a giant beast because it honestly does feel that way when you are creating things.

The book itself is an easy read and I finished it in one sitting. It is 100 pages, but the book is 4×6 inches so it’s small. Here is a picture of it beside another typical business book.

In the end, this story reminded me so much of all the decisions I’ve made related to creating software, launching products, and of course taking the leap into the unknown.

Overall I enjoyed How to Fight a Hydra and would recommend it. The premise is a fun idea and the story keeps you engaged.

DIY: Field Notes Cover

Field Notes are great little notebooks. You can throw them in your pocket keep, them in your car, the opportunities are limitless.

Sometimes you just want the usefulness of them but in a different cover and here is a quick way of using a 12 pack box to accomplish that and make your own little travelers notebook style.

Requirements

  • Cardboard from a 12 Pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Field Notes Notebook
  • 2 Rubber Bands
  • Mustache (not required)

Step 1. Cut off all the sides of the 12 pack.

Step 2. Lay the field notes notebook on top and measure about 1/4 inch longer. Then cut it out.

Step 3. Lay the notebook inside, find the center where the staples are and use a rubber band to hold it together.

Step 4. Fold it in half and then place another rubber band vertical to hold it closed.

That’s it. Now you have a custom Travelers Notebook style Field Notes cover made from a 12 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Here is the photo gallery of the finished product:

FAQ

  • Why did you do this?
    I had a box to dispose of and thought to myself, surely we could make something with it.
  • Does this have a real use case?
    Meh, probably not.
  • Why didn’t you use {otherbeer}?
    Because this is the box I had.
  • This is a dumb idea
    Well, that’s not really a question so your opinion is invalid.
  • Seriously, why did you do this?
    Because I can, but the bigger question is why are you even still reading this?

The Local Paper

A staple at my grandparent’s house was the daily paper. I have great memories of grandma and grandpa sitting on the coach sharing the different sections and pointing out to each other what they found interesting.

Back then the internet wasn’t really a thing, cell phones didn’t exist, and looking back it felt like a much simpler time. Now everyone gets the news through notifications, social media, and friends. And they get it instantly.

This method has some downsides and the biggest is that it’s easy to stoke your outrage over something and then share your opinions furthering the outrage. It’s a vicious cycle.

A few weeks ago I decided to subscribe to the local paper. It was pretty inexpensive compared to the big national newspapers and my kids are loving the funny papers. There is something nostalgic about holding a real paper, not worrying about all the ads tracking you, having instant page loads, and just enjoying the simplicity of paper.

More importantly what I’ve noticed is you read everything the day after. It feels calmer and if you are honest that is the way it should be. Instant news is great in an emergency but for everything else, it’s not something you can directly control or act on so it should be passive.

Just Ask

Today my friend Mohamed Said wrote on his blog about putting fear aside and reaching out to people, and he included the following video from Steve Jobs:

As I watched this what really stuck out to me is how Steve asked. In his example, he called Bill Hewlett and asked for a very specific thing, frequency counters, which made it easy for Bill to say yes and got him a foot in the door for a summer job.

I know many people that are crazy busy but if you reach out and asked something specific they would love to help you. Even if it’s a programming problem, as long as it’s not something vague like, “I get a white screen can you help?”.  Or something generic like can we schedule a phone call or grab a coffee. I archive those emails immediately, but if you said want to meet up and go mountain biking, I’d be all over that and happily drive across the state.

Be specific, respect their time, and you might just make a new lifelong friend.

To Kill a Mockingbird voted best-loved​ novel

PBS released the results of their Great American Read survey and To Kill a Mockingbird was voted by viewers as America’s #1 best-loved novel.

A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father – a crusading local lawyer – risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

I had always heard about this novel but never read it, two years ago I got the Audible version and listened to it and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m not sure how the rest of the country sees it, but I was born and raised in the south, and my grandfather was a local judge so I could easily put myself into the shoes of the main character Scout.

If you’ve not read it I’d recommend it. Then after you’ve done that, find the movie version on Netflix and watch it.

The top ten novels in their results are as follows:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. Outlander (Series)
  3. Harry Potter (Series)
  4. Pride and Prejudice
  5. Lord of the Rings
  6. Gone with the Wind
  7. Charlotte’s Web
  8. Little Women
  9. Chronicles of Narnia
  10. Jane Eyre

Visit PBS for the complete top 100 list. Lots of great books on it.