Turning eleven years of notebooks into a second brain

“A good idea is not of any use if you can’t find it.” – Logan Heftel, (via Austin Kleon)

That’s such a good quote. I’ve taken a leaf out of Austin Kleon’s book (recommended), and stolen it to head this post about finding ideas you’ve already had.

It’s the same quote that Kleon uses to lead his post on ‘Indexing, filing systems, and the art of finding what you have‘ It seems we’ve both got a similar problem; I have a box of notebooks on top of my wardrobe. Eleven years of scribbling and journaling and note taking. Austin Kleon’s got a similar crate, but with about twice as many notebooks for a much shorter period. I’d say ‘poor guy’, but honestly, I can’t imagine he’s that cut up about having such a gold claim, even if he does have to sift it all for nuggets.

Kleon goes on to write about the systems that others have used to corral their unruly ideas, with several great examples from comedians.

Earlier in May, Cory Doctorow wrote an article dealing with the same ideas, from a different perspective. Doctorow has been blogging daily, as well as keeping his notes digitally since before I was born, and it’s created a second brain, generating new ideas through connections. The second brain idea is having a bit of a moment, with the advent of software like Obsidian and Roam Research, and the popularisation of the Zettlekasten method and books like Sonke Ahren’s How to Take Smart Notes, but Doctorow provides some great examples of digital second brains that have been around for years in the form of blogs. Nothing new under the sun etc etc.

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Ghoulish financial practices

In Cory Doctorow’s Pluralistic post from Wednesday morning, I read about Molly McGhee’s surreal experiences with her mother’s creditors, after her mother’s death. Both posts are worth reading. Doctorow presents an analysis of the power structures that work to keep debtors debtors and creditors thriving, despite the human and social cost. McGhee’s post presents the surreal, disempowering feeling of dealing with a horde of relentless creditors, and the ‘double-barreled future of doom and despair’, suddenly trained on her.

In another life, I worked for a charity that dealt with a host of issues, including debt, and McGhee’s experience reminded me of the powerlessness that being a debtor entailed. Part of the role that my colleagues who were debt advisors fulfilled was advocating on behalf of clients because creditors were inherently unwilling to believe their self advocacy. Bailiffs and debt collectors especially, took the basic position that any claim that tried to avoid, delay, or negate their claim was a lie. It’s ghastly that not only is the credit/debt relationship a contract of responsibility, it also primarily seems to be one in which one side of the contract gives up their power to affect the contract in any way, after the initial agreement is made. Despite some advances that are being made for consumer rights, it’s a contract that seems to create responsibilities for the debtors and dissolve their rights, until they can access help from an advocate. This was true for McGhee, too; 90% of the debt was wiped out, after she had to open her own line of credit to pay a lawyer to act on her behalf. Horrible. Ghoulish.

I’m not sure what the laws are like in the US, but generally speaking in England and Wales (I think they’re different in Scotland), a debt is paid from the estate of the deceased. If it was solely in their name and they left no estate, or not enough to cover the debt, the debt doesn’t transfer to their descendants. There are exceptions, but it’s something worth remembering.

Much love from the protest outside the debtor’s prison.

The Bumper List of Books 2019

I haven’t done this for a while – I like to make a big list of the books I read or failed to finish in the year gone past and, sometimes, post it on the blog. So, here’s a rough overview of the year’s highlights and the list of what I read or failed to finish. I’ve tried to keep it shorter than last time. I’m not sure I have. HMU with your recommended reads for 2019?

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Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow (Review)

TL, DR: Come for the nerdy futurism and its pertinent analogies, stay for the like/hateable characters, their problems and their snappy dialogue.


Art is a member of Eastern Standard Tribe, a group of like-minds that have taken advantage of widely available instant communication to form an online tribe, whose common denominator is the Eastern Standard Time zone, its geography and culture. This tribe operates like a not-so-secret society or fraternity; where once you’d intern your frat brother, ESTribe tells us, now you’d intern your tribesman. Art is an industrial saboteur for EST, and in the politics and machinations of cross time-zone espionage, Art is doing his best to cover himself in glory… and avoid becoming collateral damage.

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The Monster List of Books 2017

bookstackI didn’t manage to read enough during Twenty-Seventeen. Including books I re-read, books I began but didn’t finish, and books I read for the first time, I read a paltry thirty-nine books, which was still somehow more than last year. If you subtract the ones I didn’t finish (nine) I still managed more than last year. A miracle. If only I was ten again. I had plenty of time to read then. Out of school, when I should have been asleep, in school, during Maths… Continue reading “The Monster List of Books 2017”