31 December 2006

Countdown to 2007

As I write this in the eastern United States, it's already 2007 in some parts of the world. Here's a really neat Web page that shows you exactly when 2007 starts around the world. (If you explore the site, you'll find lots of other countdown features.)

If you really want to get a jump on things, and those blank 2007 diary pages are staring you down, check out Wikipedia's page devoted to the year 2007. The page contains almanac info (Astrological Year: Pisces; Chinese Year: Pig), plus a listing of major events already scheduled. Need to jot down the dates for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland? Why January 24-28, of course.

My next appointment? Dinner at a Japanese hibachi restaurant, followed by the Stooges marathon and Times Square ball-dropping on TV.

30 December 2006

Ripped from the comments: Filofabs

Philofaxy fan Lee wrote recently:

"As an avid filoax user for many years I have decided that enough is enough and I've taken a stand to make more people love their filofaxes.

Therefore I have designed a set of funky and fabulous inserts for filofaxes (and yes they are pre-punched).

Check them out at www.filofabs.com and let me know what you think."


Well, as you can see by the picture, "funky and fabulous" is an apt description for this dream diary. Other inserts include golf scorecards, a puzzle set, to do lists, and a couple truly unique designs called "Meeting Boredom Resuce Pack" and "The Lovepad."

Sounds like a welcome dose of Filofax joie de vivre! Since my Christmas vacation is due to end in very few days, I'm going to try that Meeting Boredom pack. Anyone else who tries Filofabs, please let us know what you think.

28 December 2006

Pen Review: Monteverde Mega Inkball

A rollerball that takes fountain pen ink -- too good to be true? Not in the case of the Mega Inkball. After the very first fill, it wrote smoothly and, after the first sentence, skip-free. The set comes with one barrel and cap, four nib sections, a small jar of black ink, one ink converter, and two standard, international ink cartridges. The resin barrel is handmade, and luxuriously thick and curvaceous (maybe too thick for some hands). The metal trim and clip are chrome-plated ("jewelry-grade," according to Monteverde). A high-quality touch is the spring-loaded clip. Overall, the pen feels tight and solid.

The tungsten carbide rollerball appears to be foolproof. Ink flows smoothly and consistently even as I changed writing pressure and speed suddenly. The line weight remains virtually consistent as well. The only hitch came when switching from very heavy to very light pressure. For the next few strokes, I got some breaks in the line. The inkflow is conservative, too, producing a fine line and less bleed-through compared to either standard-nib fountain pens or inexpensive rollerballs.

Since the Mega Inkball is, at heart, a fountain pen, you must take all the usual precautions of working with fluid ink: Don't carry it less than 100% full on airplanes; watch your fingers when filling it from an ink jar. The four included nibs are identical. Each has a lifespan of about 1 km of writing (which translates to roughly 200 handwritten pages). If you change colors a lot, you can use each nib for a different color, by using cartridges or buying extra converters.

The Mega Inkball comes in burgundy (pictured here, $175) and black (the black model is larger, at $195).

27 December 2006

PSA - Free Shipping

If you still need to get your 2007 Filofax pages (what, I'm the only obsessive who buys them when they first roll off the presses?), The Daily Planner is offering free shipping on orders over $50. You must order through the Web site, and the offer expires on Dec 31, 2006.

The Daily Planner also has some Filofaxes in their Winter Sale, like the black A5 Bloomsbury pictured at right.

25 December 2006

Christmas night

Gifts are distributed, ailing husband is tucked in. I'm having the last few sips of champagne, and, yes, working in my Filo. How will I spend the next week away from work? I don't want to fritter it away mindlessly. I want to be rested, renewed, and with better routines in place.

Breaking down my daily schedule into sleeping, eating, exercise, music practice, and daily home maintenance routines shows me that there's no way to do everything I want to do. If I want to add 30 minutes for calls, correspondance, or projects, that means 30 minutes less of sleep.

Now I've got the plan. How will this look in real life?

I'll let you know.

24 December 2006

In the Midst of It All

At a certain point, the planning stops, and events simply unfold. I haven't consulted my Filo at all today. I knew where I was supposed to be and what needed to be done before tomorrow. I've performed at two services and seen half of my relatives, with the rest coming tomorrow.

Then there are the unplanned things. When an online distributor only shipped one of the two gifts I had ordered, I had to make a last-minute toy store dash. Giving only one of my two nieces a present simply wouldn't have done. But I had time to get the gifts bought and make it to a rehearsal on time. Perhaps because I had cleared the decks of the things I could control, when something happened out of my control, it didn't throw everything into chaos. At least, not quite.

Enjoy your long winter's naps, everyone.

23 December 2006

Winter Solstice

I was unaware yesterday when I wrote my Droopy Dog post that my subdued mood may have been influenced by the winter solstice. Just a little research reminded me that the shortest day, and longest night, of the year has a tremendous influence on the human psyche. I even found an entire Web site, called Candlegrove.com devoted to the world's many winter holidays centered around the Northern Hemisphere's darkest days of the year. To quote Candlegrove.com, at the root of these celebrations is "an ancient fear that the failing light would never return unless humans intervened with anxious vigil or antic celebration."

As far as antic celebration goes, I couldn't help noticing the similarity between Christmas, as it's celebrated in the U.S., anyway, and the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia. Every single year, I ask myself why we do it. What makes otherwise sensible people spend themselves into debt, deface their homes with gaudy multicolored lights, cut down trees and bring them indoors (with more lights), send hundreds of greeting cards to people they barely know or like, and throw dietary caution to the wind? (Yes, you observed correctly; that's a box of Godiva chocolates that's joined my Filofax on the left-hand corner of my desk in yesterday's entry. Hey, the store in which I finished my Christmas shopping was having a sale. It was meant to be.) During Saturnalia, too, the Romans attempted to turn night into day by turning societal norms on their ear. They shuttered their businesses, freed their slaves (temporarily), feasted and feted, and exchanged their togas for costumes (or for nothing at all).

I guess there's no point fighting it. Once a year we have license to deal with life's stress by eating, drinking, taking, giving, and partying too much, and we've been doing it long before Macy's told Gimbel's. Me, I'm going to bed early tonight so I'll have the energy to wrap gifts, celebrate Christmas in two states, and sing and play handbells at three services in the space of 24 hours.

Your Filofax defines the winter solstice on one of the information pages at the beginning of the diary -- the page called "The World and Time." However, it won't give you the date and time of the solstice in your area. For that, you have to consult a site like this one. For the record, in North America, the sun reached its solstice on the evening of December 21, 2006.

Photo credit to www.knowth.com, a site devoted to Ireland's prehistoric Newgrange megalith, whose chamber precisely admits the beam of the winter solstice sun.

22 December 2006

Flagging

"Flag" has a large number of senses. Did you know that wild iris flowers are called flags? Today I'm talking about the intrasitive verb: to become unsteady, feeble, or spiritless. I feel flaggy lately. I haven't been posting to this blog as often, or taking as many pictures, or writing as many things down, as I was at the beginning of this past summer, for example.

A very wise woman once told me that people's energy and extraversion comes and goes in cycles. We expend maximal effort, then we rest. I'm in a resting phase now. Perhaps if I were more aware of these cycles in myself, I'd be able to work with them better. Maybe there was a way I could have avoided placing my catalog orders at the last minute, paying exhorbitant fees for overnight delivery. Maybe I could have come up with a better holiday card, and sent it to a longer list instead of cutting back to save time.

Flagging, in the sense of unsteady, implies a mixture of good and bad, strong and weak, sprited and spritless. So there's some good stuff going on, too. For instance, I did actually finish my shopping today, with two days to spare. Everyone in my family is healthy again. I get to play handbells as well as sing at church this year -- a project I helped arrange with the help of my Filo. I didn't have to take work home over the holiday break. I'll at some point have the chance to spend some time exactly the way I want to.

And there are some advantages to being overworked, exhausted, and disorganized. I didn't have to string up Christmas lights this year. My lights from last year were still in place.

12 December 2006

Hugging Big...uh...Trees

Just after posting a picture of my Christmas catalogs, I heard a radio news story of people protesting Victoria's Secret for printing its catalogs on virgin paper.

Please, give me a moment to savor the glory of using "Victoria's Secret" and "virgin" in the same sentence.

Okay, I'm done.

Tree preservation is a serious concern for some of us back-to-paper types, myself included. I open my junk mail just so I can strip out the window envelopes, fake credit cards, etc., and recycle the paper parts. I reuse manila envelopes and folders, and print on both sides of the paper, even though it means taking the paper out and turning it around to do the even pages. And I've often thought about writing "refused" on the junk mail and putting it in a mailbox, on the theory that if the Postal Service is forced to deal with returned paper, it will rethink its paper-wasting bulk mailing policies. (You can learn more about such campaigns at places like www.ecofuture.org. And if the above www.victoriasdirtysecret.net link expires, just do a Web search for "victorias secret paper protest.")

