Info Management Ideas

brainbookmarks.gifRecently I took one of those online surveys that is purported to help you figure yourself out. You would think I would know pretty much about myself by now at midlife, but I figure since I’m going to be traveling with me, myself and I for many more moons, I might as well acquaint each of these trinity pieces with each other and help them all manage. Reassuringly (and I am quite sure, falsely) I like smack in the middle between left and right-brained dominance. I already know I’m hugely right-brained, but the left brain leaning would impose some welcome order in my regular chaos.

“Me” in particular is fond of collecting, while “I” desire to organize this stuff, and “Myself” tries to chip in with some tools for doing so. (No dear reader, I’m not TRULY schizophrenic!) I’ve discovered I could use my Gmail contact list as a virtual filing system. I’ve got “contacts” which serve as individual file folder of sorts, set up with info that I want to have at my fingertips any time I log onto a computer. I keep each recurring bill as a contact, with the confirmation codes for recent payments and payment dates for online payments. I keep running lists under a separate contact name, like “Movies” for flicks I want to queue up on Netflicks when I re-enlist.  Currently I have over 300 entries in contacts between these file entities and real people, but the list is alphabetical, and can be sorted by key word, so it’s navigable so far.

I’ve tried some freebie online file storage sites, but so far though I haven’t used any with great frequency, I plan to. I also find keeping a running to-do list as a draft email helps me keep some ideas to follow up with on the radar. I add to items I want take care of to the draft email, and I can even include hyperlinks of sites I want to go back to with notes on what I want to do at the site. This list is good for computer-related “to-do’s” or noting when I’m one computer, like my office computer, things I need to take care of at home. I’m a big fan of bookmarking the sites I like (that greedy “Me” trying to gobble up the universe in bite-sized gulps!) and try to organize things in logical (?) and manageable folders…I use Mozilla Firefox as my browser, and these are some of my folders:

  • Email (Caveat, okay, so I throw into that folder some non-email sites that I want to call up daily, like Facebook, Pandora radio)
  • Dance (I’m currently a dance fiend, and have at least 4 studios I visit regularly for ballroom and tango lessons)
  • Clips and Images (I have things like free greeting card sites such as egreetings.com, 123Greetings.com, and others for when my friends’ birthdays pop up from life- and face-saving entries on Birthday-Reminders.com, some great free clip art sites, and some other image sites like Yahoo.images.
  • Blogs (for blogs I like to revisit), with a sub head “for Blog” for things I might want to opine on in future self therapy sessions
  • Friends sites
  • Reference (a catch all, with subcategories including Financial (all my bill-paying sites), Computer how-to’s (fixes, short-cuts, etc. on programs I use, like PageMaker, Photoshop, Excel, etc.), as well as things like Mapquest, weather sites, Wikipedia, Timeanddate.com, white pages links, USPS’s page, etc.)
  • Marketing
  • Calendaring Events (I do freelance PR for a few places, like one of my dance studios, and send events and class listings to local calendars, and also like to check out other cultural events in my ‘hood, in case I get bored–as if!).

I’ve yet to use Stumble Upon! for site investigation or also learn more about “digging” into other buried treasure yet, because at the moment I’m pretty maxed out/info-overloaded with self-punishment from my favorite opt-in emails, which include RainToday.com, Microsoft Inside Office newsletter, The BNET Report, MarketingProfs Today, CNET Membership, Monster Career News, Knowledge at Wharton, and some local email lists and the fun “forwards” that a few of my dependable jokester-junkie friends send me. Whew, now I know where my time’s been trickling off to!

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Published in: on March 26, 2008 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Looking for a new place to sling hash?

It pays to have a sense of humor as well as an eagle eye when job seeking, or sitting on the other side of the desk and weeding, winnowing the pile of applicants’ letters and resumes. Resumania captures errors made by job seekers on resumes, applications and cover letters. Be sure to visit waytogo

the Resumania Archive while you’re there, and get a good dose of your daily mirth factor, with such resume blooper entries as: “EDUCATION: Watched the first season of The Apprentice and part of the second season.”

