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.

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.

Any­one know of a mouse that can be paired with both a Mac and an iPad? I’m in need of a new mouse, my wrist is begin­ning to suf­fer after years of using a Magic Mouse and I want one that works with both my Mac for work and iPad for per­son­al stuff. I’ve my eye on the MX3 but I can’t tell if it can pair with both devices…

Look­ing to sim­pli­fy all my web­sites. Since I’m no longer freel­an­cing and don’t need a port­fo­lio online at the moment, I’m think­ing to move away to some­thing light­er than Word­Press. Trouble is I don’t know what. I don’t want to main­tain everything oth­er than the design and want to reduce costs.

Star­ted play­ing around with Notion a bit today. I’ve heard so many people talk­ing about it I figured it was time to give it a go. Not quite sure where it fits yet. Ini­tially I’ve set up a Watch List using one of their exist­ing tem­plates and a Weekly Review tem­plate to try and get in the habit of that.