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I'm too grateful for the convenience of catalog shopping to banish them from my life completely. So I recycle them when I'm done. And if it makes a difference, recycling in my town doesn't mean taking them out to the curb. We have to sort all our trash, yard waste, and various reusables and recyclables and deliver them to the town waste station ourselves, placing them in the proper color-coded receptacles.

Conclusion? Well, I guess there isn't one...except that Victoria's Secret has pledged to use 10% post-consumer recycled paper for its catalogs from now on.

And I'm still really tickled about that "virgin" thing.

03 December 2006

WOW

An entire year's worth of catalogs, right? Wrong.

A season's worth? Nope.

These are the holiday catalogs that I've received since the week before Thanksgiving, starting the day I got the first mailbox-bursting bundle. In other words, it's about 2 weeks worth of catalogs...the first half of the holiday season. From here on out, I assume I'll get a roughly equal number of "Last Chance to Order" editions.

Last Friday, the mailman didn't even attempt to cram my mail into the box. He just left it on the stoop in a criscross of big rubber bands. Bad sign.

A few more comments:

- This pile represents catalogs only. I didn't cheat and bulk it up with magazines.

- This isn't acutally all catalogs I've received. I've recycled the ones I know I'm not going to use (Victoria's Secret, Harry & David, and another one that apparently consists of nothing but various kinds of English muffins and jams). And I've removed from the pile ones I wanted to read or use right away. I'd say these cullings have reduced the pile by about 1.5".

- These catalogs are in my name only. My husband is the only other person in the household, and he doesn't order from catalogs. Presumably, if he were also a catalog user, this stack could be twice as high.

Now the big question: Why am I keeping all these?

Because I use them. I really do most of my holiday shopping via catalog, and my family has received better gifts because of it. Sure, when I go to the mall, I find some surprisingly good stuff, and I've done some fairly successful holiday shopping at malls. But I don't like going to the mall. When it comes to small, special gifts and cards, I prefer to give the business to local shops and do the shopping on foot. And when it comes to finding gifts that really fit the recipient's needs and wants, I just can't beat the catalogs for specificity, variety, speed, and service. Specific opera DVDs for my parents, an illustrated book of fairies for my sister-in-law who loves fantasy, shoe cleats for my brother who just bought a house in the snowy suburbs...I really don't think I could have gotten those gifts so quicky and easily if I had to drive from store to store. I also find catalogs a great way to shop for clothes and shoes in my exact sizes. Going to a department store, while visually stimulating, is more of a crapshoot. And if something does need to be returned, sending it back by USPS, UPS, or FedEx is actually easier than toting it back to the store.

These catalogs are sitting here in a pile, waiting for me to place them in a file cabinet where I really do have a manila folder for each catalog company to hold the latest catalog edition, along with receipts for orders placed. That's my project for the rest of the night.

30 November 2006

The Unbearable Thinness of a Year

I need to reread The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. It's been too long. It's one of the first books I read out of college. One of the first books I chose to read as an adult, not had to read. No matter how many years I use a Filofax, I'm amazed on a daily basis how little paper a year fits onto. Not a year's worth of thinking or feeling, but certainly a year's worth of doing. A year seems like so much more to us little humans.

This picture shows the entire thickness of a year in week-per-2-pages in a Personal-size Filofax. And yet, it is so much more. A single word written in a diary can capture 1 or 6 or 60 hours of emotion, of thought, of revelation.

How much more does one need?

26 November 2006

Erratum

The trendy Filofax UK site, http://www.itsawayoflife.info, has not been abandoned, contrary to my report on Nov. 2, 2006. It has been updated since I last wrote, and appears that the webmasters are updating it about once a month. So while it's not what you can call an active Web site, and no longer has a link on the Filofax U.K. main page, it's still being updated and maintained.

23 November 2006

Happy Turkey Day!

If I were any kind of a blogger, I'd be supplementing this post with a photo of one of the many wild turkeys that bop around suburban (and even almost urban) streets where I live. But I have captured no such pictures; so I found a piece of clip art that looks very similar. Due to recent deadlines, the energy I have to devote to this holiday has been minimal. Since this blog's readership isn't exclusively, or maybe even primarily, American, I suppose I don't have to do a Thanksgiving entry at all.

But since I'm American, it's relevant for me to share how Thanksgiving appeared in my Filofax:
- 2 days before: purchase champagne, wine (beaujolais nouveau?), 3 kinds of cheese, 2 boxes of crackers (we were bringing the wine and hors d'oeuvres to my mother-in-law's house)
- 2 days before: send TG e-cards to parents, brother's family
- 1 day before: put champagne in fridge, charge digital camera batteries
- Thanksgiving morning: find a (silver?) tray in dining room or basement.
- Thanksgiving morning: remember that I forgot to put doilies on the shopping list
- Thanksgiving morning: arrange cheese and crackers (directly) on tray; cover with plastic and store in fridge
- 1/2 hour before leaving for mother-in-law's house: take cheese tray out of fridge
- just before leaving: put batteries in camera, put pics of nephew to show people in Filofax, figure out a way to carry wine and cheese tray

My parents didn't do Thanksgiving this year, but they always made an astoundingly delicious meal. They drew up a backwards-timeline, so that they knew when to start each item in order to have the meal ready to serve. A big item was putting the bird out to brine in a bucket on the deck, in a cooler if necessary. If I were doing dinner at my house, I'd do a backwards-timeline, too.

They use letter-size paper, the same size they keep all their recipes on. I have a letter-size recipe book, too, but in order to integrate the shopping and related tasks, I may want to use an A5 Filo.

17 November 2006

Mark Your Meteors

NPR brought music to my ears this morning -- news of an exciting natural event that some of our gentle readers will want to mark in their Filofaxes. The Leonid Meteor Shower is on! In North America, where this writer is, the visible dates of the shower are Friday, November 17 and Saturday, November 18. And, according to the radio, this year's show will be a spectacular. Instead of the usual 20-30 shooting stars per hour, we'll be able to see 200-300! Apparently, this boon is due to the earth's passing through a particularly heavy band of debris from an ancient comet.

I found this page from StarDate.org, which has all the information you need to mark your Filofax for meteor viewing for the year. (This link is to the 2006 metor calendar, which is almost over. Presumably, StarDate will produce a similar page for the 2007 meteors in due time.) This page also has some handy tips on meteor viewing (Pack comfortable chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have "dark adapted," and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors).

Space.com offers thorough and technical information, but I find the site hard to navigate. So no guarantees, but here's a currently working link to the site's Leonid page.

15 November 2006

Holiday Harbingers

Apologies for my recent scarcity. I've been busy with work. I'm in the publishing business, and this week marks the deadline for getting new books into people's Christmas stockings.

Which brings me to today's topic. An inspiring comment from a fellow philofaxer got me thinking about using the Filo to mark the changing seasons.

So, when does the Christmas season start? There's the old cliche about the commercial holiday season starting earlier every year, but this year I'm able to say that it's gotten ridiculous. Starbucks had their gift displays, holiday coffees, and red paper cups out in force barely a week after Halloween. There's a radio station in town that always plays "all holiday music, all the time" starting the day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). But this year, they've started already! Six weeks of all-Christmas, all-the-time? That's just insane.

Two days ago, I started seeing Chrismas-present-themed commercials -- from Garmin, the company that makes GPS devices. Ah, just what every woman wants to unwrap on Christmas morning! (I can hear the divorce papers rustling now.)

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. The Christmases of my childhood were magically wonderful -- no matter how crummy and impoverished the rest of the year had been. I even make my own Christmas cards. But there's just something dispiriting about starting the holiday season on November 1st. And so unfair to November as a month. It's like they're trying to create a double December. November has every right to be annoyed.

06 November 2006

There You Have It

After my Halloween entry a new posts ago, one of our readers did the obvious thing (well, obvious to someone more intelligent than me, I guess) and posed the question directly to Filofax: Why not include Halloween in your diaries?

And here's the answer:

Dear [Customer],

I honestly don't know why Holloween is not printed on October 31st. It
is a possibility that the calendar is printed in England or somplace in
Europe that doesn't recognize Holloween. It could be that it is
considerd a pagan/wiccan holiday and it doesn't count. I guess you could
look at it all different angles. I do know when you get a diary that
there is a page that lists Religious Festivals that include Christian,
Christian Orthodox/Greek Orthodox, Islamic,Hindu, Buddhist,Sikh,Jewish, and Chinese. Wiccan/Pagan is not recognized.

So, I guess, there you have it.

Sincerely,
Donna Castro
Customer Service Representative
Filofax, Inc.
www.filofaxusa.com
www.lettsusa.com
www.lamyusa.com

02 November 2006

It's a Way of Life

A couple months ago, a faithful Philofaxy reader told me about a new feature on the Filofax UK Web site. It's a lighthearted (and, frankly, a little airheaded), Flash-animated little Web site called It's a Way of Life (www.itsawayoflife.info).

