Must Read Round Up – Tiny Office Edition

Here’s a quick round up of content I’ve published in the last couple of weeks which I haven’t mentioned on this blog yet, some recommended reading, plus how to say goodbye to Google Reader before it closes down on 1st July.

Mountain Shores Episode 5

Mountain-Shores-Summer-UnProductivity-Podcast-Sketchnotes-21-1024x774The latest Mountain Shores Podcast went live this week. Fabian and I are joined by Michael Nobbs for a freewheeling discussion about summer (un)productivity, social media sabbaticals, schedules, sleep patterns and self-depletion.

The episode has even been the subject of a wonderful sketchnote by Doug Neill, aka The Graphic Recorder.

Tech Tips & Tiny Houses

I also recorded a conversation between myself and Ethan Waldman of Cloud Coach who shared technology tips and talked about his exciting tiny house project.

This conversation inspired me to make some changes to my own domestic arrangements which has resulted in turning a former wardrobe and storage space into a ‘Tiny Office’ where I can write & work uninterrupted.

And it is tiny. Let’s just say that if I eat a big meal, it’s uncomfortable to sit in here. Hell, I need to lose my belly anyway.

In case you missed it, I wrote a little more about making life changes by shifting things around gradually in my post ‘Life is Like a Sliding Puzzle‘.


My new ‘Tiny Office’

My First Post on Medium

I also wrote my first piece for recently, ‘A Thousand Little Self-Deceptions‘, which discusses how easy it is to fall prey to the Planning Fallacy and Hofstadter’s Law.

I may not have achieved my goal of writing 1000 publishable words a day during June, but I am proud of this particular article – I hope you enjoy it too (if you do, and have a Twitter account, please hit the green ‘recommend’ button).

Speaking of failure, The Guardian asked seven writers to reflect on it, and meanwhile at the 99u, author AJ Jacobs talks about how self-delusion can actually be ‘healthy and productive’.

There’s also a lot of great writing over at Medium by some very smart people – you might also want to check out my Medium recommendations so far.

Goodbye to Google Reader

I’ve been in denial for a long time.

This is like that moment on TV when a man on death row gets a visit from the prison guards and they say “it’s time” and he nods softly in dignified acceptance of his fate. Yes, I’ve finally accepted that Google Reader’s imminent death (it will be closed down forever on Monday 1st July).

If you use Google Reader to read RSS, now’s the time to export your data. If you don’t, you can skip this (although I do recommend an RSS reader for keeping up with your favourite blogs).

There are a number of different services vying to replace it, of course, but no clear winner as yet. Feedly allows you to import via your Google account (before 1st July), but make sure you follow their guidelines and have the latest versions of their apps installed on all your devices.

I personally prefer Flipboard on the iPad for reading my RSS feeds, but whilst they will save your current Google Reader feeds, it won’t be possible to edit your folders or add and remove feeds, which means it won’t be a viable option for the long-term. I just hope they reconsider and add support for one of the newer RSS options.

Here’s a good round up of the other options, though as many of these are in their infancy, my main tip is to export your data using Google Takeout before Monday.

p.s. you can still subscribe to updates from this blog via RSS or you can choose to receive it by email (you’ll also get the newsletter which is currently sent approximately monthly and no more than fortnightly).


Inspiring Edinburgh Events – 25th – 30th June 2013

It’s a good week for those of a literary bent this week in Edinburgh, perhaps unsurprisingly given it was the first ever UNESCO City of Literature.

 Edinburgh International Book Festival Tickets go on sale

Tickets for the Edinburgh International Book Festival (which is on from 10 – 26 August) go on sale on Friday morning at 8:30am so if you want to see some of your literary heroes in the flesh, better get in there quick (I believe tickets sell out very quickly).

The Scottish Book Trust have also announced that the New Writers Awards 2014 are now open for applications.

And now on to the four most inspiring events I could find this week:

Literary Salon – 6pm, Tuesday 25th June, Wash Bar

The Book Festival’s Director Nick Barley will be talking about this year’s event at tonight’s Edinburgh Literary Salon at The Wash Bar from 6pm. For more information on the LitSalon you can read this excellent intro on Canongate’s blog. Whilst I can’t make it tonight, I’ve been before and I can concur that it’s a friendly, laid-back evening.

inky fingers openmic27

Inky Fingers Open Mic  8pm – 11pm, Tuesday 25th June, Serenity Café, 8 Jackson Entry

For those who are itching to perform their latest wordsmithery, the Inky Fingers Open Mic looks like a great option. Not only is it free, but they have a very open policy – it’s “free for anyone to perform, regardless of style, experience, or identity.”

It might be a little late to book a place for this month’s event, as they ask that people email in advance to be sure of a slot – but it’s a good chance to get a feel for things first.

Lach’s Antihoot Radio Night 8pm, Wednesday 26th June, Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16 Morrison Street

It’s still kind of hard to believe that the founder of the famed NYC antifolk movement is now living in Scotland’s Capital, and putting on a weekly show no less (here’s something I wrote about him a few years back). Promising music and comedy in the style of a radio show, I predict a messy but entertaining night at everyone’s favourite ‘burgh dive bar.

