Freecycle and 1-800-JUNK-USA

Spring has arrived, and it's time to start cleaning.

eBay is always an option for stuff we feel could fetch enough $$ to make it worth the hassle of posting (and monitoring e-mails and shipping...).  And we've always had the local charities (e.g., Salvation Army).

But what's a body adverse to excessive waste to do when unloved items aren't worth the eBay hassle?  Enter Freecycle.  You post a note, such as "OFFER: Computer monitor."  Within a few hours e-mails come in from interested parties.  Voila, the excess computer monitor is slated for a new home.  [I've heard Craig's List can function in this manner as well, but the one item I've posted there never moved...]

And for those items we can't even give away, there are now several options for getting rid of things.  I recently checked out "College Hunks Hauling Junk" (www.1800junkusa.com).  They come, haul away what you tell them to, and dispose of the 'junk' in the appropriate manner.  Up to 60% of the stuff they haul away gets recycled.  That's cool.  If your junk fills their 11' x 8' x 5' dumpster, you could pay upwards of $600.  But they provide a free estimate, and the charge could be as low as $110 (up to 1/8 the dumpster - that's as much as 50 cubic feet of junk removed from your home).  I know from past experience that even if I had a truck and the time and muscle to do it myself, I'd still have to fork over a fair amount if I take it to the county dump myself.

Now to figure out how to entice the rest of the family to go along with my scheme to rid the house of the detritus that reduces our functional living area by 30%...


I heart iGoogle and Todoist

It is the year of "i" -


And now we have iGoogle.  I'm in love.

The best thing for me about iGoogle is that I can have widgets for all the web functions that I previously accessed by

1) going to Google.com
2) searching for what I wanted (e.g., dictionary)
3) selecting the link I wanted from the list of search results
4) using the function.

With iGoogle, everything I use frequently is there on my start page.  Instead of the cumbersome multi-step process, I can get what I want in one click.  I can move things around to suit my fancy.  I can minimize things I use infrequently so they don't "clutter" my world.

Since I work at a place that blocks certain sites (like gmail...), I am absolutely thrilled that there is a gmail widget that lets me preview my gmail subject lines.  This way I can glance at my screen, notice any messages that are time critical, and take action when appropriate.

So in all this beauty, I decided I wanted to upgrade from the limited "sticky note" widget to a more formal "to do" list.  I didn't hold out a lot of hope, because to do lists don't work for me.  I have too many balls in the air and nothing had worked for my "style."  I searched for "to do" in the widget finder, and selected several likely candidates, one of which was called todoist.

Upon reviewing the list candidates on my home page, todoist was a clear standout - I find it fundamentally aesthetically pleasing.  With a couple of clicks I was watching the explanatory webcast.  The structure is elegant and adaptable to a wide range of needs.  I can do recurring tasks (type something like "ev weekday" in the "due by" field), I can create flat task lists or hierarchical task lists.  I can create "chains" (append !chain to a task) to see if I've been consistent on those quotidian tasks.  I can create a task for filing taxes (ev 15 apr) or scheduling my annual physical (ev 8 Feb) , knowing it will show up quietly and persistently when it needs to happen.

I can assign priorities (1-4) to tasks to affect how they present/sort on my screen (important for the widget with it's reduced display area).  I can move tasks from one category to another.  I can capture notes (prepending "* " in front of the note text to differentiate it from a task).

I went through the notebook I've used for notes and taken all the starred items (my manual symbol that it's an action item) and transferred all that to todoist.  I had a recent shift in job responsibilities, and the todoist list for the area I'm relinquishing made turnover painless (for me - the younger man assuming my former duties is still shell shocked...).

I'm a day into it and todoist is tracking 48 action items for me - and that doesn't count the dozen or more that I've retired during that time because todoist helped me focus.

Here are what other (more coherent) people say about todoist: http://todoist.com/Help/viewBuzz

The free version is fantastic.  And for just $3 per month you can upgrade to take advantage of additional features that the serious net-savvy, mobile "to do" lister could use to make this sweet little tool even more useful in cutting through life's clutter.


Where the heart is

All too often of late I have either been at work or I've been on the computer.

Fortunately, I have a family.  Unfortunately, they all too often feel as though I'm absent, even when I'm sitting within feet of them.

Today was family day.  We cleaned together, we ate salmon and potato chip sandwiches, we played a game my youngest designed and produced.  Then this evening we celebrated a child's birthday a day early by going to see a movie and eating at Chuck E. Cheese's.

It takes a while to get rid of 100 tokens, but we did it.  We actually had a really great time.

I'm blessed to have a wonderful and sweet husband.  I've had the other kind.  Not recommended.  Our girls are at a golden age right now, and we've managed to develop a family culture that is very gentle and loving.  I'm a very lucky person.

Ten Year Journal

A few weeks ago I came across a ten+ year journal - a lovely book that allows one to keep over ten years of brief journal entries all together.  I ordered one for my family and it's fabulous.

But I ordered a second (third and fourth) that started in 2007.  One I gave to a woman who has a small child, so she could (if she wants to) go back and record her earliest memories of him.  The second I gave to my daughter, who last year started dating the man she will marry this summer.  The third book I've kept, for me to write about my writing.

From a purely practical standpoint, it is a central place to keep all the notes for when I buy writing-related stuff.  But I look forward to seeing what happens over the years as I continue on this journey.

As for last night's writer's block - I climbed the wall.  I don't know how good it is, but I have an appointment to sit down with Orson Scott Card for an hour on Monday.  I've done this once before (with the opening chapter) and came away exhilarated but severely humbled.  This time I'm bringing a 900 word synopsis as well as the prologue.