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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.
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