I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

Micro Blogging Again

I’ve recent­ly made some changes to the host­ing for my blog and oth­er web­sites as part of the con­sol­i­da­tion of my many web­sites in to one. I had been aim­ing to have one web­site to rule them all inte­grat­ing my port­fo­lio and my blog into one site.

I’m in the process of cre­at­ing a new theme to help accom­plish that, but I realised that for a long time I’ve not want­ed to post the short sta­tus posts and images on to this site. I used to use Twit­ter for that, and whilst I’m still on the site I rarely use it. I’ve also been a mem­ber of [Micro.Blog] since the kick­starter days, but late­ly I’ve found myself just observ­ing with only the occa­sion­al reply and not actu­al­ly con­tribut­ing. So I’ve decid­ed to give some­thing a try.

I’ve set­up a host­ed Micro Blog, which will use one of my spare per­son­al domains, and I’m going to try post­ing to there with the short sta­tus posts and images as I would’ve done on Twit­ter and Insta­gram. I’ll like­ly use it to share things links and things along the way. In con­trast I plan to keep this blog as some­where to post longer posts and in time to add my port­fo­lio as well.

To sim­pli­fy things, I’m think­ing about using my Micro Blog and this blog as ways of gen­er­at­ing some Stock and Flow. As Robin Sloan put it:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of dai­ly and sub-dai­ly updates that reminds peo­ple you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the con­tent you pro­duce that’s as inter­est­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what peo­ple dis­cov­er via search. It’s what spreads slow­ly but sure­ly, build­ing fans over time. 

I’ve realised I’ve lost those con­cepts in my cre­ative work. I no longer tweet and I don’t blog reg­u­lar­ly, so if I can start to cor­rect that I hope that the two blog for­mats can inform one anoth­er with more content.

As an exten­sion of that I’ve also been think­ing a lot about Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work, some­thing which I’ve also not been doing much of late­ly. My hope is that I’ll be able to com­bine these two sites and ways of post­ing with show­ing some of my work. Be it per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al (when appro­pri­ate). We’ll see how it goes.

Lockdown 3

We have been in Lock­down 3 for a few weeks now as Covid-19 con­tin­ues to spread through the pop­u­la­tion. The gov­ern­ment issued stay at home notices again, but this time peo­ple don’t seem to be fol­low­ing things quite as closely.

It’s both frus­trat­ing and annoy­ing see­ing so many peo­ple still meet­ing up with friends, even trav­el­ling across cities to meet in the park for birth­days. Every­one it seems is able to find a way of exempt­ing them­selves from the rules.

I’ve decid­ed to approach this lock­down dif­fer­ent­ly as well. Maybe because it’s also a new year, I’m not sure. I’m try­ing to eat more health­ily, snack less, and exer­cise more.

The nations favourite–or maybe least favourite judg­ing by some of social media–PE teacher Joe Wicks, has been doing his live work­outs again. This has been my work­out of choice so far, I’ve not been doing it live as it’s at an incon­ve­nient time for work, but I’ve been doing the record­ed ver­sions at a lat­er time. I’m 6 for 6 so far, and I’d nev­er thought I’d say this about HIIT work­outs, but I’m actu­al­ly enjoy­ing them. Although not the ache or stiff­ness in my legs after.

I’ve also been tak­ing more time to read this time. In the first lock­down I couldn’t con­cen­trate on a book, I wasn’t able to focus for more than a cou­ple of min­utes and would find myself reread­ing sen­tences over and over. This time how­ev­er has been dif­fer­ent. I’m find­ing that famil­iar refuge in fic­tion again. Get­ting lost in anoth­er world that exists only in my imag­i­na­tion and one that doesn’t have the anx­i­ety that comes with the world we live in right now.

I’ve also been watch­ing the last sea­son of Por­trait Artist of the Year. It’s one of the few “real­i­ty” tv shows I enjoy. Pre­vi­ous series have always made me feel inspired, but this time around it seems to be more so. I’ve even sort­ed out all my old art mate­ri­als with the aim of find­ing some time to pick up a brush. We will see what hap­pens there.

As I fin­ish writ­ing this the sun is com­ing out. The cov­er­ing of snow I woke up too this morn­ing is still there, but I fear it may not last long. Time to dig out the wellies and go for a walk.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is giv­en, and the gov­ern­ment will be on his shoul­ders. And he will be called Won­der­ful Coun­sel­lor, Mighty God, Ever­last­ing Father, Prince of Peace.” 

Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬

My book of the year

I’ve always enjoyed read­ing and for as long as I can remem­ber I’ve read fic­tion. Sev­er­al years ago I got sur­prised with a Kin­dle for Christ­mas by my par­ents and it caused me to increase dra­mat­i­cal­ly the num­ber of books I was reading.

This year is a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. Read­ing has been a dif­fi­cult task, some­thing that is very unusu­al for me since it has always been a point of com­fort. When I was in junior school I had a series of books I would read when I was strug­gling with being bul­lied. When I was in my teens I would go back and read famil­iar books when I need­ed to find some­thing calm­ing. A few years ago when I was bat­tling my first bout of depres­sion I read Har­ry Pot­ter books that were famil­iar and pro­vid­ed a way for my mind to imag­ine instead of a spi­ral of neg­a­tive thoughts.

