Category Archives: lists

Artificially Imposed Order, yo

Ten Things I’ve Done

Still working on the site updates; thanks for being patient with me, everyone!

Scalzi's doing a thing I thought I might jump in on (and you totally should too, if you want!) — Ten Things I've Done That You (Probably) Haven't.  This was a fun list to write!

1.  Almost died one random day from a sudden rupture in my guts.  Happened completely out of nowhere; I was 23.  I barely made it to the hospital in time, and had emergency surgery that left me with 250+ stitches in my stomach and a few less organs.  (Note to self:  Never ask the Universe to better help you understand "memento mori", amiright? ;)

2.  Shot a fish on breath-hold under fifty feet of water (and took it home and ate it)

3.  Free-solo'd a thousand-foot cliff face to see the Anasazi ruins at the top (Note: this was stupid, my first adventure climbing, and I don't recommend free-soloing to anyone!  I climb with ropes now that I know what I'm doing.)

4.  Lived on the Uberman schedule for six months?  I mean, I had to put that, right?  ;)

5.  Spent 22 hours in labor…not really recommending that one, heh

6.  Road-tripped almost the entire length of Route 66 (which bisects the U.S. longways) on a motorcycle

7.  Studied under a Shaolin monk

8.  Had my tongue pierced

9.  Urban-explored my way from the sub-basement all the way to the very top (not just the fourteenth floor or the roof, but the top of the ladder on the smokestack on the roof) of the famous abandoned train station in Detroit

10.  Presented a paper to an audience of PhDs when I was an undergrad (and I should add that irrespective of everything else on this list, I still get heart palpitations when I remember this one!!)

 

Okay, seriously, that was super fun.  We all know Scalzi's a genius, so I guess it doesn't bear repeating; but do make up your own list, whether you post it there, here, on your own page, or nowhere!

Not your grandmother’s yearly plan (unless your grandma is WAY AWESOME)

SO yesterday was a lot of semi-sensible-sounding sleep-and-diet, writing-and-practice stuff…but don't let that fool you; I still highly value the *other* kind of planning too, the kind that just lets it all explode out and let's see what sticks.  Therefore, lest anyone think I’m not also doing good old-fashioned completely batshit planning in addition to the (for me) sane and well-considered planning of yesterday, I present…

JANUARY 2’s CONFESSIONS

The nice thing about a slow period — you've got to have them, and if I'm not careful I hate them, but — it IS nice that they give you lots of time to make crazy plans.  To make ALL the planz, and then gear yourself up to hit the tarmac at 200 knots and see what you can do.  When things are busy, you just grab the ropes as they swing by; it's when they're slow (like over a holiday) that you get to set things up and try to put some future ropes (mental or physical or financial) in the right places so you can make all those amazing leaps you're really hoping for.

Like… 

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Uber Time Management Update

OKAY.

Whew.

So I kicked that cold, and I got through the few days of bitterly cold and dry weather that had my knees rehearsing for what being ninety might be like, and actually I didn’t do that bad in terms of productivity and sanity in spite of everything. (There’s been a lot of everything, having to do with personal and job stuff I don’t think it’s cool to discuss here. Hope you understand.)

BUT, starting tomorrow, I’m healthy again and, with a few exceptions scattered around each week, I will, in the main, have control of my own time for a while. I’ve been convinced of the power of Cal from Study Hacks’ system (which I have no right whatsoever to call Uber Time Management; I’m just amusing myself there) from my part-time experience with it the last few weeks, and now I want to give it a go for real.

However, I should mention that I’m openly interpreting this schedule in a way that I feel will fit my life; I’m not copying it (properly called "Fixed-Scheduled Productivity") wholesale.  I think this is an important point, since I’m always telling people not to interpret or "guesstimate" things too much with regards to polyphasic sleep.  There are reasons I think this is a different thing, though:  Polyphasic sleep works as a system due to some (rather poorly understood) quality or qualities of human physiology.  While consistency in the schedule is necessary to adapt to it, there is not good evidence that any schedule can be adapted to by applying enough consistency; and further, it might be dangerous to push through sleep-deprivation too long, so constantly "working on" a schedule is a pretty bad idea.  Hence, it’s better to stick with what will probably work.  When it comes to scheduling, though, getting it wrong isn’t dangerous; making changes is relatively painless; and one could argue that consistency and discipline alone may be able to make almost any schedule work, if it fit a person’s lifestyle — there’s a lot less in the way of possible biological limits and hinderances here than there is with sleep.  So I feel alright about handrolling this a bit.

