March 26, 2005

Behavior refinement

I've been reading the 43 Folders mailing list (spawned by Merlin Mann's 43 Folders blog which has also now spawned a 43 Folders wiki). 43 Folders refers to the number of file folders needed to make a tickler file (12 for the months of the year, 31 for the potential days of each month) as described in David Allen's book Getting Things Done. The list (and blog and wiki) are for exploring the kinds of personal productivity hacks that the tickler exemplifies.

A recent post on the list by Joshua Newman talked about using checklists to organize commonly performed tasks, and also to control certain procrastination behaviors. What he said about the procrastination avoidance matched up precisely with what I've been reading in The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. The tactic in question is scheduling time to partake of your most pernicious procrastination practices, and giving it priority. The idea is that if you know that your schedule includes time specifically reserved for reading blogs (to pick an example completely at random), then you will be less likely to try to steal blog reading time from the other tasks on your list.

The other thing Newman was advocating was putting even the minor things on your checklist since even though things like brushing your teeth are seemingly obvious and tiny, it still takes a finite amount of mental attention to ensure you don't forget about them. If they're on the list then they're off your mind.

All of this theory sprang to mind the other morning when I was trying to get out of the house. Every day, despite the utterly routine tasks involved, I find myself in a morning haze taking endless circles through the house gathering the various thingies and performing the various small tasks that must be done before I can leave for work. Somehow through the fog a light came on and I realized I was living through a prime example of where a checklist would be of great value. Once I'd gotten myself to the bus stop and had nothing to do until the bus arrived, I pulled out my Palm and started a list. So far my list of morning actions has 41 items on it. No wonder I'm such a mess in the morning!

Almost a quarter of those items are things that go into my bag or my pockets that have to be gathered up each morning. This reminded me of another 43 Folders thread, this time pointing to a Flickr tag called whatsinyourbag where people post annotated pictures of the contents of the bag they schlep around with them. Becky can attest that I have spent an embarassing amount of time looking at pages and pages of pictures of the contents of other people's bags. So I've added mine.

The other tangentially related thing is the 43 Things site. 43 things (no relation to 43 folders, believe it or not) is a place where folks can define life goals and give and receive support in working towards them from and to the other people on the site. I'd seen a bunch of people referring to it, but then I saw that Tara had a list there so I had to go make a list of my own. I'm still deciding how (and if) I'm going to use it, but one of my things is "make my morning routine more efficient" so there's your connection to the rest of this post.

I'm pretty sure this post has more links in it than any other post in the history of my blog.

Posted by jeffy at 05:42 PM in Personal Interest | Comments (0)


Nobody cares but me, but I did a little bit of category cleaning on the blog here today. It was just bugging me having categories with one or four entries so I absorbed all those tiny ones into the new "Personal Interest" which also includes the old "Trivialities" which wasn't very descriptive. If category assignement was less cumbersome in Moveable Type, I might let them proliferate wildly like my tags (246 and counting).

In other blog news, I'm going to shut down comments from Sunday night until 4/1. We'll be out of town and I'm seriously considering not taking any computers with us so I wouldn't be able to do my daily comment spam cleanup (134 last night alone).

Finally, I see that back in August I was threatening to install a new layout here at Mad Times, and clearly that hasn't happened. There's still a lot of polishing to do on the new templates. However the main index one is basically usable, and might be of interest to any of you using the dreaded Internet Explorer to view this site since it does fix the horizontal scrollbar bug that's been on this blog since day one. (IE renders the page so that the content portion is the width of the full window so when you add on the navigation pane at the left, part of the content is chopped off on the right and you have to scroll right to see everything. No other browser interprets my page this way.) Anyway, if you're interested, take a look at the new layout and let me know what you think by email or by commenting on this post.

Posted by jeffy at 01:40 PM in Administrivia | Comments (3)

March 25, 2005

love of tunnel

cat plugs tunnel

I was going to try to explain why this little cat tunnel is upside down and situated where it is, but it's a long story and it's not that interesting. I would try to explain why Alice decided to curl herself into a tiny tunnel-filling ball, but I'm afraid it surpasses understanding.

Posted by jeffy at 11:09 PM in Cat Blogging , Photo Log | Comments (1)

March 19, 2005

Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer

high concept cover with earth and a pair of joined handsThird book in Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax series. True to form, Sawyer crams enough ideas into this one book for a whole career for any other author. Topics investigated include the potential of genetic engineering, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation and the origins of religion in the so-called "god organ," the effects of testosterone, the effect of pervasive surveillance on crime, the origin of consciousness, rapid repolarization of the Earth's magnetic field. Add to all that cool science-based skiffy stuff some interesting characters and a nifty trans-dimensional (and credulity straining) setting and Sawyer's workmanlike prose and you have a fun series of books to read. In this one Sawyer pokes a few more holes in the Neanderthal society making it seem a little less utopian. I felt like he took some liberties with the actions of his main characters causing them to do things they wouldn't have done except under authorial fiat. Still, the book is entertaining and there is almost certainly another one coming down the line in this series judging from the open loops at the end of this one.

