Notes from a 8-bit legal aid lawyer


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New Year Resolutions 2019

  1. Meditate daily.
  2. Learn Spanish.
  3. Code.
  4. Budget to save.
  5. Do more offline.
  6. Read more.
  7. Write more.
  8. Travel more.
  9. Think more.

Past Year Review (PYR)

Here's Tim Ferriss explaining the Past Year Review (PYR) process:

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2019. These are the people and things you know make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

(Source: Tim Ferriss)

10 Rules of Studying

I've started the "Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects" on Coursera. It's a personal development course. I'm hoping that the title is accurate. I'm hoping this is the first step on a grander learning path for me. I've always believed that lifelong learning is important. The course comes with a number of additional resources, including a page on the 10 Rules of Studying, which I am sharing here now.

These rules form a synthesis of some of the main ideas of the course--they are excerpted from the book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), by Barbara Oakley, Penguin, July, 2014. Feel free to copy these rules and redistribute them, as long as you keep the original wording and this citation.

10 Rules of Good Studying

  1. Use recall. After you read a page, look away and recall the main ideas. Highlight very little, and never highlight anything you haven’t put in your mind first by recalling. Try recalling main ideas when you are walking to class or in a different room from where you originally learned it. An ability to recall—to generate the ideas from inside yourself—is one of the key indicators of good learning.
  2. Test yourself. On everything. All the time. Flash cards are your friend.
  3. Chunk your problems. Chunking is understanding and practicing with a problem solution so that it can all come to mind in a flash. After you solve a problem, rehearse it. Make sure you can solve it cold—every step. Pretend it’s a song and learn to play it over and over again in your mind, so the information combines into one smooth chunk you can pull up whenever you want.
  4. Space your repetition. Spread out your learning in any subject a little every day, just like an athlete. Your brain is like a muscle—it can handle only a limited amount of exercise on one subject at a time.
  5. Alternate different problem-solving techniques during your practice. Never practice too long at any one session using only one problem-solving technique—after a while, you are just mimicking what you did on the previous problem. Mix it up and work on different types of problems. This teaches you both how and when to use a technique. (Books generally are not set up this way, so you’ll need to do this on your own.) After every assignment and test, go over your errors, make sure you understand why you made them, and then rework your solutions. To study most effectively, handwrite (don’t type) a problem on one side of a flash card and the solution on the other. (Handwriting builds stronger neural structures in memory than typing.) You might also photograph the card if you want to load it into a study app on your smartphone. Quiz yourself randomly on different types of problems. Another way to do this is to randomly flip through your book, pick out a problem, and see whether you can solve it cold.
  6. Take breaks. It is common to be unable to solve problems or figure out concepts in math or science the first time you encounter them. This is why a little study every day is much better than a lot of studying all at once. When you get frustrated with a math or science problem, take a break so that another part of your mind can take over and work in the background.
  7. Use explanatory questioning and simple analogies. Whenever you are struggling with a concept, think to yourself, How can I explain this so that a ten-year-old could understand it? Using an analogy really helps, like saying that the flow of electricity is like the flow of water. Don’t just think your explanation—say it out loud or put it in writing. The additional effort of speaking and writing allows you to more deeply encode (that is, convert into neural memory structures) what you are learning.
  8. Focus. Turn off all interrupting beeps and alarms on your phone and computer, and then turn on a timer for twenty-five minutes. Focus intently for those twenty-five minutes and try to work as diligently as you can. After the timer goes off, give yourself a small, fun reward. A few of these sessions in a day can really move your studies forward. Try to set up times and places where studying—not glancing at your computer or phone—is just something you naturally do.
  9. Eat your frogs first. Do the hardest thing earliest in the day, when you are fresh.
  10. Make a mental contrast. Imagine where you’ve come from and contrast that with the dream of where your studies will take you. Post a picture or words in your workspace to remind you of your dream. Look at that when you find your motivation lagging. This work will pay off both for you and those you love!

10 Rules of Bad Studying

Excerpted from A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), by Barbara Oakley, Penguin, July, 2014

Avoid these techniques—they can waste your time even while they fool you into thinking you’re learning!