Also amusing are reader replies to the question, “What’s the strangest holiday gift you’ve ever received at the office?”:

  • “Sea monkeys.” (A favorite fun gift…as much fun to feed as they are to hatch! They are really brine shrimp by the way, so I’m not sure they’ll really appreciate the SeaMonkey banana treat you can buy for $3. Look for a blog entry devoted to this fascinating topic soon!)
  • “Reindeer pâté, from Finland, in a can.” (Ewww, that makes me want to renew my vegetarian pledge!)
  • “A wild turkey.” (That even tops the live rabbit delivered to my office years ago by an admirer right before Easter…needless to say, I did not start dating him!)

If you or a friend is looking through online job boards, you may want to look into the PhishBucket, where job scams and questionable companies are kept tabs on by my cyberfriend Tab.

Ed Zimmer, from The Entrepreneur Network, shares some interesting ideas for employers in an article on Employee Motivation. Basically, these ideas are…”Be decisive in hiring. Treat employees as adults — not children. Avoid paternalism. Avoid timed bonuses. (All ‘Christmas’ bonuses after the first will become not ‘bonuses’ but ‘expecteds’.) Avoid incentive pay. Cross-train. Avoid long-term employees.”

Whoa! That last one merits a little more explanation. As Ed states, “Conventional wisdom admires companies who have retained employees for many years. That wisdom is wrong! A good employee is a good employee only so long as he is stimulated, challenged — and learning. Trying to retain employees after they’ve stopped learning is bad for the employee and bad for the company. Bad for the employee because they’ve stopped ‘growing’ — stopped improving their unique value in the job market. Bad for the company because it stifles the flow of new ideas, new insights, new views of the changing business environment.”

Interesting stuff. I guess one of the challenges is how to keep people learning and growing on the job? I worked for a company that keep me learning by having a corporate training center, with all kinds of self-study CDs on topics like computer software programs and planning better meetings. The also had interesting on-site training with staff trainers, and even offered on-site higher education after hours (that MBA was a hard road, but opened my eyes and provided invaluable lessons even beyond the curriculum).

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 6:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Becoming a bag lady (now a socially desirable trait)

I wanted to kiss my Mom when we went grocery shopping together recently. In the check out line, out of her grab-bag of a purse she pulled a bunch of plastic bags that had carried previous groceries. That’s recycling at its best, when people use things for their original use over again. I have noticed more and more stores are selling their own branded totes for using as shopping bags, generally for around $1 a piece. Apparently Wal-Mart, Kroger, Publix and Winn-Dixie have them in most stores now, which is good, because despite those big cardboard boxes from depositing plastic bags from previous trips, only about 1% of them get recycled. All this means being a greenie is really getting mainstream. One eco-conscious shopper (economically and ecologically smart) even found Kroger that will pay you 5¢ per bag when you BYOB (bag, that is).

It’s reassuring to know that the trend is not just the province of sweet elderly ladies and soccer moms on a shoe-string. The April ’08 Glamour magazine has jumped on the band wagon, and in an article “Every Woman’s Guide to Going Green” is making it au courant to sport totes for to lug one’s spuds or splurges, though I’m not sure one needs the Stella McCartney bag featured at a cool $350, even if it is fashioned from recycled nylon.

While we’re at it, consider what you pack in your travel bags. If you’re headed to a third-world country, consider putting somethings you might not need that will be appreciated at your destination. Visit www.stuffyourrucksack.com to discover who could use what, or to post needed items in a certain part of the world. Some sample items are shoes, children’s books, educational materials, and many other items those of us who can afford to travel may have in droves.

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Eenie, Minie, Moe … Epaninandus, Epaminondas, Epandimimus

e2Calvin and Hobbes is one of my favorite cartoons. This particular strip reminded my of a favorite story from when I was a kid. Thank goodness for Google! though the story stuck with me, only I remembered a garbled version of the bumbling little protagonist’s name, thinking it was Epandimimus.

