Things I’ve learned under quarantine

  1. A “model” is just an opinion with a spreadsheet
  2. Freedom isn’t free
  3. Learned to spell the word “quarantine” correctly
  4. Discovered the website layoffs.fyi
  5. Other people call my regular life “The Quarantine”
  6. Drinks with friends through FaceTime is awesome, because it takes zero seconds to get home afterwards
  7. There’s no need to “pop down to the shop” every day
  8. Eating potatoes works five days in a row, but not a day longer
  9. It’s worth paying extra for better location
  10. I need to move somewhere with a garden

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Kung fu

What sports do you guys do at home? I was looking for something that provides a good workout, and can be done in a flat without annoying the neighbors.

So jumprope is a big no-no, but yoga works.

It’s really hard to get your heart rate over 180 with yoga though. And I’d want to do something I’ve never done before.

I wanted to learn kung fu ever since I’ve seen my first Bruce Lee movie, and kung fu indeed seems to check all boxes.

Starting with a new sport without a class or a coach is hard of course, but there’s nothing that Mamazon or the Internet couldn’t give you. There’s a Youtube video for everything, and here’s a beginner’s kung fu video series:

So I started to copy the kung fu stances and I was like hell yeah, this is awesome, I’m gonna learn kung fu by the time the virus scare is over.

…and then video number two gets wild. It still looks kind of alright, but there’s literally nothing I can do from the exercises. Feels like they’ve skipped a hundred lessons in between, and a decade worth of practice.

Which kind of fits everything I know about kung fu.

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Hopscotch scotch hop

Big changes are underway as we speak, Germany for one had to invent the word Einkaufswagenzwang. They use it to express the following:

“You must use the larger wheeled cart in this shop, in order to make sure you keep enough distance from the next person, that way keeping yourself and your peers safe from passing on the virus.”

In London, they’ve introduced Einkaufswagenzwang in our local Marks & Spencer. They’ve introduced many more forms of entertainment in fact, and it all starts right at the door. First you’ll notice big blue arrows painted on the ground, two meters apart, which looks real inviting to play hopscotch.

It also (1) keeps you at a safe distance from other people in the queue, while (2) providing a topic for chitchat while you’re waiting for your turn to shop. We need to wait for others to leave the shop, before being let in you know.

There’s something very charming about living under quarantine and lockdown. When I was in M&S, I’ve seen these two elderly ladies doing their weekly shopping, catching up on life — at a safe distance, keeping the carts in between. They left about the same time when I finished, so I overheard them say goodbye to each other.

  • ‘See you next week darling’
  • ‘See you next week, I’m really looking forward!’

End scene.

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The C-Word

Nobody needs another article about the virus scare, so this won’t be one.

All I wanted to mention is that, together with most of you, I experience mass hypnosis.

It’s a weird state of mind when all you can focus on is one thing. Wherever you go, people talk about the same thing. All TV channels and websites show programming around the same topic.

They wouldn’t even need to push content down. I myself keep refreshing CNN.com until I see the infected-counter show a number larger than the previous one.

As someone who works with numbers and words, the only way I can work is to enter the zone within minutes. I need to rule out and ignore literally everything else in the world and start being productive. Especially in the mornings, I have a good hour before coffee, when I’m as productive as a person can be.

That doesn’t happen now. I wake up, and look at statistics. My brain knows that most of it isn’t meaningful, and it doesn’t even matter.

Can someone please introduce another topic for (public) discussion?

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How We Create Content (Elsewhere)

This blog is a personal feed of magic, where everything happens organically. Sometimes useful, sometimes interesting, other times not so much. Random person on the internet writes stuff for other intelligent people, without much strategy or agenda.

(Maybe this will be one of those more useful posts actually, especially if you’re into content.)

On other magazines and blogs that we run, we think about content in a more strategic way.

That’s always an interesting creative challenge, because content is clay. You can use words and paragraphs to form a piece, and it also works the other way around. The overarching brand will somehow strengthen each individual article, making them easier to be discovered and read.

At my first job in 2000, at one of the first big Internet Portals, we used to have key pieces of content that we called a “Pusher”. A Pusher is an article that’s longer and better than the regular ones, and we knew that every time we posted one, the average number of visitors increased for forever.

The number of visitors on the site always fluctuates – we’ve seen more traffic on workdays and less on the weekends, more in the spring and less in the autumn.

Pushers triggered obvious spikes as people shared the articles organically, but the real cool thing was how they raised the baseline. People were introduced to the portal and kept coming back for more.

Of course content was totally different 20 years ago. There were more readers than blogs to read, so people were actively seeking out stuff. Today it’s the other way around.

Yet, Pushers somehow still work. As soon as you share something that’s really-really good, that will rise the baseline.

This works on blogs, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever drugs the new kids do these days.

Good content is still quite hard to write, so as a creative, you’ll often resort to cheat and steal. On the new blog that I mentioned, we’ve experimented a bit to keep up a weekly posting schedule.

