Denisa Blackwood

The 5 lightweight apps that make my Mac the power user’s dream — data scientist edition.

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Photo by Oliur on Unsplash

Me from 6 months ago would shudder at the title. Back when I was using my mid-2012 MacBook pro for all day professional and personal use, performance optimisation was everything. And I mean, everything. My old Mac, at its modest 2 CPU cores and abysmal integrated graphics, could use any help it could get. I would obsessively close any processes apart from what I was using actively. I would avoid unnecessary multitasking and I would never download any widgets.

Things have changed now. With my brand new 2020 Intel MacBook Pro, I have every reason to keep my most important…

I use a minimalistic spreadsheet setup to track my monthly budget and spending

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The Budget tab of my spreadsheet. Screeenshot by the author.

I’m a data scientist. That being said, I am not a huge fan of spreadsheets. Despite its impressive data handling and manipulation powers, Excel is not a tool I like to use unless I have no choice.

My sentiments toward spreadsheets changed when I started using the MacOS app Numbers. It feels almost inappropriate to call Numbers documents spreadsheets.

Numbers, without oppressive row and column numbers framing the page and infinite grids eating up space, is a great way to stay organised without whacking out an Excel document. It allows you to collage together text, tables of any dimensions, images…

Acting early is everything when a mental health crisis is coming.

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Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

I am startled out of my thoughts by a loud rapping sound coming from my computer. I am on a Zoom meeting, and the speaker’s voice is very quiet. Earlier, I had to turn up my volume all the way up to make out their words. Now, the otherwise inoffensive sound of a Slack message notification is enough to make me jump out of my skin. I read it on the banner in the corner:

“Are you okay there? You don’t look okay.”

One of my colleagues on the call looks at me with concern as they type into Slack…

The syntax is different on macOS Catalina than other *NIX systems.

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Photo by Pankaj Patel on Unsplash

If you spend many hours a day working on the command line, readability quickly becomes an issue. Even for the most minimalist of users, a splash of colour can be useful for keeping track of individual commands.

Your Bash prompt lives in a variable called PS1. To see what your Bash prompt contains now, type echo $PS1 after the prompt. Mine looks like this (the default for macOS Catalina):

$ echo $PS1
\h:\W \u\$

Here, \h is the host name, \W is the current directory and \u\ is the current user. You can change the arrangement of these variables, called…

A three-step checklist for healthier, less time consuming social media use.

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Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

On the evening of my last payday, I was desperately browsing the internet for something to buy. Something, anything, that I might like enough to buy, to treat myself for a month’s worth of hard work. And to my dismay, I couldn’t come up with anything!

The longer I spent fruitlessly scrolling, the more I could feel a bizzare anger creeping up on me. These gigantic, ultra-wealthy companies, who make a business out of trying to sell me things every second of every day, can’t help me find anything to buy? I was flabbergasted. We all concede unfathomable volumes of…

The surprising features of the new iPhone that won’t make the headlines.

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Image from Apple Event on 13th October 2020.

When a new iPhone is released, the general expectation is that it will come with amazing new features, and that they will probably make the news. This seems not to be the case this year, as iPhone 12 is not debuting any flashy technology like Facial Recognition and Neural Engine (both introduced in 2017). If anything, it looks like Apple will be in the news for not including a functioning charger in the iPhone 12 box, rather than for revolutionising any technologies.

Beyond the (now boring and essentially inconsequential) 5G feature, which was first announced by competitors in early 2019…


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Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

I call out your name, and I beg with my eyes — the first time
Craving for your words like an unfinished rhyme
You ask me, “How long do you want me
to stay?”
I say: “A little longer, until the work is done”
Until I am done calling out your name, and begging with my eyes.

Auburn turns to porcelain turns to jade
I look across, and the sight of you I’d never trade.
Our eyes have met many times since then;
When you were taking step after step
When my eyes begged and
your eyes

Our eyes…

A three-step guide to scientifically find the safety documentation of any chemical

Illustration of women using beauty products, ornamented with organic chemistry symbols.
Illustration of women using beauty products, ornamented with organic chemistry symbols.
Image credit: UnitoneVector

From 2015 to 2017, the overall wellness economy grew nearly twice as fast as the global economy. The personal care, beauty, and anti-aging market alone was valued at $1.1 trillion.

However, this boom in wellness products came with an abundance of pseudoscience and dangerous practices.

For example, companies that sell essential oils have recently come under scrutiny. YouTube creator Natalia Taylor (who has a significant following of 2.2 million subscribers) has recently spoken about the multilevel marketing company Young Living, who’ve gone so far as to recommend ingesting the essential oils they sell.

Furthermore, the Netflix documentary series “[Un]well,” released…


An excerpt from a book which should never have been published.

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Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

“Ah, there she is. As beautiful, as glowing as the day I left her. I do remember the day I left her; I am certainly the kind of person to remember such misgivings to a fault. I don’t seem to recall the last time I saw her face, though. The day I left, I didn’t see her face. I can only imagine what she looked like.

“I’d like to think, cruelly enough, that she had been crying. Shaking with sobs for me, the woman who left her. She must have been. That’s crucial. That is at the centre of my…

After losing all my data on two separate occasions, I have the foolproof recipe.

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Photo by Premkumar Masilamani on Unsplash

Let me preface this article by saying I no longer view backing up data as a mere item on my to-do list. Backing up has become a way of life. I learned this the hard way.

Most of my professional life happens digitally. My record keeping and working is done on my work and personal computers, both of which need to be backed up appropriately. While at work, the IT infrastructure makes sure that I have every tool I need to keep my data safe. This is however not the case for my personal MacBook, which has suffered a hard…

Denisa Blackwood

Researcher based in London. You can find me thinking about science and playing with data. E-mail enquiries at denisa.blackwood [at]protonmail[dot]com

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