Author Archives: Bram

About Bram

Last seen in his apartment in his boxers eating pizza over the sink like a rat. Approach with caution.

Violet

Violet Sinclair stares at the ceiling in her room. Her parents, when they’re around, barely acknowledge her existence. She rarely leaves her room, only to go downstairs to make instant oatmeal with the sugar dinosaurs in it.

One day, no different than any other, Violet began to feel faint.
She sits on her bed, trying to read her book, while the silk curtains drift slowly in the wind. She’s fatigued, but she’s not sure if she’s catching a cold or if it’s because she’s hungry. In the corner of her room, her Himalayan salt lamp quietly sits.

The words begin to rearrange themselves. Violet rubs her eyes. What? The words begin to say something.

“Hello.”

She blinks. “Uhm, hi.”

The words move again.

“I’m Mahogany, but you can call me Mahog. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too…” Violet says with trepidation.
“What’s going on here exactly?” she says.

“Well, I’m here because you called me.” Mahog replies. “You need to be reminded.”

“Reminded of what?”

“Of the truth, of course! You can’t go around not knowing forever!”

Violet stares at the book, her right eye squinting with confusion.

“When was the last time you saw the sun?” Mahog asked Violet.

“This morning, when I opened my window.” she replied.

“No, I’m not asking about the last time you saw the sun with your eyes. I’m asking when the last time was when you embraced its warmth, and understood its significance.”

“Oh.” Violet says. “Well…a while I suppose.”

The book sits for a minute, with no motion. Then, the text begins moving again.

“Do you have magic in your world?” Mahog asks.

“Well no, I don’t suppose so. To me this world is a rather dreary place.” Violet responds.

“Of course it seems dreary! Your entire world is within these four dark walls. If you step outside, I promise you’ll find something that inspires you. Go to the place where the sun touches and try and find the edge. Then I want you to tell me if magic exists in your world.” Mahog replies.

“But how do I get there?” Violet asks.

“Turn the page!” Mahog replies.

As she turns the page, a metal locket falls on her lap. She notices a switch on the right, and opens it. On the inside is a compass. And on the door of the locket, there is an inscription. True North it says.

Violet flips back to the page where Mahog lives. “What do I do with this?” she asks.

There is no reply. The words have rearranged themselves into their normal position. After waiting few more minutes to be sure, Violet dog ears the page.

Violet stands, puts the book and compass in her backpack, walks down to the kitchen, and puts 4 instant oatmeal packs in the front pocket. She walks through the living room to get to the front door. Her mother sits on the couch, her eyes glued on the TV.

“Bye, mum.” Violet mutters, as she steps onto the front door and closes the door behind her.

After Violet left for her adventure, the quietness of her room was only slightly more noticeable than usual. The curtains continue to drift slowly in the wind, the bed neatly made.

And in the corner of her room, her Himalayan salt lamp quietly sits.

How to Start a YouTube Channel with your iPhone in 2019

What you’ll learn:

  1. What kind of iPhone do you need?
  2. Content is King
  3. Creating a Youtube account
  4. Recording videos with the Camera app
  5. Simple editing with iMovie
  6. Uploading a video with your phone from the YouTube app

Congratulations! You’ve decided to start a YouTube channel. Today marks the start of being able to upload your own content and share it with the world. It’s gonna be a good day.

Intro

Starting a YouTube channel can be a confusing process. You see the work your favorite creators create, but you’re not sure where to start.

The bad news is: those creators have a ton of experience and fancy, and sometimes thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

The good news is: it’s 2019! We as a people are more empowered than ever before to create the content we want.

We can upload to YouTube using just our phones. And better yet, you won’t need anything for this guide that’s not completely free!

What kind of iPhone do you need?

I have an iPhone 6. I got it refurbished on Amazon for ~$220. I’ve been using it to post videos on both TikTok and YouTube.

Your phone might be newer than mine. It may be older. That doesn’t matter too much. Thanks to a competitive smartphone landscape, phone cameras are better than ever on all phones. The Pixel 2 can capture photos of similar quality to a lens 9x its own size.

For most “starter” content you may be interested in uploading to YouTube all you need to be willing to do is to smile at your phone camera.

As time passes and you get more confident with your YouTube presence that is when you should worry about dropping $$ for more expensive tools. Don’t put the cart before the horse!

The content is the most important thing. Speaking of…

Content is King

Whether you plan on uploading comedy, educational videos, animations, compilations, vlogs, music covers, or anything else, at the end of the day only one thing ends up mattering. Content. Content. Content.

The words you say, the meaning you convey are all that matter.

Design plays a very important part, as well. So does marketing. But they both pale in the face of content.

Before you work on a video, have an audience in mind, and an end goal. Don’t overthink this.

Content is a complex topic and varies from person to person. But basically, post stuff that you’re interested in and knowledgeable about. The rest will fall into place.

