P.A.R.A. Organization

I’m pretty obsessed with the notion of a second brain. I’m super into carrying a notebook and have carried pocket notebooks since 2008. I’m on #48 in my series of notebooks, which is pretty bad, but crazy when you think how long I’ve been carrying them. The thought that my brain is porous and stuff slips through my mental grasps is pretty upsetting. Writing it down saves it in a way that I can return and look at it again in the future.

To that end I’m current Reading Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte. Before picking up the book, after seeing a bunch of online material and finding out about his online course, I’ve had a somewhat negative opinion of Tiago. I thought he was charging a bunch of money for stuff that could be summarized and put together in a pretty quick pamphlet but Tiago is charging thousands of dollars for his online course. When I started the book, I was biased by these preconceived notions about him and his methods.

I’m willing to admit I was wrong. Tiago has some interesting pieces in this book and while there is a LOT of fluff and story around the basics of the method, they are pretty interesting and many notes are entertaining and worth reading. Still, some of the concept are buried under a lot of explanation. One of them is the P.A.R.A. method of organizing information. I had heard about it before reading the book, but I had too many questions to understand how to use it. I’ve started to use it and will continue to. I’m excited to see if changes the way I organize and find information.

What does P.A.R.A. stand for?

It stands for Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives. Information can be organized into any of these categories and these are only the top level of the organization tree.

Here are some key things that I didn’t understand when reading about this method before picking up the book.

1. P.A.R.A. is in a defined order

Translating this to pseudo code:

if (note.type == project) {
    // It goes in the Project folder
} else if (note.type == Area) {
    // The note does in the area
} else if (note.type == Resource) {
    // It goes in a resource
} else {
    // it goes in archive

Projects are the most relevant folders. If something you are writing a note about can be related to a current project it goes in that folder. If not, but is related to a current Area it goes in that folder. If it is something you can see yourself reference as resource it goes in Resources folder. If you doesn’t belong in any of the above it goes to Archive. Archive is the hardest to search through, probably the least organized, but it is still in your system to be found someday.

2. Content can move between folders

When you are done with a project, you can move the entire folder to the Archives folder. Stuff that is in resources can go to a project. Your system is fluid. Notes don’t just “belong” somewhere. They are where they can of the most use.

3. The difference between a Project and Area

This was a big one for me. A Project is has a definite start and specific end goal. The end goal is relatively timely and not too far out in the future. Areas are longer distance projects. Things that might not ever be finished.

Simple example, a project might be Getting the house Painted while an area might be something like Maintain the House. Painting the house might be a note in the House project, but there are timelines, color swatches, and quotes. That’s why it is more like a Project.

The House area might contain information like list of future projects to do someday. Information about the house. Important notes about the house and information on billing contacts and whatnot.

4. Not just for your notes App

P.A.R.A. works not just for your notes app, but it can also work anywhere you need to organize content, like your documents folder on computer. This allows for correlation between the notes and folders. Thinking in this method is more than just how you create notes.

5. The system is yours to mold

P.A.R.A. is a mandate, it is a rough framework. You can add other folders. I do. I have an Inbox folder where notes go before I know where they belong. Also, I haven’t fully implemented it yet, but I’m debating putting sections for Projects, Areas, and Resources in my Archive folder to organize the mess in there. The freedom is there.


I’m probably going to put together an infographic about the second brain after I’m done with the book. My note on the book is getting pretty long at this point. Still P.A.R.A. is an interesting method and I’m excited to see if it will help me with my work.

WordPress and the Future

This site is currently hosted on a WordPress backend. I’ve been using wordpress for hosting many of my sites since around 2005. I’ve used several different providers and hosted a bunch of sites that are around and some that have gone away. WordPress has been a consistent tool across that process.

The problem: WordPress is heavy handed. It has morphed from a blogging platform to a full Content Management System (CMS). It has pluggins and extensions for pretty much everything. You can do so much with a wordpress site, but there in lies the problem. WordPress does everything, which means it is complicateed. Modifying and extending wordpress takes a bit of knowledge and as the system grows so does knowledge required to modify and work with it.

This site is hosted on a custom template version that I have modified without really understanding how all of it works. I get bits and pieces. I have added my own fonts and put in some of my own styles here and there. When it comes to big customizations there are pieces of this site that I don’t like. One of them is the person icon at the top of the page. When you hover over it, shows a white background and messes with page. I’m honestly afraid to spend the time to figure out how to fix it.

The technology behind wordpress is also getting a bit dated. It still works, but wordpress is built on PHP. PHP was great back in the day. In college I was part of a team that built an entire database project in PHP. But the technology is old and there are some newer technologies that are a little more fun to learn. So instead of investing in learning an older technology. I’m looking at some newer.