My goal is to be able to juggle several daunting "administrative" tasks, while simultaneously putting more and more concerted effort into my writing, and also into things that might make it more possible for me to spend more time writing in the long-term.  (Again, many of those plans and tasks are at stages that it’s not wise to be public about the details; and again I apologize for the ‘tease’.)

Here’s how the schedule looks, starting tomorrow.  (Under the cut in case you don’t care.)

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Do Surveys Know What it is “to Value”?

A recent Pew survey finds that more Americans think scientists contribute a lot to society (70%) than do doctors (69%), engineers (64%), the clergy (40%), journalists (38%), artists (31%), lawyers (23%) or business executives (21%).

via Do Americans Value Science? New Numbers | Science Blog.

Questions this makes me ask:

  1. I wonder how highly people rate “contributions to society” when it comes to “reasons to keep people around and pay them”?  Are there other reasons, for example, that business executives should continue to be highly compensated and churned out of schools, or does this survey effectively say they should not be?
  2. Why in the frak aren’t farmers on that list?  Does “food” not count as a major contribution anymore?
  3. Does “scientists” seem like an unreasonably huge category to anyone else?  I think I “value” differently the contributions of, say, medical researchers versus people who work designing long-range missiles.
  4. I wonder what would have changed if there was a separate question for “artists in general” and “your favorite artists”.  I bet the same people who want to look down on artists as a group would change their tune if asked specifically how much the artists that enlighten and comfort them contribute to society.
  5. Am I just too picky or what?

10 Ways to Rock Online Shopping

I’ve been shopping online since it was possible, for virtually (ha!) everything I can.

For me, a good year is one in which I don’t have to buy a single Xmas or birthday present at a store.  I don’t particularly like driving or shopping (especially as I live in SprawlLand, making both travel and shopping innately unpleasant), so my goal in life is to only buy things in physical stores that I either happen to be in or visit regularly anyway:  Everything else I aim to get online.

Besides being a computer junkie though, I’m a former educator on the topic of Identity Theft prevention, an avid follower of consumer law, a frugal mom, and I read Terms of Service and am not afraid to flex a boycott when I feel it’s necessary.  So maybe something I know could be of use to you.

As always, your comments, additions, retractions, and heated discussions are welcome!