  1. I’ve hired people from Upwork to do research and write posts. (As far as the experiment goes, this was all garbage and we haven’t shared any of that. All money down the toilet.)
  2. We reworked a workshop’s transcripts. (We’ve shared this at least, but it was a huge amount of work. Probably more than writing the article in the first place, and not having a huge backlog of events, this can’t scale either.)
  3. We received a guest post offer (that lead nowhere)
  4. I repurposed previous posts and articles that I wrote. (This worked well, but not extremely scalable for obvious reasons. I don’t write much.)
  5. Hired a PR company to write posts. (This went well, the writing quality is brilliant, and they can work from a list of bullet points to make sure the content is correct. This spares us around 50% of the work. For price, it’s half of what random folks on Upwork charged.)
  6. I wrote some posts as a future book’s chapters, following some of the instructions in the book “How not to suck at writing” – it works but it’s hard work.
  7. We wrote guest posts for other blogs. (This is the best experiment so far actually and something we’ll likely keep up, because working with other editors raises the bar quite a lot.)

There you go, a useful post for Valentine’s Day.

Also, if you struggle with getting started, check out the Most Dangerous Writing App, which deletes everything unless you keep writing for 5 minutes straight.

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Make rent

Heard this one on the radio, T.J. Miller talking about his time in NYC. As a Londoner I find it highly relatable. (Transcript by me, from memory, hey ho.)

The thing about New York is that everybody is trying to make rent.

Everybody. So there is this respect in New York, which is, if you couldn’t make rent you would not be here.

And even feel sorry for the super rich trust fund kids because they’re not really in New York — when they get on the subway they’re not in the same hurry as when you and I are in a hurry, so that we can make rent.

New York will crush a man’s spirit in two weeks.

Highly relatable.

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Connecting dots totally backwards

In the last few days I watched Bitcoin go from:
$6000-something to $7000 and $7500,
and then $7500 to $8000,
and to $8500,
over that,
for no apparent reason…

…and then the Russian government left and Putin became some sort of supreme overlord forever.

So my two questions are:

  • Is Bitcoin still seen as the World’s New Money, or is it now officially a storage for oligarch money? and
  • Whenever I bought Bitcoin in the past (and lost on it every time) — did I literally transfer that money directly to Putin?

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Books I’ve read in 2019

Readers of this blog know that my first post in January is usually the list of books I’ve read last year. So without much ado: my favorite three books with notes, and the rest as a list in no particular order.

Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

(1) Is there a God? No. (2) How did it all begin? By accident. (3) Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Maybe. (4) Can we predict the future? No. (5) What is inside a black hole? Particles. (6) Is time travel possible? Maybe later. (7) Will we survive on Earth? Yes. (8) Should we colonize space? Yes. (9) Will AI outsmart us? Yes. (10) How do we shape the future? With education.

Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”

About listening to critics: if you thought about how [your movie] going to hit people, or if it’s going to hurt someone, or if it’s going to do this or do that, then you would have to stop making films. You just do these things that you fall in love with, and you never know what’s going to happen. […] A painter paints a painting. No one comes in and says, “You’ve got to change that blue.” It’s a joke to think that a film is going to mean anything if somebody else fiddles with it.

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

Do your most important work (your ONE Thing) before your willpower is drawn down. Work on what matters most. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list – a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. If you know what your ONE thing is, it’s easier to say no: say no to everything that doesn’t help your ONE thing.

About thinking big: success is built sequentially, one thing at a time. Think big and bold: don’t let small thinking cut your life down to size. Once the ONE thing is set, it’s easier to make it to be a habit, and it’s easier to find the lead domino that starts the chain of ever-bigger dominoes.

About relationships: imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls, but work’s ball is made of rubber. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls–family, health, friends, integrity–are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.

…and the rest of the list:

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Also sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Waking Up by Sam Harris
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • Reframing by Richard Bandler & John Grinder
  • The Storytellers Secret by Sejal Badan
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Bold by Peter Diamandis
  • Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov
  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  • Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
  • The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
  • The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly
  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
  • Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  • Buffett, The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein
  • The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
  • Herr Lehmann by Sven Regener
  • Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff
  • Think Small by Owain Service
  • Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
  • Principles by Ray Dalio
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Santa wipes

Let me show you the toilet paper that my wife got us for Christmas.

Two biggies.

  1. There are places where you don’t want to see red. One of those places is anywhere near stool. Santa has a lot of red. I have a lot of missed heartbeats.
  2. After use, Santa doesn’t look any prettier. Rudolph’s nose gets a little — muddy.

Happy festivities!

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UNPOP — great songs on Spotify with under 1000 listens

I hold the unpopular opinion that Radiohead is a pop band. Because, I say, you can’t realistically be called alternative when half the world knows and loves every song you’ve ever published.

Nothing against Radiohead of course. But, let me show you a bunch of songs that I dug up throughout the years. Chances are you haven’t heard them yet.

These songs each have <1000 listens on Spotify. And under 10 views on Youtube, hey ho!

And if you’re reading this blog as a teenager, with an ambition to be really alternative, this is gold. You get the point. Because if all your friends are “different” in the exact same way, then none of them really is. You will be. You’re the person who discovered the goods.

Without further ado, my three favorites from the list:

  • Otik: Blasphemy
  • Foundhim / Ponette: I’m Alone (Youtube link — with the exclusive opportunity to be one of their 21 monthly listeners!)
  • Yuuki Sakai: Pol Gaso (Youtube link)

Go ahead and support the artists with your attention!

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