Monthly Archives: February 2004

How do you keep track of your calendar?

I’m in the middle of figuring out a new way to keep track of my calendar, and I’d love to get your help in that decision process.

My life these days has a lot of telephone calls, a lot of instant messages, and a lot of e-mail. The program I use to keep track of what I’m supposed to do (ACT!) is really starting to bum me out, because I have a hard time using it to simultaneously keep track of 100s of things I might want to do in the future while keeping a narrow focus on things that need to get done in the next 72 hours. As a result, I’m doing inexcusable things like missing lunch meetings, even though they are clearly marked on my electronic calendar.

Rather than spec out things that I’d like to see in a calendar system (be that laptop, PDA, paper or mobile phone based), I’d like to hear from you all what you are actually using to keep track of your days. How do you remember what phone calls you need to return tomorrow, and how do you keep track of which people you want to talk to a few times a year to stay in touch? What if anything prompts you in advance of a meeting or call while you are on the move so that you don’t have to sit glued to a telescreen (er, laptop) all day?

I’m particularly interested in innovative, non-traditional, obscure, or weird ways to keep yourself in sync. Is it all scribbled down on a three for a dollar pocket notebook from the dollar store? Is your life planning tracked in a set of wiki pages? Does your iPod whisper soothing reminders to you in the morning as you go to work? Is your next car maintenance date encoded in intricately beaded knotwork that you carry with you? I’m sure there are more.


India Viewed from Afar: the Fantastical Engravings of Bernard Picart

An exhibition running at the U of Michigan Museum of Art. Saul I went to the UM Museum of Art for their Indian dance performance last weekend. There is a very interesting exhibit of “India through western eyes” engravings in the basement, a very twisted set of iconic images of the country as viewed through the eyes of someone who just didn’t quite get it.


The Frenchman Bernard Picart (1673–1733) was one of the most famous engravers of his generation in Europe. His masterwork was a nine-volume publication entitled Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All the Peoples of the World (1722, 1728), which became widely known throughout Europe. His images of India in that book would shape the European imagination for generations, just as the imperialist enterprise was getting underway. Picart himself never traveled overseas, but he drew widely on earlier European sources and had access to a rare collection of imported Indian paintings. What did Picart “see” in India? How did Picart’s particular vision suit his contemporary European audience? Planned as a companion exhibition to Divine Encounters, Earthly Pleasures: Twenty Centuries of Indian Art, this special display of Picart’s prints is curated by Robert J. Del Bontà, Ph.D. The engravings are all from a private West Coast collection.

This exhibition is supported by the University of Michigan Center for South Asian Studies.

Chocolate and zucchini

A weblog to recommend: Chocolate & Zucchini, a very well written and nicely photographed dish pretty much every day from the kitchen of a woman in Paris who eats very well.

A story – in the Upper Peninsula one of the few vegetables that deals with the growing season well is the zucchini, to the point that if you don’t harvest way early you get these monster baseball bat sized growths. Every summer my mom would inevitably sneak a grated zucchini into a chocolate cake. (And we loved it.) Nowdays winter zucchini at Whole Paycheck is precious enough that you’d never use it as filler.

Late night Ann Arbor coffee shops

Watching my Google query logs to see what kind of hits I get and how I could be writing to match what’s searching.

The canonical late night Ann Arbor spot for coffee – not very good coffee, but open 24 hrs – is the Fleetwood Diner downtown. Have a plate of hippie hash or the “green eggs and ham” (scrambled eggs with ham and green onions). Very smokey. If you want decaf after hours, it’s only going to be instant.

Not really Ann Arbor – more like Pittsfield or Ypsi-arbor – is the Steak and Shake on Ellsworth by Meijers. Again not wondeful coffee but it runs 24 hrs and you can get a steakburger or a plate of chili mac.

On campus the coffee shop that stays open the latest is Rendezvous on South U. The place closest to me that is open late for cafe things is Caribou Coffee, which is often open til 11 pm.

Ann Arbor Is Overrated notes the phenomenon of coffee shops that close at 10 pm.

Downtown coffee shop late night leader is Sweetwaters, which rolls up the carpets at midnight; ERC on Main St. shuts at 11pm. On State St, Starbucks is open til 1am some nights, but the South U branch shuts as early as 11pm.

The Starbucks at Arborland had some real late hours (1 am?) last i checked, but I don’t visit there often enough to have accurate ones.

My favorite coffee shop is Cafe Ambrosia, but it’s more of a morning place for me.

UPDATE: a few extra hours added, and links throughout. I’m not out late as much as I used to be, but very regularly at 11pm my search logs show hits for this page.

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Getting Things Done

I’m re-reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”, in anticipation of tracking down his latest. He’s a ‘personal productivity guru’, or so the cover blurb says.

I tried one of his techniques and emptied my inbox down to zero! Of course there are 130 things in an “action” folder waiting to be prioritized and acted on, but at least I know none of them will catch on fire, and I know that they are each 15 minute tasks and not 2 minute tasks.

I find that I don’t multitask at all. Whatever is on top of the screen gets my attention, and I don’t overlap windows. This means that chat and instant message are death to productivity, because I can’t and don’t get anything done in any other window. (I must be old.)

Some of my most productive time seems to be on long airplane trips, where there is a limited amount of stuff around and no connectivity and little distraction. Do they have office layouts anywhere with a pulled apart fuselage and a row of comfy first class seats with tray tables to work at?