Alex Watt

About Hacks Recommendations

Making a Booklet

Recently I was compiling a booklet of devotions for a mission trip. My goal was to make a simple booklet using standard paper, printed double-sided, and folded down the middle. I looked online for options and kept finding web-based tools that looked like overkill. I wanted a simple text booklet - no splashy template, no color, no images.

I had heard of Pandoc and PDFJam before and decided to give them a try. The tools worked really well for my use case. I thought I’d share what worked for me as it took me a bit to figure out, not having any prior experience with these tools.

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Beancount for Personal Finance

I love learning new things. Rabbit holes can be fun. This year I dug into double-entry accounting. And I didn’t just learn the theory; I decided to use double-entry accounting, with some open source plain text accounting software, for personal finances.

I’ll explain what I mean by these terms and what I have been up to in this post.

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Turning on Key Lights for Google Meet

I got two Elgato Key Light Airs for better lighting when I am on video calls. After setting them up, I wondered: How do I turn them on automatically for video calls?

I wanted to open a Google Meet link and have the lights turn on instantly, like my webcam.

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It’s Not Easy Yet

One danger in mastering anything is forgetting that what seems simple to you is not simple to everyone.

It is normal that something learned deeply seems self-evident to you. According to Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” But when you do understand it well — when you have studied something deeply — you can explain it simply. When you have practiced a skill for years, it becomes second nature.

You make it look easy.

But for your friend, what seems obvious to you may be unknown, and what seems easy may require great effort.

It’s your job to support them. Give them your mental models. Teach them your tricks. They might need to watch you because you may have so deeply internalized what you’re doing, that you oversimplify it when explaining it.

Tell them that it isn’t easy yet, but with practice, it can be.


Sharp Tools

Shaving with a new razor is wonderful. I found that out this spring. I was on vacation and had no razor, so I bought a new one. I could not believe how easy it was to shave — fun, even. And that’s when I found out my old razor was dull.

What struck me is that I never noticed that my razor was dull. The gradual wear with every use was imperceptible, until I tried a better tool.

Gradual degradation is all around us. It’s well understood that degradation is a default in the physical world. Iron rusts, things experience “wear and tear,” and nothing lasts like it used to.

Degradation happens in the digital world too.

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