“post stuff that you’re interested in and knowledgeable about”

Now let’s get to business!

Creating a YouTube Brand Account

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to create a YouTube brand account.

Click “Add account” to create a YouTube account.

Next, hit “Create Account” to actually create the account.

Next, choose a name for your channel:

Nice!

After your channel is created, write down 2 ideas for videos. They don’t have to be impressive, and the easier the better!

Here’s some ideas I might come up with about things that **interest me**:

  1. Talking about pure DPS classes in WoW vs hybrids
  2. Recipes to cook in an Instant Pot

Let’s aim to have a one minute length edited video, which is roughly ~2-3 minutes of content, assuming you’ll slip up.

Recording on Your Phone

Next up, we’ll record our video on our phone. Open your Camera app. You’ll want to use the back camera because it renders at a higher quality. Oh, and turn it horizontal.

“…hold it horizontal man, Be professional” – Childish Gambino, Worldstar

Editing Your Masterpiece

I used Splice to edit my video, but there are a ton of free apps on the app store, pick one you like.

Let’s add some text to our video.

And let’s slooowwwwww it down.

Now we have to select our video attributes, like if we want it to be HD or not.

Now, let’s export it!

Upload!

Hit the little camera on the top right of your screen

Next, give your video a title and description.

Add some music if you feel so inclined.

Stay on the screen while it’s uploading (I don’t think you have to, but it will help prevent errors from occurring).

Congrats! We now have our finished product.

Conclusion

As you can see, you don’t need the fanciest tech and gear out there to start creating things you want to see. I challenge you to take action! Create the video you want to create, and then iterate as you improve!

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simplenote logo

Optimizing your Workday with Simplenote

this post is not sponsored, I just really enjoy their software

TL;DR download Simplenote. It’s a well thought out Notes app that supports markdown, syncs between all of your devices, and uses a tagging system to search.

Finding a good note-taking app is critical. Getting stuff out of your head for later processing is key to productive work.

To me a good note taking app is:

  1. intuitive
  2. lightweight
  3. markdown compatible
  4. searchable
  5. syncs between all my devices
  6. secure/private

I’ve used a lot of note taking softwares, to various degrees of success. I’ve used Notion, Apple Notes, bullet journaling and I even tried managing notes on Google Docs for a brief stint.

The problem was, most note taking options were much too heavy. They either took forever to open or were so bogged down with features that it distracted from the note taking experience.

Before Simplenote my favorite note taking devices were:

  1. Bullet Journaling
  2. Apple Notes
  3. Notion

Bullet Journaling

I love bullet journaling because of the daily format. Each day is unique, and may require drawings and chicken scratch to describe, that text just can’t do. The dots, dashes and circle method is intuitive and makes searching through pages a breeze. And since it’s not put on the internet, it’s private!

But.

Carrying around a journal is a pain.
Remembering to write everyday is a pain. Losing a journal is a pain.

Apple Notes

Fast. That is the main reason I used Apple Notes. An idea strikes? Open the notes app. Want to clarify an older idea? Notes app. The search functionality is impressive.

But.

The Notes app doesn’t support markdown. This makes formatting a pain. Writing longer form content on it is out of the question.

Notion

Hyper futuristic writing-organizing-editing-workflow technology that I hope to return to in the future. Linking between pages is a joy, and there are a lot of fun toys to play with.

But.

The experience on iPad and iPhone is awful. It lags, it jumps around different parts of the document, editing previous blocks means you have to scroll and tap on them.

Simplenote

For me, Simplenote was the solution. I needed something that wouldn’t take 500 years to open on my phone to capture quick ideas, but also be flexible enough for longer form content. It is password protected so I feel less nervous expressing my thoughts (still not nearly as safe as paper; given the nature of the Internet).

Simplenote allows me to organize my thoughts, monitor project completion, and capture ideas when inspiration strikes. And it syncs between all my devices! For free!

Caveat: apparently some users have ran into issues with syncing. I personally haven’t.

At the end of the day, the tool needs to fit the job. If you're more comfortable on Evernote, or with pen and paper, or writing on cave walls, you do you. Find what works. Click To Tweet

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3 Immediately Actionable Tips to make your Day Better

Summary:

  • What is “Actionable”?
  • Biological Processes: HALT
  • Smile and Power Pose
  • Write it Down

What is “Actionable”?

In this context, actionable means that the results of a process will be immediately apparent. For example, stubbing your toe is an immediately actionable tip. A bad one, but I digress.

via GIPHY

1. HALT

I learned about HALT a few years ago and it has had a positive impact on my mindfulness since. The rules are simple. When you’re upset, stop and assess the following:

  • Am I Hungry?
  • Am I Aangry?
  • Am I Lonely?
  • Am I Tired?

