Carrying Stones – Page 23 – moving a mountain one stone at a time

Putting Ghosts to Rest

In the TV series Supernatural, the Winchester brothers spread salt over bones and set them on fire to help a spirit rest in peace. In real life killing ghosts isn’t so easy. The saying goes, “Your past will come back to haunt you.” We all have ghosts lurking in our periphery, looking for another way in to try and suck the life out of us.

Don’t let them.

They come in many forms and may arise from the death of a loved one, from those we have wronged, or from those who wronged us. Sometimes these modern apparitions come flooding back in the form of blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, invoked with the click of a link.

We scream at the hapless victims in horror movies. “Don’t open the door!” They never listen and the ghost consumes them. Likewise, our brain screams at our fingers not to click the link. Of course, we don’t listen either. We follow the link, throwing open the door as if inviting a vampire into our home allowing him to come and go as he likes and taking victims at will.

A ghost began chasing our family today, but we are luckier than those fools on movies and TV. If life was like an episode of Supernatural, we would know how to kill the ghost. We could chop off the vampire’s head. If we were smarter, we wouldn’t open doors in the first place by following links that invoke spirits from a haunted past. If we do slip and allow a ghost back into our lives, we have the awesome power to push it back out again and we don’t need even salt or fire or mysterious incantations to do it.

Wandering to a Point

Wandering around on the Internet is fun and I’ve found a lot—I mean a lot—of things I enjoy reading, but wandering doesn’t lead to a clear destination. Staying up-to-date has displaced being creative.

When I was younger and slinging medical supplies on a hospital shipping dock I dreamed about writing for a living. One day during lunch I was flipping through the local newspaper and an ad in the classifieds called to me. Reporter Wanted. I got the job as a writer for that same weekly newspaper and thought I had achieved my goal. I began to draw a salary by listening to people and sharing their stories about local events. Many of those events were boring government meetings, but hey, living the dream, right?

What I found was that when I began to write for a living, I stopped writing for me. After crawling back to my cave after work to try to write, my brain was mush. After spilling gallons of creative juice at work writing about the things I have to write about I often lacked the willpower to press on and write about topics I want to write about.

I still do.

Several areas interest me and draw out my passion, and that’s what it’s really about. One cliché says, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” That isn’t exactly true. It’s all work, and all work—everything from building spreadsheets to cleaning your house—has the potential to be art. It’s still work, but it can be work you hate or work you love.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself /
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
—John Milton, Paradise Lost

It’s time for me to stop wallowing and whining about how limited my precious time is and begin to measure it out differently. It’s easy to reach for ridiculous examples of how people used time wisely. Thomas Edison. Albert Einstein. What does the president’s schedule look like? Anyway, I want to point out some examples that are a little more down to earth. Let’s keep it real, shall we?

In my previous post, I mentioned two people who inspire me: Colleen Wainwright (@communicatrix) and Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies). Here are two more:

  • John Moltz (@moltz) tops this short list because he recently launched a Very Nice Website to write about stuff he likes, which he says will include issues such as “media criticism, general technology, science fiction, comic books, humor, baseball, competitive macramé and yachts.” Congratulations John!

  • John Gruber (@gruber) writes at Daring Fireball and is one of the writers I’m not willing to cull from my list of must-reads. His site is simply the best source for a portion of the tech world. Make it part of your daily routine. Add it to your RSS feed and buy a t-shirt when they’re on sale.

These people, among many others, inspire me for a couple of reasons. First, they are terrific writers. The best of the best in my opinion. Second, they were not only able to shift their careers to focus on their passions, but they had the sack to do so (you too Colleen!).

Note: I know quitting your job isn’t the answer. Quitting your job isn’t the answer! Sometimes though, it may be the right goal. It isn’t my solution today, but it’s a good goal.

Embracing the tiny: a 21-Day Salute™ by Communicatrix

Colleen Wainright spent 21 days embracing something tiny to help her begin. She started with this piece (Embracing the tiny: a 21-Day Salute™) about a tree with the gall to lay dormant for a season and return in full bloom.

“That damn tree can take a few months off, even out here in the land of perpetual growing seasons. No one wonders what the hell it was doing while those shrubs down the block had it going on. When it blossoms again, no one disparages it for slacking off, or wonders why its flowers aren’t bigger, already, or whispers behind its back that last year’s blooms were soooooo much better.

So I’m going to make like a tree, and come back slow and tiny, one bud at a time.”

In closing the series 21 days later, she shared this truth about herself in Embracing the tiny, Day 21: Small finales:

“What I needed to do when I began this, though, was to begin. And then to keep on beginning, right through to the end. (At which point, of course, I am free to keep beginning.)”

I need to shake off years of whining about not having time or not having the energy or being a talentless hack and just make something! This is the prescription I need. Thanks Dr. Colleen! Now I just have to remember to take my medicine.

Colleen’s series reminded me of a talk Merlin Mann gave a couple of years ago at MaxFunCon about starting (you better believe that one’s Huffduffed for another listen). Check out Merlin’s website or don’t follow him on Twitter at @hotdogsladies. He hates it when you follow him.