Neu! Reekie! 35, 7pm, Friday 28th June, Summerhall

Michael Pederson at Glug Edinburgh - Photo by Ross Fraser McLean / StudioRoRo

Michael Pederson at Glug Edinburgh – Photo by Ross Fraser McLean / StudioRoRo

“Heating things up with a fire-blazing feast of spoken word – film – animation and music fusions.
Plus a medley of animations curated just for the occasion!”

Neu! Reekie! co-founder Michael Pedersen’s interpretation of an Enrique Iglesias lyric at last week’s Glug Edinburgh was the undoubted highlight of the evening (see more photos from the event here).

They’ve had some amazing line-ups in the past, which makes me wonder just what I was thinking by not going sooner. Maybe this week I’ll finally manage it.. I’d definitely advise you to do so as the line-up includes Vic Godard, Momus and a raft of talented poets.

Let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed!


Tech Tips and Tiny Houses with Ethan Waldman

We all need a wee break from reading the internet now and again, which is why I like listening to the internet instead. So why not take a load off and join my guest Ethan Waldman and I for another illuminating Clear-Minded Creative Types audio interview.

In this twenty minute conversation Ethan talks about his business as a technology coach over at and how he balances that computer-based work with a variety of other interests including fixing bikes and building a tiny house!

tiny house

We also discuss minimalism and how cutting back on commitments can help us become fully present and improve our existing relationships.

Ethan has some really great advice here that I’m going to implement myself, and I hope you find it as useful as I did. (Click here to listen if you are reading via RSS or email).


 Mentioned in this interview: 

Cloud Coach


Building the Tiny House (on Facebook)

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Self-Control for Mac

Write or Die

Ethan’s post on the “WordPress Myth”

Four More Reasons to Leave The House if You Live in Edinburgh

Summer in Edinburgh

Summer in Edinburgh

My previous post, 4 Good Reasons to Leave the House This Week if You Live in Edinburgh got a great response on social media – thanks very much to everyone who shared it.

One Out of Four Ain’t Great

I only managed to make it to one of the four recommended events, offering my services up as a volunteer “surgeon” at the Edinburgh Social Media Surgeries. You can read about how I and other volunteers helped our “patients” at the EDSMS blog, and you can also sign up for the next event on Monday 8th July.

However I’m still planning to try out TechCube’s new hotdesking space, which I’m told has already attracted a good number of freelancers through its doors since opening. Because leaving the house a couple of times a week is good for the soul. And it’s summer. There might even be some sun now and again.

If you made it to any of the other events let me know how it went in the comments!

Expect Late Things

I’d definitely like to make this into a regular update but as I was in Ireland last week it didn’t quite happen. The result was that I failed to mention two very interesting events.

Firstly, Amb:IT:ion Scotland’s Culturing Our Creativity on Monday looks like it would have been right up my street so I’m kicking myself for missing it. Thankfully you can watch the talks online and find out more here.

There was also the Edinburgh Publisher’s Conference on “the Evolution, Disruption and Future” of publishing-  if you’re interested you can also watch all of the sessions from the event online here.

And so, after that rambling introduction, onto what’s happening this week.

Four Reasons to Leave The House This Week

Edinburgh International Film Festival, 19-30 June, various venues


Not Another Happy Ending starring Karen Gillan

The Edinburgh Film Fest used to be at the same time as the Fringe and all the other major festivals in August but now it always seems to sneak up on me earlier than expected, Golum style.

That’s a bit of a cruel comparison though. The Fest is not quite as glamorous as it used to be but if you live and breathe cinema and have some spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, this is where you’ll want to be during June.

As well as a great selection of arty indie films from around the world they’ve got Sundance hit Breathe In with Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones, Not Another Happy Ending, a romantic comedy about writer’s block starring Karen Gillan (her from Doctor Who), and Monsters Inc. prequel Monsters University.

Edinburgh Hacklab Craft Open Night, Summerhall, Tonight (Wednesday 19th June)

This is the first craft open night for those residents of Auld Reekie who are good with their hands. The organisers say: “if you have a project that is craft focused such as using fabric, yarn, paper or card or you have some skills in those sort of areas come along. If you don’t have either yet and are just curious then you’re very welcome too”.

Glug Edinburgh – Heroes:  6pm-9pm, Thursday 20th June, TechCube


Another great Creative Edinburgh affiliated event. Glug is “a regular after-work creative drinks and Notworking event for designers, creatives, clients and friends”. This week’s event has an excellent line up of speakers talking about their heroes and beer and pizza is provided. For more information see Creative Edinburgh’s site or book a place via EventBrite. This is the one event I’m definitely attending this week.

Song, By Toad’s Bad Fun

I don’t intend to list gigs here regularly because Matthew at Song, By Toad does a great weekly round-up already (so please don’t email me about your gig). I’ll make an exception this week however because he’s putting on not one but two of his Bad Fun gigs with the excellent David Thomas Broughton headlining on Thursday and the Phantom Band’s Rick Redbeard on Saturday.

