Freelance Friday 069 - Sept 6

Kids are back in school. Cross-country practice has started. The house is not quieter because of the kids sort of being away. In fact, there is a staggered entry for Kindergarten, so we're running back and forth between the school extra this week and next week to get my daughter in and out of school.

This will mark the first year that some days of the week we have all three kids out of the house. My wife will even be out at the skating arena working...I'm going to have the house to myself and it's been 9 years since I've had that.

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I Shipped

On Monday I wrote about the complaints people make about doing "real work" on an iPad. Most of the time people say this I think they really mean that they can't work the same way they always have. The iPad is a different computing platform and takes a different approach to use well.

Over the weekend we I ran a test run for the first half of my upcoming 50km race. It went decent, though I'm not impressed with the Altra Superior 4 shoes that I was planning to run in. I just got Lone Peak 4's which feel pretty great, almost like the fixed the issues I had with the 3.5's. We shall see with a test run on the weekend again. You can read about my test run, and see some awesome mountain pictures here.

At The Sweet Setup I talked about my book publishing workflow. Unfortunately it's still an iPad and macOS workflow because there isn't any good layout software I've found for books on an iPad. I wish we had Vellum for iPadOS.

Friday Five

1. Ryan Says: This Is My Working Sandbox of Thought and Personal Development

Ryan wrote about Automattic's purchase of Tumblr. Here is the main point that stuck out to me.

GeoCities is always a running joke around the internet, but I’d love to see us return to a place where "this is my working sandbox of thought and personal development" is more widely accepted.

This is what I've turned my site back into after a number of years focused on "being a business". I am more likely to follow people that write about programming, then their kids, then whatever else interests them that day.

I write about my kids (hanging out with them now because we couldn't get a babysitter) and programming and my productivity and freelance tips because that's what interests me. It's my site...isn't it.

2. Matt Howie’s Tips for Working From Home

I've worked remote or from home since 2009 which puts me at 10 years working from home. Most of that time my office was a shared space with my bedroom. For 2 years I rented an office in town that was just mine and for the last 10 months I've had a mostly dedicated1 room in my house.

I'd have to agree with Matt that a dedicated space is one of the vital things to working from home.

Simply put, having a dedicated space lets you do more concentrated work, take video meetings in peace and quiet, and also helps separate your work from your home life when you have a room as a work-only space.

I also love his tip on the local library, with the caveat for mine. They block iCloud file sync which makes it hard to work on an iPad. They also block Stackoverflow because it's a forum and they "just block forums." I've complained to IT for the city many times.

3. I Promise I Don’t Check Social Media That Much

Mike Schmitz over at The Sweet Setup about a distraction free phone.

Looking back, it’s safe to say no one really knew what that "internet communications device" piece would morph into. At the time, there were no third-party apps and the App Store wouldn’t appear for another year after the original iPhone was released. It would have been inconceivable then to think that the average 16-24 year-old would spend 3 hours per day just on social media.

Which is completely fine if you intend to spend 3 hours per day on social media. But most of us don’t. In fact, if we really understood the effect social media has on us, we would probably be appalled. Numerous studies (like this one) have tied heavy smartphone use (and social media in particular) with negative moods, anxiety, and even depression. And most of us would say, "I’m not that bad. I don’t have to check it. I can stop whenever I want." But when confronted with the cold hard facts of how we’re actually using our mobile devices, we have to face the reality that we really don’t have as much self-control as we thought we did.

I've totally been on my phone looking and social media crap I don't care about too often recently. Time to cut out a bunch of stuff again, because I don't intend to spend 3 hours on my phone in a day. When it happens I always regret it and wish I spent the time reading instead.

4. Medicine Is Family Friendly if You’re in the Right Field

So medicine is sort of family friendly, at least if you're in the right field.

Medicine has become something of a stealth family-friendly profession, at a time when other professions are growing more greedy about employees’ time. Jobs increasingly require long, inflexible hours, and pay disproportionately more to people who work them. But if one parent is on call at work, someone else has to be on call at home. For most couples, that’s the woman -- which is why educated women are being pushed out of work or into lower-paying jobs.

So while this is good, it also says later that Dr Hebert halved her income by going from oncology to the more family friendly internal medicine and geriatrics. Since unpaid care by far falls toward women, more women are going to earn less to gain flexibility.

It's not all roses and sunshine though:

There’s a downside when women cluster in certain specialties: In general, when a field becomes female-dominated, its pay and prestige drops. The risk of creating alternate, stunted career paths for women is "an issue that’s plaguing the labor force and companies in general," Ms. Goldin said. "It is a risk throughout that solutions today become a problem tomorrow."

The article says that maybe men will start choosing these types of arrangements as well and then the gender pay gap won't be so large. It even says that men are asking for more time off than they ever have before. When I wrote about All In by Josh Levs, we looked at the fact that men face a bunch of hurdles as well when they take time off to be dad.

Other men suddenly view them as not committed to their work. Even if they were "on the star track" when they come back they're essentially shunned and loose out on raises and such due to lack of commitment. If we want to help women get to pay parity and time freedom parity, then we need to work on these views about men not really needing to be in a primary caregiver role.

One of the good factors cited in the article is that instead of a single doctor owned practice you're more likely to go to a practice that is owned by a group of doctors. When one is on vacation, you see another in the practice. That's how our doctor works in Canada.

5. An Hour of Free Play Is Like a Drop of Water in the Desert

An hour of free play is like a drop of water in the desert.

According to the psychologist Peter Gray, children today are more depressed than they were during the Great Depression and more anxious than they were at the height of the Cold War. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression rose by more than 60 percent among those ages 14 to 17, and 47 percent among those ages 12 to 13. This isn’t just a matter of increased diagnoses. The number of children and teenagers who were seen in emergency rooms with suicidal thoughts or having attempted suicide doubled between 2007 and 2015.

Read a bunch of similar statistics in Kids These Days by Tristan Harris.

The author of the piece doesn't view the causes as quite the same as Harris does, but it is pretty close to what Kerry McDonald says in Unschooled2. Because of the break down in community and the communal structures of child care, we warehouse our children in daycare and afterschool programs. School is more tightly controlled and kids in general are scheduled to the hilt.

And so for many children, when the school day is over, it hardly matters; the hours outside school are more like school than ever. Children spend afternoons, weekends and summers in aftercare and camps while their parents work. The areas where children once congregated for unstructured, unsupervised play are now often off limits. And so those who can afford it drive their children from one structured activity to another. Those who can’t keep them inside. Free play and childhood independence have become relics, insurance risks, at times criminal offenses.

Unschooled would 100% agree with that statement and would also agree with the articles assertion that school doesn't really socialize kids much at all (except for rule following) because it's all controlled. Kids learn socialization when they work stuff out on their own without adults butting in.

I agree with all of this, which is why I'm the Dad at the park with a book sitting as far away from his kids as he can. When they come to me with a problem, the first question is ask is if anyone is bleeding, then I usually tell them to go figure it out.

I'd let them head to the park across the street on their own, if it wasn't for the adults that feel they can comment on the fact and talk about calling the police to pick up my kid because she's "too young" to go swing within sight of my kitchen3.


  1. Mostly dedicated because it's also the entrance from the garage to the house which is really the main entrance. ↩︎

  2. We're going to see a review of Unschooled this week. ↩︎

  3. I find this whole thing particularly interesting as I grab more and more resources for a book one day about the break down in community. It seems that the days are gone when the whole block watched out for a kid. Instead, someone will call some government agency because you're not watching a kid who is playing on your driveway. ↩︎