Sunday, June 18, 2017

I hate magic

What is magic? 

mag·ic (noun) - the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

Why do I hate magic?
It spoils the ordinary, it raises the expectations of daily interactions, it provides excitement to usually unexciting experiences. It is a word I loathe almost as much as "rockstar" or "ninja", hell it might as well be in the recruiter cold-calling playbook as far as I am concerned. Unfortunately, it is an adjective I now must use.

I have hated the Apple earbuds that have accompanied every iPhone and iPod I have ever purchased. The earbuds sound horrible, the cord knots up, they are constantly falling out, and if they are seated tightly enough to not fall out they end up causing discomfort quicker than spoiled sushi. So what did Apple do? They introduced a new version that is uglier than sin, requires charging to use and cost $169!!! It's official, Apple has gone full potato on us.

Enter the spoiler: Apple Airpods

Apple Airpods entered the market to address the annoying removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack from the latest generation iPhone. When I first saw the Airpods on stage I thought "Wow, if Steve was still alive there would be a hanging for this". The first time I saw them in use I couldn't help but be shocked and appalled at the same time. They were the ugliest thing I had ever seen from a company whose soul-image is around creating beauty. I guess the designer of the neon coloured iMacs back in 2002 was allowed to have a second go at a product launch.




At home, I have a set of high-end Fostex over the ear headphones driven by a lovely little Schiits tube amp. If I am at work or travelling I have a set of Bose over the ear headphones with me (lets not even talk about how shitty these actually are - but fill an unfilled void). For everywhere in between, I have a set of Jaybird wireless in-ears. I have this audio problem licked.

Home:


Travel:


On the go:



The Jaybirds have the same problem for me as all other in-ear headphones, they don't F'ing stay in. Regardless how many aftermarket memory foam inserts I try, they slowly wiggle out. However the Jaybirds have a second party trick, they are never charged when I need them. They take a microUSB charger and often live on my desk or in my backpack until I need them, at which time they quickly find their way to some dark corner of my house where I keep the one microUSB charging cable. They live on that cable for a few days until I realise I needed them and don't have them. Then they quickly go back in the backpack, and the cycle repeats. It is a vicious cycle but occasionally when the Moon is in alignment with Jupiter they are actually there when I need them.

Long Live Jaybirds, RIP Jaybirds!
Well after a few years of the vicious cycle described above the Jaybirds have died. I needed a replacement, and a set of these ugly as sin Airpods landed in my lap. I figured I will try them for a day, affirm everything I know and hate about them and proceed to scalp them on eBay for more than I paid for them (as of writing there is a 8+ week lead time on them from Apple).

So how bad are they?
Magical.

I am not going to write an in-depth review on them, other far better writers have done this already. What I will say is they are truly magical. It turns out everything I felt was wrong with in-ear headphones wasn't the headphones themselves, it was the cord. Remove the cord and all the problems fade away. Combined with a very well thought out carrying case that doubles as a charger and all other wireless headphone problems vanish as well.

Sound quality - 6/10 (for what they are, remember BT is not for high-quality audio)
Visual design - 3/10
Visual design when worn - -50/10
Quality of build/materials - 10/10
Ease of setup/use - 10/10
Trojaning into your life - 10/10
Sets I now own - 2 - I hate me too

If you own an iPhone and walk/run/commute on public transit or use a Bluetooth headset, you need to own a pair. They are one of the few pieces of technology I would ever call magical.

An End to Tea Reviews

No, I have not stopped the consumption of tea. However, like all hobbies, the 80/20 rule applies here. When I set out to on my tea drinking adventure there was not much I knew other than it could provide a stable source of caffeine. For those not in the know, caffeine is an essential chemical in the design and manufacturing of quality software. Unlike other essential chemicals, caffeine does not react with the atmosphere and therefore does not require an inert gas such as argon to be using during the production of software.

Anyways.

I learned a lot:
- Loose leaf
- Different regions
- Different elevations
- Different fermenting and handling
- Different variations of herbals
- Brew volume, time, temperature and expansion

I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with people, but unfortunately, I cannot continue with tea.

