3 min read

A new season of Simpler Machines

Hello again, much-missed e-mail companion! I’m Nat Bennett, and you’re reading the first issue of the second season of Simpler Machines, a newsletter about how to do things better with computers.

Launching a new “season” gives me an opportunity to reframe this space a little bit. I’ve solved the immediate problem of “how make money without job?” (more on that in a minute) so this newsletter no longer needs to be geared around helping me do that. Instead, this season of the newsletter is going to be an outlet for my software-related creative impulses, a way to start conversations with people who share my technical and career interests, and a tool for discovering ideas that resonate with people.

The general theme here will still be “the care and feeding of socio-technical systems,” but I’m also giving myself more permission to write notes, updates, topical ephemera, and early ideas — I’m not going to be as I was last season on trying to generate “evergreen linkable content.” I’ll also be a little bit looser with the update schedule. Expect new issues to show up Sunday night, but there may be an occasional pause if I need to focus on other things for a week or two.

Oh, and, if you liked my writing about photography, that now has a dedicated home: Photo Newsletter, a newsletter about photos. If you’re also a computer-loving hobbyist photographer, you’ll probably enjoy my review of the Monument 2 photo storage device.

🌊 Speaking of Topical Ephemera🏝

I am now, officially, a consultant: Will give advice about computers for money. I’ve been on a contract with 33 Teams since November and I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. This is a big part of why I’ve been a little bit late picking up this newsletter — I was originally just going to work for about ten weeks, but was having such a good time that I decided to stick around until June.

I’ve got a longer writeup in the works about what it’s been like to work at 33 Teams in particular, but, briefly, what’s working for me right now about consulting is:

  • Lots of schedule flexibility. Right now I have a 4 day work week, and later this year I’m taking an extended break to work on other things. We pair a lot, but we do plenty of solo work, too.
  • Remote first. Office with a door that closes, etc.
  • Being curious and getting into everything is a core part of the job, not a “nice to have.”
  • Everyone I’m working with has strong facilitation and social skills. I get to be “the technical one” and “the infrastructure/systems-y one.”
  • Everyone I’m working with is paid well, and otherwise believes they’re getting a good deal.

It’s a good gig! Like I said, I’m pretty surprised — I always assumed consulting work would be too stressful, and, well, client-y for me to be good at it. But right now it’s a really good fit for my life.

💍 The Halo TV show is... good?

I know, I know, I'm as surprised as you are.

But, consider: Pablo Schreiber stomps around as a huge war cyborg as he experiences feelings for the first time and tries to escape from the mad scientist who's basically his mom, while also keeping the universe from being destroyed or whatever. Then his mom sucks out her own clone's brain through the eyeballs, and uses it to put an AI in his brain who pops up while he's haplessly trying to make progress on his escape plan with dialogue like – and I am only very slightly paraphrasing – "It looks like you're trying to find your real family! Would you like some help with that?"

It sounds dumb (and most of the subplots are) but Schreiber (along with Natascha McElhone, who plays mad science mom) pulls it off. It's some real man-vs-himself stuff.

It's on Paramount+, but you should be subscribing to that anyway for Lower Decks.

💻💰Hiring, etc.

Friend-of-the-newsletter Carl Coryell-Martin is CTO at Delving, an early stage startup working on making spreadsheets better, and they're hiring a software engineer. Pairing, TDD, CI. The team is tiny (4 people!) but they're open to hiring someone just starting out. Get the details on the tech stack and interview process on the job listing.