Handi-Chest

In a desperate and assuredly ultimately futile effort to get something useful accomplished I have been cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing my office room. To that effect, I bought something from an estate sale – it was marked a dollar, but I bought it on half-off Saturday… so I paid fifty cents.

It’s a bilious cube of cheap turquoise green plastic, with four clear lucite drawers. I have a vision of organizing small parts in these drawers and setting the unit within reach of my work table… when I need some tiny something or other, there it is – rather than spending a tired wasted evening looking in vain, digging through tangled piles of crap, and uncovering, too late, items that I had pursued weeks ago and now find useless while my grail quest goes forever ungratified.

A useless and hopeless vision, I know, but such is life.

One unexpected bonus, though – easily worth the four bits I paid. Inside the thing I discovered an original sales label touting the virtues of the purchase.

It’s a Handi-Chest – made in the U.S.A. By Campro Products, of Canton Ohio. There are four helpful illustrations indicating possible uses:

  • On the dresser for jewelry, notions
  • Mighty handy for sewing supplies and accessories
  • For the office a real “organizer”
  • In the workshop “a place for everything and everything in its place”

So maybe my delusions of adequacy aren’t unique – the thing was designed and constructed (from my best guess, about the time I was born) to meet the same fantasy that still flits around all these long decades later.

I love old postwar advertisements. It was a simpler time – a time of smiling men and women, a time without snark, a time made up of line drawings. It was Mad Men time – the advertising executives thought up this stuff right after their three martini lunches (that might help explain the surreality lurking below the surface) and sent it all off to the Midwest to be extruded, printed, boxed up, and set out on the shelves.

KEEP IT * FIND IT * IN A JIFFY

Those were the days.

What I learned this week, March 16, 2012

From the “I really wish I had thought of that,” department. Of course, the music is the “American Beauty” theme – but the fabric looks better than a plastic bag.

When I watch this, I think of what I know about chaotic systems and boundary conditions and I wonder if a setup like this could be designed to be “stable” – in that the fabric would continue to move in a random way, but staying within the boundary of the circle of fans – for an indeterminate time… like years. Imagine a museum exhibit that simply did this, day after day, week after week, for a year. I like to think of it still thrashing around in the dark, after the museum has closed, still dancing in inanimate beauty with nobody watching. Or, even better, I imagine a lonely museum security guard, at four in the morning, sitting there, looking at it, dreaming his own personal unique dreams.

And two pieces of cloth, plus my favorite Sigur Ros tune.


Really cool new Moleskine product.

Moleskine Messages – postal notebooks.

How do you pronounce Moleskine anyway?

And the correct answer.


More Moleskine hacks – How to set up a mini Moleskine for maximum productivity.


8 million hits – so you might have already seen this…. but even if you did, trust me, it’s worth watching again.


I loved Hee-Haw in high school. It was on in Managua, dubbed into Spanish (except for the songs and music). Trust me, Hee-Haw does not translate well. Still, I’d forgotten how much I loved this little ditty until I stumbled across it on a blog the other day.




Leadbelly’s The Titanic


Ten Tips on Maintaining an Organized LIfe

What I learned this week, September, 29, 2011

Russell Blake – On Editing

The ease with which the self-publishing platforms now enable aspiring writers to upload their work is mind-boggling. The only thing standing between you and being on Amazon are a few mouse clicks. Gone is virtually the entire delivery system that defined the traditional publishing business for generations. Trees don’t need to be sawed down, trucks don’t need to go to and from warehouses filled with freshly printed books, stores don’t need to occupy valuable space that could house another Starbucks or fast food joint. It’s a brave new world we’re writing in; the old rules are dead and the sky’s the limit.

(read the whole thing)



I have this continuing fascination with Food Trucks. One of the interesting aspects is the battle with City Hall and the struggle for permitting and permission. You would think that you could drive where you wanted and sell sandwiches. Nope.

Even when the city likes something, it sets up barriers. And charges fees.

Dallas City Hall Likes Food Trucks


Why does the Good Life End?

by Victor David Hansen

Redistribution of wealth rather than emphasis on its creation is surely a symptom of aging societies.



What Should I Do with the Cables, CDs, and Accessories that Come with My Gadgets?

Great Ideas, from Lifehacker


My camera is fixed! If you need repairs or other work on your digital cameras – I highly recommend Archinal Camera Repair. It is located in an old storefront in old Downtown Richardson.

