Podcasts to work with

Podcasts are seeing an amazing resurgence in the last few years. I’ve been using them since I started working in 2015 as an alternative to music when working. As an architect, I’m often confronted with doing long stretches of work that affords me the opportunity to have something playing in the background without distracting me. I’ve found podcasts to be an excellent way to keep me going through the day, and to learn something new along the way.

Here is a list of some interesting podcasts that I enjoy whilst working:

My podcast app of choice is Overcast for iOS; but there are plenty of other good apps, including the stock Podcasts app on most phones, that works just as well.

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Emerging from hibernation

It’s been well over a year since my last post.

But slowly I am re-emerging from this writing hibernation and eager to get back behind the keyboard, behind my trusty Parker Jotter, and continue my rumination on the world, the built environment, technology, and, well, life in general.

A lot has happened since my last post. I’ve completed my Masters in Architecture and am getting to grips with the ‘real world’. And I’ve come to realise that writing is a key tool in helping me navigate this new terrain.

I am thinking of what Life in Pixels means to me now, at this point in my life and career. So there might be some changes… but I feel like this blog, being a personal repository of my writing and ideas, should remain exactly that.

Stay tuned.

Hello (again)

HELLO

I’ve changed Pixelated Thinking’s web address.

My new blog address is now www.rahuldowlath.net

Why the change? Well, I kind of messed up my domain name transfer (it’s very complicated and boring and I won’t go into the details here). Anyway, I’ve decided to relinquish the .com address until it becomes available again with the registrar (which I hope will happen within the next year). But for now, and probably for a long time to come, I will be using www.rahuldowlath.net as the main access point to my blog, where I publish my thoughts on everything from science and technology to books, television and movies.

If you subscribe to this blog via email, you don’t need to do anything.

Thank you for supporting my blog and my writing. I have some fun posts lined up for you. You can follow me on Twitter to find out when the latest post is published: www.twitter.com/RahulDowlath.

Ensō

enso

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

–Lao Tzu

I admire the sagely writings of the Eastern prophets and thinkers – Lao Tzu, Confucius, Rumi; I believe that their ancient wisdom can help us navigate the complexity and clamour of our technologically driven world today.

Whilst not a part of the aforementioned writers’ canon, there is a Zen concept that emerges from the meditative act of Japanese calligraphy: the beautiful, minimalist circles that are in themselves symbols of lucidity. It is called Ensō.

Ensō is symbolic of staying in the present, detaching the mind from the body, where the body or spirit is free to create. It is, in a way, a record of the moment of pure creation.

It is cyclic, it is honest, it is at once incredibly intricate and surprisingly simple, capturing the Moment in a single movement.

This idea of the “moment” has always compelled me. Creative work is a difficult beast to tame, especially in this Age of Distraction. Being mindful, calming the mind, focussing on the pure act of just creating, is essential to being content, is essential in taming that seemingly unwieldy monster.

I think Ensō is such a beautiful idea, it’s result so lucid, so pure and honest. It is a reminder to us busy souls of what it means to create and to centre oneself in this chaotic universe through the simple yet powerful act of conscious creation.

Staying in the present, living in the moment and fading the world out so that it’s just you and the work to be created before yourself: this is Ensō.

What’s in the bag: the writer/architect/coder edition

inthebag

My life is made up of many facets – due, perhaps, to multiple interests that influence my daily living. In writing this post, I decided to distill those many interests into three main areas: writing, architecting, and coding. Those are my principle fields, the ones I choose to spend my time in contemplating things and creating things.

I thought it’d be a fun exercise, both in practicing my vector drawing skills with Illustrator, and in collecting and thinking of the tools I use on a daily basis, to compile this post. These are items I depend on daily to get through my work; they are indispensable to who I am and the things I create.

(I might add that my EarPods are a part of this mix, but didn’t make it to the final cut – maybe because I forget to carry them around with me sometimes).

iosincolor

Music

Music is a big part of my life. My trusy old iPod classic has been a longtime companion, but since I’ve become hooked on SoundCloud, I’ve been using it less. So now it’s mostly relegated to staying in my car, where it powers my driving soundtrack. My iPhone (and sometimes iPad) is the streaming surrogate for my SoundCloud obsession lately.

Writing

I write a lot, and find that analogue writing is a great way to distill thoughts and slow things down. My latest Moleskine is the Star Wars “Darth Vadar” edition ruled book, with the inspiring words “Don’t Underestimate the Force” embossed on the cover. I mainly write with a fountain pen in it (a Parker Sonnet with Sheaffer Blue/Black ink, a gift in my final year at high school), but when on-the-go, my trusty Parker Jotter does the trick. I have a great affinity for the Jotter – it’s the only model I’ve ever used since I was in Grade 4, and I carry it with me wherever I go.

Designing

As a designer, I keep a simple sketchbook with me for those moments when I need to sketch something to make sense of it. I’m not the best drawer, but little diagrams often help resolve some of the most complex problems, from graphic design ideas to large-scale buildings.

The Hub

My MacBook Pro is central to everything. It’s the machine I use to edit video, animate logos, design everything from wayfinding assets to website graphics to architectural projects for university, to writing blogs, short stories, essays and even my attempts at various novels. Everything I do feeds into this wonderful, dare I say it – magical, machine. Having an iPad Air helps tremendously as a second screen to display concepts or PDFs with tutorials, books or even web pages I’m using for reference. This allows me to keep the MacBook’s screen devoted to the task at hand. I generally run OS X with three desktop spaces to lessen the clutter that can arise from having many windows open at once.

I always maintain that it’s not the tools one uses, but how they use them, that should be important whenever art is concerned. But this setup is what makes me enjoy creating things, imagining things and bringing things to life. I’ll probably change many of these elements as the years go by, but for now I’m really happy with this workflow.

Why we do what we do

This notion of questioning why we – as people who create things, imagine things, build things and dream things – do what we do, has been playing around in my mind for a while now. Why is it that we push ourselves in this way, warp our minds into the worlds we dream up, stay up late into the early hours of the cold morning still toiling away at our keyboards, drawing boards, tablets and canvases?

Indeed, there is a fire that burns within the creator, the maker of art and literature and poetry and those things that make life worth living for. A burning desire to shape reality to the whims of our imaginations, to concretise the wisps of thought. We’re compelled to see our ideas through to their ends; we’re driven by passion, I guess you could say.

This quote from one of my favourite movies, Dead Poets Society, is perhaps the best way to capture the essence of why some of us prefer to stay up in the solitude of the night, not dreaming but gently luring those dreams into the cool air of this world.

… the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

– John Keating (Robin Williams), Dead Poets Society (1989)

What should a human being do?

Robert A. Heinlein, a popular (and controversial) science fiction writer, on what a human being should be capable of doing:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

– Robert A. Henlein, Time Enough for Love (1973) p.248

Specialization is, indeed, for insects.