So when the world implod­ed this year, I thought once again I would be able to find refuge in books of fic­tion. But for sev­er­al months I strug­gled to read. My mind could not focus, so it was a sur­prise to me when I looked at my read­ing stats in Book Track and Goodreads to dis­cov­er that I had read more books this year than last. The thir­teen books I’ve read (so far) this year is still low com­pared to my nor­mal lev­els, but there is a def­i­nite uptick in the final half of the year that I’m pleased to see.

When I set out to write this post it was going to be a top 5 books of the year, as I start­ed writ­ing I realised there’s only one book I want to high­light. I read it right at the start of the year, and it’s a book that has con­tin­u­al­ly come to mind ever since. I was giv­en a print of one of the pages in it for my birthday.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Char­lie Mack­esy is a mas­ter­piece. It has been so relat­able over the course of this year.

The quote that has been hang­ing in my liv­ing room is one which many peo­ple have remind­ed me of and one which will no doubt have me return­ing to time after time.

“Being kind to your­self is one of the great­est kind­ness­es,” said the mole. 

At a time when peo­ple often become quite intro­spec­tive and look back at what they’ve done with the year, it’s easy to see all the peo­ple shout­ing about how they have utilised the lock­down to achieve so much and feel inad­e­quate. It would be easy to begin beat­ing our­selves up. So we should take notice of what the mole has to say, and be kind to our­selves, because actu­al­ly get­ting through this year is pret­ty good going.

Domain conundrums

Over the years I’ve amassed a num­ber of domains for var­i­ous web­sites I’ve want­ed to cre­ate. A few of those are relat­ed to my for­mer free­lance busi­ness, and two relates to blogs. This week I got a noti­fi­ca­tion that 3 of them are up for renew­al in Jan­u­ary, it’s left me ques­tion­ing if should renew them all or if it’s time to let some go.

I have the domain for this blog, philbowell.com, which I will def­i­nite­ly renew. I have philbowell.blog, which I used briefly for this site, and I have philbowell.design, which is what I used for the last cou­ple of years of work­ing for myself.

Since I start­ed work­ing as part of an in-house UX team, I’ve been intend­ing to con­sol­i­date my port­fo­lio into my per­son­al site. One domain for both places. What I hadn’t thought of was how to han­dle the domains. A redi­rect seems to make the most sense, but the cost of renew­ing them is much high­er than I expect­ed it to be. Let­ting go of domain names is some­thing that I don’t like doing and I’m try­ing to work out the impact of doing that. It’s a tricky conundrum.

Big Mail ›

I used to post a lot about tech­nol­o­gy, shar­ing links to the lat­est releas­es etc. That’s kind of slipped by the way, although I’m still inter­est­ed in these things there are a lot of oth­er places to find them. That said, this morn­ing I came across a new email app that’s in the works called Big Mail that I think is a real­ly inter­est­ing approach to han­dling email. I’ve looked into Hey and Onmail recent­ly and whilst I’m intrigued by some of the fea­tures they all require using a web app and I pre­fer to have an app for my email. Even bet­ter is that Big Mail han­dles every­thing on device and means I don’t have to trans­fer my email to a dif­fer­ent provider. I look for­ward top giv­ing it a try.

Today has been a grey and fog­gy day, it’s felt like a real reflec­tion of the mood of the last month. As I’ve dri­ven around Chel­tenham today doing some bits and bobs, I’ve seen more and more peo­ple start­ing to put up Christ­mas trees and lights. It’s been nice to see them emerg­ing out of the gloom.

Today marks the start of Advent, with the first can­dle being lit in church­es across the coun­try we are remind­ed of the hope that comes from Jesus. The arrival of the King.

At the start of this year I start­ed to go to a new church, giv­en the pan­dem­ic if might not have been the best time, but the ser­vices I’ve been attend­ing online have been ones of great com­fort. They have shown great care, sen­si­tiv­i­ty, and com­pas­sion through­out the year, and I’m incred­i­bly thank­ful that God guid­ed me to this church. I’m look­ing for­ward to being able to go to a ser­vice again, I hope it is soon­er rather than lat­er. I’m sure it will be.

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanks­giv­ing in Amer­i­ca, and despite being a Brit I thought it would be good to try and post some­thing I’m thank­ful for this year. I start­ed to write this post at lunchtime, and strug­gled, I couldn’t zero in on some­thing. This evening after my coun­selling ses­sion I realised what it is I’m thank­ful for this year. I’m thank­ful for all the peo­ple who have helped my fam­i­ly nav­i­gate through the year. The mem­bers of their church, some old friends from pre­vi­ous church­es, some new friends, some new col­leagues who have become friends. Some peo­ple who were friends and I’ve dis­cov­ered are now very good friends. For all of them I am thank­ful, we couldn’t have done it with­out you.

Roaming around

Since the end of August I’ve been using Roam Research as my notes appli­ca­tion. Hav­ing tried and played around with Notion but find­ing it to be too much work to man­age any­thing, I decid­ed to give Roam and it’s freeform notes a try.