I would not be surprised if this site moves in the next year. I’m currently playing with Hugo, and I’ve looked at 11ty, and of course the standard Jekyll. The truth is that all of these are pretty similar. It just about which one you want to invest the time in learning and building. Hugo is written in Go. 11ty is Javascript, and Jekyll is Ruby.

Why choose Hugo? Why Move. I want more control. I don’t want my system to have the control. I want to be in the driver seat. The reason behind Hugo is a little bit silly. I want to learn to Go. There is this technology called Bubble Tea which is like NCurses on steriods for the Go programming language and I’d like to do some stuff there.

So here is learning go. Learning Hugo. Making better, more customizable sites, and getting my thoguhts out there with a technology that I enjoy.

California Beer

I’m in California for a quick minute. Despite there being a 6+ level earthquake here yesterday, I didn’t feel anything. It’s funny, but having lived here for 12+ years of my life, the most powerful earthquake I felt was in Newport, RI.

One of the things I feel about being back in California, the beer is different. There is such a thing as New England IPA, but that isn’t really the difference. Beer just feels different out here. We have some specific breweries like Seirra Nevada, Firestone Walker, 21st Ammendment, Anchor, Lagunitas, Russian River, Modern Times, Fort Point, and Anderson Valley just to name a few. But beyond just the breweries is the availability of the beer. You can get it anywhere. Convience store, Grocery Store, Package Store, you name it. Some bars even let you buy beer to go.

And when you get to the store, you end up trying to have to pick between many different choices. So, here is some of the beer I’m looking to find while I’m out here this year, and maybe bring some back to the other coast.

Modern Times Dark Beers

Modern Times brewery make some of my favorite dark stouts. They also do some sours and IPAs, but I’m going for the coffee beer. It’s worth finding them. While I have seen some of their beer on the east coast (last time was at the Mooring in Newport), it is hard to find and they don’t always have the dark stuff you can get here. Modern Times also does their own coffee so their coffee stouts are particularly great.

Fort Point Kolsch and Westfalia

Fort Point is another great local brewery. They are based up in San Fran and make some beers taht I’m a pretty big fan of. The Kolsch (AKA KSA) is pretty consistent and tasty. I’m a fan. My favorite is the Westfalia. I started drinking it because I had a pass through van named beer, but honestly, the Red Ale is just tasty.

Two Pitchers Pop Top and Radler

Two Pitchers is my favorite. I’ve saved the best for last. They are based out of Oakland and somewhat hard ot find. Their beer is not particularly alcoholic, so I’m not sure it gets as much fan fair as it might otherwise. They have a great Radler which is found pretty easily. It’s a fruity light beer that tastes sweet and citrusy. The other beer that they do is called Pop Top. I also got into this beer because of the reference to a van in the beer name, but the beer is a wheat ale with pomegranite lemonade and is sweet, citrus and tasty. Huge fan and worth looking out for.

What Is Color Theory?

I’ve been working on building styles and themes. Learning about fonts and typography and styles. Contemplating going back and getting a design degree. The more though I devote to going back the more I ask the question, why? What do I want to do with this degree that I can’t do on my own.

The answer is simple, there is a ton I want to learn about illustration and design. There is artwork I want to make. Ideas that I’d like to realize. The rub is that I don’t have to go to school to learn to make these things. I can start with the knowledge and abilities I currently have. I can learn the skills along the way.

This leads me to an area where I’ve been curious but never invested time, Color Theory. The goal for my learning here is to understand how to use color to convey emotion with my color choice in my designs. I think of one of my favorite illustrators, William Jennings, and how his art always has such contrasting vibrant colors. How does one pick colors for designs? This is the question I’m out to answer.

I’ve started by collecting a handful of books and starting to read them to learn about colors. I started painting earlier in the year and I’m hoping to come back to that and bring it forward as I create more art and explore the colors available to me.

So far, all I’ve really learned is about the color wheel. It’s funny, while I knew that blue and yellow made green, I hadn’t put together that blue and red made violet and red and yellow make orange. This is simple, obvious stuff I probably learned in college, but haven’t thought about it in years. The journey continues and I will tell you more about it as I learn.

I love Newport

One of the things that I”m reading suggests that i put more time towards creating vs consuming. I agree. I read all day, every day. I write occasionally. I write for my company more than I write for myself or the world.

I live in my dream town. I was worried about living here. Would I eventually become tired of the world around me? Would the amazing feelings become mundane? Would the romance of the space be replaced by the monotony of living here every day.

The truth of the matter is that some of it has. Some of the romance has faded. Some of the wonderful moments of each and every day are issued. I don’t walk the streets the way I did. I don’t hang on every photograph I can take. I see moments and live in them and let them pass without capture or hunger for remembering them forever.

