web tools

Over the last week, I’ve discovered two new web tools that I’m pretty excited about: I Want Sandy and Jott. I hadn’t heard of either of them until recently, but I’ve been using them both for a few days, and I’m hooked.

Before I explain why, I should go into a little detail about the way that I work. It will also help you to know that one of my main goals in life is never to forget to do a single thing. It’s a sickness, trust me.

I tend to have a lot of projects going at one time. Every week, I attend a lot of meetings and am on a lot of conference calls–sometimes, I spend so much time going to meetings that I literally don’t have any time to do work in between the meetings. I’m often out of my office–it’s a rare week that I’m in the office all five days–and I do a lot of driving around.

Over time, I’ve developed a system for managing my work that goes like this: in every meeting, as I’m taking notes, I make a big circle in my notebook around any task that I either have to do myself, or that I have to make sure someone else does. Every Monday morning, I spend an hour going through my notebook and capturing all the tasks from the past week, and then going through all of my email from the previous week (which usually number several hundred) to see just what exactly I need to do that week. I write it all on an enormous pad, and I re-write whatever is carried over from the previous week.

I used to try to categorize all the different tasks by project, but I decided it was taking too much time to categorize tasks into specific work projects. There are non-work categories on my to-do list (‘personal,’ ‘PTA,’ etc.), but all the work tasks are just lumped into one big list (with one exception–the work I’m planning to do related to the 2008 election).

Like I said, it’s a sickness.

So why are Jott & I Want Sandy so great?

The way they work–and work together–is amazing. With I Want Sandy, it’s very easy to email yourself reminders of particular tasks or appointments. If I’m at a meeting out of the office, I can just blackberry myself a reminder of the things I need to do at the meeting. I’ve set the emails up to go to my Gmail account, and I label them “todo,” so I can sort them easily on Monday morning. If I’m driving and on a conference call (and yes, that happens way more frequently than I’d like), after the call is over, I can call Jott, and leave myself a message that gets sent to Sandy–which then emails it to me. The voice recognition software isn’t perfect–earlier today, I left myself a message about ‘gloves and mittens,’ that was interpreted as ‘gloves and wind?’–but I suspect that as I get more used to it, I’ll be more clear in my speech.

I doubt that my goal of completing every task is achievable–but using web tools like these gives me a better-than-average chance. Either that, or it just makes trying more fun.


November 29, 2007. work. 1 comment.

sweet mother of god

will the catalogs ever stop coming?

November 27, 2007. random other things. 4 comments.

what’s on your nightstand?

I was lucky to spend a lot of time this Thanksgiving weekend reading. I’m not really sure how I managed it, but I pulled off reading an astonishing 5 books between Wednesday and Sunday night, plus there are two more that I’m about halfway through.

One of the things I read this weekend was a kind of creepy Japanese thriller called Out, which features a bunch of women who work part-time in a boxed lunch factory and operate a side business cutting up dead people for the yakuza, which they start after one of them murders her husband. Somehow, not quite in the holiday spirit, I know.

I also read The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, which is the sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road, a truly charming book that was recommended by one of my readers last year.

I’ve still got a great bunch of books on my nightstand, including Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, Marisha Pessi’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan. But at this rate, my night stand will be empty by Christmas!

What are you looking forward to reading this holiday season? Is there a book that you read at this time every year? Are there new releases that you’ve got on your wishlist?

November 26, 2007. books for grown-ups. 9 comments.

holiday cards

I was going to write a post about my holiday card travails, but it was so boring, even I didn’t want to read it. But here goes, anyway:

I had to order online stamps today. Why? Because I really like to start sending out my holiday cards the week after Thanksgiving. In order to do that, I need to pick our holiday card photo in late October/early November. I’ve never been one to send a staged holiday photo; generally I pick the best picture of my kids from the previous year.

Yesterday, however, landisdad took one adorable photo of the kids after another. So I just had to go to endicia and order some photo stamps. Now, my holiday cards will be late.

But cute.

And no, I’m not posting them! You can wait until late December like everyone else.