  1. Passive rereading—sitting passively and running your eyes back over a page. Unless you can prove that the material is moving into your brain by recalling the main ideas without looking at the page, rereading is a waste of time.
  2. Letting highlights overwhelm you. Highlighting your text can fool your mind into thinking you are putting something in your brain, when all you’re really doing is moving your hand. A little highlighting here and there is okay—sometimes it can be helpful in flagging important points. But if you are using highlighting as a memory tool, make sure that what you mark is also going into your brain.
  3. Merely glancing at a problem’s solution and thinking you know how to do it. This is one of the worst errors students make while studying. You need to be able to solve a problem step-by-step, without looking at the solution.
  4. Waiting until the last minute to study. Would you cram at the last minute if you were practicing for a track meet? Your brain is like a muscle—it can handle only a limited amount of exercise on one subject at a time.
  5. Repeatedly solving problems of the same type that you already know how to solve. If you just sit around solving similar problems during your practice, you’re not actually preparing for a test—it’s like preparing for a big basketball game by just practicing your dribbling.
  6. Letting study sessions with friends turn into chat sessions. Checking your problem solving with friends, and quizzing one another on what you know, can make learning more enjoyable, expose flaws in your thinking, and deepen your learning. But if your joint study sessions turn to fun before the work is done, you’re wasting your time and should find another study group.
  7. Neglecting to read the textbook before you start working problems. Would you dive into a pool before you knew how to swim? The textbook is your swimming instructor—it guides you toward the answers. You will flounder and waste your time if you don’t bother to read it. Before you begin to read, however, take a quick glance over the chapter or section to get a sense of what it’s about.
  8. Not checking with your instructors or classmates to clear up points of confusion. Professors are used to lost students coming in for guidance—it’s our job to help you. The students we worry about are the ones who don’t come in. Don’t be one of those students.
  9. Thinking you can learn deeply when you are being constantly distracted. Every tiny pull toward an instant message or conversation means you have less brain power to devote to learning. Every tug of interrupted attention pulls out tiny neural roots before they can grow.
  10. Not getting enough sleep. Your brain pieces together problem-solving techniques when you sleep, and it also practices and repeats whatever you put in mind before you go to sleep. Prolonged fatigue allows toxins to build up in the brain that disrupt the neural connections you need to think quickly and well. If you don’t get a good sleep before a test, NOTHING ELSE YOU HAVE DONE WILL MATTER.

Leonard Cohen's tear (or why I cannot write about music.)

I gave up writing about music when I realised that I couldn't write about music. It is a difficult task to interpret the vulnerability of another, and ultimately, with each review I wrote I was actually disclosing more about myself than the singer or the song.

Live music is especially difficult to cover because there are so many elements that contribute to a performance - the venue, the crowd, the alcohol, the music, and the musician.

I realised that I don't read music reviews. I couldn't tell you the last review I read because music is an experience. I can map out my life with the songs that I have played on repeat, with the YouTube playlists I've crafted and deleted, with the CDs I've hidden or given away. I have a library of over 5000 LPs, EPs and singles. All in digital format, backed up across various drives. Come the apocalypse and the digital meltdown, will I lose all this music? Probably. But the important songs, the albums that mean the world to me, those singers on the stage before me,I carry them with me always.

Two things I like to do at live shows when I am not watching the stage, I will watch the audience. Attempting to see the music through the faces of others. The lights reflecting off their faces, but the chords striking their hearts. Are they holding someone special, or just a pint? Smiles, or tears?

And, if I am not looking at faces, I am closing my eyes. I'm letting the music create something vivid, decorate my mindscape like a Goddess creating a world.

So I was and am unwilling to present this vulnerable side to the world. I cannot give an explanation for the works of the creative and I am not myself a creative. I am just a passenger, sitting in the corner of a room, drinking coffee and learning more about myself through the words of others than I am comfortable with.

The musical hangover that follows is enormous. And then, there's Leonard Cohen's tear.

'Shut up and write'

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on identity and travelling with a Nigerian passport. If you don't know her books, change that ASAP.

Why I love Standard Notes

So I signed up for the Extended Package today and I wanted to write a few words about why I like Standard Notes. 

I am not an Evernote refugee. I've played with Google Keep but I've never been able to forget/forgive the Google Reader massacre. SimpleNote is lovely but I've always worried about privacy. So when BoingBoing mentioned Standard Notes in a blog post, I pocketed the article for later. After a few days of use, it became my go-to note app. 

Why do I love it? I love notes. I take notes all the time. I collect bits and pieces of information throughout the day. Sometimes, I see a useful paragraph in a case and want to keep it for future use. Other times, it's a cool Kickstarter gadget that I want to purchase later. Occasionally, I have an original idea that I need to capture before it disappears into the ether. And then there's the classic never-ending to-do list. But, ultimately, end-to-end encryption is key. 

It is nice to know that even the most pointless of note is protected. As a Chromebook user, despite my best efforts, I know that Google is always watching. Storing documents is Google Drive is a risky business. I don't mind them knowing that I own most of the Lana Del Ray albums, or seeing some of my more obscure art house movies ripped from DVD. But I don't want them to know my 2FA passcodes, or my deepest thoughts about the meaning of life, or how I am coping with existence. Some things are best-kept secret (or, at least, as secret as possible in this IT age of wonderment). Standard Notes blends in perfectly with my app collection. Alongside ProtonMail, Signal and Wire, Standard Notes ensures that my secrets are better protected. 