Ten Ways to Rock Online Shopping

  1. Build relationships with retailers, just like you do in meatspace.  Sometimes you won’t have the time or inclination to do a lot of comparison-shopping, so have a list handy of stores you know you like to deal with for certain items, i.e. Zappos for shoes, Newegg for electronics, Thinkgeek for gifts, Etsy for accessories, Amazon for media…that sort of thing.  (Yes, those are some of mine.  Steal away.  ;)  Companies I will not deal with due to their Terms of Service or past problems include Paypal*, Overstock.com, any online Camera-supply shop, eBay, and most big-box stores that have online presences (because unfortunately their service online tends to be about as good as their service in real life!).  [*I do use PayPal to accept payments for work, but I have a separate bank account for it, which I consider a necessity since PayPal reserves the "right" to freeze your accounts for any reason, and has been known to do it!]
  2. Always read return policies, as these are even more important online than in a store.  It’s absolutely worth paying a little more to know that you won’t get stuck with an item that doesn’t fit or isn’t what you expected.  Remember, in meatspace you can at least go down to the store and get loud and annoying until they give you a refund just to get rid of you — online, you’re easier to write off, so make sure you’re protected up front as much as possible.
  3. That said, try to know what you’re buying whenever possible:  Either stick with brands and/or products that you already have experience with, or do some research before you spring for something.  Type “[productname] review” and “[productname] complaints” and “compare [producttype]” into Google and spend a few minutes checking things out before you buy; alternately, try “[storename] scam” and “[storename] reviews”.  When you get good at parsing the results of these simple searches, it’ll only take you a few minutes to know exactly what you want and what you should avoid…and you don’t have to drive all over heck and back to find the best deal!
  4. Pay attention to shipping:  It’s not just “the bad side” of online transactions.  First of all, don’t forget to compare it to the gasoline and/or time you would have spent getting the same item offline.  (For me, $2.99 shipping is about the same as driving 10-15 min. each way, in gasoline.)  Second of all, don’t just go for “free shipping every time” — actually watch the numbers.  A great example is Amazon’s “dirt mall” section (all the used & new items people sell through Amazon) — those have shipping costs, but many time they’re so cheap that they’re totally worth it compared to the price that Amazon’s charging with free shipping!  (Plus, you still have Amazon’s protection for the transaction, making these person-to-person sales much more reliable than some others, like eBay.)
  5. Don’t ever buy clothes you can’t measure, unless it’s something easy like socks.  If a clothing store online doesn’t give you actual measurements for their sizes, then it’s a crapshoot, and trying things on through the mail is rarely worth the hassle.  (Zappos is an exception — they make returns so easy that buying several pairs of shoes and returning the ones that don’t fit actually makes sense.)  What I’ve found is that, for the most part, the ‘Net is a great place to buy specialty items, handmade things, and things you’d otherwise have to order by mail or would never run into…for basic stuff like jeans, usually it makes more sense to just glance through the sale-racks whenever you’re in a meatspace store and try it on before you buy it.
  6. Keep your info in a minimum of places: Avoid creating an “account” at every single store you shop at.  Unless you plan to use them regularly, just purchase “as a guest” or “without an account” (if you can).  The more places have your information, the more junk mail/email/etc. you’ll get, and the higher your chances of having information leaked or stolen.   (NOTE though, that actual identity theft happens offline in over 80% of cases. Most of your risk online is having your credit-card numbers lifted, which is pretty easy to deal with as long as you check your bank account(s) regularly and alert them as soon as you see a problem.)  If you want to use a “meta-payer” service that lets you put in your info once and use it multiple places, consider using Google Checkout instead of Paypal, especially now that the former is available in so many places.  Also, whenever it’s not critical to use your real name, address, phone number, etc., go ahead and lie.  Unless you like spam, of course.
  7. Be serious about passwords. The ‘Net may be more than a decade old finally, but the simple password is still your strongest protection against most kinds of exploitation.  Learn how to make a good one, hide it properly (do write it down, but not where it will ever be in the same room as the computer(s) it works on; even better, come up with a code for yourself so you don’t have to ever write them down exactly as they’re used — write them all backwards, for example, or one letter/number higher than they really are), change it occasionally, and for pete’s sake don’t tell it to anybody.    For using multiple sites, it can be helpfult to have different “levels” of password:  One for simple stupid sites that don’t have any personal info on them; one for shopping sites; one for heavy-duty sites like banks, etc.  This also makes changing them easier.
  8. Keep at least one fake email address — and by “fake” I mean “real, but reserved for spam”.  One awesome service that makes this easy is Spamgourmet — it lets you create email addresses on the fly that can let through only a specified number of emails, or none at all, to your main account.  This, or something like it, is a great way to make sure you get the “Your order has shipped” email, but nothing beyond that!
  9. Don’t ever conduct a monetary transaction over email. Email is not a protected method of communication:  U.S. Courts do not recognize it as having any expectation of privacy (which even a phone call in a crowded room has).  Keep your personal information OUT of emails whenever possible; or at least encode, encrypt, or break it up into several different messages.  If you get an email telling you to check your bank account, delete it and log into your account using your usual bookmark/URL — don’t use any links in an email that involve putting personal information in.  If you get an email from someone who wants to do business with you, it’s a scam (unless you contacted them first, or they’re responding to your Craigslist ad, etc., in which case the monetary-transaction part should either happen offline with cash, or online via credit-card if you accept payments that way).  Your personal info should never travel over email in a chunk (such as name/address/phone/birthday) without encryption (non-techies, try a service like Hushmail).  Your SSN, credit card number, bank account number, and passwords should never travel over email, period; but if it’s really unavoidable, at least make sure you’re only communicating with someone you damn well certainly know (and can personally kick the ass of if the info gets out), and delete all the emails (*really* delete them) later.  If you have to tell someone (like a forgetful family-member) a password or credit-card number, it’s actually safer to use chat services than email, since those don’t usually store messages as long.  Still, don’t send your credit-card number in the same communication as your name or address; or your password along with your username.
  10. Know (and use!) your online superpowers. Being online gives you quite a bit of access to useful information that can really beef you up as a shopper.  Besides being able to read reviews and check for scams before you buy, you can use sites like GetHuman to cut your way through customer-service mazes, or leverage well-known blogs like The Consumerist or Rip-Off Report to put pressure on an underperforming company.  Many companies now have a Twitter feed that, due to its public nature, can get your problems resolved faster.  You also have access, thanks to the Mighty Internet, to all the consumer protection laws in your state — Use them!  (Google is your friend; and once you’re looking at that huge dump of legal text, use CTRL-F to zero in on certain words and phrases.)  Even if you never hire a lawyer, you’d be amazed what being able to say “Well, what you’ve just told me clearly violates Section 3 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, so you’d better get me your supervisor” can do!   …Oh, but don’t be afraid to hire a lawyer for consumer issues: most violations of U.S. consumer law include automatic payment of your attorney fee if the company is guilty, so most consumer law attorneys will try a likely-sounding case for free.  (Plus, the best lawyers for trying online-based consumer law cases…are easy to find online!)

