Apr 28, 2009

LMNO me oh my

I was tagged by Gekko on Facebook. I decided to post it here so it could join the collection tagged "meme".

A - Age: Middle. I’m appealing.

B - Bed size: Full. Of me.

C - Chore you hate: Vacuuming.

D - Dog's name: Haven’t had a dog since childhood. His name was Brucie.

E - Essential to start your day: Waking up. Food. Preferably in that order, too.

F - Favorite color: Lavender blue. Still.

G - Gold or Silver: White gold. Looks like silver.

H - Height: Afraid of. Good thing I’m only 161 centimeters tall.

I - Instruments you play: None now. Once played guitar and clarinet. No, not together.

J- Job: Graphics designer.

K - Kid(s): None. That I know of.

L - Living arrangements: Organized in such a way that the police would never find anything helpful on their first two searches of the place.

M - Mom's name: Like mine: Five letters long, ending in RA. We’re creative like that.

N - Nicknames: None. No, really. It’s on account of having a name that is five letters long, ending in RA.

O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: One, before I was a year old. You’ll have to ask Mom what that was about. I slept through it.

P - Pet Peeve: Norwegian pedestrians. They move like a herd of cats.

Q - Quote from:
# a movie: No! (The only word spoken in “Silent Movie”)
# a TV show: Yaaaaaaaay! (Kermit the Frog on “The Muppet Show!”)
# a book: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” (“Illusions” by Richard Bach)
I never remember quotes, and if I do, I always get them wrong. The above was the best I could do without making a mistake.

R - Right or left handed: Yes.

S - Siblings: Not sure. I have had at most two sisters, one of which I have never met.

T - Time you wake up: Earlier and earlier, but I don’t get to work any sooner.

U- Underwear (boxer/briefs): Boxer/briefs? I’m a woman! Panties! And boxers.

V - Vegetable you dislike: I have outgrown liking peas.

W - Ways you run late: Sitting at the computer. Er…

X - X-rays you've had: Chest and teeth.

Y - Yummy food you make: Quiche, pumpkin pie, and chili.

Z - Zoo favorite: Herpetarium. Snakes and lizards remind me of my childhood.

Apr 20, 2009

Getting some things done

Remember me talking about "Getting Things Done"? Well, I used what I could find on the internet about the nuts and bolts of David Allen's GTD system, without having a printed book before me, and cleaned up my e-mail boxes both at work and at home. I think I found the electronic equivalent of the kitchen sink!

David Allen offers some free PDFs at his website (you do have to register as a buying customer, but it's a formality), so I downloaded those that have to do with sorting the inbox, i.e. the flow charts, otherwise known as "processing and organizing". When I say it's like the kitchen sink, what I mean is that once you get a spot totally free from clutter, it becomes an air hole, a place to pop up to catch a good breath while you're working on other areas, and a place that you can be consistent about.

Getting my inbox to zero (i.e. totally empty) removed some of the overwhelm I'd been experiencing both at home and at work. Much like discovering through a month of daily dishwashing that doing the dishes is actually an easy and quick chore, learning to move stuff out of the e-mail inbox and into more appropriate folders has made handling e-mail a quicker and easier chore. And not facing a load of work - whether an overfilled kitchen counter or e-mail inbox - every time you peak in removes both the overwhelm and the guilt.

Some examples:

At work, since a lot of new tasks and feedback on existing ones comes via mail, I tried sorting mail by type of job and made about eight folders total to accommodate that. After a while I found that there were too many different tasks and customers in each folder (and too many folders), and I spent more time than before looking for the mail I wanted. With GTD, I got rid of all task-defined folders, and adopted Allen's Actionable/Reference main folders into which all e-mail in my inbox is immediately sorted. Reference is for archiving. In Actionable (Something Needs To Be Done About This), I made four folders, two of which are called New Jobs and Proofing. Any new job goes into New Jobs, but once I've started on it and sent a proof, I move any subsequent e-mails relating to the job to the Proofing folder. Every time I get a response on a job, I delete earlier e-mails. Neither folder seems to grow much, I've found.

At home, I was using sorting rules at home to sort friends' mails, e-store mails, regular newsletters, etc., into folders, only to have those folders grow with unread e-mails. I adopted the same GTD folder system and removed every rule. Every scrap of new mail now goes to my inbox. A lot can be read and deleted/archived immediately ((things like all the Facebook notifications or follow-ups on blog comments), and now e-mails waiting my reply no longer get forgotten in a separate folder. Seeing at a glance what needs my attention every time I look at my inbox, and having the incentive to deal with it now has kept my e-mail inbox at home empty, too. Currently an e-mail from a friend and a couple of e-store specials are waiting for me to make a decision.

In order not to forget deadlines or dates, I have started to copy such e-mails into my calendar (Notes at work, iCal at home). Then I can tuck the e-mail away in "Deferred" or delete it, and still have a reminder with necessary information.

I ordered the dead tree version of Allen's book. I have to be able to read, think, take notes when it's about learning something (I'm a visual learner). That arrived today, so now I'll be able to start building on what I've been doing so far.

Apr 14, 2009

Finding God in the next person you meet - Part 2

Two years ago, I wrote a post about my exploration of Mahatma Gandhi's quote, "If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further."

