Tweaks For Gmail

Testing… testing…  Is this thing on? <thunk> <thunk> Ahh, folks, I’m still testing my gmail stuff so the article isn’t quite ready.  I’ll update it as soon as it’s done.   It should be soon…

Uhh, this article must be cursed.  Today I was trying to test creating filters and the “create a filter” link had disappeared!  Others have reported seeing (or not seeing) the same thing.  And the Google help is not very helpful about it.  More info when I learn more…

Thanks for your patience.


I apologise for not posting for 11 days

It’s ironic that while I’m working on an article on setting a schedule for posting to your blog that I should utterly fail at doing so.

At this point, I don’t know for sure why I stopped for so long but I do recognize some patterns in my behavior that leads me to think that there may be something in how my brain was rewired by the stroke that makes it difficult to (re-)start something that I stopped working on.  I’ve seen this happen in the middle of tasks that I’m working on, like washing the laundry, and during my day as well as things that I’m working on over days or weeks.

It makes it really difficult for me to be successful because one of the necessary skills is being able to handle the unexpected and compensate or adapt.  It’s also difficult for me to maintain relationships where I don’t have a regular schedule or external trigger that reminds me to reconnect with the other person.  Before I know it, it’s days, weeks or months later and nothing’s happened in all that time.

There are strategies that I can employ to help me deal with my wiring… For the blog, I will make the schedule a requirement for me.  I will work on articles with their publication date in mind and if I can’t get an article done in time to make a publication date, I’ll juggle articles and find one that can be published then.  And if I miss a schedule date completely, I will sit down the next day and post an acknowledgement that I missed a schedule date and when the next article will be posted.  (Today, I expect my next article to be posted on Friday, in two days.  And I expect to continue posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from then on.)

Once again, my apologies.


Richard Bach (Person of Interest)

I only know Richard Bach through his books but several themes come up so consistently that I’m sure they represent Richard Bach’s point of view.  And since many of his books are set as autobiographical, it’s difficult not to think that we know him.

I’ve recently reread Richard Bach’s “Illusions” and “Bridge Across Forever” and they present very intriguing ideas about our existence beyond our mortal lives.  For someone considering the meaning of life, they provide a lot of fodder for consideration.  I first ran across Richard Bach when I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” for the first time many, many years ago.  I then read “illusions” and “Bridge Across Forever” when they first came out.

While I believe that it’s possible that we create the realities we live, I don’t go so far as saying that they are all illusions.  We can’t just think about something and it will magically appear in our lives.  But at some level, we do influence what happens in our lives.  For us less advanced souls, we can’t float a wrench in mid-air or make clouds disappear, but we can steer our lives in directions that we want.

Personal IT, everyone needs it but who has it?

Before the stroke, I was the IT expert for family and friends.  Some time after getting home from the hospital, I realized that I don’t remember how to care for PCs and other computing equipment like I used to.  Now I’m like everyone else.  How do they handle keeping their computing environment going?

So, now I have to learn how to keep PCs and networks running (again.)  At least I used to know how to.  That means I know I can do it.  I just have to figure out the how.  🙂

First order of business is to find some mentors who can teach me and be a sounding board while I explore alternatives.  I used to have a bunch of friends in the business who had different expertise and we helped each other with  stuff that we knew that others didn’t know as much.  here was always at least one who could help me with a problem. But being out of circulation for 3 years means that I’ve lost contact with everyone – even if they know I’m not dead.  I guess I need to start emailing and calling old friends and associates.

IT is not that difficult.  You just need to be patient and solve problems. But it helps to have mentors that can help you with stuff you haven’t seen before; folks who can tell you when you’re on the right track or when you should try something different.  Maybe we can mentor each other.  As I re-learn this IT stuff,  I’ll post about it.  And if you know something, you can share it with all of us in a comment or guest post. TIA!  Not in the medical sense, in the Internet lingo sense for “thanks in advance!”  🙂


Make ToDo Lists Work for You

My father was my first superhero, even before Superman.  Besides being big and strong, he was always calm and things seemed to go well around him. He got more done than anybody else I ever met.  And we never had to go back and unplug the iron or retrieve someone’s toothbrush.

I think my Dad’s super-power was his using To Do lists.  Pretty much whenever he had a bunch of time and stuff he needed to get done, he’d have a To Do list made up.  And when there was a bunch of things that had to be done to accomplish some goal, he’d make up a To Do list for it.