Why The Hunger Games Is the Future of Writing | Goins, Writer

I love Jeff Goins’s honesty in describing the popularity of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Maybe you heard about the movie.
Why The Hunger Games Is the Future of Writing | Goins, Writer:

“Young adult fiction is red hot right now. But why? Two reasons:

  1. Youth culture is now the dominant culture. Go to the mall and see how many 40- and 50-year-olds are dressed like their teenage children. Turn on your TV and watch the commercials; they’re geared towards youth and those who want to preserve it.
  2. We live in a world of distractions. Not surprisingly, most people are reading at the attention level of a sixth grader.”

When I worked in journalism, a publisher suggested I write to a sixth-grade reading level. I thought he was nuts until I worked there a while. I found sixth grade is about right.

Making Room for My Brain

I’m investing some of my time off during this spring break to streamline my workflow and put my Mac to work for me.

A lot of my important filing often falls to the wayside because I hate that kind of thing. Downloading statements, renaming them, and archiving them in the proper folder is tedious work. Now, I’m automating this workflow to and yank some of the tedium out of my life.

Thinking Ahead

Hazel is the most important piece moving forward. This preference pane for Mac OS watches folders and files and does stuff to them when the conditions are right.

This is incredibly powerful.

Billing statements are notoriously weird. Some have funky and inconsistent filenames. Hazel makes short work of one especially gnarly statement. It checks for four conditions:

  1. Is it a PDF?
  2. Does it contain a particular phrase?
  3. Does it contain the last four digits of my account number?
  4. Does it contain the customer support number for that account?

I tried to use some unique text common to all of the statements for that account. If the document meets all four criteria, the weirdo filename is replaced with the my custom dated name (i.e. 2012-04 statement.pdf). Once the file is renamed, it’s automatically archived to the proper folder.

Did you follow that? All I have to do is download the statement. As soon as it hits my Downloads folder, Hazel takes care of the rest. Easy peasy. It just takes little forethought automate a mindless task that’s perfect for a computer.

Catching Up

My existing archive was a mishmash of different naming conventions I’ve used over the years. A Better Finder Rename helped me bring some consistency to those archived documents. All it takes is dropping a list of files into the app to automate the renaming process; another perfect task for a computer.

Because I’m lazy, I had quite a backlog of statements to download and file. These great tools helped me catch up and should keep me on track from here on out.

Back to the Future

So how will I remember to download my statements and avoid another backlog? I’ve added reminders to OmniFocus, the most important gear driving my GTD workflow. If you’re a Mac user, especially one who is all in and using the iPhone and iPad, you owe it to yourself to look into using OmniFocus.

Notes: 4 Ways to Use Type on a Page

These notes are based on a talk given by Robby Ingebretsen (@ingebretsen on Twitter, Nerd Plus Art on the Web) in November 2011 at ØreDev. If you’re a font or design nerd, you can and should watch it on Vimeo. His talk can be broken down a number of ways. This is one.

  • Shape – reading personality, pairing
  • Layout – hierarchy, space, harmony
  • Technology – fonts, rendering, tools

Really, the emphasis is on two areas: body text and display text (with a healthy dose of layout and design throughout the presentation.

Body Text

The text we read. Usually comes in sentences and paragraphs.

  • Legibility – Are the glyphs readable and understandable?
  • Readability – Can I read this comfortably and for a long time?

When type gets small it’s hard to make it legible and even harder to make it readable. A phonebook provides an example of type that is meant to be legible without needing to be readable.

A Great Body in 5 Steps

  1. Bigger x-height – the height from the base to the top of a lowercase “x”
  2. Less stroke contrast – the width of the vertical strokes versus horizontal strokes.
  3. Glyph support
  4. Nothing weird
  5. Trust the classics

Best advice for body type legibility and readability? Read it yourself.

Display Text

Type used at large sizes. Some typefaces are designed for use solely at display sizes.

  • Serifs seem a little more fancy
  • Serifs with contrasting stroke widths seem even more fancy
  • Narrow or condensed typefaces feel deliberate and down to business
  • Extended or wide fonts give the impression of having something important to convey

Displaying characters to convey meaning

The Basics

Use fewer fonts (no more than three). Look first for contrast, then harmony. Not everyone can be a star

  1. One family, many weights
  2. Pair a serif with a sans serif
  3. Pair a strong typeface for the display with neutral typeface for the body

Type is a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters. —Matthew Carter

Three levels of hierarchy may make it easier for the reader to understand. Laying out type in a grid also helps bring order to help the reader.

Typography is 10 percent letter management and 90 percent space management. —Alex White, “The Elements of Design”

A brief history of rendering text

  1. Printing press
  2. Offset press
  3. Digital press
  4. Digital display

Progression of font types

  1. Bitmap
  2. Postscript (vector-based)
  3. TrueType
  4. OpenType
  5. WOFF – an exciting new font format for the web

Rendering depends on three layers

  1. Typeface design
  2. Font technology
  3. Rasterization

5 Minutes on The Verge: Loren Brichter | The Verge

5 Minutes on The Verge: Loren Brichter | The Verge:

“There’s so much creativity all around I don’t know where to start. I’m fascinated by graphic and print design.”

Also:

“I think if everyone tweeted less the overall quality would improve, so maybe I’m trying to compensate for the rest of the universe. Then again my last three tweets were poop related.”

Brilliance, creativity, and poop. Glad @lorenb is on our side.