…There, now I can say I’ve been useful and non-flaky at least once this week.  ;)

(I am stuck) On China

China has been an area of intense study for me recently, so I thought I should share some of my discoveries and realizations.

One is that some of the coolest blogs ever deal with China.  Maybe it’s because it’s such a country of secrets, with a simultaneously ancient and powerful, yet almost completely buried and lost, traditional culture.  Maybe it’s because of the mind-boggling dichotomies that one runs up against continually in talking about it:  the startling beauty and rampant neglect, the highly advanced art and severely retarded politics, the graceful, intelligent mysticism and clunky, often clueless social mores.

But for whatever reason, I think I could read myself sick on China-related blogs and still want more (shut up, that wasn’t meant to be a Chinese-food joke!  ;)  …Here are a few I’m liking now:

Manyul Im’s Chinese Philosophy — May not fascinate you as much as me, since it’s a philosophy prof’s blog, but I love reading his reports on how academia is discovering, and in many ways catching up to, ancient Chinese philosophy.

The Useless Tree — Also a philosopher’s blog, but this one’s much less academically-oriented and more about comparing Eastern and Western wisdom and teachings.  Very cool.

The China Beat — Full of history, politics, essays, book recommendations, and all kinds of mind-boggling stuff.  I always find myself wanting an extra day in my life just to follow their links!

Meiguozi — talk about creative; the author of this one is designing new Chinese characters for modern concepts.  This was the first one I saw, and it dropped my jaw:

It’s a character to represent Sierpinski Triangle.  IS THAT NOT FREAKING AMAZING.  I think I want a tattoo of it!  ;)

Besides blogs, there’ve been some great books — most notably The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices, which is an obsessively-compelling and truly heartbreaking look at what life was like for Chinese women, in all different walks of life, in the ancient and far-away years of the 1990′s. The combination of the content and the publication date ought to be enough to give a feminist a heart-attack at half a mile; and any human being worth their salt, at a hundred paces.  But it’s amazing stuff, stuff you never hear about even today, and which will totally change your view of the world — and not necessarily for the worse.  It’s a very compassionate, sympathetic detailing of what are often shocking inequalities and injustices, and how they arise, not usually from malice, but from ignorance, long-embedded teachings, political manipulation and simple fear.