There are numerous benefits to using To Do lists:

  • You are less likely to forget something.
  • You are less likely to run out of time (or at least, not be surprised when you start to run out of time.)
  • Making a To Do list gives you the opportunity to think about what you are going to do ahead of time.  So you think about what you will be doing, how to do it, what tools, materials or other prerequisites are needed.  You can estimate how long each item should take and how much time you have so you shouldn’t be surprised if you start to run out of time and it’s less likely that you won’t be able to finish your list, assuming that your estimates are close.
  • If you have a list to work from, you are not spending as much time and energy figuring out stuff.  As a result, you can focus more on doing and less on thinking about it.
  • When you move the list out of your memory, you free up more of your brain and memory to use on other stuff.  So you’ll able to use your brain for other things, which makes you practically smarter.
  • Having better control of what you are doing reduces your stress, making you more effective because you are calmer.  Besides, no one has fun when they are stressed out.
  • Having more confidence in what you are doing makes you more effective and encourages others to trust you, making it easier to convince them to do what you want.
  • Having a physical list makes it easier to share what you are doing.  Others can better understand a written list and it’s easier for them to “see” what you are doing.

To Do lists are easy to make and easy to use.  Even if you aren’t so good at them in the beginning, they are still helpful and you’ll get better with practice.  They don’t have to be complicated or pretty.  They just need to provide reminders of what you intend to do so that whatever you need to remember, the list can provide it for you (or trigger your memory to remember it.)

You want to make your first lists more descriptive than you think you need so that you don’t have to stretch your memory when it’s not used to working in this way.  As time goes on, abbreviating the list and item descriptions will work fine because your brain and memory have learned how to use To Do lists to remember stuff so the reminders to trigger memories can be briefer.  But in the beginning, strive to make lists that you can depend on.  That will create a history of success which will encourage you to use To Do lists more and trust that they will guide you truly.


There’s Always a “Before”…

… and it ain’t pretty.  I hadn’t realized how I had gotten pudgy around the middle and I’m certainly no model of the human form at my age.

Beyond the aesthetic, I’m not fit enough to do things I want to do, including:

  • Walk to or from the bus stop so that I can take the regular buses that run on schedules on fixed routes.  That will make it easier to do things like shopping or the library, when the time for returning home isn’t set, just when I’m done doing whatever.
  • Attend social events like my high school reunion which is coming up next month.
  • Attend day-long rocket launches without leaving early or needing a timeout which makes it tough to go on my own or with a group.
  • Go to the Mountain Play which had been an annual family tradition until the stroke.
  • Visit my father again before he dies.  Getting to Nashville takes a full day of traveling with lots of walking and standing in line and dealing with airplanes (with small aisles and smaller seats.)

So right now, I’m working on establishing a daily workout habit with motor skill exercises for my left elbow and left foot/ankle.  I hope this leads to  workouts that actually stress muscles in the next few weeks.



Libertarians and Government

(edited & updated Nov 18, 2011…)

I am one of six libertarians in my town.  I know there can’t be many more because every year the Libertarian Party asks me to run for one local office or another,  It’s ironic that a party dedicated to no government is trying to elect government officials.

I call myself libertarian and I believe in libertarian principles as I read about them in Heinlein stories.  Clearly, the Democratic and Republican parties aren’t interested in libertarian values.  But when someone mentions the Libertarian Party, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m a libertarian too.  It just seems that the party is run by kooks and crackpots.  They spout off on how the government is stealing our hard-earned dollars and giving them away.  The candidates for national office are so obviously nutcases that Ralph Nader could beat them in a landslide.

Libertarians rant about how government is evil and unnecessary.  I disagree – every system I know of has some sort of mechanism to deal with problems or when the system breaks down.  Government is that mechanism for our system.  When the system fails or there’s a problem that overwhelms the system, government is there to get things back on track.  So if we got rid of government, then we would have to invent something to replace it.  And I’m not sure we could come up with anything that is better than what we have.

So we need an organization that Libertarians can proudly associate with and that others will take seriously.  Then we could actually work on getting our government to move toward libertarian ideals and eliminate all those things that drive libertarians up a wall.  🙂


How to Get Out of Survival Mode

Some people may think that I’m being less than honest when I remark that I had it easier than my wife did when I had the stroke.  But it’s very obvious to me that she’s had a miserable time trying to keep everything together while I just had to survive.

This is one of those times of life when it’s reasonable to slip into survival mode – when something unexpected and outside your control happens and you can’t ignore it.  But to maintain your sanity, you have to figure out how to eventually get out of survival mode to a life with some semblance of balance and if not calm, at least not constant demands, crises and stress.

First, stop making more commitments!