Well, a search for THAT name didn’t retrieve the saga so I tried ae1 combination of key words I recalled from the little boy’s tribulations, and finally the combination of the words “story boy mother sent butter hat” struck gold and and I found a couple versions of the tale. The first is a well-spun rendition as told by Grandpa H (or Merlin Hiaring), who has little Epaminandus setting off to visit his grandma, and tripping his way back home in series of comic mishaps, complete with an Amelia Bedelia-like twist at the end. One reason the story is so memorable, I guess, is with or without illustrations it’s replete with the mental images that kids love, including my favorite scene, the one with the melted butter*.

A little more digging and I found another version of the tale, along with wonderful other stories and great vintage images. harking back to 1905, by a Sara Cone Bryant Borst. Now, as a note to parents, Sara’s version follows a slightly grim twist, like you might find in the Brothers Grimm tales. You might want to use the slightly less morbid spin on the puppy dog’s fate from Grandpa H’s rendition. However, the portal where I found the Sara Cone Bryant book is a truly a lovely site. I recommend lovers of children’s literature and parents, grandfolks, uncles or aunties to visit Kellscraft Studio and peruse their many free online books.Considering how awful “fairy tales” once were, one might be led to believe our word “grim” came from the above mentioned brothers. For example from Handsel and Gretel, the mother (!) says, “I’ll tell you what, husband,…Early to-morrow morning we will take the children out into the forest to where it is the thickest, there we will light a fire for them, and give each of them one more piece of bread more, and then we will go to our work and leave them alone. They will not find the way home again, and we shall be rid of them.” How sad! But fortunately, even back in the early 1800’s, these story tellers started cleaning up the stories and making them more fit for bedtime fare. A well designed site by National Geographic gives some insight into Grimm fairy tales and delivers up actual stories with a great graphic presentation.

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*Speaking of melted butter, what is it about melted butter in kid’s stories? There’s Little Black Sambo, the story of an Indian boy who made his debut in 1899 in a children’s book by the Scottish Helen Bannerman, who lived in India. Sambo is the proud owner of new clothes, including a green umbrella, a lovely little pair of purple shoes with crimson soles and crimson linings, which he has to fork over to a band of hungry tigers. Now at one point in the story, these famished tigers get “very, very angry, but still they would not let go of each others’ tails. And they were so angry that they ran round the tree, trying to eat each other up, and they ran faster and faster till they were whirling round so fast that you couldn’t see their legs at all. And they still ran faster and faster and faster, till they all just melted away, and then there was nothing left but a great big pool of melted butter (or “ghi” as it is called in India) round the foot of the tree.”

There are a lot of beautifully illustrated versions of Little Black Sambo on Amazon and other sources. The original illustrated version that I remember is Bannerman’s ,with elegant drawings by Florence White Williams, and the first image below is from that book. The book cover on the far right has some clever tiger claw marks that give it extra panache. Incidentally, since Sambo became a racially derogatory term later, a new edition features The Story of Little Babaji, using a more typical Indian name (last image).

tigerbutterLBS1lbs3

babaji.jpg

Published in: on March 14, 2008 at 8:40 pm  Comments (4)  

Still discovering

Someone knows me pretty well and has insight I trust. This is the kind of person that you welcome into your life, despite fundamental political divides.

This friend has developed what I’d consider incredibly grounded insight–derived no doubt from his encounters with grizzly bears, the self-application required to build a log cabin, and a indigenousknow and trust natural patience which enabled him to raise two wonderful and incredibly self-sufficient sons. It’s experience fortified by facing potentially life-dependent decisions, as which ice flows to land a little plane on in Alaska, en route to nailing dang poachers cutting dead wildlife without legal permission.

What did I want to say about him as I lost train of thought?

Oh yes. One thing that’s frustrating to him about me is that I’m still in the state of self-discovery. (see previous post)

My friend, on the other hand, KNOWS who he IS. In response to a an observation of his that I should know who I am by mid-life, I countered with a saucy retort (and perhaps humble acknowledgment of my probably delayed self-discovery process) that the day I stop learning about myself, is the day I’ll no longer be on this side of the turf. (Actually, I personally believe in cremation, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of worms.)

