Hello, this is the (optional.is) quarterly newsletter. Mostly the thoughts of Brian Suda. If this is not for you, click here to unsubscribe.

02020Q4 REYKJAVIK:  The year is 87% complete, just 13% more to ride-out. It's closing in on 24h of darkness due to our proximity to the Arctic Circle. We're maxed out on projects and excited for their progress.


As we close in on the end of the year, we always start to prep for the next by printing calendars!

This will be our 5th year of creating giant A0 annual wall calendars. We started by designing them by hand, then moved to code. There is a small PHP script we run to generate the SVG output.

We've included the Old Icelandic Holidays, but feel free to add your own holidays.

A 02021 print ready PDF as well as the code is on GitHub.


Feel free to rip, remix and print!

New York Times presented on eInk screen by Max Braun

eInk Calendars
We thought about a digital wall calendar in eInk, but talked ourselves out of it in the end. Paper has two simple affordances: the ability to scribble on it and price.

A while ago we saw an article about displaying the front page of the New York Times on a gigantic eInk screen. It would be amazing to have a digital, annual calendar synced with your desktop calendars. Then we realised the cost of the eInk display alone is $1,500 USD. To put that in perspective, that’s around 500 years of printed A1 wall calendars for one eInk screen.

Sure, there are pros and cons for each, but for now, we’ll stick with analog paper.

Frankenstein 🧑🏻‍

 Halloween just finished and we have Frankenstein on the brain. 

We and Frankenstein have crossed paths many times. Geneva is where, on that fateful weekend dare, a group of writers attempted to scare each other. Frankenstein was born. And why was everyone stuck indoors? Well because of a volcanic eruption in Iceland which messed with Europe’s weather that summer. 

If you want to get caught up on the academic side of Frankenstein and Mary Shelley here are a few podcasts to get you started. 

BBC In Our Time: Frankenstein

BBC Your Dead To Me: Mary Shelley

Megalodon 🦈

Megalodon was a gigantic shark (14.2–16 meters or 47–52 ft) that swam the oceans for more than 10 million years, but went extinct 2.6 million years ago. In this PBS EONS video they posit a theory that the rise of our current day whales only came about because of the extinction of this giant killer. Without any predators, whales were allowed to evolve and grow into the largest known animals.

It is a good illustration of how apex predators have a much larger knock-on effect not only on the food chain, but as an evolutionary blocker.

Career Choices

On December 9th, we'll be taking part in a small online forum at the stay curious café, discussing work, tools and career choices. The sessions are not recorded, so if you're interested, you'll need to tune in.

This time the Stay Curious Café is going to be a little different. Instead of inviting two guests, there are three exciting and wonderful people: Eva-Lotta Lamm, Tim van Damme and Brian Suda. The theme is the concept of work, the career choices we have and make during our life, entrepreneurship, gotchas, tools, whether it is a good choice to become a specialist vs a generalist and much more after Brian Suda will open with a short presentation to plant some seeds for conversations, opinions and questions for this week’s show.

Get your Ticket Today

For your

Make Life Work Podcast
At the end of October, we recorded an episode of "Make Life Work" with our friend and colleague, Simon Jobling. We discussed work, freelancing, our old UEFA project and much more. Have a listen: https://makelifeworkpodcast.com/brian-suda/

BBC Human Values Framework Podcast
As part of a 5-part series of episodes, we were interviewed about our work on school surveys, data collection, ethics and how this all relates to the BBC's new Human Values Framework. 

For your 🕶

(optional.is) Articles
We're back on a publishing schedule, which means we're hitting about 50% of our own deadlines when it comes to getting something out each week. We have a large backlog and plenty to write about. Here's the most recent few articles.

  • Paying For Contrast: What if pricing was by clarity instead of size?
  • Text Stats: A look into the nitty gritty of what went into our little iOS app.
  • Annual Calendar Posters: Our A0 printable wall posters to keep on track.
  • Name Your Price: An amazing example of value-based pricing of physical goods spurred on by the pandemic and online orders.
  • Ninja EDC: What can we learn from the Every Day Carry items of the past?

Text Stats iOS App
For NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), we've dropped the price of the Text Stats app to $0 for the entire month of November. Grab Text Stats today! 

(PROTIP: Even if you don't think you need it now, if you download before the end of the month, you'll get the future updates for nothing.)


Designing with Data eBooks. If you need to tell your story using data, pick up these books today. Now pay what you want pricing for epub, mobi, pdf.

Print ready A0 02021 PDF. An open source project to download and print yourself at any fine, local printer. Get organized, start planning.

Newsletters. An iOS app to help you read newsletters like this one in a collected and threaded format.

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