That old cliche that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging! applies here too.  It is much better to surprise someone when you do something unexpected than to disappoint them when you fail to do the expected.

Of course, there are always some things that are too important that you can’t stop doing, like feeding your family.  But those are very few, probably fewer than you think.

Once you’ve reset expectations, you can then begin making commitments again, being careful to only make commitments that you are absolutely going to keep.

Craig’s Hierarchy of Everyday Priorities

It can be helpful to think of time like money, a limited resource that you have to budget what you spend it on.  Like your checking account has only so much money for each month, there are only so many hours in each day and you have to decide what is most important to you to spend those precious hours doing.

To manage commitments intelligently, you need a systematic method of deciding which commitments are more important and which will have less impact if dropped.  Without some system, you’ll find yourself unhappy and stressed out because while you’re missing the important things in your life, you’ll be stuck doing things with little meaning for you.

Don’t Count on More Time Later

When you’re in survival mode, there is a huge temptation to put stuff off or only do the absolute minimum of what has to be done at that moment.  The problem is that there’s never more time later.  At least, not enough when you need it.    It’s a better strategy to do things completely, so that you never have to worry about them again.

Get Yourself Out of the Loop

Quite often survival mode is so overwhelming that there doesn’t seem to be time or energy to teach others how to do stuff themselves.  It seems easier to just forge ahead and do stuff yourself instead of teaching someone else how to do it without your help, especially since teaching someone to do something takes just as long, if not longer than doing it yourself.  The important thing, though, is that once someone learns how to do something, they no longer need you to do it for them and you then have less that you have to do yourself.

Another way to get yourself out of the loop is to delegate ruthlessly.  We often don’t delegate as often as we could because we think that only we can do something correctly.  Mothers often underestimate what their kids can do and don’t think it’s fair to make them do stuff to to help keep the house & family functioning.  But kids will surprise you with what they can do and they are proud when they can contribute like they see their parents do.

Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

Lastly, you need to remember to do the things you need to do to stay healthy and sane.  That includes getting enough sleep and exercise. focuses on fitness and working out at home.  The target audience appears to be young women, like Zuzana, although there are bodyrockers of both sexes and most ages.  The primary attraction is the workouts and exercises demonstrated and explained step-by-step by Zuzana.  But Zuzana and Freddy try to connect with their viewers and include everyone in the “bodyrocker” community.

The videos of workouts and exercises are shot by Freddy, giving them a home-made quality and hosted on youtube, providing both a marketing venue and revenue stream from the embedded ads.

In addition to the videos of exercises and videos, there are also posts on diet and food and some of their interesting adventures.  Bodyrockers also send in posts of their own, most commonly pictures to show off the results of their bodyrock workouts.  But there are also personal stories that connect you to the bodyrocker community.

I first ran across when I was searching youtube about how folks use it to market and make money.  Their videos are among the most downloaded on youtube.  Since then I’ve lurked around looking for exercises that I can do with my affected arm and leg and just trying to get motivated to get serious about getting back in shape.

So I think that is an excellent resource for working out at home, with a trainer to create workouts, explain exercises and lead/push to get the most out of it and a way to share the experience with others so you don’t feel like you’re doing it alone.

What do you do to keep fit?  If you’ve got something that you love and think others would too, please share it in your comments.

School Teachers

Our children spend more than a quarter of their waking hours at school and their teacher(s) are the ones responsible for them and educating them on stuff they need to succeed as adults.

That means that our children’s teachers are the most significant influence on children after their parents.  We expect them to keep our kids safe.  We expect them to teach our children what they need to succeed.  We expect them to teach kids how to work and play with others.  We hope they’ll teach them how to face and overcome daunting challenges.  If we’re lucky, they’ll teach them to enjoy learning and how to have fun even when they’re working hard.

This week was Back to School Night for local schools.  Despite the effort required to get my old, broken-down body to get moving, I was very determined to show up and give teachers a chance to share what they hope and expect to happen this school year and take the opportunity to show that I’m keenly interested in what goes on at school.  Parents’ attendence at Back To School Night is the single best indicator of whether a student will be successful in school. I hope that you care enough about your kids to attend.  It doesn’t usually cost anything and only takes 2-3 hours out of your life.

By Back To School Night most parents are fed up with all the demanding and pleading for more money for a supposedly “free” education.  It’s a natural reaction to say “no more!” but that’s not just ineffective at changing the system, it’s plain mean to people who are caught in the middle.  If you want to fix the system, you need to find a way that motivates the decision makers which is surely not by depriving teachers of what they need to be able to teach.