My purchase evaluation method

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

As I get older and more established in my finances and working life, I find my purchasing decisions are driven less and less by cost.

That is, I can ‘afford’ pretty much anything I might reasonably want — which for me basically means using mortgage-derived debt to fund middle-class lifestyle choices: tablets, computers, musical equipment, a coffee machine, camping gear, diving gear, a car, etc.

The problem

This presents an interesting problem: given the price of stuff generally is not the barrier it once was, what criteria should I use instead to decide what to buy?

More importantly, since I am impulsive…


Three types of record producers and how this relates to writing and editing

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash

My favourite podcast at the moment is ‘Gear Club’ by Stuart Lerman and John Agnello, two veterans of the New York City recording scene.

I love listening to them talk to their guests about the art of making records.

In fact, the title of the podcast is a complete misnomer, because they spend very little time on the technical aspects of recording, and much more on the human dimensions of the process of turning performance into recorded music.

The role of producer is one that’s always fascinated me.

The Steve Albini approach

On one end of the spectrum, there’s the Steve Albini philosophy, which…


The story of Neal Stephenson’s typewriter

So we all know the story of William Gibson’s typewriter, right?

The legend of how he wrote Neuromancer on a manual typewriter, before he’d even used a personal computer?

The concept of cyberspace was invented on a Hermes 2000.

Hermes 3000 — the next model up from the 2000. Source: Wikicommons.

Neal Stephenson also has a great typewriter story in his past.

Stephenson is an infamously verbose author who turns in massive doorstoppers full of meticulous historical and scientific detail.

I’m just about to start a re-read of The Baroque Cycle, a series that weighs in at 1,125,000 words or 2,250 pages.

Part of his prolific writing style may be explained by…

Business writing

Good business writing focuses on what the reader needs

What is ‘good writing’ in a work context?

Is there a formula you can use? A benchmark you can apply?

Sadly, there’s no universal standard for what makes good professional writing.

Instead, it’s entirely about the context of your intended audience.

For example, we’re often told to avoid jargon.

But if your aim is to appeal to a specialist audience, jargon is a code you use to show you know what you’re talking about, that you’re part of the club and can be trusted.

On the other hand, if you need to explain something simply for a non-specialist audience, chunky…

Recorded music

Review of Scott Tennent’s Slint’s Spiderland

Album cover of Spiderland by Slint
Album cover of Spiderland by Slint
Album cover of Spiderland by Slint

Spiderland is one of those records that blew the lid off what I thought was possible within rock music.

It also hit me at a time and place where I was ripe for its influence, a post-adolescent pupae still forming an identity and an aesthetic.

It’s strange, the resonance this album has been able to create for so many people.

It was recorded in two weekends, the product of a year’s concentrated effort and five rehearsals a week by a group of music nerds barely out of childhood, who broke up before its release…


The Tao of Doom

Photo by Datingjungle on Unsplash

Working without effort

I recently started dipping in to the Tao Te Ching again.

I first encountered it in my 20s, and it had a really powerful effect on me. All those seeming paradoxes somehow speak to the truth of being an effective human.

One paradox in particular that puzzled me the first time around, but which I now begin to grasp, is Lao Tzu’s dictum to ‘act without doing; work without effort’.

In our productivity-optimised culture, it seems absurd.

How can you accomplish anything without action and effort?

During my slacker phase in my 20s, I would have interpreted this incorrectly as…


What I’ve learned so far

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Productivity geek that I am, I’ve been aware of bullet journalling for a few years now, but I’ve never jumped in to try it.

I started journalling this week, and I’m really liking it. It’s providing something that’s been missing from my system.

Currently, I use Omnifocus to store all my tasks, and an electronic calendar to schedule time for tasks and keep track of appointments. …

Environment and climate change

Feeling homesick even though you’re already at home

Draughtboard shark
Draughtboard shark
Draughtboard shark, by Peter Southwood, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Diving in Tasmania

The weather was good yesterday, so I went for a dive off my local beach.

We’re still in the Derwent estuary here, and the visibility varies from reasonable to pretty poor.

On Saturday, it was a bit murky. There’s plenty of life down there, though.

I saw a couple of adult draughtboard sharks cruising the weeds. These beautiful creatures have a kind of mottled camo pattern on their skin and incredible metallic copper-coloured eyes. They can grow to 1.5 m, but the ones I see are usually around 1 m or maybe a little less. They’re bottom-dwelling and harmless.


Photo by Ju On on Unsplash

The daylight is so fleeting these days. Sometimes it feels as if I’ll miss the day entirely if I blink.

The sun rides low in the northern sky. The frosts turn the ground white and colour leeches out of everything.

But in those still moments when the light returns briefly, it touches everything so tenderly, so softly.


I started taking guitar lessons for the first time in 20 years.

It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but never came across the right teacher. Then Chris Forsyth, one of my favourite contemporary guitar players, mentioned on his…

Work on the most important thing first

Photo by Mirza Babic on Unsplash

One of the recurring themes in the personal finance books I’ve read is:

Pay yourself first.

This means that you set aside 10 per cent of every pay for yourself. Before you pay anyone else, put that 10 per cent into a savings account.

Scott Pape in the Barefoot Investor (affiliate link) calls this your ‘mojo account’.

When you watch your savings grow, you create a buffer against the exigencies of the world.

When you have a healthy mojo account, you are more confident, because you know an unexpected bill is not going to wipe you out.

You’re no longer…

Andrew Macrae

Freelance writer and editor. Sign up for my newsletter about writing, freelancing and whatever is worrying me

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