Review: Amazon Basics Packing Cubes

I was completely prepared to say that packing cubes were a waste of time for normal packers; they might be OK for neat freaks.


They ARE useful for project toting and storage, however: sewing projects in process, so you can keep all the bits together. Knitting and quilting that needs assembly.

And then I packed a rolling duffel bag for an out-of-town wedding. One of those whopping great shapeless rectangle spaces, where everything gets mushed and muddled and sinks to the bottom of the bag. I have a cube for underwear, one for exercise gear, one for street clothes and one for the dress & accessories I will wear to the ceremony. And everything stows, and won’t shift (much), and I will be able to find it when I get there.

I’m a convert.

These packing cubes turn out to also be great for packing motorcycle saddlebags. Makes it easy to load and unload, to keep his-and-her stuff separate, and to not have to rummage through everything in the saddlebag to look for those socks…

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Packing-Cubes-Medium-4-Piece/dp/B00SXKUIX8/ref=cm_rdp_product

Second Wilhelm

Wing and Wilhelm translations

Last August, I was challenged to develop a habit of reading from a book that was written before Gutenberg every day. I didn’t have to think 10 seconds before deciding that the I Ching was the book I would use. I’ve done pretty well; I’ve probably consulted the I Ching at least a hundred and fifty times out of a hundred and eighty days since the challenge started.

Now that I’m working with it daily, instead of only when I have a clear question, I’m wanting to know more about the oracle. I want to know more about the history behind the hexagrams than is offered in my R. L. Wing translation. I took my first copy of Wilhelm to the office I use on weekends, and I keep finding out that I want to consult it when I met my weekday desk.

So I bought a second copy. It’s easy to do now; I can find anything on abe.com.

It’s just a little bit strange, finding that I have become someone who needs to have two copies of Wilhelm.

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Review: The Upside of Irrationality

The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

Writing as reviewer #31, having written a number of other reviews myself: what is it about this book that virtually all of the reviews thus far, even the negative ones, are multi-paragraph and thoughtful? Usually, by the time a book has 30, we’re seeing the “loved it!” “hated it!” “Didn’t arrive on time!” filler. Not here. Ariely’s work sticks in your mind, and you are inspired to write more than you normally would.

That said–it appears that behavioral econ gets really really close to marketing, as a field of study. Economists are testing and discovering what marketers have known since Ogilvy wrote his first ad.

Both of Ariely’s books are “news you can use.” I find myself referring to the stories–we cheat, given the opportunity. We make decisions about sex differently when we’re drunk (duh, but that’s rarely addressed in sex ed). (Still haven’t forgiven him for presenting 50-yo women as “beyond the pale” in that experiment, BTW.) Those experiments are from the first book. I know the one about Legos and meaning in work from this book will find its way into my life–watching work get canceled or undone has had a huge effect on my own career and motivation.

Many of the review copy books that come my way get passed on to book swaps, in hope that someone else will find them more useful. I’m keeping this one. I’ll be back in it.

The Upside of Irrationality

On a Clear Day

I live between two rivers, not far from two substantial lakes, one of which cools a nuclear power plant. As a result, we get fog. Not fog like San Francisco, but reliable fog in the morning when the seasons are changing and air, land, and water may have substantially different temperatures.

Today was a foggy morning. For a while, I couldn’t see the church steeple at all.

There's blue sky in the upper left, but I can't see the steeple.

There’s blue sky in the upper left, but I can’t see the steeple.

I know there’s blue sky above me. As the morning shifted, I could even see patches of blue above the church. But I still couldn’t see the steeple.

There are times, especially in the evening, when this familiar landscape looks completely different.

Time of day matters. Fog at night can distort a vision.

Time of day matters. Fog at night can distort a vision.

Given I am writing a series of posts about planning, the metaphor hit me like the bricks we make in this town.

What is my planning elevation? What is my planning point of view?

David Allen talks about the 10, 20, 30, and 50,000′ points of view; of taking a look at your life from different perspectives to see where you are going. It can be hard to know which one you’re at.

This morning, on the ground, I could barely see 100 yards ahead. I could, possibly, get up to 100′ and have a better idea of what was going on, but I still wouldn’t know anything about what’s happening at ground level because we are socked in. It’s hard to “do the next right thing,” and it can even be difficult to “do the next thing,” so I can only “do something.”

There are days when it’s perfectly clear on the ground, and I can’t see 300′ above. These are “do the next thing” days.