Personally, I'm not big on Flash animations. Sure, my computer can display them, but I don't have the patience for them. I always feel that they're concealing information from my eager, curious eyes rather than revealing it.

But I promised to review the site for this blog, so I'll get on with it. Once you get past the annoying part of the animation (a hand-sketched picture of a Filofax opening to reveal its table of contents), the Flash is not excessive. The contents include a "What's it all about" page, which actually gives the It's a Way of Life mission statement (more on that shortly), Games, an Agony (that is, advice) column, The Big Question (a user poll), suggested Things To Do list, a Lifestyle Test, and the obligatory Registration (please give me spam) page.

I'm not sure who It's a Way of Life's intended audience is, although it's clearly an attempt to appeal to a feminine consumer. It can't be young women -- they create Web sites like this, not visit them. Middle-aged women? Maybe. But I'm pretty close to being a middle-aged woman, and neither I nor most of my pretty-close-to-middle-aged friends have either the time or the inclination to sit through Flash animations and play simplistic computer games. Older women? Well, that's a possibility. Older women who feel younger when they click their way through colorful, artsy, trendy Web sites that conceal the technical side of the Internet.

Now for what I like about It's a Way of Life (for those of you who are still reading and haven't yet come to the obvious conclusion that I have no ability as a reviewer): As for the mission statement I mentioned earlier, I have to agree with its underlying principle -- the importance of balancing work with rest and play.

Here's what the "What's it all about" page says:

- However busy your day, always make time for some ME TIME

- It’s not all WORK WORK WORK - the times they are a changing, and achieving a proper work/life balance is the key to a happier life

- With a bit of organisation, you can make time for yourself TO DO MORE THINGS – don’t just veg-out on the sofa

- Being busy and organised is a GOOD thing – being busy and stressed is a BAD thing

- A Filofax personal organiser is YOUR personal space that YOU control when YOU want to


(I especially agree with that last statement!)

The Things To Do page is also pretty interesting. It offers alternative activities with Web links (for UK residents) that most of us don't currently have on our task list: rafting, bungee jumping, snowboarding, and so on.

And the Lifestyle Test is worth a moment of your time (well, while you're waiting for your email to download, maybe). "Answer 11 scientific questions and we'll tell you how well you're organising your life (or how badly)." Sample question:

After a night of passion, do you find your clothes…
- Neatly folded where they belong
- All over the place - but you’ll tidy up later
- Missing without a trace
- On your partner


For the record, I came out a Sorted Simon (or Stephanie): Lots On, Always Doing Something. It says I'm "living the dream, perfectly balancing interests and committments."

Well, that's not quite true. I do use my Filofax a lot, but it's more like, "I don't do it all, or always do it well, but I at least know exactly what I'm NOT doing and WHEN I'm not doing it."

I'll end with my biggest qualm about It's a Way of Life: Since I first visited in September, the site has not been updated. The Agony question, poll, quiz, and all those things that should change regularly are exactly the same. If Filofax holds any hope for this site, they've got to keep it fresh.

31 October 2006

All Hallows' Eve

Halloween (AKA All Souls' Day, Samhain, Allentide, and other names) is not recognized by Filofax, as evidenced by this picture taken from the 2007 Personal diary (it's not in 2006 either). I'm trying to deduce why. Most holidays listed in the Filofax diaries and Information pages are either religious holidays or public holidays (that is, days off from school and work) in one or more large countries. (The following day, Nov. 1, All Saints Day, does appear in the Filofax diary. It's an official holiday in the Catholic and other Christian churches.)

At first, I thought it was because Filofax's British creators considered Halloween an American, commercial holiday, unworthy of recognition. But a little research proved that to be false. Ireland and Mexico get a public holiday for Halloween, although it doesn't always fall on October 31. All Souls' Day is a religious holiday in many traditions, although since it's an "eve" holiday, people can go to school or work that day. An increasing number of countries are joining the Halloween tradition, yet Filofax doesn't mention it even in passing.

I've always been fascinated by the wiccan and pagan Halloween traditions. In my favorite legend, it was the wicca who originated the tradition of dressing in costume for the holiday. But it didn't start out as a way to create a fearful or humorous image. Halloween was the wiccan New Year's Eve, and celebrants would dress as the person they wanted to become in the coming year.

I think that's a great idea.

29 October 2006

Wikipedia Coolness

Lately, I've noticed some folks arriving here by clicking a link on the Wikipedia page for Filofax. It's true! Our humble blog is listed as an external link on that page.

I don't know how long the link has been there, or who put it there, but I'm sure glad to see it there. Anybody can edit Wikipedia pages. I could have put our link there myself a long time ago, but I didn't.

Note to self: Stop missing opportunities like that.

27 October 2006

Sharing the Love

I got a nice surprise in my email box the other day -- a photo from Philofaxy reader Kevin Hall of his gorgeous 1986 vintage pigskin, made-in-England Filofax. With Kevin's kind permission, I'm sharing it with you here.

Going through the process of asking Kevin's permission and then uploading the picture to this blog also helped me make up my mind about something I've been thinking about for a few days -- starting a Philofaxy Flickr group. We Philofaxers need a straightforward, informal way to share pictures like this with each other. Flickr is the obvious choice.

So let's see those pics! To use Flickr, you must do the following:

- Take a digital picture (or take a regular picture and scan it to make a digital image).

- Go to http:///www.flickr.com and sign up for a free Flickr account. (I know, none of us needs yet another user name and password to remember, but if you have a Yahoo ID, you can also use that on Flickr.)

- Upload your pictures to your Flickr account.

- Join the Philofaxy Flickr group (click the Groups menu), and add the pictures to the group pool (click the Add to Group button above the picture).

Here's a direct link to the Philofaxy Flickr group.

Questions? Email me at the address in my Blogger profile.

25 October 2006

I had a dream

I dreamed about Filofaxes last night. I dreamed I was attending a Filofax seminar, similar to a Day-Timer one I attended several years ago. (I actually found it one of the best self-help teachings I've ever had.)

In the dream, I brought my little red Filofax with me, then I found out when I got there that a free Personal Filofax was included, with all these new leaves. It was black with a zipper. My least favorite kind of binder, but in the dream I was thrilled to get a whole 2007 diary and all these beautiful new leaves. The leaves were 4-color; at least some of them were.

Before we started the instructional part, we (the group and instructor were all women) all did something fun like go out to lunch together. The dream ended before we got back to the seminar room, so I didn't learn anything productive in the dream, as I sometimes do. Oh, well.

19 October 2006

Full Day

Funny how, a few months ago, I never wrote in this A5 Filofax with One-Page-Per-Day diary. I even packed it away for a while because I found it impossible to use.

What changed? I don't know. I just took some notes in it, created some labels for the tabs, and after a couple of days I found I needed my A5 Filo for my job. I'm still need to revise the tabs; some of them make no sense. I'm not taking especially great notes. But none of that is stopping me from using the system as a whole. Why?

Here's the best answer I can come up with: Last year, I decided that the most important element of any organizational system is one thing -- that it show me what I need to see, when I need to see it. For now, this A5 Filofax is doing that for me while I'm doing my daily work.

14 October 2006

New Linkage

I've added a couple new links to our list. Both are departures from our usual Filofax topic, but worth mentioning nonetheless.

First, for familial reasons, I'd like to direct your attention to my brother's Web site, EdSpargo.com. I know he's my brother, but he's so talented, I can't believe he and I share the same DNA. Ed is a bassist who plays a fusion of jazz, funk, and blues, and he's currently recording CDs of his own compositions in his interpretation of that fusion. Translation: This is music you can listen to all day long. If you don't believe me, there are some sound clips on his site.

Another link I'm proud to add is Kristina Pinto's, The Marathon Mama. Kristina is running the Boston Marathon to raise money for cancer research. Having several cancer victims and survivors in my life, I'm sponsoring Kristina in her effort. If cancer has touched your life at all, I encourage you to do the same.

13 October 2006

Old Traditions / New Lines

I've transferred my "carry around" Pocket Filofax into a Personal size. It wasn't easy, either. That cute little turquoise Finsbury was an extension of my hand. But the truth was, it was little more than a wallet. It was supposedly a satellite for the A5 Filofax that contained my personal life, and yet both the home planet and the satellite were seeing less use. The Pocket didn't show me enough information at once, and the A5, too much. In fact, the A5 wasn't really showing me anything I needed to see more often than, say, once a week. It had become an expensive, leather bound idea book. Things I may do someday, but that I don't need to have with me everywhere I go. And I wasn't using the calendar diary at all, except to copy things from my Pocket calendar just for the sake of synching them.

I loved that Pocket Filo. It had that soft, worn in, Velveteen Rabbit quality. It smelled good. But I had to put sentimentality aside and admit that it was missing a few things: enough room for each day's worth of committments and reminders; enough room for more than a few sentences per page; enough capacity to free me from carrying an A5 along with the Pocket any time I left the house for more than a few minutes.

