inputs and tools

I have a history of writing down all of the tools that I use and the media that I consume. The frequency of this activity probably correlates to when I am feeling more stressed. I find taking an inventory cathartic for some weird reason. Sometimes I do this on pieces of paper, sometimes in spreadsheets, and other times in a series of wordy blog posts. I decided to summarize it on this page going forward.

I also look forward to relying on the change log in the GitHub repository behind this page to see the evolution of what I read and what I use over time.

Reading

I am the most religious about The Economist. I read it weekly, in print, without fail. I like the depth of their articles and I think the slight delay is useful. Nothing that CNN thinks of as “Breaking News” has any real or immediate impact on my life. Short of war breaking out on the Iberian Peninsula or a financial collapse, very few news stories simply cannot wait. What am I supposed to do with something like “Takeaways from Day 8 of the Trump Trial” - the current CNN headline - on a Saturday morning? I’d rather the journalists at The Economist lean into the constraint of a weekly print publication to gather and analyze the news that matters.

I break this rule in two ways every day. First, I skim the headlines on The New York Times most mornings. Second, I listen to some news podcasts when I am walking my dogs or going from place to place on foot in Lisbon. I mostly listen to these just to have some background noise while I roam about.

I do need to do a better job of consuming local Portuguese news. That news can be both urgent and impactful in my life. Right now my primary source of Portuguese news consumption is my wife relaying the stories to me, in English, that she reads in Portuguese while we wind down at night. Like some kind of old timey radio broadcast called Here’s what happened today in Portugal today that Sam might care about, English edition.

Daily Weekly Monthly Books
NYT Headlines
Hacker News Front Page
The Economist (Print)
The Ringer
Spyglass
Running List

Listening

I use Apple’s Podcast app and organize playlists that make it easy to listen on my Watch. I don’t listen to everything on the Daily playlist every day, but this is how the playlist is configured.

Daily News Long Form Technology Culture
* NPR’s Up First
* WSJ’s The Journal
* The Washington Post’s Post Reports
* The Economist’s World in Brief
* Plain English with Derek Thompson
* The Daily
* Pod Save America
* Six Trophies
* Sharp Tech * The Ringer-Verse
* The Ringer’s Prestige TV Podcast

Hardware

Category Product Post or Notes
Phone Apple iPhone 15 Pro Trying not to use it
Watch Apple Watch Ultra 2 Sometimes I wear a mechanical watch
Headphones Apple AirPods These are perfect and make me excited about the future of agent AI
Computer M Series MacBook This is where real work happens
Tablets None I just cannot find a good use for an iPad
Ereader Kindle Paperwhite I love it - also a begrudging necessity in Portugal for an English reader

Software

This just covers my personal life. The list of what I use at work would be much longer, and more complex, given what I do.

iOS makes this simpler than you’d think. Just swipe to the view that lists all of your installed apps. Scroll down and, at each row, ask yourself “do I use this and why?”

The Basics

Category Product Post or Notes
Mail Proton, Cloudflare DNS It is exactly what I want from a mail service
Messaging iMessage for the Americans, WhatsApp in Europe
Notes Apple Notes I don’t use it that much; if I’m going to write something I’ll sit down at a laptop and crack open a Google Doc
Tasks Apple Reminders It’s good enough and it works with the Watch
Projects GitHub Issues My wife and I share a GitHub repo for projects like having someone come out to fix a leaky skylight
Music Apple Music
Audiobooks Audible
Digital Books Kindle
Photos Apple Photos I want a better back up plan
Files Apple Files I should probably clean this up

The Add Ons

This excludes all of the “daily life” apps that I use (banking, the alarm company, my hospital system’s app, etc).

Category Product Post or Notes
Fitness Apple Fitness for Runs
Strong for Weights
The Strong app on the Watch is amazing
Locations Apple Air Tags I think I own 20
Health Apple Health
Withings
My Fitness Pal
Just to measure these metrics, though most of what I care about is captured in annual physicals

Workspace

Give me a laptop and a desk. That’s it. As much as I have experimented over the years with sophisticated setups (webcams, monitors, keyboards, mise en place), none of it matters. All that matters to me is that I am interested in what I am doing. If that is true, you could drop me into Newark Terminal C next to a group of college students on one side and families with young kids on another, during an afternoon storm that delays everything, and I’ll do the best work of my life as long as I have a MacBook and an idea that excites me.

My gracious wife knows this. I do not know what this says about the way my brain operates (or doesn’t operate), but once I get my hands on a keyboard and get locked into what I am doing it becomes nearly impossible to rip me away.

Things I don’t have

  • Facebook - I did love it once upon a time. I am definitely married to my wife thanks to it. At some point in 2017 or 2018 I decided it was a bit too much and deleted it. I don’t miss it.
  • TikTok
  • I really don’t rely on any sort of home automation. None of my lights are smart. This is a shift from a decade ago when I wanted to buy the smart version of just about everything. It’s too much hassle.