Clear vision on the ground, and socked in above.

Clear vision on the ground, and socked in above.

There are days when getting up to 10,000 feet only helps a little, because the path is completely obscured at that level, only for different reasons. Back to “do something,” or “do the next thing,” if I can manage that much clarity.

10,000 feet and visibility is even more limited, sometimes.

10,000 feet and visibility is even more limited, sometimes.

Sometimes, I can be at cruising altitude and know pretty much what track I’m on, but actual activity happens on the ground, and knowing the route at 30,000 feet tells me absolutely nothing at all about what to do next, today. 30,000′ views help me to distinguish between important and urgent and offer some general idea about what direction the “next right-ish thing” might want to take.

Cruising altitude, clear skies, and no information about ground level activity.

Cruising altitude, clear skies, and no information about ground level activity.

Sometimes, the 30,000′ view gives me some idea of what major challenges might be coming my way.

From here, you can see there is a river to cross.

I’m going to tie this to a separate post about calendar formats, and how I need to work with different views of the future to have a better idea of how to use the time and energy I have today.

Next right answer: if the view is obscured at my current level and I don’t know what to do, move up or down one and see what I can see from there.

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For Pinterest:

Planning points of view.

Planning points of view.

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Organizing my websites

I run four websites for my own business activities:

  • Red Tuxedo, where I talk about productivity and being useful in social media
  • Rugs from Rags, where I write about making textile art
  • Karen Tiede Studio, where I sell my Textile Art
  • Karen Tiede.com, where I write about all the other artsy things I do for love and fun including hula hooping

It’s a handful.

January turned out to be a month of clearing and decluttering and getting rid of stuff and putting stuff in places I could find it in a pinch. This mostly happened in my real life. I’m not done, but I have hauled a lot of stuff to the swap shed and the recycle bins.

February is turning out to be a time of cleaning out my electronic life. My digital records. I started my going through my pictures folder, where I have over 14 gig of images, many of which are duplicates or junk or not needed. I know digital storage is cheap, but my backup system only takes 125 gigs and I have exceeded it a couple of times already. It’s worth a little bit of TV time to cull pictures and reduce that total size if I can.

I found myself creating two and three blog post day the sites I routinely manage. I’ve learned how to dictate blog post from my phone, and upload pictures directly from my phone, and it’s all very fun and easy.

What it’s not, however, is “clear.” I don’t know where stuff goes. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know where to put it. And I do believe that “if you can’t find it, you don’t own it,” and if I can’t find an article on a website, neither can you. All this content is not driving any business my way if nobody can find it.  Even worse, none of this content can drive traffic until it is published, and I had nearly 100 posts sitting in draft status at the beginning of last week, over 8 years of managing websites.

It became obvious it was time to align my websites, so that I could tell reliably where stuff went, so I knew how to categorize blog posts and where to put them, and so I knew what I had.

Three years ago, I moved my websites from one host to another, and it was a royal muck-up. Pretty much all the content got duplicated against three different sites. I  wrestled the bigger pieces apart, but the older blog posts wound up everywhere.

The first step in organizing was to cross-check each of the sites against the other, and make sure blog posts lived on the site where they belong, and not on any others. This was fairly simple. I displayed both two sites’ post listings side-by-side, checking titles and deleting duplicate posts from the site where they did not belong. This resulted in the loss of roughly 50 posts on each site. Progress.

Then it was time to make sure each of the posts was listed in the correct categories. This turned out to be much more challenging.

I have, from time to time, turn to the Dewey Decimal System as an organizing principle. It’s academic, I agree, I understand, and that’s me. Deal with it. It is also widely understood and followed, and reliable.

I have a paper (book) guide to the Dewey Decimal System, which goes to the two-digit decimals. It is about an inch and a half thick. A guide that goes to three decimal places is approximately 6 feet long. Google will not give me helpful results in asking about what category a particular idea belongs in. Google just sends me to Dewey Decimal references. I think there ought to be a better way, but I can’t find it. Therefore I have to trust my book and its index. This may be a bit of a force fit; yet I’m able to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

I had to start with the major categories. Mostly, I write about technology, and Fine Arts, although there is a little bit about ideas, so I cover the 000, the 600s, and the 700s. I use those as my major headings and then used second headings for the subcategories.