And so I bit the Personal bullet. Credit cards, cash, phone numbers, week per 2-page calendar, blank paper, all went from Pocket to Personal. Also, the Personal comes with a Projects tab, which has an important function: reminding me when I wake up bleary-eyed each morning, what my current, most important projects are. What I need and want to work on. Things that are important but not necessarily urgent. I've populated that tab with yellow leaves (and I don't use yellow anywhere else).

The Personal fits into the crook of my hand, much like the Pocket did, whenever I leave the house without a bag for a trip to the drugstore or dropping off my husband to pick up his car at the shop. It fits into my gym bag. It holds a few paragraphs of notes per page as well as shopping lists. In time, it will get worn and comfortable...or I'll find a Personal size that does.

So, if I'm going to use the Personal Filo as my personal philo, I need a 2007 calendar. And I've bought one. Filofax is now producing its week-per-2-page calendar with lines to write on. I've always felt at-sea in the plain week-per-2-page without guidelines. Be careful what you wish for: I may ultimately find the lines constricting, but for a year, I'll give them a go.

Does anyone out there know whether this is the first time Filofax has offered a lined version of the week-per-2-page diary? I don't think I've ever seen it before. I bought the refill at my local Container Store, but it was printed in the U.K.

06 October 2006

Where do I put it?

Since transferring to the A5 Filofax, my main dilemma has been storing the archived pages. Stuff that I will need to refer to someday, but that I don't need to carry around all the time. I thought it would be a fairly simple matter to buy A5 binders to hold the pages. I could even write in A5 notebooks, when I wanted to, and combine them with pages generated in my A5 Filo.

The only problem was, I couldn't get A5 binders in the U.S. Sure, there were the Filofax storage binders, but they had posts, not rings, so they weren't convenient for reading and leafing through. I thought if I could just get my hands on some A5 binders and a punch, all my information-storage problems would be solved, and I could devote myself to cleanly and seamlessly generating ideas for the rest of my life.

Wrong.

I found some A5 binders at Kinokuniya in New York for 4 bucks each, and a hole puncher for 8 bucks. And I bought them. I also found that they sell some pre-punched paper. Japanese stationers have a fascinating system, sort of a combination of spiral notebooks, loose-leaf binders, and rollabind rings. It's a 20-hole, A5 configuration with plastic rings. You can buy A5 notebooks in this configuration, then remove the pages and store them in 20-hole binders or other notebooks. Two out of the 20 holes fit in a standard 2-hole A5 binder, so they're interchangable. I bought a pack of that 20-hole/2-hole paper while I was at Kinokuniya.

This picture shows a Japanese A5 binder, with an A5 page from a pre-punched Miquelrius notebook. You can also see the pack of loose-leaf paper, the 2-hole punch, and a closed A5 binder behind the open binder.

I've learned that I can't find the perfect storage binders. These Japanese binders only hold a few pages at once since the rings are so small. To add pages from my Filofax, I have to punch extra holes in them. I'm really no better off than using the Filofax storage binders, even though they don't lie flat.

Barring perfection, it's imcumbent upon me to come up with an alternative. And I'll do that in a later post.

29 September 2006

Tranquility

During my recent trip to New York City, I stopped in at the New York Public Library. The main reading room is an island of peace and quiet above the taxi horns and jackhammers of the streets below, even though it's only on the 3rd floor. (You get to it by walking up marble stairs.) Apparently, the thick stone walls are very insulating. The walls are lined with books, but the heavy wooden tables are equipped with computer screens. Maybe a hundred of them. Internet access is free, but on a Sunday afternoon, most of the stations were not in use.

There was a sign prohibiting flash photography. I guess they have a problem with that. But I couldn't resist snapping a picture of my personal, portable information companion with one of the historic copper lamps. I thought about how many people had been in that room before me. Writing with quills or fountain pens, pencilling notes on index cards, and now, interacting with an electronic screen. But maybe one thing has stood the test of time: a personal, leather-bound book, worn from use and seasoned by skin oils. A private reference volume, a distillation of the volumes of information out there in billions of books and Web pages. A tranquil island refuge in a swelling sea of facts. A Filofax.

27 September 2006

Madison Signatures

I'm back. There's no place like New York City, and Madison Signatures is a quintessentially New York shop, nestled just east of Central Park in a cozy 2nd floor walkup. I almost missed it because I was expecting a storefront. The proprietor, Phil, is a dapper gentleman who sports a feathered hat. His shop specializes in beautiful personalized stationery as well as Filofaxes.

If you're visiting New York, you'll be impressed by Madison Signatures' selection of Personal and Pocket sized leaves. In Personal, there are some harder-to-find papers like Cotton Cream and Clouded. There's an impressive selection of Mini leaves as well. The selection of A5s is a little more limited, and there's even a small section for the discontinued Deskfax. If you use Personal, Pocket, or Mini, you'll probably find what you're looking for. With the larger sizes, I'd recommend calling or emailing first.

Where Madison Signatures truly excels is in service. Phil held his last packet of A5 Project Planner leaves for me for 2 months, sight unseen, even though he could probably have sold it to someone off the street during that time. He even offered to open early for me, since I went in to pick it up on the morning of my travel day. (It turned out not to be necessary.) As I was leaving, a woman was coming in about some custom-engraved stationery or invitations, and she was clearly a repeat customer, for she was greeted warmly, like a friend.

While I was in NYC, I also scored some A5 binders at a Japanese bookstore, which I'll use for archiving. I'll report on that in a later post.

25 September 2006

Pencil News

My life is now divided across three Filofaxes. (To be honest, it's really two: My A5, for general purposes, and my Personal, for financial items. The red Mini Domino I purchased is largely unused. I may have to relegate it to a mental junkyard that has grown to huge dimensions in my life: The Land of Failed Experiments.)

My A5, God bless it, has two loops for writing implements. I have been keeping a Uniball in one, and a Pentel 0.5mm pencil in the other. This combination has worked magnificently. This weekend, I bought a couple more Pentel pencils, in order to stock the Personal Filofax.

Ho hum. No news.

This is the news: I bought some darker pencil leads. Oh yes. Hold me back. If I have simply become too crazy and unpredictable for you, feel free to take a break in order to gather your senses.

I've alluded in the past to the fact that I am a cheapskate. So it was a big deal for me to say, "I shall abandon these faint-hued HB leads that came with my pencils, and instead spend several dollars on a bunch of 2B leads that will show up more clearly on the page." But I did it, damn it. I had to take a shower afterward.

The 2B lead really makes a lovely line, contrasty and dark. It isn't as precise as the HB lead, because it grinds down faster and more quickly becomes a broad line. However, I'm not sketching critical safety mechanisms for nuclear reactors here. I am writing things like, "Dog - Vet." Or, "Make reservation for anniversary." Or, "Purchase gift to atone for failure to make reservation for anniversary." Or, "Purchase gift to atone for failure to purchase gift to atone for failure to make reservation for anniversary." Optical precision is not necessary. (Moral precision is more important.)

Anyway, I'll be enjoying these leads for years to come, because they came in a package of 144 leads. Maybe my old HB leads would make a good anniversary present...

23 September 2006

Road Trip

I'm off, a little later today, to New York City for a couple of days. Going to see friends, lunch with a colleague, take in a couple of shows, and (here's where this post actually becomes relevant to the blog) pick up some discontinued A5 Filofax forms at Madison Signatures. Maybe they'll have the hole punch I've been needing, too. I'll see what they've got; maybe buy my 2007 refills while I'm there. I'll report on my experience at the store, maybe post a few pictures. If time allows, maybe head over to Japantown to see if they have A5 binders that I can store my archived pages in.

What else does this trip possibly have to do with Filofax? Well, the whole journey started out as a list in my Filo. One of those "Next Time in [Placename]" lists. I started planning the trip once I realized I actually had enough things on the list to justify the journey. It was the timing of the shows I wanted to see that clinched the timeframe.

Sure, my Filofax didn't help me book a hotel room, or figure out how to afford it. As far as driving there, I'm on my own. But the Filo helped me germinate the idea, helped remind me who I had to call and email to set up my engagements, helped me see which parts of the planning it made sense to delegate to my husband. When I'm there, it will remind me where I need to be and when, and to do the things I went there to do in the first place.

Since my return to the Filofax fold earlier this year, I believe this trip is the first project that I've taken all the way from idea to realization relying solely on Filofax support.

Let this be just the beginning.

20 September 2006

Leather Tickler

Curiosity got the better of me, and I checked out the site statistics for this blog; namely, the Google search terms that brought people to this address. And I found that someone arrived at Philofaxy by searching for "leather tickler." Now, Filofaxes are certainly made of leather, and they make great tickler files, but somehow I think that searcher had something else in mind.

Now that I've finally stopped laughing, I just thought I'd mention it, in case it turns it out to...er...whip up more site traffic.

17 September 2006

Putting Off Procrastination

Today's post started out as some notes in my A5 Filo two days ago, and I've been procrastinating about posting it ever since. It just doesn't seem formulated yet. However, because of this post, I've been procrastinating about other things until I get it done, so I may as well plunge ahead. What is it about trying to find a solution to procrastination that seems to generate more of same? (Here's my favorite morality tale about the perils of that paradox, as expressed in a podcast by 43 Folders' Merlin Mann.)