I’ve also been poking at the language a lot, wishing I could learn it, but pretty sure I can’t do it on my own.  I’m not terrible with languages, but self-teaching oneself Mandarin is pretty damn tall order!  Gah, it’d be worth it, though, just to be able to translate some of the poetry with even a few of the proper connotations intact.  I’ve bought a few books — an old-old volume on Chinese Calligraphy that I’m supplementing my clumsy attempts-from-cheap-how-to-books with, and a cute kid’s book called The Pet Dragon, which is a really cute introduction to the basic letters, and which my daughter absorbed completely in less than a week.   (Did I also mention she can count to ten in Chinese?  That’s my girl.  ;)

Also, as often happens to people who start reading about China, I got sucked into reading more about Pingfang and Unit 731. Which you really can’t avoid, any more than you can avoid reading about the Holocaust if you study Israel.  Unlike the Holocaust, though, this crime against humanity (also of nearly unbelievable scope and cruelty) was never admitted to or apologized for by the country that committed it, and America has been actively complicit in its cover-up.  Moreover, due to the nature of Chinese citizens, especially rural and recently-rural ones, many people have allowed themselves to be convinced that it’s best just to let it go and pretend it didn’t happen.  o.O

DUH WARNING:  Follow links to info about Unit 731 at your own risk and preferably not right before bedtime.

What a paradox is China!

I love it, but I don’t think I want to go there.  (At least, not without insider help.)

I adore reading about it, but it gives me nightmares regularly.

I’m horrified by the politics of cruelty, bald-faced lies and corruption, yet every time I look hard, I see the same things at work in my own backyard.

(Want an example?  The American government put together a series of meetings about health care reform that included a) people who want to keep the Insurance Industry in power, and b) people who want it to share power with the government.  When a Doctor’s group and others went to a meeting and protested the lack of even a single advocate to speak for the idea of a Universal, single-payer, non-Industry system, they were jailed and silenced. The government never addressed their concern except with thinly-disguised pro-Industry propaganda.)

Oh, also, funny fact?  I’m actually related to someone who’s a noted Sinologist, specializing in the subject of women in China.  Needless to say, I’m trying hard to re-establish contact with him — I’ve never even read his book!

You, In Order

(That’s not to say that I am orderly.)

I am:

Conscious first.
Alive (physically embodied) second.
Human third.

Those are what I see as my primaries.  When I have to “side”, I take the highest (most inclusive) side I can.

When I think, I try as often as I can to think of myself as one of the Consciousness (the category isn’t dependent on having a view, like mine, that all consciousnesses are one Consciousness, but it’s certainly compatible with it).

I find that the higher the level I’m able to consider myself on in any situation, the better my decision-making tends to be. Thinking of myself as alive makes me more widely compassionate and understanding than thinking of myself as human does.

Of course, it’s not always possible to think that big.  Thinking from consciousness doesn’t help me pick groceries (though gods willing, one day it will!).  And of course, sometimes in the course of living, one has to “drill down” even farther than being human.  (Personally, even thinking about things from an anthrocentric perspective makes me nervous — somebody’s going to have to be understanding and compassionate about aliens someday!  …But I fully admit that that’s probably just me.  ;)

I used to really resist smaller-group thinking, but since it can be legitimately necessary at times, I’m trying to get the hang of doing it — without deteriorating into us-and-them thinking, if possible, since that almost never seems to produce much good.  (Usually, if I find that an issue is presented as having an us-or-them binary solution, the middle way is usually a function of seeing things from a level or two higher.  Neat, huh?)

So, since humanity is first divided in half, it would seem that I’m also:

Female fourth.

…Okay, I can do that.  It means that it’s my job to consider my gender when issues are raised that affect women as a group, and to speak up when they’re being ignored, and if necessary, side with women when women and men side against each other (which I wish they’d stop doing).  Note that that doesn’t always mean I’ll agree with “most women”, but it does mean that what’s good for women as a group will inform my decisions about what I do agree with.

Er.

But then it gets tricky.

