Life as a young geek in Liverpool

My wife and I were in the UK two weeks ago. We were in London for the touristy stuff, Manchester to visit Old Trafford, but most importantly we were in Liverpool to visit the city where we grew up.

Our dads were both postgrad students at the University of Liverpool when we were kids and our families remained close after we left the UK. Life is strange. They never would have guessed Mel and I would fall in love and get married 20 years later!

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In any case, we were back in Liverpool to take a trip down memory lane.

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This is the primary school Mel and I went to. It’s much smaller now.

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Primary school in the UK is from 9am to 3pm, so my dad would pick me up after school and bring me to his lab, which was just a five minute walk away. I’d spend a few hours fiddling with a computer while he worked. I have such fond memories of those times.

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He started me off with Paintbrush on Windows 3.1. I’d draw random shapes and then use the eraser tool to clear things off. Then someone showed me how to resize the eraser tool to get a bigger eraser. But that doesn’t compare to the day I discovered File New.

At one point I was brought to an original Macintosh. I can’t remember what programme I was playing with, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Mac Paint, because you could use draw using symbols.

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There was also a period of time when I discovered the beauty of DOS games. Sopwith Camel was a game that I really couldn’t figure out, but I had fun crashing the plane anyway.

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Next up was Prince of Persia, another sadistically hard game for a five-year-old. I don’t know why I kept at it. Perhaps it was the first time I saw such smooth animation on a screen. (Later in life I would figure out the cheat codes, but it was still hard.)

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I had no love for Minesweeper, but Solitaire was where I spent the majority of my time. I thought it was impossible to complete until someone showed me it could be done.

Woohoo!

Never thought I’d be ecstatic at something as inane as bouncing cards.

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Beyond computers, my dad’s lab hosted a lot of other great memories. Such as the time when he was proudly showing me a silicon wafer he’d been polishing for a week, which he then promptly dropped on the floor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him curse and swear as much as that day.

I was pretty fascinated when he showed me how to work a soldering iron, and I was playing with soldering on some transistors onto circuit boards. I mean, nothing worked because it was all random, but it was fun to pretend. To this day I have no idea why I didn’t end up as an engineer!

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Philamonic Court, where my family lived 22 years ago. It’s being demolished right now. We were a few months too late. Heartbroken. Mel had a worse time. They place she was staying at was torn down 20 years ago. Now they have student residences all over the place.

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This is the Metropolitan Church, one of the landmarks in the city. The architecture is beautiful. It was built in the fifties.

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I must say, Liverpool has become such a pleasant city. It seems like a great place to live.

I have to say I was pretty disappointed that a lot of things I remembered as a kid has changed and now the only links to my childhood are pretty much severed. People do attach a lot of memories to places, and this is the price to pay for progress I guess.

Now the only archive I have of my childhood days are the memories I have in my head. Memories are unreliable. They are patchy, they can’t be backed up and they become more romanticised with age. Looks like I have to double down on my journaling efforts, especially for our future kids’ sake.

How successful people work less—and get more done – Quartz

How I’ve always approached productivity:

The study found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

How to use TaskPaper for GTD

I’ve shifted from Things to TaskPaper for a month and a half now, so I thought I’d share my setup and workflow. In this post I take a look at my new GTD workflow, using Clear by Realmac Software to capture tasks on mobile, and my current TaskPaper+TexExpander toolset.

Warning: This post has a lot of GIFs and might chew up your data plan.

Continue reading How to use TaskPaper for GTD

I Can Text You A Pile of Poo, But I Can’t Write My Name by Aditya Mukerjee | Model View Culture

Fascinating read via @jurvistan. It seems that the Internet is not as international as we thought it was.

The very first version of the Unicode standard did include Bengali. However, it left out a number of important characters. Until 2005, Unicode did not have one of the characters in the Bengali word for “suddenly”. Instead, people who wanted to write this everyday word had to combine three separate, unrelated characters. For English-speaking teenagers, combining characters in unexpected ways, like writing ‘w’ as ‘\/\/’, used to be a way of asserting technical literacy through “l33tspeak” – a shibboleth for nerds that derives its name from the word “elite”. But Bengalis were forced to make similar orthographic contortions just to write a simple email: ত + ্ + ‍ = ‍ৎ (the third character is the invisible “zero width joiner”).

Even today, I am forced to do this when writing my own name. My name is not only a common Indian name, but one of the top 1,000 names in the United States as well. But the final letter has still not been given its own Unicode character, so I have to use a substitute.

Design Chat: Junhan from Zopim

Junhan leads the design team at Zopim, and is also a co-founder at gothere.sg and FlightLover. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with him about his origin story, how he got involved with gothere.sg and how he ended up at Zopim (recently acquired by Zendesk). Oh, and we also geeked out a bit about iA Writer.

Continue reading Design Chat: Junhan from Zopim