Today's post is about the struggle between subscribing to an organizational system packaged up by someone else, and doing what you know works for you. Thematically, I think of it as the third in a series of posts that started with "Dirty Little Secret" and continued with "The BS". Reading those two posts will help you understand how I've arrived at where I am now.

In my case, the three systems I've made earnest attempts to implement in recent years are: Franklin Covey, FLYlady, and David Allen's "Getting Things Done". I've now concluded that the net effect of each of these systems on my life and psyche, with the possible exception of FLYlady, was of more harm than good.

How can I say that? Well, there was some good. In any case, each system provided a break in the monotony and provided new ideas. But the harm was in the form of limitation. Fitting a round peg (me) into a square hole (the system) ultimately prevented me from taking the most expedient form of action available to me. Trying to codify my life's goals and "roles" a la Franklin Covey actually made me less, not more, certain of them. What I really wanted to do evolved organically, and it was right there in front of my nose the whole time. Categorizing my tasks into "contexts" a la GTD and writing them down before actually doing thing didn't free my mind from worry as advertized; it just gave me pages and pages of contextualized task lists to worry about.

FLYlady actually wasn't bad -- not too different from the way I organized my housework before, and with the help of this system I actually got my Christmas shopping done earlier than every before. But because I've spent more time trying to implement the system than just doing the actual housework, that I'd have to say that my house is messier and dirtier than before FLYlady. (But my sink is very, very shiny.) Because of trying to implement David Allen's filing system, I now have more of a backlog of unfiled papers than I did before.

There have been some good takeaways. David Allen's filing system is better than the one I was using, and with its help I do find it easier to access things I've filed away. Franklin Covey reminds me to set aside time to do what's important, not just what's urgent.

These days, I'm trying to remember what worked for me, and start doing it again. Ultimately, I may end up writing my own organization book. Not for publication -- it won't help anyone except me. But I will keep sharing what works and doesn't work for me, in case it provides inspiration for Philofaxy readers.

This post is still rather unformulated, I think. At least, however, it's done.

14 September 2006

Project: Reorganize

A few days ago, I pondered how a busy new father could possibly find time to go buy certain pages for a certain Filofax, despite certain commitments that make life certainly difficult.

So I ordered them from Filofax. It took a while to build up to that, because I am a really miserly fellow, and I hate paying shipping charges. If I can get something on Amazon, that's great, because I can always find $25 worth of stuff to buy and thereby get free shipping. (Although even Amazon comes with its hassles: I accumulate cardboard Amazon boxes like some people collect stamps. Our trash people will take them away only if I break them down flat and tie them up. Ergo, they sit in the house for weeks.) Filofax, paleolithic corporate entity that it is, charges old-fashioned shipping fees.

But I bit the bullet. Yesterday, I received: (i) a bunch of personal-size financial/checkbook register pages; (ii) a 2007 calendar (for the A5); and (iii) a 2008 vertical planning insert.

All I can say is: Woo hoo!

Now the migration of all my financial matters out of the A5 and into the Personal can proceed forthwith. Now I can schedule things in 2007. Now I can notate events, vacations, and other especially important matters as far ahead as 2008.

The A5 is really bursting at the seams, because the packrat side of my brain thinks things like these: "Let's shove the whole 2007 calendar in there. Also, I really need to know the 2007 vacation schedules for all members of the European Union, so better keep that in there too. And what the scientific community has subtly altered the formulas for converting between various measurements? I can't leave out those pages from the new calendar."

This brings me to one of my main criticisms of each Filofax I have used. When the binder is full, or nearly so, I have a great deal of trouble opening and closing the rings. Sometimes I have to remove a big section of the planner in order to get an adequate grip on the rings. I don't find the little chrome nubs on the top and bottom of the ring mechanism very useful at all. It would be wonderful if Filofax could convert these nubs into a smooth, easy system for opening and closing the binder. The current set-up is generally inconvenient, but it's particularly inconvenient for me, because I use a Jot Pad page as a "floating" to-do list from week to week. So every Monday, I have to move the page to the next week. Dammit! I cannot be troubled on a Monday morning to fiddle with difficult mechanical contraptions. This is why my son will learn to curse before he learns to say Mama and Dada.

13 September 2006

Writing Down the Vote

Another hallmark of fall: The politicians are back from vacation. Good citizens are standing at Main Street intersections holding a gaggle of campaign placards, trying to get passing drivers to honk their horns. Glad-handling candidates swarm radio and TV studios and local diners like locusts.

I'll admit, I've been a political junkie since high school, and as early as 9th grade volunteered to work the phones for a state Attorney General hopeful. But this year, I'm doing something a little different -- with my Filofax, that is. A couple weeks ago, a casual remark from my mother-in-law made me realize that I had no idea who I was going to vote for in this year's gubernatorial primary, nor even what date it was! It was time to extend and dust off my political antenna.

One morning, my antenna was piqued by the clock radio, stirring me from NPR Dreamland. One of the gubernatorial candidates was being interviewed, and I liked what I heard. THIS was my guy! I grabbed the pocket Filo on my nightstand to mark down who I wanted to vote for -- but when? Darn you, NPR Interviewer, say the primary date!

No luck. Repeating the candidate's name like a 10-digit phone number, I shuffled into my slippers and scampered down to the computer. Googled until I found the civic-minded .gov site listing primary dates. Aha! I wrote my favored candidate's name in my Filofax calendar ON the primary date. (Killing 2 birds with one stone gives me such an endorphin rush!)

Update: Since then, a lawn sign notified me which way I wanted to vote (or rather, which way I didn't want to vote) on a state referendum. Another entry on my calendar. By the time Primary Day rolls around, I may have the full ticket filled out in my Filo. I hope they let me bring it into the voting booth with me...

11 September 2006

9/11 Neediest

Those of you who watch this blog closely may have noticed that earlier this evening I posted, and immediately took down, a post about a program to donate to the New York Times' 9/11 Neediest Fund on Papershop.com. Sadly, I was looking at a cached page, and the program, which donated 1/2 the price of a personalized die (that Crane's uses to print stationery for you) has long since ended.

Anyway, in rememberance of this 5th anniversary of the attacks, I'd like to provide a link to the 9/11 Neediest Fund in case anyone's interested in making a donation to this ongoing cause.

And, the stationery is still pretty cool.

06 September 2006

Rhetoric

Allow me to pose a few rhetorical questions:

(1) How does a single parent do it? I am one-half of a two-parent household. I just had four days "off" work. Guess what? Work, of the office variety, is substantially easier than being even one-half of a functioning parental unit. I feel like dropping a little plastic umbrella in my morning coffee now that I'm back at my desk.

(2) How do two parents, or three parents, or eight parents, handle twins? One child is plenty for us. I really can't even fathom having to deal with two fussy little poop machines all the time.

(3) How does a parent find time to drive out to his local Filofax emporium and purchase some personal size checkbook register pages, a task absolutely essential to his goal of converting his personal-size Filofax into his compendium of all things financial?

(4) Further to question (3), how does such a parent tell the other half of the parenting unit that he is about to disappear for a couple hours so that he can purchase some overpriced pieces of paper and further indulge a fetish that challenges accepted notions of rationality?

(5) How does a parent fit these items into the usual array of pockets found on usual pants: (1) a mini-Filofax; (2) a cell phone; (3) a wallet; (4) keys; (5) on occasion, an iPod; (6) on occasion, a pack of gum or box of Tic Tacs; (7) on occasion, change; (8) on occasion, receipts or other small scraps of paper; (9) on occasion, a burp cloth; and (10) on occasion, a 20%-off coupon for Buy Buy Baby that is forgotten and then disappears into the washing machine, emerging as a papier mache lump?

The answer to all of these questions, rhetorical though they may be, is: "I have no idea."

04 September 2006

Mercilessness

In a comment to the previous post, a faithful and thoughtful reader advised being "merciless" in culling outdated pages, as well as those of marginal or dubious usefulness, from one's Filofax. I've been complaining about the bulk and stagnation of my 'faxes recently, so I decided to rise to the challenge. This photograph illustrates, at bottom, the amount of extraneous material I've extracted, and, at top, the lean result.

If I can do it, you can do it. Just doing my part for Philofaxers everywhere.

01 September 2006

New Beginnings

I've been pondering the idea for this post for a few days. I've been thinking that September is a good time for new beginnings, as we're surrounded by the beginning of a new school year, the onset of fall, the kickoff of football and other sports seasons, the ramp-up to the holidays. It can be a good time to think about other kinds of new beginnings, a time to regroup, to pick up the pieces of of resolutions made at the start of the year and start over. Then a very sweet, enthusiastic reader read my mind (sorry - I will answer your email soon!). She was talking about how she often spends time checking out new calendars in September as well as January, since many manufacturers release a 16-month version that starts at the beginning of the academic year.

