Tools I Use aka Dogs, Starcraft, and Atomic Leafblowers

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Ho hum, you say. Another tools post? Come on, Ian.

Stay with me! I promise cats, dogs, drugs, Starcraft, and atomic leafblowers.

Origin Story

Last week, I was working on a long, soulful post about life as a consultant. Then I started to get these excruciating pins-and-needles pains up and down my legs and found out I have three compressed spinal discs (L5 or thereabouts, if you’re curious). Yes, I’m now 1/8" shorter.

Which is highly relevant, because I’m now stoned on painkillers. Or batty with cycling withdrawal. So I’ve jettisoned the soulful post for a List Of Tools I’m Using Right Now.

Sanity & Productivity

The perks of working from home include:

  • Cats jumping in your lap (awww)
  • Barking dogs (OK)
  • Dogs barking at the cats in your lap (dammit)
  • The lancing pain as your cats, fleeing the barking dog, flay you alive (oy)
  • Someone across the street using a leafblower that sounds like a nuclear holocaust played through a bullhorn

My tools:

  • Sony MDR100 Noise Cancelling Headphones. Highly recommended. They block out background noise, and the mic is great for Zoom calls
  • White noise generator. I like crickets + wind, myself. Shuts out the barking dog like a champ. I haven’t found a solution for the leafblower
  • Freshbooks time tracking. It doesn’t have the whiz-bang of some specialty tracking tools, but it logs time straight to clients, and RescueTime tattles if I’m unproductive
  • RescueTime. Since leaving Portent, I’ve cut back on meetings. I filled that time watching True Facts videos. RescueTime makes me feel guilty about it
  • Marinaratimer. I’ve always worked in sprints. This is still my go-to timer
  • Levis 501s. I always loved these jeans. Turns out, they’re claw-proof. I kid you not. Try a pair


This is the software I use to do my job. Some of these might fall under “productivity.” Sorry, no one’s perfect.

I was a plain text command-line geek for years. These tools cured me:

  • Things for to-do list management. I love watching people try to parse statements like “I’ll put you into Things.” It also integrates with everything and runs on all my iOS gadgets
  • Bear for note-taking. It automatically uses a D20 as the icon for all content tagged “D&D!!!” It also imports email, integrates with Things, lets me include images and other files, and has a flexible tagging mechanism. Again, runs and syncs across all my iOS tools. Plus, D20 icon!!!!
  • Fantastical as my calendar. Natural language scheduling sold me: You can type “Spine MRI at 7 AM on Friday,” and it inserts the appointment. Connects to multiple Google Calendar accounts and has other features I haven’t tried yet
  • Spark for email. Easy interface, works offline, integrates with Bear and Things, and merges multiple mail accounts in an interface that doesn’t make my eyes bleed
  • Freshbooks for invoicing. I thought I’d want something with more features. Nope.
  • Zoom for video conferencing. Clearlink got me hooked on this tool. It’s still the best I’ve found
  • Atom. I keep looking, but I haven’t found a better text editor. I’m writing this post in Markdown using Atom. I use it to code (of course) and integrate it with Git for the propeller-head trifecta
  • Grammarly saves me endless embarassement. Er, embarassment
  • Calendly streamlines scheduling, and makes me look cool
  • Project management. For me, Things + Fantastical handles project management like a champ


My home is now my office. “Facilities” sounds like I’m not writing this post wearing old jeans and a Keep Calm And Roll Initiative t-shirt.


I’m a cyclist, and the all-you-can-eat buffet in the kitchen is a problem. So is working out in your office when the verb “sweat” really means “detonate.” I rebuilt our garage as a kind of nerdy gym (seriously) with a Wahoo Kickr and my trusty bike, Shadowfax. Like I said: Nerd.

The setup includes:

  • Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer. Yes, that’s the name. Expensive, but if you own $15k worth of bicycles, what’s another thousand? If you’re a serious cyclist or spin person, check this out
  • The Sufferfest. More silly names! Just for cyclists, includes yoga, strength training, etc. etc.
  • Amazon Basics yoga mat. Included as the only normal-sounding fitness product I own

This gym setup may sound expensive, but I did the math, and it averages out to a decent four-year gym membership. And I don’t have to find parking, have a stroke when people throw weights on the floor, or sit in anyone else’s perspiration.


I need a setup that lets me work and play games, minimizes repetitive stress, and makes me giggle madly when I sit down to write an SEO audit.

Some of this stuff is pricey. You can probably find cheaper alternatives and do just fine.

  • Azio Retro Classic Keyboard. Real wood, round keys, and mechanical switches make this thing so cool even my kids admit I’m not a total loser
  • Apple Magic Trackpad 2. When working, I use the Trackpad left-handed to avoid repetitive stress. I switch to the mouse when I want to get my ass kicked by fifteen-year-old Starcraft players
  • Razer Deathadder Elite. Imagine buying Jabba The Hut a Lamborghini. That’s how much sense it makes for me to use this mouse. But, as an aging gamer, I need all the help I can get
  • Amplifi HD Wifi with Meshpoint. Xfinity’s wifi router is a joke played on all of us. Amplifi’s mesh network is the only one I’ve found that works
  • LG Ultrafine 5K. Absurdly cool, a bazillion pixels with covfefe X 200 colors. It also has an excellent camera for video conferences. It can’t filter out the cat that walks across the desk, though. It has multiple USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports for you Macbook users

Still working on it

I’m still tweaking things. I put a cat condo next to my desk, which minimizes cat-dog violence. I’m trying to declutter (and failing).

Ask me questions, make suggestions, and I’ll update this when I can. I have a day job, after all.

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