Anyway, this blog clips closely on the heels of another abandoned blog, and tomorrow will undergo the insight of dispassionate editorial review. but Randy, I love you Sweetheart, don’t forget that, ever.

Published in: on March 14, 2008 at 2:10 am  Leave a Comment  

My life as an ENFP

enfpNo, I’m not some emergency technician. An ENFP is an Extravert, Intuitive, Feeler, Perceiver. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m wishy-washy, but it well may. It does say that I tend to be enthusiastic, talkative and outgoing; clever, curious and playful; deeply caring, sensitive and gentle; highly innovative, creative, optimistic and unique; adaptable and resourceful but sometimes disorganized.” It is true that I thrive with “freedom to see possibilities, make connections and be with a variety of people.”

Yes, I’m apt to agree with all of those traits. As a matter of fact, the very fact that I took this Personality/Perfect Career Quiz at the Monster website probably indicates some traits. If I’d taken the alternate answers for each of the four fields, I would have been an ISTJ (Intravert, Sensor, Thinker, Judger) and more “cautious, conservative and quiet; literal, realistic and practical; careful and precise; logical, honest and matter of fact; resistant to change and comfortable with routine; hardworking and responsible.” Whew! I get exhaself sketchusted thinking about it! And I would have been working hard, and being responsible, not playing with a hypothetical application like this quiz. I would possibly doing my beat as a policeman or dutifully crunching numbers as an accountant, not dabbling at writing, thinking of images, wanting to help others discover their “inner selves.”

Published in: on March 12, 2008 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Virtual Hording

Wow, sometimes a message comes to us at just the right time! Here I was congratulating myself with the idea that I was conquering my squirreling tendencies that turn me into a paper pack rat by the use of scanning and bookmarking. Along comes an email that suggests that I’m doing myself a disservice!

As the product of two intellectual parents who are a twin-engined archival force, I’ve been known to have my own clipping, saving, and sometimes filing mania. I recently had been patting myself on the back for the discovery that I could convince myself to part with some papers and stuff that I’d been collecting if I scanned them for future reference. All well and good, but it does then lead to soft-copy file explosion, which is a little less annoying to the eye, and easily sorted and retrieve from with search functions.

Recently, however, I’ve become prey to a tendency to book mark sites for future reference like crazy. Another kind of collecting. I do tend to organize my bookmarks, but I think I’ve gotten into a new danger area. This suspicion was confirmed today when I read the daily email from the Messies Anonymous group…pasted below. Worth chewing on, and then maybe a little info diet discipline?

“INFORMATION ADDICT

Hooked on Information? Information
gives some of us a feeling of excitement. That’s why
we love magazines, newspapers, and books. We
use time and energy going through magazines and
newspapers, clipping as we go,. We use space storing them.
But it doesn’t stop with papers. The desire for
information drives us to stay on the computer looking up
more to learn. Sometimes we print it and then we have to
deal with the printed pages. In addition, wanting to know
more keeps us glued to our television sets.
The search for information feels exciting initially.
But it begins to drag us into uncontrollable messes. After a
while, we realize we are losing control over ourselves and
that becomes frightening.
Are you willing to get the information monkey on your back?

Would you be seriously willing to lessen or stop
pursuing information if it would improve the quality of your
life?
That might mean being willing to let go of the information urge. It
might mean giving up magazine articles, taking a whole different
approach to computer use, avoiding informative shows on TV. It might
mean abandoning the urge to cut out articles on important subjects for
yourself or others. Can you do it? Would it help you if you could?”

Many thanks to the The-Organizer-Lady@yahoogroups.com for her insight!