When I switched from Moleskines to Filofaxes earlier this year, I vowed to stick with my decision through the end of December, so that kind of new beginning is out for me. Actually, the good thing about 'faxes is their loose-leaf format, so that reinvention and evolution are an organic part of the system.

My new beginnings include a new eating and fitness program (but that's another blog -- if I decide to start one), a new car (a red Toyota Matrix), the beginning of a new choir season, and, in a way, school -- starting to work with a writing coach.

My 'faxes, on the other hand, are in a bit of state of disarray. I started using a separate A5 'fax for work again, and really using it this time. Now both my A5 'faxes are bursting at the seams, with no good way to store or use the extra pages. (There are the Filofax storage binders, but they don't open fully for reading. They really are only good for storage.) The worst part: When I'm having problems with my system, I grow reluctant to use it. I still keep track of appointments and important reminders, but I stop capturing ideas, stop journaling, both of which are necessary to work my way through the problem. It's the same old problem -- now that I have my life on A5 Filofax pages, what do I do with them all?

On the bright side, I am still doing some good thinking, still leafing through my Filos waiting for inspiration to hit, and my pocket 'fax is carrying me through. My projects are not moving any faster than before I wrote them in my Filofax, but they're not moving any slower, either. I guess things are moving at the speed at which things move.

Here's something weird, though: The riskiest, most radical, and potentially most significant long-term move I've made recently is contacting the writing coach, and that's something I never wrote down in a Filofax before doing it. Why? And what does that say about the potential plans, ideas, and dreams I've recorded -- that they're unimportant? Or was it necessary to do all that thinking on paper first, for the right action to emerge from the chaos?

What new beginnings are YOU making this fall?

31 August 2006

Everything New is Old Again

I'm feeling familial guilt about my return to analog. I recently visited my father during a brief hospital stay, and while we were in the room, a nurse practitioner came in and asked my Dad what medications/dosages he had taken thus far that day. He pulled out a small, colorful Palm device and showed her his medication list on the screen.

Later, I asked my mother for her hotel room number, and guess what I wrote it down in -- a Filofax. Shouldn't my "greatest generation" Dad be using paper and I, a cusp-of-baby-boomer-gen-x'er, be using the Palm?

A question for the ages.

Mini-Lode

I need to unburden my soul; come clean. I've never bought a motherlode of eBay refills for a Filofax size I don't even currently use. No, much worse: I buy them at full price. Hey, you never know when a page style may go out of stock or even get discontinued. So I'm laying it on the line. Here are the unused Personal refills I have tucked away in a drawer.

Coming tomorrow: New beginnings.

29 August 2006

Notebookism

A beautiful new blog, Notebookism, recently used a Philophoto of mine to illustrate an article by someone else. Hey, I'll take it any way I can get it! What's cool is that the article was about writing, and the benefits of using paper for same.

I suggest reading the full text of the story, here, which goes into more detail about the author's rediscovery of pen and paper.

22 August 2006

The Eaglet Has Landed

I have to squeeze this post off in the brief period between demands imposed on me by my son, three weeks old today. My wife has a doctor's appointment this morning, and it's the first time I've been alone in the house with the little devil. He's sleeping, so I'm posting.

Yesterday, I received my shipment from The Daily Planner. It arrived promptly, which I was happy about, given the somewhat sketchy ordering process. For some reason, their website insists at all times that I have placed 271 Moleskine 18-month planners in my cart, amounting to about $4,500. Be very careful when checking out there.

Anyway, here's the spread. (Apologies for the atrocious focus. I'm in a hurry here.)



[Postus interruptus. Baby flipped out, hungry. Had to wait for mommy to come home. She has arrived. All is well.]

This shows how micro-small the Mini Domino is:



Now I have to decide how to use it. I am considering two options:

1. A front-pocket portable note and data tool.

2. A wallet.

That's right. I am considering the possibility of simply making the Mini Domino my wallet. Why not? It isn't much bigger than my current wallet. Of course, it has a rigid ring binding system which could affect the comfort of my ass. (I am a back-pocket wallet guy.) I also haven't yet stuffed it with cards to see how it reacts.

Further laboratory work will be required.

18 August 2006

The Motherlode

I saw an intriguing listing on eBay yesterday. For the last day, it's been percolating in my head. My rule about eBay is that if I see something interesting, I let a day go by. If, after a day, drool is still gathering at the corners of my mouth and the product is still available, then I go for it.

So I went for it.

Check this out.



That's right. A lot of no fewer than 67 personal-size Filofax inserts of myriad forms.

Although I've switched to A5, and I just ordered a Domino Mini, I still have a forlorn-looking personal-size binder sitting around. Indeed, it was that binder that got this whole Philofaxy mess started. If I can't find a useful purpose for it after receiving this veritable cornucopia of Filofax goodness, then I don't deserve the name I've given myself.

Thanks to some of the odder inserts, this purchase might open some new doors for me:
  • There are five "Phrasefiles Guides: Spanish to English." So I should be able to learn Spanish five times better than if I just had one.

  • There's a fold-out map of Miami and Atlanta. I've never been to Atlanta! And I have only been to Miami twice! And one of those times, I just stayed in the airport hotel! And it was, hands down, the worst hotel I've ever stayed in! There were cockroaches in the bathroom!

  • Don't forget, three "London For Visitors Guides." I've never been to London. Now I and two of my closest friends can go and not get lost, even if we get separated.

  • And I will have a "pack of Selected USA Area Codes." Wonder which ones they selected?

  • I'll have tabs and dividers spilling from the rafters. And you all know about my current tab fetish.
Let's not forget the last consequence:



My masculinity will be a distant memory.

17 August 2006

For the Filofax User Who Has Everything Except This One Thing


This Depeche Mode single, in a pre-punched Filofax insert, recently sold on eBay for US$76. If you feel as though you have missed something by not winning it, please contact winning eBay user konzult, who might be persuaded to flip it for a profit.

(I hate Depeche Mode, so I do not feel as though I have missed anything. Now, if anyone runs across a Filo-compatible CD containing music from Wilco, Luna, Fountains of Wayne, Pixies, Pavement, or a band of similar bearing, then please let me know forthwith.)

15 August 2006

Cliff Diving

Being the crazy risk-taker I am, I decided this morning that I may, possibly, conceivably, contingent upon further consideration and analysis, pull the trigger on purchasing a Mini Domino. In red, because I am not afraid of my flaming femininity:

This potential purchase entails several kinds of insanity: (1) abandoning leather snobbery and purchasing a vinyl product in the interest of frugality; (2) telling my wife that I have purchased a third Filofax; (3) committing to its use without a totally clear idea of how best to deploy it; and (4) subjecting myself to further accusations of being a purse-carrying pantywaist.

I like the fact that the Domino doesn’t have a bulky snap closure. The snap closure is fine for a product that stays in my bag. But if I hope to carry something around in my pocket, the rubber band is perfect. (Dare I say, Moleskine-esque.)

I like the fact that I will be able to transplant pages from the Domino to my A5 binder. I’ll probably fill it primarily with blank paper, and maybe some project/task pages too.

I like the fact that it has ½-inch rings. Slim. Svelte. Just like I wish I was. (See, Filofax can be a role model too.)

I like the fact that it costs only $20.

I like the fact that it will remove one item from the very long list of excuses I give myself for not doing more writing – Unavailability of paper.

Will it gather dust like so many other purchases in my life that have, at one time or other, seemed to promise me deep happiness and salvation? Who knows? But I’ll still try it. That’s how crazy I am.

14 August 2006

A Quick Query

Succes finds itself among our links thanks to an anonymous comment left long ago, the poster of which attested to the quality of the A5 inserts offered by Succes. Can anyone give any more specific comments? Some of the forms look really cool.

Here's the more specific feedback I'm looking for: Are the fricking holes in Succes inserts drilled in a Filofax-compatible fricking manner? For reasons that elude me, I can't find any indication on their website concerning Filo-compatibility. For other reasons that elude me, they have declined to respond to my e-mail requesting confirmation of compatibility.

(Aside: Why do so many companies ignore e-mails like this? When I was in Europe once, I bought a watch made by the "Rotary" company. They don't sell watches in the U.S. A couple years later, the band -- a weirdly shaped, custom-sized job -- broke. No one in the U.S. had ever heard of Rotary. So I began an e-mailing odyssey that took months. It finally, happily, culminated in my receipt of two new bands shipped from England. [Two bands, because I did not want to go through that again upon the next band breakage.] The reason for the delay -- and subsequent damage to the goodwill they otherwise could have built in a globe-trotting, product-recommending person like me -- was primarily their failure to respond to my e-mails. I think that "local" distributors of international products not commonly available in the U.S. are the worst. Anyhoo...)

Any fricking feedback?

More on Tabs. (And I mean that the way it sounds.)

