Laptops should work in the rain

12.46, Friday 10 May 2024

A friend shared a speculation this week that, as you get older, your openness to new ideas goes to the extreme – either you ossify or you maintain (and build!) your capacity to take in new concepts that may turn everything upside-down.

But ALSO, a level below that, you become ever more confident in your unprovable hunches.

For example: manifesting.

I’m pretty sure about manifesting. I don’t know what the mechanism is. I don’t need to know. Opportunity comes your way if you believe and visualise with enough clarity.

Perhaps, if you twist yourself into specific-opportunity-receptor, you advertise that readiness through the social fabric, forming an amplification circuit that brings you and the opportunity together? Dunno. Deep fate amirite.

I speak with students and early career folks a lot in my unoffice hours calls. There are two meta lessons after twenty years that keep coming up. Word of mouth is unreasonably effective. You get what you do.

Which is manifesting in another frame.

Anyway I always forget about manifesting, and then something reminds me, and I realise once again that I’ve forgotten to do it. (I’m not doing it right now and I should be.)

I also forget about embodiment.

I was walking back from school drop-off just now with an ache in my legs because I went out for a couple runs this week – I got benched by a running injury earlier this year, again, and it’s taken a while to get back into it.

And that muscle ache is just so good.

I realised, walking up the hill, that the ache is also functional: it shifts 1% of my attention to my flesh-self, full time, and that means that my diet is better, and my posture is better, and I remember to do my stretches and to stay hydrated etc etc. Which raises the happiness floor.

The thing is, the rest of my life steers me away from keeping in touch with my body.

I sit in a chair cocooned in a temperature-controlled room with my locus of self on the opposite side of a screen for 12+ hours a day.

Without that dull ache in my quads, no wonder I forget what I am.

The correct response to this realisation is to find a non-running practice to maintain connection with embodiment, such as a weekly pilates class.


Let’s instead imagine changing my day-to-day working conditions such that I am no longer steered away from being mindful of my embodiment.

Like, how could my laptop change? That’s the object I spend most time with.

I am taken with the upcoming Daylight Tablethere’s a preview with photos. It’s a high refresh rate e-paper tablet, like a modern Kindle, so it’s easily visible in sunlight. But the backlight is a warm yellow, like old-school sodium street lamps, and that lack of blue light looks so perfect.

Another datapoint: sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson writes outside in the rain:

My office is my front courtyard on the north side of the house. I’ve got a tarp slung up so that I can be in the shade all the time and see my laptop screen. I also work outside in the rain. I’ve got a waterproof power cord and it powers the laptop and sometimes a little heating pad like you use for your lower back that I throw over my feet. I work all the days of the year out here. In the cold, I wear my winter backpacking gear, including a down hood and fingerless wool gloves.

I was looking at Apple’s new iPad which is ever thinner and honestly… who cares?


What if there was a MacBook Outdoor Edition that

  • had a monochrome version of MacOS
  • and an e-paper screen, visible in outdoor light
  • that was totally waterproof
  • and it ran all the regular applications.

So I could sit outside in the rain with Xcode or VS Code open and hack on apps, or do my writing.

Wouldn’t that be better? Wouldn’t that simply enlarge the context of computing, in an unpredictable fashion?

Oliver Burkeman on living a fulfilled life: When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. (Summarised at

I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking, “Will this make me happy?”, but “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?”

Also product design, that’s what I’m saying.

Instead of futzing around with making my laptop 1% lighter, why not engineer it so I’m not trapped indoors? Come on boffins.

How would apps be different, if people designed them and coded them in the warm summer rain?

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