Productivity is dangerous

My personal rule is that if you aren’t quite certain that a certain action will be good for you and the world, you shouldn’t do it. Do nothing, which is likely to be pleasant and unlikely to hurt anyone. Few atrocities have been committed by people lying in bed, whereas the urge to Do Something has led to serious catastrophe. Productivity is extremely dangerous.

I’m slightly in love with this essay by Vincent Bevins.

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

— Gary Provost

Japan to build 350-meter wooden skyscraper

Spoon & Tamago:

Using a hybrid 9:1 ratio of wood to steel, Sumitomo Forestry aims to replace concrete, which is one of the world’s largest carbon footprint contributors. The skyscraper would be a 70-floor mixed-use building that would include a hotel, office space, commercial space and residences. Wrap-around balconies at different intervals would be planted with lush wildlife. And greenery would extend throughout the entire complex, creating a vertical forest where humans and wildlife can flourish.

Imagine how our cities could look if this catches on.

Imagine asking someone for directions to a restaurant. You have a table booked and you're running late.

Instead of telling you how to get to the restaurant, this person starts rattling off a list of similar restaurants nearby.

Those restaurants paid this person to tell you how to find them, even if you didn't ask.

Would you ask that person for directions again?

Google results page for Trello, showing nothing but adverts for competing services as the top four results.

Just before Christmas, my girlfriend and I spent a long weekend in Bruges. Before our trip, I’d read a lot about Belgian beers, and the best bars in which to drink them.

During my research, I kept reading about a bar called De Garre, and its exclusive house beer, Tripel De Garre. This beer seemed to have gained an almost legendary reputation. So on our first full day in Bruges, we set out to find it.

Finding De Garre isn’t easy; the bar lies down a dark, narrow, non-descript alley just off a busy shopping street in the heart of Bruges. There are no signs or advertisements nearby, or anywhere in Bruges as far as we could tell.

To enjoy this wonderful beer, you have to either: be incredibly lucky and stumble upon the bar by accident; or you have to do your homework and purposely seek it out.

De Garre can be found along the dark alley between these two shops.

De Garre can be found along the dark alley between these two shops.

This kind of location would spell disaster for many businesses, but De Garre was full of merry drinkers each time we went there. On one occasion we were turned away because the bar (which stretches over three stories) was at capacity.

Judging from the online reviews, many of their visiting patrons come specifically for the house beer. And what a beer it is!

I lack the palate and the vocabulary to convey the beauty of Tripel De Garre in words. Other people are far better equipped to sing the praises of this beer than I am.

All I’ll say is that it’s heavenly – one of my all-time favourite beers. It was so good that we returned to De Garre several times during our short stay in Bruges.

De Garre’s success, despite it being practically hidden got me thinking about craftsmanship, success, and self-promotion.

These days we’re encouraged to develop and maintain brands for ourselves. We’re often expected to promote our personal brand relentlessly in the hope of being recognised for what we do. The prevalence of social media is due in no small part to its users’ fervent desire to self-promote.

Yet businesses like De Garre flourish by pouring all their energy into producing an exceptional product, eschewing self-promotion in favour of the undiluted pursuit of excellence. They don’t shout about what they do, they just do it, and do it well.

I think there’s something noble about that.

The legendary Tripel De Garre.

Aled is a common name in Wales.

It’s not so common in Nottingham, where I work three days a week.

Here are the different ways Starbucks employees have interpreted my name over the last couple of months.

I love how they just have a go, even though they’re clearly unsure.

I’m not a big fan of Starbucks but I ended up going there again and again just so I could build up this 4x4 grid of their failed attempts at addressing me.

I wonder if Starbucks have a set of customer personas somewhere, and if they do, whether ‘Aled the erroneous addressee’ is one of them.

Yesterday, Nintendo announced Labo.

Labo is a collection of games designed to show off and explore the technology built into the Switch through a series of inventive cardboard peripherals.

While the games look quite basic (maybe “tech demos” would be more apt), the video suggests that Labo includes an educational focus.

Part of the fun seems to be in learning how the software uses the Switch’s motion sensors, infra-red camera, and rumble motors to turn intricate cardboard cutouts into things like a working piano.

It’s like a high tech version of Kelli Anderson’s excellent This Book is a Planetarium.

I also love the fact that Labo is relatively environmentally friendly, eschewing plastic in favour of (recyclable) cardboard.

It’s great to see that Nintendo are refusing to rest on their laurels after the early success of the Switch.

I can’t wait to get my hands on that piano. 😄

Just testing image uploading using

Lemon face

I’ve started and abandoned more blogs than I care to count.

This time I promise myself (and the world) that I’ll continue to write here regularly, at least once a week, no matter what.

Here goes...