Hi Jason,

At this point Claire and I have sworn a blood oath that we’ll never move again. I struggle to think of other events that so thoroughly expose you to the ways in which your society is seemingly held together with little more than string and wishes…

I think that’s why, as well as attempting to integrate physical note-taking into my life, I have spent a lot of energy thinking about it; I’m attempting to improve my existing invisible armour [sic] for surviving the actions of other people, whilst building whole new defensive mechanisms. My theory: To improve the infrastructure that is my thinking and feeling will inevitably negate at least some of the negative influences of “the crowd”.

Everything you say about the effect of physical working, as if it is tied closely to your ability to take action, is how I feel. When my environment is mostly ok, if not good, then sure enough the digital workspace is reliable; however, when enough “life happens” events occur the physical systems are both a safety net and reminder that I should rely on them in more than just emergency situations. The Analog system has definitely been influential in this way for me as well, though I have yet to begin using the Sidekick.

I like to use outline software — Jess Grosjean’s Bike, specifically — for planning or just dumping my thoughts quickly and have come to use it just for work. Beyond that I can only recall mind mapping being useful when working with other people and haven’t had the experience of trying to do that with software; it’s safe to say I’m doubtful that the experience would be anywhere near good enough to justify the effort involved.

When we moved last it was from the coast to a land-locked region and dealing with the change in air type has been difficult. Coastal air is ridiculously good wherever I’ve been across these isles and the current move will get us back there; it’s the only item on the short list of conditions for moving so soon that was likely to be met… and then of course the unlikely ones fell into place all at once. Life happens, as it were.

Sorry for the late response, again. It’s annoying how much I’ve enjoyed this, though, given the whole life thing happening. I’d happily do this again, once we’re better settled and stuff.


Hi Simon,

I’ve been thinking a lot about “air” myself lately. It somewhat came up in the last letter, but I find myself reflecting more and more on my physical environment and the weather I’m experiencing.

We spent last winter in Mexico City. It was a weird time in my life– work was still quite busy for both of us and I was recovering from surgery. I didn’t really feel physically up for much for some time, and I got severe food poisoning twice. It’s unclear to me how much of that was being in a new country with new foods or just my whole gut being a mess 8 weeks after an appendectomy and some pretty heavy anti-biotics.

We were spending our time somewhere built for indoor-outdoor living during its worst weather– occasionally in the 50s (low 10s C) at night!– and I was not fully myself. But we spent every day at least a little bit outside, walking around, and being in our environment. We explored more than we explore at home, because there was more to explore. Walkability where I am now is great for about a half mile in all directions. Walkability in Mexico City stretches as far as your legs can take you in every direction.

The air is different there– land locked and at altitude without it ever really freezing. Here at home in Baltimore, we are below freezing at night in the winter and have long stretches where the days are never below the 90s (32+C) and the humidity is set to maximum (outside of South Asia, perhaps).

I thought being in Mexico in winter meant avoiding the worst of the weather, but this summer has me wondering if perhaps the heat and humidity is more oppressive to me than the cold.

Unfortunately, in large parts, I think I’ve got the same pact you have with Claire with Elsa. Elsa is quite happy where we are, and any moves we’d make would have to be big. And I have to admit, given our current life needs, we are in the right house that would be terribly difficult to find somewhere else. A move would have to be driven by a need for a different lifestyle leading to a need for a different space, but that doesn’t feel all that likely. I don’t quite feel stuck, but I do feel that the expense, energy, time, and challenges of moving are making it hard and harder to quench my considerable wanderlust. You’d think traveling as much as I do for work and fun would help, but … it’s not quite the same.

When I travel, I really like to do what I call “urban hiking”. Choose a restaurant that’s a solid hour walk away for lunch and spend my morning ambling my way there, stopping wherever and whenever I want. Repeat for dinner. See as many of the neighborhoods as possible, moving through and spending your time like someone who lives in each space, but covering more ground. Sometimes I take a car or public transit 30 minutes away to give myself a new start point and work back toward “home base”. I’m not as engaged by a museum as I am knowing 10 coffee shops, 3 independent bookstores, 4 places the punks hang out, 6 pizza slice shops, and fancy dinner or two.

It doesn’t seem likely I’m going to get to live a different version of myself in these different places, but I want to achieve some poor approximation of that other version of myself while I’m there.

Maybe that’s part of the appeal of a blank page. Somehow, it’s more easily malleable for understanding a different version of myself. My digital tools feel more fixed.