Months, Pounds and Hundreds of dollars later I have found my favourite teas are high mountain oolongs. High elevation grown oolongs have a robust but delicate classic "tea" taste, a forward note of sweetness, mild hints of floral aromas and finish with a touch of discerning moisture. mmmmm Unfortunately for you, my friends and readers most of these teas I am enjoying today are sourced directly from China via a local shop and their packaging is well, either non-existant or 100% labelled in characters I do not have time to figure out. If you are interested in sourcing some of these teas I have become a regular at Mountain View Tea Village on Castro St in downtown Mountain View. Of the few that have English names I highly recommend the Drunken Princess Oolong, but most of the others I haven't the slightest clue on their names. Sorry. Visit your local tea shop and work with the staff to appropriate a collection that best matches you taste buds. For most of the Oolongs, I find the first cup is usually good, but the second and third brews of the leaves are where the flavour comes alive. They probably would perform much better with the Gongfu method of brewing, however, that method does not fit into my life.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Death, taxes and note taking

Few things in life are certain, taxes and death arrive without any help on your side, but being successful in business requires active attention. The most important asset I have in business is data organization.

Over the years I have developed a system for note taking, it involves a stack of moleskine notebooks, a few pens and routine evening and weekend organizational habits. I tend to fill one notebook every 2-3 weeks while often needing to recall 6-8 months of data, meaning I have a dozen notebooks on my desk at any given point in time.




How I take notes. 

Like most professionals I have a system and I stick to it like a religious ceremony.
- The first two pages are kept blank for use as an index.
- Every page I number the top corner, date, and title the page.
- First line is people who attended/involved
- Action items I need to act on get a square - I cross it out one I have completed or I have moved it into a task tracking tool.
- Action items from others get a triangle - I cross it out when they have completed it or I have opened an email item with a timer to remind/bump the requirement.
- Critical thoughts I want to table or narrow in on (either in meeting when I have a chance or after the fact) get marked with a +

It is a pretty basic system and has served me quite well for the last decade.



Unfortunately unless it is in my current notebook, a challenge has always been recalling data, usually involving digging through my notebooks' indexes late at night.

Most people know I have been a pretty big fan of Evernote over the years, I can business cards into it, I have email forwarders automatically send emails and attachments to it. I have IFTTT wired up to automatically snip things I have saved/liked on social media sites. It has become the dusty filing cabinet for my brain.

I have tried many times to maintain the rigor of scanning all of my notes into evernote for easy search and recall, but it never sticks. Something about the process just feels to after the fact and pointless. I have even resorted to testing out evernote's own custom moleskine notebooks which help with OCR.

I even have dabbled time and time again with using smart pens, stylus and ipads, etc.. nothing ever came close to replacing the pen. The pen is mightier - long live the pen. 

Wait...


4:15 PM - the sun's assault on this other wise perfect Sand Hill conference room made my hands sweat. My co-founder and I began settled into our chairs for the next hour. A refreshing blast of AC filled the room as the firm's partner entered the room. We began talking about how we were going to change the world, how he was witnessing history in the making, I paused.

He was taking his notes on an iPad Pro with an Apple pencil... and his notes looked phenomenal.

I continued, occasionally glancing over at the over sized iPad as it continued to scroll and fill up with pages of notes as he effortly treated it just like a sheet of paper. Maybe it was just a new toy, maybe he was trying to be cool, keep to the message.

After the end of our presentation when we were casually chatting I looked more carefully at his iPad, it was beat to shit. It was no new toy, it was no desk queen, that iPad had lived a full and hard life, could that mean he actually has found a system that works?

I had to form my own opinion, after our meeting I popped by the Apple shop and played with an iPad Pro and pencil. Wow. It actually works, wait no, it works perfectly.

Without much internal dialog, the "need" to replace my old iPad mini seemed pretty obvious (blah).

New work flows

Historically all roads lead to Evernote, having used the product for nearly a decade I have a few thousand items in it - business cards, notes, receipts, recipes, random PDF files, and the occasional photo. Evernote has built in sketch writing and owns Penultimate - this should be easy to augment my work flow. It wasn't, I suddenly found myself needing a new hammer.

Evernote - Great at storing, searching and tagging data. Internal handwriting smoothing algorithm makes my handwriting worse, a lot worse. Inserting an image to annotate is annoying, insertion is easy, annotating is painfully awkward with a writing tool. All notes are OCR'd and searchable. Final hassle with Evernote is it does not have a auto or manually scrollable internal page system. This means once you get halfway down the page your hand starts to hang off the surface of the iPad.

Penultimate - Good writing interface, infinite scrolling paper, no features for importing an image / PDF and marking it up. It automatically syncs written notes into a special notebook inside of Evernote, but the notes sync in via Read-Only mode, making extra meta work damn near impossible. These notes are OCR'd via the cloud and easily searchable.