I haven't been exploring that concept lately, but today decided to try again. As before, I added to my affirmative set-up for the day with a slight change in wording: "…and teach me to find God in everyone I meet today."

Now, I didn't have the exact same experience as the first time I tried it, but I did end up having a lovely day. I found myself observing how pleasant other people were. I noticed I was more forthcoming and helpful. Observing the crazy hair-do of a store clerk made me only wonder how the cut was done, not whether or not it was attractive; in other words, I did not judge. The best part about this business about finding God is that it always removes or dampens that side of me that is critical, cynical, stand-offish, selfish. I have to say that I've enjoyed who I was today and I want to experience it again.

God may very well be teaching me to find God in myself.

Apr 11, 2009

A bit of tech: URL shorteners

My reading takes me through various links and sublinks and cups of coffee, and has led me to some information and a wee moment of a-ha which I think is important enough to share.

The information pertains to URL shorteners, the service offered by sites like TinyURL, MakeAShorterLink or budURL. These services are for those times you want to share a long, hairy link with someone, without risking it being ruined by a mandatory line break. However, this was a problem for older e-mail and news programs which would have a fixed line length. Now the problem seems to be the URL shortener itself. Let me quote Joshua Schachter, whose post on URL shorteners inspired me:

[T]he biggest burden falls on the clicker, the person who follows the links. The extra layer of indirection slows down browsing with additional DNS lookups and server hits. A new and potentially unreliable middleman now sits between the link and its destination. And the long-term archivability of the hyperlink now depends on the health of a third party. The shortener may decide a link is a Terms Of Service violation and delete it. If the shortener accidentally erases a database, forgets to renew its domain, or just disappears, the link will break. If a top-level domain changes its policy on commercial use, the link will break. If the shortener gets hacked, every link becomes a potential phishing attack.

The above paragraph has a number of links in it on the blogpost I took it from (so go there and get wise), which I followed, and that was what gave me my a-ha moment: The technology of the shortcut relies on a database owned by the site making the shortcut. If anything happens to that site or its database, for any reason (several are listed in the quote above), the URL is useless. Joshua points out that today's e-mail programs don't need to be concerned with line breaks in links. If the idea is to avoid a long, hairy URL in an e-mail (or on a webpage), don't. The link can too easily die.

There are other reasons for the advice not to use: You prevent the user from seeing where the link is going at a glance (when they hover their mouse over the link, say), and you also have no control over that third party, the middleman, the one making and converting the link for you. That third party may change its terms of service or could add ads. Or get banned. Because spammers make use of shortened URLs, one of the trailblazers in the game, TinyURL, has found itself banned a number of places.

What seems like a helpful idea (enjoying increased popularity recently due to Twitter's limitations), should probably be used as little as possible. Like maybe only on Twitter.

Apr 3, 2009

Friday with a tag

I found this (and the blog title) at Protege’s. The rules are:

1. Respond and rework:
Answer the questions on your blog.
Replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention.
Add a question of your own.
2. Tag eight other people. (Optional)

Here goes:

1) What is (are) your current obsession(s)?
I have no obsessions. I bore too easily to stick to one thing that much.

2) What do you see outside your window?
This (sorry about the reflections in the window I was looking out):

3) Do you nap a lot?
What's a nap?

4) Who was the last person you hugged?
Co-worker E as we wished each other a happy Easter holiday.

5) Which animal would you be?
I'm in the mood for turtle. I'm in the mood for taking long, slow breaths.

6) What’s for dinner?
Double cheeseburger and onion rings.

7) What was the last thing you bought?
See 6.

8) What are you listening to right now?
Robbie Williams' greatest hits. Happens to be the last thing I bought on iTunes Store so I'm giving it a listen.

9) What is your favorite weather?
Windy, crisp and sunny.

10) What’s on your bedside table?
The usual (lamp, radio, clock) and an aging PDA I use just for sudoku.

11) Say something to the person/s who tagged you.
Protege, your blog delights me with its good writing and photographs and peak into a next-door neighbor's life.

12) If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be?
Wherever my mom wants it. I have a home I own.

13) Where are you typing from right now?
My living room.

14) A book you're currently reading?
"The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living" by Martin Clark. It's been sitting around for a few years, waiting for me to pick it up so I finally did.

15) What (Who) would you like to have in your arms right now?
A cat.

16) What is your favourite tea flavour?
Cinnamon, also know as Himalaya or Classic blend in the ayurvedic teas.

17) If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Nowhere. This sort of idea stresses me out. I'm never prepared to go somewhere in just an hour.

18) What did you want to become as a child?
I wish I could remember. It might tell me something about myself.

19) If you could meet anyone famous in the world, from the past or the present, who would it be?
The above is the question I opted to change for this:

19) What is the event in your life that has defined you the most?
World War II. It is the reason I grew up in Norway.

20) What is your plan for tomorrow?
Returning some mail order clothes because I managed to get them too large!

21) What color do you find yourself wearing more often than not?
Black, though I try not to, but everyone does here in Norway.

22) What is your favorite day of the week?
Friday!

Added question:
23) What do you associate with the number 23?
The age I fell seriously in (and out) of love.