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There’s been a lot of time for me lately. I’m recovering from surgery that removed a pilocytic astrocytoma from my head, the before-and-after looks like this:

This surgery was a pretty crazy birthday gift: I woke up being 25 years old and having a tumor removed. A great time to reflect and start building some new things.

Starting this newsletter

How meta! Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain course convinced me of starting a habit to start publishing about what I’m learning. I consider myself a generalist—someone whose natural state is jumping all around different topics and learning a ton of different stuff. I know something about pretty much everything.

This is a great exercise to summarize learnings, and I’m simultaneously sharing a condensed view of interesting stuff with you, my dear reader.

Everyone talks about “you need to be T-shaped” where you’re really an expert in one particular field, but I’m not sure if that’s the only way. I get a ton of value from the ability to connect ideas of vastly different subjects. My mathematics background brings reasoning frameworks I use when thinking about politics, principles from graphics design make my front-end software engineering better, and the list goes on.

Maybe it’s more useful to be “M-shaped.” Or maybe the “one thing” in the T-shape really is learning or reasoning: maybe the most critical skills that remain in our hyper-connected world are our ability to focus and to use information. Hmm, those skills are becoming ever more crucial but you can’t learn your way into the intuition of years of experience in an afternoon. So we can’t cheat our way out of the 10000 hours just yet, can we? 🙂

Anyways, let’s try to make this newsletter/blog a regular thing. Hope you enjoy it!

Building Muscle

Gyms were closed for a long time but have now opened up at the same time as when I was allowed to start exercising again, after basically not moving for 6 weeks. I’m taking it slowly but am looking again at the most efficient ways to start building muscle.

StrongLifts 5×5 is a great program: it’s simple and probably one of the most efficient ways to build strength, especially with the official app which makes the calculations easy. You’re doing 5 reps for 5 sets per exercise, the exercises are big compound whole-body barbell lifts, and you increase the weight by a small amount every workout.

Common criticisms on this program are (a) that the 5-rep range increases strength more than muscle growth, and (b) that it’s quite leg-focused. The conventional rep range for maximum muscle growth is more like 8-12 reps.

On the other hand we have the master of efficiency, Tim Ferris (and Doug McGuff), recommend an even more minimal approach: do one set until failure and set your weight so that’s about 8 reps. He prefers machines as they’re much safer when you reach muscle failure.

I like the barbell much more than machines, though. And as a beginner, I’m not too concerned about focusing more on strength rather than pure growth: first of all you need the strength to be able to lift the heavy weights that make you grow.

Eating a ton is really hard for me. To give you some idea, you’d need about 1.8g of protein per kg body weight per day. For me, 68kg now, that would be 123g which takes, for example, about 530g of chicken. Per day! The morning Bulletproof Coffee might have to make place for something with protein so I don’t have to lump it all in on a single meal.

The DevTerm

This beautiful device is a retro computer centered around a Raspberry Pi compute module. Tocking away on one of these in a coffee shop sounds like so much fun—no horsepower to get distracted by 23 Chrome tabs, just a small display which I think would be awesome for writing.

The orange thing at the top is a detachable printer. Oh, and it all runs on good’ol 18650 batteries, a standard size you’ll find anywhere from flashlights to Teslas.

Posing

Directing people so they look good on photos isn’t easy—not the least because I didn’t really know what to tell them. These are the main principles I’ve learned lately:

  • As a photographer, keep talking and giving compliments. Explain what you’re doing as you’re doing it. It’s crucial that the subject stays relaxed.
  • Face aimed towards the light
  • Shoot from the shadow side: you want to see shadows on the face, it creates shape.
  • Similarly, always try to shoot into the sun.
  • For a feminine pose, they should lean on one foot and pop out the hip to the side. Have them look towards the light with their face, and rotate the body away from the sun (especially if they’re wearing white).
  • You want to exaggerate femininity or masculinity in poses. It’s totally okay to feel cramped, it won’t look that way.
  • Hold hands at different heights, and show the sides or insides as opposed to the backs, it makes the hands smaller.
  • To make the subject look slimmer, place their hand on their side. If the curve of their waist is covered up (e.g., with their hand) it’ll make them look wide.

That’s all for now, folks! Next time we’ll talk about self-hosting, personal development practices and whatever piques my interest.

Stay curious,
Marcel