This has been my life over the past few months:

  • June 18 to July 3: Work all day, every day, and prepare for the arrival of a baby in my scads of spare time.
  • July 4: Take day off. Fall into 24-hour coma.
  • July 5: Leave home to go to New York for work.
  • July 6 to July 20: In New York, work all day, every day, late into the night. Obsess over looming due date and associated absent-spouse guilt.
  • July 21: Return home.
  • July 24 to July 31: One week of “regular” life. Regular work schedule. Regular home life. (Except for whole looming baby thing.)
  • August 1: BABY.
  • August 2 to August 13: Haze; recollections unclear. Something about a screaming, naked midget in our house. Scenes from Alien replaying in my head. Sleep a distant memory.
  • August 14: Return to work. Sit at desk. Wonder if this is what post-traumatic stress disorder feels like. Try to accomplish something. Succeed in accomplishing one thing: Reorganizing Filofax.

I have turned my words into action; thoughts into matter; time into wasted time. My Filofax is now organized thusly:

  • Upfront: The calendar (not designated by any tab). I toyed with the idea of moving this to the back, but it seemed too subversive. I’m not ready to rock the boat like that. At heart, my Filofax is still my calendar, and if I could preserve only one of its functions, that would be it.
  • A “Data” section (tabbed as such). A pure carryover from the old scheme, containing my passwords, logins, confirmation codes. (As I stated earlier, the passwords are recorded according to a code known only to me, so please don’t track me down and steal my Filofax for the purpose of transferring money between my checking and saving accounts, or changing my Fantasy Football lineup.)
  • A “Financial” section (tabbed as such). This is also carryover material.

Then I get crazy.

  • A “House” section (tabbed as such). That’s right: a section designated by subject matter, not type of data. This a major step for me. I feel tingly thinking about it.
  • A “Baby” section (tabbed as such). Hold me back. Another subject matter-specific section. Keep your distance: I could fly out of control at any moment.
  • A “Writing” section (tabbed as such). Good God, man! I haven’t even decided what to put back here, but I figure it can only encourage me to do more of what the tab says.
  • An “Other” section (tabbed as such). Right now, a necessary evil. I plan to tabify more subject matters in the future.

After all that craziness, you get to my addresses (using A-to-Z tabs but no prefatory “Address Book” tab). And then my clear plastic sleeves for cards and the like. Then a sleeve for my checkbook. Then, finally, a world map. (Which always seems so cool and useful. I haven’t consulted it once for anything at all.)

Phew. I’ll take some pictures soon of the new setup, and update you all on its continuing development.

12 August 2006

Super Tabs!

After my last entry, in which I mentioned removing A-Z tabs from my Filofax, a very nice reader emailed me personally about the virtues of A-Z tabs -- the tab inserts themselves, not what goes inbetween them. He brought up the point that you can write on the tab pages themselves. They're perfect for glossaries, lists of books to read or movies to see, and so on. So instead of a thickness liability, tabs can be an asset.

Ever since then, my tabs have remained securely bound into my Filofax.

09 August 2006

Tab Time

I can't contribute any cute baby pictures, but I wanted to at least add another Filofax picture. (My very cute then-6-month old nephew was holding my very cute Pocket Filo last Christmas and banging it on the floor, but so far I haven't located a picture of of it.)

All this talk of tabs has got me thinking. I have to weed out and reprioritize my Filofax. I need room for more notes and new ideas. I would make better use of my ideas if I had them in a separate volume and actually review them once a week rather than carry them around and never look at them because the book is too intimidatingly big to open. What I've been doing in my A5 Filo is developing a Commonplace Book. I remember reading that article about a year ago and feeling totally intimidated by it, but unwittingly I ended up duplicating it (on paper, not electronically).

My current tabs are: To Do, Checklists, Projects, Lists, Ideas, and Notes, plus A-Z tabs that aren't seeing much action.

My idea for a new set is (not in any particular order): To Do , Notes, Meetings, Projects, Lists (including ideas), and Address (including agendas). I'm going to eliminate the A-Z tabs, but still put the address pages in alphabetical order.

Mutability, as Philofaxer says, is what it's all about. Maybe Filofaxes are like sharks. If they stop moving forward, they die.

08 August 2006

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...

When I bought my first Filofax, I dutifully sorted the preprinted tabs, in the order predetermined by their alignment on the staggered scale of their right sides. When I bumped up to the A5 size, I was happy to find that it included blank tabs, which could be configured as the user sees fit. So what did I do? I essentially created duplicates of the preprinted tabs I was abandoning. I made a couple tentative gestures toward originality: I created a "Financial" tab where there was none before; I created a "Data" tab for things like passwords, confirmation numbers, and the like. But the overall scheme was essentially unchanged.

The beauty of Filofax is its mutability. I want to change my system now, and I can.

But I'm struggling with two possibilities.

The first is the less radical one: Instead of generic tabs that designate the "type" of data contained under them, use tabs that designate the subject of the pages contained thereunder. For instance, the most actively used tab at this point would be a "Baby" tab. I would keep the "Financial Tab." I might introduce a "Writing" tab, or a "Shopping" tab. I would tie up the loose ends with a "Miscellaneous" tab, or a "Notes" tab.

Nice.

But the second option would be far more radical. Ditch the whole idea of descriptive tabs and go to a straight, balls-to-the-wall, look-at-me-I'm-so-crazy-the-world-can-eat-my-poo (again, babies are weighing on my mind) A-to-Z system. Aside from the calendar, everything else would fall somewhere in the A-to-Z system. Address for Fred Flintstone? That will be behind "F", thank you very much. Research on "F"ormula for babies? Also behind "F."

I'm attracted to option two for the same reason I once wanted to get a tattoo. It's assertive, individual, pleasantly chaotic. Then again, I never got a tattoo. So maybe I'm not an A-to-Z person.

I will probably try option one first, see how it works, and determine whether option two sounds like a good idea. I may have to try option two just to get it out of my system. I don't want to wonder how my life could have been different if I had really thrown caution to the wind and gone A-to-Z.

In order to help deal with all of this confusion, here is a picture of Charlie mulling over the possibilities:

05 August 2006

Warning: Off-Topic Beauty Ahead

If your sole reason for being here is your undying love for Filofax, such that you are unable to reflect upon other instances of beauty in the world, you can stop here. However, for those of you who appreciate perfection manifested in forms other than leather-bound binders and calendar pages, I give you Charlie, my son:



He was born Tuesday night, two and a half weeks early. (We HAVE to get this boy a calendar.) In this picture, he is swaddled for the trip home, on Thursday. Now he's luxuriating in the glow of familial attention, alternately pooping, sleeping, and eating. And I'm luxuriating in his glow.

Does Filofax make a baby carrier insert?

03 August 2006

Regrets, I've had a few...

It was hard separating from my Palm handheld. When I went back to paper, I had to give up a pocket-sized a way to get online and send email, the ability to enter an address once and synch it up on every computer I'll ever own, reading newspaper articles and playing games in the palm of my hand.... But give it up I did. And it's been over half a year since I've thought of the darn thing.

Until today. I friend emailed me directions to a place we're meeting this weekend, and as I printed them, cut them up, and slipped the resulting strip of paper into my Pocket Filo, I had a flashback of cutting and pasting the directions into iCal, attached right to the relevant event. When I synched up at the end of the day, they'd be on my Palm forever. Just a few more clicks, and I could make an Address Book entry with the directions attached as well. If we meet at the same place again, a quick Find on my Palm will turn up the directions again, in the same mint condition as when I first pasted them in.

But then, the fact that Finds on my Palm kept turning up fatal errors was the last straw in the first place. There was the time it took 2 days to get Palm Desktop working again when my company upgraded to Tiger. (Palm no longer supports the Mac platform.) I lost another week of my life trying to set up my documents in StickyBrain when I decided to use iCal and Address Book -- iCal has no way to synch with Palm memos.

...Anybody wanna buy a Palm Tungsten T3?

31 July 2006

R.I.P.

It's true. My favorite Filofax form -- the Project Planner -- is discontinued. I exchanged email with a really nice man at Madison Signatures, who contacted Filofax in England and confirmed that they have none left in their warehouse. He has one packet left (A5) and is holding it for me. I obtained a packet from a place in Florida earlier this year. They, too, sent me the last one they had.

The Project Planner form is so stone-cold dead that I can't even find a picture of it online to post here. Since I haven't found any project forms in the DIY Planner that I like as well, I'm going to try to print my own on plain A5 paper, probably from Word or Excel. (Now that's DIY!) Luckily, it's a very simple form, which is exactly why I like it.

I also think I've found out the reason for the discontinuance. Filofax has developed some new forms, and a time-management training program to go with them. The replacement form appears to be called Project/Mind. I actually like the looks of this new set of forms, called Professional System, but I don't think these forms are available in the States yet.

Another alternative is this project form developed by a company called DeVilliers. Again, they seem to be available only from U.K. Web sites, so if you're not in the U.K., shipping charges can be a drawback.