From there, it’s a simple algorithm:

if (hungry) { eat something nutritious(it’s important that it’s nutritious!) }
if (angry) { take three deep breaths, 4 seconds in, 4 seconds out; and assess if there is any way to politely remove yourself from the situation }
if (lonely) { call someone who cares about you }
if (tired) { take a nap or set a reminder in your phone to go to bed early tonight }

2. Smile and Power Pose

Wonder Woman Pose

There is research that suggests that smiling and power posing can influence your mood in a positive manner. While not verifiable, power posing is easy to do, and the act of feeling in control of your emotion will have a positive impact on your mood.

3. Write it Down

If you want to solve a problem, the best way I’ve ever found is to simply write the problem down. Get it out of your head. Once on paper, it will become monumentally easier to deal with. Promise.

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Photo by Rostyslav Savchyn on Unsplash

4 Ways to Minimize Regret

Regret sucks. Let’s talk about some ways to make it suck less.

What You’ll Learn

  1. The Regret Minimization Framework
  2. Any Unasked Question is a No
  3. Make Mistakes of Ambition, not Sloth
  4. The Only Question

The Regret Minimization Framework

The Regret Minimization Framework is a fantastic tool. It is similar to an algorithm in Computer Science called Hill Climbing. Hill climbing is focused on finding local maxima (a fancy term for finding the highest point close to you.

Math is Fun Maxima Graph
thanks to math is fun

Given multiple choices, we want to take the option that results in the least amount of regret after it’s over.

Example

You have 3 options that will take you one hour to complete. Doing one prohibits you from doing the others, adding an opportunity cost to all the choices.

Option A: Exercise (Regret score: 15)
Option B: Hanging out with your friends (Regret score: 20)
Option C: Watching Netflix (Regret score: 45)

In this case, it is best to spend the hour exercising. It incurs a cost of missing conversation with friends, and not getting ahead in our show, but minimizes the guilt felt at the end of the hour.

Hill climbing and regret minimization is not a perfect science. By focusing on local maxima, we miss chances to find optimal routes. But the ones we do find are good enough.

Any Unasked Question is a No

Anxiety is the sibling of regret. Regret criticizes choices made, and anxiety criticizes thoughts about choices. Anxiety is useful in doses. It prevents stupid decision making, for individuals and societies.

The sucky part is that if anxiety wins, regret will also win later.

Let’s say you want to ask your boss for a promotion. You’re anxious because you don’t want a light shined on the work you’ve done. So you don’t ask. 3 months later, your coworker is promoted to the role, and you regret not asking.

You’ve felt and acted on both the negative feelings of anxiety and regret. Ouch.

Any unasked question is a no, so go ahead and ask!

Make Mistakes of Ambition, not Sloth

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
– The Prince, Machiavelli

The quote sums it up. There is no such thing as “no risk”. Make bold plays.

The Only Question

The final and easiest way to minimize regret is to ask yourself:

When I’m looking back at the end of my life, did I do everything I wanted?

Think in the long term. The short term has too many variables that pollute thinking. Long term thinking is values based, and since you can’t see how your plans play out, you’ll only have your values to guide you.

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Analysis of Panic Room by Silent Planet

I’ve been listening to this song for a few days now, and I love it. I love the lyricism. There are a ton of clever metaphors. I wanted to take a deeper look into some of my favorite lines.

Selected lyric analysis below:

Lustrous lines obscured by opaque blinds
Frozen metacarpals tap tap tap the window glass

A person afraid of going to sleep, because they are afraid of what they’ll find when they close their eyes. The person in the song is suffering from PTSD from their time serving in the military.

The tap tap tap on the window glass is a vivid descriptor. You can imagine lying in bed, hiding under the covers, while your demons are right outside.

Syncopated staccatos with the broken clock
Synchronized with my post-traumatic ticks ticks

Phenomenal use of alliteration. I’m no English major, but damn, I appreciate this lyric. With every clock tick the person shudders, reminded of a time where every second could have been their last.

We’ve all lay in bed late at night, our eyes glued open at the ceiling. Each second feeling longer than eternity itself.

In my endless dance with entropy
I must rescind my sentience

We all have coping mechanisms. Defense responses to our internal struggles. Some drink, others watch too much TV, others eat. They all serve the same deeper end goal. To silence the voices that are telling us things we don’t want to hear, or remind us of things we do not want to see.

In the endless dance with the internal chaos, we cede our control.