(Read more for the enumerating of race, nationality, and other trickiness.  …But anyway, think about yourself…do you agree with me so far?  Is categorizing that widely useful to you?  Would it be for everyone?  How do you “Order” yourself?)

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PD’s Holiday Gift Guide for 2008 and Every Year Thereafter

Every site has a gift-guide, it seems, and why should I be any different?  Because I’m ALWAYS THE SAME, that’s why.  Easy on the brain and forever marching in lockstep with all the other fish-kettle drummers, that’s me.

So, here’s my gift guide for 2008, and because it will never change, 2009, 2010, and for however long after that that there isn’t an extinction event.  (That’s called efficiency, my friends.)

Presenting…

The One Gift You Can Get Everyone On Your List And They Will Always Love It

TIME.


If you like someone enough to want to hold out something once a year (or more) that says something nice that simply saying something nice won’t do, well, TIME is your answer.  Yes yes, you can give gifts, and that works, but not really as well, plus it’s expensive.  TIME as a gift works for lovers, parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and near-strangers equally well, and with a few tips you can’t get it wrong.  Here’s how you give TIME as the perfect present, every time:

Actually stop other things for a period of TIME and use it only to think about your giftee.  Consider what they mean to you, what their life is like right now, and what might make them a bit happier.  Keep doing this until something that will make them a bit happier occurs to you that it’s within your power to do.

Be prepared to realize that the thing that will make them happiest is to SPEND TIME WITH YOU.  If you’re thinking honestly, you’ll be surprised at how often this is true.  But duh, people who love or like you tend to want your company!

Sometimes what would make someone happy is a note or other keepable message from you (a memento of TIME that you spent thinking about them), or an item that will remind them of TIME you spent together, or a promise to spend TIME together later, doing something special or enjoyable to them.  Sometimes it’s as simple as giving the TIME to cook a meal, stay over for a weekend, or make it to their Xmas party.  Sometimes you can give your TIME as a babysitter, tour guide, artist, or what have you.  The beauty of this is that, if you take the TIME to think about it, you’ll know exactly what you should give.

Once you’ve realized what form of TIME that you’re able to provide would make the person you’re considering happiest, take the TIME to procure it.  You won’t be able to spend forever on everybody (TIME has a budget, too), but just as you would with money, give what you can, and to prove how much you love the people really close to you, give a lot.

-  Yes, this does work with kids too.  If the kid on your list would appreciate a toy from you, they’d appreciate a trip to buy the toy and a stop for ice cream a hundred times more; and the trip minus the toy would probably be just great, too.  TIME with caring grownups is the currency of childhood, and who doesn’t like being made richer?

So there you have it.  The endlessly-flexible, fits-any-budget, perfect and sincere and meaningful gift you can give over and over and it never gets old.  Sure, buy presents if that’s what you like, but always keep that one in your back pocket as a never-fail, and hopefully it’ll spare you some holiday angst.

And a special message to all my homies in the middle of an economic crisis…don’t ever feel too broke for the holidays.  You’ve got enough to give to everyone.

Merryness!

Technology, technology everywhere

Tech Notes from your friendly online blatherer:

1.  I used to really like ScribeFire (a Firefox extension) — it’s easy to call up & get rid of, and great for managing multiple blogs — but after a recent update, it became really slow on all my computers, so I can’t recommend it as completely as I would have.  Ah well.  Keep an eye on it if you’re a blogger; maybe it’ll get fast again, and in the meantime it’s still not bad.

2.  Ubiquity (also a Firefox extension) IS TEH FUTURE; I highly suggest you try it out.  It’s the closest thing you’ll find now to a StarTrekesqe “Computer?  Please do x, y, and z for me…” …I’m always amazed when I see natural language processing working at all in the real world, and this little app is one impressive example, seriously.

3.  After years of being stuck with Quickbooks and other Intuit products (all while hating the company because gods they suck), I’m finally free to try GnuCash as the main accounting software for the impending business.  I’ve got it all set up — which was deceptively easy, as long as you RTFM — but the next few weeks will tell how usable it is.  Wish it (and me) luck!