It isn’t cheap – repairing complex electronics and delicate mechanical devices never is – but they do good work and are pleasant to deal with.

Archinal Camera Repair on Beltline Road in Downtown Richardson


from The Telegraph
 
  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
  • The Long Goodby by Raymond Chandler
  • Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson
  • Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell

Do you remember this song from “Kill Bill”? It was originally done by Cher, and was written by Sonny Bono.

The Idea Pomodoro

For a while now I have been working on using the Pomodoro Technique to improve the amount of work I can get done in a period of time, help control stress, and reduce procrastination.

The basic idea of the Pomodoro Technique is to break a workday up into set units of time using a simple kitchen timer or equivalent:

1. Choose a task to be accomplished

2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)

3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper

4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)

5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

The real benefit of the technique comes when you get in the habit of examining the Pomodoros and see what you were able to accomplish. You can set up a feedback loop where you see what you are getting done, improve your implementation of the technique, apply the improvement, and then see how it works.

I have a way to go before I am a master of the technique. The most vexing difficulty is managing interruptions. But I’ll keep experimenting and plugging away.

What I want to talk about today is the idea of a Specialty Pomodoro. This is a Pomodoro sized and timed chunk of time… 25 minutes, that are set up and used for a specific purpose, rather than simply trying to peel stuff of off the daily todo list.

There might, for example, be a Brainstorm Pomodoro, where a problem has presented itself and you sit there for one Pomodoro and pump out and write down as many possible or harebrained solutions as you can, with no self-editing until the timer has dinged. There might be a Writing Pomodoro – obviously used to pump out text. Or maybe a Plot Point Pomodoro where possible plot points are generated, or a Character Pomodoro… or a Character Name Pomodoro, or a Setting Pomodoro – the list can grow very quickly.

I have come up with a concept of what I call an Idea Pomodoro – which is where I sit down with a Staples Bagasse Composition Book, start the timer going, and simply write down what I want to do, as quickly and with as little thought as possible, until I get the ding.

The purpose of this is to clear my head. There is that feeling of too many ideas bouncing around, too many plans, too little time. This helps clear everything out so I can get back to work. Once an idea is in the book, it is safe, I won’t lose it, it won’t float off to be stolen and used by somebody else. Of course, I have always carried 3×5 cards or a notebook to record sudden ideas, and that’s a good thing (they can be transferred into the Pomodoro) but I found it wasn’t enough. Doing this for a full, intense, Pomodoro feels like a spring cleaning in my brain.

Pomodoro

An Idea Pomodoro - timer, pen, composition book.

My Pomodoro timer is a metal kitchen timer – it feels more substantial and accurate that the tomoto-shaped ones so many people use. I do recommend using the physical timer rather than a computer program – the ticking of the timer seems important and having a real object in the place of a string of bits adds a certain gravitas. The paper in the composition book is thin and you can see the ink on the back side through the paper. Sometimes I use both sides, sometimes I don’t. It doesn’t seem to be important one way or the other. That’s a Pilot Prera fountain pen in the picture.

I like to use the composition book instead of a lined form because I can keep going as long as I need, keeping the limit being time, rather than space. I do find that I can easily fill four or five pages of stuff. Also, I can keep my “book of ideas” with me – all in one place, so I can look at them later and evaluate, act, or discard as need be.

I do use a little code for a hierarchy. Big, top-level ideas are marked with a tick “-“. Smaller, sub-ideas under the big one are marked with an “o”. If I have to go to a third level, I use a hand-drawn asterisk… which doesn’t happen very often.

Later, after my five-minute break or even days later, I can look over the ideas and start building projects or to-do lists. Of course, a lot of the ideas are too ambitious, or too much work, or just plain stupid – and have to be discarded. But that’s cool; I have written it down and can come back to it in the future if the situation changes.

How often do I do an Idea Pomodoro? As often as I need to. It is a spring cleaning of my brain so I do one whenever things begin to feel cluttered. When I find myself jumping from idea to idea and having trouble settling down I know it’s time to carve out the half-hour (including the five minute break) and dump the excess brain dust bunnies out onto a piece of paper.

Does this seem anal – too much work, too much navel gazing? Much ado about nothing? It really isn’t. Once you’ve set everything up it works smoothly and without very much attention. You do get like Pavlov’s dog – the ticking of the timer becomes associated with doing the work.

Speaking of which… there’s the ding. Time for me to take a little break.

Talk to ya later.