i like helping

minimalism in a nerdy world

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My memory is already in the cloud

lights at night


You dropped 150 grand on a fuckin’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!

-Matt Damon & Ben Affleck “Good Will Hunting”

It’s 3 am and I am looking for an actress’ name.


Maria? B?

Movie trivia was a super power for me. I could go into a bit of a trance and pull out the resume of anyone I had seen in any movie, even bit parts and non-speaking roles.

The first time I used the internet was to use the Internet Movie Datebase literally to settle a bet. A friend who was a computer science major did not believe some obscure actor in a background role had been in some other movie I mentioned so he hit the dial up and showed me the first useful thing I had heard the world wide web could do.


No, I’m sure it’s a B.


I have no unloaded that knowledge and I’m not always sure I like that.

I’m reliant on external sources. I suppose it is natural. But we are all increasingly devaluing “experts” and raising up those who can google the fastest and discern the quality sources.

I had some fun in a group of people recently talking about the definition of a sandwich. A surprisingly energetic conversation as people suddenly realise they have an opinion, and that if you do not agree the point must be argued. Is a sub a sandwich? How about a pita? A burrito?

The best part of the conversation is that there is no solid answer. You can not just google it. It was quite refreshing to not play duelling-Wikipedia-sources and just have a laugh talking it through.

As I write, the internet is down. And that elusive name is still beyond my typing.

Catherine. Yes, I’m sure it’s Catherine.

She was in Spectre, you’d think I’d remember that.

Thoughts on the Panel One Comic Creator Festival 2017

First Principles: support the artists, not the IP.

-KL Callbeck

This week was one of my new favourite Calgary events – The Panel One Comic Creator Festival.

Begun in 2016, this is a comics-only festival begun to highlight the work of local creators in a venue free of celebrity photo ops and t-shirt walls.

As I minimize and focus on the Things that bring me joy and value, I have thought a lot about the comics I buy at conventions and the festival.

A few of the creators sell their work online and I often support that way. Many others, of course, will print copies of their work in the hundreds and hand sell them at shows. The physical Thing is the only way the work will ever be available.

Which leads me to this First Principle:

Above my desire to reduce Things is my commitment to supporting local comic makers. 

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The opportunity cost of a so-so show

television thrown in a junk pile

For decades, we’ve worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards … the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less.
-Steven Johnson (author of Everything Bad is Good For You)

Business has a concept called Opportunity Cost. This is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

It is simple enough to apply this to content.

I can only read one book at a particular moment. So what books am I not reading while I’m trudging through volume 8 of a series I’ve lost interest in?

Rather than let this paralyse you with too much choice, embrace it as a free pass to walk away. You don’t have to finish every movie you start, or watch every super hero show, or follow every Star Trek series.

Our limits are time, attention, and money.

Money is an imaginary limitation, to be honest. The library is a short walk from my house and has books, comic book collections, and movies for free. Setting aside the cost of internet and a device, the internet has a bottomless well of free content.

This leaves time and attention.

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Fail Faster: intentional TV in an age of limitless content

wind across the dunes

Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast.
-Tom Peters (business management consultant)

The current tide of content is only increasing. Along with our 200-channel cable packages and streaming services, we have online access to a functionally limitless array of foreign content, sports, and independent work. We can only take in a sliver of what is available to us.

Even among my close friends, we have almost no content in common. We can each keep up with 5-10 TV shows, but the specialising of streams means we are choosing them from all over the world. In our finite hours, we curate our content and almost fear finding something new to try to jam in.

Recommending something to a friend now feels like an imposition instead of sharing joy.

This then leads me to be very confused when someone tells me they spent hours watching a show that they later review as “it was ok.” In this tsunami of input, “ok” is a failing grade.

When it comes to content, I follow the old Silicon Valley cliche and “fail fast.”

Here’s a secret of mass media – books, TV, movies, comics, etc. They are all crafted with a “hook.” The opening gambit that catches your attention and has you wondering what comes next. In a novel this is the opening pages and first chapter. It’s the pilot of a TV show, the opening scenes of a film, and so on.

This is simply the way the works are created today, for good or ill. The upside is that you can use this to your advantage. If you are 2 episodes into a show and it isn’t connecting, you can bail. Perhaps check in at the top of the next season as they’ll apply this “hook” again then.

On sick days, I park myself at the TV and start going through the streaming queue. It is very common for me to watch 10 minutes of a half dozen films before settling on investing 90-150 minutes on one.

Think of it like the Costco sample stop of content.

Keeping up with the @joneses

Maybe I will never be all the things that I want to be
But now is not the time to cry, now’s the time to find out why
-Oasis “Live Forever”

Taking a 14-day social media break while I was on vacation was something I had trepidation about.

It was pushing my FOMO, cutting off cold turkey a decade (!) of connection, interaction, addiction, and habit.

I expected some anxiety. The twitch, of course. What I did not forsee was … nothing. I did not miss it at all. I stepped away from the stream and the noise stopped.

I had a few times of desire to post and share. But to my chagrin, those were all about putting things out into the world, not about taking anything in.

Not “connecting” or “checking in” or any of the other justifications and rationalisations we give. No, I thought about reporting in. Of posting pictures or thoughts or “I told you so”s.  But at no point did I crave input.

I craved that fix that tells my monkey brain that someone cares.

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