On KarenTiede.com I write about home ec. I used to write about sewing on that website before I moved Textile Art to Rugs From Rags, so I left those posts there. That they have huge numbers of links. (Today, I would put those posts on rugs from Rags, but I don’t want to move them.)

On Rugs From Rags, pretty much all the post fall under Fine Arts, specifically 746 textiles. There’s a little bit of marketing.

Red Tuxedo turns out to more challenging, because it’s mostly about business and social media. My edition of the Dewey Decimal guidelines doesn’t even have Facebook in the index. It was written long before the internet. I may have to go to the library and walk around the nonfiction section slowly, looking for Dewey Decimal numbers to know where to put stuff.

I am an amateur taxonomist. I enjoy walking around a large store, imagining the taxonomy behind product display.  Taxonomy is why you can walk into the grocery store and pretty much figure out where things are going to be. Websites ought to be the same way. I think it would be helpful if websites could send you clearly to articles you might be interested in.

For today, applying the Dewey Decimal System to my own content is going to have to do. It forces me to think about what do I write about, and where does it go, and how is any one of these posts related to any other.

Surprise! Metrics & Leadership are Social Sciences

I’m working on cleaning up blog categories across three websites.  In order to standardize what I write, I’m using the Dewey Decimal system as my guideline.

I’m almost done with the third site; still had to shoehorn posts attributed to either “metrics” or “leadership” into some category, and thought it would be a finer division of 658.8, business, under the 600s, Technology.

Turned to the index.

Leadership is 303.3, Coordination and control (the category I’m using), with several suggested alternatives including armed forces (355.3), public administration (350.007), and local government (352).  That’s more coverage, over a wider range of topics, than “business” gets.

Metrics is 380, Metrology and standardization, the social use of systems of measurement, including time systems and standards.

Interesting.

Ironically, “Taxonomy” is not an index entry in this book.  Classification is 001, and library science is 025.

Review: How Much Should I Charge?

Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love

Writing this review in part to respond to the person who said the 5-star people must be family members. Not at all. Simply people who perhaps didn’t take a business course in high school (do they have those courses now?), or didn’t understand accounting as it was presented in college, or never thought they would be considering self-employment after 20 years of picking up a paycheck.

After eight years of part-time home business, I have missed grasping the difference between billable hours, overhead costs, and profit. I am most grateful that I had the sense to pick this book up at the library (“doing what you love” caught my eye) and now I am here buying it, and its companion. It took no time at all to read How Much Should I Charge, and perhaps buying it is a waste of money. I get the concept now.

However, I have spent a lot of time not understanding the concept, and I won’t be surprised if the finer points evaporate before I complete all the price-development exercises. I can make $30 back in one adjusted price on a piece of art.

I am envious, perhaps, of people who intuitively understand the relationship between effort and costs and pricing. Those people will waste their time and money with this book. I’m almost tempted, however, to buy in bulk and give copies away as project-end gifts to a number of contractors I know who, like me, flail when it comes to understanding the connection between their work and their income. Their rates may go up, but they will be more likely to stay in business…

How Much Should I Charge?

Dead Books 

Sometimes, you just have to declare that a book is dead. Sometimes, somebody has to be the grown up, and make the decision that nobody’s going to buy this book, nobody wants it, it has no resale value, and it’s time to return to that great paper pulp machine in the sky.

Intact books cause problems in the recycle stream. The glue holding the pages together is the problem.

The picture shows the remains of a book that was given to owners of brand new Porsches. Perhaps it was given to dealers. It had pretty photography, but except for its value as a record of that marketing campaign, the book itself had no resale value.

I cut the covers off, then tore the individual folios of pages away from the glue holding them together. The pages went in a box of mixed paper recycling. I don’t know if I can recycle this cover as cardboard as well.

I am more clear about making a decision to euthanize one of my pets then I am about destroying books and sending them into the recycle stream. I need to shift that around. It must be come easier to let go of books. Somebody has to make the decision, and they’re better off in the mixed paper recycling, than they are in the main landfill.

Donating unsellable books to the library sale or thrift shops is not helpful; they simply have to make the decision to kill the book and then cart it to the dump, and they have to pay for waste pickup.

Not all books are as easy to take apart. Paper backs don’t let go of their glue easily. I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to take a razor knife to as many dead and dying paper backs as are stashed around this house. If you know of an easy way to separate paperbacks from their glued spine, please let me know.

February 9, 2017 Update

Found Novel Living, by Lisa Occhipinti, at the library this week.