29 July 2006

A Rock, a Hard Place, and Some Complaints About Each

I finally had a chance yesterday to visit my local Filofax emporium. I hadn't been in a long time, and in the interim I had developed all sorts of fantasies about revamping my system. Foremost among these fantasies was the introduction of a mini-size Filofax, to function like a Star Trek shuttle: Leave the mothership in the bag or on the desk; deploy the shuttle for information-gathering and discrete missions; upon completion of mission, dock with the mothership and offload the new data.

Fantasies are so much more fantastic than reality.

The store had a huge selection of Mini Filofaxes, and for a brief moment, I was very excited. I flipped one open. The pages are so cute I would pinch their cheeks if they had them. But it quickly became apparent to me that I would not be sticking one in my pocket. Puffy, thick leather is luxurious, but not compact. Neither are binder rings pocket-friendly.

And the Minis were $70 each. Yikes. So I soured on the Mini idea quickly.

Plan B: Come up with an alternative pocket-friendly system that is compatible with Filofax. The problem here is that, as far as I can find, there is no pocket-friendly paper system pre-drilled for Filofax compatibility. I could buy the A5 hole punch sold by Filofax, but it is priced for millionaires. $50 for a tiny little hole punch. Puh-leeeze.

Enter the Moleskine, tantalizingly close to a solution, but not quite there. Portable: Check. Cool: Check. Drilled for Filofax: Uncheck. Perforated pages for transfer to a Filofax: Check/uncheck. (Some Moleskines have some perforated pages, but none have all perforated pages, as far as I can tell.)

Tear down this wall, Mr. Moleskine: Drill your notebooks for Filofax!

Maybe I am destined to buy the hole punch, but I can't drop that kind of coin on a hole punch unless I am quite certain it will be heavily used. Perhaps I should first experiment with carrying around an awl, or getting a job teaching high school shop so I would have access to a drill press.

26 July 2006

Russian Nesting Dolls



The only way I would be able to store my A5 Filofax in a pocket would be carrying a kangaroo with me. It turns out that carrying a messenger bag is substantially easier than carrying a kangaroo.

I’ve been a devotee of the messenger bag since college. I could never quite get into backpacks. I had a few brief love affairs with one, but the dealbreaker was always ease of access while on my feet. With a backpack, I had to do a funny twist-and-unzip thing. If I was using both shoulder straps, I’d have to partially disengage with the pack first. Then, in the process of unzipping, I would have to be careful not to unzip too far, thereby spilling its precious contents onto asphalt. With a messenger bag, though, the storage compartments sit at just the right height for easy access. And, although a twist-and-unzip is sometimes necessary, it's not nearly as chiropractic.

So, for years, I have turned my obsessive research instincts toward messenger bags.

I think the first one I had was an Eddie Bauer. How quaint. It’s the non-threatening starter bag. How could anything made and sold by Eddie Bauer be bad? Unstylish? Possibly. But truly bad? No way. It was green, like most things at Eddie Bauer.

Then I lived in New York. New York is mecca for messenger bags. Everyone has one. You carry your personal items, your groceries, sometimes your children, in one. I went through a few, but the one that really sticks in my head was the Manhattan Portage bag. It was roughly this:


Oh, yes, it looked cool. But hold on a sec. There is no handle for grabbing it. There are no external pockets at all. Inside, there was one large zippered pocket. No pen loops. No handy cell phone pocket. Just space. (Lapsed Geek Alert: Like a Bag of Holding!)

Really impractical. Like most things associated with New York.

I’ve left out some other bag flings I’ve had. Some were one-night stands. Others were torrid but star-crossed love affairs. Then, the fates conspired me to deliver salvation to me: Tom Bihn. My first exposure to Tom Bihn was a review on The Gadgeteer of the ID Bag. I loved the look. I loved the idea. (Commitment to fair labor conditions; friendly service (including message boards on their site); generally crunchy vibe. Here is another reason to like Bihn: Click.) I bought the ID on the strength of that review. And I loved it.



That was about three years ago. I have become something of a Tom Bihn devotee. Last year, I made my wife give me the Super Ego for my birthday. (At least I let her pick the color of the stripe on the front of the bag.)



I still alternate back and forth between the ID and the Super Ego. I like the capaciousness of the Super Ego. But I like the compactness of the ID. (Damn logic!) I also prefer the pocket layout of the ID, which fits my usage patterns a little better.

If anyone cares, I would be happy to describe in excruciating detail the differences between the two bags, and why I prefer the pocket layout of the ID. Both, however, make excellent portable, non-marsupial pockets for an A5 Filofax.

Now, I have to carry the Bihn bag in something, of course. Namely, a car. I shall save my thoughts on that for another day.

25 July 2006

Forthcoming Emissions

I’ve returned from two-and-a-half weeks away from home, during which time I became so consumed with being productive that I lost track of my productivity tools. I basically stopped using Philo. I switched to a simple legal pad with a long list of tasks. Then even that fell into disuse, and I (dis)organized my time by reference to scattered post-it notes and scrawls in the margins of notebooks. Had I been there any longer, I would probably have hired someone to skywrite my to-do lists in the skies above Manhattan, because I could not possibly be bothered with any physical incarnations of such lists.

Now I back at my old desk, butt cheeks settled into their old imprints, and my Filofax at its old post to my right. I feel guilty about ignoring poor Philo. Then again, while I was ignoring Philo, I was also ignoring my poor pregnant wife, who will emit a child in the next 2 weeks or so. (Okay, I wasn’t ignoring her. But when you’re ridden with guilt and anxiety, like I am, anything short of constant, doting attention feels the same as ignoring.) And, of course, I’ve been ignoring Philofaxy. (Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.) I begin each day stocked to the gills with guilt. Now I'm overflowing.

So I must make amends in all areas of my life. I’m slowly reintegrating my Filofax into my life after its temporary banishment. I updated my “Financial” section to reflect recent inflows and outflows. I made a fresh to-do list. I updated my project page on shopping for a new lightweight stroller.

(Also, I'm not ignoring my wife any more.)

Perhaps this weekend, I will live the dream that has preoccupied me for months: I will buy new A-to-Z tabs and totally reorganize the whole damn thing. Once I do that, I will actually have something new and arguably useful to tell you all about.

That presumes, of course, that I don’t have a fricking baby on my lap this weekend.

24 July 2006

Writing vs. Doing

The good news: I write all my ideas and things I want to do (sooner or later) in my Filofax. I've virtually eliminated lost information.

The bad news: Writing and doing are two different things. Some things go months or years without getting done. They just sit there on the page. For example, because I don't have much opportunity in the day to just sit and make phone calls, I have pages and pages of unmade calls to people who would be really cool to talk to. But only the urgent calls get made.

The "eh" news: Some of the things I've written down are never going to get done. They just sit there on the page until, one day, I realize they weren't a very good idea in the first place. So it makes me wonder about the value of writing them down in the first place. But maybe procrastination isn't all bad. It gives me a chance NOT to make unwise moves. Gives me time to see the better of them. Kind of like counting to 10 before speaking when you're angry. I guess "eh" isn't so bad after all.

In a recent (July 6, 2006) podcast on 43folders, Merlin Mann outlined two ways to tell whether your system is working. With all credit where credit is due, I'll paraphrase them here, as I wrote them in my own notes (in my Filofax, of course):

1) Your system must support you and your work, not the other way around.

2) Changing your attitudes and habits is what makes any system work or not.

What I like about the Filofax is that it's pretty neutral on both counts. Whether or not your system works depends on how well you set it up based on your self-understanding, as you choose your calendar format, tabs, and what to keep inside them. And your attitudes and habits are up to you...but keeping records and journals in your 'fax sure can help you see where you are and where you want to get to.

22 July 2006

First Sketch

OK, I've been warning you! I'm so inspired by Filofax art, I had to create some myself. And now you know I have no idea how to draw a sailboat. In fact, I have no idea how to draw anything.

My favorite quote of all time is from Goethe: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Well, at least I've got the boldness aspect of it.

19 July 2006

Back in Black

No, I'm not talking about AC/DC. I've had to bring back the black A5 Finsbury that I used to use for work. My other A5, a red Belgravia, just didn't have the ring capacity for the rate at which I generate new pages. The photo shows my current stuff (everything personal, and now a little work) inside the black Finsbury, with the empty Belgravia for comparison. Sort of makes me wonder how I ever fit it all in there...

As a chick who lives the colorful life, I resisted migrating to the manly-man black leather as long as possible. But, if I ever decide to bite the bullet and shell out for a new Finsbury, they now come in an array of colors, including...drum roll...Tangerine!!

BTW, if you're visiting this blog Wednesday night (U.S. Eastern Daylight Time) or early Thursday morning (GMT), you may notice the Flickr-hosted photos (which includes most of the photos on this blog) are offline. Apparently, Flickr is "having a massage."* Well, at least they had enough class to come up with a cleverly creative error message.

*Now they're having a contest to fill in some clogged tubes with artwork and win a year of free Flickr Pro. I've leave that to those of you who are more creative than I.
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