Machines of air looking down on us
The beasts of dust as we grapple heel and hand,
Mud and sand, (blood red oil)
The chaff of the harvest
Converted to currencies of wealthy means
Stepping stones cut from our perforated bones
Riches are reaped beside our bodies sown just to be thrown back again
And forgotten if we stumble in
Laid inside a homeless nest,
Stuck with eager dirty needles,
Shipped to an early steeple
where boxes close
Descend with grace as you defend yourself
Both charitable and chaste
Praise me for my valor, lay me on a crimson tower
Justify my endless terror as my finest hour

Treat me as a token to deceive the child
Whom we fatten for this scapegoat slaughter

emphasis mine

Wow, just wow. This bit is quite political (which I don’t like to get into), but it made me so unbelievably sad. It gets the listener to question who is profiting from war, why we idolize the system that encourages young people to go and die for valor, to come back home and be mistreated and forgotten.

The homeless nest refers to the many veterans who turn to drugs to deal with PTSD, and then get shamed by their communities for trying to deal with their demons in the only way that they could find.

I learned to fight I learned to kill
I learned to steal I learned that none of this is real
None of this is real
None of this is real
None of this is real
But there’s a war inside my head

Another extremely heavy lyric. What is real? Does war end when you return to your family and friends? How do veterans use the skills they’ve learned? What about the millions of people who never fully come home?

tabula rasa

Two Sentence Paragraphs are the Future

Attention spans are slim, folks. This is no surprise.

In order to keep readers/listeners/users/watchers engaged, introduce new concepts.

A lot of blogs on the internet, they’re much too long.

They spend word upon word elaborating, elucidating, compounding, expanding upon.

Let’s make things simple. Simpler than they were in school.

Say what you need to say, nothing more. And use spacing, damn it! No one likes walls of text!

Silence is a virtue.

4 sentences per paragraph is much too many.
Stick to two.

what this piece looks like as one paragraph, I challenge you to try and stay focused the whole way through!

Attention spans are slim, folks. This is no surprise. In order to keep readers/listeners/users/watchers engaged, introduce new concepts. A lot of blogs on the internet, they’re much too long. They spend word upon word elaborating, elucidating, compounding, expanding upon. Let’s make things simple. Simpler than they were in school. Say what you need to say, nothing more. And use spacing, damn it! No one likes walls of text! Silence is a virtue. 4 sentences per paragraph is much too many. Stick to two.

wow queue time smh

Week 1 – Regret Minimization Framework: Choosing a WoW Main

What you’ll be reading:

  • class choice regret
  • too many options
  • minimizing regret by optimizing variables

When you look back at the end of your life, would you do it all over again?

Heroes of Azeroth, WoW Classic is upon us.

It is time to retrieve our weapons, don our armor, and sound the horns of war.

After your 4 hour wait in the queue, you finally see it. The character creation screen.

You pick a Tauren Shaman, and grind tooth and nail killing wolves, accepting quests and learning new combat abilities to level 10. You decide to become an Enhancement shaman.

You continue your journey, entering a PvP zone. You get ganked by a rogue. Multiple times. You get upset. Why can his class turn invisible? Yours can’t.

You decide to enter a dungeon. You whisper a group looking for a DPS. They ask you to heal. Wait, you say. I don’t want to heal. That’s why I chose Enhancement. Tough butts, they reply, they’re not looking for your role. Better luck next time.

You head back to the character screen and select Undead rogue. You grind to level 10. You head into a PvP zone. A warlock fears and DoTs you. You die. You get frustrated. Repeat.

There are many different ways to approach WoW, from casual to hardcore. And while there isn’t one correct choice, there are many wrong ones. Let me clarify that point. A bad choice means you chose a class or a role that is considered “bad”. At its core, WoW is a group game. If groups don’t want you, you’ll have a lot less fun.

Barking up the wrong tree costs time, and time is an invaluable asset. If you get to level 30 and decide that you hate your class, you’ll have to start a new one at level 1.

Regret Minimization Framework to the Rescue

Instead of considering all potential variables for a class choice (and there are a lot), let’s instead ask one question:

In one year, will you regret picking your class?

Go through the selection screen, through all of the races and classes you may want to play and ask yourself this question.

As for me, I’m going druid. Or maybe rogue. Hunter? Damn, still some choices to be made. See you in game.

Trying Out Mental Models

I’ve been hearing a lot about mental models. How they improve decision making, and can supplant heuristics we use day to day in our brains.

Over the next 30 days, I plan to use them to help me make decisions and see if I become happier, more productive, have a positive overall ROI.

via GIPHY

The Rules

Focus on one per week, try and make at least one major decision and two minor decisions based off the model of the week. First up, regret minimization.

The Models

  1. Regret Minimization Framework
  2. ICE

Make short-term decisions using this model: When facing many options needing prioritization, score each on a scale of 1-10 using three variables.

The positive impact it would have if it succeeds.
The confidence you have that it will succeed if you try it.
How easy it would be to try it.
For each option, average its three numbers to get its ICE score. Then order all your options by their ICE scores. Options at the top of your list will have the highest expected value and should be given priority.

  1. Pareto Principle
  2. Eisenhower Matrix