This is a quick update to keep the blog alive! A number of issues prevented me from blogging last Sunday and I was in danger of missing this Sunday too.

One of those issues was my computer, which I use to code and write. It’s an old laptop, which sits closed in a section of my desk and which I view with an external monitor. The desk is tiny and sits in a corner of a small room I use as a study. It’s not very comfortable and it’s pretty cramped – but I managed to write almost all of my Masters thesis in this space and I set it up so that it would allow for proper posture.

I remember emailing my brother not long after I’d set it all up this way. It was partly inspired by seeing and talking to him.

I set it up back in 2012.

I suppose creativity is about working within constraints. My desk was very tidy when I started out.

I wrote to my brother:

One of the things you’d reminded me of is the way that Philip Roth works, standing in his tracksuit at his eye-level monitor, keyboard at waist-level or just above, hammering out novels whilst maintaining that robust and athletic carriage. […]

Well, I woke up at 5 this morning with an idea that seemed to come from nowhere. It’s not quite Roth level (that would have involved time-consuming DIY) and the photo (attached) may not seem to show anything all that different from a conventional desk. But my new set-up is already making me feel more productive.

I’ve closed the lid on my laptop […] and slotted it away into my desk. A slim monitor to one side of my desk means I can still refer to things (maps, diagrams, metrics, etc.) while doing research or writing more generally. I’m still using the laptop but the idea is that I now have space on my desk for scribbling with pen and paper. When I want to type (mit Lazio top, slung over back), I pull the chair out and round slightly to face the monitor and use a very lightweight keyboard, attached to the closed laptop, to touch type. I rest the keyboard on my lap […] meaning that I can sit up straight. A wireless mouse is available for anything that I can’t get to through a keyboard shortcut.

[…] It’s 6.30am now and I’m happily typing away; my study no longer seems to feel like the hunched-over chore it used to.

I can’t say I’d venture in here for tying at 6.30 pm these days. Such are the pressures of study. I tend to use that time for reading, language learning, and so on before the demands of the day set in.

The email trail goes on to touch on “cognitive housekeeping” and reflective thinking, both part of my reading at the time.

[…] I guess there must be quite a few analogues in classical Chinese thinking but I know very little about them or where to start finding out. Would feng shui (or however you’re meant to type it; 堪輿) be relevant?

My brother, presumably inspired in turn, as I was by him, sent me a photo of his set-up over in Chengdu.

All the way over in China, my brother went for more of a standing-desk approach, like Roth. Comfy.

Unfortunately, these days, the screen plugged into my laptop goes blank or glitches terribly one time in every two that I turn it laptop on. I’ve done a bit of reading about this and it seems to only happen when the laptop battery is charging, so I think it’s something to do with overheating affecting the video card.

Nonetheless it’s incredibly inconvenient and other issues in my life have prevented me from making notes on the number of books I have had stacked and waiting by the screen in recent months.

My desk is much less tidy these days.

I’m hoping to write up on some interesting approaches the team and I have taken at work recently, but it will have to wait a little longer while I sort out the space a bit more.