But there is beauty in this too. There is beauty in seeing the world around me become regular. Regular enough that I’m not troubled by experiencing EVERY, LITTLE, MOMENT. I can let this moment pass because there will be an equally amazing moment tomorrow, or the next day.

I still love Newport. I love the fact that I don’t drive nearly as much as I used to. I love the fact that I work remotely from a home in a town that I love. I miss my friends. I miss some of the amenities of living in places with more people. I miss some of the amenities of living in a space where driving is normal and there is more variability of what one can reach without crossing a body of water.

I still love this town. I don’t know enough about this town. I’m hoping to learn and put together more information on it, and to that point to share it with whomever wants to read it.

Sailing To Florida

Sailing has always been a part of my life. Before I was 12 my parents had me in sailing camp at the local public beach during the summers. Learning how to sail was something my father really wanted to pass on to his kids. He had learned to sail as a kid and wanted us to find the joy there. While all of the sons sailed at least a bit, I really got into it. So much so that even when I lived in CA, I would come home to RI and rent boats in the summer and go sailing.

Fast forward to last year when my parents purchased a sailboat in Newport, with plans of keeping it Florida in the winter and Newport in the summer. I asked if I could join the trip south, and my father acquiesced and got the Captain to say it was it was okay.

Last years trip was my first long, out in the water trip. I bought true fowl weather gear. It was a 12 day trip with stops in Cape May and Charlotte on our way to Aventura. The boat was new to the family and through the journey we had countless problems with the engine and systems on the boat. It was a very trying, yet fun experience.

The boat made it north in April or May and for various reasons I wasn’t on the journey up. But when my father asked if I wanted to go south again this year, I said yes and the quest for Florida was born anew. The captain was new to the family, but had been on the boat before. We honestly didn’t talk much before the trip. I figured we would get to hang out on the trip so why spend so much time on land chatting when we have a week+ on the boat to chat. Even with my level of loquaciousness, a week is a long time to be stuck in a small place with people. No reason to exhaust chat topics beforehand.

Many insurance companies have rules for larger boats about not heading south before November 1st for weather reasons. To this end, the trip was planned for November 1 departure. There were three official crew and myself for total of four sets of active hands. I hesitate to call myself crew because these guys were serious and I was just having the time of my life.

This years trip could not have been more different from last years trip in so many ways. For one, Brandon, this years captain, does not like stopping. Brandon likes to move when he’s on the water, no waiting. Stopping adds time, so Brandon intended to do as much of the trip as possible without stopping. Stopping for Brandon is when you need fuel and that is it.

Also to this end we used the motor almost the entire trip. We motor-sailed to reduce the overall pull on the fuel tanks and the engine. We had pretty favorable wind almost the whole way. Towards the end we had to cheat the wind a bit because we being driven close to the Florida shore, but the for the most part we had beam or broad reach wind almost ever day.

With the favorable weather and the intent and focus of the Captain we made incredible time. The only challenge was really our Auto Pilot that stopped working about a day and we had to the remaining six days by hand steering. Watches were 2 hour solo affairs, but because you were hand steering, it was very hard to fall asleep during your watch. Making about 200 miles a day we made it to Miami just over 6 days of sailing.

We made it in just in time too. Nicole, an incoming hurricane is supposed to make landfall on Thursday and we are heading home on Tuesday. Pretty darn perfect.


So we are done for this year and it is time for my parents to move down to Florida. There is a chance I’ll visit, but not super likely. So with sailing done for the year it is time to work on my own boat and get it ready for next year when I might be able to take some more fun adventures.

New Personal Graphic

My company did a new caricature of me for our logo wall and I’m a pretty big fan. I’ve had stickers made, and will continue to have fun things made with the new design. For inspiration I gave them: pink, sunglasses, acroyoga and unicorn. This is what I ended up with:

caricature of me.

Thanks Airkit.

Breaks are Good

The pilot episode of the West Wing is one of my favorite TV episodes of all time. I love the writing of the show, and I really resonate with some of the characters on the show. In the episode, Josh’s job is in jeopardy and he might get fired by the president. There is a ton more in the plot of the episode including one of my favorite lines of the entire show “… a sudden arboreal stop.”

While all of this is captivating the last scene of the show talks about how they seem to all have been taking a break and it is time to get back to work. The president says, “breaks are good”, and then generally goes on to say it is always good to take a break once in a while to clear one’s head before resuming work. He goes on to say that the break is over and the time for action is now.

This parallels where I feel like I’ve been for a while. Some of it by choice some of it by force. Covid caused me to slow down a lot. I was in the gym every morning and doing acro or something fun every evening before covid started. I was living in California, biking a lot, swimming a little, and climbing and adventuring a ton. Taking photographs with my friends, and traveling to fun spots to take photos. With the pandemic that all ground to a halt. I moved from California back to the east coast and found some fun new hobbies, including coffee, sewing, my dog, taking care of my house, and repairing a boat (which I’ll admit, I’m not good at yet, but I will get good, and my boat will be awesome someday).

