Pulse Check — February 19, 2024

It's been a few weeks since I published my last Sunday Reboot. In fact, I've published just about nothing in February altogether.

... it's been a long month so far. Not a bad month... just a long one.

While I won't bore you with all of the details—or spoil some upcoming stories I'll be writing about—the last few weeks have had me doing a bunch of stuff I didn't expect (and a few things I did):

  • I gave some engineering leadership advice and guidance to an old friend's startup, making me consider taking the leap into leadership coaching.
  • I gave a guest lecture to a high school computer science class about password security and (more importantly) insecurity, making me want to do more teaching.
  • My wife and I took a short staycation at the oldest and (probably not) haunted hotel in Colorado, The Brown Palace, making me want to spend a few months in a historic location to do nothing but write.

In addition to the existential shit, I also:

  • Met with a real estate agent to start the process of listing our home for sale in the Spring.
  • Turned 0x25 years old.
  • And, finally, started the process of petitioning to join a local Masonic Lodge.

Like I said... it's been a month.

Alongside all of that, I missed a few Sunday Reboots, and decided that the weekly format isn't doing me any favors. I love routine, but the chaos of family life makes personal routines difficult to maintain, so I have made the decision to end my Sunday Reboots, and instead replace them with something that feels more... flexible: the Pulse Check.

The intent of the Pulse Check will be much the same of the Sunday Reboot, but with less of a focus on a specific day of the week or consistent cycle, and more of a focus on the things I actually got out of the Sunday Reboots, which is a personal reflection on the things I'm thinking about, engaging with, and consuming.

I may post weekly, but I also may post monthly. What I'm focusing on now is the content and not the schedule.

Same great flavor, exciting new package.


"Don't hope for better. Just be better." — Mark Manson

I've been doing a lot of "hoping" lately, so this quote is a particularly valuable reminder that change doesn't come from wishes and dreams, it comes from action. If I want to change my circumstances, or the trajectory of my life, I need to actually do something about it, instead of just thinking and talking about it.

That said, knowing what to do is sometimes just as challenging as actually doing the thing. There are no easy answers in life, which is especially frustrating to my engineering brain that really wants things to fit into nice little boxes.

Sorry, brain. Life doesn't work that way. You're gonna have to go make some mistakes and learn a few things the hard way, just like the rest of us.


Birthdays are weird.

For the sole achievement of surviving one more year, we reward people with cards, cake, and presents.

While I've gotten fewer presents as I get older (believe me, I don't need more things), I did get two gifts this year that I am pretty excited about. The first is an espresso machine from my wife—which is really a gift for the both of us—however the second is something the entire family went in on: a reMarkable 2 writing tablet.

Holy shit this thing is cool.

A while back, I wrote a post about embracing single-purpose technology, and while I've strayed a bit in the last year, I still have a deep appreciation for devices that do one thing and do it well; and the reMarkable is no exception.

A wafer-thin E Ink digital tablet, the reMarkable 2 is for writing and writing only. Sure, while it does also support eBooks and PDFs, the thing I am most excited about is the ability to thin out the things that I own (including the way-too-many half-used notebooks cluttering up my drawers and bookshelves) by providing a simple and distraction-free place to keep handwritten notes.

While I know digital handwritten notes are generally against the "plaintext only" ethos of sustainable digital formats, I have come to a personal understanding that any time I write something by hand, I almost never refer back to it.

The point of handwriting, for me, isn't for memory; it's for thinking.

Why waste paper for something so ephemeral?

I should caveat that it's only been about a week with this thing, and while I love it so far, short-term excitement shouldn't be construed as a purchase endorsement just yet; give me a few months and I will report back on how we are getting on.


I've never been great at maintaining habits.

To be honest, the one habit I've been able to keep more consistently than anything over the last few years has been reading; but that's about it.

Intermittent fasting has been... intermittent, writing tends to come in waves, meditation is mediocre, and don't even get me started on going to the gym.

That said, I have made a few discoveries over the years about how I can better trick my brain into maintaining habits for longer than I used to (meaning instead of dropping a new habit within a week, it might take a month or two to lapse).

The most important thing, for me, has been tracking. The reason my reading habit has stuck so well is because I made it easy, and I tracked my progress; and I didn't just have some app track my progress on my behalf, I actually took the time to log and track my reading by hand.

The "by hand" part has turned out to be the key.

Automatically tracking the number of days meditated in the Calm or Balance app isn't habit-building; but making a notch in my pocket notebook every day I meditated has been a lot more effective.

I have to actively track the habit in order to keep the momentum going.

Unfortunately, my pocket notebook tracking system has added to the deluge of things I have had to keep on my person at all times, which at this point has me carrying way too many things. Right approach, wrong system.

So I've gone back to using a gamified todo app on my phone (one I have used in the past), called Habitica, with the notable change that I have actually started using the habit-building feature instead of the todo list features.

So far it's been going really well, however if you are using (or interested in using) Habitica and don't yet have a party, please reach out! While soloing is fun, it's designed to be a multiplayer experience.


While I don't intend to read any real eBooks on my new reMarkable tablet, I did discover that it is the perfect device for reading digital magazines and programming books (something a tablet and traditional Kindle both haven't met the mark for me before).

So, aside from the books I am currently reading, I've loaded the thing up with a bunch of issues of Make and MagPi magazines, some Arduino and Raspberry Pi project books, and a handful of other electronics and programming books. The form factor is just perfect enough for this type of content, and has been inspiring to flip through (as I've been wanting to improve my aptitude for hardware-based projects).

The first thing I am looking at tinkering around with is the classic magic mirror. I think I have an old monitor in my basement to sacrifice to the cause, and definitely have a microcomputer laying around somewhere too—and even if I don't have either of those things, I have a few old laptops I could cannibalize to achieve the same effect.

Hell, I'm sure my first generation iPad is up to the task if I get really desperate, though it's hardly within the spirit of the project.

And, I know, It's not the most innovative of projects, but I've always wanted to make one, and figure it's about time to actually get hands-on.


If you like this post or one of my projects, you can buy me a coffee, or send me a note. I'd love to hear from you!


This is post 031 of #100DaysToOffload