If there’s anything else you’d recommend let me know in the comments.


Life is Like a Sliding Puzzle

Do you have a picture of where you want to be that’s different from where you are now

Any time you want to make changes in life, it rarely happens overnight. Usually, you’re going to have to move the pieces around until what you start with begins to resembles what you want, and you’re probably going to have to be patient and methodical about it.

Just like a sliding puzzle. You know the ones I mean right? You have to move the little squares around until you make a picture, and you can’t just pick one up and put it in the right place.

The batgirl gif above hopefully illustrates what I mean (plus, it’s a batgirl gif, how could I resist?) [If you can’t see it click here to view it on the blog.]

It’s important to note that In a sliding puzzle, there usually needs to be an empty square so there is space to move the pieces around in the first place.

In our lives, we’re usually trying to fit way too many pieces in. Most of us tend to be over-subscribed in one way or another, so at some point we might have to start with removing an existing piece entirely.

Do you have the space available to shift pieces around, or will you have to discard an old, outdated element of your current life to make room for your new vision? 

Digital Reshuffling

Shuffling the deck

Photo by Alan Cleaver

You might have noticed a few small changes to the design and layout to this site. I’m moving things around and trying to simplify my online presence, so it’s definitely in a transition at the moment. The trouble is, every time I change something, it gives me an idea for another change!

One of my main goals is to move this site from just being a blog to a business. I want it to be more of a representation of what I do to make a living, in particular the freelance blogging work I’ve been doing more of lately. Hopefully this will attract clients in the future.

I also had the option of starting an entirely new site for my business, but it felt like an overwhelming task, and I didn’t want to have to run two blogs at the same time. In fact, I want to completely get rid of some of my old sites which are just sitting around cluttering up the internet!

So I’m in the process of considering all the content that I’ve posted across all of my websites and figuring out how to either combine it here in a useful way or get rid of it.

Domestic Reshuffling

My wife and I have also been doing the same thing with our wee flat. We only have one bedroom for the two of us and our cat, plus a small combined kitchen/lounge, and I’m also trying to run a freelance business from home.

There’s just not enough room, and at the moment it doesn’t make financial sense for us to move, so we have to do the best we can. Every now and again we have a rethink and a declutter to try and improve things.


The old desk

Getting rid of the old to make way for the new can be a painful process, sometimes surprisingly so.

I recently got rid of my old wooden desk, which was massive and had loads of storage space because it was built for a big old PC with a tower and monitor rather than a nice laptop.

I should have got rid of that outdated monstrosity years ago, but something was stopping me. I realised that I had tied a lot of memories to the desk and the old computer, especially of when I used to make music. It somehow felt difficult to completely say goodbye to that era of my life.

I had a weird emotional attachment to it because of those related memories.

But I got out the screwdriver and wrench, and took it apart. It was much easier than I expected. We drove to the dump/recycling centre and threw the bits and pieces into the relevant skip. I felt like I had exorcised some ghosts.

Paint Only - By Milo McLaughlin (taken at the dump!)

Paint Only – By Milo McLaughlin (taken at the dump!)

When we got home there was a big space where the desk used to be – now, at least we could get a proper wardrobe. And then, maybe, we could convert the cupboard we’re currently using as a wardrobe into a Tiny Office where I can write uninterrupted.

Each piece of the puzzle takes time to move, and to find a new space for, or to discard as no longer a necessary or useful part of the bigger picture. For a while, it’s more cluttered than ever (like right now because we’re still in the middle of it). But eventually, with some luck and a lot of perseverance, the pieces will fall into place.

The important thing is to make a decision to move towards the new vision, and take the first step.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Is this how you go about making changes in your life  too?


Join The International League of Creative Minds!

A few weeks ago, during covert communications between the UK and Germany, The International League of Creative Minds was formed.

Up until now this information has been Classified and on a Need to Know Basis only. The mainstream media were not informed, nor were the Whitehouse.

Information will continue to be transmitted at irregular intervals via the iTunes and Stitcher frequency bandwave. The League highly recommends that you subscribe to one of these methods in order to receive audio transmissions via your mobile computing device.

All roads lead to our base of operations mountain shores (dot) net where you can begin your initiation into the League.

This is only the beginning.

Markus Friese - Liebeslied-2000/Love Song 2000

Markus Friese – Liebeslied-2000/Love Song 2000


4 Good Reasons to Leave the House This Week if You Live in Edinburgh

I’ve not been getting out of the house much since I’ve been self-employed and stopped drinking  – and yet every week there is an interesting gathering of some sort which I’m missing out on.

So I thought maybe if I start listing some of the events that are on in Edinburgh for the creative and tech community I might feel more inclined to get out and about.

Plus hopefully it will be helpful to others (I know how easy it is to lose track of what’s going on).  Even people who don’t live in Auld Reekie seem to be interested in what’s happening here judging by some of the emails I get.