Still while finding these hobbies it was hard for me to really grow the way I wanted to grow. I have gained more projects without finishing them. I need to finish. I need to do. I need to MOVE, and I’ve started doing that. The dog makes me get up at 6 in the morning, we go to the beach and I walk a mile (yes, I haven’t posted an update on goals recently, and I’ll admit, I’m not doing great on my 1000-mile goal for the year, but I guarantee I will get more than half of that, which is still a pretty freaking big improvement from last year).

I have started a couple of businesses, one around sewing and one around technology support, both of which are just getting off the ground. It’s not like I’m not doing things, but I have felt clouded. I have felt blocked by something external. Something intrinsic to my life, but something I can’t place a finger on. Finally, I feel like it is lifting and I’m doing things. It might be connected to movement. I’ve gone from not doing much movement to doing a fair bunch. We are acroyoga-ing several times a week and it is fun. I’m walking every day. I’m going back to Crossfit.

So in short, breaks are good, and I don’t lament, resent, or discount my break, but it’s time to put my head down and get back to work!

Thinking About Themes

I’m not a visual designer, but I do like pretty things.

On the top of my mind recently has been the idea of my Purple Owl Theme. It comes from the “Night Owl” theme on MonoLisa’s website.

Blue background with a big purple highlight. Light gray as a text color. I love the theme, and I’ve tried to make a version of it for Obsidian. In doing so, I realized that actually figuring out what colors goes where is confusing. Colors that make sense on the MonoLisa site don’t make sense in my Obsidian theme. There are also a bunch of additional color and syntax settings for something like my Obsidian notes that aren’t really matched to any of the theme values from the MonoLisa site.

I look at some other themes like Monokia Pro and see that they are using mostly 6 colors and backgrounds.

There has to be a better solution to theming. Having to write themes for everything, customizing for each individual application. As we do themes at Airkit, the same thing applies. We have things like “Brand-Primary” and “Brand-Tint1” and various other colors defined within our apps.

After talking to a VERY smart coworker he turned me on to Design Tokens. Design tokens are the elements of style that Salesforce uses in their Lightning Design System (LDS). They define a set of tokens that are then used throughout their various different products. They use tools to take these defined tokens and send them out to SASS out for web products and p-lists for iOS, etc.

After looking at LDS Design Tokens, there are a bunch of things on there that aren’t exactly what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a way to define a few select attributes and have a tool interpret it into a full theme that is usable in many different applications. Looking at Solarized they only have 16 defined colors.

Anyway, I’m not done with anything yet. I’m just starting to think through this project.

Building Apps In Airkit

I work for Airkit. I’m technically a Solutions Engineer but have done a bunch of building and education for the product as well. While the company has a bunch of documentation about how to use each tool, I figured I’d write quickly about how I build an Airkit App, what some of my practices are, and generally how I go about things.

Start with the UI

My first big tip is to start by creating the UI. One of the greatest things about Airkit is its ability to rapidly prototype interaction with your end users. Create the app quickly and show it to users. Often there are use cases that are missed when initially thinking about a project and this rapid prototyping brings them out.

Variables and Types

Create types for your complex object. If the data is going to be stored in AirData, then I create an AirData object, but Custom Types are good to explain what you expect the data to look like. Knowing the format of your data is helpful when using it to fill in form details data ops.

Naming is also important. Tables are capitalized where as instance variables are lower snake case. Profile constants can be capitalized snake case. Following this convention will make things clearer to read, but is not enforced by the platform. It is useful for understanding how variables are used across the app.

Scoping of variables is also important. In general, the goal is to minimize the scope of variables as low as possible to allow for more reuse of your components. That means if it is possible keep your variable on a web page then do, because it will come when you copy and paste the page. If you move it up to the flow level you will need to copy the entire flow together to have access to the variable. The downside of keeping everything at the page level is that you might end up passing it in to a bunch of pages, which is also not good. That is the trade off.

Also of note, because of some legacy notions, variable scopes are a little confusing:

Web Builder ConceptVariable ScopeNotes
JourneySessionThis is available anywhere in the runtime, but must be passed into data flows.
Web FlowActivity GroupAn activity group is available for all the web pages and actions on the flow.
Web PageActivityAvailable only in the context of the web page.

Variants and Themes

While each individual element has its style properties in the web builders inspector, the best practice is to store things on variants for each type. Even if the variant is only used once. This gives clear intention to the way you are styling each component and all styles can be managed directly through Theme Builder. It allows them to be reused as well.

Getting Help

There are plenty of ways to get help with Airkit. Start with the support site and if you can’t find the answer there you can always post a question on the community board. If that doesn’t work you can send an email to support@airkit.com.