Notability - Fantastic writing recognition, easy to import files and annotate. A clean and powerful interface, probably the best writing experience on an iPad pro. No ability to search handwritten notes with OCR is a major problem. Lacks robust integration with other workflow tools. Can export PDF to Evernote however Evernote only OCRs handwriting in the form of an image not PDF, would require all notes go through PDF 2 JPG conversation, no automatic way of achieving this. $9.99

GoodNotes - Very similar to Notability - fantastic writing, great interface, has an internal OCR tool that works very well, lacks integration with other tools I use for enhanced workflow and archive. $6.99 - UPDATE - It appears GoodNotes has an image export function that also supports external app EverNote. We may have ourselves a winner.

OneNote - Microsoft is making it very clear, they want to win the cloud game. OneNote has been around for over a decade, I remember having used it back in 2005 and it was decent back then. Well OneNote is even better now, it is leaner, faster and turns out fantastic to write on. The infinite scrolling makes it a dream to notepad on. OneNote is integrated into Microsoft's cloud very nicely so all your notes are everywhere-all the time. MS has a very low price for cloud access, $99/yr for 5TB of data and access to ALL MS Office suite. Pretty awesome. The bad - OneNote no longer has a way to easily export data, new thinner version lacks the ability to search for todo tags. If you want to exist 100% inside of OneNote and are happy with it's workflow, this can work, unfortunately I am not.

TL;DR

At this time I will continue to experiment with gluing multiple tools together in an effort to get to the final perfect solution.  Suggestions?





























Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mountain View Tea Village - Forever Spring Green Oolong

Characteristics

  • Nose: Soft sweet fresh brewed aromas (9/10)
  • Brew: Golden 
  • First Note: Light, moist and floral (9/10)
  • Body: smooth full body, light dry note (9/10)
  • Finish: Faint aromas of the pure tea (8/10)

Brew

Volume tea: 4 heaping teaspoons
Water: 1000ml
Temp: 195*
Time: 2 Minutes


Verdict

This tea is light, soft, delicate but full of flavor at the same time. I have become a large fan of high mountain teas as they present a naturally sweet and floral taste without the process of jasmine layering. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Adagio Teas - Fujian Silver Needle (Masters Collection White Tea)

Characteristics

  • Nose: Soft sweet grass aromas (8/10)
  • Brew: Golden Brown 
  • First Note: Light, moist and floral (9/10)
  • Body: Light smooth body (8/10)
  • Finish: Clean almost zero after taste (8/10)

Brew

Volume tea: 5 heaping teaspoons
Water: 1200ml
Temp: 180*
Time: 3 Minutes


Verdict

This tea is light, soft, and very delicate in flavor. It is a great afternoon cup, not as much body or punch as I typically look for but it is delightful nonetheless. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Adagio Teas - Summer Rose (Black Tea)

Characteristics

  • Nose: Soft notes of fresh roses in the morning (8/10)
  • Brew: Dark Brown 
  • First Note: Strong black tea forward (8/10)
  • Body: Medium dry black tea (7/10)
  • Finish: Faint aromas of rose linger in the mouth while the dry black fades away leaving a dry tongue (7/10)

Brew

Volume tea: 5 heaping teaspoons
Water: 1200ml
Temp: 212*
Time: 3 Minutes

Verdict

If you like rose and you like black teas, this is a good option. I tend to find myself very partial to teas with an aroma of flowers, either rose or jasmine. Possibly will purchase again, although I tend to find rose works better with green teas. 

Adagio Teas - White Peach (White Tea)

Characteristics

  • Nose: A very light tea with a very light aroma of peach (6/10)
  • Brew: Medium Golden 
  • First Note: It has a very wet watery forward note, with light aromas of peach (7/10)
  • Body: Like all white teas it is very mild and smooth, the peach is subtle but still mildly overpowers the tea, given how light the tea itself is (7/10)
  • Finish: Very smooth and quick finish (8/10)

Brew

Volume tea: 8 heaping teaspoons
Water: 1000ml
Temp: 180*
Time: 3 Minutes

Verdict

This tea is light and smooth with a soft peach aroma. It is fresh and wet, that said I like my teas typically stronger than the average white tea. This tea is tasty but as I said before the whites typically represent a taste I would only want to consume with a meal, however being flavored I think it would work best as a dessert tea. Probably will not re-order. Side note: It is also the first of the teas I have consume which the leaves looked more like scraps than whole leaf - it also contained what appeared to be twigs or stems, indicating a lower quality of tea than I have seen before from this supplier.