Posted by jeffy at 04:20 PM in Book Reviews | Comments (0)

New Magics ed. by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

person with a winged snake perched in zir backpackShortly after reading Patrick Nielsen Hayden's excellent New Skies I found out somehow that he had edited a similar volume of young adult stories leaning more toward the fantasy end of the sf spectrum. It's been a while now since I read it, but I like having more time between read and review for short story anthologies.

Neil Gaiman leads off the collection with "Chivalry" which has a fabulous first sentence: "Mrs. Whitaker found the Holy Grail; it was under a fur coat." Gaiman delivers nicely on that setup.

I'd already read Ellen Kushner's "Charis" in one of Terri Windling's Borderland books. It's a great distillation of the coming of age story uniquely suited to the Borderland setting where Faerie intrudes into modern midwest North America.

"Jo's Hair" by Susan Palwick, as the title implies follows Jo March's hair from the point where she cut it all off in Little Women through the life of adventure and non-conformism that Jo herself could have lived had she not chosen the path she did.

In "Not All Wolves," Harry Turtledove examines human bigotry through the eyes of a young werewolf in 12th century Cologne.

Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald contribute "Stealing God," a hard boiled mystery with a Knight Templar protagonist.

"Mama Gone" is Jane Yolen's story of a young girl who has to cope with the fact that her recently deceased mother is a vampire. And she manages to write it without ever once bringing to mind Buffy. Well, maybe once.

Charles de Lint's "The Bone Woman" is another I'd read before. It's set in his fictional city of Newford, and is about the people on the fringes of life in any big city.

"Liza and the Crazy Water Man" by Andy Duncan appeared previously in Nielsen Hayden's Starlight 1. It was nice to read it again here, especially with the resurgence in interest in old time music following the Coen Brothers' Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?. The fantasy element of the story is pretty subtle in this one.

Sherwood Smith looks at stories like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Pamela Dean's Secret Country books from the point of view of the parents of the children who find their way into another world in "Mom and Dad at the Home Front".

Emma Bull writes "A Bird That Whistles" which I could have sworn was in Ellen Kushner's Horns of Elfland, but isn't, so it must have been Double Feature where I read it first. A winsome story of the collision between magic, music, and growing up.

"The Bones of the Earth" is one of Ursula K. le Guin's recent stories returning to the world and characters of The Wizard of Earthsea. I can't write about le Guin without gushing.

The book ends with Orson Scott Card's "Hatrack River" which tells the story of the birth of Alvin Maker. I have been annoyed by some of Card's stories, but there is no arguing that he is a brilliant craftsman of characters and prose. This story had tears running down my face from sadness and joy. How does he do that?

As usual, Patrick Nielsen Hayden delivers the good stuff.

Posted by jeffy at 02:50 PM in Book Reviews | Comments (0)

March 18, 2005

Boy beholds bees

Our baby boy was bemused by this bottle brimming with buzzing bees.

Posted by jeffy at 09:59 PM in Cat Blogging , Photo Log | Comments (2)

Lost Glove #41

glove in the gutter

Riding home from dinner in the dark had to screech to a stop and park the bike to catch this guy in the gutter pretty far off my usual routes.

Posted by jeffy at 09:48 PM in Lost Gloves , Photo Log | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

Packing it in

cat asleep on shredded paper in a cardboard box
Some call it trash, others recycling, but in the spirit of reuse, you can't beat Alice's repurposing of this packing material.

Posted by jeffy at 10:31 PM in Cat Blogging , Photo Log | Comments (2)

March 02, 2005

Lost glove sites

I got a nice email the other day from Annie Johnson drawing my attention to her new lost glove site, It's a hoot! Annie and her friends have been collecting lost gloves they see around the town of York in Northern England. The site features pictures of lost gloves, explanation of the mission of their project, and a Glove Patrol section where individual contributors get credit for their finds. There's even a bulletin board for discussion of topics glovey. There are 445 gloves in her collection which she started at the beginning of 2004. And you thought I was obsessed! Of course York has nearly 200,000 people while Issaquah has less than 10,000 so it's only natural they have a lot more lost gloves than we do, plus they're about 6 degrees farther north than I am and have quite a bit more freezing weather. With the advent of the website, Annie hopes that it will become possible for people to find their lost gloves on her site and be reunited with them.

And speaking of reuniting lost handgear with its owners, this week I also stumbled across Canada's National Post's new National Mitten Registry which exists for this very purpose. Canadians from all provinces are encouraged to send in found gloves in exchange for a handy tote bag. Once received, the gloves are posted on the registry site where they wait hopefully for their owners to see them.

So Canada and York are covered. What happens to lost gloves in your neighborhood?

Posted by jeffy at 11:32 PM in Lost Gloves | Comments (1)

Lost Glove #40

glove on garbage can alongside walking trail

I assume this glove got a lift to this perch from some samaritan. It's been about a week since I took the picture and it's still there.

Posted by jeffy at 11:10 PM in Lost Gloves , Photo Log | Comments (0)