November 24, 2007. family life. 3 comments.

things I’m thankful for

  • You, dear reader
  •  Only 425 more days of Bush’s presidency
  • There will be homemade apple pie at tomorrow’s dinner
  • I don’t have to go away overnight next week, for the first time in nearly a month
  • Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens
  • So far this year, not a single search for ‘best sweet potato recipe’
  • Facebook, for providing me with so much mindless entertainment
  • My overwhelmingly supportive spouse, who has yet to complain about my excessive travel in November.
  • My beautiful children, who have not failed to complain about my excessive travel in November.
  • Apple cider laced with rum

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

November 21, 2007. random other things. 7 comments.


The Bee had a massive meltdown tonight. Why do eight-year-olds still act like they’re two sometimes?

I don’t know what’s going on in her brain, but I wish it would stop.

November 17, 2007. family life. 12 comments.

saving the world

I saw this website recently, and I had to blog about it. In many ways, I think that environmentalism is the easiest political movement in which to engage kids. After all, kids generally love animals, and it’s an easy road to talk to them about how humans’ ability to affect the environment can make life harder for animals.

In our house, we are more vegetarian than not. Perhaps one or two nights a week, we’ll eat some kind of meat–but only fish or fowl, not mammals. If I’m out of town, landisdad may indulge in a beef or pig moment–I think this week, he’s brought real (not turkey) bacon into the house.

We’ve brought our kids to anti-war demos and other rallies, of course, but in some ways, I think the thing we’ve done that will stick more effectively, and make them less demanding of the planet’s resources throughout their lives, has been to raise them in a (largely) meat-free household. I suspect that someday, one of our kids will come to us and tell us they want to be a vegan, or an ovo-lacto vegetarian, or some new kind of diet that doesn’t even exist now. I’m dreading that moment a little bit. But I’ll enjoy it, at the same time.

November 13, 2007. thoughtful parenting. 8 comments.

junk wood

When I was in my teens and twenties, I saw poetry everywhere in the world. No matter where I looked, I encountered phrases that were weird and beautiful. I wrote poetry often, finding inspiration in the mundane and the sacred.

That ability has slipped away from me over the years. I’m not sure if I became more prosaic, or if my brain rewired itself in some fundamentally un-artistic way, but I’m just not as open to word salad as I once was.

Earlier today, I was driving to Bland State Capital, and I seemed to have a brief reconnection with the poetry of my youth. A tractor trailer with nothing but two words written on it: “Junk Wood.”

I spent a fair amount of time wondering what, exactly, junk wood is. And how there could be so much of it to fill a whole tractor trailer. And whether or not I could burn junk wood in my fireplace, to beat the cost of natural gas this winter.

Junk Wood–it’s not just for kindling anymore.

November 7, 2007. memory. 6 comments.

not posting every day in November

Jeez, I’ve been trying to catch up on my blog-reading, and it’s quite a lot of backlog! Seems like everyone and her mother is participating in NaBloPoMo.

I have to say, despite my love of the blog, I will never participate in this bloggy goodness. My work life is generally crazy in the fall, and given that there are elections every single year means that I’m never going to be able to seriously commit to blogging daily in November.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve been thinking about making some Christmas presents this year, particularly for the kids. I haven’t got a great idea about what to make, though. I’ve been thinking of doing some baking for various extended family members, but I haven’t come up with any plan for what to make for the kids.

I can’t knit or crochet. I’m a decent hand-sewer, but I don’t have a machine. I’m thinking about some kind of sewing project, but I haven’t really been inspired to create anything yet. Maybe I need to go to the fabric store and just wander around aimlessly.

November 4, 2007. meta. 14 comments.

how much candy can one family eat?


Too much, evidently. Hermione and her pirate friend have collected buckets and buckets of chocolate and other sugary treats.

We ended the night at my brother’s house, and the kids played with their cousin and ate pizza. What better ending to a Wednesday night is there?

November 1, 2007. the cutest kids ever!. 3 comments.