We’ve had such a mild winter here in the mid-Atlantic that it seems silly to treat the warm weather as though we deserved or earned it (and as though it weren’t also worrying that we barely saw freezing temperatures). Of course, it’s hard not to enjoy the trees in bloom on my block, or the flowers that are poking up weeks ahead of schedule.
This muscari grape hyacinth is especially precious because it’s part of a batch of bulbs I forced last year to use as wedding decorations, and I didn’t think I’d see it flower at all till next year. That’s probably not due to the weather, but it sure is a pleasant surprise.
Well, this is appropriate timing… I’ve been reading Janet Malcolm’s excellent book about Sylvia Plath, The Silent Woman, and a day after I blogged about handwritten fonts, I reached a passage where Malcolm describes a pack of letters from Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes, to the poet and biographer Anne Stevenson:
As I looked at the pages of dense, single-spaced typing, punctuated by x-ings-out and penned-in corrections, I had a nostalgic feeling. The clotted, irregular, unrepentantly messy pages brought back the letters we used to write one another in the 1950s and ’60s on our manual Olivettis and Smith Coronas, so different from the marmoreally cool and smooth letters young people write one another today on their Macintoshes and IBMs.
Murielle passed along this site a few months ago, which allows you to create a font from your own handwriting and use it to send your friends an email.
Alas, we were both too late, because the campaign ended last June and the service is no longer active. I still wanted to blog about it, though, not just because I think it’s a practical way to personalize electronic messages, but because it brought back warm memories of other handwritten fonts I’ve encountered, like the one in the Moosewood Cookbook. (Weirdly, I can’t seem to find images of it online, and my own battered old copy is at my parents’ place.) There’s Comic Sans, of course, which designers love to hate. And there are other sites, it seems, that will turn your handwriting into a font, albeit for a fee.
A hearty thanks to all who entered our St. Patrick’s Day giveaway… nearly ninety names in total! We’ve run the numbers through Random.org and come up with the following winners:
Mary Ellen D.
If your name is on this list, you should already have received an email from me, so go ahead and check your inbox (and get in touch if it’s not there). Otherwise, and as usual, check back here for more giveaways…
One of the main characters of Norman Rush’s Mating, Nelson Denoon, keeps a stack of old Economists at home, certain that he’ll one day get to them. I thought of that when I shared an Economist article about personal metrics, because it’s from an issue dated early March and I only just got around to reading it.
For me, saving magazines is more of a problem with The New Yorker than it is with The Economist (which I can justify tossing if it’s not current and the news I want to catch up on has seen too many subsequent developments). I used to think the iPad would fix this — no need to waste space on paper copies if I’ve got everything electronic form! Trouble is, I’m less likely to return to old issues if I can’t see them cluttering up the table, and I’m less likely to remember which pieces I meant to read if I can’t fold the covers straight to them.
Here’s some more fun with data: The Economistreported recently on a trend known as “self-tracking,” or using data about your everyday activities to improve your health and quality of life.
Robin Barooah, a software designer, said he had lost 20kg by monitoring his after-lunch mood using flashcards, which heightened his awareness of how different foods made him feel. Sara Riggare, an engineer from Sweden, described how she used an iPhone app to determine the best drug combination to control her Parkinsonâ€™s Disease, and a Nintendo Wii game to monitor and improve her balance.
Unsurprisingly, start-ups and larger companies have begun to support self-trackers with gadgets and apps that facilitate the collection and analysis of personal data.
It’s a promising approach, though I’m reminded of a thought I had, years ago, while working at Forbes.com. I was on a tour of the MIT Media Lab and listening to one of the grad students talk about how mobile phones could help you track what you ate and let you know, for example, if you needed to eat more veggies or lay off the red wine. And, you know, nutrition is great, but will nobody stand up for our capacity for self-deception? There are things I’d like to understand about myself, and things that are important to know. But gosh, I’m not sure I could take that level of clarity in every last aspect of my life!
St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, and in the spirit of the holiday, we’re giving away ten academic planners with our new, green “Texas” covers. They’re made from an eco-friendly, PVC-free vinyl that feels a lot like suede, and contest entrants can choose from among the following formats:
We never had a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas in our house growing up, but I certainly used the books in school, and I continue to think of them fondly. By the time I was in college, Encyclopedia Britannica had been put online, and in those pre-Wikipedia days, I accessed it through our university’s ethernet connection. In grad school, my research needs took me beyond encyclopedias, and I haven’t used or thought of Britannica in at least the last eight years.
Today, of course, comes the news that Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing production of its print edition. It’s kind of a funny milestone, thought I’m still surprised and impressed that the print volumes lasted as long as they did.
Did you ever own, or do you still own, a set of Encyclopedia Britannica?
While reading through the comments to one of my recent posts, I was interested to see that several of you keep separate planners for work and personal use.
I used to use an Outlook calendar for work-related calls and my Space 17 for face-to-face meetings and personal appointments. Then I had to switch to Gcal for one of my freelance clients, or, I should say, I had to start using Gcal to manage calls and meetings with that client. Another client I work with uses one of those online project-management systems. Now I need my Space 17 to coordinate across my work calendars and make sure the appointments on one don’t clash with those on the others.
That works all right, but lately, I’ve been wondering if I should consolidate and use just one electronic calendar, plus a paper one. I don’t like the interface of Gcal as well as I do that of Outlook, but the fact that it’s cloud-based makes things easier, and I’m not such an old bird yet that I can’t learn to make it work. Of course, that makes me wonder if I should consolidate my email systems, too, and abandon Outlook altogether. Too many choices!
Does anyone else suffer from electronic calendar overload syndrome (ECOS)?
Laurie’s recent review of the Executive reminds me of a subject that came up in our recent survey, and that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while… the international telephone codes that are listed in the reference sections of our planners.
As you might guess, they’re a holdover from the pre-Internet era, when that information wasn’t a Google search away and Skype had not been invented. Laurie says she still uses hers; I never have, but the data geek in me would still be somewhat sad to see them go. Uzbekistan is 10 hours ahead of us? Nepal and India 10 and a half?
As a bonus bit of trivia, I found myself wondering what “correspondent’s number” referred to in the Regional Area Code column. Nothing too mysterious, it turns out — simply that that country doesn’t have regional codes, so you should just go ahead and dial your correspondent’s number after dialing the country code.