About collecting, displaying, and making crafts from books. Her display suggestions will not work for me; I don’t have any wall space or horizontal space that needs attention or embellishment. I have put “make a slipcase” on the project list for my collection of aging John MacDonald books that have come into my life from the Habitat Restore. They’re hard to find.

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Dragontree Planner Review

I collect planners. More hope is sold in the planner aisle at Staples than at Max Factor… The NEXT planner will solve my problems…. the NEXT planner will make me organized.

(Heck, I get as much benefit from last year’s calendars as I do from a new planner; they all have value. Often, I don’t need alignment between numbers and days. I only need the shapes of time. Different story.)

I saw the Rituals for Living Dreambook+Planner from The Dragontree on Instagram; looked interesting. The PDF version was an affordable experiment. The layout of quarters and months and weeks looked a bit new to me. I printed off the various pages that contained information I wanted to know, as well as one each of the quarter, month, and weekly layouts, so I could see in detail how they were set up. I hate reading PDFs online.

Selected pages from the Dragontree Planner.

Selected pages from the Dragontree Planner.


(Yes, that’s the way my desk looks much of the time.)

Good: Lots of information about how to think about planning; a mindful approach to integrating work and life; I like the content about creating rituals.

I like undated books; you can skip weeks if you don’t need them, and the unused pages don’t time out.

Less than great: The text is teeny weesny itty bitty, making me think the designers have not yet reached the age of needing reading glasses. This might be less of a problem if you purchase the professionally printed copy; I bought the PDF and printed onto ordinary paper with an aging inkjet.

Note Saturday and Sunday share a space. That’s not the way I live. My Saturdays and Sundays deserve (and get, in my regular planner) equal attention and respect as M-F.

No page numbers on the printed copy.

The bolded text on the daily (week-view) layout interferes with my own writing. ALL-CAPS heading, in bold, in tiny type, on my printer, are nearly illegible and therefore, merely blobs. (Most PDF-print-it-yourself tools face some version of this problem.) Rituals list is in all caps. Would be better for me if it weren’t.

Summary: I purchased the planner as a suggestion for tweaks to incorporate into my own planning system (a glued up amalgam of Outlook printouts and numbered pages in a hard-bound book, with add-ins), and I learned some new ideas.

If you think you will be using this planner for important work, you might do well to buy the professionally printed version. (Read someone else’s review to see if the paper suits your taste. I can’t speak to that part.)lanner

Quiet: The Power of Introverts

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. Susan Cain.

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Susan Cain.

Oh Lord, I loved this book. Full disclosure: lifetime INFP; which I’ve known since 1987. Happy with it; no plans to change or “develop the other half of myself.” (A psychologist friend tells me Jung intended the system to help you know what you needed to work on. After reading Quiet, the thought flashed across my mind: Jung’s dead. Maybe he would have changed his thinking about needing to work on my weak side if he’d lived long enough.)

I was encouraged to open a bio of Dale Carnegie after reading Quiet, and I think Cain does him a bit of a disservice. Yes, he’s the key to the cult of personality. OTOH, he’s also the reason we learned how to teach public speaking in a way that worked. I’m a fluent and skilled public speaker as a result of that course. Carnegie’s system works. There’s no contradiction between introversion and acquisition of a skill like public speaking.

Funny, but while I’ll defend Dale, I loved the rip on Harvard Business School.

A few other quibbles from a note I made while reading:
>the habit of referring to content addressed in future chapters quickly became irritating.
>In the Collaboration / Creativity chapter, Cain dismisses those musicians training to be music teachers at the “elite Music Academy in West Berlin” as “the worst group.” Huh? Perhaps these people are the least skilled at musical performance. But by the time you’ve been accepted into the eMAinWB, you’re hardly the “worst” in any musical comparison. p. 80, my copy) Sloppy choice of words.

I think I will read Quiet again, and that is a rare behavior for me. I was encouraged by the chapter on creativity as a solo experience, having just struggled through Robinson’s Out of Our Minds, which says creative people love collaboration. I couldn’t finish that book. My creativity is a solo thing. I am encouraged to be reminded of “remote” and highly successful introverts; if “remote” and “introverted” aren’t redundant (they are at least side-by-side).

I can’t find more to say that the other reviewers haven’t already covered. A large % of the highly ranked reviews have been written by people who review a lot of books.

Unfortunately, no designer credit is given in the pre-release copy of this book. It is a joy to hold and read the paper edition.