The Joy of Tools

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Being a natural-born quasi-geek, any task where I can use a cool tool is automatically enhanced. Well understood in the electronic gadget and software world, and even for hand and power tools. But snow shoveling? Yes, even there.

My house has more surface area to shovel than I’ve ever dealt with, and that fact combined with both a back that can’t take a lot of weight stress and a standard distribution flatish snow shovel, meant inefficient shoveling. I figured if I could find a shovel with an ergo handle and built to push, instead of dig and toss, then I’d be better equipped to survive the looming “winter of many shovelings.” Yes, logical justification to buy yet another gadget. And your point?

Photo at the right is the new bad boy. Key features:  curvy thingie between bucket and hand grip, oversized back end of the shovel bucket (for the plow effect), and a steel-strip bucket edge to cut through ice, forgotten garden hoses, and unfortunately, my yard at sidewalk’s edge. Guess come spring I’ll clearly know where my shoveling went off course.

The result? Well, I still know I had a workout using this shovel versus the flat one, but it took less time to clear the drive and walks, and I spent more of that time standing upright rather than hunched over. Now if it only had a GPS unit and a USB port…

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Winds of Change

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I’ve hinted here before about some changes-in-progress, and much of that will become future blog-post fodder (and perhaps a new blog). But from the picture below, you can see one small change already in place: my new MacBook laptop.

macbook.jpgI finally took the first baby step to move away from Windows to the Mac, where life is simpler and, of course, way cooler. In essence, I’ll be using the Mac for my creative side:  writing, blogging, photography, personal development, general Internet usage, etc. My arthritic, quasi-trusty PC laptop will continue to be the production machine for the likes of Word high-end formatting, page layout work, spreadsheet crunching, etc., until the end of the year. By then I hope to put Bill Gates’ prodigy out to pasture replaced by an iMac, thus completing my defection and achieving computing political asylum.

The change was not that difficult for me since I used a Mac back in the 80s for graphic production work. Still, it’s a different mind set for even common tasks, so there is a learning curve, albeit fairly minor. The common thread through what I’m trying to accomplish with this and lots of other changes is to keep things simple and focus on the habits and the doing. The temptation is strong on the Mac side, however, for all sorts of cool programs, but for my purposes I’m trying to keep it trim, slim, and FAST. Whitey boots up ready to work in about 20 seconds, and opening programs is a couple of seconds at the most. Spoilingly fast.

In the end all that matters is productivity and enjoying the journey. Going to the Apple side seems to help both counts, at least for me. Besides, this new lappie matches perfectly with my new 30gb white iPod, making the two the equivalent of traveling with matched luggage as I nomadical write from coffee shops and cafes.

The Gauntlet

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I’m amazed how dependent we are on our Internet connections, particularly email. Just watch how people respond when they lose their Internet connections for a few hours. In a word, panic…as in, “I don’t know what to do!” I have had the same reaction, particularly at work. The Internet/email connection has become the biggest driver in our lives. And for some people, sadly, it’s the only driver in their lives. A friend who works in Big Corporate related how everyone on his floor simply sat around and talked when their network/T1 went down…no one could/would do any work.

Think this is baloney? Then take Chuck Martin’s challenge: go a week without email…no sending, no receiving (and no instant messaging). See how you react to losing your electronic umbilical cord. In his article at Darwin.org, Martin claims a typical manager could save 5-10 hours a week not dealing with email. Seems like a significant amount of time! How did we cope before the advent of email? My recollection is that not only did we do just fine, we were more productive in a lot of ways, and more importantly, we interacted with PEOPLE a lot more (what a concept…). You could even build a good argument that email/Internet has irrevocably damaged our ability to socialize in meaningful ways.

I realize there are a lot of benefits to email. After all, it has single-handedly contributed to making out world a lot smaller. And who doesn’t marvel at communication with someone around the world within a few seconds? Part of the leper’s clothing that email seems to be wearing of late is solely the fault of evil spam (a redundant phrase!), and less the loss of interpersonal, face-to-face communication. But it’s significant that one of the hottest areas in business books today is about improving conversations. Surely you remember these? The thing that happens when two or more people exist in the same dimension at the same time occupying the same relative space? It’s called TALKING and requires LIVE people (at least in the scientific sense).

Email as we now know it may well cease to exist. There is some evidence that face-to-face is making a comeback. And spam is increasing exponentially to the point that people will soon consider letters and phone calls as a more effective way to communicate, rather than wade through the spam in their inboxes. But in the meantime, take the addiction test: go a week without email and see what you’ve been missing in your life. You may even remember how to TALK to a real person again! In the immortal words of Judy Tenuta, “It could happen.”