I’ve found it to be one of the most intu­itive note tak­ing apps I’ve ever come across and have since begun using it for more and more things. It’s not just replaced the notes apps I was try­ing to use before, it’s become my jour­nal and task man­ag­er as well. In fact it’s even start­ing to grow into my per­son­al CRM as well and I believe it is behind the desire for me to start blog­ging more because I’m enjoy­ing writ­ing in it so much.

What I like is that is seems to fit the way I think. Despite being a visu­al per­son I often find myself tak­ing notes in the form of bul­let points. When I’m think­ing and work­ing through some­thing on paper I will often write a point and then riff off it with a series of bul­let points below.

The two way link­ing has also been a rev­e­la­tion. One of the things I was try­ing to use Notion for was a one stop shop for my notes and tasks that relat­ed to var­i­ous projects I’m work­ing on. The data­bas­es that make Notion so pow­er­ful seemed like a good fit for this, but I found it to be a lot of extra work to main­tain. In con­trast Roam’s Dai­ly Notes, which I use heav­i­ly, helps to give me both con­text in the form of when some­thing hap­pened as well as an easy way to auto­mat­i­cal­ly link to a project.

What has been sur­pris­ing for me has been how I’ve found it to help me on a deep­er lev­el. The fact that I have a dai­ly note open on my screen all day as I work means that when I find myself hav­ing to deal with some strong emo­tions I am able to write them down to help me process them. One thing I am hav­ing to learn is to not let my thought pat­terns spi­ral. I find it all too easy to get stuck in a par­tic­u­lar thought pat­tern that turns itself over and over in my mind. Hav­ing some­thing open all the time lets me process what I’m feel­ing when I become aware of it helps me to tack­le that spi­ral in a way I’ve not been able to before.

One of my favourite books this year comes from an artist called Char­lie Mack­esy. I dis­cov­ered it by acci­dent when I was look­ing for a Christ­mas present last Decem­ber. I bought it and gave that book as a gift for J and she loved it so much she bought me my own copy and I’ve since bought it for my Mum as well. For my birth­day this year I got giv­en a print of one the pages from the book. It con­tains a quote which is some­thing both a cou­ple of friends and my coun­sel­lor keep remind­ing me of:

“Being kind to your­self is one of the great­est kind­ness­es,” said the mole.

It struck me as I was writ­ing this that hav­ing the space to process my feel­ings and let myself feel them is being kind to myself and that per­haps we all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves.

An acknowledgement

I’ve had this blog in one form or anoth­er since I was 21, ear­li­er posts have been lost in the many tran­si­tions it has made but it’s always been there. A hob­by that taught me how to design and build web­sites that has since become my career.

At the moment I think I am in one of the longest streaks of not post­ing to the site that I’ve ever been on. For the last few weeks I’ve want­ed to start post­ing again, I’m seek­ing to revive a hob­by that was once very enjoy­able to me. The trou­ble is I don’t know where to start or what to write. So, I’m writ­ing this post as an acknowl­edge­ment of some very dif­fi­cult events.

The last two years have been two of the hard­est of my life. This time two years ago I was work­ing part-time in a spe­cial­i­ty cof­fee shop, doing some free­lance design work, and con­tract­ing in to a local stu­dio. There was a promise that my con­tract posi­tion would become full time in the next six months. At the begin­ning of April last year, a con­ver­sa­tion that I thought would be about going full time was a con­ver­sa­tion about the stu­dio chang­ing their mind. A month lat­er I was no longer work­ing there. A month after that the final client for my free­lance busi­ness, which I was wind­ing down due to the afore­men­tioned promise, under­stand­ably told me they had made oth­er arrange­ments for their website.

Along­side the work sit­u­a­tion I was deal­ing with some things in my per­son­al life. The cul­mi­na­tion of all these events, along­side an unsuc­cess­ful gru­elling sev­en week inter­view process, result­ed in a men­tal break­down and the return of my depres­sion in August last year.

One pos­i­tive is that some­how, in the mid­dle of that break­down I man­aged to think clear­ly enough for an hour-long inter­view that result­ed in the job I have now been in for over a year. I can only thank God for that.

Then 2020 hap­pened. A glob­al pan­dem­ic has thrown the world into chaos as Covid-19 has swept across the world. Nor­mal life has been tak­en away which for every­one has been a dif­fi­cult adjust­ment. In the midst of this my Mum has been under­go­ing treat­ment for can­cer and my Dad has had and recov­ered from a stroke.

I’m hop­ing that by writ­ing this post it will help to remove the block I have been strug­gling with when it comes to post­ing to this site. Through coun­selling I have come to realise the impor­tance of tak­ing care of your­self prop­er­ly. I have realised that I need hob­bies in my life and I would like to start blog­ging here again as a first ten­ta­tive step to build­ing some healthy habits. I didn’t feel I could get that going again with­out acknowl­edg­ing recent events, so here I am tak­ing a scary step and dar­ing to put into words some of the hard­est expe­ri­ences I have had to go through.