The other nice feature is the note sharing options. I can decrypt a note and share a private link with a friend or colleague. I've already done this with a standard paragraphs document that I used for work. Also, the link in my Twitter bio is a disclaimer note stating that my views are my own, a retweet isn't an endorsement, etc. Being able to share a note is nice. 

But blogging is better. I really didn't expect to like it so much, but the ability to jot down my thoughts and share them with the world in note format is awesome. I don't need to worry about making it all pretty. I can focus on the words. This is the most I've blogged in the last five years. It's nice. It doesn't matter if nobody reads this. I don't care about comments. Alongside my Twitter account, Standard Notes allows me to define my understanding of the world in a public forum. 

My notes are safe when necessary, and shared when I decide. That's pretty awesome.

Greater Manchester MPs - MPs or Border Guards?

So far the following Greater Manchester MPs have pledged to be MPs and not border guards:

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Labour)
Sir David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East (Labour)
Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East (Labour)
James Frith, MP for Bury North (Labour)
Joanna Platt, MP for Leigh (Labour)
Yvonne Fovargue, MP for Makerfield (Labour)

Not pledged:

Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West (Conservative)
Angela Rayner, MP for Ashton-under-Lyne (Labour)
Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton (Labour)
Chris Green, MP for Bolton West (Conservative)
Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South (Labour)
Mary Robinson, MP for Cheadle (Conservative)
Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish (Labour)
William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove (Conservative)
Liz McInnes, MP for Heywood and Middleton (Labour)
Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central (Labour)
Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton (Labour)
Jeff Smith, MP for Manchester Withington (Labour)
Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton (Labour)
Tony Lloyd, MP for Rochdale (Labour)
Rebecca Long Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles (Labour)
Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde (Labour)
Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston (Labour)
Ann Coffey MP for Stockport (Labour)
Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan (Labour)
Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles (Labour)
Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Labour)

The MPs are taken from this list:

The Global Justice Now "MPs not border guards" pledge list is here:

Letter from Leonard Cohen to Marianne Ihlen

“Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

ChromeOS Setup

I like to reset my Chrome Sync and powerwash my Chromebook every so often and set it up fresh. It is more of a habit than for security reasons. It allows me to time to consider whether my current setup is working for me. I use all these extensions. Can I be more focused? This setup guide is for my own personal reference.

Importing Bookmarks

As I have reset my Chrome Sync, I've lost all my bookmarks. So I download my "Settings" folder from Google Drive. It contains a PDF version of this guide, a bookmarks.html folder, exported settings for my favourite apps and my go-to avatar photos.

Setting up the settings

Next up I tune my Chromebook settings, in line with the student guidance offered by EFF, as follows:

  1. Encrypt all synced data with own sync passphrase.
  2. Set DNS as follows:
    For IPv4: and
    For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001
  3. Set DuckDuckGo as search engine.
  4. Require a pin to wake from sleep.
  5. Restrict User Sign In.
  6. Block third-party cookies and site data.
  7. Keep local data only until you quit your browser.
  8. Allow the appropriate cookies.
  9. Do not allow any site to track physical location.
  10. Block protected content.
  11. Add additional languages - Portuguese (Brasil), Spanish (Latin America)
  12. Set startup to “Open New Tab Page”

With the settings tightened, I move on to the extensions directly from the Chrome Web Store. And, yes, I used all of them - I wish I didn't. I haven't included the games here because I don't want to encourage fun.


I like to enable some of the flags relating to Casting, PWA and User Interface. You can find the flags here: chrome://flags. I like to have the freshest look so I always enable the 'use all upcoming UI features' flag.

Chrome Web Store Apps & Extensions

I install the following Apps and Extensions




I like to tweak the theme with Dark Theme v3.

Google Play Store Apps (Android)

I keep my application selection limited. One of the reasons that the ChromeOS is an ideal operating system is because it is so lightweight. Android apps can be a little heavy for me.

I'll always install Bitwarden, Pocket, ProtonMail, ProtonVPN and (now) Standard Notes. I also install a selection of games (see above regarding the encouraging fun).

Finally, I organise the extensions, launcher and shelf so it is both practical and pretty. And that's how I set up my Chromebook. It takes about an hour. But once it is done, it is done.

Progressive Web Apps

I recommend installing Headspace, Messages, Spotify and Twitter as PWAs.

Linux Apps

Here's Android Police's guide to installing Linux: 

Now that I have install Linux, I install Atom and FreeCiv.

Atom's .deb:

sudo apt-get install freeciv