4.  My Wii is something I probably shouldn’t have spent the money on (but to be fair, it wasn’t my money — I bought it with the first $350 in royalties I got from the Ubersleep book; how effing cool is that??!  THANK YOU GUYS!!), but I’m consistently really impressed with both its design and the intentions that it portrays.  It’s beautifully designed inside and out, and you can really tell that it’s high-quality equipment made of good parts — and it came with all the cables and everything it needed.  But even more than that, little things, like, it can play GameCube games, which is purely lagniappe on the company’s part.  And this is a good example of why it’s a good idea for a company to throw such bones to their customers:  I’ve never had any interest in Game Cube, but I went out and snagged a game for it just because my Wii lets me play them…a friend of ours recommended Tales of Symphonia, and yeah, if you like anime-styled RPGs, this is the BEST one I’ve ever played (and I say that having played it for a total of 20 minutes so far)!  So, see, even ignoring the smackdown the Wii gave to other next-gen consoles thanks to the work they put into it, Nintendo also adds a neat feature they don’t need to include, and as a result they’re boosting an outdated revenue stream by interesting me and people like me in Game Cube games.  I only hope I can run my company that well!

5.  Lastly, kick me for not mentioning this sooner, because my EPIC search for good syncing software is over now, and that deserved a bit of trumpeting and flag-waving which I didn’t get around to.  However, since it’s been about a month since I found Dropbox, I can at least say without guessing or stretching the truth at all that IT’S A FREAKING MIRACLE.  My problem was a deceptively tricky one:  I use several computers daily, and I keep a pretty sizeable chunk of files that cannot, cannot get mixed up or mis-versioned….as a writer, just about nothing is more painful than accidentally losing a page, a paragraph or even a few words that you changed in one of your pieces.  Such a mishap often destroys my motivation to continue with a piece, so I avoid it at all costs.  But how to sync almost a gig of files between three computers running three different operating systems, and preferably a secondary backup too, without losing track of versions?  Believe me, I’ve tried nearly everything, and all of it has risks I just hate (like, using a disk or thumbdrive, there’s always some time somewhere when the only up-to-date versions are on that little thing…::shudder::)  Enter Dropbox.  This software (Windows AND Linux compatible, woot!) is everything I’ve ever wanted:  It’s small, FREE, runs in the background, and simply keeps the latest version of everything (in the folder I tell it) updated.  It retains folder structures and metadata, and moreover keeps an online backup that I can access at any time.  If there’s a conflict, it just saves both.  So literally, when I change a file, it’s changed online and on all my other computers that happen to be on, within minutes.  And I can pay a reasonable price if I want a lot more space, too.  I’M IN LOVE.

This ends our very dry and stuffy technology report for today. 

Congratulations to America and everyone affected by America for avoiding a disastrous election outcome, and may you always trust yourself first whenever possible.

I bet you think this post is about you, don’t you?

Is everybody, even basically unassuming folks, just a little vain about something, or is it just me?

I realized the other day that I’m quite vain about my hair.  (To be fair, ignoring it would be difficult; it is Legion!)  I always thought that because I didn’t fuss with it very much, I must not be very attached to it…but it’s probably more accurate to say that I don’t fuss with it very much because I don’t believe that fussing with it is good for it.  My no-blow-dryer, no-hairspray, no-heavy-chemicals-or-harsh-soaps edict is a bit more fashionista than monastery, I fear. 

I knew when I realized that I have four devices with which to preen my hair — a plastic brush, a fine plastic comb, a boar-bristle brush and an ox-horn comb — and that I use them all regularly, and for specific types of follicular manipulation. 

FOUR!  Henry David Thoreau would have a heart-attack at the sight of that, probably.

Hm.  Well, hopefully my complete failures at things like fingernails, makeup and clothing will buy me some austerity-points when I need them!

And, for fun, a non-exclusive list of AWESOME MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES TO SEE IF YOU HAVEN’T:

*   Iron Monkey

*  Drunken Master

*  Once Upon A Time in China (all of them!)

*  The One

*  Kung Fu Hustle

*  Shaolin Soccer

*  The Big Fight