Chris Sligh's gonna take it!
I just got the Electric Six album Fire and I frackin love it, and not just because my hero Jack White sings backup on "Danger! High Voltage." (But I do have to admit that when his unmistakable vocal style shows up . . . chills!) I know it came out four years ago, but I'm old and don't know as much as I used to about these kids and their rock and roll.
How can you not like a band with song titles like "I Buy the Drugs" and "Gay Bar"? It seems to me that they're achieving something like what The Darkness (apparently destined for obscurity now that their lead singer has quit) was after, without the novelty feel -- just pure fun dancy rock and roll. I dig it.
I cleaned up my finances this weekend, and it felt good. I took my Quicken file, which is about 15 years old and getting huge, and retired it. It was full of outdated categories and payees, half-assed budget reports, and way too much information.
I used to track every deduction from my paycheck, every retirement account, every asset, and every taxable investment. But in truth I never did much with all that data, and it just got confusing and complicated.
So for 2007 I created a new, simple Quicken file that tracks just my checking accounts (bills and discretionary) using a few clean, general categories. I enter my net salary rather than trying to capture all the different taxes and insurance payments.
If I want to see my retirement money or investments, I'll look at my account online at Vanguard. That money is no longer part of the day-to-day picture. I'm just going to forget about it and let it quietly grow.
The idea behind all this is to pay cash for everything and watch my spending closely. I set up a Flexible Spending Account with my employer, which removes the need to track healthcare expenses. Those are now paid for with a special debit card. I also cut up all my credit cards (and canceled the one whose number I had memorized) and now pay for everything with my bank debit card or Paypal. I even signed up with Bank of America's "Keep the Change" program to try to put a little more money away.
Not sure how well it's going to work, but there's definitely something to be said for simplicity.
Sebastian Mary explores an idea that has occurred to me once or twice:
I'm 27. I write well. I have plenty to say. I ought to be the 'future of the book'. But I want to introduce myself on if:book by proposing that perhaps the future of the book is not a future of books. Or at least it's not one of authorship, but of writing. Now, please don't get me wrong: I don't think print publishing has nothing to offer. I'm an English graduate. I like the physicality of books, the way you can annotate them, the way they start conversations or act as a currency among friends. But I feel deeply that the print industry is out of step with the contemporary cultural landscape, and will not produce the principal agents in the future of that landscape. And I'm not sure that ebooks will, either. My hunch is that things are going two ways: writers as orchestrators of mass creativity, or writers as wielders of a new rhetoric.
These days I'm experimenting with vegetarianism. It's not a huge stretch for me, because I don't eat much meat as it is, but it's something I've been thinking about for a while. It's been a couple of weeks since I've had meat, and I don't miss it at all.
This all came about when I saw Peter Singer on the Colbert Report. I don't know much about him, and I don't necessarily agree with all his views about animals (I support medical testing on animals, for example, because good comes out of that.), but I think the guy's got a point. Eating animals causes suffering and ugliness and death, and that's a bad thing. I wouldn't kill a chicken myself. I'd talk to it and invite it to hang around in my back yard. So why do I continue to eat chickens, just because modern food production methods allow me to pretend that I'm not killing something?
If I was out in the wilderness, hunting and gathering, you can be sure that I'd bonk that chicken on the head and roast him, but in today's world there's really no good reason to eat meat. Vegetarian food is widely available, especially in a place like Los Angeles, and I'm having trouble justifying the denial.
So I started reading a few Web sites about vegetarianism and realized that it can be much more complicated than just buying veggie burgers. If you really want to live a cruelty-free lifestyle, you have to become one of those annoying people who feed their dogs vegetarian kibble. You have to scrutinize food labels for gelatin and refuse refined sugar because it's filtered through bone char. You basically have to become a strict vegan, and prepare all your food yourself.
Even free-range eggs don't let you escape cruelty. The term "free-range" just means that the hens "have access to the outdoors". They don't necessarily go out. Their beaks are often cut off and they're still jammed into tiny little cages. Cheese and dairy products are just as complicated.
Maybe one day I'll be a vegan, but for now I'll strive for "death-free" rather than "cruelty-free." That's a start.
Here's another interesting organizational method using index cards. I don't find coding too useful myself, but maybe you do...
I prefer just creating a card for each concern or task. For example, a card might say "send in rebate form." At this point I haven't gone through the whole David Allen GTD process and figured out what my next action is, but I've recorded the thing I need to do and gotten it off my mind.
Later, when I have a moment and I'm reviewing my cards, I might decide that the next thing I have to do is figure out the address where I need to send the form. (Because Fry's in their infinite wisdom didn't provide that information. True story.)
As I work I jot down notes on the card about the current status of the issue so that the next time I look at it I remember what I need to do. If I left a message for someone, or I need to find a phone number, or someone's promised to send something to me, I note that. Et cetera, et cetera.
The card remains a work in process until the whole thing is done, then it gets filed away and taken out of the stack of things I need to worry about. If I decide that I don't need to do it now, I put it in a separate pile. Usually I focus on a pile of cards that I'm going to work on today.
I'm also experimenting with a tickler system. Sometimes I have a concern/card that must happen at some point in the future. If it's within the next 31 days, it goes behind the tab for the day when I estimate I'll do it. If it's months away, it goes behind the proper month's tab. If I'll do it tomorrow, it moves to the next day's tab.
Damn I love those index cards.