Post Script…stumbling and bumbling through the info sent by the above newsletter, I found a similar article CHRONIC DISORGANIZATION AND INFOMANIA, which indicates that many chronically disorganized people “care passionately about knowing things, being up on things, and not letting any information pass by. This kind of infomania is especially pernicious in a world of unlimited information brought to us by search engines, blogs, wikis, forums, social networks, RSS feeds, the traditional Internet and other media. ” Amen to that.  Now that we know the problem, it’s solutions to the problem we seek.  I think Zen Buddhism may have a hint of a cure.  Curious how others cope.  Drop me a line if you have any ideas on how to reduce this noise.

Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lumpy Mail

When I was working in REALLY corporate America, no, not IBM, but a company with 2,000 employees here, another army of worker bees and soldier ants in Atlanta, and then 4 other large arms of the mother company…all figuring out how to sell different types of insurance, I first heard the term “lumpy mail.”

Lumpy mail is well, mail that’s kinda lumpy. In other words, it’s a sneaky way of doing direct mail campaign that makes the recipient of your marketing piece say, “Oh Wow! Look at this…I’ve got [real] mail!” A good example is the credit card offer that came to the house in today’s mail. A medium-sized Kraft envelope arrived, about 5×9″, with a strange heft to it that said enclosures. This was one credit card offer that didn’t get the immediate rip-in-half-without-opening treatment and I did just what those craft marketing whizzes wanted and looked inside the magic envelop. It didn’t take long to realize I’d been sucker-punched. The “squishiness” and light heft and crinkly sound of the envelop was merely a square of bubble wrap inserted for no apparent reason other than to dupe gullibles like myself, and the offer went into the “round file,” following an environmentally sad number of its less creative predecessors.

So that wasn’t that interesting. BUT…when I looked for more lumpy mail ideas, I found some really out of the ordinary mail thingies that if I found them in my mailbox, I would say, hey that’s cute, oh my how clever, and would have been pleased with being singled out for a marketing pitch.  Some of these include a coconut shell, sawed in half and sealed with a zipper; or fortune cookies in cute little Chinese food boxes, with customized fortunes.  I’ve heard you can also send a letter on a whole coconut (for those of you not from the tropics like us who have the trees and have to pick these things up off the ground in order to mow the grass, it’s about the size of a football)…like a really ungainly postcard…of course additional postage required.

Funny thing is, I always had this pipe dream of being a mail lady, driving one of those funky Jeeps with the steering wheel on the wrong side, delivering love letters and birthday cards, small packages, happily anticipated magazines, etc. This little reverie has me as an older version of our neighborhood mail lady, who is just what I aspire to in my dream. Suzie the mail lady, is fit, upbeat, loves dogs and her neighbors. She always has a smile on her face, some nice words of welcome if I have time for a brief chat, or a friendly wave of her hand when I’m in a rush. She even takes my nutty dog for a joy ride from our house to the next, which thrills my 12-year-old Spazhound to no end. I just hope that by the time I get ready for semi-retirement that there will still be lovely stamps and hand-written letters, at least once in a while, in my mailbag.

zip.gifLike a woman who has to get the last word in, I didn’t want to tuck my blog entry in for the night without at least one image (lucky you, you got 2!). I really wish I had a photo of Suzie to grace this page. But instead, I thought I’d just put the friendly face of Mr. Zip (I thought his name was Zippy, not sure why). When I first searched for him, I couldn’t find him. Mr. Zip was hiding from me. I finally was able to track him down, as he must have appeared in his heyday, a dashing young zippypinpostal deliverer who would brave any element. He was sitting on eBay for $29.99 starting bid or buy him now and forever have him grace your home for just $39.99. It would be a great one-of-a-kind gift for someone who’s really into postal lore or perhaps someone who’s retiring from (rather than to) a career of mail carrying.

I finally did catch up with the Mr. Zip as I remembered him (see first image above), in the height of his career, and much leaner from toting all that mail, but also more chipper and enthusiastic to my way of thinking). I also got a well-needed explanation from a friend of his about why he’d become rather reclusive as of late. According to Bill Straub, “Mr. ZIP carried out his duties, through rain and snow and gloom of night, until being forced into retirement in 1986…”

Now as I mentioned when I first started rambling on the mail topic, I’ve dunked my toes in the corporate world, and I don’t blame our dear Mr. Zip one iota for taking offense at being giving the boot by his lifelong employer at the tender young age of 40. Sounds like grounds for an age-discrimination lawsuit.

Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 3:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Weird stuff for sale #1 (precious, or precocious?)

timmyI guess there a market for almost everything, kitsch-wise at least. I’m always amazed at the “cutesy” stuff that gets manufactured (in China?) and sold to sweet grandmas in suburbia around the United States. I’ve never really understood the appeal of these characters…they look a bit doped up and sad, no where near as sweet as Hummels, but I guess more affordable…which maybe helps to explain the culture of collectors. There is, of course, for the big spender, a $250 dollar item to commemorate a wedding say (now wouldn’t a savings bond be a little more practical?) A little Wikipedia lore says the Precious MomentsTM Porcelain Bisque Figurines started in the late ’70s. There’s now a brand-sponsored Collectors’chapel Club and Fun Club to encourage cameraderie and building one’s precious empire and even a Precious Moments park in Carthage, Missouri. , complete with chapel where it looks like celestial things might happen…maybe no Elvis spottings like you might get a at Graceland or quite as much big hair as there might be at Dollywood, but choirs of angels singing…and of course, don’t forget to swing by the gift shop to pick up your latest collectible(s): “No trip to Precious Moments Park is complete without a visit to the world’s largest Precious Moments store. It is home to the most complete selection of Precious Moments gifts and accessories, ranging from watches, jewelry, pens and puzzles to the world famous figurines and dolls. Each year new product is introduced into the Precious Moments family of products and shoppers find hours of pleasure exploring the many areas of the Park’s gift shop.” Now, I would probably enjoy a peek in there, I have enough curiosity to kill off about eight lives of any cat, and do have a pretty strong craving for sweets, but the saccharine level in there would send me scurrying out pretty darn soon. I guess someone else will take my hours of shopping pleasure. No problem!

byers.jpgDon’t get me wrong, I hoarded Breyer horses in the ’70s. I wish I had saved them! There were so beautiful, and realistic…with even the whites of the eyes being hand-painted. See this band of lovelies, owned and operated by a fellow equiphile who goes by the handle of appaloosa on flickr.  Thanks so much for loaning me your stable here, and also helping me stumble upon some fellow horse lovers and great images. You’ve got a good eye, and a big heart, and if I start, I might just convert my whole blog to horses, because they are so fascinating.

My world of real and virtual friends grows apace with each passing day…as Satchmo said, What a wonderful world!

Published in: on March 5, 2008 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hojas Nuevas…

HojaHojas nuevas…that’s Spanish for new leaves, like this nice one captured by HerCa, who incidentally lives and photographs all types of unfolding beauty in Spain. The historically named watering hole, well known to many locals as Doc Dammers, that beckoned me last Friday had fallen prey to the passage of time, and demands of a new audience. Hence the new name–Hoja Nueva–reflects Miami and Coral Gables’ now predominantly Latino cultural composition. Geezers

I’m not sure if I found what I was looking for (see last entry) but I did have great fun. I met a German-born artist and Certified Laughter Leader , who besides helping fight cancer and other maladies through mirth, creates literal portals of light and beauty through his incredible art glass designs. Then I encountered a really nice guy, Kenny, who could unflaggingly “name that tune” as a wonderful band–The Geezers–played one after another great rendition of tunes by The Beatles, Steely Dan, The Doors, and more and later Kenny’s girlfriend, a really mellow architect/concert pianist. Then I bumped into a new friend, Russian-born Olga, who had enough energy to put a squad of cheerleaders to shame, and soon Kenny and Olga and I were inventing a 3-person Hustle/Troiska and practicing a good dose of laughter therapy in the process. I’m sure another Russian in my circle, my divine ballroom instructor (who’s been trying to undo any tendencies I may have towards ungainliness and instill in its stead the art of the Viennese Waltz) would have been most appalled, but perhaps he too would have had to stifle a smile.

Published in: on March 4, 2008 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment